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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Telling it Like it Is...

These past few months have been like none other in my life.  I never imagined being on "sick leave" for six months, and if I had known, I certainly would have packed up my house a little differently, or asked someone to move in to the apartment... to keep in alive and rat free.  Instead it is empty, rats are nesting in my cupboards, and no one is there to decorate the festive three with my precious neighbour boys.  There are so many things I am missing in and about Soroti right now:

  • good friends
  • teaching in churches and schools
  • keeping up with Educational Care
  • company, especially when you are lonely
  • hot weather
  • youth conferences
  • kids camps
  • a friend's wedding
  • biking
  • sunshine
  • my adoptive families
  • making Christmas cookies with Vanessa
  • laughing with Teddy
  • HOME
And there are so many other things I have lost over the past few months:
  • opportunities to serve
  • my Aunt Jean
  • my car
  • my out-going life-style
  • Mr. Chaps, the kitty cat
  • my energy
I am thankful that I am beginning to share in the churches again, about God's Work in Soroti, and how He continues to call me there and I'm glad that I can begin to move about, but it's not easy.

The past few months have truly been a struggle for me.  I have gone from an extreme extravert, always being surrounded by friends and people, to becoming a shut-in with no one home most days.  I have read books, created art projects, written letters, caught up on tv series, and cooked many meals for my parents, but it's not the lifestyle I would ever desire.  

I miss people so much, but the hard part is, I haven't been feeling that well to go anywhere.  Sitting in a car has been extremely painful for me, so longer road trips are out of the question.  Originally when I came back to Canada my lungs were sore, recovering from the pulminary embolisms and I was preparing for surgery.  But now I'm recovering from surgery - which is taking a lot longer than I imagined... and starting to struggle with other issues as well.  The pain in my legs has become awful, but thankfully I found out 5 days ago that my Vitamin D levels are LOW and after starting some supplements, I'm starting to see that my legs are in less pain.

I still have concerns like:
  • when will I get to go back to Uganda?
  • how do I go car shopping when I first arrive back?
  • will I find a dentist in Canada who is willing to do some pro bono work?
  • why is there still pain in my calves (especially if there are no blood clots or squished veins)?
  • will I survive this cold winter weather?
But I am also thankful for so much:
  • a chance to get to know the congregation in St. Thomas 
  • for quality family time
  • lots of conversations and card gameswith Mom and Dad
  • for supportive mission agencies
  • for fireplaces and duvets
  • for healing
  • for rest
  • for the snail mail I've been receiving
  • a part in the Christmas eve drama at church
So, here I am, continuing on in this journey of the unknown and out of my element, but grateful that God has a plan through all of this and I'm trusting in His faithfulness.
 At craft night with a great group of people from church
 The Santa Claus parade in Wingham
 Truly Canadian
 At the arena
Watching my nephew's hockey game

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Community Dinner

Since I have been back in Ontario, I've been able to fellowship at lot at First CRC in St. Thomas... I feel blessed to be part of such a caring congregation.  Last week I was able to do the children's message and I'm happy to be sharing God's Will with the kids. 
Last night, I participated in the community dinner.  I am not able to lift much yet, so I was the ticket lady.  At 5pm, the doors to the Legion were opened and I was able to greet 176 low-income, homeless, struggling people.  That number hardly begins to represent the needs here in St. Thomas, but for one night, I was able to serve along with the church as we offered Christmas dinner and prizes.  
I went to bed thinking about the Poor Man's Christmas last year in Soroti and the Community Dinner here... what a difference and what a privilege to serve.  (For community privacy, I am not posting pictures of people)






Saturday, November 4, 2017

Operation Karen

Well, it's the day after surgery and I think I have a few things to say:
The day before surgery, the internal medicine doctor called to say that some of my blood work is showing that I may be prone to blood clots... and that I might need to be on blood thinners for life.  But he also thought that maybe the Xeralto blood thinners I am currently taking could also make the blood work show up positive.  He said that after three more months, when I finally come off the thinners for 4 or 5 days, we could retest the blood work.  But I told him that I came off the blood thinners last Saturday - 5 days prior, in order to prepare for surgery... so he quickly rewrote a requisition and faxed it over to Lifelabs.  So the morning of surgery I went to have 7 more vials of blood drawn.  (By the way Canadians, we take things for granted... 7 vials = $528). Hopefully the blood work comes out negative, as I don't really want to take meds for the rest of my life.

I have always loved giving blood, but ever since I had malaria last year, the needles make me very nauseaus, and while preparing for surgery it took the anesthesiologist 3 tries to find a vein that would work... I don't even know how I fell asleep going into surgery at 11 am.  It was a 1.5 hour surgery to remove a large ovarian dermoid.  There are three small incisions in my gut... and they feel pretty good.  I actually can't feel the 1 cm cuts at all, but my whole gut feels torn apart and rearranged.  When I walk around I carry my gut like a baby because it hurts and if I cough I have to use a pillow to hold the incisions in place.

I woke up at 1:30 pm and by 2 pm Dad was back with me in post-op.  I was given my prescriptions... I now have to take an injection blood thinner for one week before going back to the Xeralto tablets for three months and by 3:30 pm I was home and resting in my own bed.  I slept for an hour and a half then had supper with my parents.  And I'm wearing compression socks for a whole week during the day.  Thankful for Mom to help me put them on.

At around 8 pm by right arm started feeling tingly and tight.  At 8:45pm a large lump appeared and after a little googling by Mom we were fearing another blood blot.  I really don't want to experience another pulminary embolism.  So from 9 - 2:30 am Dad and I were in the ER getting things checked out.  Thankfully it is not a blood clot, but a blood bruise from the IV trial spot.

I don't know how long it will take for things to rearrange and recover.  Apparently they put a bag in the right side incision to load the 10x7x7 cm dermoid into, along with half of the ovary... and pulled it back out through that tiny hole, so that side is more painful.  Ok... that might be a bit too much information... but that's what my body has been through.  My follow-up / post-surgery appointment is Dec. 16... so it most likely won't be until the new year that I will travel back to Uganda... but I want to make sure that I am completely better first.

I might do my church presentations first and then go home!
I am so grateful for the many people who have been sending prayers, cards, kind words, phone calls, and love through this whole process. I feel supported!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Songs for This Season

Here are just a few songs that people have sent me during this season:







Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

In all things - Give Thanks

Uganda to Ireland to Canada...
It's been a journey and I am so thankful for all that the Lord has provided.
Here is a short list of how blessed I feel:
  • Ambulance - a free ride to Beaumont hospital, where I received thorough care. I even had a great social worker who blessed me with conversation and an Irish souvenier book
  • Rob and Debi Millar - GOM colleagues who took me into their home for 5 weeks!!
  • Made it to Dublin, not our first vacation choice... Mom and Dad have reminded me that we had never even planned to go to the Republic of Ireland for a vacation... we had talked of Spain or China, but obviously God wanted us to be in Ireland for this adventure.
  • I was blessed with an extra suitcase to take things home to Canada
  • Chapstick... yes, I even thank God for a chapstick.  I lost mine the day before, and without even saying anything, the Lord gifted me with a new one the next morning. :)
  • I had left my computer in Uganda and was really struggling to communicate with my Ipad, and the Lord provided an Ipad keyboard for me!!
  • Phone calls from Uganda blessed my heart - friends cared deeply
  • Flowers from Canada - made me smile immensely
  • Blood results - I am thankful that the cyst is not cancerous!
  • Mr. Chaps - my cat is being well taken care of by friends, and my neighbours are doing a great job of looking after the house.
  • Trim Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Wicklow Gap, Tipperary - a few road trips I was blessed with by friends from Jamestown Rd Baptist church
  • Dinners out from church members also touched my heart.
  • I am thankful for the insurance company - for great communication, quick action, and lots of help... hey, they got me to Canada for further medical care.
I am so glad the Lord has looked after me in incredible ways while I was in Ireland.
Here I am... all dressed up for a wedding - the day before I left for Ireland.
The morning that I flew, I went to visit my neighbour and sweet friend, Vanessa, who is in boarding school in Kampala.  I sat with her during her visitation day, just hours before flying off to Dublin.
Here I am... on my way to the hospital from the airport.  I think I look stronger than I felt at that moment.
When I arrived in the ER or A&E, I was put into a quarantined private room because I flew in from "Africa" with an unknown illness.  But after 11 hours in the ER, I was moved to the respitory ward where I spent the next 5 days.  After that I enjoyed 3 days of sight-seeing with my parents before settling in with some great people.
I went through various forms of culture shock - 1st world culture, Irish culture for sure
I even had to walk out of the supermarket empty handed because I was so overwhelmed.
Here I am in beautiful Glandalough
Malahide Castle (one of MANY that I was able to see)
I became a part of this wonderful church family for 6 weeks.  I am so truly grateful for their care, prayers, hugs, meals, days of fellowship, and so much more.
In front of the "Peace Wall" between the Catholics and the Protestants in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
At Christ Church with Mom and Dad in Dublin
Climbing up the stairs of Blarney Castle to kiss the stone...
Going back to the hospital for another CT scan - this is the scan that found the cyst... which I didn't get results for until 3 weeks later.
I don't know if you can see Jesus' feet in this photo, but how often to we walk past the homeless... "Whatever you do to the least of these..."  This one really hit me.
On the Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast of Ireland.

(Look forward to a video of some of my more adventurous moments in Ireland... I wasn't sick in bed the whole time, just recovering from blood clots that didn't allow me to fly.... so I was a tourist occasionally and I loved it!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Irish Arrivals

The past few weeks have been an interesting journey for me.  The Lord is up to something... And for some strange reason He wants me in Ireland for a while.  :)  I'm not sure how this post will turn out, but I just wanted to share some of the thoughts and thanksgivings going on in my head.
For the past two months I have been feeling tired and I have a feeling that I never truly recovered from whatever sickness took me down in Kenya.  Then in the middle of July I got a serious chest cold and a urinary track infection and had a round of antibiotics... So when Mom and Dad asked me if I would meet them in Ireland for an 8 day getaway, I thought that was the perfect solution.... Not only for health reasons, but it would be the only time I see my parents this year... So off I flew.
I was tired on the flight from Entebbe to Dubai, so I never left my seat.  About half way through the flight I felt a Charlie horse cramp in my leg and never thought anything of it... During my time in Dubai I stretched out the muscles, walked around and rested while waiting for my next flight.  I was feeling great and was often up on the flight from Dubai to Dublin, but when I got off the plane, things started to change.  I wound my way through the line-ups at immigration and my small carry-on bag kept getting heavier and heavier.  I started breathing harder and thought it was very strange.  While waiting for my checked bag I started feeling dizzy and had to put the luggage on a cart in order to exit and find Mom and Dad.  Not the kind of grand visit we were expecting.  Mom and Dad could tell something was wrong.  Mom went to find me some water and came back with a snack lady who had a phone.  She called for help.  The police came first, then the ambulance.  My heart was racing, my pulse was up and so was my blood pressure.  We were escorted away via ambulance while the police kindly took all of our bags to the police quarters.  I felt physically bad, but I also felt bad that our 8 day whirlwind trip wasn't off to the start we imagined.
Beaumont hospital was great for me.  I feel like the nursing staff were very supportive and friendly and many of them were Filipino, so that made things fun for me.  I spent 13 hours in the ER before being transferred to the respiratory ward, in a room with 5 other roommates. The doctors did every test imaginable because I was coming in from "Africa", but it was soon noted that I had two major blood clots that had traveled from my legs to my lungs during the flight and they were stressing my heart.  I spent four days with a heart monitor on and got to know my Irish roommates in a fun way.  After realizing the trip wouldn't go as planned... We all just made the best of it.  God kept opening a room for Mom and Dad to stay next to the hospital and through GOM, I was able to meet some colleagues who said they would be willing to take me in until I was cleared to fly again.  God is good.
Mom and Dad did a few days trips on their own.  Actually, they were on the west coast when I was quickly discharged last Friday.  The doctors said I could either stay in the hospital for the weekend and have a CT scan on Monday, or I could be discharged and come in to do the CT scan as an outpatient.  I wanted to get out!! So, I called my hosts and they picked me up.
Saturday I joined my parents for 3 nights in a hotel and two fun bus trips.  We actually saw quite a bit in our short time together.  I kissed the Blarney Stone and walked on the Giant's Causeway... So what more can I say?!
On Tuesday I escorted Mom and Dad to the airport and then went back to the hospital to chase medical files for insurance.  Another CT scan was scheduled for last night - to check the stomach and pelvic areas as well - just to follow up on everything and make sure I go back to Uganda completely healthy.
Now I am trying to settle in to normal life.  I attended the Tuesday night prayer meeting at Jamestown Road Baptist Church and have bought a few new clothes - since I am staying much longer in a cold, wet country.  Yesterday some of the church members invited me out for a road trip, to visit some inner city campers and to have a glimpse at Trim Castle.
My next doctors appointment is August 21 and hopefully after that I will be clear to fly back to Uganda.  I never expected this at all... I am trying to organize 37 Ugandan pastors and church leaders to go to a conference next Sunday.  I was supposed to be traveling with them, but now it's lots of extra work and communication.
This morning I received a message from colleagues in Soroti... They wanted to make sure that I was okay and if I needed an escort, they would find a way to send someone over here to hang out and fly back with to Uganda.  I was very touched by such a loving gesture (and turned it down).  I am so glad to be a part of a fantastic "team" in Soroti.  Today I am resting... Maybe tomorrow I will see some sites in Dublin.
I am thankful for:
- Ugandans who are picking up the load of organizing for the TEA conference
- Good medical care
- To be out of the hospital
- a bouquet of flowers
- GOM and insurance
- The prayers of many saints
- Debi and Rob Millar who have taken me in to their home
- For history, yummy food, and a chance to really rest.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Celebrations

This past week has been all about celebrating life:
 A marriage introduction...
 I was a guest on the groom's side :)
 Party foods
 Finding the bride and welcoming her to the family
I went with my Junior Disciple to attend a burial on Monday, as we celebrated the life of one of her colleagues and work mates
Celebrating the newness of life
 Celebrating my birthday with the ladies!! 
 Going to the village for a big meat eat - chicken, rabbit, and pork
 And in the evening celebrating with more friends!! Definitely feeling loved.
And then Happy 150+ Kanata!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Please Pray for Jesca

Aujo Jesca has become my friend over the past year - especially since she was on the planning committee with me, to host GPS 2017.  The Global Prayer Safari was a great time for prayer and worship and Jesca had so much strength and joy.
 This evening Jesca called me to join her at the main hospital in Soroti.  She had a little girl (Sarah) on Tuesday by C-section and she is still fighting headaches.  She wanted prayers and was requesting that I come immediately, but also to let others know.
 As I stood by her bedside, she shared her story with me.  It is now Friday night - and she had begun to labour on Monday.  She was sent home on Monday to get some money to pay for the surgery and medications she would need.  Even gloves needed to be purchased.  So, Tuesday morning she was back at the hospital and ready to deliver.  At noon they gave her an injection in her back which did not take, so they injected her two more times.  From her description, the nurse had terrible bedside manners... saying "I'm going to poke you until it takes... so bend over!"  After three needles she couldn't breathe any more.  She remembers an oxygen mask being put over her face and voices saying, "There is nothing more we can do for this one, let's just get the baby out."  She woke up, hours later, in a corridor, with an oxygen mask still on her face, but no stitches in her belly.  The nurses were shocked. "She woke up! Quick, wheel her in so we can stitch her up."  She said the doctor wasn't prepared and she was in a lot of pain.  She has a feeling that the doctors wrote her off for dead... but she came back!!  
But since then Jesca has had very sore back pains and a terrible headache.  It starts at the base of the neck and goes all the way up and around to her forehead.  For 4 days now she cannot sit up for anything - eating, drinking, and feeding little Sarah are very difficult for her.  The doctors want to discharge her tomorrow - again saying there is nothing more to do for her.  
Please pray with me that Jesca can recover quickly and completely. She really wants to attend a conference with me in August and is excited to grow in her faith and knowledge of Christ.  She has already lost one baby... so please... bring Jesca to the throne room of God.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Army worms, eyes, and little children

The other day I helped carry cabbage to my neighbour's piggery (it helps to learn to do these projects together) and we checked out the maize field.
 My heart broke as the whole field is devastated - like so many other corn crops that have been planted this season. Not only was there drought, but now the staple food is being attacked by a crazy, uncontrollable pest.  
 Look at that thing... it even looks alien!!
 Lord, please rescue our people and save our crops.
 On Friday I took my name sake - Karen Joy to the St. Benedictine Eye Hospital in Tororo.  I was very impressed by the gardens and the service at the hospital.  And joy was such a trooper.
 Joy was happy the whole day!  And she was able to see trains, Mt. Elgon, the Kenyan border, and try Indian food too.
I loved it when the trays of eyes came out, what a fun way to pick out a new prosthetic eye.
On Monday I led Africa Child Day at a nursery school.  I have never worked with such a young group for so long before, but we had a great time together!!  I told many stories and acted out dramas.  We sang songs, coloured, played games, and had a blast.  Thank you Lord for the African Child!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Medical works

This cow swallowed a plastic bag.  I helped the vet by pouring 1/2 litre of cooking oil into the bull's mouth, to help the plastic digest or disolve.  A new method for me.
 Mzee's bones have come together, but he finds the rebuilding of his muscles too painful, so he crawls around at home a lot.  So sad to see.  I wish there was a massage therapist and a few motivational people around him.
 My good friend Tereza was in a motorcycle accident yesterday.  I have been taking her for late evening and early morning injections, and having her face re-bandaged after needing stitches.  I praise God she is alive.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Just another day...

I had fun today.
 I bought a kitten from the street boys for 500 shillings (20 cents).  They were hungry and wanted me to buy them a chapati to eat, or I could buy a kitten.  They had three healthy kittens in a box and I ended up buying two of them.  One for me and one for another lady who thought they were adorable too.  So, now the boys can still go and get some food to eat.  :)  But what do I name this little treasure?
 I delivered some food to friends in need.  Together we lamented over the caterpillars that are destroying the maize crops here.
 Teaching Religious Education to a bunch of P1 students is always an adventure.  I had to compete with the noise from the next classroom, but I think the kids got it!  We need to give our offerings to God with joy and thanksgiving in our hearts.
 We can worship God in song...
 We can offer Him our gifts and talents...
 Or the fruits of our labour / garden / farm.
 I am so grateful for this OneHope curriculum.
I spent the evening with Joy... do you remember the little girl who I was with in 2012 while she went through chemotherapy for retinal blastoma.  Well, she is healthy now and having fun playing with the toys in my house.  Except, she needs a new eye - a bigger one - so I may be traveling with her next week to see what fits.