Thursday, September 30, 2010

Norah's Story

Since we came to GSF, the day Amy & I feared most was the day when one of the children would die. Several children have passed away over the years. It is all too common in Uganda due to HIV/AIDS and other diseases and hardships. The children who live at GSF have each experienced death directly and it is a primary reason they live here. After serving more than two years, the dreaded day came last week.

Norah’s story began when she was born with HIV, inherited from her parents. Norah’s mother passed away late in 2002 when Norah was 9 years old. Norah’s aunt happened to be the Matron at GSF at the time, so she brought the young girl to live at GSF, and she was accepted despite being older than those who typically come into the home. Norah’s father had some personal habits and problems which prevented him from caring for her. He passed away earlier this year, in March. God had a plan for this girl in bringing her to Good Shepherd’s Fold.

Norah struggled with sickness as is typical for many children with HIV. In the last couple of years, her CD-4 counts, which basically measure one’s overall level of immunity, decreased drastically low in spite of being on advanced medications for AIDS. In November 2009 she contracted a bacterial infection called toxoplasmosis, which caused paralyzation on her right side. Norah was relegated to a wheel chair for a condition which is typically permanent. However, as people prayed and her determination kicked in, Norah gained strength. Earlier this year, she began to walk slowly with a cane, even managing without the cane on some occasions.

Norah loved to sing! She was part of the praise team at GSF, but her diseases weakened her and often prevented her from being able to stand and sing in church. Gaining strength, she joined the GSF choir to sing at a special event earlier this month. Then two weeks ago she stood again in church and gave testimony to God’s goodness: “I thank God that I thought I would never stand and sing in church again, but now you see me standing and singing on the stage again today.” Amen!

Her near-zero immunity was battling against Tuberculosis at that time and Norah fell very sick a few days after that testimony. In her weakened state she developed pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital on Monday, September 20. A severe stomach infection also emerged as her body was virtually unable to fight off the slightest germ. AIDS, TB, pneumonia, stomach infection – she had no defenses left.

Shortly after 2:00 a.m. on Friday, September 24, Two of the house moms came knocking on our door. The house mother who was staying with Norah in the hospital had called. Norah was partly delusional and partly coherent, asking for a Bible, asking for prayers, singing (as she loved to do!) He Is Lord. We prepared to rush to the hospital, but the doctors were coming and we were told to wait.

Little more than a year ago, we had held a crusade at a nearby village. Three men from our home church in Southaven, Mississippi had come to work with us at the orphanage for a couple weeks. Our pastor, Tim Lampley, was preaching at the crusade one night. Though Norah wasn’t feeling well she had wanted to go to the crusade. I sat on the soccer field with her and talked to her during the message, quietly asking if it was sinking in. It appeared that it was the conviction of the message, more than any sickness, that was causing her concern that night. Instead of waiting for her friends, she returned with us to GSF immediately after the message and she wanted to talk to Pastor Tim. I listened that night, as he shared again the gospel message with Norah and she prayed to give her life to Christ. A new creation. A changed heart. An orphaned HIV girl found New Life!

Norah stepped into eternity at 2:45 a.m. on Friday morning as the doctors were working on her. The great pain and many diseases of her earthly life were over as she walked through the gates of Heaven – forever healed.

I arrived with one of the house moms at the hospital at about 3:30 a.m. to comfort Norah’s house mother, to see the body, to confirm the last details of her life. I am reminded that, no matter how sadly we may view the circumstances of someone’s life, there is everlasting joy awaiting those whose hearts fully belong to Jesus Christ!

“Norah, we look forward to seeing you again.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christmas is Closer

We know that Christmas isn’t all about gifts, just like salvation is not all about gifts either – but the gifts can be further evidence of God’s great love and provision for us.  Look at the great lengths He is going just to supply some gifts to a group of kids in Uganda….

After Sam & Suzie Davis went to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital warehouse (see “Christmas is Coming” post below), then it was time to hand off the load to Amy’s parents, Larry & Bonnie Roots, who live in Lynchburg, VA.  (The Roots’ are coordinating the transport of these items to Uganda, as they are coming to visit in December.)  The Davis’ drove to Knoxville to visit their daughter, Suzanna, who attends college there.  The Roots rented a van and drove from Lynchburg to meet them there.  Point of reference: Knoxville is a big city and it’s about 350 miles each from Memphis to the west and Lynchburg to the east.  Here is what the Roots’ reported about the journey:

To show you how GOOD GOD is:  When we were 54 miles from Knoxville I called Suzie and they were 57 miles West of Knoxville.  They said Suzanna's dorm is right downtown and not a good place for the hand-off.  I had a map and suggested an exit 2 miles from there.  When we got there we saw a nice size gas station on the corner close to the interstate so we pulled in and I called to tell them where to meet.  They came right to the station within about 3 minutes.  Suzanna pulled in a minute after they did.  Only God could have done that in a city that size.  We visited and passed off everything, took pictures and then we headed back home.  It was really neat to see them and their excitement for what had happened.

Amazing!  The Roots have organized everything into 8 trunks to be sent to Uganda.  Not only is there a gift for every kid at GSF, but the hospital donated hoards of T-shirts, socks, batteries and other items along with the rest of it!

Next step: To get the gifts and supplies here without paying excess baggage fees.  God’s transport service is already in place and we will let you know about it later.  Stay tuned!

To sing again

Two weeks ago, Norah stood up in church and said, “I thank God because I thought I would never stand again to sing in church and today I did!” Praise God!

Norah is 16 year old and has AIDS. She gave her heart to Jesus last year and now has hope! Several months later, she began to have numbness on her right side and was eventually diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis and was told she would never walk again. Many have prayed for and with her and God has allowed Norah to walk with a cane and sometimes even just with a limp. God has been faithful and has allowed her to do something she loves to do and that is to sing. She also loves to do crafts and we have been working with her hoping to help her begin a livelihood doing crafts and fashion design.

This week, Norah is not standing and singing but instead is laying in a hospital bed very ill listening to music. Norah was diagnosed with TB and Pneumonia and has a stomach problem that is making her very weak and close to death.

Please pray with us that she will be able to stand in church again and sing!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It was April 2009 that a team from North Carolina made their way to GSF to work, doing five intensive days of medical clinics with our surrounding villages. One of the nurses examined a lady in her late 20s to find out she had a very advanced case of breast cancer. She was in need of immediate medical help so she was referred to one of the hospitals in Kampala that could treat a case like this one. Her name is Sarah and up until that point she had not been able to seek medical help because of not having financial resources to do so. After visiting the hospital and confirming that GSF would take care of the finances of her treatment through our Mercy Ministry Fund she was scheduled to begin chemo & radiation treatments almost immediately. According to the doctors her cancer was a very aggressive type and chances of complete healing were small. Sarah and her husband and their 5 children, all under the age of 8, live in a small grass hut and sustain themselves with what they grow in their garden and are able to sell. To our surprise, the day of Sarah's appointment to be taken to the hospital came and she did not show.

Months later she did show up, but at this time she did not come alone but had a little bundle in her arms. Sarah had not known she came to the clinic that was pregnant despite her and her husband's efforts to avoid that. But God had other plans and her and her husband accepted the baby as a miracle from God. The baby girl only weighed around 4 pounds and she was going to need special care and nurture.

We took the baby in and gave her the name Amelia. Sarah was admitted in the hospital and went through her chemo and radiation treatments. With very little hope from the doctors she continued to fight this battle and always praised God for His goodness to her. She then had a mastectomy and the doctors admired her strength to persevere and determination to get well. The day of her surgery she was walking around the hospital. We were blessed to be able to help Sarah get the needed treatment and give hope to her and her family of being reunited again.

Early this year, Sarah came to GSF after the surgery and recovery to thank us for everything that we had done for her and her family. As we reminded her that the one she needed to be thankful to and give all the glory to was the Lord, she confessed that she did not know the Lord in the personal way we have been talking to her about and that she desired to know Him in that way. We were blessed with the honor to pray with Sarah to invite Jesus into her life and praised Him for not only bringing physical but also spiritual healing to her life.  Sarah did well for several months and was able to be reunited with her family and even come many times to see Amelia. 

This week, we got word that Sarah was not feeling well and had gone to the doctor for a check-up.  Unfortunately, the doctor told her that her cancer had spread and there was nothing else he could do.  He suggested that she go home and be as comfortable as possible.  Her husband came Wednesday morning to find out if we could help him go to Kampala to get Sarah and bring her home.  Claudia and others were trying to find a driver to take him when he got a phone call from Kampala.  Sarah had already died at the hospital in Kampala.  Claudia and Adam did the difficult task of taking him to Kampala to pick up his beloved.  Today, is the burial for Sarah, a wife and mother of 6 and a child of the KING.  Praise God with us for Sarah's salvation and for the year and a half God gave her after her initial diagnosis.  Pray with us for Sam, her husband's salvation.  There are also many questions left unanswered as to the future for this family.  Pray for God's glorious plan to be done and His name to be glorified.

-Much of this blog post was taken from our GSF newsletter in Feb 2010 written by fellow missionary, Claudia Arango


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Birthday for Philip

Today is Philip's birthday and like everyone's birthday it is a chance to celebrate. However, for those who love and know Philip, we are glad we have the day to celebrate. Philip has full-blown AIDS. Philip has been sick much of his life and the last few months have been worse for him. Unfortunately, these days, anytime Philip's name is mentioned in conversation someone says "He doesn't look good." So honestly everyday that we still have Philip is a day to celebrate. Would you pray with us that we have many, many more days with Philip? Would you also pray with us for Philip's salvation? Recently, in a conversation with Mark, Philip told Mark, "but I don't have Jesus in my heart." When Mark talked to him further, Philip did not want to become a Christian yet. Pray that that time will come.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is a wonderful time at Good Shepherd’s Fold.  We have had some generous donations to provide gifts for the kids in the past.  This year a really amazing story is coming together.

It starts at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.  St. Jude’s is a hospital for kids with terminal illnesses.  Due to their high profile (founded by entertainer Danny Thomas and it’s one of the best such hospitals in the world), there are many donations, including hundreds of gifts for the kids at the hospital.

Here is the twist… Due to the terminal illnesses of the kids, low/zero immunity, etc., the hospital cannot give such toys to the kids, because they have to maintain a completely sterile atmosphere.  So St. Jude has a huge warehouse of donated toys, which it ironically cannot use.  Not to waste these things, they have a program to allow orphanages and other similar groups to go “shopping” in their warehouse to get gifts for other children elsewhere in the country and world – absolutely free!

Our friends, Sam and Suzie Davis, in coordination with the Orphanos Foundation, made arrangements to get gifts for all 92 kids at GSF – donated from St. Jude Hospital’s toy warehouse.  The Davis’s went to the warehouse on Wednesday to go Christmas shopping for GSF!  Here is what they had to say:

Wow!  It was an unbelievable morning at the St. Jude warehouse.  Sam and I and Grace Fragosa from Orphanos arrived at 8:30am.  We were welcomed by Velma Carnathan , Grace's friend, who is in charge of the donations warehouse.  A few of the toys were shelved, but the over-whelming majority were in boxes.  Armed with box-cutters and our lists, we dove in.  Three hours later, we were packing up boxes in the Tahoe.  We felt like we had something for everyone, but our heads were spinning.  There was not one more inch of cargo space in the Tahoe, so we needed to be done.  We threatened to tie Grace on the roof but it wasn't necessary.  

This is an unfolding story.  Stayed tuned for updates!


As we were sitting on our veranda yesterday, 9 year old Chloe told me, "your family is a new family at GSF. Your family is a clear family."

"What do you mean, Chloe? Our family has been here for two years." I asked a little confused.

"Well, your family is a new clear family. You know, with a mom and dad and kids--you have three kids, a boy and two girls."

I was still quite confused but other kids came up and the conversation was lost. That evening, still bewildered by what Chloe meant, I told Mark that she called us a "new clear family."

Caralina, who many times has to be my translator, gently said, "Mom, I think she meant a nuclear family!"