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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I really do need to keep a journal again... I haven't been writing down my thoughts since 2009, and I wish that I would... so that I could see God's goodness and lessons in my life.  I would also love to see how relationships grow or fade over time and to have a record of all the wonderful activities God has allowed me to be a part of.  Just last night I was going through an old scrapbook that I put together during my college days and I was completely refreshed by this poem I wrote in October 1998.  It still is the cry of my heart:

The world in a box
A preacher once say to me.
Every person a box,
Far as the eye could see.
I don't want to be a shape
As all who are the same.
I want to be outstanding
To show my faith no shame!
Red, brown, yellow, black and white,
Following Jesus is my plight.
I want to be a history maker,
So Lord, please, make me a world shaker.

Roadtrip to Arusha

My dear friend Lawrence invited me to attend his graduation in Arusha, Tanzania.  He was graduating from a program called LEMATI - in Leadership and Management training.  The program was sponsored by the Pentecostal churches in East Africa, as well as Fida International.  I thought it would be fun to go for a few days to celebrate his achievements.
Wednesday night we left Soroti and spent the night in Mbale.  I was able to attend a small house church or cell group there!!  It is always amazing to fellowship with God's people, no matter where in the world they are.  The next morning we boarded a matuta taxi to the Malaba border of Kenya and then found another taxi to take us to Niarobi.
We arrived in Niarobi at 11 pm and were exhausted... so the journey had to wait yet another day.  While eating breakfast - this was the view of the streets of Niarobi... it's a crazy big city.  So Friday, around lunch, we headed for the Namanga border and there I had an interesting lesson to learn.  I was exchanging money.  I wanted to give 5000 Kenyan shillings... and that's what I counted out... but somehow when the shop keeper was giving me the equal in Tanzanian shillings, it was only worth 4000... I am sure that he took it, because I keep strict accounting records.. and I had seen him fidgeting behind the counter, but even though he allowed me to come behind and look, I had to leave knowing that God sees what is done in secret.  Next time I will accept my balance before handing over the money I want exchanged!
At 8 pm we finally got off the last bus and arrived at the gates of Habari Maalum College, just outside of Arusha.  The director met us at the gate and brought us to our rooms in a guest house on campus.  Dinner was provided... but I crashed early... Saturday was going to be a big day. 
Early Saturday morning I took breakfast with a few guests - including Bishops and church leaders from Kenya and the Director wanted to give us a tour of the college while the graduands rehearsed their steps.
Habari Maalum is huge training and Christian resource place.  One building was strictly designated for books for the blind.  Brail documents are typed out on a computer and printed out on what seems like a dot matrix printer... it's such a blessing to see God's Word being distributed in Swahili!
The next building was a printing press - 4 huge rooms - for publication of all sorts of products and materials.
There was also a media center and a recording studio... so cool
At noon the graduation ceremonies began.
Here are the graduands with the Director, Head Bishop, Fida personnel and more...
Hooray for all the LEMATI Successes!
And Hooray for Lawrence who was the speaker on behalf of his class!
A Kenyan Bishop in the Pentecostal churches.
 Sunday morning I went to a wonderful church - the sermon and the singing was great and I felt very welcomed by many of the Tanzanian people that I had met at the graduation ceremony.  After church, a few of us hired a car to see Arusha before I began my journey back to Soroti.  One of the stops was a Snake Park.  This little critter was fun to get to know.
 Although it's a strange sensation when you begin to feel him constricting around your neck.
 I also learned more about Maasai culture - especially both male and female circumcision rituals.  Men have to be tough - to crying or even blinking or you are an outcast from tribe, considered weak, and not allowed to marry.  The woman's ceremony has become illegal, but it is believed to still happen... the woman are allowed to show tears though.
 Here I am - dressed up like a Maasai woman!
Chatting with my new friends - also graduands - Nestory from Tanzania and Noah, my French speaking friend, from the Congo.
I look tough, don't I?
 And who could pass up a ride on a camel... I haven't done that since I was four. 
 Getting up and down is the coolest sensation, but a lot like a horse!
I was happy to ride high.
 Nice camel!
 This tower in Arusha is the center point in East Africa between Cairo, Egypt and Cape Town, South Africa... it's a big continent!
 To finish my day on the town, I found delicious food.  I ate octopus soup, calamari rings with chips, and a sweet lassi.... ooo, so good!!  The supermarkets also had great things - taco shells, real bakery treats, Reese Pieces, Snapple and more... so hard to leave.
Monday morning, bright and early, I made my way to the shuttle park in Arusha, so I could catch the bus to the airport.  I saw Mt. Meru in full, and Mt. Kilimanjaro from a distance.  I met some sweet ladies from Malta and a business man who lives in Kampala.  The four of us chatted all morning, took coffee together, and by the time I landed in Soroti, the business man offered to have his driver take me to the bus park in Kampala before he headed home.  It was so nice to ride in a private car from the airport because the bus trip home ended up being a 12 hour process.
Trans Cargo Bus stops everywhere along the way, and when it stops, it pauses for what seems like 15 - 20 minutes... I don't know what the are doing along the route, but I will never travel with that bus company again... I was so excited to hit my own bed a 2 am.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August Kids Camp

Peter called one day and asked me if we could meet in town for tea... he had something to discuss.  Peter had attended the 17 Stories Training, and was busy being a Sunday School teacher in his church.  He had a dream to put together a 4 day kids camp while the kids were on school holidays and he wanted to know if I would help teach.  The week was already organized, the budget was planned and paid for, he just wanted help teaching the stories.  I was absolutely delighted.
 Every day I wrapped a simple white blanket in a different fashion to play various characters - Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc.
 Games were played... here two people had to untangle themselves without untying the rope at their wrists... a cool trick game that had the kids stumped for a long time.
 Outside we played games like "Stop and Go" or "Red light, Green light"
On the third day a treasure hunt was planned.  The children were sent off in three big groups.  A few of us teachers were hiding in schools across the area... The children had maps to find us, and had to shout "YES WE CAN" based on Philippians 4:13.  I was Jesus at the first stop... you can even see the first boy entering the classroom, he was carrying a bag of dirt, representing his burdens that he was going to lay down at the feet of Jesus.
They had to memorize a Scripture verse and then continue on their way.
 I raced off to my second location after all three groups had found me...
 While the kids went to find more schools, more treasures, and learn more verses. 
 In the end, the children had to climb a huge rock and share their memory verses...
 From there... Jesus would let them into heaven.
 Welcoming the little children
 Not a good photo, but do you see me up in heaven, watching over the sheep as they go back down.
 The kids were hot and exhausted after a 3 hour trek. 
 They raced back to the church as fast as they could to get their rice and beans.
 Teachers also enjoyed the break... but what a great afternoon.
 The children were so excited to receive a soda on such a fun-filled day.
Many of the kids begged to have an over-night on Thursday night.  Overnights are common in Uganda - a night dedicated to prayer and worship.  The teachers didn't want to host it really, they were so tired, and I couldn't make it, but the kids begged.  They said, "Teacher, we need to have an overnight... because when we pray... people will be healed!"  Who can say no?
I made sure to send my prayer requests to that group of prayer warriors.
 The next morning we gathered for breakfast - millet porridge was on the menu.
 Then again, we had a time for prayer. 
More games - water had to be passed down the line, whichever group kept the most water won.
 I don't know why this photo comes up sideways, but I was the Nile River, where the Princess found baby Moses in a re-enactment that my group had to do.
 I also played the role of Zipporah in the desert.  Moses was beaming!
 At the end of the week, each child received at Manga Messiah Bible and a Christian newspaper. 
 I think the kids went home happy and blessed.
And all of us teachers celebrated a week well spent!!  God is Good.  All the Time... and that is His Nature!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CAAF Sports Day

After weeks of planning and mobilizing, I helped fida International host a semi-annual sports day of encouragement.  5 different villages were representing, bringing along 270 former LRA child soldiers.  It was a long day, but truly incredible.
Early in the morning, Perti (from Finland) and Lawrence began to get things started.
I reveled in meeting old friends and new... it's always important to greet the local chairmen (mayors) and other guests who helped make the day possible.
Bands came to perform, and tell stories of life in the bush, through music.
Others danced!
Here is Francis getting the props ready for the re-enactment of life during captivity.
These are the Ugandan Police, getting ready to fight the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army)
Here are some LRA boys, about to enter a village and capture innocent children.
Sam, in the white shirt, was the ring leader.  In some ways it was scary how easily he handled the gun.  You could tell he was high up in the LRA and used to carrying/using a weapon.  The boys did a great job telling their story before the games began.
Cooking took all day for such a large crowd.
I chatted with children and prepared to give out Bibles to the youth from the villages of Abim and Lotuke.  My week was so busy, I didn't have time to write in the Bibles before I arrived.
The girls played Netball - which is a sport I still haven't figured out.... but they sure love it and become very competitive.
Fida supplied uniforms for the day.
The games were hot and intense
Sweet Shot!
The girls played more games because the time for their sport is much shorter.
Here are the boys - ready to begin...
Spending time in prayer.
 These are some serious footballers.
 Great save from the goalie!
The tournament was won by a final shootout.
 Lawrence's father found me in the crowd... I haven't seen this man since December 2009, but it was a delightful reunion.
 Jimmy - a fan, a footballer, and a friend.
 The boys each had to come and sign their name on the record sheet.
I verified that they were from Abim and Omoro... because who knew, people like to steal Bibles - they are in very high demand!
But over 60 youth, former LRA captives are now going to have the Word of God in their hands... may their lives be transformed.
At the end of the day, both Obalanga girls and boys stole the tournament.  Trophies and medals were handed out, a meal was shared... and the clean up process began.
We left the village at 8:30 pm, which meant driving back to Soroti in the dark on really rough roads.  I saw my first jackal in Uganda!!