Saturday, February 27, 2016

Getting an Ultrasound

20 Weeks Pregnant!
Will and I had the privilege of getting and ultrasound in Arua this past week. Here are some interesting things about getting an ultrasound here.

1. It's not going to be predictable! You don't need an appointment to get an ultrasound here. However, there will ALWAYS be complications. We have an amazing Irish midwife friend here. Her name is Heather and she has agreed to do our prenatal care while we are in Arua. We arranged with her to get an ultrasound on Wednesday. I called on Monday to confirm this and she told me that the "good hospital" in town is not currently doing ultrasounds because they have limited power right now. They will not have consistent power again until the rains come consistently (in a couple months). Heather was able to find another doctor who has a small clinic in town- we were still on for Wednesday!

Then... Wednesday came and Heather came over and told us that the Ugandan president declared that day a holiday (as of the night before)!! Therefore, everything would probably be closed. However, she finally got ahold of the doctor and he said he would be in the clinic if we came in two hours. So, it ended up working after all- despite all of Africa's efforts to through of our "plan" ;).

2. The machine might not be current, but it will be cheap! The ultrasound machine was definitely out of date, however, it showed us our sweet baby and that's all we cared about. It costed us 15,000 UGX, which is about $4.40. The sad thing is that most women here cannot afford to get an ultrasound, so most go through their whole pregnancy without having one. We were told that even when the women here have ultrasounds, they rarely like to look at the screens. They are afraid there will be a problem, so they look away and wait for the doctor to tell them if everything is okay or not.
It's a girl! No printed pictures,
but we were allowed to take
a picture of the screen :). 

3. Finding out the gender of your baby is an amazing feeling!! It's one thing to know in your head that you are pregnant, but to find out you're having A BABY GIRL is so incredible to hear! It has been so fun to refer to the baby as "she" instead of "baby" or "it". It was also amazing to hear the doctor say that everything looked normal and "on track".

We're so grateful that we have access to getting an ultrasound here. The doctor was great and very competent. He did a thorough job and encouraged us that everything seemed healthy and normal. Praise the Lord for the hope of new life!

Friday, February 19, 2016


While we were in the States, I would periodically call friends from Mundri to check in and see how they were doing. Most of the time that we were in the States, our Mundri friends were in the bush and therefore, had limited access to charge their phones. After a while, I started to lose touch with friends because their phones were off. When we were no long able to get through on the phone with friends, we tried to not think the worst. Instead, we would hope that it meant their phone lost battery or they made it to safety in another country where their number no longer worked.
Ralie and her daughter, Rebecca
about a year ago in Mundri

One of my closest friends in Mundri was Ralie. I would visit Ralie and her family once a week and we would cook together, laugh and practice Moru. Ralie became a close friend quickly because she speaks very good English and we were able to communicate without many language barriers (something that I wasn't able to do with many people in Mundri). During our time in the US, Ralie is one of the people I couldn't reach on the phone anymore. About 5 months went by and I wasn't able to talk to her. I started to ask everyone that knew Ralie if they had heard from her. No one could give me any answers other than, "We don't think she is dead because we would have heard if she had died".

In January, I received a Facebook message from a mutual friend of ours who lives in Kampala. She told me that Ralie had called her and was safely in a refugee camp in Uganda! She told me that Ralie asked her to pass her number to me and that she wanted me to call her. You can imagine how happy this made my heart!! She was alive, she was safe, and of all places, she was in Uganda (where I was heading in just a couple weeks from that point).

I called her right away and was thrilled to hear her voice. She told me about their journey to the camp from Mundri. She and her family had walked from Mundri to Karika, South Sudan. From Karika, they got a car to Yei. From Yei, a UN vehicle took them to the border. At the border, another UN vehicle took them to the refugee camp. The journey sounded excruciating. They did this travel after weeks of being in the bush with little to no food or supplies and fearing for their lives. She then went on to tell me about the conditions in the camp. She said they have food rations for about one small meal a day and they run out of water each day. The camp she is in is new, and therefore, the schools inside have not been built. So, none of the children in the camp are currently attending school.

I found myself wanting to say, "But I'm so happy that you're safe!" over and over again while she was communicating these horrible things about the journey to Uganda and the conditions of the camp. I quickly realized that this was my way of wanting to negate the struggle. It would be easier to not hear about it. Once I hear details about it, I have to admit what is really happening in South Sudan and face the depravity of the situation. Instead of hurrying her through the gory details, I slowed myself down and listened. Listening to the struggle showed me how much of a miracle it truly was that she and her family (all of them!) were alive and had made it to safety. Hearing the details also gave me a better understanding of what she has been through emotionally and physically.

A few weeks after this phone conversation, we were back in Uganda. We planned to visit Ralie at the refugee camp, but knew it would take several weeks to arrange this. So, I called her to tell her know we were in Arua, and we would let her knew when we could visit. Just this past Tuesday, Ralie called me to tell me that was in Arua! She came into town to visit a friend from school. I told her to come to our house to visit. She came by with her brother and daughter. What an amazing reunion!! After almost a year of not seeing each other and several months of no communication, it was truly amazing to catch up with her. She looked very thin and I knew that were emotional scars that couldn't be seen, but it was amazing to see my friend again. We sipped juice and ate muffins together and I heard more stories about the refugee camp and the horrible conditions in Mundri. The conversations were heavy, but the company was sweet.

Hearing stories about Mundri from Ralie showed us just how bad things are there right now. There is constantly new fighting and new threats of fighting. People are still without much food or any medicine. We feel at a loss for how to pray other than, "God, you have to intervene! Please help!". Talking to Ralie also reminded me just how resilient South Sudanese people are. They have endured things I don't even like to allow myself to think about and yet, they come out of it saying things like, "God is greater" and "God will intervene!" I'm so grateful for their faith and trust in God's ability. I am also extremely grateful for this opportunity to see Railie, her brother and her daughter again. What a gift from the Lord!

Monday, February 15, 2016


While we are in Arua, we are partnering with the Moru Church that meets here. Including children, there are probably around 75-100 who attend the church. Here are some glimpses into the service yesterday.
Three beautiful Moru women chatting together before the service. I sat down and attempted to talk to them in Moru. They appreciated the effort, but we didn't didn't get much past, "How are you? How as your sleep? How is your family?" I will continue to learn as I push myself to have more conversations like this. They were all filled with so much joy. In the midst of everything they have endured, their joy still always amazes me. God is so evident through them!

Children wear their fanciest clothes to church on Sundays. It took this girl a little while to smile, but I'm so glad she did! Isn't she beautiful?!

A group of kids waiting outside before the service. The church meets in a classroom of a local primary school. The schools here are open in between the classrooms, so there are a lot of open-air spaces to rest and cool off before going inside.

The Children's Church did two special songs and dances for the church! They are so cute with their practiced dances and songs. The first song was in English and the second in Moru.

The Youth also sang and danced. Their songs were in English and Arabic. Youth here can be anyone who is not married. They usually range from about 16-35 or so.  

I thought this little man was too cute to not photograph. He looked so adorable in his full suit and shiny shoes. He wouldn't smile, but he was surprisingly happy to have his photo taken (not that you can tell...)

Justin preached yesterday and he did a great job! He spoke from 2 Corinthians and along with other things, discussed the difference between punishment and discipline. He spoke in English and it was translated into Juba Arabic. Everyone was very engaged during the message and seemed to really enjoy it. 

I didn't get a picture of this, but after Moru services, everyone exits the church and forms a line. When you come out of the church, you shake everyone's hand who came out before you (starting with the pastor and elders). While this is happening, everyone is singing and people are playing drums. It feels like a big celebration! We are so grateful to be a part of the Moru church here and are looking forward to getting to know all of them better. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Week One

We have officially been in Arua for one week now. Writing this title of "Week One" has reminded me once again that we are in another time of transition. I wouldn't have expected that a year and a half into our term on the field with Serge, we be having a new "week one" on a new field. Even though this wasn't expected, it is good. We are grateful to be here and have direction from the Lord to work with South Sudanese people in Arua for the next 4 months. God is not surprised by this new beginning, so we will trust in His direction and plans.

Here are some highlights from our first week in Arua. 
We are house-sitting for a missionary family while they are away on Home Assignment. We are so grateful for the house we are staying in! It is spacious, comfortable and well organized.

We were able to attend the Moru church service on Sunday and were quickly reminded of how loving, welcoming and hospitable the South Sudanese people are! There was so much joy and excitement in the service. It is so encouraging to see their worship of God through dancing and singing. There is so much energy and joy in the room as they worship!

There is a women's Bible Study here in Arua that I have been able to be a part of. This is a group of missionary women from all over the world. It is refreshing to come together with other women and hear their stories/ study the Word together. I'm looking forward to getting to know the women in this group better.

We have been pleasantly surprised by the food that is available in Arua! There are SO many things here that we could not purchase in Mundri. We can get apples, BACON, cheese, and exciting vegetables like carrots and nice green peppers. It's quite exciting :)! Today, Justin and Will even found grapes!! I was actually giddy when they came home with them! Things like this feel like such a treat now since they were not available to us at all before.

The guards at the compound we are staying at are wonderful! They are so kind and welcoming. They always greet us at the gate when we return with a huge smile and a loud, "Karibu!!" (Welcome!). It makes being around the compound feel welcoming and homey.

Here are some things that have taken a while to get used to again:
THE HEAT! Before you say, "Duh, Theresa, it's Africa!!". Let me just admit I was surprised that this one took me off guard so much. Arua is not even as hot as Mundri, bit has still been getting into the mid to upper 90's each day. We usually adjust back to the heat pretty easily because we are used to it by now. However, with being pregnant this time away, the heat is way harder to deal with! I find myself having to take things much slower than usual and give myself time to rest during the hottest part of the day. It's taking some getting used to, but we're figuring it out.

The Noise: I remember going back to America and thinking, "wow, it is so quiet here!!". In Africa, everyone's homes are pretty open to everything else. There are no glass on the windows and most life happens outside all the time. So, even if we are inside trying to work or sleep, neighbors are usually outside (it's typically cooler outside in the shade than inside homes here). The main noise that is hard to get used to again is that of all the animals here. We wake up everyday to the sound of very loud rooster outside of our window. There are also constantly goats, cows, etc. always around and singing songs. On Saturday night, we even had a 24 hour wedding going on down the street. This wedding was complete with loud music and a DJ. It went ALL night long with speeches, etc. Yes, we could hear the whole thing... all night long! I bet that makes you grateful for noise regulations :).

The distance from home: After 30 hours of travel, you are very aware of how far away from home you are. However, this never truly hits you until something big happens at home to remind you that you aren't currently there, and it isn't easy or practical for you to get there anytime quickly. We were hit with this reality this week as we got the tragic news on Saturday that my Uncle Victor died suddenly of a heart attack. This news has hit Will and I very hard. Uncle Victor was always full of life, ready for adventure and a friend to all. To hear of his passing felt like a strong punch to the gut. We both wish so badly we could be with family this week to mourn and celebrate Uncle Victor's incredible life. The ocean feels too big on weeks like this. Our hearts feel divided and confused, but we are grateful for technology which connects us quickly to family and allows us to feel a part of things are not actually physically present for.

We are grateful for this first week. We started language classes with the Moru community yesterday and are looking forward to digging deeper into language. We're looking forward to seeing what all God has in store for us here in Arua.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Journey Back

Will and I are safely in Arua, Uganda with our teammate, Justin! Here are some pictures from our journey back to Africa. 
Us at the airport in Indianapolis. We still look energized at this point in the journey, but our total travel time was about 30 hours, so we didn't look so good by the end of the journey! We flew from Indy to Dulles, then to Brussels and then Entebbe, Uganda. It was then about an our drive from the airport to our guest house. We got in around 11pm local time. The flights were fine overall! We experienced several hours of turbulence on our flight to Brussels, but it was manageable. After boarding the plane in Brussels, we were told that the engine was not starting, so they needed to call the mechanic to fix the problem. That always makes you feel good before you fly for 8 hours! We sat on the runway for 2 hours while the plane was being fixed and then had a smooth flight to Uganda. We are grateful for everyone who was praying for us during the long flights! Praise the Lord for safe travels. 

We stayed in Kampala for a few days. During this time we bought groceries that we cannot get in Arua, stocked up on medicines, tried to get over jet lag and I was able to have an appointment with a midwife. We were also able to spend time with some of our fellow Serge missionaries who work in Bundibugyo, Uganda. Our time in Kampala overlapped with them. It was so nice to see familiar faces! 

On Tuesday we left Kampala around 7am to drive to Arua. This is about an 8 hour journey. Our favorite driver, David, took us on the trip. This picture is overlooking Kampala at the beginning of our journey. We stopped for gas here on the way out of town. Fun fact about Africa, when you are getting gas, if the person filling you car wants to be able to fit more gas in the tank after it is "full", they will aggressively shake your whole car to make room in the tank for more gas! It is quite a shock/ entertaining when you are sitting the car while this is happening :).

On our way to Arua we pass over part of the Nile River! It is truly beautiful to see!

A view from the van along the way. The terrain is very beautiful.

This is a herd of hartebeests we saw along the road while we were driving!! We also saw giraffes, baboons, and antelopes. God's creation is so beautiful! This life is an adventures and we are very grateful for the reminders of that along the way!

When you are driving in Uganda for a long journey, there are very few bathrooms. There are long stretches that look like this with no one and nothing in sight. When nature calls, this becomes your bathroom! 

We passed by a lot of fires on our journey. From our years in Africa, this has become normal to us, but it is still alarming at first. This fire was the result of someone burning their farm at the end of the farming season. Some fires are also from burning trash. They burn ALL trash here (even plastics, etc.) because there are not trash collecting systems in place. So, the trash fires often smell very bad because there are all kinds of chemicals, etc. being burned. 

We are grateful to be in Arua! Will, Justin and I are housesitting for a missionary family who is in the States for several months. They have a beautiful home and run a small guest house. We will run the guest house while they are away. We are looking forward to beginning our work with the South Sudanese Moru community this week. We will attend their church service this Sunday and hope to start language lessons this coming week. Thank you again to everyone who prayed us along this journey! We miss our families very much, but we are grateful for the time we had in the States and are happy to be back in Africa and continue the work God has put before us here.