Friday, December 20, 2013


Days like today are the days I will miss the most. Did anything spectacular or out of the ordinary happen? No, and it doesn't have to happen. My day only consisted of mundane tasks that everyone has to do. Cleaning, washing, cooking, etc. But because I was surrounded by this community for it all,  it made the day perfect. The evening spent with everyone around the burner eating maize. Me spitting out my little luganda I know and the mothers bursting with laughter. The kids huddle together in the corner planning what their next mischievous trick on me will be. The new little boy sitting near by observing everyone with the biggest smile on his face. The weather is the perfect kind of chilly. We can hear the music coming from the nearby village church. Everyone is enjoying themselves. These are the days I will miss the most. 

It amazes me how God can bless us in such simple ways, and for the most part we don't recognize the tiny blessings he gives us daily.  Let's open up our eyes to the mini-blessings we receive everyday. Look for him in everything and everywhere and you will be amazed at how he is ALWAYS at work in your day.

Later everyone will come over for a movie. It will be the perfect ending to the day. As long as the power decides to stay on!

I made a quick trip to GSF to see these lovely ones! (Tom)


Back at Acheru with my girls!

I also had a short visit from some of my older GSF friends. (Sharon, Solome, Barbara and not pictured: Ruthie)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hope in suffering.

:: How marvelous, how boundless is your love. How wonderful, sacrificial, is your love for me.::

-Rend Collective Experiment

It seems that everyday here in Uganda I am hit with how much God loves us and how incredible that love is. It's easy to come here and see all the suffering and be angry at God about it. Your heart aches for the things you've seen and you think "in the states this wouldn't happen..this could be fixed.." But even in those moments Christ is there. He weeps for these same children. He weeps for their circumstances. But more than that he weeps for their souls. 

Yes some of these situations wouldn't be seen in the states. We wouldn't see children coming in with dead bones sticking out from their legs because they couldn't make it to a hospital. Instead they were trying to flee the war in their country. We wouldn't see children coming in with sores that have eaten away at half their thighs because their village has dirty water. We wouldn't see children who have become wheelchair bound because their neighbors convinced them they could be fixed by the traditional healers.  We could fix this things if they were elsewhere. But we aren't elsewhere. We are here, and here all we can do is to help heal their soul. We can show them a bit of Christ's love. We can bear in their sufferings but also help them see that even in their sufferings Christ is found. And even if their suffering he is weeping for them and loving on them.

It doesn't mean I stop being angry with God. It doesn't mean I stop questioning why these things happen. But it does give me hope. Hope that even through these situations Christ will be shown. Hope that He will make beautiful things out of the dust.

Romans 5: 3-5 
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
In an earlier post, I wrote about a little girl named Jemimah. Jemimah was a victim of a terrible taxi crash that left both her legs completely burned and left her mother believing she had lost her daughter. After multiple skin graphs and a fixator on her left leg, Jemimah is up and walking. Jemimah and her family had the right to be angry at God. But what did they do instead? They gave thanks to him. They praised him. They even gave a whole celebration to gives thanks to Him. We were able to be apart of that celebration.
On December 7th I left with the Acheru staff to attend Jemimah's Thanksgiving party. For the whole day we were surrounded by her family and friends celebrating her life and giving thanks to God for the work he did. Though it was a long day of listening to Luganda and only understanding a bit here and there, it was nice to be a part of this day. It blew me away to see how even after this terrible incident their faith has not been shaken. 
2 Corinthians 1: 9-11
 But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us; as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

These two fell asleep on my lap during the ride to the party.

The children with Jemimah

The staff with Jemimah


Friday, December 6, 2013

Bearing with one another..

:: Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.::
                                  -Colossians 3:11

For the last week I spent my time in Karamoja. We spent the week visiting children at the school for the deaf, visiting families with children with special needs, giving trainings to sunday school teachers, and just living life with the Karimojong. 

The Karimojong here are a special group of people. To best describe the Karimojong it is easiest to divide the post into three major categories: 1. The typical Ugandan view of the Karimojong, the history of the Karimojong, and my view of the Karimojong.

The idea that most Ugadan's have about Karamoja.

Before leaving for Karamoja many of the staff members here had warnings about what we would see. Many told us that the Karimojong refuse to wear clothes, they are hostile, nomadic, and cattle raiders. They told us that they walk around with guns just shooting one another. They look down on the Karimojong as a lower tribal group and not one that they would necessarily want to associate with. 

History of the Karimojong

Many of these ideas that other Ugandan tribal groups think do come from factual and historical events. The Karamojong were cattle raiders and did kill one another over cattle.  Cattle was their lively hood. Because of all the conflict between one another the government took most of the cattle and  disarmed the Karimojong. This has left a loss in identity for many of the Karimojong and a loss of pride.

Due to their arid climate they did move their homes for 3-4 months out of the year. In Karamoja the seasons change from rainy, to windy, to completely dry. Not entirely suitable for livestock or vegetation. The availability for water and food is always a concern. 

My view of the Karamojong

The Karamojong were some of the most welcoming, loving, and friendly people I have met in Uganda. They have a real sense of community and communal living. For a group of people who have gone through so much conflict and who endure such hard living conditions everyday; they were so loving and open with us.  From the kids at the school for the deaf running up to our cars the second we pulled in, to Mama Esther welcoming us into her home for the week, and then Paulo and Adam's families embracing us with hugs and letting us sit with their children for hours; we really felt like part of their community. You could say that this was because we were the white people coming into a town that other Ugandans don't dare venture too, or because we were coming to visit the children who most people don't dare to spend time with. But seeing the layouts of their homes, the open doors, the reliance of one another, the genuine generosity, and the sense of community is so evident in this area and in these people. 

Just like every group of people the Karimojong have their struggles. With loosing their identity and livelihood in cattle alcoholism has increased and the idea of living in poverty has lead to an increase of begging in the younger generation. It is due to these struggles of the Karimojong and their past other Ugandans have struggled to get past their initial ideas of the Karimojong and their fear of this particular group of people.

So what now?

:: Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another….and above all these put on love; which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body.::
                              -Colossians 3: 12-15

As Christians we are not to discriminate against anyone. All we are simply to do is bear with one another in our struggles and love one another well. As we are all apart of one body and united in one Christ. 

Paulo. One of the boys with Autism in Kangole.

Two of the students at the school for the deaf.

Adam and his mother.

The cattle center where people can keep their little herds.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A heart of thanks.

:: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.:: Colossians 3:15

With it being Thanksgiving I find it only appropriate to list somethings I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful for a great community of support not only back in the States but here in Uganda as well.

2. I am thankful for all the kids I have been able to meet the last 4 months. Thankful for all the joy they bring to my day even on my toughest days.

3. I am thankful for the caregivers here and the friendships we have built. For their willingness to spend months upon months here taking care of the children they came with. For their willingness to share their hearts with us each day. 

4. I am thankful for the staff that I work with. For their heart to see God's healing and their dedication to working with these children. For the laughter and joy we have outside of work.

5. I am thankful for roommates who help me through the tough days here. I am thankful for their laughter and love.

6. I am thankful for all the struggles I have witnessed here. They have allowed me to see God's work and love through some of the toughest environments and situations.

7. I am thankful for God's protection. His unconditional love. His willingness to let me question Him in all things. 

I could go on an on for what I am thankful for but this post would never end. 


This year for Thanksgiving my two American roommates and I decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner for the staff, children, and caregivers here at Acheru. We bought 9 chickens to cook, 3 crates of soda, 12 kilos of rice, 2 pumpkins, 3 bags of pasta and 30 eggs to complete our meal. We made pasta salad, deviled eggs, pumpkin crumble, rice, and chicken for dinner. We tried to find turkeys but the turkey man in Kabembe was no where to be found.

We explained to everyone what Thanksgiving meant to us and how we were excited to share this holiday with our Ugandan family. All 60 of us gathered in the school room to share a meal. There is something special about sharing a meal with someone, and even more important here. In Ugandan sharing a meal is very important for relationships. We were honored that they allowed us to share this special meal with them. 

After the meal everyone broke out into dancing. Each different region shared a traditional dance. They even had us Americans share a dance. We didn't know what to do so we all broke out into the chicken dance. 

It was the perfect celebration, full of love and joyfulness. Just what Thanksgiving should be! We even had some Ugandans tell us how stuffed they felt after dinner. That's quite impressive considering they eat like champs!

Mashing 2 pumpkins!

Part of our food.

Let the dancing begin! (Moses and Fred)

Odong, Fred, Esther, Kevin, Aaron, Okello, Moses, Scovia

Martin and Peter cleaning the chickens!

The rest of the food!

Tony and Okello

Serving up some food!

Patience and Mama Patience

Blessing likes it!

Tom and Aaron

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Story

"This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long."

Things are changing here at Acheru. Children who once were wheel chaired bound have now been given crutches to walk around with. Families have come. Families have gone. Families have returned.
Our nurse gave birth to a son. A playground was built. Through all these changes we still continue to praise our Savior. 

Lubowa (One of the boys I wrote about earlier) and his mother returned to Acheru today. They will be going back to Corsu (the hospital the children get their surgeries at) for review. When I saw him and his mother walk up behind the school building I dropped everything I was doing and ran to greet her. She opened her arms and embraced me in the biggest hug. We jumped around like 5 year old girls at the excitement of seeing each other again. 

I walked down into Kabembe to get some groceries. As I walked past a store I hear "Emily!" There in one of the dukas (small store) was the mother of Jonah (picture in previous post) getting her hair done. I leaned over the counter and exchanged greetings and conversations. Here in the middle of this village I felt like I was in my own neighborhood back home greeting a friend in the store. 

Before walking into town Jemimah's (another child I wrote about previously) sister handed me an envelope from her mother. Mama Jemimah was here at Acheru but had to return back to work for some time and has been away for a couple weeks. I opened the envelope from Mama Jemimah and inside was an invitation to a "Thanksgiving Party". A party to give thanks to everyone who has helped in Jemimah's recovery. As I read the invite tears starting coming to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by the idea that they thought of me and my roommates. That our relationships here have grown so strong that we were invited to come celebrate the life of this little girl with their closest friends and family.

Even though so many things change here at Acheru the relationships we have made here don't. The excitement of seeing each other never changes. Whether it has been weeks, months, or even just the day before when we last saw each other. Every morning when I walk out my door someone comes running towards me in excitement just to come and greet me.

That is my story here at Acheru. These relationships are what make my story here, and I praise God everyday for those relationships. 

Dennis and I waiting for the playground.

New playground! This was paid for by the team that was here at the beginning of the summer.

Me with Mama Enock and Mama Joshua

My superheroes!

Me with a few girls from the north. (Monica, Nancy, Doris, Scovia, and Juliet)

Me with Nancy and Aaron.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


One of the many things I love watching here at Acheru is how the kids develop. Not just physically (though that is amazing to see), but emotionally as well.  When the kids first come to Acheru they typically are quiet, scared, unsure of the surroundings, unsure of these mzungus (white people) who are around. They sit and observe. They stay in their rooms clinging to their caregiver. Eventually they find a friend, they find their niche, and their personalities begin to come out. 

Kids who were once so quiet; so scared, become the jokesters, the ones who love to just sit and cuddle in your lap, the ones who come running to you to greet you in the mornings, the ones who smiles can light up your day. 

I notice this a lot in the kids who are in my classes. I love watching them grow in their education. They become more receptive to class, they see the progress they are making, and become excited to work at school. They become more vocal to me and it allows for us to build our relationship. 

Today a caregiver came up to me and thanked me for my work. This was different than the normal "well done, thanks for you work" greeting I get every morning. This time the Aunt went out of her way to thank me. I got to sit and talk with her about the progress her niece has made and she couldn't believe it. She was excited for her. 

God knew how I needed to hear those words today. He knew I needed words of encouragement. He knew that those small words would change my whole attitude towards my class for the day. He knows what these kids are going through and delights in the same smiles I delight in the mornings. He is with them through their fear, their uncertainty, and their physical pain. He rejoices in their growth, in their healing, and in their joy. 

Jonah and his sweet smile.

Teacher Emily with the boys!

This is Catherine. This blog post was in reference to her and the change she has made in her short few months here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nairobi and then back home.

This past week I was in Nairobi, Kenya. I could write for days about what I did in Nairobi but I won't. I just will give a brief summary:

1. Nairobi is just like America. It was a weird feeling to know that I was still in Africa, but had most of the conveniences of America. Coffee shops to relax in, tv to watch at night, shopping malls, free wi-fi fast food, and American candy. As nice as it was to have all these things it made me really appreciate where I live in Uganda. I get to live without all these things and it is actually really nice.

2. The giraffe center and the elephant orphanage are probably the two coolest places I have ever been. I mean….who doesn't love hanging out with giraffes and baby elephants? 

3. Lastly, I ate at a restaurant called Carnivore. For those of you who know, this is kind of ironic considering I was a vegetarian for 6 years. What an experience! Meat upon meat until you "surrender" by putting your flag down. Until then men come around carving all sorts of meat onto your plate. I can now say that I have tried Ostrich and Crocodile. Oddly enough both were really good! 

Look at all that meat!

As always it is the most amazing feeling to return back to Acheru. It makes me realize how much I have grown to love the people here, and how much they love me in return. The moment they can see me walking up the road I hear my name shouted, children come running out to help me carry my bags. mothers come running out of their beds to hug me, and the staff have the biggest smiles on their face as they welcome me back. Ugandans are some of the most loving and welcoming people one will ever meet. In fact, as I was walking to town this afternoon I was talking with my roommate about how when you first see a Ugandan they seem so hard and cold, but the moment you say hello their face lights up and they genuinely welcome you. 

When I was gone some of the children left. It is always a bit sad when you know they are gone, but you also know that it is good thing. It means they are healed. The two that left when I was gone this time have both been here for over a year. They have been away from friends and family for over a year as they heal. 

Lubowa was the first child I met here at Acheru. He came to Acheru with a horrible case of Osteomylitius. When he came he was wheelchair bound. After a year he is running and walking around as if nothing had happened. 

Fiona was the next to leave. Fiona is a typical teenage girl. Loves her fashion, loves her boys, and loves her makeup. I'm not exactly sure of Fiona's backstory, but she has had one of her legs amputated and was here at Acheru healing from bed sores and an open wound on her other leg. As much as I will miss her I am so excited that she gets to return back to her family.

I am also excited because I get to spend a lot of time here at Acheru. I have no plans to go anywhere until the end of next month. I really miss this place when I am gone. It has become my Ugandan home.

Teddy and Okello also went home

We took the staff swimming one day. 

My class right now :) Learning how to recognize their names.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fearfully and Wonderfully made

For this post I wanted to highlight some of the kids that have come through Acheru the past three months I have been here. Some of these children were here before I arrived and some came during my time here and have already left for home. 


Jemimah is a bright and bubbly young girl. You'd never imagine that she has suffered multiple burns on her both of her legs. Jemimah and her mother were in a taxi accident that left Jemimah severely burned in both her legs. At the young age of 6/7 Jemimah has undergone multiple skin grafts and fixators in order to correct her legs. Her story is an amazing testimony to God's protection and healing. Every morning I can guarantee to have a huge welcoming smile and "emmmillllyyyy" come from Jemimah.  Jemimah is now doing exercises daily to work on being able to walk again.



Lillian was one of the first girls that I met here at Acheru. She is a girl that I made a point to visit daily. Being a teenage girl here she loved the same thing any teenage girl would love. She loved her nail polish, her fashion, her friends, and her crushes. I always knew I could count on Lillian to bring laughter to my day. She is a brilliant young girl who aspires to become a nurse when she grows up. Lillian came to Acheru with Osteomylitus in her leg, but recently left Acheru to return home. She has been completely healed!

Mildred, aka My Best Friend

Mildred was a spunky 4/5 year old girl here. Mildred suffered from burns on her hand. This burn had webbed her fingers together. After surgery her fingers become apart but she still suffered from muscle damage in the fingers. Every morning it was guaranteed that Mildred would be waiting for us to come out and play. She has this little smirk that she will give you when you come to greet her and than she would run straight into my arms. I spent a lot of time just hanging out with Mildred on our porch. Even though she spoke close to zero English, we always seemed to entertain ourselves. Mildred recently left Acheru and my morning has lost a special piece to it.      


Kevin was another mischievous but innocent 6/7 year old here. Kevin came to Acheru with a severe contraction in her knee. She had been severely burnt on her leg and her knee contracted into a bent position. After a long stint of having a fixator and then cast, Kevin has gone home and is now learning how to walk on her leg again. Kevin was one of my students that I saw tremendous progress in. When I first took hold of the class she was a quiet girl who struggled with her academics. After a couple of weeks she really did a 180. Kevin was motivated to come to school, she consistently wanted to answer the questions, and would talk non-stop. She was always the first kid to come and greet me when returning home from a trip.

Okello Allan

Okello is… how do I even describe Okello? He is the most charismatic child here at Acheru. He loves to cuddle and is always seen running and jumping from person to person. Okello is still here at Acheru healing from Osteomylitus on his leg. Before coming to Acheru, Okello had never been in school before. I wasn't even sure how I would work with him because he was so far behind the other students. His attention was nonexistent and he rarely could sit still long enough to be in class. Within the past 2 weeks Okello has wowed me. He is the one student who comes to class every day and will stay up until I tell him he can go. He used to not know how to form any letters when writing, and now he can write his name nearly perfectly (he sometimes still messes his N up but will correct when I show him). This week he perfected how to count to 10 without missing any numbers. I couldn't be more proud of this little boy.

These are just a few of the kids that I live with on a daily basis. This past week during our Wednesday night service I realized how much of a blessing each one of these children have been in my life the past 3 months. They have been my family here at Acheru. Even though they may come into my life for a few days or a few months, they have blessed every day. I always say you would never know what these kids have been through or what pain they are in, because joy just comes pouring out of them. Excitement for life is evident in their days here. Each one of the kids here at Acheru has made this place an amazing home for me.