Monday, December 31, 2012

Church


If you were to pass by the Mt. Zion church structure, you may not even notice it. This church started in the "Slums" of Nyahuka. It consists of branches of wood for the structure and tarps for the roof and walls. Wooden benches and the dirt floor add to the simplicity of the church.  But, if you were to attend the church service, you'd experience one of the richest moments of your life.  As the drums begin to come alive and the worshipers being to sing, the church transforms into a beautiful and breathtaking sight to see. 






Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let the little children come to me



This morning I have been trying to put the finishing touches on the 4 week education/bible study series that I want to implement at the pediatric ward for the mothers. I was interrupted by a knock on the door. A child that looks around 8 years old stands at my door shirtless, gangly, and covered in dirt. He simply asked for “Tutex”, which means fingernail polish. This is an activity here in which both boys and girls enjoy. I wasn't really interested in taking the time to assist the kid, so I denied his request. A few minutes later I get another knock at the door, I ignore it knowing it is the same kid at the door. I resume editing my Bible study outline when I hear a third knock. I go to the door, greet the child again, and wait for his question. This time he simply points to his feet. He had a cut on his toe that looked painful and raw. My heart was instantly broken and I had the strongest desire to wash the child’s feet. I gave him a stool to sit on while I went to get a basin, some water, soap and a towel. I also grabbed the first-aid kit to clean his wound. I sat down, placed his feet in my hands and began to wash them. The water instantly turned brown and murky from the dirt which was coating his feet. I then proceeded to dry his feet with a towel. The kid remained quiet, no words exchanged between the two of us. Even as I clean his toe with antiseptic he doesn't even flinch. After I bandage his toe I introduced myself and find out that his name is Edwin. He thanked me in his broken English and then walked away.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me” (for the full text see Mark 10:13-16). This just happens to be the title of the Bible study that I was working on this morning. Ironic? Definitely not. Jesus likes to teach us lessons to grow us spiritually. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how self-centered I was being. I needed that gentle and humbling lesson this morning. Even as I write this, Edwin has returned twice. Each time he has brought a new child with cuts on their feet, too. I gratefully greet each child and take the time to sit and clean their wounds. Joy floods my heart. Lesson learned.


Monday, December 17, 2012

"Wall of Love"

This picture is of my bedroom wall.  I am calling it my "Wall of Love".  As you can see, I have started to display pictures that my niece and nephew have colored for me. I also have added some cards that family and friends have sent. I have plenty of room for you to have a place on my wall too! Just send me a card (or even a box!) and address it to:

Alisha Risser
World Harvest Mission
P.O. Box 1142
Bundibugyo, Uganda
East Africa




Sunday, December 9, 2012

Knowing vs. Experiencing


A reflection from Dec. 1

Today I experienced all 4 seasons in one day.  It was as if time was warped like a ball of clay. It all started in the fall which consisted of pumpkin muffins and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Then it eased into spring cleaning. Next there was Christmas decorating, Christmas music, and paper snowflakes cascading from the ceiling. The room had turned into a picture that you would find in a holiday magazine. Even though it felt like winter, all of this was happening with the blazing sun beating down on Mundri, South Sudan like a hot summer day in South Georgia.  It’s a sensation in which I have never experienced, and am having a difficult time categorizing in my mind. I guess some things are never meant to be analyzed but only enjoyed. Some things never meant to be explained only experienced.

It is that way with a lot of other things as well.  The greater the experience, the harder it is to put into words that other people will understand. It seems like a story ends with only a fraction of the impact that it had on you when you experienced it.  A magnificent sunset, or the sky painted with stars, or even the smile of a little child who has just received a gift.  As hard as we try, it is never understood by the recipient of the story like that of the one who was able to experience it. 

It is the same way with Jesus.  You can be told about Jesus and can know all about the stories in the Bible. But, until you experience him, you won’t grasp the beauty and fullness of his love.  There is a difference in knowing and experiencing.  We are called not only to know Jesus, but also to experience him.


Commitment


Reflections from a few weeks ago while traveling...

Here I sit, beads around my wrists, no makeup on and wearing a shirt that I’ve had on for two days. My hair is a crazy mess and my feet are dirty.  Somewhere along the way I have thrown off the need for things that shine and glitter.  I have let go of fine clothes and fancy shoes.  Somewhere along the way I have embraced the life of a traveler.  A life that knows no permanent home.  A life of a missionary.  A life of surrender.  My home is in Christ.  Wherever I am at, He is also there.  I will never be alone.  A song called “Set a Fire” by Will Reagan says it best:

“There is no place I would rather be than here in your love. Set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control. I want more of you God.”

People joke that I have commitment issues since I have lived in multiple states and never settled very long at one location. It is assumed that people who move a lot are running from things. Over the years I have realized that it is not a fear of commitment, but actually the complete opposite.  It is an ultimate and total commitment to Christ.  I do not run from things, but towards where God is leading me. I will go wherever He sends me.


  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Peace


This is a story about a girl named Peace. She is a 14 year old girl who is severely malnourished. She weighs only 18.4 kg (40 lbs). She is very frail and wasted in appearance. Her mother died of HIV and Peace was left in the care of her grandmother who was unable to care for her properly.  Thankfully her aunt is now the caregiver, and has brought Peace to the Health Center for treatment.  If you plot Peace on a CDC growth chart (noted for the United States), she isn't even close to hitting the 5th percentile (37kg/81lbs).  This chart, below, shows that she is the approx. weight of a 6 or 7 year old. It’s not just her low weight that cuts to my heart; Peace also has TB and is HIV+. Both of these diseases significantly increase her need for proper nutrition.  She has a huge battle to fight and has a long road to recovery. After a week, I was finally able to see her smile! I pray that over the next several weeks as she is being treated with therapeutic food and meds that she will begin to have hope.

Please pray for healing, for restoration, and for hope in this little girl. Pray that she will feel God’s love being poured over her. 

(If you need help finding her dot on the chart; follow the x-axis across the bottom until you find the number 14, and then follow the y-axis upward until you hit the 18.4 kg/40 lb. mark)




Monday, October 22, 2012

Video




I was encouraged to create some videos for my church family during my time in Uganda.  Over the next several months I will be trying to capture each of the different programs that I am involved in. This first video shows pictures of Bundibugyo and also the outpatient malnutrition project (BundiNutrition).

Make sure your volume is turned on, Enjoy!

video

Friday, October 19, 2012

Motherless Children



I’d like you to meet Anna. She is a beautiful little girl that is over 1 year old and weighs ~5.5 kg (12lbs). When she was admitted to the SAM ward (severe acute malnutrition) at the health center she weighed in at ~4.8kg (10.5 lbs).  Anna’s story is that of heartache and pain but also joy.   Anna’s mother passed away which left her orphaned and starving.  The grandmother brought Anna to the health center to seek help.  Knowing that breast milk is the best nutrition for an infant, the doctors encouraged the grandmother to re-lactate and begin breastfeeding. Currently the grandmother (66 years old) is successfully nursing her granddaughter back to health!  Anna is still struggling to gain weight—but ever so slowly she is improving. She has just reached her goal weight which means that she has gained 15% of her admission weight and will be discharged from the unit. She will then be admitted into our outpatient nutrition program (that meets weekly) to provide food supplementation and education for the next 10 weeks. 

Re-lactation is a new concept to me.  I had no idea that a female could re-lactate even after several years of not producing milk (or in this case, after many years of not producing milk).  It is a wonderful solution to help improve the nutrition of motherless children.  Still, as easy as it may sound, there are many challenges to overcome.

Here is another story of a motherless child… A baby boy was brought to us by two ladies (an elderly lady and a middle aged woman).  He is 3 months old.  They had a paper stating that the mother of the child tragically passed away the other day. The mother was only 15 years old.  We found out that the two ladies were the grandmother and great-grandmother to the infant.  Grandmother was 34 and I’m guessing that the great-grandmother was probably about 70 or so. But, get this-- Grandmother had also just given birth about 3 months ago, and was currently breastfeeding her own child. Dr. Jessica was able to talk to the grandmother about being the caregiver and to breastfeed the motherless child along with her own child. 

It is not a small task to accept the role of caregiver to a motherless child.  Breastfeeding for two children or re-lactating is no easy assignment; especially when many are struggling to survive already. The average family lives on less than $2.00 a day here in Bundibugyo. It is an astounding statistic that shoots straight to my heart every time I talk about it. Plus, a can of baby formula is equivalent to about $10.00 (and only within the past year has it been available here).  So, formula is not even an option for families due to cost.

The motherless children population is at high risk for malnutrition.  The health center has been facing this issue on an as needed basis, supplying food for the caregivers who are breastfeeding and formula to the infants who have no access to breast milk. It is our hope to restart a motherless program in Bundibugyo to aid the caregivers who take on the responsibility of mothering an infant.  The program will allow us to be more consistent in caring for the motherless infants and ensure that they are provided with proper nutrition. Please keep this in your prayers as we begin addressing this issue.  Also, please pray for Anna and all the other motherless children who are fighting to grow and gain weight. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Through My Eyes

Here is a glimpse of the world through my eyes...

I went for a long walk this past weekend and was able to catch some more photos of typical life in Bundibugyo.






I also had a Ugandan cooking class this week. I went over to a neighbors home and helped them prepare a meal.  I helped pound cassava leaves (pictured below), peel potatoes, and sort through rice to remove stones and other inedible items. Other staples include matoke (a type of banana), beans, and ground peanut sauce. Just for the record-- they work hard for their meals!




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Welcome to Bundibugyo

I have officially survived my first week in Nyahuka, Bundibugyo. I have learned that Bundibugyo is a district in Uganda, and within that district the town where I live is called Nyahuka.  Bundibugyo means "end of the road", and it is nestled up against the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It took us 9 hours of driving to get from the capital of Uganda (Kampala), to Nyahuka.  If Bundibugyo means "end of the road", then I am beyond the end of the road...

 I am slowly orienting myself and have been observing the many jobs of the missionaries here.  Some of my responsibilities include assisting at the pediatric "SAM" ward (severe acute malnutrition), helping with the outpatient malnutrition project, and reading/research on motherless children in hopes to begin implementing  a program here.  I will also be attempting to learn Lubwisi, which is the local language.

Malnutrition is prevalent, living conditions are poor, and life is a struggle for many. Regardless, these children have the brightest smiles and the best laughs.  Here are some photos of life in Bundibugyo.





  








Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's All About Worship

 

"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship therefore is the fuel and the goal of missions."
-John Piper  (Let the Nations Be Glad)

Authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert wrote, When Helping Hurts a book about how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor, emphasize the ultimate goal of missions is for people to glorify God and enjoy him forever. 

So, in essence missions is the outflow and the overflow of our love for Christ and our desire for other to experience Christ's love too.

I have also read another book while I've been home called Love Wins, by Rob Bell.  It is a thought provoking book with a great message.

"When the gospel is understood primarily in terms of entrance rather than joyous participation, it can actually serve to cut people off from explosive, liberating experience of the God who is an endless giving circle of joy and creativity."

"Jesus calls disciples to keep entering into this shared life of peace and joy as it transforms our hearts until it's the most natural way to live that we can imagine. Until it's second nature. Until we naturally embody and practice the kind of attitudes and actions that will go on in the age to come. A discussion about how to 'just get into heaven' has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus because it's missing the point of it all."

Now that's some good stuff! It's all about worship and bringing glory to God.

Ponder This...



1.      50% of humanity lives on less than $2.50 per day.

2.      UNICEF reports 26,000-30,000 children die each day from poverty.

               ... that is 18 children every minute... or 1 child every 3 seconds...

3.       27-28% of all children in developing countries are estimated to be
          underweight or stunted.

4.       There are ~2.2 billion children in the world and ~1 billion of those children
          live in poverty.


When people actually digested this information and opened their eyes to the pain and suffering all around the world (and even next door), I would like to hope that eventually people will start to take action.

source: global issues and poverty.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Favorite Things



I only have a few more days before flying to Uganda, so I wanted to share some of the highlights of my time at home. I came up with a list of my “favorite things” to better encompass the events of the past few weeks. I've enjoyed lots of good food along with family/friend time. Probably the most special times being spent with my nieces and nephew.


Grilled Pizza 


Cheesecake 


Fresh Garden Mint Tea 


A Pedicure by Heidi


Making Necklaces with Kaleigh
 

Funny Faces with Cassidy 


Skate Park with Aiden 


... and so much more!
 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

98%



I want to take a second to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for me and also supporting me financially this coming year. I have currently raised 98% of my support for my trip to Uganda!!! Less than $200 to go!

This week will mark my last 5 days as a Tift Regional Medical Center employee. It truly has been an amazing 2 years. God has allowed me to meet some very special people and build some wonderful friendships. Tifton has also been a great place for my development and growth-- within my career and also spiritually. I am very thankful for my time spent in Tifton, yet excited for what's next!

I will be headed back to Virginia next week for approximately a month until departing for Uganda. My flight for Uganda is scheduled for September 21. Please continue to keep me in your prayers as I transition from Tifton, Ga. to Harrisonburg, Va. and ultimately to Bundibugyo, Uganda.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Heart



“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” 
1 Samuel 16:7 


I read my "verse of the day" today and couldn't help but ponder this one for a little bit. I instantly thought of the media and how it emphasizes beauty being outward; fine clothes, manicured hands, and styled hair. I also thought about how much time each day we spend on these things. The question that arises is, How much time do you spend working on your heart? If God says that he doesn't look on the outside, then should we be focused on our outward appearance? God looks at the heart, therefore our focus should be on beautifying our heart. Proverbs 4:23 says the heart "is the wellspring of life". Our lives reflect that of our heart. Luke 6:45 states, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." In essence, a beautiful heart should pour out love. Love, after all, is the greatest commandment. First, love the Lord your God. Second, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Redefine how the world views beauty.


The Challenge: spend more time each day on your heart than on your hair and makeup.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Update

Thank you to all my fabulous supporters! I am over halfway to my goal, with still another month to go! God is good!

Goal: $10,335
Current: $6,389   (61.8%)
Need: $3,966

It's not too late to give financially, below is the link for online donation.
http://www.whm.org/give/missionary?ID=26039


Saturday, June 23, 2012

T-shirts for sale!

I am selling shirts to raise money for my mission trip to Uganda. If you would like one please send me an email (risserad@gmail.com) with the size you would like and your contact information.  $15 each. I will be taking pre-orders only. Deadline to order a shirt will be July 8. (If you live outside of the Tifton, Ga. or Harrisonburg/Broadway, Va. area I can send shirts to you with a small shipping fee to cover the postage.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BundiNutrition


Synopsis

This fund was created to address some of the nutritional needs of Bundibugyo, Uganda. Situated near the shared border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is a place of turbulence, disease, social disorder, and death. Over the years, World Harvest Missionaries have been providing nutritional assistance to the community in various ways. During wartime, there were food distributions. After the war, seeds and hoes were distributed to assist people in rebuilding of their lives. In the past few years, WHM, in conjunction with World Food Program, has been able to supply HIV affected families, malnourished children and motherless infants with food and milk. The Matiti (Milk) Project was also used as a way for milk to be sustainably supplied within the villages, through breeding of dairy goats.

The BundiNutrition Fund is currently used to run the following projects:

Supplemental Milk Supply

WHM in conjunction with the local health center provides milk for special cases. Some children are hospitalized due to their poor nutritional status. (Kwashiorkor/Marasmus). Special milk-based feeds along with medical care are used to revitalize them. Motherless infants under one year are provided with boxed milk (Ultra-Heat Treated) or formula. Some aunts or grandmothers are willing to act as a wet nurse for a child. WHM provides a small food stipend for them. This complements their meager food intake and facilitates relactation and a good milk supply.

Nutrition Education and Feeding Program

This program is for those moderately malnourished children. We will give them a weekly supplement of ground groundnuts (similar to peanuts) mixed with moringa leaves (good source of protein and vitamins) and soy flour that the parents can mix into the child's food to add protein. These food are locally available. A large part of the program will be education, as we want to teach people (and ultimately the community), about good nutrition, proper hygiene, and how to treat common illnesses like diarrhea. We will also be incorporating some Bible teaching into our lessons.

Quick Facts:

· $1/day buys milk or baby formula to ensure the survival of a baby whose mother dies in the first few months of his life.

· $15 buys enough milk to resuscitate a severely malnourished child.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I mailed many of my support letters out to family/friends before I found this synopsis of the program. I figured this provides a better description of the needs of the children in Bundibugyo. Below I have posted the link for financial contributions online via credit/debit cards.

http://www.whm.org/give/give-to-a-missionary
(you can find my photo on page 9, or just search "Risser")

OR mail a check to:

 World Harvest Mission
 Donations Processing Center
 P.O. Box 1244 
 Albert Lea, MN 56007-1244

**If writing a check make them payable to World Harvest Mission, and place my designation number on the bottom left line #26039



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Invitation

Pray. Seek. Step.  This is my definition of how we are to live our lives... We pray. We pray about everything. We pray about what God's plans are for us, and how we can be faithful in doing his will and pursuing his purpose for us. We pray for our loved ones, our neighbors, or coworkers, and our enemies. We pray for direction and clarity.  We pray constantly. We pray, and we seek...  We pray hard, and we seek Christ. We seek to know Christ more deeply. We seek him, that he may become the center of our lives. That we may surrender daily to his pan and his will in our lives...And then we step.  We step in faith. We step with assurance because we have prayed and sought Christ, and know that he is guiding our steps. We step one foot at a time. And we see God working, and moving, and we hear him speaking to our hearts. And through all of this our faith becomes strengthened, and our hearts become more fully dependent on Christ, and our desire becomes stronger to abandon everything for the sake of Christ... so we continue to pray. seek. step. pray. seek. step.  


I am preparing to move to Bundibugyo, Uganda in September and have been trying to get all the necessary things taken care of before I depart. It is not a small task to conquer, but thankfully I am surrounded with many people who are partnering with me on this endeavor.  My prayer is that my blog may be an example of how to live with audacious faith (check out the book Sun Stand Still if you're curious about "audacious faith"), and also that it may keep record of the many encounters of God's faithfulness and unending love.  I invite you to follow my journey over the next several months and years to come.



"I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God's holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ's love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ's love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine."
    
Ephesians 3:17-20