Guatemala 2017

When I signed up to be a leader for Guatemala, I had no clue the type of work God was going to do in my heart. Last week He spoke truth to me, reminded me of my value, and strengthened my heart in ways I didn’t know I needed. I will never forget the perspective change that happened in my heart. I heard a song today that adequately describes how I feel: I should be in the fire, but now there's fire inside of me. Jesus, you're worth it all. // Guatemala, you are an absolutely stunning country. From the countryside, to the lake, to the incredible people. I will be back!

Uganda / I'm Not Sure What Day it Is Anymore...

Today was quite the emotional journey, I’m not sure where to begin. It feels like it should be about 5pm, but it is hardly noon.

This morning I woke up very early for a Skype job interview. When the interview was over, I got ready for work, and walked down to my office. I answered a few emails then followed Edwin (my translator) to the ward to update some patient profiles. I was taking profile photos of a little boy when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I quickly turned around and about jumped for joy. Rihana’s mom was standing behind me, her arms extended as she stretched little Rihana in my direction! They were back, and I don’t think anything could have made me smile bigger in that moment. I quickly wrapped my arms around her little body and laid my head on hers as tears rolled down my face. It is not very often that I get to see a child more than once while I am here. Typically they are here for pre-op, surgery, ICU, and then they head home after a few days. It can be difficult to build a relationship with a child, give them all my love for a few days, and then have to say goodbye, knowing I probably won’t see them again. I cant explain the excitement I had when I turned around to see her little face looking at me, arms reaching for me. I melted. After talking to her mother, I found out that Rihana was back to get her stitches removed after her craniotomy.

I walked around the ward with little Rihana in my arms, taking photos of babies pre-op for CURE’s website. We must have walked around together for about 45 minutes. I had just finished the last patient’s photos when the nurse announced it was Rihana’s turn. Mom was sitting on her bed, and when they called Rihana in, her mom motioned at me to stand in for her as Rihana’s stitches were removed. My heart sank. I do not become queasy easily. I have been watching brain surgery, and other operations for the past three weeks. However, something about this made my tummy turn. I prayed as we walked into the room. You know, I believe it was love. I didnt want to see someone I loved so deeply experience pain. I had been able to form a bond with her sweet personality, and the thought of watching Rihana in pain, even though it was just temporary, ached me. I always joke with my mom about how she closes her eyes and wiggles around when I mention any type of pain I’m in. However, in this moment I understood, and Rihana is not even my own daughter. As I peeled her little body away from mine, my heart melted as her fingers grasped my hands so tightly. I laid her on the table, and the nurse began removing the stitches as I held her hands, and tried to keep her body still. I tried everything, I rubbed her back, squeezed her hands, sang hymns to her, kissed her, all of it, and nothing seemed to help. I wanted to desperately distract her from the pain, but it was just too powerful. I can’t blame her, having a blade scratching at my head, even for the innocent act of removing stitches, cannot be a pleasant feeling. My stomach began turning as she locked eyes with me, and let out the loudest screams, tears streaming down her face. Oh, it hurt me.

I stood there, trying to comfort her for 25 minutes, when it happened. All of a sudden, within seconds, I began sweating, started swaying, and became incredibly dizzy. I have never passed out, never fainted, never felt that dizzy in my life. It was like I was so weak for this little girl, and feeling the pain with her. My body truly had a visceral reaction while seeing her in such pain. I immediately sat down and laid my head back. Her little voice screaming in the fuzzy background, and her little fingers still grasping so tightly to mine. Unfortunately I had to step out for a while. The mother came in and I walked back to my office. After a few minutes, some water, and some crackers, I was determined to go back. Anette, our receptionist, advised me to sit for longer, but I just couldn’t do it.

I rushed back to that small room and saw the same scene I had left just minutes before. Still just as heartbreaking, still just as painful for me. I made my way back to my spot, and Rihana reached her hands out to grab mine once again. I bent down to place my face where she could see me, and began praying that Jesus would help me be so strong for this little one. In a moment where I felt as though I wasn’t going to make it, He stepped in and gave me strength that could have come from no one but my Father. There is no fear in love, and in that moment, Jesus took my fear away so that I could love her as best as I wanted to. Rihana took a deep, deep breath, and all of a sudden her crying became less and less piercing, although still consistent. Tears. Tears. More tears. Not only was He allowing me to be strong, He gave her a little bit more strength to make it through the rest of her procedure. When they finally finished removing her stitches, they applied alcohol to her head where the stitches were removed. I stood up, bracing myself for the crying I knew would ensue. Screaming. It was so loud. Bless her heart, it hurt me more than I can explain. They gave me the go-ahead to pick her up, and I quickly pulled her close to me, bouncing her up and down, patting her back, and holding her aching little head against my body. I took her out of that small room and didn’t see her mother around. I sat down on her bed, swaying her back and forth, still holding her so tight. At one point, she raised her head and made eye contact with me, once again took a very deep breath, and as she breathed out, she laid her head on my chest, and fell asleep.

I am not a mother. I pray one day I will be. However, in that hour that I was able to stand in for Rihana’s mother, enduring pain alongside a little girl that I have developed such a deep love for, my heart felt so broken for her. Although the pain she was feeling was the last leg of her journey here, and the removal of her stitches meant that she was finally healed, it hurt to watch her endure pain. I thought to myself, if this is a fraction of what it feels like to be a mother, I cannot wait to have that title. I felt so deeply for this sweet girl that I almost passed out for the first time in my life as I watched her scream in pain. I wanted to take her spot. The connection was something so beautiful, and I will never forget the way she clung so tightly to me when it was all over. I was reminded of Galatians 6:2 that tells us to bear one another’s burdens. There was such beauty that came on the other side, after her stitches were removed. After walking through the pain with Rihana, I was able to sit and hold her for so long, loving on her as I felt her heartbeat slowly stop racing.

The goodbye was not easy, and my heart already misses her and her mother. But today I am thanking my sweet Father for one more moment with her before she left, and a healed little body that will now grow up healthy.

Uganda / Day 9

Yesterday I experienced something I’ve never seen before, and it was unreal!

I was doing the usual, walking around taking photos and talking to nurses, doctors, and children. I was heading down to the garden to talk with Rosalyn (the wonderful Irish lady I live with) and she immediately asked, “Have you seen it?!” I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about until she pointed to the laundry staff gathered in a huddle by the clothing lines looking through a welder’s mask. I thought to myself, “No way.” I ran over to join the excitement. “Hannah hannah you look you look, take snap!” An eclipse. I have never seen one quite like this before. It was unreal. Looking through the  mask, I saw the shape I remember from children’s books. It was incredible. We were all elbow to elbow, climbing on top of one another to get a better view of the eclipse through the mask. 

Around the corner one of the staff members came running, telling us to come to the Operating Room side of the hospital. We all, so giddy, ran down the path to meet the others. There were so many of us. It was as if work ceased for a bit, so we could all marvel at the beauty of God’s creation. In Uganda, they do things very creatively. We were all using patient’s x-rays to look at the sun. I couldn’t help but chuckle! (And snort, of course.) It was working so well! It was so clear through the x-ray. So much so that we felt as though we could reach out and grab the moon and sun, all at once. 

That’s when it hit me. How on earth did they know to look at the sun, with an x-ray, on this particular day? I asked Juma, and he matter-of-fact told me that the sun is different today. I asked him to further explain, because truly the sun was just as hot and bright as it ever is, in my perspective. But they knew. He said it is more of a hazy sunshine, and the heat isn’t as scorching. I must admit I was totally in awe. Its like they all just knew in an instant that it was happening. 

A few minutes later a staff member from the OR quickly brought out a bucket of water. Again, I was a little lost. They told me to position myself behind the bucket so I could see the reflection in the water. Blue. All you could see was the outline. It was like the sun and the moon were just dancing around in the water. 

I wish I could have recorded the hilarious scene that was me trying to take a photo of the event. I was laying on the ground with my camera pointed to the sky, while doctors, nurses, and patient’s mother’s were trying to hold the scan in such a way that would allow me to capture the light just right. Through our many attempts, we got it! Im still finding grass in my hair!

Uganda / Day 8

I met a little girl today who absolutely ran away with my heart. 

I’ve been walking around the hospital quite a bit today. From the ICU, to the Operating Room, to the Ward, I’ve ventured all over. However, it seems as though every time I walked through this Ward today her sweet little face caught my eye. When I was walking from ICU to my office and saw her getting a bath at the washing station, I decided I just had to go talk to this little one. When I first walked over, she was frozen. She didn’t move a muscle, and her big brown eyes stared me down. 

I reached out to touch her arm and she reached her chubby arm out to reach mine. Oh, if you know me, you know this interaction was quickly melting my heart. Our hands met in the middle, and I watched her little fingers rest inside mine. I giggled as I helped her momma finish her bath, learning as much as I could about her story, despite the her mother’s broken English. She is the first born, and the only child in her family so far. Little Rihana had a craniotomy yesterday, and is on a quick road to recovery.

I realized I was originally on a mission, and needed to head back to the office for a minute to complete another child’s bio. I ran back to my chair, wrote out the bio, published it, and swiftly made my way back to the Ward. I honestly don’t think I could have waited any longer. I found Rihana’s bed, and sat down next to her. Her mom looked at me and said, “Oh hello! You are back!”.  We both cracked a huge smile and I reached out my long, white arms, hoping Rihana would be okay with me picking her up. She is still a bit disoriented from her surgery, but her little wobbly arms slowly reached up in my direction. If my heart wasn’t already a puddle, it was now. As soon as I picked her up she rubbed her little fingers up and down my face, getting accustomed to the much lighter skin tone that I had, in comparison to her own. Her big brown eyes were still as wide as ever. I tickled her feet and she almost cracked a smile! I was determined at that point. I tried to think of everything possible that I could do to make this precious little one smile. I tried tickling her, playing peekaboo, everything. And then it hit me, I have a camera. I took a photo of her sweet face and quickly turned the screen around to show her. The right side of her mouth slowly raised, but I was not satisfied with a half smile. I was so determined to get a giggle out of this little girl. More photos, more tickling, more peek a boo. Thirty minutes later, I had picked her back up, and our eyes were locked as she was playing with hair. I tried tickling her little feet one more time, and then it happened. She busted out laughing. Im talking lost her breath kind of giggles. It was the most adorable thing I have ever seen. I was too caught up in the moment to take a photo, and I think I like it that way. I will forever hide that little smile in my heart. 

I had to go back to the office a few minutes after this. Lets be honest, I practically floated back to my chair, totally awestruck by this little one, fighting so hard for a quick recovery. It may not seem that that grand of a story when it is written out in a blog post, but I can promise you the beauty found in the few moments I had with this little one and her mom were enough to remind me once again why I am here. .It’s mind blowing how little it takes to build a relationship. If you think about it, all it took for Rihana to smile was intentional interaction and love. How simply can we love others if we just invite those two things into practice every day?

I love this place. I love falling asleep to the sound of the ICU monitors. I love eating rice and beans for lunch everyday. I love taking photos of captivating life that happens here at the hospital. I love being in a place where others come first, and love knows no language barriers. 

Uganda / Day 6

When I woke up this morning, I was so overcome by a heaviness that I just couldn’t pinpoint. After a lot of prayer and journaling I realized that I am truly worn out, physically and emotionally. These last few months have consisted of a lot of heartache, a lot of travel, a lot of work, and a lot of joy. All of these things required my attention, draining energy from my little body. 

I traveled to California, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Chicago, Iceland, and now Uganda, all in a matter of months. Today I was reminded of the heartbreaking day when all of my stuff was stolen. I was thinking about how I am so excited to hand letter prints for the hospital staff here, when I was interrupted by the realization that all of my supplies were stolen alongside my laptop, camera, hard drives, and everything else in my backpack a few weeks ago. People in my life have been facing illnesses that I can’t wrap my mind around. I have been praying prayers that I have been aching to find answers to. Satan has been telling me that I shouldn't be here in Uganda, because I am not good enough to love these kids and people and take captivating photos. It's like he's saying, "Yeah Hannah, good try".  I have been physically sick, and emotionally tapped out. I have been told that I seem to be living the dream. While I am incredibly grateful for the experiences I have had this summer, truthfully, it has been an incredibly challenging couple of months for me personally. I have been feeling inadequate, and not enough, which is a tough lie to wrestle with when I am exhausted. Shortly after realizing how tired I am, anxiety and fear kicked in. Where am I living when I get back to Indiana? What job am I going to have? Will my photography business that I’m so passionate about stay busy? Do people even like my work? Am I loving Ben as well as I can? Am I pouring myself out enough during my time in Uganda? Am I going to adequately fulfill God’s purpose for my life? So many thoughts raging through my already exhausted mind. Not to mention my sweet housemate here in Uganda left to head home today. It’s pretty crazy how close Heather and I became from simply spending a week together, and this place is missing a huge piece without her.

So, today I left the guest house once. My goal was to get up early and head to church. However, I woke up not feeling well, with so many things on my mind, and shamefully feeling no desire to go anywhere. I am in the place I have longed to be for months. I am surrounded by so many people I love, and the children I've prayed over for so long. But I just felt so drained, like I'm not loving and pouring myself out as much as I desire to. I decided I would watch a message by a pastor that Ben and I love so much, Matt Chandler. Little did I know what was I was going to experience through that message. So much happened in my heart in those many hours I was switching between the dining room table and the couch eagerly listening and writing down what he had to say. 

As I pulled up a randomly selected Matt Chandler sermon (they’re all incredible, truly any one of them is a jackpot), I began laughing and crying all at once. The topic was Sanctification: Fear and Anxiety. Jesus knew. He knew how I would wake up feeling so strung out, tears flowing before I could even open my eyes. He knew exactly what daily bread I would need today. I reluctantly clicked the play button, pen and paper ready to soak up all of the challenging wisdom. 

Don’t be anxious about anything. Easier said than done, right? I certainly think so. I tend to be a very positive person. I can genuinely encourage someone up and down all day long. But oh, how quickly I am to wrap myself up in a heap of worry about what will happen tomorrow or next year when it comes to my own life. How quickly I am to cling to the little control that I think I have. How quickly I am to forget what Matt reminded me, that I am of more worth than a sparrow, yet He truly cares about every detail of that bird’s life. He tells us that He even cares about the grass of the field that is alive today and dies tomorrow. If He spends so much time on the grass that is dead tomorrow, what makes me think He wouldn’t spend that time on me as well, His daughter? 

In Matthew we are told to not be anxious about tomorrow, because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. But how often do we soak up the verse right after that says, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I feel like this is Jesus compassionately giving us permission to wrestle with todays fears and anxieties, giving them all to Him. He knows we need to work through them, and at the same time He reminds us that He will be there again tomorrow, to talk about tomorrow’s troubles. As humans, we can only handle one day at a time. Hence, daily bread.

In Matt’s message he stated that the things we give great value to and prioritize will determine how much anxiety and fear will reign around those things. This morning I was elevating my job title, my earthly possessions, and my housing situation higher than they deserved to be. So much so that I was so overwhelmed. Sure, I need to be aware of and responsible for the things in my life that need attention, but ultimately Jesus goes before me. The fact that I am where I am is no surprise to Him. He isn’t losing sleep over this season in my life. He isn’t stressed out about what my financial situation will be like when I get home. He isn’t caught off guard by any detail of my life. It is a freeing thing to understand that I am not in control. What a train wreck I would be if I was in charge of the precious details that make up my life. Today Jesus wrapped me up so tightly in His arms and reminded this daughter of His that I have nothing to worry about. 

The day went on. More journaling, more learning. His goodness has brought me to tears before, but this time was so different. I was so overcome by His love for me that I had to retreat to my room and let myself cry, and cry, and cry some more. I’m talking the kind of cry that forced me to stay on my knees with my arms stretched wide for an amount of time that I can’t remember. With Through and Through by Will Regan (the best) blaring through my headphones I let my body run out of tears, all for Him. It was the most humbling experience to be in a posture of such awe and humility, so much so that I couldn’t walk away from the music, or my time with Him. So, I reveled in it. I soaked it all in and let His undeserved grace and patience and love wash over me. I would go into more detail, but I think Jesus wanted to spend those precious moments with me alone, revealing things to me that I have begged for for so long. 

When I finally gathered myself to stand up and go to the kitchen to chug the water that I needed to replace all of the tears I shed, I looked at my phone to see that two clients confirmed upcoming sessions. The best part? Had this not have been the cherry on top, He would still be good. So good. Today is a day that will forever be engraved in my heart as one where Jesus met me in my mess and my fear. He met me there so patiently, but boy did He refuse to leave me there. Tonight I am going to bed on the other side of my emotions. I am going to bed with a renewed sense of awe for Him. I am going to bed with a heart so full, I can't wait to wake up and pour out the love He has overflowed me with today. We serve a good, good Father. On the good days, and the challenging ones. He is my everything. He is my Father, He is my hope, He is my comfort, and nothing in this world compares to a relationship with Him. 






Uganda / Day 5

Yesterday consisted of 85% travel. From a bus, to boda (motorcycle), to matatu (taxi), back to boda, back to matatu. 

CURE does clinics in towns far away to catch up with past patients on their progress, and I go to document photographs of that progress! Yesterday's clinic was in Kampala, about 5 hours away, 6 with the current construction. Heather and I woke up at 4 am and were 'ready' (still half asleep, truly) to meet Edwin and catch the bus by 5. And so it began, we arrived the the bus station and made our way up the narrow stairs wiggling our way into our seats. We were so tired that I don’t remember much. All I know is that, similar to last year, I was fearful of my car sickness kicking in. The YY (bus) isn’t exactly car-sick-friendly. I began praying that Jesus would take that away, and protect my head and stomach for the next 6 hours. Sure enough, He followed through. I was in the middle seat, squished between Edwin and Heather, and we had our backpacks perched on our laps. Off we went, down the very bumpy roads. I was texting my sweet boyfriend because the time change finally came in handy, and that kept me awake for a good while. Shortly after, we all laid our heads back and began dozing off. It was really dark which made sleeping a little bit easier than normal, but it still wasn’t the most comfortable set up. I’ve never been one to sleep sitting up, but Jesus has been giving me all kinds of strange talents since I’ve been here. Sleeping while sitting straight up is on that list. We all seemed to sleep for a long time, being interrupted by a pot hole here and there. Once the sun came up it was game over, there was way too much to look at. From kids, to dogs, to construction, to landscapes, to boda drivers with full bed frames on their bike, to street vendors with vibrant fruit. I’ve always seemed to be a people watcher to some degree, and this set up was definitely ideal. I gazed out the window with wide eyes, watching life zoom by on the other side of the glass. 

After 6 long hours we reached Kampala. We made it to the city and we were dropped off on a corner. From there we walked a ways to find a matatu. Africans have this game. I’m going to call it “African Jenga: Matatu Edition”. It’s actually quite impressive how many bodies they can squish into a small space. We hopped into the matatu that was going to take us to our next leg of the journey, the bodas. We bounced along the road for 20 minutes, and then reached the boda park. Imagine 30 motorcycles parked in one place, all with a driver who is desperately trying to get your attention so you will choose his bike. It is quite overwhelming. I usually just close my eyes and point, seems to be the easiest way of selection. We all quickly picked a boda, and off we went. Edwin first, then Heather, and I held up the rear. We held on tightly as our bikes climbed up the steep dirt road. A few minutes later we had finally made it to Katalemwa Clinic. We entered the gates and began looking for our CURE kids. We were looking for 8 specific children to update their profiles online. As I was taking a photo of one of our children, I felt a little tug on my hair. I turned around to see a little girl with the cutest smile that was missing a few teeth. She immediately recoiled and did a little nervous dance. I gave her a hug, learned her name was Linda, and told her it was okay to touch. From then on, she was constantly running her fingers through my ‘muzungu’ hair. Once she felt comfortable doing that, she stepped up her game and started tickling me. I’ll be honest, I’m not super ticklish, but somehow this little one make me jump. She was relentless. We managed to find 5 of our kiddos, and when it was time to go, I told Linda that we were leaving. She formed a little frown on her face followed by an extra long huge hug. She was a blessing to me yesterday, that smile melted me. 

We left the clinic and walked down that steep dirt hill, looking for a boda at the bottom. We once again hopped on motorcycles and took off. This time we were headed to downtown Kampala to the Qualicell bus station. Guys, Ive tried. I tried last year, and again yesterday, but no amount of photos captures the craziness that is downtown Kampala, or the bus station. The bus station is a plot about 300 feet by 300 feet tucked in the busiest part of downtown, and I honestly don’t know how they do it. These buses plow through hundreds of people, back themselves into a space and pack people on them, all within a matter of minutes. The catch is that it is 100% up to you to not get hit by the massive pieces of metal on wheels trying to get situated. It kind of felt like I was a mole, in the whack-a-mole game I used to play as a kid. We were constantly jumping from spot to spot in an effort to not get squashed while waiting for our bus. There were multiple times Edwin, and some strangers, saved Heather and I from losing a foot, or being sandwiched between to YYs. Our bus arrived and we braced ourself for the tough mudded-like race that is the act of getting on the bus. To give you the best visual I can, I would compare it to those sand timers you use during a board game. One by one making it to the other side. You’re in luck if you can squeeze through everyone else in time to get on the bus and get a decent seat. Thankfully, Edwin managed to get to the door and create a blockade, allowing Heather and I to shuffle up the stairs quickly! Then, we rode. It took us an hour just to get out of the city, about 5 miles. Talk about stop and go traffic. We reached Jinja 2 hours later, and the bus dropped us once again at a boda park where we had to choose a bike. We all got on, and rode into town to The Source Cafe, where Heather was able to shop and we could relax a bit. After that, we walked to The Keep, a super fun restaurant that resembles a castle and has the best peanut butter banana milkshakes on the planet. After we ate, it was back to a boda and back to a taxi. 

This is where it gets interesting. I have never felt like a fish, but for the two hour ride home I truly felt like a sardine. Im talking no elbow room, complete loss of circulation from my wait down, and a constant harsh gust of wind in my face, bugs included. We managed to fit, for this long 2 hour ride, 22 humans in an 11 person matatu. It was so squished that the conductor (man who collects the money) was sitting at my feet hunched over because there was no space. 22 people. That is 44 arms and 44 legs, all playing Jenga to try and and fit in this small cab for 2 hours of bumpy construction roads. It was quite the experience. Heather had been drinking out of a Smart Water water bottle all day, and it gave us quite the experience on this sardine ride. At one point we were woven together, and I felt a growing puddle on my leg. Through laughter I asked Heather if she felt it too, and all at once her eyes widened, and she said “MY WATER BOTTLE!”. We laughed so hard, for so long, because we couldn't wiggle around quickly enough to get the bottle before it soaked my leg.  All in all, it was a hilarious experience. Despite people shouting in other languages to losing all feeling in our legs, we made it. We both booked it for our showers when we walked inside, still laughing at how hilarious the day had been. 

Heather left this morning, and I must say that I was super bummed to see her go. Im thankful that she is moving to a town closer to me where a dear friend of mine lives, and I will be traveling to this Fall. She has truly become a precious friend that I admire deeply! Our long talks about life and relationships, our laughter over burnt beans and water bottles, and our love for kiddos made us instant friends. 

Uganda 2016 / Day 3

Yesterday I got to hangout with the muzungu community! They are wonderful, there is a group of 4 or 5 families who always get together Tuesday nights to play basketball, soccer, and walk, and it is so much fun. I took photos of the kids, and then I set up a ‘beauty shop’ and all the girls lined up for me to fishtail braid their hair. Their giggles were cracking me up! I watched the younger girls make a fort out of sticks and banana tree leaves. Such a good evening, and so refreshing. I woke up this morning not feeling super well, and that’s when I realized that beat-jet-lag-quick is not a strength of mine. I rolled out of bed and got ready for work. As I made my way down to the Operating Room where I was going to spend my morning, I was praying that God would help me find Him in the smallest of moments today. Because I wasn’t feeling well, I felt myself dragging, my attitude too. 1 Peter 4:9 popped in my head, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I am here because God has gifted me with photography. Dr. Peter is here because God has gifted him as a neurosurgeon. Moses is here because God has gifted him as a social worker. Tim is here because God has gifted him with leadership. Caren is here because God has gifted her as a nurse. I could go on and on. There are so many wonderful people here that God is using so beautifully, and it is my job to be a good steward of the gift He has given me. Thats when I kicked into full gear, and reminded myself that its ‘go’ time. 

I walked into the OR, greeted the wonderful nurses and doctors, and changed into my green scrubs. I always wear socks under my OR boots, and today they were bright orange. The rest of the day I just kept them on, rocking them with my sandals, and everyone got a kick out of it. Today I was able to work in the OR with Heather, a sweet new friend who is staying in the guest house with me. She is from Oklahoma, and we have spent lots of time together laughing, trying to translate, and watching movies every night. She’s been such a blessing! We entered the room and little Abel was laying on the table ready for his ETV/CPC. We watched as they went through the sanitation procedure, laid blankets on Abel, and the surgeons washed their hands and became ready to operate. I won’t lie, being in the OR can be hard for me sometimes. I love being there, and its such a humbling experience to be apart of, it never gets old. But I have to remind myself that even though the face mask is hard to breathe in, even though the air conditioning doesn’t quite cool the room, and even though my scrubs are a little big, its an honor to be standing next to children, documenting this season of their life. I always leave the OR feeling happier. 

From surgery I walked back to my office and made a little friend on the way. I taught him all about how to use my camera using hand motions, and I was so giddy watching him ‘snap’ sights around the hospital! His laugh echoed down the open hallway, and he kept grabbing my hand to pull me into another moment he wanted to capture. This was one of those little moments I was asking God to help me find Him in. I honestly couldn’t stop laughing. He truly made my day!

When I got back to the house, I opened the door to my room and the biggest smile came across my face. Last year when I came to Uganda, Ben bought me a stuffed tiger, and I brought him back with me this time. Rose, the sweet lady who cleans our guest house, had made my bed and placed the tiger inside my travel pillow, right beside my neatly folded blanket. She makes my day too. The way she is so gentle with my stuff, yet puts her personality and sweet character into everything she does in this house is such a beautiful example of service. She came down the hallway and I thanked her for taking care of my stuffed animal, and she said “Of course my friend, he is family, he needs to be comfortable too!”. The sweetest. 

Later in the day Heather and I went to the market to get some produce that we needed for dinner. Oh, the market. It is so different than anything we have at home, and it is always such a 5 senses experience. Walking into the market there are sp many overwhelming smells, some good, some harder to take in. There are so many different colors everywhere! Avocados, tomatoes, lime, beans, bananas, watermelon, all the good stuff. Sounds, everywhere. From kids laughing, to vendors yelling “muzungu, my carrots!’ We engaged in the typical bartering conversation at each stand, making sure we gathered everything we needed for taco night! And then, my favorite part. Upstairs there is a sweet old man I always get bananas from. He lights up when we walk around the corner, and he always gives us more than we ask for. Ive never quite understood his name, but man is he a sweetheart. His smile can light up any day! I asked him if I could take a ’snap', and he grabbed a bushel of bananas and that sweet smile came across his face. This was another one of those moments where I could see Jesus. He was clearly shining through my banana friend. We made our way to the fruit section to grab a watermelon and pineapple, and the watermelon truck was being unloaded! Its always so much fun to watch the guys throw watermelon in an assembly line to be stacked at the top of the pile! 

This week has been a good one so far. I can’t wait for this weekend when I get to go on a clinic in Kampala on Friday, and then head to the orphanage on Saturday! Sometimes when I sit down to write these posts I truly don’t know where to begin or end. There are so many things that happen each day that I wish I could write about, but it would honestly take a book. I hope that my pictures can tell stories that I am not able to fully depict. 

Uganda 2016 / Day 1

It is my first day back at the hospital I love so much, and I’m already back in the swing of things! 

So many welcoming hugs and waves, lots of laughs, and even more hugs. These people truly know how to make me feel so loved!

This morning I made my way back to the office I sat in last summer, sat down to open my computer, and tears began to form. This place, this desk, is where so many memories were made for me last summer. I learned more about selflessness than I knew I needed to learn, I started relationships that lasted faithfully throughout this past year, and the corner of my heart that houses compassion grew ten times in this place. When I was able to gather my tears, and lift my chin up, I was only met by more tears. Last summer I colored on the dusty floor of our lobby with a little boy. We colored many pages in the minion coloring book I had brought, and a few hours after we finished there was a little knock on our office door. The little boy had brought me his coloring pages, and wanted me to keep them. I immediately taped them up above my desk, alongside the quote I am known for in this place, “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.” Guys, that dusty tape with those rainbow colored minions are still clinging to the wall above my desk. If anything says we missed you, those pages did.

This is where is gets crazy. I went to our chapel service at 8am that is a gathering of the hospital staff were we worship and sing worship songs. I was greeted by many ofter staff members there, and my heart almost exploded. A few minutes into the message, the pastor told us he wanted to show us a video. Guys, chills. The video was on discipleship, and it was a simply a short film of a man walking around talking. But in the background I thought I recognized the scenery. I thought to myself, “There's no way, but that looks like Kalas Village in Wilmore. That place looks like home!” I leaned over to tell our Executive Director, Tim, who was sitting next to me, and our eyes both widened. Sure enough, the next scene was shot in front of Estes Chapel. All the way over here in Mbale, my home was on the screen. What are the chances that of all of the videos our pastor could have chosen, he chose the one where my hometown was in the blurry background? Jesus is in the details, I can promise you that! 

After chapel I walked around for a while, taking photos and catching up with friends. It wasn't long before the afternoon rain rolled in and a refreshing breeze came with it. I didn't realize just how much I missed the rains here *cue Toto*. It has been a full day, and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds! 

Iceland 2016

It honestly just doesn't feel real. I've seen this place in photos so many times, but never did I think I would get to step foot there myself. Iceland was everything I hoped for and more. The trip was made even better when I was able to share the excitement of my brother proposing to the lady he loves. So many emotions swept over me. I'm truly overjoyed for them, and I am so excited to see how God uses them as a married couple!