Monday, October 1, 2012

Program 21 and free Ugandan coffee!

Hey friends! I've let my blog sit for way too long and that's not okay... Most of my past blog posts were from my experiences living at Canaan Children's Home in Uganda and if you've ever read any of them, I'm sure you know all about Program 21. Program 21 is the feeding supplement program Becca Tomlinson and I formed while we lived in Uganda last Fall.  The children there (about 120 from ages 3-19) used to eat porridge for breakfast and then posho (a non-nutritional mush, basically a stomach filler) and beans for lunch and dinner... day in and day out.  They would get meat about once a year on Christmas and maybe a sugar cane or other treat occasionally. Becca and I were devastated with what we saw, even though the kids were still so thankful.  So Program 21 was created.  Now, the children eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast daily, a vegetable twice a week, fruit twice a week, sugar in their porridge to add a little flavor, and meat once a week. This is a miracle! I wish you all could have been there when we made the announcement; the kids were screaming and jumping and the Aunties (dorm mothers) were clapping and giving all the praise to God. How amazing?!

But we really need your help to keep it going... we've been blessed to receive several one-time donations (of which are still greatly needed and used) but in order to have a little more stability and sureness in this program, we'd love more monthly supporters! And from now until October 12th, you'll even get free Ugandan coffee beans for helping them! So here's the deal, its really simple... just go to the Voices for the Voiceless (V4V) site and sign up to become a monthly sponsor for Program 21. Remember, no amount is too small! It costs approximately $10 a month to feed one child. You can give $10, $20, $13.76, $5, $55, or any amount your heart desires! Every dollar is a blessing in itself, and we appreciate your generosity so incredibly much. After your sign up and donate, you will receive a delicious little bag of Ugandan coffee beans in the mail as a small token of our appreciation.

It's very simple! Go to the V4V donation site (<-click that link). Under the Donation Fund drop down box, select Program 21 and then complete the rest of your transaction. Super quick and easy!

OR you can always take the snail mail route if you'd like by writing a check to 'Voices 4 the Voiceless' with the subject line: Program 21.
You can mail your check to the following address:Voices 4 the Voiceless PO BOX 1923 Lexington, SC 29071

The sweet kids at Canaan are doing GREAT and their bodies are healthier than ever. We hope to have some new and recent pictures of the kids to post in a few weeks. Thank you to everyone for supporting this ministry and these precious children.Words cannot express how much I appreciate your help, but I guarantee the kids appreciate it even more. PLEASE prayerfully consider helping!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A matter of life and death

I'm not sure words can express how much I love my job in the NICU.  To land basically my dream job right out of college was not something I thought was possible, but then again I worship a God who does miracles like that every day.  I love my coworkers, my patients, their families, my supervisors, the facility... everything.  It's such a blessing and every time I drive to work, I'm full of gratitude and excitement.  Gosh, I hope this never wears off.

But as with every job, it has it's difficulties.  About a week ago, I was working a Saturday night and Sunday was my 24th birthday (note: I took a very thorough survery and apparently I'm now in my mid- {not early} twenties...).  I came in that night and had a great patient assignment.  I thought, "This is going to be a laid back, easy night! Happy Birthday to me!"  But, ironically, right around midnight all that changed.  Without getting into much detail, one of my patients ended up needing emergency surgery and went downhill very quickly.  It was so incredibly shocking, especially considering this baby's condition at the beginning of my shift. The following day when I came into work, I found out that this baby passed away just 36 hours later and I cried.  Why does this happen? How? How can everything be fine and then the next minute everything's changed?  Here I was, starting to celebrate 24 happy, healthy years of my life just as God was deciding to take one home.  As painful as it is to think about, I'm comforted knowing that God is holding that little babe right now.  He's comforting him and loving Him in ways we couldn't.  That baby is free of any discomfort and is in the arms of the Master Physician, who sees and knows all and has an incredible plan for our lives, even when it's difficult (impossible) to understand.

I have been acutely reminded that this is not my home and that God's picture of my life will always trump whatever "better" plans I may think I have for myself.  When you get to the point of 1-desperation, and 2-insane love for our Creator, you realize how thankful you are that you DON'T have control (like we ever had it in the first place).  Whether it be life or death, joy or sorrow, our "ideal plans" or not, He has the ultimate control and authority... and it is perfect.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Overwhelmed... in a good way

This past week I was lucky enough to go to Florida with my parents and sister.  I finagled my work schedule and squeezed out what might be my last "spring break" for a long time.  It was wondrous... serious pool time, laid back bike rides, swimming in the ocean, shopping, eating delicious seafood, being with family.  It was nothing glamorous or spectacular, but let's face it: vacations don't always need to be (besides, I already got some of that out of my system when I went to Los Angeles a few weeks ago).

As I tried to clear my mind of the busyness of life and relax, I found I experienced the opposite effect.  Many times when I'm going through the normal craziness of life, I allow myself to be overwhelmed.  I procrastinate and/or make small tasks seem so much bigger, therefore I put them off or push them out of my mind.  Ironically it was this past week on vacation that I thought more about pressing issues than I normally do on non-vacation time.  Things that have been burdening my heart and consuming my thoughts and fears.  Things that I've been trying to process and find truths beneath the murky surface.  Things that I've been denying or avoiding facing when it would only benefit myself or others.  Even though it wasn't a typical "clear your mind" sort of vacation, I know I needed it SO dearly.  I guess it's just proof that God wants me to slow down more, be still, be quiet, listen.  But also push through and do the tough work He desires for me to do, no matter the pain it may cause or time it may consume.

I'm continually needing to surrend myself, my time, my efforts to the One who made me.  He is aware of my struggles and my pains before they even occur.  He knows my weaknesses better than anyone and He loves me all the same... He made the ultimate sacrifice for sinners like you and me and today more than ever, I am keenly aware of this. He died for my messiness and my sins, my mistakes and my selfishness.  THIS is the only thing that should truly, deeply, consumingly overwhelm me... because if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Lots of sister time

God's painting

Best. Bike. Ever.

My Mom and sister convinced me to sing with them
 at my Grandparents' church Sunday

No Florida trip would be complete without a visit or 4 to Mixon's Fruit Farm

My toy for the week! Grandpa's carving trike

Beach... ahh

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle

Saturday, February 4, 2012

From twitter to the Bible

As if I didn’t already know how broken and needy I am, it’s been brought to my attention much, much more in the past several months.  A difficult breakup, volunteering in Uganda for 2 months, contracting malaria, experiencing a tremendously painful friendship fallout, going through other sorts of hurt, pain, living though gossip, lies (sadly spoken on my end as well), receiving job prospect rejections... and the list continues (geesh, this sounds like a soap opera).

Anyway, I’m trying to learn to just bask in His presence, in His peace, in relying solely on Him, in the quietness of His Spirit without going stir crazy.  Yes, it seems 100% impossible for a self-diagnosed person suffering from ADD like me. But I tried it tonight and God deeply, thankfully taught me something.

As I was laying in bed trying to just "be still," my mind wandered onto other things I could be doing.  Starting a new mystery novel, watching TV, having another cup of tea, or a combination of the three.  So I tweeted to distract myself from the silence and the boredom I was experiencing by just sitting:

-kelseylampe: "Learning to sit in silence and be okay with it. Clearly I'm not... since I'm tweeting. #fail"
 10:41pm, Feb 03 

And a bit later (still going stir-crazy), I tweeted once more and this time got a response:

-kelseylampe: "Living life in America is far too busy, stressful, complicated. I really should just start saving my money to move to Uganda. #halfserious"
10:51pm, Feb 03
-SoleHope: "@kelseylampe DO IT! What you do there? I know his great org giving jobs to widows & putting shoes on orphans who needs someone in UG #wink"
10:54pm, Feb 03
-kelseylampe: "@SoleHope I volunteered there for 2mos. Fell in love. Just got my 1st RN job @ a children's hospital though so I can't leave now. Happy&sad."
11:01pm, Feb 03

Cool huh? And so very tempting…  then in my dramatic thought process, I tweeted this:

-kelseylampe: "Patience, peace, and repeat."
11:22pm, Feb 03
-SoleHope: @kelseylampe "Exodus 14:14."
11:23pm, Feb 03
-kelseylampe: @SoleHope "Wow. Thank you and amen."
11:24pm, Feb 03

Did you catch that? God took my restlessness in the form of a tweet and drew me to His word through it.  I'm literally sitting here with a pad of paper, some sticky notes, verses jotted down, and my Bible cracked open to the above verse, along with some of my other favorites (see Psalm 139... no but really, see it; read it now).  I’ve even spent the last several minutes finding verses for a close friend of mine to encourage them through a difficult situation of their own. And so it spreads...

So no, I didn’t just sit still, in the silence, enjoying the sound of the air sitting in the room. But maybe that’s not always how God wants to get through to me: through the silence.  Or maybe it is and I’m just learning what that feels like.  Because truly, it was only through the silence (or rather, brief pause that I was capable of taking) that God spoke to me. He got to me. He reached through my weakness and struggles and seemingly incapable tasks of being still and He made it work. He spoke.

It might sound cliche for me to say it, but it's the truth:

Listen.  He is always speaking.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new playground (and other life updates)

An apology might be in order; it's been quite a while since I last posted.  First of all, when you're not living in Uganda seemingly less-important things happen to you when you compare your American life to the life of a Ugandan.  But more than that, I've just been overwhelmed with life.  I returned from Uganda and London for a couple days, went to Nashville, was hospitalized with Malaria while I was there, went through some painful relationship/friendship experiences, came back to Michigan, got hired at the NICU at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital (GOD IS GOOD!), celebrated Christmas with family, went back to Nashville again and came back to Michigan only to jump right into orientation.  Phewf!  It's been insane but I've been learning a lot... God is so amazing and I feel honored to be going through what is likely one of the biggest periods of growth in my entire life.

Yes, life has been crazy since my return from Uganda... but that doesn't mean that those kids haven't been on my mind all the time.  I held back tears throughout Thanksgiving day because my heart ached for the children who I knew would never see such a sight: a table full of people they love and who deeply love them in return and a plate full of amazing, nutritious, diverse food.  The holidays certainly felt different to me this year than they ever have in the past,  but I know that's just the Holy Spirit stirring up my heart even more. God's keeping the fire in my heart burning for the people and children of Uganda because He desires change for them... and therefore so do I.

One of those pieces of change includes a new playground for the children at Canaan Children's Home and the surrounding children in the slum who attend school there during the day.  I realize this isn't food or clean water or medical supplies, but it's still important; it's still a big deal.  As you'll see below, their current playground is beyond a mess: it's dangerous.  Something needed to be done about it and Becca and I couldn't ignore it.   We prayed about it but always felt distracted and overwhelmed with other needs.  But no project or need is ever too great for our God.  He has BEAUTIFULLY orchestrated all the details into place.  I urge you to read on to be inspired and hear how our Father is caring for these children in every way...

(blog post credit given to Becca!)

I have some really exciting news to share.... the children at Canaan Children's Home are getting a brand new playground!!! Praise the Lord!!! I wanted to share the story behind this amazing news because it just shows how BIG our God is and how much He loves those children. I am reminded in so many ways each and every day just how much our Lord's heart truly beats for the orphans, helpless, and hopeless. Ok, so here is the story in 12 little sections...

Part 1: It really all started exactly a year ago (when I say exactly, I truly mean exactly... January 3, 2011) when I visited Canaan Children's Home for the very first time. I was with a team of about 25 other people (with the organization Visiting Orphans) and we all fell so deeply in love with the children, the place, just everything about Canaan. God truly did a huge work in each of our hearts and left all of us wanting to do more when we left. One thing that many of us felt led to do was to build the orphanage a new playground. The playground hazardous scraps of metal that currently served as a "playground" for the children was pitiful. We all wanted to go home and raise money to build them a new and safer playground, but it just wasn't in God's plans for ir to happen that way. There was really no "good" way at the time to go about raising the funds and getting someone over there to build the new playground, and the plans honestly just fell through.

Part 2: Ok, so fast forward 8 months... It is now the beginning of September and I am back in Uganda, for the third time that year, and living at Canaan Children's Home. The need for a new playground would hit me every single morning when I woke up and walked out my front door. With over 120 children living at the orphanage and nearly 400 others (ages 5 and below) coming to the children's home every day for preschool and kindergarten... there were TONS of kids running around my "front yard" every morning that would have LOVED a real playground. It was constantly on my heart to try and figure out a way to get one built while I was there for 2 months, but every time I would try to pursue playground plans the Lord would quickly close the door. I felt the Lord speak to me one morning telling me that He wanted me to focus all of my heart, time, and efforts on the vision He had given me for Program 21 and He would bless the work of my hands if I obeyed Him. I knew I needed to listen and to put every ounce of myself into getting these children the proper diet they so desperately needed to get them healthy. I, along with Kelsey, completely surrendered the playground plans to the Lord.

Part 3: Literally the VERY next day, I am not even kidding, Kelsey and I took a trip into town to Skype with our parents. We were sitting in one of our favorite little internet cafe and coffee shops, Flavours, when Kelsey decided to introduce herself to the couple sitting next to us. They were speaking with English accents and Kels had a layover in London on her way home from Uganda so she thought she would try her luck and see if they happened to be from London. Turns out they were from a city near London and were able to give her a lot of great advice on where she should visit, etc. After she was finished talking I decided to ask them what they were doing in Uganda. It isn't extremely rare to see other white people, especially when you are in town, but I am a pretty nosey person so I bluntly asked, "So what are y'all doing here?" The husband responds "Oh, we build playgrounds."

Part 4: Ok, God, didn't we just surrender this whole playground thing to you yesterday? I mean, seriously... now we are just confused! Well, we ended up talking with Tom from East African Playgrounds for about an hour or so and neither of us could contain our excitement. It was like God was showing us how perfect His plans are when we just trust Him. Tom was pretty much booked up for all of 2012 for playground projects all over Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania but he had one opening were he could squeeze us in for January. That was only 2.5 months away. Plus, it was going to cost $2,500... So we decided to get all of his contact information and pray about it and just see how God led us.

Part 5: We continued to pray about the playground and felt really led to keep our focus on Program 21. I decided that the only thing I wanted to ever promote on my facebook, this blog, or elsewhere would be Program 21. I felt that the nutritional state of the children was a "need" and the playground was a "want" so we held off on asking for any financial donations and just kept praying. It was hard. It taught me a great deal of patience because I hated seeing the kids play and get hurt on the crazy contraptions that they called a playground. At one point while we were there, we had to barbwire parts of the playground to keep the kids off of them because so many children were getting hurt or cutting themselves. One little boy sliced his head open on the slide one afternoon. Not to mention, these children aren't immunized and most have never even heard of tetanus, but it is a very common cause of death over there. It scared me so much every time one of the children would get cut on the scraps of metal.

Part 6: I get back from Uganda and begin spreading the news of Program 21 with anyone and everyone I know. Kelsey does the same. We keep praying about the playground and start asking schools, big businesses, and other places if they are interested in donating. We tried to keep this project completely separate from Program 21 and never promoted it on the internet because we didnt want to distract from our primary vision. I was turned down by 9 schools in one day, and 4 the next. We were both turned down by several businesses and Kelsey and I were starting to think we should just give up our dream for the kids to have a new playground. Maybe we heard God wrong? I wasn't even sure at this point, but I went ahead and put us down for the for East African Playgrounds January opening and ordered $400 in playgrounds parts and had them shipped to a friend heading over to visit Canaan in December. I have no idea what prompted me to go ahead and pay for all of those parts, but I did. I guess I was just being hopeful? I just felt like I was being crazy, but God clearly had a plan.

Part 7: Now it was December 7th... Less than a month away from the small time frame that Tom and his crew would be able to build us a playground. I was in Columbia visiting Russ and his family and got a text from my friend Carol McCoy that said "Call me as soon as you get a chance, need to talk to you about some Africa stuff before Addyson and I leave." A little background info. I met Carol on my first trip to Uganda last December with Visiting Orphans. We both traveled to Uganda again in March with a smaller team, and visited Canaan Children's Home again. This is the trip where I felt the Lord call me to return again after I graduated. Anyways, Carol has a 9 year old daughter named Addyson who came along on our March trip to Uganda and absolutely fell in love with the children at Canaan. Carol and Addyson planned to head back to Uganda in January to live for a month and teach the children at Canaan leather making skills (Carol's profession) to help them learn a trade and make an income. Anyways, there was a lot we needed to catch up on considering we hadnt even talked yet since I had been back. I told her I would call her on my drive back to Charleston.

Part 8: Meanwhile, I started crying over breakfast with Russ thinking about all my little ones that I missed so badly and told him how frustrated I was that the funds weren't coming in for the playground. We had $600 (most of which I had already spent on those parts) and exactly a month to go. I told him I refused to give up and that we served a big God who I have seen perform countless miracles with my very own eyes and I was trusting Him to provide the money. All $2,5000. I stopped crying after a few minutes and was just fired up. It was really weird... even Russ thought so. I went from sob fest, pity party, to "God is gonna do this. Watch  Him. He loves those kids so much." He was preparing me for what was about to happen.

Part 9: This part could literally be its own separate blog post, but this is getting long so I will just summarize this part. So I get in my car and call Carol. We chat for my entire drive back to Charleston which was a little over 2 hours. I hadn't had a chance to mention the playground because we had a million other things to talk about first. Towards the end of the call Carol said "Oh yeah, I wanted to run something by you... Addyson really wants to help build a new playground while we are there. I told her we dont have time to raise money for that because we leave in 3 weeks, but just wanted to run it by you and hear your thoughts." She went on to tell me that Addyson had gone behind her back and written a letter to her 4th grade teacher and already started raising money at her elementary school for the new playground even though Carol had told her no. Addyson told her mom that God wanted her to do this for the children. Let me just tell you, Addyson is literally not like any other child I have ever met before. I feel weird even calling her a child because she is quite the opposite. She has a relationship with Jesus that is so unreal for a 9 year old to have. She loves Him and trusts Him with every ounce of her heart. She has a precious and pure child-like faith that He calls each of us to have. She's pretty incredible. You're about to see why...

Part 10: I was literally biting my tongue the entire time Carol was talking about the playground and I finally just blurted out "Carol! Holy cow! It all makes sense! I have someone to build it! You aren't going to believe this!" So I tell her the whole story, covered in chill bumps all over my whole body and holding back tears. It was so unreal. Once again, it was only about an hour before I called her that God poured His peace over me as if He was saying "Becca, I got this." Carol decided she wanted me to be the one to share this great news with Addyson and so we planned to Skype that night after Adds got done with gymnastics. I could hardly wait! Later that night we Skyped and I got to tell Adds that God had appointed her to oversee this playground project during their time in Uganda. I told her that someone was already committed to building it and all we needed to do was to finish raising the money. Seeing her face light up when I told her that I knew with 100% confidence that the Lord had appointed her for this specific project was priceless. I had no doubt in my mind in that moment that He was going to provide the money in full. 

Part 11: The next day Carol posted a long note on facebook with pictures attached that I had taken during my time in Uganda. I made sure to take tons of pictures of the current playground structure in case any potential donors wanted to see them. Carol told the story of Addyson's amazing child-like faith and how proud of her she was. Within an hour there had been over 40 people "share" the story and tons of people were interested in helping. Carol already had a mission support account set up through a non-profit so it worked out perfectly and people's hearts were stirred and they started to give!! I was ecstatic. God had opened a completely separate avenue and with a completely new audience on behalf of these children. 

Part 12: Within a few DAYS. I am not kidding. Every single penny was raised. I contacted the playground company and let them know we were officially ON for January and that all of the money and extra parts were being sent their way! Carol and Addyson's story touched so many people that they were even featured on their local news station!!! I will put the link to it at the bottom of this post for you to check it out. It's a must see! The dynamic mother-daughter duo left this morning for Uganda and will be there to assist in the entire project. Also, the children at the orphanage have no idea. I didn't want to tell them while I was there because I didn't want to give them false hope in case it didn't follow through. I had no idea if the funds would be raised so I never said a word to anyone except the children's home director. They are literally going to FLIP! Oh, how I wish I could be there to see their sweet little faces! 

So, there you have it. God's faithfulness and greatness. Even in something as small as a playground. 

Click this link to the news clip of Carol and Addyson: 9-year-old helps build orphans a playground
And here are some pictures that I took of the current "playground" at the orphanage...

When the new playground is up, you better believe there will be a big post with lots of pictures!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making my last moments rich

I leave in less than 3 days and I already know that saying goodbye is going to be very difficult...

My time here has been beyond phenomenal.  From a total change of plans by staying in Buziika, to meeting a new best friend and sister, to being continuously shocked and awed at the clinic, to putting bandaids on little knobby knees, to giving out hugs and kisses like they're candy... it's just not even possible to put into words how blessed and unforgettable my time here has been.

I have so many things to look forward to:  three full days in London and then I get to go home and be with my family.  But I know I'll look back on my time here and wish I were looking forward instead.  I'm sure I'll return someday, but it's hard not to know when that day will be.

My remaining time here is brief so I'm going to make this a very quick post.  If you'd be willing to pray for me during these next I'd really be thankful.  Pray that my last couple of days here would be rich with joy, that my many goodbyes would be hopeful, and that my traveling adventures would be fulfilling (and safe).  I already can tell it's going to be a challenge processing everything I've experienced in the past two months, so please pray that my heart and and my mind would be full of peace and understanding.

Weraba!  My next post will be from England!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


You know the saying Home is where the heart is?  I partly agree with that, although I like the saying Home is where the people are even better.  Throughout the years, I've been blessed to almost always feel "at home" because of the people I was with.  I've gown up in Michigan and most  of my family is there.  I lived in Nashville for two years and have beyond phenomenal friends there.  I'm currently living in Uganda and every time I see my friends, I feel at home.

That being said, I think I can safely call Uganda my home.  I fall more and more in love with the children and people here every day.  I miss my friends and family back in the states terribly, but it's pretty easy to find joy and comfort right outside my door.  Even though Becca's gone and I'm living alone, I've been flooded with an overwhelming peace, praise God.   Just today while in town I ran into 2 friends unexpectedly and met up with 2 others.  I cannot explain how much joy that brings me... I'm halfway around the world from my native country, yet I feel so loved and surrounded by familiar faces.  Even just having the children yell out my name from across the compound gives me comfort.  They know me, they know my name, they trust me, they crave my affection and attention.  So yes, my house is a structure where I live, but the people in my life are my home.  And even when I'm back in the states, I know I'll miss my home in Uganda.

I meant to write a post with pictures of where I'm staying a few weeks ago but I never got around to it.  Oh well, better late than never.

The from of my house (the guest house).

The hallway as you walk in.

My room!

More of my room (don't let the cute decorations fool you,
 it's pretty small and I often kill cockroaches on the walls/floor).

The kitchen area and door which leads to the bathrooms.

Living room I guess?  Filled with plenty of beds for large volunteer groups.

5 bathroom stalls in the back of the house.

My bathroom (like my nice, open shower?).

I found an amazing use for my new Geigerrig  bladder:
clean water to brush my teeth with  :)

This picture was taken from right outside my font door; this is
the Health Center/Clinic. Nice commute right?

My front yard, the playground/laundry dryer.