Monday, February 8, 2016

Surgery for Sharon!

Crazy things have been happening in the past month, and details have been neglected, especially here on the blog.

About eight months back we found out about a hospital in Kenya that may be able to do Sharon's surgery.  While the doctors were very understanding, the doctor that does heart surgeries was out of country for a while and they didn't know when he would be able to do the surgery.  On top of that, the people at the Heart Institute in Uganda weren't super open to that option in the beginning either.  So, we walked on.  That door seemed closed for the time so we started moving towards sending her to Sudan instead.  At one point a doctor at the Uganda Heart Institute made a comment that made it seem like they would be open to the possibility of sending Sharon to Kenya and/or getting in touch with the hospital to send patients there in the future.  Yet, the doctor remained unavaliable.

While Sharon has been completely ready to go to Sudan for six months, she has been on a waitlist that is simply too long.  Then last Friday (January 29) my dad got an email from the doctor in Kenya.  My dad would occasionally write to the staff at the hospital to find out when it seemed like the doctor would be back, so he knew Sharon was still waiting.  He had written to say that he was back in Kenya and if we were still interested he would like to have her come for evaluation before the surgery.

Sharon already had an appointment scheduled for that Wednesday (February 3) at the Heart Institute for more tests and medicine to help stabilize her.  While the trip on Wednesday was apparently frustrating all the tests were gone.  On Thursday the tests were sent to the doctor in Kenya.  On Friday he responded asking for a phone number and called my dad to ask how soon they could get her there.  He responded, "we could probably get her there tomorrow."

So, early morning Uganda time on Saturday a driver went to pick up Sharon and her father to make the ten hour drive to Kenya.  When they got to Kenya she was in a more stable condition than the doctors expected her to be.  They admitted her and have been continuing to stabilize her over the weekend.

At 12:30 AM Eastern Time (8:30 AM East Africa Time) Tuesday, February 9, Sharon will be receiving the surgery she has been waiting so long for!   I know the surgery will probably already be over by the time most of you read this or you will be sleeping during the surgery, but please be praying for her and her recovery process.

Updates hopefully coming soon!

(If you've missed all or some of Sharon's story, click here to read more.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

This is my Platform

I am so excited to tell you about an opportunity that God has opened for me!  As many of you know, I began studying at Word of Life Bible Institute in September of this year.  While it is a lot of work and I miss home and my family and the kids, I am loving it.  The classes have made me think deeper than I am used to and I am loving learning more about God and growing deeper in Him.
One of my favorite things about Word of Life is how ministry minded everyone is.   Each student is given a ministry which they participate in about once a week.  On top of this, students are given other opportunities to reach out or find their own opportunities to reach out.  The student body has been challenged to take every opportunity to use whatever we can do as our platform.
I'm used to my platform looking like Sunday mornings with puppets and crayons and Bible stories and sixty kids and six teenagers and trying to not get super dirty.  I'm used to it looking like giving toddlers hugs and going for walks with them and taking pictures and working with special needs kids and giving high fives to preschoolers until my hands hurt.
My platform definitely looks different this year, but in many ways my biggest platform still looks a lot the same.  It still involves kids and crayons and Bible stories.  It doesn't however have so much dirt and translation.  Every Thursday I get in a van with the six other people on my ministry team and go to a school to do a Good News Club with fifty kids in kindergarten-5th grade.  My responsibility is to help K-2nd and teach the kids their memory verse for the week.  It is definitely not always easy, but something feels strangely familiar and comfortable about it.  I am loving getting to know these kids and working with some of my fellow students here.
This spring I will get to have a different platform.  I have been given the amazing opportunity to go on a missions trip to Honduras over Spring Break.  I am so excited for this opportunity and would love for you to be able to join me!  Would you please commit to praying for this journey and also pray about whether God would have you join me financially.  The total financial support needed for the trip is $1,627 and covers all of my expenses. I need to reach 50% by January 8, 2016 and 100% by February 8, 2016.
If you would like to give a donation you can find the support slip here or if you would like to give online, please go to  If you would like to join my prayer team please contact me with your email address and I will add you to my email list.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A quick update about Sharon

I just wanted to write a quick update about Sharon since so many have been asking. I hope to write a longer more detailed one later.
We have raised a total of $4,000. The good news is we have been told of a hospital in Sudan that does free surgery. So she has a passport and is on the hospital wait list for surgery.
Thanks to everyone who has helped get her this far. Please continue praying as it appears to be a long wait.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Guest Post at Teens Interceding for Orphans

I love watching all the things God is doing for Sharon.  This one has been in the works for a while, but yesterday, a guest post I wrote was posted over at Teens Interceding for Orphans.  It is a little bit different than the one I wrote here, so I thought I would share it here.  You can read it by clicking this link -
Designed by Leah Good
Thank you all for the ways you have been helping Sharon.  We just got the February reports and we now have a total of around $3000 raised.  There are some other exciting things happening that I cannot wait to share with you.
If you missed Sharon's story, you can find the original post here and the follow up post here.
If you have not donated to Sharon's heart project yet, and you would like to, click this link, click on ‘Gwartney family’, and make sure to put in the comments (or note to seller), ‘Sharon’s heart project’.  100% of your donation will go to Sharon’s fund.  If any extra is collected, it will be used for medical projects for other people in our community.  If anything should happen to Sharon before her heart surgery or should we raise more than our goal, any remaining funds will also be used for other medical projects in our community.  Thank you!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Meeting Sharon.

{This is an update of sorts to Sharon's story.  If you have not read the first part yet, please go read it here before reading this one.  It explains a lot of the back story.}
Sharon and I
"Sharon's at the office and she wants to meet you," my mom said.  I grabbed my camera and we hopped in the car and drove down to the office.
When we got there the social worker introduced us and one of my first thoughts was how much weight she's lost since the picture I saw of her in December.  They showed us a purse that Sharon had made.  I have no idea how they did it, but it is pretty cool anyways.
A few weeks back we had asked Sharon (by a message through her mom) to make potholders.  One of the missionaries (Auntie Lisa) is going back for furlough and had offered to buy a bunch and take them back as gifts if Sharon could make them.  Sharon didn't know what exactly a potholder was, so we called Auntie Lisa and asked her to bring a sample down.  When she arrived, we began discussing the project.  The social worker asked her if she thought she could make one or two samples this week to bring and show us.  She and all the other ladies around started laughing.  "I can make ten in a day!" she said.  She told us that all she needs is dye to make colored mats.  Hopefully, we can get her started so she can make lots of these for Auntie Lisa to take back and for us to sell to teams when they come.  This will be a huge help to Sharon and I could tell that she enjoys making them and having a part in raising money for her surgery.
Talking about the potholder project
Sharon holding the bag she made.
I'm so glad I got to meet Sharon yesterday.  It is so good to have a face, a voice, a person to think about as I am working on this project.  Leaving the office yesterday, my mom and I were talking about how much more urgent her situation has become.  The doctors have also told her that she cannot go to school because 'her heart is too weak.'
Last week I was given the opportunity to write a guest post about Sharon on another blog.  It has been quite a bit harder than I was expecting.  After yesterday I started really trying to pick up speed to get it done.  Please pray as I am finishing it up.  I have a few people proofreading it right now and hopefully I can get it posted this weekend.  Please be praying for that and for Sharon's heart to be in a good enough condition until we have raised enough money for her to India and get surgery.
If you have not donated to Sharon's heart project yet, and you would like to, click this link, click on ‘Gwartney family’, and make sure to put in the comments (or note to seller), ‘Sharon’s heart project’.  100% of your donation will go to Sharon’s fund.  If any extra is collected, it will be used for medical projects for other people in our community.  If anything should happen to Sharon before her heart surgery or should we raise more than our goal, any remaining funds will also be used for other medical projects in our community.
Please feel free to share this on any social media sites you have!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Birthday Wish

Read an update about Sharon here.
{Please read this story to the end to see what my birthday wish is and how you can help.}
On January 1, 1997, in a little village in Uganda a baby girl was born.  Her mama was only 16 years old, yet this was her second child.  She was probably born in their dark, little home in an unhygienic situation.  Her name would be Sharon.

The next day, January 2, 1997, an ocean away in Singapore, another baby was born.  Her parents were American missionaries there and she was their firstborn.  She was born in a nice hospital.  She was given the name Caralina.

The little girls lived separate lives.  Caralina moved back to America and lived a practically normal childhood for a little girl in America and would soon have a little sister and brother.  Sharon would live a much more difficult life, gaining many more siblings and, at one point when she was 18 months old, getting very sick. Her parents would take her to a small hospital where all tests were negative, so they sent her to a bigger hospital.  There they would find out that she had heart problems, most likely caused by undetected and untreated strep throat.  In 2008, Caralina and her family moved to Good Shepherd's Fold Orphanage in Uganda, only a thirty minute walk from Sharon, but still the girls never met.  

Then, a few things happened.  Sharon was preparing to take the national primary school exam in August 2013.  With all the stress, she suddenly began having heart problems again, got very sick and was taken to the big government hospital. They quickly admitted her even though they knew the family could not pay {this is very rare for a hospital to do in Uganda, so it must have been urgent}.  Then, in February 2014, Sharon's mother had another baby and that baby was put on GSF's feeding program.  In December, when Caralina's mother heard Sharon sing at the feeding program Christmas party, their worlds touched.  After hearing Sharon's story, Caralina's mother asked for more information to see how they could help.  After seeing the information, she was shocked to see that Sharon was born only one day before her daughter, Caralina's birthday.

Upon hearing about Sharon, I {Caralina} wanted to do something to help her.  I kept seeing her picture around our house on the front page of the report about her and wishing I actually knew her and could talk to her.  Since we only found out about Sharon right before the holidays I have not yet met her, but hope to soon.

Here's the details:  When Sharon was taken to the government hospital in August 2013, they told her she needed to go to India for heart surgery.  Since Sharon currently does not have the funds to go to India, she has to travel to the government hospital every month, to get medicine to help stabilize her heart.  In order to fund these trips, she enjoys making mats which she sells for a little less than the equivalent of $5, but she has to sell six each month in order to make the journey and buy the medicine.  The trip to India will cost approximately $8000 and the family's debt at the government hospital is almost $500.

Sharon's 18th birthday is on Thursday and mine is on Friday.  My birthday wish is to give Sharon a gift with your help -  her debt being cleared and her India trip/surgery paid for.  My goal is to raise $10,000 to make sure all her fees are covered.
Would you like to help me achieve my birthday wish and give Sharon a birthday gift she won't soon forget?  Click here to donate.  Click on 'Support' under the Gwartney family, put in the comments 'Sharon's Heart Project'.  All funds with this designation will be used for  Sharon's expenses.  If extra funds are collected or if any thing happens to Sharon before her heart surgery, all extra funds will be used for other medical projects in our surrounding villages.  Thank you!
A picture of Sharon taken by GSF's social worker

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas time is here!

The house mamas receiving Christmas gifts
We are officially into the Christmas season at GSF!
Katie reading the Christmas story to the kids.  The stockings are on the table in front of her.
Our Christmas celebrations actually began on the last day of November.  Many of the kids at GSF go visit their families over the Christmas holiday.  We had a 'Christmas eve party' of sorts for them before they went.  We had a traditional Ugandan meal for them and then they all got stockings.  Their stockings were filled with things they will use in the village, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, vaseline and soap.  They also got some things they will enjoy like cookies, candy and juice.  We miss the kids while they are gone, but they enjoy their time.  We also have eight kids that are being resettled this year.  So sad to see them go, but glad they are in families now!

The Ugandan school year runs on the calendar year, so school 'speech day' was held in December.  Speech day is where each class sings a song or does a dance or something.  The main event is K5 graduation.  All the parents come, especially if their kids are graduating.  It is a big deal to graduate from K5 and parents come from all over to watch their kids graduate.  I was not able to be there for the whole thing since I was in school, but I was so glad to be there for the graduation part.  Eight GSF kids graduated - three of our girls were the top three in the class!  My mom shared some of their stories here.
One of our GSF girls at her graduation.
Friday was the GSF staff party.  The staff party always happens the last party before most of the staff take their two weeks off for Christmas and new year.  Each department does a presentation of a dance, song or skit {or all three :)}.  There is lunch served by the missionaries and cake.  Each staff member gets a gift and some beef from a cow slaughtered at GSF.  Since we have a Colombian missionary who has served at GSF for 17 years, it has become a tradition for her to sing 'Feliz Navidad' every year.  This year she slooooowly pulled up ALL the staff members on stage to sing.
We have enjoyed having all these parties and look forward to celebrating Christmas with the kids, staff and missionaries still at GSF this week!