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Monday, May 28, 2012

Scrabble Tournament

On Saturday and Sunday a preliminary scrabble tournament was put together.  National Championships will be in the middle of June - held in Soroti, so the club member are excited.  I had the privilege of gathering prizes for the winners.
12 guys competed - each playing 12 games.
The top three players all won a New Testament.  They were delighted.  I also gave some sweets to all the players.  Again, building relationships is key in Uganda... I love seeing how God opens doors to share His Word.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Testimonies from Kamuda

Saturday afternoon, I drove back out to Kamuda to finish a three week Bible study on the Gospel... how to understand and tell our faith in five simple words:  Heaven, Man, God, Jesus, Faith.
The youth asked me if I would stay longer this week, because they wanted to share testimonies of their time at Mto Moyoni.  I didn't go with this group, but I sure did want to hear their stories.
One girl stood up and shared about how God has really become her Father!!  She is no longer a total orphan.  SomeOne is looking out for her.
A young man stood up and described how he has now recognized that God doesn't want him to be a fighter anymore.  And Jesus is his Brother... so he wants to start looking up to his older brother.
One of the best stories for me comes from a leader.  In 1983 this young man's father went to Kenya to do missions in the slums of Niarobi, Kenya.  He was a young boy at the time.  In 1993 his father came home to visit and made lots of promises - I'll put you kids through school, I'll move back to Uganda, etc, but ever since that day he has not seen his father.  His mother died when he was 11, so he was raised by unfit brothers. 
Recently he met a Kenyan couple, and after sharing stories, the Kenyan couple recognized the names, and they know his father.  Communication is just beginning after 19 years of silence.  At Mto Moyoni this leader recognized that he can not hold 30 years of bitterness and anger against his father.  He is praying for a forgiving heart and that someday soon he will be able to see his earthly father and begin to restore the relationship.  He believes it can only be by the grace of God that his father has been found and that he is willing to have discussions with family.
Please pray that God will continue to shape and mold this community.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One Night in India

My friends at the Sikh temple have been telling me for weeks to make sure that my calendar was clear for Saturday night.  A huge celebration was being held and Indians were coming from around the country to take part in the festivities.  Saturday night was just fellowship and meal.  Sunday morning was for a ceremony, changing of the flag, and more food.  I wasn't going to go on Sunday - because I have to and want to go to my own "prayers" on Sunday morning, but I made sure to go on Saturday night.

Donning my new punjabi suit, I drove over to the temple to hang out with the young moms with their babies in the house.  Some of the other ladies were hard at work rolling out hundreds of chapatis.  The men were lifting heavy hot pots and rolling out two long mats for people to sit on.  Conversation flowed as people sat down on the ground, with a tray of food in front of them.  The attire was beautiful for all the Indians who attended, but all people groups were invited.  Street kids made their way into the line-up to try spicy food and sweet rice.  The language was foreign to me, but I felt like for one night I went on a holiday. 
I am so grateful for the open friendship that I have with my friends at the Sikh temple. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Back to Bululu

The rainy seasons have changed the shape of the road.  A few months ago, when I drove to Bululu, it was like driving on beach sand.  This morning the road was muddy and filled with hard potholes.  My friend asked me if it was better to drive on these roads, or the sandy roads.  I responded with "well, these roads might be safer, because I am driving slower to safe my car from further repairs, but the sandy roads are more fun to drive on!"

We were heading back to Bululu to have a day of encouragement and testimonies.  The villagers are still so grateful for the training in Evangelism, but even more so, they had so many stories to report about children's ministry.  There was one lady who stood up and said that even though she didn't attend the training a few months ago, she has seen a change in her church's programming, and in the lives of her children.  They are now learning Bible stories, and coming home with ideas of drawing pictures in the sand.  I was so excited!!  The Lord is good.

This village in Bululu has definitely found a place in my heart.  Before I left, we shared a meal of posho (white corn meal) and chicken.  And I was blessed with a rooster and a bag of mangoes to go home with.  They insist that I come back to try more original honey from the tree.  :)

While driving home with this cock in my boot (trunk), I thought about how I would cook it, since I don't have a fridge, stove, oven, or any means of cooking at the moment.  Then I decided to give it to my landlords - since they are offering me so much food lately... it was nice to return the blessing.  So tomorrow night I shall eat chicken with my neighbours.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Lists

I have slowly become a list making person and it goes against my grain, but there are things I must accomplish now days.
  • Go to the bank to pay the water bill (20 minutes)
  • Pay school fees for a team-mate (3 hours)
  • Call the plumber (and wait in the house for 4 hours while he works)
  • Organizing for two groups of youth to go to Mto Moyoni.
  • Photocopy 120 pages for the Evangelism Bible study I am doing in Kamuda (1 hour)
  • Then grocery lists
  • And lists of contacts that I need to meet up
Here is the youth group from Abim.  I spent four days with them - listening to and exploring the Father Heart of God.

Rainy Activities

The other night I came home from town just as it was starting to rain.  These boys were playing with a few cars outside on the tiny verandah.  When they saw me, they started complaining that they were getting wet.
 I invited the neighbour boys inside to play cars and colour pictures.  They were super excited when I brought out a plastic car mat for them to play with.  They had never seen such a town!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

16 Youth in the Garden

Severe stomach pains bring me once again to my room.  How long must this go on?  A few weeks ago I suffered from Giardia, but now I don’t know.  It’s just pain.  But now I have time to rest, pray, and read.  Over the weekend I spent a lot of time on the phone, trying to organize for a group of former child soldiers to come down from the remote village of Abim and join me in traveling to Jinja – back to the Retreat Centre called Mto Moyoni.  A few key community leaders needed to have airtime sent to them, so they could call the youth, or money for a piki (motor-cycle) so they could ride out to the homes of the youth.  By Monday morning, a number was confirmed... there would be 16 youth coming and 5 leaders from Lotuke and Abim.

Tuesday morning, I awoke at 6:08 am to the first phone call coming from Abim.  8 youth had slept in the town centre, and were ready when the private hire (a small lorry truck) came to pick them up.  As the truck was driving away on muddy roads, two youth ran after the vehicle and jumped aboard.  They wanted to come to the retreat centre also, but they didn’t know the plan.  They were only wearing the clothes on their back.  Then another phone call at 6:35 am, saying that the youth in Lotuke were only 5, instead of 8.  No worries, I would just do a head count when the whole lot arrived in Soroti.

I went to town at 9 am and arranged for the youth to have hot tea and chapattis when they got to town.  I bought two boxes of water for our journey, and ran a few other errands.  I decided this time I was going to remain peaceful about what time we made it all the way to Jinja.  Only God is in control of African time.  The youth stepped off of the truck at 10:30 am and I led them to a tiny restaurant so they could take tea.  Then I walked to the bus station to make sure there was still another bus traveling that day that could carry all 22 of us.  Yes, the 1 pm bus.

After tea and a rest, the youth walked with me to the bus station.  At 6:15 we finally arrived at our drop off point; a mere 215 km from Soroti.  There I arranged for 12 pikis to carry all of us and our luggage.  After being robbed by 2 of the drivers, we made our way into the gorgeous and peaceful retreat centre.  A hot meal was waiting for us.  The youth remained quiet – not knowing what to expect.

Then I showed them to their rooms and they settled in for a night of rest.  In the morning they woke up to the Nile River, monkeys swinging in the trees, and a beautiful flower garden.

The past two days have been filled with time of teaching and prayer.  11 out of the 16 youth are complete orphans, meaning they have no mother or father.  But they have been learning about the Heart of our Father God.  Many of them were abducted by Kony’s rebels, and even today struggle with forgiving themselves or others... for murdering, stealing, raping, being raped, and carrying heavy loads.  Again, they are listening to the voice of God saying that He had them in His heart before the creation of the world and that He cares for them.  5 young girls stepped up to receive Christ in their hearts yesterday.  I have been praying with these youth and trusting in God to guide us all.

In the evening we played sports, shared a meal, and then I showed them the cartoon video called “Joseph, King of Dreams” and they were all amazed at what Joseph went through to remain faithful to God.  So far the retreat is a blessing and I look forward to being with these former children of war until Friday night, when we hope to arrive back in Soroti.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Mania

Before I even opened my eyes this morning, I could tell the day was going to be busy.  I had to rush back to my old house to return some sheets I had washed and make sure the house is ready for the landlord to occupy this weekend.  I had swallowed my malaria tabs before biking over to the house, but when I got to the house, I remembered that I had forgotten to eat breakfast with the pill and ended up throwing up in the garden.  But no worries, I ate a few African donuts on the side of the road while waiting for my house helper to come from the village... I needed to lead her to my new home, so she could help me out there occasionally.
Back at the house, I collected the water bill and a list of other things to do in town - Another ten minute bike ride out to Nakatunya where I went to help a friend repair lawnmower, and then collected papers from the fida office.  I need to deliver those papers to the youth leaders of the kids I am taking to Mto Moyoni again this week.  Okay, now I'm starting to think that you won't even know how to read this post, since I am naming off agencies and places you have never heard of before, but just bare with me.
My friend Helen called, she wanted me to escort her and her baby to the hospital for immunizations... it was my first time in the main hospital and the children's ward is super busy.  Just place your card on the pile and wait until your baby's name gets called.
Then for another hour I raced all around town trying for find transport for the 20 LRA youth I am taking to Mto Moyoni... no such luck to get a private hire.  Hopefully we can find a bus that will hold all of us at the same time tomorrow.  I grabbed a rolex to eat from a street vendor and made my way over to a team-mates for a meeting at 1:30.  (A rolex is an fried egg, with a few veggies, wrapped inside of a chapati - "rolled eggs") 
The meeting took an hour and a half - to discuss our security plans - for medical, political, personal, etc emergencies.  We clearly went over who to call, all of our embassy contacts, the doctors and police numbers to have in our phone, what to do during a hostage or evacuation/relocation situation, where to keep our passports etc.  Now, don't get me wrong - Soroti is a very safe place... it's just policy to have these things in place.  But after 5 years of being on the mission field... I also know that they are necessary. 
From there I raced to the bank to see if I could get enough shillings out to help pay the bill for this week's spiritual retreat with the former child soldiers, and I tried one more company with a vehicle for hire.  No such luck.
Since I've moved, I don't have a fridge or stove yet, so I've been eating lousy - I can tell that my iron is low... but instead of taking a good meal, or iron supplements, I opted for a power nap.  Only to wake up to play with neighbourhood children and meet with a young man who has a heart for orphans.  I ended up buying street meat for dinner and added that to a package of ramen noodles that I can make with water from my electric kettle. 
Now I'm spending the evening packing and trying to set my paper work in order.  And praying - trusting that God will clearly open the doorway for easy transport tomorrow.
Good night friends.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gnuts and What-Nots

Last week I was struggling with a bad bout of Giardia, then the internet was out for a few days... and now there is so much to tell you, and yet I'm exhausted and just want to climb onto my bed on the floor.  Three days ago I moved to my  new home - wonderful neighbours, peaceful space, and very close to Soroti's downtown area.  I can now walk to all the places I love!  My new home doesn't have the kitchen ready though, so I am eating dry cereal in the morning, and eating out for the other meals.  In June I will be getting a fridge and stove and that will make life much easier.
Yesterday I went "deep" to three villages with Fida International.  We went with the intention of distributing Gnuts (ground nuts, aka peanuts) to a newly identified group of CAAF.  CAAF = Children Affected by Armed Forces.  Some of these youth just returned from Central Africa, after escaping Kony's rule.  So Fida is starting again - with a week long psycho-social training next week.
 When in the village of Obalanga, I took time to walk past the mass grave site... strong memories from 2009 flooded me as I remember hiking through fields and collecting corpses of war victims.  It's great to see there is some closure for this community now.
 Here are some sacks of Gnuts, waiting to be distributed - for planting and income generation.
These are the youth in Omoro village, excited to receive their gnuts.