Sunday, August 17, 2014

Post Mission Blog Post Update

Recall one of our first posts that displayed the above pair of new shoes I purchased at a Church-owned Deseret Industries store (Salvation Army type store) in the box for $6.00?  I'm sure there were many who thought those cheap shoes would simply wear my feet out.  I was afraid they would make my feet sore and cause blisters myself.

Well, here they are 17 months later after being worn an average of 6 days a week, looking as good as new and feeling as comfortable as any pair of shoes I ever bought.  In the dry season it was nothing but windy and dusty in Gulu.  In the rainy season, nothing but mud.  I'm not exaggerating, I polished this pair of shoes more times in the last 17 months than I have polished all the shoes I have ever owned combined....and that would include 2 years of ROTC in college.
We made it to Salt Lake on 3 Aug as planned and on Monday began looking for a neurosurgeon.  After making 3 phone calls the first appointment we could get was 4-6 weeks out...a long time to wait thinking most of that time would be spent in pain, sometimes immobilizing.  One doctor took my Uganda x-ray films, read it in a couple of days, and set me up for an appt 4 weeks out.

I found some help at another surgeon's office who had the same 6 week waiting period but who referred me to an orthopedic spine surgeon.  I called them...same story but he had a PA who could see me our first week in SLC.  We jumped on that and found him to be one of the most delightful professionals we had ever met. He spent 90 minutes with us asking questions, performing some strength tests, reading the Kampala MRI and CT film to us. (Interestingly enough, when he asked me to describe what I had been through, how I had felt, I could not speak but became very emotional.  I asked Pam to tell him for me.  It was a day or so later that I realized I had probably experienced what is called post-traumatic stress syndrome...the memory of what I had been through was simply too painful to even talk about.)

At this point,  less than a week after being nearly totally incapacitated, I was feeling no pain whatsoever.  He showed us the point in my neck that was causing the problem , a nearly complete collapse of the spinal column at C7 aggravated by intense inflammation and acknowledged he had no medical explanation as to why I was no longer suffering. He thought the only real answer must have been something answer to a blessing I received in Kampala and the prayers of friends and loved ones across the globe.

He had the same problem 6 years ago and underwent surgery.  He did say my inflammation and pain could recur in 4 weeks, 4 months, 4 years or never but told me to stay as far away from a hospital as possible, that  this surgery is for those who need it immediately and right now I do not need it.

Pam and I bear witness that God knows us by name, knows our trials and is nearby when we need him most.  We are so grateful for Elder and Sis Squire in Kampala who housed me in their apartment for a week or so, drove me to one imaging lab after another, to a local clinic, to the hospital for an overnight stay.  Sister Florence Nightingale would be a more appropriate title for Sister Squire.  Elder and Sis Squire were by my side 24/7 for over a week.  We are grateful for Elder Barton, our Southeast Africa Area physician in Johannesburg who flew 4 hours to Kampala just to stabilize me, then turn right around and fly me back to Johannesburg and then put me on a plane to the states the next day, 2 Aug, after deciding I could make it without surgery in So Africa.  We are very grateful for our mission president, President Robert Chatfield, who had to make the hard decision to send me that was very painful for him and one he knew Pam and I would not want to hear.  There is no question now he was inspired by our Heavenly Father to get me home.  Traveling the roads in Uganda, as rough as they are, no doubt would have further aggravated my neck and made a later trip back to Kampala and the states all the more difficult.

It truly was a series of miracles over the course of the closure of our mission.  While we were so disappointed to leave early and miss so much our African loved ones, we know we will see them again some day and until that day, they will remain a deep part of our heart and soul.  We have been pleased to hear from so many of them.

We continue to see the Lord's hand in all things. Shortly after our departure missionaries from Liberia and Sierre Leone were sent to Uganda.  Some of those were placed in Gulu, so one week later our home was again occupied by (junior) missionaries!  I have been able to begin much needed physical therapy treatment for a minor hip injury sustained from a P-day trail fall months earlier. We are temporarily staying with our daughter Ceci and her family in Utah.  She feels we were sent home early to bless her with sanity as she struggles to balance all her current activities.  We can now  attend a family wedding this month in Georgia and share some family history activities with our eldest son's family.  That also means we will see them before our planned visit to Florida in November!

When any of  Heavenly Father's children look at life's experiences through a spiritual lens, they come to recognize the majesty of all His workings and His great love for all them.  It is up to us to choose how we accept His will and His timing.  As for me and Brooks, we will continue to serve the Lord wherever we are and in whatsoever capacity we can.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement while we served our wonderful Uganda Kampala mission.
 Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things...
(Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, Jackson County, Missouri, August 7, 1831.)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

74 - The end of our amazing journey

 I suppose this will be our last official blog.  It comes as I sit at my son's desktop in Flower Mound, TX.  Not as we had planned but four herniated discs and a pinched nerve in my neck sent us home about 5weeks early. Grateful for everyone who has assisted us to assure we would have a  safe and comfortable return home.   We fly to SLC today, 3 Aug, where doctors will evaluate "what next?" while we also spend time visiting Ceci's family, then WY and CO visiting Lawrence and other family members before heading south in October/November. 
We've had approximately 30,500 page views since March 2013 when we first posted from the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT. Our "audience has come from the US, UK, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Ukraine, Thailand, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, just to name a few.  We are very humbled that interest in the blog never waned.
The end of our Ugandan journey certainly was not anticipated nor welcomed.  A few eager-to-learn Relief Society sisters and I had barely started sewing classes, graduation from our course was being planned, final training with new branch leaders was being scheduled, a children and women's dress distribution was to be held with a Women and Children's Advocacy group this coming week, special single adult activities.  and on and on.  Some of these will go on without us, but our grief is poignant without any real closure, particularly not being able to say goodbye to those in Gulu who have become a permanent part of our hearts. For the majority of them, they will have just learned today at church of our sudden departure.  Without directories, phonebooks or street addresses, it will not be possible for many to be informed who don't attend regularly or are not church members.
Nonetheless, we can see the Lord's tender mercies throughout Brooks health crisis.  A week ago Thursday, after experiencing a few weeks with  headaches (but on that day doing well) we decided he should travel with the zone leaders who would be attending a conference in Kampala for two days.  There he could get an MRI to see if there was any major cause of his headaches.  We anticipated he would return with the missionaries on Sat.  Because he was doing well, we agreed I would stay behind to continue work in Gulu. The next day however, his pain became utterly debilitating.  On Saturday, when the MRI was scheduled, he was again doing well, but he couldn't return with the missionaries because the MRI reading could not be done until Tues , but everyone was still anticipating his return in a few days.  By Monday the pain was completely incapacitating.  When the MRI reading came back on Tuesday, everyone of us had the confirmation it was time to leave, but could not imagine how he could possibly make it back to the states.  He couldn't sit up, he couldn't eat, he was vomiting and dizzy. 
While not the norm for couples to be separated, I was able to wrap up what I could in Gulu: sewing class, finishing our last class for the course "Walking Out of Poverty", cleaning our home, packing or distributing our personal belongings without major "strategizing".  Wednesday was travel to Kampala. That night our SE Africa area doctor flew in from Johannesburg, was able to stabilize Brooks with the right medications and early the next morning we are on our way to Johannesburg South Africa (four hour flight), where world-class medical care is available.   Brooks did astonishing well on the flight.  We all concluded with the proper medications he didn't need any further tests or procedures in Africa, that he could return safely stateside.  The doctor and SLC worked on our travel arrangements back to the states and we were able to fly out Friday evening. Obviously the flights were L - O - N- G, but Brooks did remarkably well.  Those who don't know him would not know he had any kind of problem.
We truly could not have had more attentive care ANYWHERE in the world than what he/we received through our mission nurse Sister (and Elder) Squire, President and Sister Chatfield  and the Kampala senior couples, the Gulu missionaries, Godfrey our driver, and Elder (and Sister) Barton, the Southeast Africa Area doctor.  The Church always has as its primary concern total welfare of its missionaries and it was an amazing thing to experience this firsthand through their love and commitment to Brooks' well-being.  We also express our gratitude to the hundreds of individuals on the stateside who were praying for us and putting Brooks name on the temple prayer roll. We know beyond doubt that the combination of efforts in Africa and prayers from faithful people in the U.S. have allowed a literal miracle to take place for his safe return.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.   
In a conference address Elder Steven E. Snow reminds us:
It would be nice if we could anticipate all the changes that would occur in a lifetime. Some changes we see coming. Certainly all Latter-day Saint young men are taught to prepare for a full-time mission, a life-changing experience. Every worthy young single adult understands the importance of choosing a spouse and being sealed in the holy temple. We know these changes are coming, and we can plan for them. But what about the changes which are thrust upon us rather unexpectedly? These are changes over which we seemingly have no control. Economic downturn, unemployment, debilitating sickness or injury, divorce, and death are examples of change we do not expect, anticipate, or welcome. How do we deal with such unexpected setbacks in life’s journey?
The answer is the same. By listening to the prophets, keeping an eternal perspective, having faith, and being of good cheer, we can face life’s unexpected challenges and “get on with our lives.”  ("Get On with Our Lives" April 2009 General Conference) 
P and B:
Trusting in Christ includes trusting in His timing.  Our early return was not in our plans but it was in His, for some reason we will not likely learn in this life, other than to learn to trust in Him and know he will carry us through our ups and downs.  While our Ugandan journey did not end as we had hoped, we are grateful for how blessed we have been in all aspects of our mission.  Yes, our hearts ache for the "Gulugans" we love so much that we will likely never see again in this life, but we rejoice in the knowledge that life here is only for a short time, that its purpose is to help us prepare for that final day when we can once again, through the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, be reunited with our loving Heavenly Father, His Son, and our families and other loved ones!  All He asks from us is that  if we do those things that He promises will bring us happiness. I love the verse in 2 Nephi, that after describing all the things the people of Nephi were doing to keep the Lord's commandments and comparing their lives to that of the unrepentant Lamanites, Nephi summarizes the Nephites' experience with, "And it came to pass that we did live after the manner of happiness." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:27; 5-6; 10-17)
 Helping people around the world to understand this purpose of our mortal existence is the reason 80,000 plus missionaries leave behind the comforts of home, the association of friends and loved ones, so others of God's children can have the opportunity to learn these same things, to learn that that because of the humble yearnings of a young man nearly 200 years ago to know which church to join, the heavens were once again opened, Christ's primitive church has been restored to the earth with prophets and apostles, and the world now has another witness of His teachings through the sacred writings found in the Book of Mormon. 
It's been a great joy to share these things with our African brothers and sisters, and in small part with those who read our blog.  We will gladly go anywhere in the world to share this message again and again. 
Thank you for joining us on our Ugandan Mission.  It has been a rewarding experience for us.  We have loved hearing from so many of you.
With love to all, 'Til we meet again,
Elder and Sister Moore  (We will be officially released in about three hours.)

Caught a picture of some young boys rummaging through the garbage looking for food as they walked to school a couple weeks ago.

Standard homemade wheelbarrow in northern Uganda.  As I've said it before, the people here just know how to get it done.  If there is an obstacle, they will make a work-around. 

You want it?  You need it?  We've got it!

The fellow sitting down is a, Anthony, member of the Church. While he lived in Jinja where he had a job, he had the opportunity to go to Nairobi and hear President Hinckley speak.  President Monson was one of his counselors at that time.  Anthony, his son and grandson walk about 5 kilometers to Church each Sunday and sometimes during the week.  We were visiting his invalid aunt.  At Pam's request, we visited a hospital and they are fitting her for a wheelchair at no cost.  The wheelchairs are provided to hospitals around the country through the church's Humanitarian Service program.  These are good quality wheelchairs.


The outdoor latrine saga.. you will recall.this is how it appeared as we arrived in Gulu day one last March.   It is used by the guards of our compound.  More like a "lean-too" tied together with rope, sheet metal and vine...that's me in the middle.
With the help of the full-time missionaries and Pam's brother Dennis, we spent some time last Christmas Day razing the old and reconstructing a new one.
It looked beautiful...for about 6 months.

Until 2 weeks ago, a strong storm came through and demolished it.

I asked the landlord to rebuild so the guards could have some privacy and here you go.  Doesn't look as nice as the one we built but should last longer.
Elder Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (deceased) described how recognizing our weaknesses is one way that the Lord has chosen to increase our learning:
“When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.
“Because God wants us to come home after having become more like Him and His Son, part of this developmental process, of necessity, consists of showing unto us our weaknesses. Hence, if we have ultimate hope we will be submissive because, with His help, those weaknesses can even become strengths (see Ether 12:27).
“It is not an easy thing, however, to be shown one’s weaknesses, as these are regularly demonstrated by life’s circumstances. Nevertheless, this is part of coming unto Christ, and it is a vital, if painful, part of God’s plan of happiness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 79; orEnsign, Nov. 1998, 63).