I arrived home to Portland, (note I said “home”) last Sunday around 3pm, to my car in the long term parking lot with a key waiting for me. It was weird greeting “myself” at the airport and coming home to an empty house. It wasn’t completely empty though, there was a beautiful bouquet of roses with a lovely valentine from Jeff and a special valentine from Liam (more on that later). Jeff had left for Cambodia the same day I left Uganda. So we were both flying out of international airports on opposite sides of the globe but it’s where God has intended us to be without a doubt. It’s a weird transition we are in, and we’ve decided planning back to back trips like this where we are apart for 6 weeks is not the best plan. I was supposed to be with him for his trips to Guatemala and Cambodia but Uganda was “calling me” and I just had to go… 6 weeks is a long time, but thank God for FaceTime, texting and Skype, for we got to talk almost daily via one of these wonderful gifts of technology. With Jeff’s new role at MTI, I’m in a new light and trying to figure out how I can be just an ordinary volunteer and not “Jeff’s wife”. Fortunately, few people in Uganda knew who I was, and we wanted it that way. Plus there would be added security risks, which I wasn’t looking forward to. I’ve waited to type about this until I was at home. All went well though and I just got to be “Nurse Janey”, which is what I do best. I’m not much for formalities and am a bit dense about them actually.
My first 24 hrs home I basically stayed in my PJ’s for 2 nights and a day. This is a luxury I don’t normally do because I’m more motivated to unpack and be settled at home when Jeff is there. But who would know? (besides all of you now?) I decided being organized is for the birds and just “being” is what I needed to do. I spent a ton of time on the phone connecting with loved ones, and absorbing being home… I read… At one time I walked into my ridiculously large walk-in closet and just stared at it. This closet (which we didn’t design, but obviously came with the house) is larger than the room I lived in for a month, AND larger than the square footage the Congolese families lived in. I tear up typing this… how do I reconcile this? What does this mean? I actually like this closet now, but should I? It certainly is NOT a need but it is open and is easy to organize. I remember Nurse Deana on my last Uganda mission, teaching me that in her wisdom of 20 or so missions, her home in Idaho was not going to fix all the problems in Africa. She counseled me numerous times on this, that it was ok to have what you have here but it needs to be kept in perspective. Perspective. Something I’m still working on…
Ants. I have ants in my new house. I hate ants and the pain they are trying to figure out where they come from and how to stop them. Plus my counter tops are like camouflage to a little black ant. But the bright side is that when I opened my coffee cupboard and discovered them in my old fashioned clear sugar jar, I giggled. They made me feel “at home” because I had constant trails of them on one of my walls in my hotel room. The ants were my greeters. I do still hate them though, despite the giggles.
My coffee pot. I love my drip coffee pot and so looked forward to my first pot the morning after arriving home… The pot failed to stay on and I giggled once again. I found out later it’d been being temperamental for Jeff while I was gone. Fortunately I had some more VIA packets to make a cup of coffee for the morning. “Fortunate”, what a stupid word here, like I who had been with refugees for a month would be “unfortunate” to NOT have brewed coffee one morning. How silly. Jim and I savored these VIA’s most of the mornings at the hotel, as I’d brought a great stash to share with him. It was better than the instant that is typical for Uganda. My cup of VIA once again took me back to the hotel mornings… my re-entry is going well so far.
Piano… Chelsea and Casey’s beautiful black piano is being babysat in our great-room until they have space for it again, soon. This piano has been being played more than ours was the past 5 yrs in our old Issaquah basement. It was therapeutic to sit and play worship songs to my Lord in the quiet of our home. This was peace for my soul having been where I was. My world is so different than the one I served in for a month, yet I was born into my zip code not by any doing of my own. In the end we will all be together in Heaven, those who follow Jesus, and it won’t matter what zip code we came from, but what we did with that life we were given in that zip code. This music was a salve to my soul. I could play and sing (with much error) and it mattered not…
Pound cake, more like kilo cake… Our last clinic day Jim and I had ordered 2 custom cakes, one for the MTI staff at the end of clinic, and one for the sweet hotel staff that lovingly cared for us each day at the tiny hotel. Every African cake we have ever ordered for a party tends to be on the dry side (baked in a hot propane oven?), very heavy (thus “kilo” and not pound cake) and the frosting is full of dye and chips when you cut into it. BUT the staff feel so special to have a cake decorated just for them and this is the take away… feeling special. A case of soda pops, a cake and you have a party!
I’m randomly going backwards toward the end of our trip, my minds a bit scattered with being home and being there, plus I waited too long to write this… The last day’s clinic was a bit stressful. Translators were hard to nail down and there were some other frustrations… and lots of malaria. We’ve tried to make things go a bit smoother and to set in motion a more active role in the camp by walking through the 3 tent “villages” in the morning to round up sick refugees, but in reality we don’t have any idea if the next team will do the same. Jim has said a few times to me “The new team is gonna come here and wonder what the hell we did for a month!” I agreed! Creating change is hard, and for this staff who gets 2 new volunteers a month with their bright new (and not always realistic) ideas, how do you implement something that will stick? The camp size changes… acuity changes… patient load at the nationals clinic is more & more demanding… the government doesn’t replace staff so that the burden falls on MTI… we hope that somehow our time here has not only helped those patients we’ve cared for, but has served as an encouragement to the staff who are on the front line day in and day out…
A delightful find last clinic day… I think I wrote about the 2 yr old who was in a coma at age 1 for 2 weeks due to meningitis. I had given her physical therapy instructions for her toddler to strengthen his legs since he stopped walking with the meningitis and momma had basically had him strapped to her back for 14 months. On my morning walk through the camp I finally found the mom again and asked her to come back to the clinic. She was to come weekly but obviously needed a reminder. Her son was actually able to take steps now with some minor assistance from mom’s fingers to hold on to. His feet still rolled in some, but were improved. He was such an encouragement to see and both Jim and I were pretty confident he was destined to walk! Thank you Lord for that glimpse of hope.
Siffa… as we pulled out of the clinic drive anxious to start our 4-5 hour journey to Mbarrara, I said to Jim that I hadn’t said goodbye to Siffa. I felt horrible about this. I think I told her the day before that we would be leaving, and that another team was going to take good care of her, but I feel like we just disappeared. Period. My concern is that she’ll feel abandoned by our love and attention. Jim was very encouraging and positive (as usual) and told me we’d given her good attention throughout the whole month and that she felt loved by us every day we saw her. Thank you Jim… I have no idea what goes through a refugee’s mind on something like this. Maybe it’s an American thing to feel slided or abandoned by your expectations. All I know is that I would do that departure differently, had I the chance. All I can do now is pray for her and hope that the replacement team falls in love with her too.
Jonathan… I passed on my pulse oximeter I’d purchased for the mission to Jonathan, the nurse that is basically the senior medical person for MTI there now (until our volunteer team arrives). It was kind of like handing him gold. I think he was honored to have such a tool that could tell you how much oxygen a person was getting, a gage for how critical they are and whether to transfer them. He promised to share it with the new team but I asked that he be in charge of it so that it stays with the MTI mission wherever they may move. Jonathan is a wonderful staff person and I believe the star of the clinic.
After 2 days of car travel we were finally at the airport the evening of the 10th. Jim’s flight was at midnight, ours 11:30p. We were waiting for Jim to come through security but when he did his face reflected MUCH disappointment. His flight was delayed until early am, but very indefinite on the timing. His wife was home alone on Cape Cod in the snow storm and without power. Needless to say he was SO frustrated with the delay and only wanted to be home with his wife. We later found out that a small private plane with a mom and her 3 kids crashed adjacent to the Brussels runway and this is why Jim’s flight was delayed. The airport had been shut down for the investigation. I was feeling guilty that maybe my flight should have been the delayed one since I was going home to no-one and Jim’s wife needed him. I never told Jim this, kind of a stupid thought since it’s not like I could twinkle my nose and switch places. The news of the crash brought it all into perspective and patience grew…
Mike and I stood at the glass window dangling our MTI ID lanyards in hopes of the new team seeing us through the glass. Dr. Jeannie did and she eagerly motioned me over to the open glass door that should not have been open. We were able to carry on a conversation about 10 ft away from each other (until I almost got in trouble) and exchange information on Matanda. She was wonderful, energetic and seemed like loads of fun. But best of all she had read our email about our key patients, especially Siffa, and she was going to follow up… It’s been 10 days now and no news yet, but I hope to hear something soon.
Luke has kind of told me I needed to post some sort of a re-entry blog for coming home, I kind of just dropped off. For some reason I’m so late in doing this for this trip. Not sure why… I’ve been picking away at finishing this blog entry but after I’d been home for 3 days I hopped on yet another plane to see Chelsea, Casey and Liam. What a treat it was to be with family and to be entertained by Liam who is so animated now. And what a contrast in the opportunities he’s already been afforded and the loving attention he’s able to receive because his parents don’t have to struggle to just survive. I found myself SOOOO thankful and energized by this gift of time with them. Jeff arrives home in 2 days now, YAHOO! And after 6 weeks apart we get to just enjoy each other this weekend and debrief. I’m so excited!
In closing this mission blog, tonight I went to part 2 of a lecture on spiritual warfare at our church. I’d listened to part one on the podcast so I’d be caught up for tonight. His talk was wonderful, very articulate and scripturally sound. (if interested check out River West Church, February 13th and 20th) He was explaining something that had referenced slaves and the history of slavery in different cultures. Then he read from Galatians 3:28 which says:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
My flitting mind went right to my little people in Uganda, the Congolese refugees who are in such a different situation than I… and yet, we “are all one in Christ Jesus”. My Jesus crosses the boundaries of this globe and binds us all together as one…
Love, Nurse Janey