Friday, March 22, 2013

Uganda, My Heart

On the day that I spent with doctors at the Moore's Cancer Center last week I got so much information, and had an idea of the treatment for the months ahead.  I will know more after the scans this week and my meeting with my oncologist next week.  But at the end of the appointment, I asked my surgeon a question, and unfortunately I knew what her answer would be....I said, "I have gone to Uganda on a mission trip for the past two years, and my whole family is going again this July...will I still be able to go?" She looked at me compassionately, and then said, "You won't be able to go to Uganda this year--your journey is going to be a minimum of six months, and even if we had the best case scenario, your immune system will be compromised and you just can't travel to a place like that".  In my head, I knew it was right and true, but in my heart I was crushed.  This was the worst news I have heard since I have been diagnosed. Noah and I have gone to Uganda with our incredible team for the past two years, and this was the first year that all  of us--Greg and Micah included--were going on the mission together--with a plan to stay in London for four extra days on the way back.

Then came the really hard part--telling my family and my Uganda team (truly my soul brothers and sisters) that I couldn't go. I could barely get the words out.  But it was really important to me that my son Noah still goes....he calls Uganda his second home.  He is an amazing worker and servant when he is there.  He adores the village boys and children and he is such an example of Jesus.  So Greg and I had a long talk with him.  I told him that it was ultimately his decision, but that I really wanted him to go--we have an incredible team going with a number of his dear friends from youth group, and I told him that he needed to give an extra 3,000 hugs to the villagers since I couldn't be there.  So after discussion and prayer, Noah is still going on the trip this summer. I am so proud of him--he is a young man of faith, with a heart to serve and love others.

And after that really hard part, came the most heart wrenching of all--telling my Ugandan friends that I wouldn't see them this year.  There are so many precious friends I have from the village, but telling three key people broke my heart--Pastor Stephen Hibu--the pastor of the village; Godwin Makonga--who works in Mokonu for Destiny International, and travels with us up to Gulu, and Mark Haumba--who is my Ugandan "son".  I met Mark the first year we traveled to Uganda. He is a social worker at the Victor's School in Mokonu and has traveled to Gulu to help us both years.  He is educated, articulate, funny, loving, compassionate, and he loves Jesus with all his heart. We have tried to get him a visa to come visit us in the states for the past two years and he gets denied (it really helps if you are married and have kids to the government, because then they believe you have a reason to return to Uganda and not stay in the states).
When I am in the village of Guru Guru outside of Gulu, we are all focused on our work and on the villagers, but every moment I have to spend time with Mark and talk, share, and give extra hugs--it brings me pure joy. With Mark's permission, here is a portion of the message he sent me....

Hi mom,

I love you so much, having a you as a mom is the most important thing that ever happened to me. I am so proud of you. I write briefly to let you know that I will continue to keep you in my prayers following your recent sickness. I am not happy to hear that the you are not coming to Uganda this July. This morning you told me only Noah is coming Ooh No! I am missing you already, i couldn't come to your home last year and later on this year. Two years of no Mom Kirsten is a lot.
but anyways i pray for you and trust that your healing will be steady and progressive in the days and months ahead.Life is particularly challenging during these times as we all have been in the position of having things going well, and then something happens like this to remind us the real value of life. I want to see Dad Greg and Micah too.  i love you.
love you

My heart is in Uganda--the trials and tragedies the people there have endured don't hold a candle to cancer.  Their hope and resilience after years of being ravaged by war is an inspiration. They are sick, thirsty, and hungry, and they don't get the kind of health care that so many of us take for granted. All of us who go there to work alongside them return with renewed faith, joy, and passion.  They worship with pure abandon, they pray with urgency and they have joy that we can't even fathom here in the States.  I will return, with my whole family, to Uganda...and I will jump into the arms of my son, Mark,  and hug and kiss him and never let go. 


Anonymous said...

How true! You will be missed so much this year! It still amazes me how much we all love our Ugandan family after such a short time knowing them. They are the most amazing people I've ever met in my life and I am honored to be able to spend time with them and work alongside them! I also feel very blessed to have been able to share this experience with you. Your love for them is so apparent in everything you do! I know we will all be back there again next year to continue working on the village and the relationships we have built!


Debbie Pederson-Nuñez said...

Oh my, Kirsten...seeing the title of this post I should have known better than to read this while at work. Tears. I hear your pain and know that your heart is hurting over not being able to be with your Ugandan family this year. I know that you were so excited to be sharing the experience this year with your entire family. Ahhh...the disappointment. Thank you for being honest and real. Yes, you know that the Lord will work through this trial and that He has plans through all of this for you (Jeremiah 29:11...claim it!) but it still hurts...indeed. Such a blessing that Noah will be going as well as so many others...those who are new and those from previous trips (my sweet Jacob included...yay!). The amazing people of Guru Guru will be there to greet you with open, loving arms when you are well enough to return!! In the interim, you can know that the powerful prayer warriors of that amazing village will be crying out to God for your healing and singing and dancing prayers of thanksgiving as you go through the steps of conquering this disease. I can hear/see them now...can't you?? Amen...Hallelujah!!
Love you! xoxoxo