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Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Sunday in Pamba

Aaron, the boy in the cast on runs to give me the biggest hug whenever I drop by the orphanage to see him. And David shows me his smug little smile.
Here is David, the LRA soldier I was telling you about earlier - maybe two weeks ago. God has been doing some amazing things in his life recently.
But, switching topics:
This morning I got on my bike and went to Pamba for church. It was one of my most difficult days teaching 76 children. Boys were fighting with sticks, others were tapping desks like they were drums, babies were crying, and kids were fighting... but they did pay attention when I brought out a basket for baby Moses to float in. After church my three translators and helpers invited me to spend the afternoon with their family in the village.

Here I am with Benjamin, Moses, and Carol... they are my helpers in Sunday school. They are energetic, caring, and siblings. :)

Patricia wants to learn early... how to do household chores.

Here is Teddy! She is the only child who races for my lap at church and then wants to be carried the whole time I am teaching Sunday school. When I went to her house today, though, she was super shy and spent an hour hiding at the door before finally coming out to play.

Teddy is now colouring with Josephine and Patricia.

Josephine was singing the cutest songs today and I am sorry that I shot the video sideways. It doesn't appear sideways on my camera, but it does on the computer... and I'm not so good with computers. But here she is singing "Telephone to Jesus!"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday's Forecast

Moments before nine this morning I received a phonecall from Mandy that the girls were sick and said she wasn't sure they could handle school. So my morning plans were put on hold. But then my helper arrived and we ended up talking for a half an hour before she started working. By mid morning I was doing crafts with 5 of the neighbour kids and the smiles on their faces were adorable. I also went to visit baby Esther, as a good auntie should. And late morning I biked to town to check on my banking situation. Still no luck with the ATM machine or the tellers. I bought a few groceries from my favourite supermarket and the guys said "Hey, you have been lost. How is there? How is home?" I went on to explain that all was great, but that I couldn't afford to buy too many groceries, and that's why I haven't been around. They completely understood my dilemma. Sometimes they have issues with the bank too, because their money goes back and forth to India.
Well, I came home and had lunch and finally received an email from the Scotia Bank in Canada. They said, you have sufficient funds and you haven't reached your weekly limit, so all should be fine. Well, that didn't answer my questions. I know I have money. I ended up calling a number in Toronto and the guy told me that the chips in my bank cards were damaged. How? Brand new cards? No scratches and cuts or folds. Maybe the wires melted was my thought. But I refused to give up. It cost be 4800 Ugandan Shillins to call the bank, but guess what... once again God is awesome, the phone company immediately sent me a text saying they credited my account with 4000 UGX because I am a valued customer. Sweet.
Just when I finished calling the bank, Sarah called and said that a young lady was in a very desperate situation, and could I help? We had met this 19 year old a few days ago. Her older sister had committed suicide (which is the biggest curse on a family here - and nobody wants to attend a burial for a suicide victim). This sister had six children - who are now all in the 19 year old's care. This young lady was also a former LRA abductee and young David, who I introduced last week, recognized her immediately. Well, today this lady came saying that the house she was in with the children was burnt down this week (probably by angry community members) and she has absolutely nothing. I was somewhat upset that I didn't have any money, but I started going through the house to see what I could give.... a few notebooks for the kids to go to school, some skirts and shirts, shoes, food from the pantry, washcloths, and crayons.
So, this afternoon, I delivered the box of supplies I gathered and then biked back into town. I decided to sit in a very long line-up at a bank I have never used before and ta da!!!! I was able to withdraw money on my visa. That means the chip isn't faulty and one of the two banks isn't quite telling me the truth. I am back to buying groceries, air-time for my phone, helping others, etc! God is good. (And in the back of my head I will remember what my bank back home said - if I can't access money through their partner bank - Barclays - here in Uganda, then they would look into waiving the fees it cost me to use other ATM machines. Right now though, I don't care that it cost my five bucks to withdraw money... at least I have some. Praise God. So I went back to the supermarket and bought a box of Bubble Gum flavoured milk to celebrate. (Yep, it's sort of like bubble gum ice-cream... maybe I should put it in the freezer.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Breen's video

David and Heather Breen stayed with me for a couple of weeks and they were able to see and experience a lot of the ministries that are happening around Soroti. Please check out their video on YouTube.
hope it works for you... otherwise see my Facebook profile. Cheers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

You Know that T.I.A. When...

Yesturday I took the bus back to Soroti and the whole time I felt that T.I.A. - This Is Africa. And maybe it felt more like Africa to me because I attended such a North American style church in the morning. My friends took me to Watoto Church / KPC where the music was amazing, the power point presentations were up-to-date and commercial like, and the audience was smartly dressed. I almost felt out of place. But I loved it at the same time. And straight from the church I was driven to the Teso Coach bus station to begin my journey back to Soroti.

I've added a shot of the floods from my journey into Kampala, but I'm not sure you can see the streets too well through the raindrops.

So why do I say T.I.A?

Well, starting in church already I had to make a short call, or susu, (or pee :) ) but there was no time or place to go, so I held on. When we got to the bus station, I rushed to buy my ticket and ended up getting a seat at the very back of the bus. I ended up holding on from 11 am til 7pm... and man was I glad to be home.

Then, on the bus trip I thought about things I would never see back home:

1. We would occasionally stop in a town to let people off, and instead of getting off the bus to buy as snack, the vendors came to us. I could buy chicken or pork on a stick, fried bananas, water or sodas, hair ties, perfume, shoes, oranges, air time for my fun, and much more... you just pass the money and products through the windows.

2. You ride the bus with live chickens sitting at your feet.

3. About three quarters of the way home the bus did pull over for a pit stop, but I wasn't about to susu in the bush with a line-up of men, or a bunch of creative women... it was right next to the highway, and I had a feeling that no matter what I did, someone would watch the mzungu.

4. The bus zoomed past a military check point, but ended up slowing down immediately and backing up. For ten minutes we sat on the side of the road while two soldiers checked the storage units under the bus and spoke with the driver and conductors of the bus. It was my first time seeing soldiers pull over a bus, usually it is two police officers.

5. And again, there is always room for one more person... people crowd into the aisles. Bags fall out of the luggage compartments above people's heads. It doesn't matter how many people are on the bus, the driver's fly at a wonderfully fast pace.

But guess what:

I love it! If I don't really have an appointment at the other end then I enjoy taking the bus. You meet interesting people - like coffee plantation owners, drivers, store keepers, and mothers. I also love that it only costs 15,000 UGS to go the 5.5 hour journey. That is close to $7.50.

Now I am back in Soroti. Teaching Lydia, holding baby Esther, catching up with my guard to see about all that has to be done since I am now alone on the compound, and greeting my neighbours.

PCU Retreat

Wow, I spent three whole days in Kampala attending a spiritual retreat with the Pentecostal Churches of Uganda. The speakers were really good, the singing was fun because it contained a lot of drama and dancing, and the praying was a cultural stretch for me. Services went from 5 am til 10 pm - with around 300 people in attendance.
Here is Pastor Michael... carrying his belongings to Canaan... we often sang about how we walked with God.
Here is some more of the group, on the road with God... not only were chairs placed over the heads, but also water bottles, Bibles, purses, and books.
And here we are marching in the Lord's army.
Quite often I would see or participate in prayer marches. You find a partner and hand in hand you pray and pace together, for the nation, for the church, and for eachother.
The biggest culture shock for me was spending over 10 minutes commanding Satan to get out of our lives. The whole crowd was yelling at the top of their lungs, repeating every word that the speaker said. "Satan, in the name of Jesus, I command you to get out of my finances, marriage, body, church, etc" and with actions the crowd would capture him, bind him, and step on him, and throw him out. My friend Israel was standing beside me during this time of ??? and he said, "Karen, you aren't capturing!" I just didn't know what to say or do at the time... I was just out of my comfort zone for a while.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating with the Sanhedrin

Yesturday I spent most of the day traveling on a bus from Soroti to Kampala. About one third of the journey in we had to stop and pick up another bus load because their vehicle broke down. Our bus was packed with people standing everywhere. I was supposed to leave Soroti at 9 am and finally got to Kampala at 5:30 pm - in the pouring rain. The city had parts that were flooded because a drainage system is lacking. Water was half way up the bus tires and gushing every where. When we finally arrived at our final bus stop, my new friend Charles picked four of us soaking wet ladies up. We have come to Kampala for a three day spiritual retreat - with FIDA and the PCU (Pentecostal Church of Uganda).

When we arrived on the gorgeous compound I was escorted into the staff office until the rains dissipated. My friends from Soroti were all shown either a dormitory to sleep in, or the church floor with mats. I was brought to a huge guest house... because I am a missionary. So I have a double bed, extra blankets, a kitchenette, and a tv. At first I wrestled with having such a big place to myself but I soon learned that I was just going to have to say "Thank you!". Charles even took me to the supermarket and he bought me some extra juices, eggs, and yoghurt in case I couldn't handle all of the Ugandan meals being offered.

Well, this morning I woke up at 6:15 am to the sound of prayers already beginning. I didn't walk up to the church until just after 8 am and I quickly found a place in the room to pace the floor and pray with the others. Man, these Africans can pray, and call upon the name of the Lord, and repent. We waved scarves, coats, or hankies or whatever we had to welcome the King of kings into our midst. I have danced, sang, and listened to three sermons already, and my day is not even over. (And I have two more days of this.)

It is strange having white skin. I am often the only mzungu in a crowd of three hundred Ugandans here and so I have been invited to join the speakers for their meals. Sometimes all I really want to do is eat with my friends from Soroti, but the leaders feel that it is not appropriate for me to sit on the ground. I eat in a special room with the Bishops, Pastors, and other church leaders. Tonight I joined them - me with nine other men. Miriam came to wash our hands. She brought us a huge plate of food, and then the fun discussions began. In Uganda there is a lot of talk about moving up in church circles. There are apostles, bishops, and popes. Tonight people were joking that I was eating with the popes or sitting at the feet of the Sanhedrin. I am learning to enjoy my status.

I hear the songs of prayers calling me again. I'm off to learn more from the elders of God.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sisiyi Falls Again

Sisiyi Falls... a great place to spend a weekend, but first let me introduce another Canadian gal.
Earlier this week I had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with an acquaintance from back home. We both grew up in rural Ontario. Susanna Klumpenhouwer is serving with Watoto right now in Kampala. We met in Listowel, when the Steins, some mutual friends of ours invited us over for dinner before we both left for Africa. I love it. The world is so small and God is so good.

On Friday I went with the Shaardas and the Sleidrechts for an overnight campout. We escaped to the Garden of Eden again. This time with a much healthier Tim. He has been healing well since the accident - thanks for praying. We spent the day relaxing near the water falls, playing cards, bocce ball, baseball, reading in our tents during the rain, and at night we stared into a gorgeous hot fire. The coals were very scenic and pictures don't do them any justice.

Here is a glimpse of Sisiyi Falls, but the landscaping around our tents is the part that is so breathtaking. All things bright and beautiful... the Lord God made them all.

It was so nice to get away for a night... and so easy because the campground sets up the tents with mattresses, bedding, towels, and they make the fire, and prepare your meals. What more could you want for a $15 escape into paradise.

Introducing David

Good afternoon friends. It has apparently been a while since I lost wrote because the parental units called to see what is new. :) I told them that I hardly have anything to write now days because all I am doing is having fun, but that's not always true.

On thursday afternoon, the Probation Officer called the Sliedrechts and asked them to come down to the local office. Angie asked me to come along. There was supposedly an orphaned boy there that they didn't know what to do with and they wanted us to come and see if we had any suggestions. Well, within a half an hour we were sitting in this tiny office and were quickly introduced to a young man.

David is 16 (at least that is the age he thinks he is). He was captured by the LRA when he was 9, but saw his parents be killed before he was taken, and he spent five years with the LRA. He was a commander. He remembers being given liquid drugs to confuse him. He was eventually able to escape from the Congo. Bullet wounds and whip lashes can be found scarred on his back. He told us that some of his friends were sold to the Somali's in trade for weapons. Such a cruel war. He spent some time in Kampala and now has been trying to find his way back to his village. The sad part is that he really struggles with spiritual dreams. Demonic ones. Two women always try and tell him what to do. One night he was told to sharpen his panga (machete) and place it at the end of his bed and cover himself with his bed sheets. Another time he dreamt that the hut he was staying in was going to burn down... and rumour has it that the hut did burn, so where he was staying has cast him out.

David's story was heart-wrenching and we really pray that he will be released from the evil spirits that haunt his dreams. We also pray that Probation will be able to find some relatives. Some think that the relatives will say that they do not know him though because they do not want to divide the land amongst the male inheritants. So sad! We were able to help find David a home for four days, with constant supervision by a wonderful Christian man. He has been able to hear a lot more about the saving grace of Jesus and for that I am grateful, but this young man's journey in life is still just beginning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

International Buffet

This evening I was blessed to share a meal with some Ugandans, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, and Canadians. What a fun world we live in!! Even here in a town/city like Soroti. I went to say good-bye to a friend who has been working for an NGO and is now going back to the States, but I spent most of the evening with a beautiful Japanese lady named Satoko. I think we will be good friends. We are going to go swimming this weekend at the Flight School here in town and maybe I can attempt to beat her in table tennis. Pray that I will be able to shine the light of Christ for her to see, and all the many Chinese that we continue to have contact with as they build the roads here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


On Monday night I had invited four special children to come over for a slumber party. This was arranged before I knew I would be spending a whole day in the village, but I didn't want to cancel. Grace, Lydia, Avalien, and Moses were so excited to come and spend the night with Auntie Karen. They came over for grilled cheese and baby corn. We played games, watched "Curious George", read tons of books, had a fun bath time, and sang lullabies all between 6:30 and (don't tell Mom) 9:30 pm. Actually Moses stayed awake until 11:15pm. He didn't want to sleep in his tiny tent and he sorted of wanted to go home, but he wasn't upset at all, so we just hung out until he finally crashed on the special orange bed in my room.
In the morning they all got up at 7 am to watch a bit more "Curious George" and we ate oatmeal that tasted like - chocolate chip cookies, or spice cake, or macaroni, or bedsheets, or trees, or whatever the kids thought was funny. They also all had magic wands and turned Auntie Karen into a variety of people that I acted out - a boy, a teacher, a giraffe, etc.
The party ended when Lydia and I had to bike to school at 9 am. (I went home to take a nap after school, since Gracie woke up twice in the night crying, but not waking.)

William's Funeral

On Sunday afternoon I found out that my friend William passed away. It was a combination of Liver cancer and Hep B and C that took his 49 year old life. I went to his house on Sunday evening and sat for a few hours with many of my Fida friends, to mourn the loss of a man who loved God. There was not a lot of talking happening at the house, unless it was to announce the funeral arrangements and budget for the following day.
On Monday morning fifteen of us from the Fida office gathered together to collect money and help the family bring friends and family to the village of Akeriau. We left Soroti just after 10 am and drove about an hour and a half. At first I thought we were going to the village, but it ended up being the bush. We did some serious off-roading to get to the family farm of William.
Crowds of people were already there, sitting around the coffin and listening to a preacher. Throughout the day people kept walking to the homestead from every direction while the speeches continued. Occasionally a packed vehicle would arrive, and two lory trucks loaded with people also filled the continuously expanding tent.
Lawrence did some of the translating for me, since 3/4 of the day was spoken in Ateso. Some of the speeches were a struggle for me... and not because of the language but because of what was said. The family stated that he died of a white man's disease and the crowds looked my direction as they spoke of Hepititas. Also, the aunts and uncles were having a dispute over the land divisions because William also has two illigitimate siblings and they wanted to figure out how to care for the children. So sad.
Mourners would come in, and whenever the crying became too intense, the crowds would begin to sing about how this life is just temporary and our real home is in heaven.
Women came in throughout the afternoon, either carrying grass for people to sit on, or water jugs on their heads so that people could drink or cook.
Here is one of the daughters having a hard time saying good-bye. William had 6 school aged children, and now they are praying that another family will step up and look after these young ones. (No one was allowed to touch the body, because it was believed to still be contageous.)
My friend Dennis is in the middle of the stirring committee. A huge pot of posho is being made to serve the crowds. Posho is a white corn meal.
Brown beans and beef would decorate the posho.
I helped to barbeque some corn for a few hungry people. I thought maybe it was the five loaves ready to feed the five thousand. :)
Here is a glimpse of the crowd. I would say that this was only half of all who attended.
At 5 o'clock I said my final good-bye to William and we headed back to Soroti.

Cassava Cuttings

I have been without power a lot this weekend, so whenever I wanted to update, I was unable to. Aaah, well, T.I.A. This is Africa! On Friday I joined seven others from the Fida office and went to deliver cassava cuttings to a community in need of food.
Community members signed up, although some couldn't even sign their name, so they offered a pinky fingerprint instead. Once Fida cleared all the paperwork, the people were each given two bags of cassava cuttings. If planted, they could produce up to an acre of cassava, which is a tuborous white crop.
There were a lot of people receiving cassava that day, but some people felt like they were not receiving enough, or some weren't getting any at all (and that is because they either didn't qualify, or they weren't from that community). Some people tried coming to me and complaining, thinking that I was the boss of Fida, but I explained that I was just a friend. So I decided to take a walk through the village, which is mostly an internally displaced people camp.
This tent is the police post... the officers wished they had a better office and I can imagine why.
Of course, you can't please everyone in the day.
Many children hung around with me, especially since they saw me shelling peanuts and hanging out with one local family.
This family invited to me to spend a lot of time with them throughout the day. I met this woman's 8 children, her elderly father, and a few of her precious grandchildren.
This was the lunch I shared with the family - beans and atap (a ground millet - not a dish I would order every day, but definitely filling).
The children shared the same meal.

Inside the family home - the messiest one I have yet seen.
Meet some of the elderly women in town, they too were waiting for cassava.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

At William's Bedside

Two months ago I traveled with William and a car load of others from FIDA out to the village to meet with the CAAF (Children Affected by Armed Forces) members. I remember sitting under a tree and talking with him about many things. A few days after that I heard that he had been admitted to the hospital in Kampala with some liver problems.

Yesturday I found out that the hospital in Kampala had discharged him because there was nothing else they could do for him. He is dying of liver cancer and the doctors thought it would be better if he died at home.

So this afternoon I went with four other FIDA employees to go and visit William at his bedside. He is now super thin, his hair is falling out. An IV is hanging above his bed and a bottle of morphine is sitting on the floor. It was really difficult to visit William, as his voice is deeper and it sounds like he is choking. His stomach is bloated because the liver is no longer working. And his eyes were a yellow I had never witnessed before. The family is trying to be strong as they watch William fade, but I saw tears slipping from everyone's eyes. Even William's, although his daughter would quickly wipe them away for him.

While flies constantly bothered William's face, we sat in silence. And then after maybe 20 minutes we decided to pray together. What more can one do, but give him over to Jesus? God is in control. Please pray for William - that he will not experience much pain. And also pray for the family as they struggle to care for him. The family's struggles are just beginning because William was the only bread winner for the family, but they know that they will just have to trust God, one day at a time.

I left William's home in a very somber mood... and it brought back a lot of memories for me of others I have had to say good-bye to because of cancer. May God's love reign!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Peter's Shop

Last evening I pedaled to town to make some photocopies for Sunday school. While biking through the streets of Soroti I decided to stop at this little alley beside a florescent pink building and visit Peter in his tailoring shop.
Peter is my friend from the Congo. He is a refugee living in Uganda and he is a very hard working man. I love to practise my French speaking skills with him.
Peter is the man who made my very smart looking African dress.
My trip to the shop was a lot of fun as it was getting closer to the dinner hour and many kids dropped by to see when their moms would finish sewing. Peter works with five other ladies in the shop. I ended up spending an hour with five children - getting to know them, laughing, and hearing stories of their lives. In the above photo is Sharon. She wants to be a police officer. She is 8 years old and even though she is a "village" girl she was born in Soroti town - in the hospital. She took great pride in being born in town and would even joke that she was born in London. She was shocked when I told her I was born in London. Yep, even my birth certificate says London (Ontario, Canada).
Here is the whole group. With the pink shirt is Prays. He is 9 and wants to be a pilot. In the yellow shirt is Isaac. He is 6 and wants to be Obama or a driver. In the back, in a striped shirt is Brian - the first Ugandan I have met with the name Brian. He is also 9 and wants to be a pastor. Of course, Sharon is tucked in the middle. And then in the number 66 shirt is Christine. She was very quiet, but I do know that she is 8 and wants to be a nurse.
Even though these kids were happy to be living in town, they were still very proud of their village homes. They even asked their moms if I could go with some time to catch fish. I think it would be a blast to row a boat with these children and I hope to get to know them more and more every time I stop by to visit mon ami, Peter, in his shop.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Guest House - My Home

Welcome to my home in Soroti Uganda. I live in the right half of this house and the Sliedrechts live in the left half.
Here is my bedroom... I sleep on the left and the joke is that I have a day bed for my doll. :)
One of the rooms has two bunk beds.
The bathroom - a place for long calls and short calls.
Another double bunk room.
The hallway with three of the bedrooms and the bathroom attached to it.
The kitchen - with sink, fridge, gas stove and a water filter.
The fourth bedroom with a double bed. Up to twelve people can sleep in this guest house.
My dining room table. I love it.
Another angle from the living room.
The sun porch.
The living room - the place where I have Bible studies, Saturday night worship, and hang out with lots of friends or guests.
The pantry - I'm afraid I don't lack for anything. The Lord is good. But it is not all mine... there are a lot of medicines and supplies that former teams have brought and leave here for us to bless Ugandans with.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of my home. You are welcome to come visit anytime.