Answered Prayers!

Kelsey and I spent yesterday at the hospital with R. When we got there he was sitting up which we haven’t seen him do since Monday. It wasn’t long before he was asking Kelsey and I for shillings. We gave him a couple coins and took him on a stroll in his wheelchair outside. 
On our stroll, we bought some juice for him from the coke stand just outside the children’s ward. He started talking to us so we found a woman to translate. He said, “You give me drink but you don’t give me any food.” Well, okay then. Let’s get this boy some food. We bought some bread from the stand but didn’t give it to him because he still had his feeding tube in. We went inside and asked to have the feeding tube removed to see if he could drink/eat on his own. It was taking the doctors a long time to come and remove the tube and I guess R didn’t want to wait any longer. He climbed out of his bed and started to walk out the door. We followed him outside, amazed that this is the same boy I looked after just a couple days ago and now he’s walking on his own right out the door. He walked outside, right on over to that coke stand, held up his shilling and ordered bread.

They finally took out the feeding tube and he drank juice and ate and ate some more… Whenever we asked someone to translate for us, he was either saying “Can I have more bread?” or “Can I have a shilling?”  He was very active all day, walking around, using the bathroom on his own, and taking strolls through the hospital. I think he’s ready to be out of there! He still has to have a few more tests to run this week since we still don’t know what was wrong with him but HE HASN’T HAD ANYMORE SEIZURES!!! God doesn’t wait for test results or a diagnosis to answer prayers!

We finally got him to rest after his busy day, but he never let go of those shillings!! Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement! We couldn’t be happier with his progress but we’re still praying for complete healing!!

You are weak but He is strong.

He lays on the bed, his limbs tighten, bending in ways they shouldn’t bend, his jaw stuck open and I look at  my watch to time his seizures. I turn him onto his side and I stare into his eyes. I beg to Jesus, Make it stop.

In between seizures, I wash his soiled clothes in the basin next to his bed. He can’t understand me, but I still talk to him. I apologize because I’m not very good at hand-washing clothes but I’m trying.

Another seizure starts and I go to his side, caress his arm and sing “Jesus Loves You” choking on the words, “You are weak but He is strong.”

Hours pass before he is seen by a nurse or doctor and my frustrations grow greater. He hasn’t had his anti-seizure medication yet and they haven’t run any tests on him to find out what’s wrong with him. I start to judge the doctors, thinking they have no compassion for this boy.

I ask a nurse for help and I’m quickly humbled. She’s busy taking care of a dead body. She isn’t lacking compassion. She’s taking care of the hundred other dying children in the ward. It’s not their fault there are not enough nurses and doctors.

The seizures continue. More begging to Jesus, Save him, save your child. He slips in and out of consciousness.

He smiles often in his unconsciousness. I’d like to think he’s having good dreams. Dreaming of heaven, of Jesus’ face.

The doctor come and examines him. Everyone asks the same questions.
Who is his caretaker?      I am.
Where are his parents?      I don’t know.
How old is he?      I’m not sure, maybe 13?
Where does he live?      At “M1.” He was picked up off the streets.
What is his medical history?      I don’t know.
Does he talk?      He did on Monday.

Monday, the day Kelsey and I met R. Kelsey spotted him while we were at M1. He couldn’t stand on his own and walked very slowly. The staff at M told us he was mentally ill. Kelsey and I walked him to the room where we have worship. He stood next to us clapping along and holding our hands during Fred’s sermon. Then I heard his small voice whispering, repeating Fred’s prayer to God. Moments later we were in the car on the way to the hospital.

Now, I feel helpless as he convulses again, repeating the only Lugandan word I know: Yesu. Yesu. Yesu. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Children are dying all around us, three died in one night, five the next dayI watch his chest rise and fall, checking for signs of life. I call his name and he turns his head and opens his eyes to look at me. Hope rises in me again.

Kelsey comes to take my place at the hospital and we put on worship music for R to listen to.

I can see the light that is coming for the heart that holds on,
And there will be an end to these troubles but until that day comes,
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You.

I head for home, leaving Kelsey behind to take the night shift, which she graciously offered to do. The power is out but I don’t mind. I lie in bed singing, Still I will praise You. Still I will praise You.
***This was written yesterday. R is still at the hospital, still waiting to have tests run. Please continue to pray for him and for the rest of the Sixty Feet staff as we take turns to be with him.

Those who suffer.

This is C. She is 17 years old and lives at M. Today, I met
this beautiful teenager with big brown eyes. She was drinking porridge for lunch
when I came and sat beside her. She spoke English very well and told me she
would take me to see the girl’s dormitory. As we were walking, I saw large
wounds on her arm that were dried with blood and dirt and she told me she was pushed into the door. I took her to see the Sixty Feet nurses, Lucy and Jessica, and
she came and found me after they cleaned her arm. She smiled and laughed as she
watched me attempt to play volleyball with the boys. Later as we were walking
to the girl’s dormitory, we passed other girls who pointed at her arm and
laughed, even smacking her in the head once. I asked why the girls are
mean to her and she told me that another girl pushed her into the door and was
“beating” her because she didn’t want to clean. She first came to M a year and
a half ago. Her parents dropped her off here because she was sneaking out at
night without permission and going to the clubs. Her parents brought her home a
week ago then returned her to M only days later for “being stubborn” and told
her they would come back in 5 months. She is a beautiful, smart girl, who
desperately wants to go to school. She has made mistakes but what teenager didn’t break a few of their parents rules? She deserves a better life, one outside of M. She deserves to have a future, one not filled with despair. She only smiles when laughing at my horrible
attempts to speak Luganda. She has a tough
exterior. She doesn’t show fear or sadness in front of her mockers but once
alone her eyes are sad and she turns quiet. She says, “Jesus is my only
friend.”  C is 17 years old and lives at M and I hope one day she will call me friend.
“Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds. For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer.” Psalm 9:11-12

Day One.

For those of you don’t know what I am actually doing here in Uganda, I am working for a ministry called Sixty Feet that was founded over a year ago. Sixty Feet was founded after discovering a child prison in Uganda, hearing the calling of God to act and responding. The “prisons” were first set up as a rehabilitation center or teenage boys who have committed crimes. With an overwhelming number of orphans and abandoned children roaming the streets of Kampala, street children have been sent to live in these “prisons.” So along with troubled teenage boys living at the centers there are hundreds of street children. Some of them orphaned, others abandoned by their families, some dropped off at M1 because their parents no longer want or can take care of them and some children have a family but were picked up for begging. For security reasons the prisons have been labeled M1, M2, M3, etc.. and names of children have been changed. As of right now there are 310 children at M1 and only 21 of them are girls. Since Sixty Feet has been founded, 6 more child prisons or “remand centers” have been found. Sixty Feet’s desire is to bring hope and restoration to the imprisoned children of Uganda in Jesus’ name. Check out their website to learn more about what Sixty Feet has done over the last year and the goals for the future.
Today was our first day visiting the children at M1. Let me start by saying, I have seen many pictures, I’ve heard the stories, and seen the documentary but when we pulled up in front of M1, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.
I’m not sure how to describe the feelings that I experienced/am experiencing but I will do my best. Upon pulling up to M1, I started to cry immediately. It was heartbreaking to see and still shocking but mixed with a “I’m finally here. This is what I’ve been waiting for for 8 months.” feeling. So I wiped my eyes before going in and Moses gave us a tour of the facility.
The cells where children are kept for weeks for behavioral problems like not doing the dishes, talking back, etc…
The sleeping quarters where children are locked in at night.
Then it was time for worship with the children. The Sixty Feet team, Moses, Fred, Betty, Jessica and Lucy (and now us!!) go every Monday and Wednesday to M and have an hour of worship, prayer, and the gospel. The children jumped, danced, sang and laughed. I watched the tears streamed down their faces as they prayed on their knees crying out to God. (Believe me they were streaming down my face too.) I no longer felt angry or heartbroken, I felt God. I saw hope in the midst of darkness.
Fred, the counselor, and Betty and Lucy, the nurses, started to treat the children and the kids lined the halls waiting to be seen. Unfortunately, we only could spend a couple hours there today but I am so excited to go back on Wednesday and see their smiling faces again. Tomorrow we continue on to another prison that is upcountry and in worse conditions than M1.
Also check out Kelsey’s blog for more and better pictures!!!

We’re here!!

Hello from Uganda!!
Kelsey and I arrived Saturday afternoon and were greeted
with big smiles from the Sixty Feet team, Moses and Fred; and Edward, a Sixty
Feet partner from Mississippi. We left Entebbe Airport and headed for our new
home, Kampala. Kampala looks just like you would imagine, bustling with people,
markets on every corner, cows in the road, bodas (motorcycle taxis) zooming by
barely missing the pedestrians that fill the streets. I was warned about the
traffic in Kampala a few months ago but wow, nothing could prepare you for
Ugandan driving. Rules of the road? Just one. Don’t hit anyone. The roads are
called “parking lots” because you literally just sit in traffic for hours. I
can’t quite figure out when rush hour is because it seems like there is always
traffic! I don’t mind the traffic though because it gives me an opportunity to
After lunch with Moses, Edward, and Fred we drove to our new
house. It’s more beautiful than I imagined. We met our new neighbors, Betty who is Moses’ wife, their children, Shadrach
and Meshach, and the five girls from “M” that now live with them. The girls
immediately ran up to us giving us big hugs and helped us carry all 8 bags
inside. We met our housemate, Susie  and the guard, Abraham. Kelsey and I started to unpack and turn the
house into a home. Around 8pm the electricity went out and Betty said, “Welcome
to Africa.” Apparently power outages are a nightly occurrence here. So we
continued to unpack and shower by candlelight. Luckily, it came back on while
we were sleeping.
Sunday, we went to church at Bwerenga Bible Church near Lake
Victoria. I met the famous Pastor Ernest and Mama Catherine whom I’ve heard so
much about. I had to hold back the tears as I hugged Mama Catherine. She is
truly an amazing woman. I sat in the young Sunday school class that Mama
Catherine taught and the lovely Julia translated for me. The children were
learning about Heaven and Hell. Mama Catherine asked the children what was in
Heaven. Their answers were: pineapples, bicycles, cars, swings, Jesus, food.
She asked them what Hell was like and their answers were: big lions, frogs,
snakes, and more frogs. Then it was time for worship. What to say about
worship? If you’ve been lucky enough to experience true African worship, you
know what I mean; men, women, and children fully rejoicing, dancing, jumping,
singing, screaming, praying, i-yi-yi-yi-ing, and just praising the Lord with
their whole heart. The church is in a small village with wooden or metal shacks
for houses, what we would consider third-world poverty. Yet, they still
rejoice, thanking God for all they’ve been given. Two hours later church was
over and Mama Catherine and Pastor Ernest invited us to their home for lunch
and fellowship. Mama Catherine and Pastor Ernest have 9 orphaned/abandoned
children living with them and they call them all their own. Yet still, Pastor
Ernest asked us to find him two more children from the prisons because there is
room in his house. With already 11 mouths to feed, they gladly welcomed us into
their home and fed us a home-cooked Ugandan meal, beans, beef, and crepe-like
Moses is teaching Kelsey and I to be true Ugandans. First
lesson was the currency. Second lesson was the language, which is WAY harder
than I thought it would be. Third, is driving in Kampala.
Today is our first day going to the prisons. I’ll be honest
and say that I’m a little bit nervous. I’ve seen the videos and the pictures
and I’ve heard the stories, but I’m afraid to see it firsthand. I’m afraid that my heart is going to
break into a million pieces. I’m afraid that I’m going to burst into tears as
soon as I walk into the prison and see their living conditions. Both of these
things are probably going to happen. I’ll probably cry the whole way home and
my heart will probably break into a million pieces but I am confident that I
will see God working at M. I’m so thrilled to meet the children and see their
smiles. I will love on every child that I can wrap my arms around today. I will
squeeze them until they know that they are loved.
This is getting super long but I hope I can update soon. We
have no Internet right now, we have to go to café’s and use their wifi but
hopefully we will have Internet at the house soon and I can update often. Thank
you for all your prayers. They are definitely needed today.
xoxo Kirby

20 hours and counting…

WE LEAVE TOMORROW!! So how would you spend your last night in town before moving to Africa?? Celebrating? Eating at your favorite restaurant with all your loved ones??

I bet you can’t guess what this girl is doing on her last night in town…..


That’s right…I’m doing my taxes. Yes, they were due in April but I am a HUGE procrastinator so, of course, I waited until April 15th to file mine. Then, I found out they weren’t due till the 18th so I procrastinated some more! Then, just a couple hours before the deadline, I can’t find my W2!

Have you ever put something in a special place so you won’t lose it and then forget where you put it? So have I. So like every other procrastinating American, I filed an extension.

And once again, my procrastinating ways have caught up with me and I waited until my last night to do my taxes. And now I’m procrastinating by writing this blog. My mom used to have this really annoying saying, “Procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Luckily, she hasn’t said that tonight. She is being much more gracious and helping me pack. Yep, I’m not packed yet either!!!! I’d say 50% is in the suitcases. The other 50% is strewn across the living room. See below….

Sorry it’s so blurry, it is from my non-smart phone camera!

Don’t worry, it’s not all bad. We cooked dinner at home and popped in a chick flick to watch as we pack! I’ll celebrate with all my loved ones tomorrow when the packing is finished and my living room doesn’t look like a crime scene. So good night, it’s time to get busy!

An Honest Moment.

Can I be honest? This blog took me days to write. I had a bit of a breakdown last week which I almost didn’t blog about, but I will, because it’s part of my story and the journey to Uganda. I’ll start from the beginning…

Last week, my family and I left for a vacation in Franklin, North Carolina. My mom planned this trip because she wanted our whole family to spend time together before I leave for Africa. (BTW, we leave in 3 weeks!!!) We had a great time travelling around North Carolina, mining for gems, white water tubing, hiking, and waterfall hunting. Yet, there was this cloud hanging over my head during the whole week and the more fun we had, the bigger the cloud grew.

The cloud first appeared when my Dad couldn’t join us because of work. Then when my sister backed out, then when my brother backed out. I couldn’t help to take it personally, like this trip wasn’t important enough to them to take off work. Of course, that is not at all the case. They just couldn’t get off work, but still I felt a tinge of heartbreak.

We rented a very neat cabin on the side of a mountain with a gorgeous view. After admiring the cabin, my mom mentions to me how we should rent it again in the Fall so we can see the leaves change. Immediately, I fell silent and the cloud got bigger, hanging over my head. “You’ll be gone.”

And I pushed the cloud away.

The next day, we were traveling around NC, geocaching (if you don’t know what geocaching is you should look it up, because it is a lot of fun) and saw a cute lil’ Christmas shop in Highlands. We have a family tradition that each individual gets a new ornament every year to put on the tree. So we go in, looking for an ornament for this year’s tree. And the cloud grew dark and heavier. “You won’t be home for Christmas.”

And I can’t push the cloud away any longer.

It hovers over me as I think to myself, “I don’t want to go to Africa. It would be easier to stay.”

Immediately I felt ashamed, guilty, and ungrateful. I wipe my eyes quickly because I don’t want anyone to see my tears and I bury the thought deep down inside.

Days passed, the vacation is over, and we’re home again. I hold in all the tears, preach to the youth group that night, trying not to let on that something is wrong. Afterwards, I went to join our college ministry at a local coffee shop for a worship gathering and there I see Kelsey and the tears just pour out. Before I can even say any words, the tears start coming in the middle of the coffee shop surrounded by people. So Kelsey ushers me outside so we can talk, and I know that I have to admit to her the anxieties I was having about our trip. And as I tell her the whole story, the cloud goes away. I’m not alone in this. Yes, I have Kelsey (Praise the Lord for Kelsey) on this journey with me, but He is with me, lighting my path, pulling me along. And the truth is that I’d love to see the leaves change in the Fall, but I’d rather see lives change in the Fall. And I’d love to be with my family on Christmas, but how about spending Christmas with children who don’t have families.

He reminds me daily to put all my trust in Him. Cast all my worries unto Him. And He does not disappoint, He is forever faithful.

Father, thank you for your grace and mercy, especially when I lose faith. I am yours.

Found an elephant while geocaching!
Dry Falls, NC. (Yes, that’s me behind it!)

A Confession.

I participated in the National Cupcake Kids Sale two weeks ago. My nephews and I baked sixty cupcakes, made two gallons of lemonade and decorated signs to raise money for Sixty Feet. We set up at a park nearby, ready to make a lot money to help imprisoned children in Uganda.

We made $18. In 2 1/2 hours.

I felt defeated. Helpless. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Angry.

Angry at myself for not doing enough. My nephews were doing all they could, screaming their little hearts out, “CUPCAKES! LEMONADE! HELP KIDS IN AFRICA!”  What had I done wrong? Were my cupcakes not cute enough? Maybe I should’ve advertised more? Picked a different spot? I was angry at the people in the park. How could they turn down my adorable nephews? How could they hear “imprisoned children” and not empty their wallets out!?!

I put on my best poker face in front of my nephews. They were so excited that they had made $18!! After all, eighteen dollars is a lot of money to a 5 and 7-year-old. We finally called it quits and headed home. I dropped them off at their dad’s house, turned the corner and sobbed. I cried because I felt defeated. I cried because I felt helpless. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Angry. I cried for the children, wishing I could do more in that instant. I cried for the orphans. I cried for injustice. I cried for the fifty leftover cupcakes in my front seat.

It took me two weeks to email the Cupcake Kids with my total sales. It took me two weeks to mail the check for $18. It took me two weeks to write this blog. The donation jar has been sitting on my dresser for two weeks. I guess I was just wishing that I’d wake up and it would be full of money or that someone would hand me a big ol’ check made out to The Cupcake Kids. The other sales made hundreds of dollars. Some made over $1,000. Two weeks ago, my $18 felt so small, so insignificant—But let me tell you about my $18:

$18 can feed 36 children a healthy meal.
$18 can provide school fees for two children for a month with some change to spare.
$18 can provide 3 children with a Bible with some change to spare.
$18 can provide 2 children with a blanket with some change to spare.
$18 can provide basic medical care for three children.
$18 can make a big difference in the lives a few children.

Once again, I’m reminded that what may seem small and insignificant to me, is of great value to Him.