Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Story of Ashky

Five years ago, Ashley Sam was just a typical 22 year old trying to figure life out, but that all changed in the blink of an eye. On December 27, 2007, Ashley was involved in a motor vehicle accident where she suffered two broken legs, a broken arm, multiple fractures in her face, and a severe traumatic brain injury. She was in a coma for 2 months and remained in the hospital until May 2008 in an altered state of consiousness. Her parents, Randy and Jenny, brought her home at this time. Since then she has required 24 hour care. She has had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat. Since she was unable to move for such a long time, she has had to work hard to gain back muscle tone and strength in her body. (You can read more about her story by clicking here).

Through all of that, you couldn't blame Ashley or her parents if they were bitter or resentful. But as my mom and I have spent Tuesday nights over the last few months visiting at their home, I can tell you that they are anything but. Ashley has kept her sense of humor and often has everyone cracking up. One day while we were visiting Ashley said, "With everything I've been through, God has loved me through it all."

So as our family has prepared to go to Uganda this summer, I knew I wanted to to something special for Ashley. I didn't just want her to hear about Uganda, I wanted her to experience it. I wanted her to see the rusty-orange dirt under her feet and hear the kids singing praises to God and feel their hugs. The wheels started turning in my mind.

I knew Ashley wouldn't be able to go herself, but I thought maybe someone could go on her behalf. If you've ever heard about the children's series of Flat Stanley books, then you'll know where I'm going with this. Kids in school do projects with Flat Stanley, a boy they cut out of paper and send to someone they know. That person takes Flat Stanley on some adventure and takes pictures, sends the pictures to the child, and then sends Flat Stanley on to someone else. I thought a paper cutout would be a little too flimsy and easy to rip or lose. So I needed another idea.

I introduce to you, Ashky.

Ashky is a sock monkey I bought. I dressed her up in a t-shirt (which matches a shirt I had made for Ashley), and made a little skirt for her. This is actually the original Ashky, but when I brought her out to explain what I was doing, Ashley's 7 month old nephew Wesley went nuts. He started shrieking, kicking his legs, and flailing his arms. He wrapped his arms right around the monkey and he would not let go. If anyone tried to touch the monkey he shouted. He made hilarious noises that sounded like he was trying to talk to the monkey. Needless to say, we gave Wesley the monkey because he was so cute with it.

Wesley says, "I love this monkey!"

If you are on Facebook, you can follow Ashky's adventures in Uganda by liking the page "Ashky goes to Africa." If you're not on facebook, have no fear. I'll let you know how it goes with Ashky as time goes on.

Ashley (center) with Karen (right), her mom Jenny (left), Aly, and Wesley (the monkey loving baby).

- Aly

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sights and Sounds of Preparation

There are bags, boxes, and bins taking over my parents' livingroom. There are freshly washed skirts hanging out on the line. The piles are growing. The lists are forming. The trips to Walmart are starting. And the luggage is filling.

The nerves of getting everything done are showing. The excitement of taking off is mounting. The good-byes are starting. The hellos are longing. And the attention spans and energy are waning.

Minds are spinning. Tempers are shortening. And those piles are still getting higher.

Did you grab the converters? And what about razors? Do we have toothpaste? Please don't even start talking about taking anti-malaria medication.

I need to print t-shirts and roll letters for supporters. Wait. Scratch that and flip it.

More supplies are piling. There's a couch under here somewhere, and with it is probably where I can find my keys.

There's only one thing that all this can possibly mean.

We leave in 1 week.

- Aly

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Think I'll Move to Uganda!

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running...

If you're around little kids you may be familiar with the first page of my favorite children's story, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst. It's a little glimpse into our lives right now. To say it's terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad would be dramatic. But there have been weird things happening to us.

In the story, after Alexander talks about his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, he would say, "I think I'll move to Australia." When I was in college and would have a bad day, I used to tell my mom, "I think I'll move to Uganda."

So here is my version of my favorite children's story, and the weird things that have been going on lately:

My mom went to sleep with a scratchy throat and now she sounds like a man and when she called me to tell me she could hardly stop coughing. So I came to the house and cleaned for her after picking up my apartment. My eyes have been feeling dry and irritated and now when I try to look out of my left eye it's all blurry. When I went to the eye doctor, he told me I can't wear my contacts for a while and I should probably wear my glasses for the trip. I hate wearing my glasses!

I think I'll move to Uganda.

No matter what I do, my apartment still smells like cigarette smoke and cat pee. My microwave keeps turning on when I'm not even in the room, my refridgerator makes gurgly noises, and I bought a sock monkey last week that just sits and stares at me. I put a brand new colored ink cartridge in the printer and it's telling me it's empty, and I can't print out my orientation packets I made for the team.

It has been a goofy, weird, so strange, very odd day. My mom says some days are like that...Even in Uganda.

By no means am I whining about any of this. I'm thankful to have my own apartment, as quirky as it can be. I'm thankful to have glasses as a back up when my contacts don't work, and I'm thankful we live in a country where we have easy access to medications when we're sick. But it's just been one of those days when all these things pile up and can make a person crazy.

- Aly

Friday, June 15, 2012

17 Days

At this point in our preparation, we all start to get a little crazy. There's so much to do, and so little time to actually get it done. There are things to get ready for the trip: lessons to plan, things to pack, supplies to buy. And on top of all that there are the everyday things that need done: cleaning the house/apartment, getting groceries, and school is still in session so there is still work. I'm also planning on having a friend stay at my apartment while I'm gone, and if you were to see the status of my guest room you wonder how on earth it will be ready in just a little over 2 weeks.

But slowly things are getting done. We work together, each of us focusing on a different project, and somehow we get it all done. Sometimes it feels like we do more running than accomplishing. But through it all, it is so important that we don't let our focus shift from God to the circumstances around us. Afterall, that's what made Peter start sinking out on the water, and we certainly don't want to sink.

We ask that you'd pray for us, that we'd continue to keep our focus on Christ, not on all the things that need to get done. That we'll always remember that He is the reason we do what we do, and without Him this ministry means nothing.

- Aly

Monday, June 11, 2012

3 Weeks: The Exchange

Yesterday, we spoke at a new church. As I was sitting in the car, looking out the window, it started to hit me. In 3 weeks, we'll be headed for Uganda.

In 3 weeks, we'll exchange the rolling hills of Western New York for the hills of Kampala. Instead of looking out at freshly farmed, brown dirt, we'll see red dirt, packed down by millions of feet walking along the paths. I'll swap my new apartment for my Ugandan home. The sounds of cars passing by my window, will be replaced with the sound of crickets chirping and dogs howling in the night. Instead of order on the roads, we will find ourselves among barely controlled chaos. My usual lunch of chicken salad and fresh veggies will be replaced with beans and rice. We'll trade in our quick American English, filled with slang for a more descriptive, slower version of English. Instead of tap water, we'll drink bottled. With our daily regimen of vitamins, we'll add in anti-malaria pills and the side-effects they bring. Our now clean, nice smelling hair will be full of sweat and grease. Our feet, once clean and white, will be brown and dusty. Hot showers will be a thing of the past, as cold water brings refreshment each morning. My heart will experience that feeling of being completely at home, and peaceful, while at the same time feeling broken and at times ripped apart.

I've waited 5 long months. My parents have waited for almost a year. And in just 21 days, we'll be on our way to hearing the pilot say the words we love so much:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Uganda.

- Aly

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crazy Week!

No, I haven't forgotten about the blog. This last week has been very crazy! Dare I say that this has been one of the craziest preparations for a trip that we've ever had.

I spent the bulk of last week playing gym teacher at the elementary school. And let me tell you, trying to corral 50 kindergarteners is exactly as hard as it sounds (as long as it sounds like complete madness).

Last week I signed a lease and was handed the keys to my apartment. We did the majority of moving on Saturday, carrying boxes and furniture up 15 steps to my apartment (most of which had already been carried 15 steps down the stairs at my parents house). Needless to say we were all quite exhausted.

Yesterday, we spoke at 2 different churches about the ministry in Uganda. One was completely new, and the other was one we've been to a number of times over the years. The Pastor of the second church also asked me to come join them for youth group and talk to the teens, so I spent most of the day finding pictures to show.

We also spent the last week reworking our trip schedule. Some new things came up, and we ended up playing around with dates, trying to lock in on tickets, praying about what God wanted us to do, and just trying to make sense of it all in the midst of everything else.

I'll share more about that last one in the days to come. For now, my apartment (which has no internet, so please bear with me if I don't post quite as often as I hope to) is piled high with boxes, and I need to find all my stuff!

- Aly