Beautiful feet… where will you go?

My darling feet have been through a lot. Despite their polished toenails and trendy toe ring, they have seen some IMG_20131223_153745bad days.

I remember a day at church camp when I was in about the fourth grade and I dropped a can of Faygo on my right foot. The edge of the can smashed into my pinky toe and squished it into the cement. It burst a blood vessel and hurt like crazy.

I remember having warts removed from my feet multiple times as a child.

Then there was the instance last summer when I hurt my toe getting into a boat. It turned nice shades of blue and purple, and I was in pain for more than six months.

We put our feet through a lot, but we really have no idea the things that some people go through, simply because they don’t have access to clean water, and they don’t have shoes.

Yesterday I went with about a dozen of my co-workers to help at a jigger clinic near a village outside of Kampala. I saw feet like I’ve never seen before. My silly injuries and even warts don’t compare to the infections and jiggers I saw yesterday. (For more information on jiggers, go here.)

IMG_5435Some of my brave co-workers actually removed the jiggers using safety pins and razor blades. I would be worthless in that position, considering I would probably pass out at the first sign of bodily fluids and jigger egg sacks. So I served yesterday by washing feet.

It was our job to wash the feet of the people who came to the jigger clinic, check them for jiggers, dry their feet and give them a pair of shoes. Those who had jiggers (which ended up being most of the people we checked), were sent inside the clinic to be treated. Jiggers cause great infection, and if left untreated, can kill.

I wasn’t disgusted by anything. Although toes were covered in fungus, bottoms of feet filled with jiggers, and dead toe nails so black they literally fell off, I wasn’t disgusted. I was heartbroken.

At the time I didn’t think too much about it. We were so busy scrubbing and washing, looking for jiggers, finding the right size shoes and getting people into the clinic that I had little time to really think about the situation. But I did pray. I prayed for the feet of the toddlers, the teenagers, and the adults whose feet I washed, and I prayed that I won’t see them with the same issues when we go back at the end of the month.IMG_5427a

The Bible talks a lot about our feet and the paths we go on. Whether our feet are perfectly pedicured or filled with jiggers, how are our lives end up are all dependent on where we allow our feet to take us.

“My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.”
Psalms 17:5

“I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.”
Psalms 119:101

“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:26-27

In order for the beautiful African people in the village to stay healthy, they must take proper care of their feet by washing them and wearing shoes. Their feet simply can’t be ignored. And you know what? We need to do the same thing for our lives when it comes to where we allow our feet to take us.

IMG_5458We all have a choice. We can allow our feet to stay dirty and become infected, or we can take care of our feet and wash them clean. We can allow our feet to lead us to evil, or we can allow our feet to lead us to Christ.

You might not have jiggers or fungus all over your feet. You might even have the most beautiful feet on the planet. But if your feet aren’t leading you on a path towards serving Christ, none of that even matters.

“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.”
Proverbs 4:26

Me, Justin Beiber and Jesus…

“Mzungu” is a word that has become a part of my everyday life here in Uganda. From boda drivers to little kids, many locals are quick to yell “Mzungu!” to any white person who walks near.

Today we went to Nakalanda to spend some time with a missionary wife, a mzungu, who doesn’t get many visitors. It’s not exactly the easiest place to get to. First we had to drive to the shore of Lake Victoria, take a very slow boat across to the island, and then a 30 minute boda ride on bumpy dirt roads to reach the village.IMG_3961

There were ten of us, each on our own boda as we zoomed across the island. Since the place doesn’t get many visitors like us, we were pretty much a rare parade of mzungus. Children would bolt from their homes and out of the trees to run to the road and yell, “Bye mzungu! Bye mzungu!” or simply shout, “MZUNGU! MZUNGU!” and wave their little hands and smile.

We would smile and wave back, and often the kids would run down the road awhile as we disappeared into the dust.

The excitement. The thrill of simply seeing us from afar. It was so huge to them. For a moment I felt like a celebrity, like I was Justin Beiber with a bunch of screaming fans who just wanted to be noticed.

And then I thought of Jesus and when He entered Jerusalem on the day we now call Palm Sunday. Mark 11:8-10 says, “The people gave Him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

It made me think about how excited the people were to see Jesus, and I felt like I could imagine it as if I was actually there. It was like the little kids running towards the road to see us today.

IMG_3928The excitement the kids had for us. The excitement Justin Beiber fans have when they go to a concert. The excitement the people of Jerusalem had when they saw Jesus. What do we have that excitement about? Are we that excited about Jesus? Or have we forgotten what He’s done for us and how excited we should really be?

The things we put our enthusiasm in are the things that mean the most to us. Sometimes it’s a good idea to reevaluate what really makes us happy and excited. Then we can see where our priorities are.

Those of us who went to the island today weren’t anything near all that Jesus represented on Palm Sunday, but I’m hoping that our little “fans” saw more than just a bunch of mzungus. I hope they saw the love of Jesus on our faces and felt Him in our hugs and high-fives.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

A true survivor if I ever met one…

IMG_3841“That’s Allan back beside Collins,” Mandy whispered in my ear this morning at a village church in Kyampisi.

I turned around and saw a nine-year-old boy talking to Collins. I immediately noticed the scar that extended from the back of his head and around the side. I began to tear up. That was Allan, the little boy who survived child sacrifice.

I’ll admit. Today was going to be rough for me. It’s the regular season opener for the Indianapolis Colts. Sundays in the US mean church, lunch, and football all afternoon. For me, here in Uganda, that’s just not possible. But instead, I found myself in Kyampisi with some of Ugandan’s most beautiful children. And there’s honestly nowhere else I’d rather have been.

The church wasn’t very big. Some were dressed in their Sunday best, while others clearly wore whatever they could find that day. Before we even sat down, a little girl grabbed my hand and walked with me to my seat. I asked her what her name was, but she didn’t speak English. That’s OK. All she needed to read was the smile on my face, and I’m hoping that showed her some love.

After church, some of our friends showed us around Kyampisi. We saw homes they were building for families who have been victims of child sacrifice, and we even got to see a house my friend Mandy did some fundraising for.

It was strange to be in Kyampisi. I have watched a few documentaries about child sacrifice in Uganda, and apparently Kyampisi is one of the biggest and worst areas for it. I’ve heard about it and read about it, but now I was finally seeing it. Kyampisi is crawling with witch doctors who are quick to tell someone, “Bring me a child sacrifice, and you will have wealth and prosperity.”

That’s what happened to Allan. He was playing with a friend one day when he was abducted. They not only castrated him, but they also took a machete to his head and neck. They cut out a part of his skull for the sacrifice. It’s literally a miracle that Allan survived.

Allan knows who did it. Everyone knows. But the man was released from police custody because of lack of evidence. This is common with child sacrifice. And that’s why it continues.

I got to meet Allan today. I got to meet his father. We went to their village home and sat in their living room. Allan was given medical treatment in Australia, and he had a photo album filled with pictures from his trip there. Allan was excited and full of life, the only sign of his tragic experience was the giant scar on his head. We also know that inside Allan is very fearful, but on the outside, he’s just a kid like any other.

Allan‘s survival was a miracle. His best friend George, who was also castrated for child sacrifice, was also a miracle. Most kids’ stories end in death.

IMG_3878

It was emotional to be there. Every little hand that grabbed mine (there were lots!) made me shiver as I wondered if they would be victims of child sacrifice someday. It breaks my heart to know that anyone has so much evil in them that they would kill innocent children. Not just kill them, but mutilate them, decapitate them, and then eat their organs or drink their blood. To me, humans just aren’t capable of that. Only monsters.

I hope to get more involved with Kyampisi Childcare Ministries. I hope that there’s love and hope we can bring to the families who have lost children to child sacrifice, and that there are things we can do to keep the children safe. No one, not children or their parents, should have to live in such atrocious fear.

Please pray for Kyampisi and those who work there daily to be a light for God in such a dark area of Uganda.

“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 48:22

 

A day out of the city…

My “Africa Mix” was the only CD we had with us. My roommate Debby and I were jamming out to IMG_20130831_111001Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” when we were stopped at a traffic crossing. A young boy selling bananas approached the car.

“No thank you, sebo!” Debby said to the young boy, who then heard our music and began dancing beside the car as we waited for the traffic police to let us through the intersection. It was a great start to the long day ahead of us.

The car was loaded with toilet paper, rice, tea, sugar and soap we had purchased to take to the orphanage in Bulamo. Bulamo in normal conditions would be about 30 minutes from Kampala. But in African conditions, it took us almost two hours to get there.

I was mystified at the beautiful Ugandan countryside. So much green, everywhere! Sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of a jungle.

We did some “off-roading” to get to the orphanage, which was down a long lane with lots of bumps and holes, chickens and cows, and of course, children, who would smile, wave, and yell, “Mzungu!” as we drove by.

IMG_20130831_120842The orphanage was thrilled to receive the supplies we brought them, and I walked around the compound with Debby as she introduced me to all the wonderful staff and children there. It reminded me a lot of Lifesong Zambia, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love walking around the compound.

Soon after we arrived, we met up with Bruno, Debby’s sponsor child. I’m not sure I should call him a “child,” considering he is 19 years old, but he still has one more year of school left before he goes to university. Bruno walked around with us for awhile and then we started the journey to Bruno’s father’s house.

Again, it took us about an hour to travel not much longer than a few miles. Bruno filled us in on how he was doing with his studies and his plans after graduation. He wants to study tourism at university, and with that sweet smile of his, I can definitely see him succeeding!

Debby had told me that Richard, Bruno’s father, would likely have all their nicest things out for our IMG_20130831_112601arrival. Sure enough, as we walked into their “house”, the couches and coffee table were covered in lace doilies. We were given the royal treatment, as Bruno’s step mother served us ice cold Cokes. Bruno’s little brother, Peace, was pretty overwhelmed by the two mzungu’s in the house, but he smiled big when Debby gave him the toy car we got him earlier in the day when we bought supplies.

We talked with Richard for a few hours, mainly about his profession. Richard is a butterfly catcher. How amazing is that? When he has the money to pay for his license to catch them, he spends days at a time traveling across Uganda and catching the most beautiful butterflies you’ve ever seen! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so passionate about something like that, but what made Richard even more special is his love for God, which was just as apparent as his love for butterflies.

Debby, whose heart is one of the biggest I know, wanted to help Richard pay for his license so he can get back to butterfly catching to make money for his family. I was more than happy to offer to split the cost with her, and we gave him the money he needed for the license.

After saying goodbye to Richard, Mary and Peace, we took Bruno to where he could catch a taxi back to school. We might have gotten a little lost then, even to the point where we stopped and asked for directions and the lady said, “You are really lost!”

Eventually, we found our way to Garden City where we enjoyed a nice meal at Café Javas and did some window shopping at Nakumatt.

While the entire day was pretty amazing, I think one of my favorite moments came after we left Garden City. We were stopped at a light when a young, thin boy approached the car to ask for money or food.

“Do you want to give him your leftovers or take them home?” Debby asked me.

I was thrilled that she thought of that, and I handed her my box of food. She rolled down her window and handed it to the boy who smiled and said, “Thank you!” We were stopped at the light for a long time, which was totally worth it to see the boy sit down in the median, dig into my leftover club sandwich and fries, and smile the biggest smile I had seen all day.

Needless to say, it was one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had since I’ve been here.