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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday

Every time I teach Sunday school I bring a bag of crayons that all the children share. I also give them half a sheet of paper and they are absolutely thrilled.
They don't sing my "North American" songs as loud as they sing their songs in Ateso, but they sure do love the actions. "Cast your burdens"

I also have three wonderful helpers who also help with translation, crowd control, and excitement.


This past Sunday a few of us were invited to share lunch with some of our Indian friends. They own a local supermarket here... we walked through the store to sit in their apartment. We sat on chairs that were later put back out front to be sold again. We ate off of plates that still contained the stickers, and whatever we wanted for drinks or condiments with our spicy Indian meal was just pulled off the shelf. It was a pretty cool experience. I learned a lot more about their Hindu beliefs and I hope to get to know them more as the year progresses. They are so excited about me traveling to India this weekend.




Around the house

On Saturday we decided to have a spontaneous pizza party as a team before heading into an evening of praise and worship. I wanted to show all of you my new table that seats 12. Yeah, I am ready for a full house in just two weeks time.
The other day I came home from tutoring and I opened the doors to my dining room and ta da... Tim had left me a present. A tiny hedge hog had come to visit me. It looked like porcupine quills, and no one taught me how to pick it up, so I swept it out of the house like a broomball. :) Apparently you just hold on to one or two of the quills and you can lift it up - says Tim.

Here I am painting the fourth bedroom in my house. Sandstone might be a better colour for guests than the pink the young girls used to have.



Monday, May 18, 2009

Switching Activities

This morning I woke up and wondered how I would completely fill my day, but I should have known the Lord had it all laid out. (My students are in Kampala for a few days, so I had to come up with a plan B.) Angie came over at 9 am and asked if I wanted to go to the village and meet Moses' family. Who would want to turn down a morning like that? I went with and met many relatives of my precious neighbour and friend - little Moses.

Here is Moses, standing beside the grave of his mother... whose name was also Angela. Moses really has no idea who all the relatives are. To him they are just strange people who want to hold him, but for the family, they are delighted to see Moses so healthy and growing so big.



We got home at 12:30 and some friends were standing just outside my gate. They informed me that my friend Hellen was in the hospital. So I immediately got on my bike and rode to town with my other friend, Moses. (Lots of Moses' here!) We found her on the second floor and when we opened the door we saw that she was sleeping. But her mother woke her up and immediately her face brightened. She wanted a big hug from me. Hellen was suffering from Malaria and was hooked to an IV. We chatted for an hour and I was able to pray with her. Hellen hoped to go home by the end of the day, but she didn't look good in my opinion. But I think home might be better than the hospital. I definitely hope I will never have to stay there.


From there I went to my friend Dina's house. She wants to be a hairdresser, so she practised on my Muzungu hair. She said it was very slippery. :)


When I got home I heard music playing across the street. Avalien wanted to know if I would go out and dance with her. Well, I never pass up an opportunity to dance, so we joined the neighbour kids in a choreographed song. It was really beautiful... "on the other side, God will wipe our tears away." We danced until the winds started blowing and the rains came tumbling down.


When I went back home, there was a local pastor waiting at my door. He wanted to see how I was doing and was wondering if I am interested in doing more children's ministry. I will let you know if anything more comes out of our talks.
And thus was the end to another fun, insightful, relationship building day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Simple Sayings



Ugandans love to ask "How are you?" and the answer is always "Fine". Sometimes, they will even say, "Muzungu! Hi! I am fine." and it cracks me up. Well, the other day, dear sweet Moses came over to visit me. He gently said, "Knock, Knock Aunt Kawen". I said, "Come on in". He came running over, gave me a big hug, and said, "I luff you Aunt Kawen".


Then he asked, "How are you?" and I thought it would be fun to play with him a little, so I said, "Moses, today I am not doing so well." He scrunched up his face, thought for a moment, and then with a squeaky voice questioned, "Fine?" I had a good chuckle.
P.S. Avalien loves to do my hair everyday. :)

On a more serious note... yesturday morning I went out for a walk to find all the keys that had disappeared out of my pocket. I had no idea there was a hole in my pocket and I lost my house, gate, bike, and mailbox keys. Anyways, I tried to walk the same route I had traveled the night before, in search of these silly keys. I wasn't feeling well either so that didn't help. I have no idea what my face was looking like but my neighbour and "brother" Denis saw me coming up the road. He greeted me by saying "Sister, what are you doing?" I told him my situation, and he said, "You shouldn't be so stressed. I haven't had work for a whole year and I haven't killed myself." Well, that quickly changed my mood. Ya, why worry about a few keys.

This morning I bought new padlocks for the house and gate and spoke to the post office. All is well, and now I know how to pray even more clearly for Denis. He is busy studying paliative care and is one of the sweetest men I have ever met. He is about to become a first time daddy in July and I am excited for him!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scrabble

Last night a new friend invited me over to meet his cousins that he is now taking care of. Both of the parents died of HIV and he wanted me to especially meet the young lady, so I could chat with her. Both teens are in high school and super shy. They didn't want to say a word to me on the first visit... so instead a scrabble board was brought out by another friend and a challenging game of words took place. Who knew that I would royally get my butt whooped in English words by a Ugandan. (But he does play on behalf of the country - in Kenya and South Africa - so I should have guessed he studied the dictionary.)

Just as the game was finished, dinner was brought out. Yummy, but tough, pork on a plate with 5 spoons. We all sat on the floor of his simple home and took dinner together. I loved it! And then, as curfew drew near and the rains were pouring, I was brought home on a motorcycle. Just as I got to the gate, I realized that my guard couldn't here me and the padlock was already on for the evening. No problems I thought - I have my keys, but when I went to search for them, they were not there... just a hole in my pocket. Yikes. After a few minutes the guard let me in and I borrowed my extra set of house keys from the Sliedrechts.

Now this morning, just to be honest, I am having major stomach issues, and I have no idea if I drank bad water with the pork, or if I am stressed about my keys being lost somewhere in the neighbourhood, but I hope I don't have to spend all day in the house. I was just starting to enjoy getting to know more good friends.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

African village music

Simple instruments with blended rhythms make for really cool music.

Have a listen and hear it for yourself

video

This wonderful music was played for me at the village, after all the presentations were finished.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Village Journey

After weeks of praying for rain, the skies opened up for two solid nights in a row and provided lots of rain for the soil. It was previously planned that I would join a Development Group - FIDA - on a "short" journey to the village. So we had no idea that our safari out to Morungatuny would result in so much fun. We had to detour off of the main road, which was under construction, and take a busy back road. Well, the tracks were super muddy and we got stuck once as we tried to go around two stuck semis. I had to climb out of the truck, and in a way I didn't mind because I was squished in the backseat with three other people. As soon as our vehicle was free and past the big trucks, we were able to hop back in and continue on our journey. (But not before I lost both flipflops in the mud... my feet were covered in dirt. I tried to get as much mud off in the grass before getting back in the truck.)

Our two vehicles, with 12 people, arrived in Morungatuny shortly before 11AM and my friend Moses lead me to some water where he helped me to wash my feet. Very humbling!

I found a remote outhouse to take a "short call" and then explored the school grounds while the meeting hall was being set up under a large mango tree.

The day's objective - to meet with the CAAF (Children Affected by Armed Forces) kids and families, to see the work that is being done in that community, and to educate some Sri Lankan leaders (who joined us on the road trip) so that they can learn how to reach out to the kids who are currently being affected by war.

Greetings and introductions were made, the national anthem was sung, and then the children put on a wonderful drama for us, to depict how life was before, during, and after being captured by the LRA.

Once upon a time, there were normal families working in the villages. The children helped to work in the gardens and the girls helped prepare the meals.

Parents had tried to tell their children stories of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) attacking homes and kidnapping children during the night, but the children found it hard to believe. Life was so peaceful. Until one night, the rebel group came and took the children from their homes.

War broke out. Guns fired. Children were beaten. The girls were asked to do undescribable things. The Ugandan army was called in to help retrieve the children. While the soldiers were looking for the rebel group, the children were learning how to be soldiers, and were maturing up in years in a matter of hours and weeks.
The soldiers were able to retrieve many of the children and teens, and some were able to escape on their own as well. Upon returning home, these precious little ones were angry, confused, hurt, "spoiled", scared and lost.
Along came FIDA, a Christian development agency, who met with the families, and in this community alone, adopted 69 CAAF kids into their program. FIDA members sat with these kids to hear their stories, counsel them, and see how they can help them to make life more peaceful.
(Occasionally a LRA informant would be one of the children sitting in the circle - so the war took a long time to recover from.)

I sat in the front row and watched this amazing drama unfold. The community members often laughed at the children's dramatizations - as guns fired and smoke bombs were thrown, but my heart was torn. I couldn't imagine what these children had actually gone through. I thought, in one way, it was good that these children were able to share their past so freely, but I also had a feeling it was too light-hearted and that these children still carry a lot of pain.
I was able to talk to the group... to share my greetings from International Teams, but to also say "Thank you" to the actors... for teaching me more of their story. I tried to speak encouraging words, and promised to be a support to FIDA as they continued to be a support to this group. I also prayed that God would be their strength.

Can you imagine these guys three to five years ago, with real guns in their hands?

At 3pm the program ended and I was able to spend an hour in the village. Lawrence, my friend on the left, introduced me to some of the guys and they shared even more of their stories with me. One young man in particular spoke on behalf of his friends. He showed me the scar on his wrist where the LRA had tried to cut off his hand. He also said that a bullet was taken out of his back.
These young men also shared with me a wish list:
Blankets
Shoes
Clothes (they said that they borrowed clothes to look smart for today's presentation, otherwise they look shabby)
Bibles
They also want to go to vocational school and go on a safari - a trip - to see more of Uganda.
That same spokesperson wanted to recite a poem for me, but half way through he got kind of stuck. But with a smile on my face I said, "that poem is found in the Bible, yes?" He nodded. I said, "do you know where?" and when I pulled my Bible out of my bag, his eyes lit up and he turned to Matthew 5. He, a 15 year old man, was delighted to finish the Beatitudes with ease. Then he asked me to pray a blessing over them. My privilege... to once again present these men to the King of kings.
On the way home we stopped in another town where we stopped to see the mass graves of LRA victims. Each plot has 4 to 11 bodies in them... some unknown, some known. A somber moment.
I chose to sit in the trunk of the truck with Moses on the way home... it was a lot more spacious. :) But it created a lot of curious look because Muzungus should usually take the seat of honour - in the front. Are you kidding me? Moses and I had much laughter as we bounced around in the back, holding down a few crates of soda. As we pulled back into Soroti at 6:30pm we stopped in a local restaurant to eat beans and rice and then I was dropped off at my gate almost an hour later.










Monday, May 11, 2009

Settings

I changed my "Settings" mode, so more people should be able to leave comments on my blog... if you wish... I would love to hear from you, or hear your reactions. Cheers!

Exhausted

The footprints of some the kids in my Sunday School class.
Last week I was asked to teach a session on prayer to a local women's group. When I arrived at 9:30 on Saturday morning, there were 21 women seated on papyrus mats while I had to sit on a chair behind a desk with a lacy tablecloth. The women were so excited to have me come. They called me "preacher" and they called me "Bishop" as I was seated there and that part I hated, but it was really neat sharing my simple perspective and research on prayer. I had no idea that my 45 minute Bible study would turn into an all day affair. After I spoke the women separated to pray alone for 20 minutes and then we all came together and shared prayer requests. Then it was decided that we would pray over everyone's requests... well, I had goosebumps. They were singing, they were seeking God. Tears, joy, demanding, interceding.... these women were amazing and I wondered why I was there. But the women said they were blessed by my perspective and that I had taught them a few things... especially about adoration and confession, and not just demanding things of the Lord.

Then Saturday night I had another 22 people in my living room for praise and worship. I find singing and praying really refreshing.

Sunday morning I taught 90 plus children the story of the "Tower of Babel" and they did a presentation in church. It was super cool to sing "The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock"!

And then last night, after just posting on Facebook that people should pray for rain here, the thunder started to roar and lightening could be seen in the distance. My team-mates and I sat around a campfire and cooked hotdogs and smores for Mother's Day. Around midnight the skies decided to let the rain fall from the clouds and it was simple amazing. A huge answer to prayer for all the dry and thirsty crops here.... and it rained ALL night. How would I know? Well, I was freezing and wide awake between 2 and 4 so I peeled mangos and made mango juice while watching a movie in the middle of the night.

So then today I taught school in the morning, raced to the market for a few groceries, and spent an hour preparing lunch for 5 people who work in a Support Development office next door. From there I went to mentor a friend on how to teach children's ministry... and by 5 I decided I needed to quit running for the day. I am absolutely exhausted, but glad that my days are getting fuller. I do have a purpose here, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Source of the Nile

Shopping for furniture in Kampala... we found two dressers, four end tables and one bathroom unit on this furniture street.
Here is me - Karebear - hanging out with Lake Victoria in the background.

And here I am with all the MK's in my life right now - sitting at the Source of the Nile... where the Nile River begins out of Lake Victoria. Absolutely stunning!



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chicken soup

Can everyone see that the whole chicken was cooked in this pot? It was a very tasty dish!

Sunrise to Sunset

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beeeeep. BEEEEEEP. The alarm clock sounded at 5:50 AM on this particular Saturday morning. Tim and I hopped into the van at 6 AM and drove a short piece up the road before picking up our team-mates, Josiah and Sarah. We drove into town and parked at the base of Soroti rock. Soroti is a small city that is build around a random rock that soars over the downtown area. The goal was to watch the sunrise.

With water bottles or Bibles in our hands and songs in our hearts we began the climb. A railing guides most of the way, with jagged steps cut out of the rock. The view was incredible. I must admit that I needed more help finding proper crevices and foot holdings than the goats who managed to find their way above the city.

As we sat above Soroti, we tried to put in perspective where everything is - market, internet cafe, our neighbourhood, church, etc. But we also took some quiet time to sit with God and watch His amazing creation. The sunrise brought everything to life. I was filled with a heart of prayer and love for the people of this city... especially as the mosques and temples seemed to be the more dominant buildings in the downtown area.

We got home at 7:30 AM and decided that pancakes at my house might be the perfect finish to the climb. Tim's family, our friend Robert, and Josiah and Sarah all came for pancakes with fresh mango syrup. We have fresh mangos coming out of our ears right now - tis the season.

Later in the morning I watched Avalien and Moses help Tim in the garden. A kids wagon was filled with dirt to collect all the manure maggots that were being dug up. Disgustingly huge and juicy. Tim was saving them as food for the chickens. MMM, Yummy!

I have recently met a friend named Hellen. She is half Indian and half Ugandan and completely lovely. She is joyful and greets me with two hugs everytime she sees me. Well, she invited me out to her village, so at 11:30 AM she sent her brother Ema to pick me up on a motorcycle. We drove to her home in town, where I was introduced to many of her relatives and then around noon I got on a motorcycle with her boyfriend, and she road with her brother.
About 45 minutes later, after taking the highway, then dirt roads, then winding paths, we arrived at her village home, where her mother farms. WOW! A completely peaceful afternoon was spent there. I was first introduced to the living room, where I had to sit while the family came in and lowered themselves before me as they shook my hand. And then I drank chai tea.
I was getting antsy to go outside and Hellen was delighted to show me her mother's farm. 200 fresh orange trees were growing, turkeys feasting on drying cassava, and ground nuts (peanuts) are beginning to peak through the soil. We spent the afternoon collecting fruits and vegetables. Her mama even took the rugged hoe out to a patch of cassava so that I could try some of this root at home.
Lunch was aboe - greens cooked in peanut sauce, mudfish, chicken, rice, and posho (thick white cornmeal). Very filling. The four of us guests ate in the living room of their simple cement and brick home while the rest of the relatives sat outside beside a mud hut with grass roofing.

At 5:30 PM the skies began to darken and it looked like rain was threatening to appear. After signing the guest book, we prepared to leave. With a bag full of oranges and a chapati pan on my lap, Andrew and I headed out on the bike once again. Instead of rain the skies produced huge pockets of sunshine, with the sunset rays beaming down. Absolutely stunning.

I got home at 7 PM and noticed that my compound was empty, so I crossed the street to visit some good neighbours of mine. The husband, Denis, is a young man who loves to study medicine and science. His wife, Stella, works for Compassion International and is going to give birth in July. I wanted to make sure that Stella was doing well as she had malaria ealier this week. We talked and laughed together for an hour and then they walked me home to my gate in the dark.
I ate mangos for dinner and updated my photos for this day. Enjoy!





Friday, May 1, 2009

Tim Told me to Tell You

Last week I had no internet and I wrote up a very long blog letter... which I still hope to post once I get back to Soroti, but now I am down country in Kampala. The Sliedrechts and I are spending three days here buying groceries, furniture, going to the Indian Embassy, and running errands.

From Monday to Wednesday we, as a team, went to Jinja for a spiritual retreat. It was a very encouraging time... to relax right beside the source of the Nile and spend time worshipping together. 12 of us were super pumped about being able to sing together in the fashion that we love more - simply with a guitar and accordian. We also gathered for Bible studies on emptying of ourselves, being filled with the Spirit, and going out to serve with the amazing love of Christ.

As a team we rented a boat and road up the Nile for an our. The resort we were staying at is right on Lake Victoria, but just two minutes away the Nile begins. We looked at beautiful trees and even caught a glimpse of a few monkeys in the trees, high up on a cliff. Absolutely stunning!

On Thursday morning I went to the Indian Embassy to begin processing a tourist visa. I will be attending a wedding in India in June. Nervously I left my passport at the embassy and they say it may take at least a week to process.

How do you buy furniture in Kampala? You find the furniture street and begin walking up and down... searching out the perfect simply made piece and then begin bartering for a reasonable price. Then, once the piece has been selected, walk all the way back to the van, with a strong man carrying your furniture, and tie it to the rack on top of the van. We purchased four bedside tables with drawers, a bathroom unit, and two dressers... all for the guest house I am living in.

Well, now I have to pack up my room. We are heading to the market before driving the six hours back to Soroti. I needed this little getaway... I am ready for action once again.