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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sitting With Rats

Working alongside of fida personnel today, we struggled to put together a budget for 270 former LRA child soldiers who are being invited to a sports day.  On August 15th another soccer and netball tournament is planned, along with speeches, drama, and music.  The figures seemed really high, so I took the numbers for rice, beans, sugar, tea, meat, etc to the market to see what I could find out.

My sweet friend Nuru was very helpful.  A couple of months ago, she was in a vehicle accident and injured her leg.  She has only been back in the market maybe two weeks now... selling bananas.  She uses crutches to get to her stall in the market, then she spreads out a burlap sack to sit on, and spends her day from up on a high platform/table behind her pile of bananas.  Nuru asked me to join her up on the rickety platform and so I did!  We stretched out our legs and starting talking about how things were going for her... for the market... etc.

It wasn't long before I pulled out my list of prices needed and Nuru quickly swung into action.  She yelled over to one friend to bring a pen for us and she called two others to be runners for prices.  It was so cool to chat about how many Ugandans we could feed off of one kilo of rice (probably 6-8 people).  They gave me tips for cooking rice in the village and knew where to get the best of supplies in bulk. 

I was trying not to pay attention to the rats that liked to dash around, just inches from my feet, as they dove in and out of banana bundles. 

These ladies all gave me honest figures and an hour later, I was heading back to the fida office to help prepare the final budget for the Kampala bosses.  It seems like we now have a workable plan... let's just see if it can be pulled off in the next two weeks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Too Many Mzungus

I love being in Uganda... the people are amazing... the culture is exciting... and even though I strive to spend time with Ugandans as much as possible... I am grateful for a few Westerners in my life.
Meet Levi Kolb... he is just starting to like me!!
Kate Tiesenga
A seed sitting competition!
 For some reason I kept saying "Speed Sitting" all day, and I can't prove it to you, other than you will have to trust my word, but I started to type the same thing, even one week later.  :)
All of us mzungus were invited over to the Shaarda's to celebrate Drew Tiesenga and Lydia Shaarda's birthdays.
I didn't realize I was the only girl trying to pop balloons.  I came in 2nd!
Mom, you would be proud of my cake decorating skills.
Drew is 11, Lydia is 9!
Other kids are either Independent Baptists or part of Team Beyond,
 through International Teams.
  This weekend I went to Jinja with my team - SoPaTea.  It was very refreshing to spend a few days away, praying together, hanging out in the pool, Seeing and Savouring Christ with the help of John Piper, singing loads of worship songs and having fun!  We needed to discuss our on-going NGO status / work permit situation and really unite as a team to serve God in Soroti.
The Tiesenga's are in front and to the right of me.
Steven and Tanya are the proud parents of Ashley, Drew, Troy and Kate.
The Kolbs are to the left:
Rachel and Bobby with their precious sons:
Nico and Levi
Jumping for Jesus
On the far left is Beckie Carlson - a good friend and team-mate...
another single gal to join the ranks and care for the CAAF kids.
Who can stop a photo shoot when everyone is in the mood?
What a bunch of posers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joining God Where HE'S At!

Seeing Peter's name on my cellphone screen, I answered the phone knowing that it would be some discussion related to the "17 Stories" training I had co-lead.  Peter wanted to meet me in town to discuss the training... he wanted more handouts because he was now training village churches on how to share the Gospel creatively with children.

I was quick to make a plan for 10 am tea... and so we met.  Wow, God is using Peter in so many ways.  He has been training 5 different churches and now he's gearing up to lead a kids camp at his church in August.  Not only did Peter want photocopies of the teaching manual... but he wanted me to be a part of camp. 

From August 13-17 there are going to be 350-400 kids gathering for one week of Bible stories, Christian moral topics, songs, meals, and more.  I am so surprised at how everything is getting organized and they are finding sponsorship from local churches.  Peter only asked if I would teach!  Of course!!  I would love to teach!!  I look forward to this week with great delight.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Unsuccessfully Successful

Early Thursday morning, I jumped into the Fida vehicle to head to Napac district in Karamoja.  Our plan was to run a seminar on Village Savings and Loans.  We got three quarters of the way when the roads became impassible.  Rainy season has come to the north and roads were too muddy or washed out.
 I walked for almost a kilometre in my barefeet, to assess the situation with my travelmates and it was decided that we would turn around and head for the village of Apeitolim instead.
 Here I am - walking the mile - way TOO slippery!
 The drive back south was absolutely beautiful!!  I love the hills in Northern Uganda.
 Eight hours after our journey first began we came to another section of road where a bridge had been washed out.  The boys went out to assess the situation. 
 Destiny and I waited by the side of the water while the boys decided they could cross the river bed... and soon we were on our way to Apeitolim.
 We only spent an hour there - organizing for the training the following day and making sure everything was ready to go.
 Mudfish was being sold at the market - not my favourite - it tastes "muddy".
 We also saw delicious mushrooms at the market and decided they would be on the menu for the evening dinner.  So we bought a few and brought them to a restaurant near the guest house where we were staying.
 The mushrooms were delightfully cooked with a tomato soup!
 The following morning we got up early again to make the one hour journey back to Apeitolim and again came back to the troubled bridge - where we witnessed a troubled lorry stuck in the riverbed.  This truck had gotten stuck in the night and most of these travelers were tired and very hungry.  Thankfully I was able to share a few loaves of bread and jugs of water with them.
 The wheels were seriously stuck - the truck had to be jacked up so that rocks found in the river could be placed under the wheels.
 Pushing hardly helped at all... so,
 I went fishing instead and talked about God's will for our lives, and how He is with us through the good and bad times.  We prayed for patience and safety for those working on the truck.  (Two of our trainers had been sent ahead to Apeitolim on a piki (motorcycle) so that the training could continue on.) 
 Four hours after our arrival, the truck was finally freed.  Our driver decided he wasn't going to cross the river, but the lorry truck was willing to take me to Apeitolim so I could greet the people and see how the training was going on.  I had a blast in the back of the truck - listening and eating freshly boiled cassava root.
 I was wearing a scarf in attempt to keep the sun off my face the whole day - but it didn't work well - I became extremely sunburnt... but worth every minute of it!!
 Carol was busy teaching when I arrived in the village, and I was glad to see that many participants were willing to learn.
 So I went to hang out with the children instead.  It was fun teaching them about the camera and trying to get them to stay far enough back to make a group photo... they kept wanting to come closer. 
 These Karamajong women also wanted to be a part of the photo shoot... I love the beads and you can see some tatoo markings on their faces.
I was surprised to see this little boy wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume for his every day attire.... o, you never know what you will find in the village.  At the end of the day I took a piki back to the truck and we made a long haul home to Soroti.  It felt so good to sleep in my own bed again, and thankfully the village of Apeitolim has organized themselves into small groups - to save money and make a difference in their community.  God is good... and I'm thankful for the adventure!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Funeral and a Sleepover

After church yesterday morning, I was talking with my landlord and other friends, and we all decided to go to the funeral of a young man who was murdered in Soroti early Saturday morning.  Around 2:30 pm I drove out to the burial location with my friends and we found our way to chairs under a shade tent.  The story of the young man's death is sad - 26 year old Daniel was stabbed while trying to rescue a friend from a crazy girlfriend.  But I was thankful for the Catholic priest who led the service.  He did a great job preaching and he still offered hope for the family and the murderer... through the grace and forgiveness of Christ.  It was very touching to stand at the grave site, silent tears gathered in my eyes as I watched family and friends put a loved one to rest. 

When I got home from the funeral I received a text from a dear friend in Kampala.  She was traveling to Soroti and needed a place to stay.  I was glad to offer my home for the night.  An hour later her brother called... he was also coming to Soroti, with his wife.  I talked them into staying at my house too and I was so glad to finally host people in my new home.  Yes, I've had people over for tea... but to share my space and to be flexible is always a joy for me.  My friends left for Karamoja early this morning, but I hope to join them later this week.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Burlap Sack Perspective

Pulling into Soroti Friday night, Steve, Tanya and I were grateful for a smooth journey to Kampala and also thankful for the team-mates who helped us out along the way.  Coming home to a hot pot of chili with home-made bread and peanut brittle was an added blessing!  I thank God that Steve is now okay and that our time away was productive.  I was able to purchase an oven and a water container to hold my purified water!!

Saturday afternoon I met up with a neighbour who sells second hand clothes.  She stopped me on the road to ask me what kind of treatment she should use for cracked heals and before I knew it, we were talking about small business loans and being a single mom.  This lady buys a burlap sack full of second hand clothes and sells them from under a shady tree just down the road from my place.  She is never quite sure what is in the sack - sometimes the clothes are good or desirable in Soroti, and sometimes it takes her a long time to sell 100 pieces of clothing.  The bag she has now she has really been struggling with.

There had been a pile of clothes in my closet that I knew I had to get rid of - some were clothes that I rarely wore, and others were given to me by mzungus who came to visit us and just left there clothes behind.  I decided to pack up all of these clothes and bring them over to my neighbour's "shop". 

Two ladies asked me to sit down and join them on their burlap sacks - which are cut open and spread out to hold the clothes on top - like a blanket spread out for a picnic.  I ended up spending over two hours under the shade of a tree, learning more about business, but then also the role of women, the power of prayer, curses and witchcraft, and the true definition of love.  I was so glad that God gave me the chance to talk with and encourage these hard-working women.  They try so hard with the little they have.

In the evening I went to a prayer meeting and came home to find things were very somber in the compound.  Some thieves had stolen a bicycle from our yard and my landlady was really upset.  The little boys were quiet with frustration - they understood the loss.  It was a good bike - a gift to one of the elementary school girls for passing her exams.  As we sat together taking tea and pondering the security of the yard we then heard the neighbours begin to fight.  A man came home drunk and had found the women in the house praying.  One thing about Ugandans is that they often say their prayers out loud... well, the man started yelling at the women that prayers are meaning less.  Then the grandmother started calling down curses on the son... prayers turned to screams and crying... insults were thrown in every direction... and all I could do was sit on the other side of the cement wall and listen.  It was so sad.

I went to bed emotional.  God what can I do, through you, to make a difference in this country?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Peace that Passes

I wanted to share with all of you an email that I just received from a friend.  Some of you might remember me sharing a story of my bicycle being "stolen" from the Sikh temple and the peace that I had knowing that God had the whole situation in His hands... well here is a testimony from Ontario, as a result of the story I shared.

Just the other night someone broke into our car and took my prescription sunglasses and prescription glasses. I was pretty upset, I need them for driving. But all I could think about is you and telling us the story about your bike. I became really calm about the whole situation and what all I could do. I talked to God asking for strength, called the cops, and my insurance company. Five days after my neighbor posted a sign on the mail boxes at the end of the road saying she found ladies sunglasses and eye glasses. I called the number and found out that the lady who lives two house down from us found my glasses. I just wanted to thank you, because of the story you told us that Sunday it helped me though my own situation; to keep me calm. Thank you!

God is GOOD!

Taxi Driver to Kampala

This morning I woke up to a phone call from Tanya, asking me to join her and Steve on a journey to Kampala.  These people are my team-mates, but Steve is also my Wingman!!  He is my big brother, my go-to man, my sounding board... and he's been sick for 9 days already.  Fighting fevers, achy joints and now a body rash, the team decided it was best for Steve to see a doctor in Kampala.  Tanya wasn't sure she could drive in Kampala and she was stressed about Steve, and she would need to look after their baby girl, so I packed my bags and decided to help out!!
 Here are my passengers - all sound asleep in the back of the van.  We left Soroti at 11:30 am and pulled into Kampala at 6:30 pm.  I drove straight to "The Surgery" (a clinic here) and looked after the baby while Steve and Tanya promptly met with the one doctor we could trust.  Within 45 minutes there was a diagnosis (we hope and pray)... It looks like Steve has Tick Typhus... meaning a small tick has given him this huge body infection.  He is now on medication, but the doctor has asked us to stay in Kampala until Friday, just to make sure that the diagnosis was correct and that Steve is feeling better.
 I take my job as cab driver / ambulance attendant :) very seriously!!  I had to dodge big trucks, potholes, baboons, and motorcycles on the road.  Thankfully it was an uneventful trip to Kampala so far and tomorrow I hope to buy an OVEN!!
By the way... this was my first time ever driving in Kampala!  No probs!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Time to Rest

Two weeks ago I returned to Uganda, ready to jump into action and serve God however I could.  The day after arriving home I went up to Abim, a village that I love, about 3 hours north of Soroti.  I went with FIDA, an NGO that reaches out to former child soldiers or to teens affected by cattle raiding.  The day was long and the roads were bumpy, but I was so glad that I went.  Ever since then, I've been waiting to see what God wants me to do next.  And it's OKAY!

The women on my team have decided to do a Bible Study on Monday nights.  We are working through "Experiencing God" by Henry and Richard Blackaby.  This particular study is about knowing and doing the will of God.  Not an easy topic... even for people like me... being a Christ-follower for as long as I can remember.  In order to do this study well, I have been digging into God's Word more and that is exciting.  It's refreshing to see and hear what God has to say.  Here are a few things that pop out from the workbook:
  • "As I follow Jesus one day at a time, He will keep me in the center of God's will."
  • "Watch to see where God is working, and join Him."
  • "To be a servant of God, you must be moldable and remain in the hand of the Master."
  • "When I find out where the Master is working, then I know where I need to be."
  • "God reveals what He is about to do.  That revelation becomes an invitation to join Him."
I think you can see a theme here.  God has me in a time of resting and praying - seeing where He wants me to join Him next.  Sure, I could create projects to do here, but I don't want to jump ahead of God or create dependency with the locals.  And so, I wait...

In the meantime... I am finally outfitting my home.  It was supposed to be furnished when I returned in June, but now I'm going constantly to the carpenters shop and trying to get a stove shipped to Soroti.  Slowly my house is becoming a home.

I am also visiting, encouraging, and praying with the many friends that I have in town.  One friend had a sweet baby girl.  Another is in an abusive relationship.  A business owner keeps asking for advice on how to make his business not only sustainable, but also attractive and inviting.   

This is also a time for being... Being able to visit my friends as often as I want at the Sikh temple.  Part of me is sad because one of the daughters is going home to India on August 5th and I'm going to miss her a lot.... Or being able to mourn with a local orphanage, as they just lost a sweet 17 year old to kidney or liver failure... And a time to be supportive to my team - especially as they deal with spiritual attacks or sickness. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lightning Fast

Oh no, the little yellow warning light just appeared at the bottom of my laptop.  It is going to die once again because there is no power in the house to charge this machine.  But I won't complain... for the past four nights I have been climbing in to bed with lightning storms brightening my windows and the rhythmic sound of rain singing me sweet lullabies as I pass into slumber land.  I am so grateful that it rains at night, so that I can still walk or bike around town during the days to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a month. 

Having come back to Soroti almost a week ago, I would have thought by now that I would have seen everyone, but nope - I have so many friends and connections in Teso Land.  And for that too, I thank God.  I love how each day has its own purpose:  One day to reconnect with my Indian friends, and to sit at their Mom's side in the hospital as she underwent treatment for malaria.  Another day to attend church and to recognize a need there... God is placing a church bishop and his family on my heart - to encourage them in their faith walk after a very difficult and trying time. 

For a few days I have been spending time in town, getting furniture made for my house.  Originally I had furniture all lined up for purchase in June, so my house would be furnished when I arrived back from Canada, but the Lord had other plans... so now I have been getting to know carpenters and choosing a dining table and chairs, a bed, desk, and kitchen cupboards.  A fridge was delivered Saturday, and it's going to be an adventure finding a stove, but I will accomplish this task also.  :)  The house I was originally living in here was furnished, but when I shifted in May, I moved into a completely empty apartment.  It's been fun seeing this house become home... don't worry, when it's furnished I will post pics. 

I have sat down with friends to hear testimonies of what God continues to do in Bululu - the village where I spent a week teaching about Evangelism and Children's ministry.  Apparently the children's programs are exploding in every church and orphans are being taken care of.... and not just with basic necessities, but with love and understanding.  God is good!!  I look forward to going back to Bululu soon to see first hand what God is doing.

Well, I must go prepare a dish for a 4th of July party... have a great day and thanks for popping into my world for just a few minutes.

Oh, and a quick prayer request... please pray that I can get my laptop fully restored.  It crashed while home in Canada, and the hard drive was erased.  Thankfully I did a full back-up on an external hard drive the night before I left... I just haven't got a clue how to put the pictures, music, and documents back on to my computer... and I need so much of that information.  Thanks.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Holding High

The warm waters rush over you; whirlpools surround you with the desire to suck you in.  Everything seems foggy and you can get steamed up.  After a while it's hard to breathe...
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."  Acts 16:24-25

Lately I have been so grateful to God for the peace, comfort, and/or joy that He has given me through many trials lately.
I have seen God move when:
  1. My bicycle was taken in Soroti town and then later returned to me.
  2. I was bumped on the KLM airline - but soon was able to encourage 8 others as we spent an extra evening in Amsterdam.
  3. Delightfully all of my luggage was returned to me after 4.5 days of hiding in airports from Paris to Toronto.
  4. My car key was misplaced for 24 hours, and yet I had peace that I would find it again.
  5. Even though some thief was able to make 5 ATM withdrawals with my debit card, I was able to stay calm, and thankfully the bank's insurance recovered all of my losses.
  6. I thought that all of my furniture would be in place when I returned to Soroti (and it wasn't), but I'm glad God has given me "go with the flow" attitude - so that I can just peacefully go about shopping for each piece that I need to make my house a home - a bed, fridge, stove, dining table and chairs... and more are needed, but it's all coming together.  
  7. Third round of plumbing issues could make some people's blood boil, but for some reason, I feel like maybe God wants me to get to know Plumber Julius.
This list doesn't really even begin to list how I feel inside.  I am choosing to journey with God each and every day and it's amazing to see how He leads and guides me each step of the way. 
"God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."  Acts 16:27
These thoughts came to me as I was relaxing in a hot-tub in Ontario.  Steamy, foggy, rushing waters can sometimes feel overwhelming, but then I remember that I can stand up and get out.  Life is much clearer when you reach out to God!!