3/31/14

finding sabbath

"Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit." Jeremiah 2:25


We were all sitting around, under a cabana, at Nile River Camp on our last full day in Uganda, talking about what awaited us when we returned home. 

I confessed at that time that I wasn't ready to go home. I didn't want to get caught up in the business of life again, running from one thing to another. Uganda's pace was easier. 

Carey looked at me and told me bluntly that it didn't need to be that way. 

"We need rest. It's a sin not to rest," she said emphatically. "What can you give up so you can rest-- so you can create Sabbath?"

The truth in her words was a welcome smack to the face. 

As a Christian, I am called to find rest, to take time to be quiet and still. And I don't think this is a commandment that just applies to those of faith-- it's something that we all could be better at. 

So Sabbath. Rest. Quiet. Stillness. I am going to make it my goal this April-- to really dive into what it means to incorporate a day of Sabbath or even small bits of Sabbath in everyday moments. I am busy -- and I can let that be my rallying cry; my excuse, my rule to live by or I can seek something better for myself, something that God designed for me. 


xo, erika


3/30/14

adjustment period #bloghope

photos via wanderingwithMary.com (follow her on instagram!)

I just finished my bottle of malaria pills. As I took the last pill, I told my husband.

"Yay!" he said.

"No," I told him. "This means that my trip really is over."

Taking that final, weird little brown pill felt like the last physical connection I had to Uganda. I've been home a week. A little over a week ago I was standing on the red dirt, the sun beating on my shoulders, the noises of birds and monkeys filling my ears. Today, I am home. It's raining. My power works, I had a hot shower and anything I need is within a few blocks away at not only one, but three different grocery stores.

People say Africa is hard, and it is, but what is even harder is coming back to America. I've had friends ask me about my trip and I stumble through my responses because I'm not even sure I understand how to talk about it.

The only thing I can say is that it was wonderful, way better than any of my expectations, yet harder and more heart-breaking than what I imagined.

Honestly, I was never an Africa girl. I have a friend and growing up she would always say she was going to move to Africa and run an orphanage. I always (secretly) thought she was crazy. I never had any desire to go to Africa. Yet, things fell into place and I found myself applying and then going to Uganda for a trip. What I did not expect is that I would become an Africa girl.

I did not think Uganda would get under my skin like it did. I did not know how much I would love the people, the culture and everything, despite its many, many, seemingly insurmountable problems. I didn't know how much I would miss Uganda when I left, and that I would cry talking about Uganda a few days later.

I am still processing. Still adjusting, still thinking about my short trip and I think I will for a while.

The other thing I didn't expect? I liked Sole Hope -- respected what they do before I left -- but I didn't expect to really fall in love with their mission and the work that they do. Sole Hope is an incredible non-profit, and I feel like a fan-girl/ambassador without any shame. Learn about what they do and how you can help.

xo, erika

3/22/14

old jeans to new shoes #bloghope


My question for you: how many pairs of jeans do you have in your closet? And how many of those pairs do you even wear? If you're like me, you could probably stand to dump a set or two. 

Rather than just send them off to the Goodwill -- (not that there isn't anything wrong with the Goodwill-- you know I love thrift shopping) -- turn your jeans into shoes for kids. 

I know I've talked a lot about the good Sole Hope does with medical clinics and the community they've built in Jinja, Uganda, but Sole Hope also is committed to creating real, living-wage jobs. 

Those old jeans you never wear are cut out with a shoe-cutting party, then shipped over to Jinja where tailors Okello and Sarah stitch them together, and cobblers Kamagala and Zeus put the finishing touches on them to make shoes.

The Sole Hope shoemakers are paid living wages -- Okello is building a home for his family, and Zeus is saving for he and his fiancee's new life together -- and the shoes they make are placed on the feet of kids who have never had a pair. 

It's a beautiful way to recycle something unwanted into something so needed. 


Learn more at solehopeparty.org

Read more about Zeus' story here, written by my friend Melissa. 


3/19/14

jumping in the river #bloghope


In January, I went to the Center for Infectious Disease in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood (if you're a local, you'll know this area is called Pill Hill for its number of hospitals and clinics.) The doctor sat me down and handed me a packet thick with information -- 15 pages detailing all of the things that I could catch, everything I should be aware of.

We went through it page by page and I left my hour-long visit with a little bit of fear of Uganda and everything there that could make me really sick -- or even kill me. 

When we landed in Uganda, I was prepared with a list of do nots: Don't drink the water. Don't touch the Nile River. Don't touch the dirt. Don't eat any fruit. Don't get mosquito bites. 

Yet Uganda is not quite as scary as I thought, as Americans might think. Yes, you really shouldn't drink the water, but it's okay to shower with or cook with. If you get a bug bite, you won't die instantly. The fruit here is incredible. I have a few mosquito bites -- so far, no malaria. And my stomach is surprisingly happy to eat rice and beans and chipatti. 

If I let it, a fear of getting sick, getting dirty or infected, could have ruined my experience. It's not that I completely threw caution to the wind, (husband, don't worry), but I engaged in life here. I held kids -- sometimes very sick kids --  I washed feet, I ate Ugandan food, and my apologies to the doctor -- because I also went in the Nile River. 

It was a once-in-a-lifetime type thing -- swinging from a heavy rope out into one of the world's largest rivers. Splashing deep down into water that flows all the way to Egypt, a river figuring strongly in history, a river nearly everyone has heard of.

I think I am called more often to jump in the river, to forgo some well-intentioned advice and just let go -- even if the path I'm following is not the route everyone would suggest or do themselves. With prayer and boldness in God, I want to live life without inhibitions, without worry.



"Since we have such a hope, we are very bold..." 2 Corinthians 3:12







3/17/14

community

I've learned a lot in Uganda: Rain can make the power go out, wine tastes delicious in a coffee cup, bodas will not stop for pedestrians, and things are better in community. 

I'm going to focus on the community part. 

Honestly, it's easy to do our own thing in this world.

We're taught to just look out for ourselves -- to care about number one -- to do our best and climb the ladder, forgetting what or who is behind us. 

Committing to someone and walking alongside them is not glamorous or fun. It's messy. But, if we are going to do anything well in this world, we need the support of others. 

I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at asking for help. If I do it myself, I can control it -- I know what the finished product will look like. Or if I'm desperate for support, I wouldn't want to ask-- people should know to help me. 

But, but, but I know I was made for community; we were made for relationships. 

I know this is true because watching Sole Hope work, I realize that yes, they treat infected feet, they educate children to prevent infestation, and they provide jobs. More than that, however, they have created a community committed to the belief that God calls us to care for each other, including the very least of us. 

This week I have found community with women I just met -- women who sat next to me in 32D and 32C for several, several hours. Women who talk different from me and make me laugh -- women I have prayed with and smelled really (really, really) rank with. 

I have witnessed community in the families that take on school children that are not theirs. Community in how Dru and Asher's (Sole Hope founders) kids play with Ugandan children who speak a language they can't understand. 

There is community in the wine I'm drinking out of a tin mug. There is community in scrubbing children's feet. There is community here and I am praying to bring it home. 



I am a member of the #blogHOPE team, a group of 8 bloggers here in Jinja, Uganda to share about jiggers, the stories of the kids suffering from jiggers, the teams here making a difference and the communities being transformed.

follow our trip on bloghope.org & connect with sole hope on facebook.
read the posts of the other bloggers on the trip: wynne | mo | carey | cara | logan | melissa 

3/15/14

confessions of a cynic #bloghope



I tend toward cynicism. I easily let myself sink into it, wrapping bitterness around me like a blanket. I can fall into it here -- and at home -- if I let myself.

Maybe you feel the same way, too. That my words and my photos about all that is here, all that is heavy, is too much and you want to shake a fist at the sky. I feel a bit about that, here and at home.

However, there is good to life. In the midst of what seems oppressive and hard, there is so much good.

Today we went to Amazima -- if you're familiar with the book Kisses from Katie, you may know a bit what they do. They have an incredible sponsor program and we when we arrived at their playground, we were met with hundreds of children. They currently sponsor 721, with ages ranging from preschool through college.



Two girls from Soccer Without Borders, Amy and Jill, came along with us and we set up drills and matches. Other kids played on the playground, some braided hair, others gathered in groups. It was completely normal chaos. Just what you would expect anywhere in the world when you put hundreds of kids together.


Despite the things here, there is so much joy. Enough to make anyone, even a cynic like me who gets overwhelmed by all of it, believe in possibilities.



I am a member of the #blogHOPE team, a group of 8 bloggers here in Jinja, Uganda to share about jiggers, the stories of the kids suffering from jiggers, the teams here making a difference and the communities being transformed.

follow our trip on bloghope.org.
read the posts of the other bloggers on the trip: wynne | mo | carey | cara | logan | melissa 


3/14/14

the rain to nourish #bloghope

“He gives His best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless.” Matthew 5:45 The Message

One thing that is the same everywhere? The rain. I may be thousands of miles away from Seattle, but the steady drumbeat of drops on the roof this morning sounded like home. 

Rain in Seattle slows traffic, but in Uganda, it nearly drives it to a halt. Potholes turn to lakes, and the rivets in the road merge to create rivers.


“The little Nile!” joked Paul, one of the Sole Hope drivers, as our van crossed one.


We drove to the village of Bibbo today, which is only about 30 miles from Jinja, but 30 miles can mean two hours, and maybe more in a steady downpour. Fields of sugar cane passed us, workers tucked among the fronds, hacking down stalks with machetes.


Bibbo is remote, lush village, nestled in the hills. Its school is painted a cheery blue, and unlike yesterday, it has a tin roof and concrete floor. We carried brushes, buckets of waters and crates of shoes in one of the classrooms. Inside our room a poem covered the chalkboard.


Like yesterday, the kids piled out of classrooms — some shy, some gregarious — as we set up for our clinic. The clinics are run the same each way — an incredible, well-oiled machine. Kids file in and we scrub their feet, washing tenderly over the spots where there could be infection. From there, they go to another worker, who examines each heel, each tiny toe, and the palms and fingers of each hand for the sign of a chigoe flea – a jigger.


Jiggers are tiny fleas living in the sand. They burrow in skin — usually feet or hands — and lay eggs. They create infections, pain, and sometimes deformation.

In the clinic, the jiggers are removed. These kids are tough and sit through the removals with gritted teeth.

 

Once they are bandaged, they get their pair of shoes, ones made by the shoemakers and tailors at Sole Hope out of the donated denim from the U.S. and recycled tire.


I washed feet, and then transferred to be a shoe fitter. Turns out gauging shoe size takes a few times to pick up. The rain felt like an equalizer today. Sometimes here, I am so aware of the color of my skin, the shoes on my feet — Nikes today — and just the things that I have at home. I love the moment standing in the rain today, wet dripping down my back, next to kids who were just as damp.

I am a member of the #blogHOPE team, a group of 8 bloggers here in Jinja, Uganda to share about jiggers, the stories of the kids suffering from jiggers, the teams here making a difference and the communities being transformed.

follow our trip on bloghope.org.
read the posts of the other bloggers on the trip: wynne | mo | carey | cara | logan | melissa 



SHBLOGGERS_200x200




3/13/14

the pearl of africa #bloghope


Uganda is beautiful.  “The pearl of Africa.” And it does gleam. Lush trees line the hillside. There are numerous fields of sugar cane, of tea, of coffee. Hibiscus flowers bloom among dark leaves. Trees drop jackfruit — the size of my head — to the ground. The avocado trees produce the largest, best tasting I’ve ever had. There are mangoes upon mangoes and pineapple, syrupy sweet, much better than anything I could get at home.

The Nile rolls past, through the rolling hills to meet Lake Victoria, which stretches out endlessly to a horizon. Birds, and monkeys chatter at each other, vying for fruit, from branches.

Ugandan people are just as stunning. Tall and beautiful, who grasp both of your hands when they meet you, who ask for your name and what you think of their country. And you can’t help but tell them, over and over, that it is truly so beautiful.

“It gorgeous,” you say. “Your pearl of Africa, it is wonderful.”

And yet, this pearl of Africa is cracked. Amidst the green, green hills, and in the red dirt of Uganda, is what I can only describe as abject poverty.

Tiny concrete houses have windows and doorways that gape open like holes in a mouth where there should be teeth. Trash covers the sides of the road, piling up along the potholes the mar the street. The water carries any number of diseases, the many mosquitoes, carry even more. There are HIV-positive babies and grandmothers who taken on 8, 9, 10 children.

The kids you meet, the ones that grin and wave at the van as you pull up, are dirty. Their shirts are ripped and torn, or are way too big for them. Their feet are bare, and in between their toes you can see infection. The little boy getting his feet taken care of, he looks like he’s only 6. He has spindly legs and an engaging smile. He’s actually 10, but like many of the kids, he's on the small side. 
I don’t know what to make of this contradiction. I go back and forth. I can’t help but point out the monkeys, or the flowers in bright hues but, then, I can’t ignore the baby, sitting naked in the dirt. I can’t get the image of Russell out of my mind, who bit his lip to hold in his tears as Annette, one of the Ugandans who help Sole Hope, dug out 17 jiggers—parasites—out of his feet.

I don’t know what to think about this beautiful, cracked pearl of Africa.



I am a member of the #blogHOPE team, a group of 8 bloggers here in Jinja, Uganda to share about jiggers, the stories of the kids suffering from jiggers, the teams here making a difference and the communities being transformed.

follow our trip on bloghope.org
and read the posts of the other bloggers on the trip: wynne | mo | carey | cara | logan | melissa 


SHBLOGGERS_200x200

want to help out? host a shoe-cutting party. learn more about how here
Theme created by Andrea Mehner Designs