Welcome to this, our first CMS link letter! We’ll be writing a longer update like this every few months to keep you all up to speed with what we’re up to. We will also be starting a blog once we’re in Uganda in which we hope to update more regularly, including photos and videos where possible, so look out for details of that closer to our departure.
Where are we at with CMS?
In January 2018, we underwent an in-depth interview process with CMS which, while extremely challenging, was invaluable in helping us to confirm and validate God’s call for us at this point in our lives. We came to them without a particular country or area in mind, but with a clear idea of what sort of project we felt God was calling us in to. When the idea of working in Madi West Nile Diocese was first suggested, we both felt immediate confirmation that was where God wanted to send us.
We have now been selected as mission partners in training and will be doing our three-month period of residential training with CMS in April next year. Until then, we are excited to be building our team of support as we seek the financial and prayer foundation needed to see us move out as a family to Uganda.
What will we be doing in Uganda?
We will be moving to live in North-West Uganda, to a town called Arua. Tom will be connected to the health department at Madi West Nile Diocese, working both with the team there and other local services in order to improve the health of the local population and (hopefully) some of the local South Sudanese refugee community.
He’ll be particularly focusing on primary care, recognising that much of the difference in death rates in Uganda and similar countries is caused by preventable conditions where the best solutions are usually community-based. Primary care in this sense encompasses not only the idea of “seeing your GP” with your symptoms, but includes also a huge range of other issues relevant to a population’s health. These include health education, vaccination, water and sanitation availability, antenatal care, child health, nutrition, access to medicines and access to health care facilities.
Meanwhile, Verity will have her hands full looking after what will soon be four children – Ezra (now aged five), Eli (nearly four), Simeon (18 months) and a new baby who we are looking forward to joining us at the end of the year.
We expect that she will be at least partially home-schooling the older boys, but given her background in teaching English as a foreign language and her masters in peace and reconciliation studies, hopes to get involved in the community over the longer term in other ways, as time allows.
How did we get here?
Over the past 10 years, both of us have been gradually unravelling God’s call for us, both individually and collectively, to live and work cross-culturally in resource-poor settings.
For Verity, it started when she spent four months in Rwanda as part of a gap year programme. She completely fell in love with the people and country and felt very much at home there. She also had the privilege of visiting Ghana and Uganda on short-term trips during university before spending five months back in Rwanda with a reconciliation charity in 2010. She was able to learn from their incredible work healing the wounds of ethnic conflict for those affected by the genocide in 1994.
For Tom, he first felt that international medical work may be a part of God’s plan for his life in 2008 while volunteering for several months in Guatemala and Honduras, particularly during his time at a school built to serve local families living on a city rubbish dump. At this stage, he was applying to study graduate medicine (having completed a maths degree in 2007) and it was his first exposure to the brutal reality of inequality between different parts of our world, igniting the idea of one day doing medical work overseas. Throughout his medical training, including a short medical elective in Rwanda with Verity, God has affirmed this call and now he is excited to be heading out to Uganda to follow that call, having completed his GP training in August 2017.
What’s happening now?
Well, we are so excited about next year’s training and departure, but there is quite a lot for us to contend with here as we start to find time to build a team of partners to support us.
There are a couple of particular challenges in our family at the moment. Firstly, Verity’s mother, Angela, continues to have regular treatment for breast cancer, which has spread to the brain and some other parts of the body. She has tolerated the treatment really well, but we continue to pray for healing. We’ve also recently discovered that our fourth child has a cleft lip, identified on a routine screening scan. It’s not yet clear whether there is also a cleft palate, but either way the baby will need at least one operation in the first year of their life (before we travel to Uganda) and may have some difficulties feeding, depending on the severity of the problem.
Verity will be having some extra scans for this reason and we are trusting in God that he has our little one safely in his hands. Amazingly, when we met with the local cleft lip specialist nurse, she told us they have been doing long term work training a Ugandan team in Kampala in cleft lip and palate care, so if we did ever need a specialist they might not be so far away!
Tom is working three and a half days a week as a GP in Abingdon, spending half a day doing a weekly tropical medicine course and another day running a small games publishing business. It is a particular challenge at the moment for him to dedicate enough time to the tropical medicine course with all the other demands on his time.
On top of the above, we also have the exciting challenge of building our support team as we begin to visit churches that are interested in supporting us and start to arrange meetings with friends and family to ask for their support going forward. We’ve already had the privilege of meeting some wonderful new people on this journey and we are excited to see how God blesses us and our supporters through the process.
Ezra has just started year 1 at our local primary school and Eli is in the nursery there four mornings a week – they are both thriving in the education environment and are full of energy so they keep us on our toes. Simeon is 18 months and determined to keep up with whatever his older brothers are doing – he’s reached a lovely stage now where he’s started saying lots of different words all at once: “boon” for spoon, “gar” for car, “dat” for cat and so on.
Verity is enjoying life as a stay-at-home mum and really appreciates a weekly break from childcare commitments to teach English to a local Syrian couple.
Thank you for reading to the end – we are so grateful for your support and we’re looking forward to writing again in early 2019. We’ll write a little more on the next update about where we are heading and the work that the team over there are currently involved in.
Tom and Verity