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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rushing Reviews

Good morning world!
I am writing quickly to fill you in on my life before I head of to a more remote village for a few days.  I am going to teach a 4 day course on Evangelism and Children's Ministry, and I won't really have any communication with the outside world.  :)
 In the past few weeks I have been spending a fair amount of time putting together the curriculum for a course in Evanglism - taken from Evangelism Explosion, which I studied in college!!  This weekend I walked around the table 50 times, putting together booklets for the attendees.
 On Saturday I set aside some time in my day to help my neighbours move.  Their landlord was increasing the rent and didn't want to pay for electrical power, unless the rent was doubled, so the ladies moved out.  I am somewhat sad to see them go... I was just starting to get to know them and little Natasha - in the above photo, used to call out my name through the fence and climb over to visit me a lot.  They have only moved about 10 minutes away though, so I should be able to catch up with them occasionally.  Now I'm praying for good neighbours to move in!
Remind me to tell you more about the day I spent doing an art project with former child soldiers... I'm just waiting for some pictures to help describe the day.
But speaking of feet... last week I had a rough go... I ended up straining my ankle muscles playing football and was limping around for a bit.  I haven't sprained an ankle in a long time... and it reminded me that I'm not as young as I used to be.  This happened just a few days after having a cold and the flu.  I was thankful for team-mates who brought me dinner and prayed for my health.  Now I'm fine and back in action.... thankfully it was nothing major.
Well, I'm off to pack my bags.  I'll write more when I get back.  Ciao

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Kampala Whirlwind

Waking up from a good night of rest, I can now reflect on my whirlwind trip to Kampala with my team-mate Jennifer.  Jennifer had to go down country to pick up a vehicle for her to take to the remote lands of Karamoja, and she needed someone to go with her.  I was able to finish up my other work and clear my calendar for a few days to join her on this road-trip south. 
Thursday morning I went to town and booked tickets for the overnight bus to Kampala.  I was handed a business card for a the bus' taxi van to come and pick up.  We called the taxi at 10 pm and the driver told us to call at 11 pm again to remind him of our location.  Shortly after 11 we called again and the driver said, "7 minutes".  How true he was!  He came honking on to our road, waking up many neighbours, I'm sure.  We loaded up and were delivered to the bus stop on Main Street in Soroti.  The bus was supposed to leave at 12 midnight, but it was closer to 1 am before we pulled out of town. 
I hardly slept at all on the bus, as every 45 minutes or so the bus pulled over to drop off or pick up more passengers... that meant all the lights went on and people were rearranged.  I also couldn't rest well because I was in the middle seat... being spooned by the man next to me... a man who had long legs and put them half way into my seat to spread out and I'm sure he was using me as a pillow.  So hot!  Also, my neck was paining from all the bobbing as I tried to sleep.  :)
We arrived in Kampala at 6:30 am, just before sunrise.  We walked a couple of blocks up the street to a store called Shoprite, and sat under a lamp post there to eat an apple and some muffins.  At 8 am the shop opened - we used the latrine and then called the mechanics to see if Jennifer's vehicle was ready.  Yes it was!
From the previous blog post... you can see that we rode Bodas (motorcycle taxis) out to the mechanics and spent the next few hours learning all sorts of fun things about the Land Cruiser.  Thankfully we had a GPS with us, because we needed it greatly to find our way around the city for the afternoon's activities.  We first went to a small shopping centre to get money from the ATM, but poor Jennifer's card was swallowed by the machine and the bank wouldn't give Jennifer back her card until the next day.  I pulled out money to cover the costs of a few things, we grabbed lunch to go from the grocery store and drove over to Cosmos. 
As Cosmos, I obtained a new rim for a spare tire that I need, and I was able to begin the paperwork to get a TIN (Tax Identification Number) and transfer the ownership of my Subaru into my name.  Right now it's under the name of one of my team-mates.  Once all the fees were paid, Jennifer and I sat at Cosmos (a car lot) and at our cold chicken and side salads. 
Then off to another larger store where we purchased an oven with four burners, and a few non-perishable food items for the team.  We were quickly running out of energy, so we plugged in the address for the Baptist Mission Guest House and headed over to Tankhill for a relaxing evening.  We arrived around 3:45 pm, showered, watched a movie on VHS, and ordered in pizza.  Wow, what a treat!  Believe it or not, we were sound asleep by 7:30 pm.
I slept a good 12 hours.... then woke up to go back to the bank where the ATM card was swallowed.  After showing her passport, Jennifer was given her card back.  Reason - it was bent.  :(  Then we grabbed a few more groceries for the team - this time - fresh fruits and veggies, bacon, hotdogs, and other treasures, and quickly stored the goodies in cooler bags before heading home.  Heading out of the city at 10:30 am we only had a few more stops to make.  We bought 7 palm trees at a roadside garden and had fun trying to lay down cardboard - to stop dirt from destroying the inside of the "new" vehicle. 
Pulling back into Soroti around 5:30 pm, we were glad when the Tiesenga's invited us over for dinner.  The last thing I wanted to think about was preparing something to eat.  We divided up every one's groceries, dropped them off, and then I went home to bed.  A great trip - with only a few glitches.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Time for Mourning

Last night, as I was walking home with a few of my neighbours, we received word that there was a death at the home just two doors down from me.  I had never met those neighbours, but my heart went out to them.... especially as I tucked into bed and heard the mourning wails.  Hours and hours of screaming and crying pierced the air, and all I could do was pray from my bed.

Today, on my way home from town I recognized some old friends from Zion church.  Apparently the woman who died was a step-mom to my acquaintance Esther.  I knew I could not just drive past, I had to pay my respects, so I parked the car and walked on to a crowded compound.  The woman who died was only 38.  She was strong and energetic and had just returned from a weekend in the village.  Just hours after returning to Soroti she fainted and died on route to the hospital.  Coming home from the village strong and going back on Wednesday - dead.... as many of the Ugandans would say.  Already, meals of rice, posho, and beans are being prepared for all those who come by to pay their respects to the family.  I went and sat with the old and sickly husband for a while, explaining that I was a neighbour and a friend to Esther. 

I can't do much, besides just be there and let them know that I care, but it was also refreshing to share that God loves them.  I never want to diminish the pain of death, but when others want confirmation that God has a plan and that we need to be ready at any moment, I can't help but speak up and share of God's amazing love.  I too have lost loved ones, and it hurts, but I am grateful when I know that person was a child of God.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm Not Allowed to Tackle

Can I just say:  "I love my TEAM!"
It is so excited to serve in Soroti, Uganda, with a team of people that I love, cherish, and trust.  I appreciate our discussion and strategy times, I value our times together for worship, and I love it when we can get together just for fun.
This morning, we all decided to get together to play American football.  A challenge was sent out that we had to have in our individual work plan and budget for the NGO process before we could hit the dry field, so I worked hard last night, to complete the paperwork so that I could attempt to play with my team. 
Meeting on the field at 8 am, I wasn't even sure I would be able to really play.  I had a cold all week and was low in energy, but I sure did need and want the exercise.  I started throwing the ball around and doing some leg stretches and felt excited to join.  Football was never a sport I played much of as a kid... it's really a much bigger American thing... and I didn't know the rules... so I asked the guys to quickly fill me in. 
I was in my glory... my team had three guys and me.  The other team had two guys and three girls.  While playing, I often felt suffocated by two girls, but hey - I still ended up with some great catches and two touch downs.  I do know that when I was younger I used to play some football at the beach - but it was usually in the shallow waters, so I could tackle.  I really wanted to tackle, but instead I had to restrict myself to two-hand touches.  I had a blast.  Our team one 10-9... we were only counting the number of touchdowns.  And rumour has it - I was MVP!!  Wow!  Smiling right now!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stewing on Sunday

Sunday is supposed to be a Sabbath day... a day of rest, but my mind is stewing and unsettled.  I just came home from a very honest but difficult meeting.  A few days ago I was contacted by one of the former church leaders that I mentored in the Sunday school program.  He is very hurt that I am not coming back to lead those specific children any more.  He's upset that I am not funding his program for reaching out to hundreds of children.  And he says the church is hurt that I don't go there anymore.  I thought this was already worked through... when I left Soroti in 2009 I said good-bye to the children at Zion church and moved back to Canada.  I had no idea really that I was even coming back to Soroti.  This church leader would often call me in Canada and tell me how much the Sunday school class was growing and how the children were reaching out to their neighbours in some cool ways.  Well, apparently this leader had a vision from God that I was one of five mzungus who was going to help lead this children's program and in his mind, that meant forever.  I had to clearly tell this young man and his brother that even though I still love those children dearly I feel the Lord is leading me on to different ministries now... ministries that fit my team's job description, purposes that fit my passions and abilities now, and roles where I feel God is clearly opening doors.  I was on the verge of tears during portions of this meeting as I was not being heard and clearly misunderstood.  Thankfully the brother was able to catch on to my new calling in Soroti town, and my desire to see other children's programs rise up around the city.  When the meeting was finished I think we all understood each others point of view and we closed in prayer.
The meeting was tense enough for me, but it started off on the wrong foot, because yet again a time was set for meeting and it was delayed by 45 minutes.  I was told to meet them at 2 and I called them at 2:30 to ask if they were coming and they were just leaving home now.  Sometimes I don't understand African time and other times I use it to my advantage.  I can say... "I'll see you on Tuesday" and people love it... whenever I can squeeze in time, I visit.  But when someone sets an appointment with a specific time, I still expect that to be fulfilled.  I have always hated being late for meetings, work, etc so when someone says 2 - I show up at 2.  If I had known I had 45 more minutes I could have done so much more with my time, or at least had tea with other friends instead of sitting in a restaurant lobby alone... for no good reason.  It also makes me feel like they are more important than me... that my time and program means nothing, or has less value.  I don't know why it's bothering me so much today, but it is.
Anyways, I did go to Zion for church this morning, and it was good to see all of my old friends again, but I really want to find a new church - in Soroti town, where I can start fresh, make new friends, and hopefully be fed (big request!).
My car was in the garage all day yesterday... it was seriously overheating and now it needs tire boots.  (I don't even know what those are.)  To top off the list, as I was biking in the hot sun, my pedal come completely off the bike, which meant my left sandal went flying.  I had to stop the bike, with only one foot really controlling it... get off and hop over hot sand to retrieve my sandal and then find the pedal.  When I tried to put it back on, I noticed that all threads were bare... the mechanics had reverse screwed my pedal onto the bike and now it will no longer hold.  Thankfully my team-mates came to pick me and my sad bike up and drive me home.  Tomorrow I will try out the Subaru as I take my dear bicycle back to town for new parts.  O the life!
Tonight I am at least looking forward to worship and communion with my team.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rating TP

Toilet paper is mostly bought one roll at a time, and I used to go by price, but I've got to let go of my frugal attitude sometimes.  There are some interesting brands that have cool logos.  Just this week, my room-mate Beckie and I decided to have a little poll set up, to see which brands we like the best.  We are rating them on tear-ability (as some are super stretchy), absorbancy, softness, and price... along with motto if they have one.  Just for fun, I want to share the names of brands with you:
  • Golden Camel
  • Clean Facial Tissues (even though it's TP) - "Enjoy the best tendance"
  • Liangrou - also - ``Enjoy the best tendance``
  • Xiyangyang Toilet Paper
  • Green Feather
  • YaCai
  • Needz - ``I need, I enjoy``
  • Soft & Clean - ``100% toilet tissue``
  • Luyada - "source of a healthy life"
I know - strange post - I just wanted to share what humours me around here.  :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Price Tag Event

After scribbling down the number of the corner lot house with a "For Rent" sign, I wasn't even sure what to do.  I know that God is more and more calling me to live in down town Soroti and so I'm keeping my eyes and ears open to available spaces.  Having the contact number in my phone was at least a start to seeing if this house was available.
Yesterday afternoon some people came over to play music at my house.  We spent the afternoon jammin' together and as the gathering was coming to a close I mentioned if I should contact that landlord, or if it was better coming from a Ugandan, especially in determining a price.
Well, the guys decided to help me out and called the number.  At first the landlord was hesitant to give any information because he only wants to rent out the house to an NGO (Non-Government Organization), but then he told us to come "now, now" so we could see the place.  Three of us went straight to the house and got there just as the landlord was pulling in.  His cousin, the gardener, was struggling to open the gate and the landlord was getting impatient, so he just said, "Go ahead, look at the house, and when you are finished, we can discuss the price."  All I want is a rough price in the first place... is the house going to be 500,000 UGX or 1,500,000 UGX because one I can afford, the other I cannot... so then I don't even want to discuss the issue.
As the landlord pulled away, my Ugandan friends said that we should look at the house and begin the discussions over time... as bargaining is an event in this culture.  I don't want an event.  I just want an estimate.  If the estimate is even close to my budget, then we can discuss the price tag.  Ah, now my patience runs thin. 
I didn't have a good impression as the landlord walked away, and when we finally entered the yard, I realized how big the house was.  It's actually 2 houses stuck together, with two bedrooms each.  I'm not even sure I can move into that property, the house is much bigger than I thought.  After looking at the house though, the landlord called to see what I thought.  I just kept asking for a budget, and he went on about how he wasn't sure he wanted to rent it out as a residence, and he still needs to fix the electrical wiring, and paint a few rooms.
Aarg, it's now been four phonecalls, discussing who knows what... except that he's still not willing to give me a rent price, but he doesn't want me to walk away either.  
Apparently he didn't want to hire the house out as a residence, knowing that NGO's bring in big money, but now he is reconsidering because mzungus potentially pay a little more, and they take very good care of the property... so he's re-working his figures... he'll let me know after some time since he just arrived in Kampala.
I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Praying the Perimeter

Tugging on a long-sleeved shirt, I headed out the door to meet up with a few others for a prayer walk around the perimeter of downtown Soroti.  I couldn't believe I was actually dressed for cool weather, but the wind was blowing and the sun was barely awake.  I was the second of four vehicles in a line-up of mzungus who joined together to meditate on what God is doing and hopefully will do in Soroti. 
We got out of our vehicles and stood beside an open sports field where children meet for primary school and some Indian shop keepers play cricket on Sunday.  After praying together, six of us adults, and 5 MK's (missionary kids) began to stroll.
Sipi Falls on your left is a great place to get fast local food - brown beans, rice, fried plantain, liver, pork, and African tea.
Crossing the main street you notice a major intersection of businesses, the Teso bus park, and open grounds where many concerts, speakers, and crusades are held.  Again, to your left you will notice OM Supermarket and a purple movie theatre.  I've never been in the theatre - I think they show Nigerian films.
On your right is a Paradise Villa guest house and restaurant, surrounded by tiny shops and yet another bus park.  Before turning right you will notice a huge outdoor clothing market... the vendors have not yet brought their burlap sacks filled with second hand clothing from Good Will or Value Village.  I'm sure by 9 am the clothing will be displayed for sale.
On the corner is Christ Embassy, a prosperity gospel church that meets on the second floor.  Further up the road on the right is the police barracks.  Officers tend to stay together in some square tin hut type buildings (which I think would be hot to live in).  Rubbish litters the streets and the gutters wreak. Scattered all around that area are grinding mills, bars (with men already drinking or still finishing up from last night) and cheap video halls.
Coming to another intersection, we head into industry ally - where we notice Edward's carpentry shop (he builds most of our custom designed furniture) and the Coke and Pepsi plants.  Metal workers are already welding painted bars - for beds or protection over your windows.  It is here we take time to greet some of the street boys that Bobby (my team-mate) works with.  In one hand they are carrying torn-up bags with tiny pieces of scrap metal they are collecting for some small money, and in the other hand they are holding glue bottles or water bottles filled with aviation fuel - for sniffing.  I wonder what realities these boys are trying to escape from.
We skirt around the outside of the main market and go down "rubber road", where you can purchase local bikes and rubber ropes, which are used to tie packages to the back of your bike.  Going down the opposite side of town now - we notice hundreds of students beginning to gather.  Adorning blue and white school uniforms, they stand outside of Soroti Secondary School - waiting for the gate to open and classes to begin.  Across from the high school is a corner where discos and bars fill the buildings - party central.  Close by is Moon Digital, where I can now get digital photos printed.  As we approach the corner, turning back on to main street, the team notices a "For Rent" sign.  There is a house on Main Street!!  Steve gets goosebumps.  I write down the number to call the landlord, and I quickly talk to a gardener who is working inside the yard to find that the house is vacant.  Silent prayers are offered... Lord, is this where you want me to live?
The journey is almost finished.  The kids have been collecting pop bottle caps to keep themselves active while we chat and pray about the assets and needs of this town that has caught our hearts.  The final street hosts a mosque, a few more bars and billiard joints.  On one front porch, Scrabble players meet every afternoon to try out new words compete in a friendly manner.  Next door to there we bought a bag of mandazi (African donuts) to carry us the last block back to the cars.  A one hour trek!
Father God... pour your Spirit into this town.  May the people come to truly know you and desire to live lives that are pleasing to Your Most Holy Name.  Use me Lord!  Open the eyes of my heart!  Let truth, love, honesty, peace, and grace reign. 
(I wanted to take pictures, but didn't want to feel like a tourist group... hopefully I can show you some snaps soon.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chatting with CAAF

CAAF - Children Affected by Armed Forces
Here I spent some time with former LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) child soldiers, and the interesting topic of discussion was purity.  I can't imagine what these young men have been through, but I pray God's Spirit rests upon their lives and gives them strength and peace.

Power OUT!

Today is the third or fourth time this week that I have wanted to do some computer work during the day and the power has gone out.  I am trying to write an Evangelism Explosion course for a village church in Kaberamaido... they are requesting I come for 4 days, starting February 27 to lead them in a week long training and encouragement session - on evangelism and children's ministry.  I am excited about this great opportunity - to follow up on the Naked Evangelist post a while back, but I just wish that my computer could last longer than 25 minutes when the power goes out.
There is a local shop in town, called Marisa's Documents, that is trying to get me a new battery, but the people on the sending end have been lazy at putting it on the "transport" to Soroti.  One battery did arrive, but it is the wrong size.  Now days, I can't even turn my computer on without an alert saying that my battery power is very minimal and that I should replace the battery.  Ya, I know, I'm working on it... but TIA (This Is Africa) and things just naturally happen slower.
This morning I biked over to NACHU, a local orphanage, to greet the kids, but to also meet with one of the "parents" at the home.  I am trying to help my team - Team Beyond - gain NGO status in Uganda, and so we are requesting other agencies to show us their work/action plans and budgets.  It is really helpful to see how others were able to become a Community-Based Organization (CBO) or a Non-Government Organization (NGO).  If we (Team Beyond) have an NGO status here in Uganda, then it is easier for me to gain a work visa.  So much paper work, time, and travel is needed right now for me to stay in Uganda as a volunteer / tourist and we are praying for open doors!
Thank you readers for continuing to follow my life here in Uganda... each day is a new adventure... sometimes they are low-key and I have to spend the day doing research and reports, other days I can spend the whole day just visiting people, some days are spent in town - going to market, paying bills, and exploring shops, and yet other days are delightfully spent in doing project ministry - encouraging former child soldiers, training pastors in Evangelism, preaching in the village, or speaking at schools.  God is good and I look forward to getting my feet more firmly planted in the soil of Soroti.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Soroti Town

View Larger Map

I know this map will mean nothing to many of you, but recently Team Beyond split into two smaller focus groups and I'm on the Soroti Town team.  There is a village team and a town team and I am excited about being on the town team - even though I still love and pray for the villages.  I wanted to send you a glimpse of the "town" I live in.  I can't get google to give me a snap shot with actual buildings, but it's there.  :)
Anyways, my team will be focusing on doing ministry within a six block radius... to the right of the two buses on the map.  The needs are great: alcoholism, different religions, witch-craft, homeless and street kids, people with mental disabilities who are seen as outsiders, beggars, widows, crowded girl hostels, business training, prostitution and so much more.  I have been praying for a new focus in Uganda - and at the moment I have a beautiful home, but I'm feeling called to find a place in the downtown area and hopefully I can find a Christ-centred church in that district as well. 
Even though town will be my main focus, I'm glad to know I can still minister in some side projects.  Currently, I am trying to write a 5 day training on Evangelism Explosion and children's ministry.  I say trying because every time I sit down to write, my computer crashes, the power goes out, or someone comes to the gate. 
I ask for your prayers as my team reshifts its focus and in many ways, builds up on the ministries already begun.