Saturday, August 30, 2008

Falteringly figuring out the next step

Students have asked me, “Did you have fun?”
The answer is “No.”

Fun doesn’t describe life in Uganda. There is too much pain, too much fear, too much inconvenience. However, I DID like life in Africa and I would return again- often, if I could.

First, I miss the simplicity. How many of your hassles would disappear if you didn’t own a car or a house? How much easier would grocery shopping be with three choices of cereal, one kind of butter, and an unpredictable stove/oven which discourages the making of desserts or gourmet cooking? There’s no need to spend much time shopping for clothes because tailors in the outdoor market sew clothes made just to size and shape and preference. The lack of things takes a lot of complications and time-distractions away.

Second, the weather is balmy, temperate, pleasant: perfect for sitting down with friends. Without technology, there is little left to do except hang out with others. People are valuable, and relationships can be built because there is time (lots of it!) for conversation.

Third. After a long night of frightening nightmares, there’s nothing better than watching the horizon and seeing the growing light. That’s what Gulu feels like—people are still recovering from horror, and just beginning to let themselves have hope. Perhaps a better metaphor is of the next day after the flu; you feel better but you still feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. There’s something raw within the people of Gulu: deep feelings, raw hearts. Literally everyone witnessed or experienced brutality and atrocity; this gives these people a depth of spirit and of character that marks them. I am not proud of this, but I’ve always had little patience for small talk and shallow people… I found little of this in Gulu, and though the stories made me heartbroken, I loved being a part of their healing that came in the telling of those stories.

So, I liked Uganda. But here’s the hard part: how do I live here knowing what I know, having seen what I did? Yes, I’d love to go back. But I’m not back. I also like life here. I have a family that belongs here. I have a job that I love with great kids to teach. I like my house with comfortable couches and hot water showers and an oven to bake pies. I never want to leave my husband again for six weeks.

What do I with this Uganda experience? How do I make it mean something in my future, and more importantly, mean something for people other than me? The biggest tragedy would be if this trip were only a trip for me.

Well, I can help raise more money for Invisible Children, and I do want my words and pictures to do just that. It’s a great organization and I’ve seen with my own eyes that the money is being spent wisely and well.

And, I can continue to encourage each one of my students to a deeper level of faith. The calls of Jesus on our lives are surrender and service, and I want to do everything I can to teach them that loving Jesus is worth every sacrifice, and that when we love him, it rarely feels like sacrifice… I want to pass on my deeply held belief that the task of his people is to restore what is broken. This means going to the broken people and the broken places and the broken world systems and the broken hearted and doing our very small part to offer healing. I want to weave those messages into every day of my class, but doing just that is the hard part. Teaching how to write five-paragraph essays and where to put quotation marks and reading Greek plays fills my hours and leaves little room for Uganda.

And even if I did feel like I was doing this well, ( which I'm not) it still wouldn't feel like enough.

So, months from my trip, I have more questions than answers and more unresolved issues than ever. Thankfully, I don’t (and you don’t either) have to have all the right answers in order for God to love us. For today, I’ll rest in that. Ann

Friday, July 11, 2008

A few photos, but more to come

Leaving Gulu

I am home safely and happily. The flight was long: 8 hours, then 13, then 3.. but I am feeling great, and just so grateful for the gift of this experience. There is so much to say, but the overwhelming impression I am left with is admiration and appreciation for the people I have grown to love.

Gulu is full of dirt and poverty, yet there was color and singing everywhere I went. There is literally no one who escaped the trauma of 20 years of horrific war, but instead of bitterness and anger, there is the desire to forgive and heal. I will never forget my first church service complete with joyful singing and traditional dancing and laughter. How could praise be possible after seeing such evil and feeling such pain? I came to offer some help to broken people, but I learned quite clearly that broken is not nearly the same as destroyed.

Most people in Gulu live very simply in huts with grass roofs, outdoor kitchens, and few possessions. The lack of water makes everyday life for most people difficult- so much time was spent hauling water for just simple tasks like washing and cooking. For almost everyone I met, the conveniences in our lives are beyond even dreaming about ( like driving a car or using a computer or owning two pairs of shoes) but somehow there is contentment; survival without complaint is just a way of life.

A few of my students sent me home with letters to my students here; a few even wrote of their lives in IDP camps or, in one case, of his years as an abducted child soldier. I wish I could say I made a huge difference in the lives of the people I met, but sadly, my contributions felt very small against the huge sea of problems that afflicts these good people. I am left most of all with gratitude- thanks for being able to go, for meeting the people I met, for seeing evidence of God's faithfulness where I had not expected to find it. It will take some sorting out, I'm sure, to figure out how to live graciously in this culture of extravagant possessions which often lacks the deep contentment that I found in the people of Gulu.

Thanks, so so many of you that prayed for me, that cared about me, that read my long blog posts. I hope Gulu changed me for the better. My prayer now is that somehow there's a ripple effect from my trip. and that this trip is more than just a great experience for me. What a privilege to go, what a privilege to come home! Much love to all of you!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Rhino Sanctuary

We have had a very busy week saying goodbye. My school had quite the send-off, complete with traditional drumming and dancing. I finally just this week felt like I was making good connections with my students, so in that regard I am sad to leave ( Arriving on the 10th. ) Except for the people, there are very very few things I miss about America. ( Diet Coke is about it.) I will certainly never look at the water flowing so freely from my faucets in the same way again. I hope to get a few pictures posted about this past week. Until then, however, what follows are my reflections on last week's visit to a rhino sanctuary. We stayed in a guest house right in the game reserve; at one point we were about only 30 feet away from these endangered creatures. It was pretty unforgettable.

Solace in Sanctuary

fenced into this safe place
we walked in grasses tall

and trees
luxuriant with sounds almost friendly.

We came at last upon them:

animals gray, sensual, ancient.

Of course they won the confrontation; we moved back before they also turned away.
For long moments then we watched them

Massive creatures in a vast expanse
Of open land and silent sky.

Weakly we tried to hold on to this extra-ordinariness

but the sweat of our backs
and thoughts of details mundane

pulled us back to mortality.

We left satisfied for our encounter with glory,

and at night

lying among falling stars
our questions were our praise.

We asked, we wondered,


These were our gratitude for such infinite
healing silence.

Friday, June 27, 2008

When I imagined Africa

When I imagined Africa, I conjured up National Geographic-type safari pictures in my mind. Gulu has been different- roads, dust, shacks, bright colors, bore holes and people everywhere. However, Sunday, I was in those pictures. We walked through tall grass where I imagined lions could be lurking (they weren’t). Our excursion was about an hour from Gulu to an old slave fort where, like everything else in this place, horror exists side by side with incredible beauty. A rocky outcrop of a mountain was a half-hour’s walk away, so six of us fought our way through a semi-path of tall grasses in order to reach the base of a granite mound. Kids were playing on the top, and yelled down to us the best way to climb up. The elevation rise was quick, and I was out-of-breath, but the view that overlooked miles and miles of fertile green land in every direction was spectacular. The children laughed at us as we spoke and sang and played with them, (We tried to jump in unison in the attached picture); some of our group wanted to keep climbing up, but the rest of us waited in the grasses at the top with the incredible view at our feet. We returned to the fort in the late afternoon with sounds of birds and bugs in the grass, we ate a picnic, then had a tour of the fort. There are still axe marks in the rocks where people were beheaded; and we were shown the rock ledge where those who were deemed not worthy of being slaves (too infirm or weak) were shot by firing squad, then conveniently thrown off the ledge. It was chilling to stand in the very same spot where such atrocities happened. In 1872, Samuel Baker, (the same man for whom my school is named) a British explorer, learned of the fort, recruited 400 British soldiers, and ended the trade there by overrunning the Arabian traders. Ugandans actually memorialize the spot as much for the rescue as for the atrocities. When we questioned whether it was appropriate to have a picnic on the grounds of such a horrible place, Aleki said “ I don’t understand this obsession of the Americans with slavery. There were slaves, but there was an end to the slavery.) His statement seems indicative of the message we hear over and over- the answer is not to avenge the deaths of the people who have died, or even, to “demand justice” as most of us in the Western world would beg for. Instead, it is the desire to forgive, to move on, to reconcile, and live in peace.

Everyday in the staff room at school, when anyone enters, he or she greets every single person in the room. I am used to the usual greetings, but there was a new one (for me) yesterday. Translated it means, “Thank-you for waking up.” This is said with a broad smile, and it is sincere. Again, the capacity to be gracious, kind, warm, and friendly in the midst of this desperate pain and this horrific suffering never ceases to overwhelm me. Yesterday, when I was in the back of my classroom, I noticed at least five horrible scars on the backs of the heads of my students. Yet they smile shyly with warm appreciation …poverty, death, survival walk right alongside joy, singing, hope and kindness.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Every Day Notes

My teaching team

I have been part of the first wave of teachers in the Schools4Schools Teacher Exchange. Our coordinator is a lifelong friend of the founders of IC, and is doing her doctorate work at NYU in drama education, and has very aptly spearheaded this drive to help improve education here through this teacher exchange program. But because of her connection, the first team of teachers, of which I am a part, is mostly grad students in her theater program (as opposed to mostly classroom teachers who will be arriving next week for the second team.) They are lively, kind people, and because we are a small group living in close quarters, we have become close. I am the same age as most of their parents, but they comment that I seem hipper than their parents (I’m enjoying the compliment).

Invisible Children

I am very impressed with Invisible Children as an organization. Although they are young in age and as an organization, they have made excellent choices on how to work not just for disaster relief but for development. The staff is now 78% Ugandan. Their priorities are education and small business development, both of which are so needed here. I see the educational needs more, of course, and the systems (from a national level on through to the local level) are overwhelmingly broken. Saddest of all, only a fraction of the population can attend secondary school here because of school fees, and then the education they are given is poor. Teacher morale is very low (for a number of very valid reasons) so students may go an entire school day without a teacher. Rote teaching, poor supplies and sporadic attendance affect their learning.

Athletic Competition

In my first week at the school, no classes met for 2 of the days in order to have track/field competitions to choose the school’s competitors for the district wide competition (which was this week in the Gulu stadium which required 2 more days off from school.) Sports teams, trainers and coaches in the US would be shocked at the conditions. Boys who competed have not been in any sort of training program. At the time of the race, they line up and are started with an old fashioned wooden clapper, and the timers can not always hear the start, so who knows about accurate times. Most students run barefoot on a half-grass/half-clay field that has been marked with oil to make the lines of a track. (A few pass around shoes- sometimes the right size, sometime not.) The first race I watched was 5000 meters in the hot, hot morning sun. There was no water, no Gatorade, no shade or ice. Those who finished the race (and many couldn’t) were given a handful of “glucose powder” to replenish the calories. I am told that students at my school (which is a boarding school) get meat once a week.

The Dust

In a nearby western style hotel I supposedly can get a fantastic pedicure for about $6. I may indulge myself soon as it is hard to ever feel clean. Because there are few paved roads, whenever I walk (or ride the bodas), the dust from the cars or other bodas just covers me. Even the house (which is not on a main road) must be swept out everyday, and the floors are washed almost everyday. In comparison, though, we are lucky to have running water for a shower ( well-kind of a shower. I just crouch under a spicket of water, but it’s usually warm) when so many people don't even have water in their houses. Anyway, it would probably feel good to have my feet really clean, even if it’s only for a short time.


Every day we are given lunch at school. I try not to look, but the hardest part is knowing how the dishes are washed. The ladies haul water from the bore holes, and then just rinse the dishes after the 40 people or so have eaten and air dry them on the grass where flies gather. The next day, the same dishes are used again- only occasionally are they washed with soap, and never with boiling water (and they usually feel greasy). The teachers and the cooks all notice what Lynn and I eat ( or rather don't eat- I only took the meat once, and after that not again.) The teachers here take HUGE helpings; probably it's their only meal of the day. In some ways, this food is very healthy- organically grown with no chemicals. Our house cook knows where to get vegetables and fruits so we're safe, but the issue when buying fresh things from the market is having latrines so close to gardens... I've pretty much become a vegetarian here. For our dance party we had goats in our yard for two days, and then they were supper. Live chickens are slaughtered daily, and an IC staff member described a cow slaughter so vividly that I will NEVER eat beef here. I'm just really thankful I haven't been sick yet.


Last week I traveled with our group to visit the progress on the restoration of a displaced school. Awere had to be closed and vacated at the worst of LRA activity, but Invisible Children is helping to rebuild it. The school is in temporary quarters here in Gulu town- functioning under the most primitive conditions. One of the Awere teachers joined us for the trip to the site, along with her two young children. As we were traveling back, the 4 year old had convulsions and lost consciousness from high fever- brought on by malaria. It was a scary moment until he regained consciousness, but almost more surprising to me was the matter-of-fact, even nonchalant way that his mom handled the situation. Then, last weekend, my partner teacher Ilama Grace also rushed home to her children because both had malaria. These serious illnesses are just a common way of life here. I am also told that 5 of my school’s teachers have HIV- and 2 have AIDS.

So much to say! Thanks for reading. Thanks for all your comments and prayers. I am having a great time.

African Mornings

There are now twelve people in the guest house, (teachers with Schools4Schools and a few of the Invisible Children staff) and I am one of the first out, so I try to get ready quietly. Doreen arrives about 6:00 to fix our breakfast; she stays all day to prepare lovely Ugandan dinners and clean the house. Agnes comes to do laundry; when there is water it is a big job to wash all of our clothes and sheets and towels by hand. A day like yesterday, however, was especially difficult for her because we had no running water. She, along with most people in Gulu, walk every few days to the bore hole to fill huge plastic jugs with water. They haul these back to their homes everyday at great expense of time and energy. Even the littlest of children carry jugs of water from the wells.

I say goodbye to our night watchman (Ocelle Abraham Lincoln), walk out of our gate onto our dirt lane and follow it the short distance to the main road into town, where within moments several motorbikes (or bodas) have approached me to see if I want a ride. I ask if they know the way to Sir Samuel Baker school (they might say yes even if they don’t know), and I negotiate the price before getting on the back. (Usually about $1.50 for the 15 minute trip.) This ride has become my favorite part of the day. Gulu is just waking up. Children in brightly colored uniforms are everywhere on the streets walking to school. They yell “muzingu” (white person) or good morning and I wave. Women in their very pink, yellow, green African prints also have begun carrying their water jugs to and from the wells; men in dress shirts and ties join the walkers along the side of the road until there are literally hundreds of people walking into Gulu town.

The boda takes me 7.5 miles to my school on the other side of town, so we travel a few miles in town on paved roads; he must constantly swerve and negotiate his way around the bumps and potholes in the road. Even in town, the modern Western style houses with indoor plumbing and electricity are right next to a plot of land with a garden, a clay hut, and goats or cows in the yards. As we leave the paved road and head out to my school in the countryside, I am nearly overcome with the beauty of the morning. It is a bit chilly; dew rises over the green grass and fields and bush; I travel down the deep red clay road with an absolutely clean morning sky. To me, Africa is color: deep blue sky, white clouds, red earth, black skin and rich, fertile green land.

Friday, June 13, 2008

School Matters

Sir Samuel Baker School sits on lovely grounds with extended green space between the buildings. The compound is removed from town and I must ride a boda to get there-yes, picture me on the back of a motorbike several times a day. To western eyes, the most striking aspect is the run-down condition of the buildings. The buildings need paint and windows and roofs that don’t leak. The classrooms are concrete floors that are covered with African red dust (which is everywhere and all pervasive). The students sit on benches on primitive tables. There is nothing on the walls, there are no books or supplies. The students sit in one classroom all day long and the teachers come to them, then they copy word-from-word from a lecture. They are silent; there is no interaction between teacher and student, no small groups, no discussions, no variance from the rote lecture notes. The science labs have only a few broken test tubes. Three computers exist in the school (for 830 students) but no internet. There is now a bore hole on the property which means water must be pumped and then carried in for all purposes. (Think 850 male students in the hot African sun with no water for showers)
My partner teacher- Ilama Grace- is a gentle-spirited woman with a shy smile. She knows that as part of this teacher exchange, she is opening herself to not only me, but to western ideas of education, which Ugandans seem to be ok with in word but not deed. Having anywhere from 60 to 140 students in each class obviously limits the choices of teaching strategies. Grace lives in teacher housing (the typical practice in Uganda), but the teacher quarters at Sir Samuel Baker are nearly uninhabitable. She has two rooms, but the roof leaks in her sleeping space. She can lock her windows and doors, but because there are no bars in her window, she must shut the windows at night, which means there is no ventilation. She has no running water, and must walk several blocks to get water from a bore hole. She can not, then, take a shower, and must just wash from a basin. She has no stove to cook, except for a little charcoal pot. She has two children (3 and 6), but can not afford to pay someone to watch them during the day, so they stay with her mother in a village about 15 miles away. Teachers are paid so little that she can rarely afford the transport to see them.

Ilama Grace told me very descriptively what life was like for her at the worst of the fighting. Her family lived several miles outside Gulu, and no one was ever safe. Most nights were spent listening, always ready at a moment’s notice to run and hide in the grasses outside her home. Hearing gun shots meant at least she knew from which direction to run away. “ It was not a question of feeling safe, only of desperation. There was no where to go. It was always only by God’s mercy that we survived.”
Sir Samuel Baker was closed and the students were sent back to their families ( it is boarding, as are many of the schools here). But the families by then were flocking to IDP camps for protection. Many are still there; although the government has told them it is safe to go home, not everyone is sure. The IDP camps are a horrible alternative, especially because it is still very much the custom here to garden and grow one’s own food in this very fertile, rich soil. In the camps there are only rations of food ( that don’t last until the next time). There is no sanitation, no way to earn income, etc. Six of our teachers who are coming in the next wave of this teacher exchange program will teach in schools in the camps. We plan to visit at least one camp, so hopefully I’ll have more to say on this later.

During the time Sir Samuel Baker was closed, others flocked into the buildings and became squatters. There was some fighting between those villagers and the LRA, and there was much destruction of the school buildings during that time. One project sponsored by Invisible Children for this school is to construct a water system, but just last week as workmen were digging a trench for pipes, they discovered two skulls in shallow graves. (They haven’t found the rest of the bones.)

Despite all this tragedy, there is so much kindness, so much warmth, so much hope. My students are respectful, even shy. I don’t feel as yet that I am contributing much by being here- I am the one who is learning and growing….

P.S. Danger watch

I don’t know how much the news has reached there regarding the LRA. There are verified reports that Joseph Kony has begun abductions again. This means the 3-year peace process is closed, and there are of course fears all around as to what this means for Gulu. Kony has many ties here, but his last known location is a long distance away…It seems it is not time to worry yet, but it would be beyond tragic if these dear people must endure even more fighting. Invisible Children does have an evacuation plan for us, and we are staying both informed and watchful, and I don’t believe that we are in danger at this point.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

“You have come to help clear the tears of my people. You are most welcome here in my country.”

These were the words of my new friend David Aleki as he spoke so passionately to us this afternoon of the effects of war on education. He cited statistics, taken just last month, of the schools in disrepair, of teacher shortages, of the ravages of war both on the structures of school and the effects in the classroom. The news is bleak, the facts are grim, the stories at a level of heartbreak that is beyond grief. Yet in the same hour he spoke of the beauty of the Acholi people, and he welcomes us with gratitude, and he thanks us for our willingness to come. How can there be such capacity to forgive, and to love and to hope? Twenty years of war have wounded these lovely people, yet they are not utterly destroyed.
We have had three long full days of lectures and workshops and have met some of the most admirable people I have ever encountered. (more to come later). I’m off to my school soon and will start with my teacher on Monday.

First impressions of Africa

So much in such a few days! I flew over half of America on Saturday, over Europe on Sunday, and Arabia and northern Africa on Monday. The drive from the airport in Entebbe, right along the shores of Lake Victoria, to Kampala took about an hour, and was fascinating. There seems to be one main, paved road, and everything everywhere else is dirt, so the entire drive was lined with vegetable stands, tire stands, lumber and hardware stands, car parts, shacks of merchants selling one or two items, and people sitting listlessly about. Then, there are people walking. Right alongside the highway, hundreds of people walk; some carry bags, most carry nothing. Hundreds of school children in their uniforms of bright pink and purple and green and yellow fabric make the road full of color. What is most striking, however, are the dirt roads and pathways which connect onto the highway; these are lined with shacks and shanties full of barefoot, nearly naked children who play and adults who sit. Huge numbers of people appear to live in these tiny, dirty dwellings- without electricity or plumbing- and they sit only feet from the major highway into the country’s capital.

Our two-plus days in Kampala were marked by remarkable encounters. We visited a house/ center where three young men lived in community with the goal of giving youth positive mentoring through art. One had lost his mother to AIDS, yet he sang (with words that made me cry) to teach children about avoiding AIDS.

We met the U.S. ambassador who spent an hour with us; he was part kindness, part propagandeur, part history teacher. He was excellent at his craft of diplomacy- appearing to have no agenda, but as we walked away we felt how intentionally crafted and even insidious his message had been. We felt honored to have this “high-level” meeting, but also perplexed as to the content of his message- it will take some sorting out.

Then on to a school- one of the best, according to Amy, (our director) in the country. 3350 students attends, 350 board in dorms with bunks stacked four high. We talked at length with teachers, and sat in on some classes. Amy’s intent is for us to now compare this school to the ones where we’ll work in Gulu. Our biggest goal is to give support and pedagogical ideas to teachers in schools that are overcrowded. (as in 90 kids in a class)

My arrival in Gulu was tough for me- the van had to stop once for me so I could be sick on the side of the road, and within the first ten minutes of our arrival I was in bed. (It was a combination of a migraine headache and car-sickness; the road to Gulu is full of potholes, so the driver weaves back and forth, swerving every few feet. But I am better now, and we’ve had a steady string of meetings and orientation lessons on history and language and culture. Tonight I’ll meet my partner teacher, view the school tomorrow, and start in the classroom on Monday!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Arrived in Gulu!

Hi Everyone,

Annie made it to Gulu! She is having a problem accessing her blog, so here’s an update from her emails.

Monday: I'm sitting in the internet room of Backpacker's Hostel in Kampala! So I'm actually here in Uganda! We'll hang out here tonight, then run errands tomorrow, make a school visit on Weds, then take the 6 hour ride up to Gulu, arriving Weds. Night. I like the people I'm with and have found out a little more about the program, and I think
it's going to be really good. The hour drive from the airport was one long eye-opening stretch of poverty. Basically one long road with shacks and little fruit stands and muddy paths. The hostel is a very
green oasis. Simple and rustic, but fine.

Tuesday: It's now morning. We went to bed early- all in a big bunk room and now I'm drinking horrible coffee but at least the mosquitoes did not get me under my malaria tent. It's kind of creepy hearing them buzz all night around my face with only the net separating us. It's not as hot as I'd imagined. It's very damp, but almost cool. Today we're doing our last minute shopping and seeing Kampala.

Wednesday: I had a rough day yesterday. We were warned that the road to Gulu was bad, but it was full of such deep pot holes that the driver had to weave back and forth the whole way and I got car-sick. On top of that I got a migraine, and thought I could wait to take meds until I arrived. Ended up pulling over on the side of the road and throwing up, then being really sick by the time we arrived in Gulu about 7p.m. I went right to bed but was pretty miserable.

Thursday: Finally I'm better but not great! Busy day with workshops and meeting the staff.


Sunday, May 25, 2008


Why am I going?
Invisible Children is an organization committed to helping the children of war-torn northern Uganda. A documentary in 2006 featured the tragic conditions of the "night commuting" children who walked into the city of Gulu, Uganda each night to avoid being abducted and forced into life as a child soldier. In the 2+ years since the film, night commuting has stopped because everyone has been forced out of their villages (obstensibly for safety reasons) and live now in IDP camps. Invisible Children is working to improve lives in northern Uganda through jobs and education. During IC's Schools for School's fundraising contest, Westminster (my school) came in 5th in the nation for money raised. Besides $22,000+ going directly to Gulu High school for a building project, ( it had been gutted in rebel/army fighting) one teacher (me) and one student from Westminster were invited to participate in summer programs in Gulu.

What will I be doing?
I'll join a team of 30 U.S. teachers who will be assigned a partnering teacher in a Gulu school. Invisible Children works with ten schools in Gulu, so 2 or 3 of us will be in each of the schools working along side a Ugandan teacher.

What will be the challenges?

"I am a writing teacher. Can I assume there will be paper?" This is one of the first questions I asked. Sadly, the answer I received is "No. Don't assume there will be paper. Supplies vary school to school." I expect that I will learn a lot about how to teach from my new Ugandan friends.

I have been told that teacher training is poor and teacher morale is low. Schools are overcrowded, supplies are lacking, pay is pathetic. In addition, many many kids are orphans or have experienced horrific events in the fighting either as a spectator or as victim or even as child soldiers who were forced to kill or carry out horrific acts of violence.

How can you be praying?
Health. I don't want to get sick. I want to teach and be available to show kindness in whatever small way I can. I intend to be very careful with what I eat and drink, but many friends I know who have been to Africa get sick.

Mental and spiritual strength. Will I be overwhelmed with the sadness, with the enormity of need, the tragedy of these people so broken? I want to be productive and keep my perspective right- that though I can't fix the big problems, hopefully I can bring a little kindness to the few people that I encounter.

Family. I'll miss them terribly and worry about them. Dave is the most supportive man I know, and is more than willing to bear the brunt of family matters ( all three boys are home this summer) . Both of us wish that we could go together, but he is gracious to stay home and do what may be the harder ( and certainly the less glamorous and more mundane job) of parenting.