Two Hearts

36585190_10214594167180778_6024345352432254976_nNobody told us that when we move here we are signing a part of our heart away to live in Uganda for the rest of our lives. And yet, even if someone did tell us that, we still wouldn’t have understood the way we do now.

I would never think that I would tear up listening to the Children’s Choir, Ugandan Thunder 2018, sing the Ugandan National Anthem followed by the United States National Anthem. I’ve never had my heart live in two different places. Each song sang to those different parts of my heart in two different, yet familiar ways.

Ben got me a necklace from Etsy last year for our one year anniversary. It has an Africa pendant with a heart where Uganda is located. It felt so precious and exciting to wear it. But soon after I began to think to myself, would I ever wear a North America necklace with a heart over Maryland? Why haven’t I thought of wearing that before—where I have grown up the past 23 years? Uganda is so foreign to me and yet I am wearing it around my neck like I know it so well? The hook on my bathroom wall has been wearing it more than my neck ever since.

Now it’s been 7 months and some change since living here in this beautiful green and red country. And 7 months and some change it will remain.

Ben and I are coming home to America, and we will not be returning to our roles as Family Mentors to the David House Boys of Amazima.

Late June we received news from my family that my dad’s lung capacity has gone down to 40%. He will need to use a BiPap machine for 10-12 hours each day to help him breath. Soon he will need to use a feeding tube to help him eat.

When we said yes to this job my dad had a terminal illness, very similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It’s called Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD), which is the neuro-pathological term for a collection of rare neurodegenerative diseases that correspond to four main overlapping clinical syndromes: frontotemporal dementia (FTD), primary progressive aphasia (PPA), corticobasal degeneration syndrome (CBS) and progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSPS). In simple terms, if you have this disease all of your muscles begin to shut down along with minor dementia. The average life span after diagnosis of ALS is 2-5 years. The average for FTLD could be up to 10 years. There’s not much research on it yet. But, the last system to fail with these awful diseases is the respiratory system—the lungs.

Last summer, when we said yes to coming here, my dad was well above average with 120% lung capacity. In January, when we moved here, he was down to 75%. Now, 40%. The rate continues to progress.

It’s one thing to say I can live on another continent than my dad when he is suffering from this. It’s a whole another thing to do it. To live it. Yet, I have no regrets. The best part was to see his selflessness, and new love for Jesus in the midst of facing death. He could have been like everyone else: How could you leave your dad during this time? Why would you move to Africa when he is sick?

But I will always remember how he responded. One doctor appointment I took him to was soon after a few bad falls. The doctor asked him, “Who helps you when you fall?” My dad replied that Ben and I usually come over and help. The guilt about swallowed me whole knowing I was moving to Uganda in weeks time. Then my dad said with a big smile, “But they are about to go help 24 boys, instead of just this one boy.”

Fast forward to a night of Chinese take-out with my parents and Ben discussing our upcoming move. My dad became emotional showing us a sermon he listened to using verse-by-verse ministries app. The pastor was speaking on Luke 5 where Jesus meets Simon Peter, James, and John fishing. They have no luck making any catches until Jesus tells them to cast their net once more. The fish are then abundant. Luke 5:11 states, “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

My dad stared at Ben and I and pointed at us, not knowing what words to say at first. Then finally he got out, “This is what you two are doing. I get it now. You’re following him. I’m selfish and I want you to stay here with me, but I know you’re following him.”

Sobbing. Speechless. Undone. My previous unbelieving father transformed physically and spiritually by this disease. He had every right to be selfish and mad at us, but he did the opposite. He trusted God.

And now, what Ben and I once declared as “worst case scenario” is unfolding. My dad’s illness has progressed to the point that we need to come home and be with him and my family. Our time here is technically cut short from our two year commitment, but we are reminded that it is the Lord who establishes our steps.

James 4:13-15, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” The Lord’s will was 7 months and some change all along.

We’ve told our Ugandan partner and brother- Amos, our best friends- Mac & Zach, our 24 boys- Benon, Henry, Samuel, Elisha, William, Emmanuel, Hamudan, Denis, Roderick, Paul, Christopher, Caleb, Francis, Joseph, Malachi, Marvin, Kizito, Michael, Geofrey, Akim, Nelson, Martin, Kayz, and Joel. We’ve told everyone here and now we are telling you.

The reactions and support of everyone has been overwhelmingly encouraging. Everyone knows this is the right decision to make, and we would regret it any other way.

The necklace will be coming off the hook now. Not because I know Uganda so well, but because that heart over it represents those boys I just named. It represents our seven and a half months living here with them. It represents all that Uganda has taught me, and grown me in. It represents a time of sacrifice, hardship, new friendship, being a spouse and a colleague, making disciples of a new nation, and so much more.

God knew we would be here this long. He goes before us on our way home to be with family. He has a plan that is good. We entered blindly into Uganda, we enter blindly on our way out. That’s the beauty of faith, right? Walking by it rather than our own sight.

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for our trust and faith in God to only increase through this transition. It feels like we just got settled and now it’s time to pick up and figure things out again.
  • Pray for our last 10 days here to be fruitful and full of love and grace. Especially during our final home visits to tell our boys families of our news—peace, comfort, and strength in these conversations are needed as it is hard to share it over and over again.
  • Pray for guidance with our future jobs in America, and peace over the challenging transition and adjustment back.
  • We will be staying with my parents when we initially come back, but are looking for an affordable place to move into after a month or so. Pray for open doors in this area…literally 🙂
  • Pray for my family during this time, especially my dad. Pray for God’s comfort to surround him as he has to use these very uncomfortable machines to do daily tasks that we can easily take for granted.

Praise Reports:

  • The reaction of leadership, staff, and our boys here has blown us away. We have received heart-warming words whether written form or verbal. Another blog post for another time!
  • Ben’s mom is coming to be with us our last week here, and all of us at David House couldn’t be more excited to receive her!
  • God’s timing is perfect, and we are already seeing some paved paths up ahead.
  • God is alive, active, and oh so good.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Thank you for following along. The blog posts here will continue. I still have a lot to share. I look forward to telling you all more later.

Love, Ben & Lo

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