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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chalbi Desert

Here is a glimpse into my journey into Northern Kenya...
 Sitting comfy on a tiny aircraft, flying out of Niarobi
 Fields of tea
 The landscape was getting drier... on the left side of the plane was a foggy, snow-capped Mt Kenya... I just couldn't get a good pictures!
 Gorgeous hills!
 Sandy regions
 The airport in Marsabit... yes... just a gravel runway with a shade shelter and a pit latrine.
Driving to Kalachi, in the Chalbi Desert at night.  Pure sand and salt.
I don't have much to say right now... I am completely relaxing with my Andersen friends... I have done nothing but hang out with them!!  This break is so greatly needed.

Gulu Update

Two weekends ago I traveled with a local church to encourage two lonely, struggling churches in Gulu.  I had never been to Gulu and it took almost 5 hours by bus (it could have taken 3 if I drove) and so we arrived a little later than expected.  Hopping on a few pikis, we rode a few kilometres out of town to speak to a church filled with kids.  The next morning I went back to that church to share a story with the many children there.
The children were excited to hear about how God chose them!
 I love dancing with the kids. 
On Sunday morning, after leading a whole service in the small church, we packed back on to the bikes and dodged the muddy puddles as we found our way to a second church.  There, one of the pastors said to me: Okay Karen, at this church I need you to preach.  A children's story was nice, but these people need you to preach.  Wow, talk about a stretching moment.  I prayed for guidance and as the worship was on, and another preacher spoke, I came up with a sermon.
 This church was thirsty for God's Word!
 Here I am - sitting with church leaders... each one of us did a small sermon.
Christ died for us!!
Here I am - in traditional Ugandan wear... I have learned how to turn people's heads!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Journey to Marsabit

The director of Kampala Coach bus company calls to say “sorry, the bus has a problem and will not be making the journey from Juba to Nairobi today... you just travel tomorrow.”  No, I can’t just travel tomorrow; I have a plane to catch in Nairobi.  So I quickly finished packing my bags and parked my car at a team-mates house.  A friend picked me from there on his piki-piki (motorcycle) and we went to main street Soroti to see if we could find transport that would begin my journey to Nairobi.  Just as we were pulling on to Main Street, the Teso Coach started to pull out.  We chased the bus, honked and the bus pulled over and let me hop on.  Amazingly there was still a seat on the bus for me... with two Christian ladies, who come from the same church where I helped lead the one week children’s camp.  God is so good.  The conductor only charged me 8,000 ugx to ride which made my seatmates upset, because they were charged 10,000.  The conductor told them that’s because they boarded at the bus park (even though I was only getting on maybe 300 metres down the road).  We all ended up having a good laugh, because usually mzungus are charged more, but this time I was an Atesot.  Yeah.

Sunday night, after a two hour bus ride, I reached Mbale and stayed with wonderful friends there.  We talked, watched a video called “Judgment” with Mr.T, and spent time in prayer before I settled in a guest house for the night.  As early as possible on Monday morning I walked over to the taxi park to find a matatu (14 passenger van) that would carry me to the Malaba (Kenya) border.  I stayed away from all the money changers and walked the many meters between each customs point before finding a bus on the Kenyan side.  To my surprise there was a Kampala Coach reloading after customs... it had come from Kampala instead of the Sudan.  There were extra seats, so I was able to book a ticked and by 11 am we were on our way to Nairobi. 

The journey was good.  Lunch in Eldoret.  I spotted 27 zebras, loads of deer and a bunch of elk (elands) on the side of the road.  Reached Nairobi at 7:30 pm only to be stuck in an accident jam for 40 minutes, with rain leaking through the seals of my window.  At 8:15 we finally reached the bus park.  A taxi driver found me as I was coming off of the bus, and he promised to take me to the guest house.  This driver knew the place, but was a horrible driver... rude, impatient, and honking at everyone.  I was so grateful to get out of the car and finally enter the guest house at 8:40 pm.  I took a long hot BATH and rested for the evening.

Tuesday morning I joined the other guests for a French toast breakfast before getting in a van at 8:40 am and heading for Wilson airport.  So intriguing.  I arrived at a MAF (Missions Aviation Fellowship) building amongst a bunch of warehouses.  The first room I enter has weighing scales.  I placed my 13 out of 20 kg’s worth of on the scale and then it was tagged for Marsabit.  Next I had to step on the scale so they know how much fuel to put on the plane.  J  Walking over to the next door, I paid the bill and sat in a small waiting room for 10 minutes before 3 of us were taken in a van over to the departures building about 500 metres away.  After waiting maybe another 10 minutes, we were escorted outside to a small six-seater MAF plane.  The female pilot was checking all the gages when we arrived.  She welcomed us aboard, prayed with us, and started the propeller engine.  Within moments were taking off for our two hour flight to northern Kenya.

The scenery was amazing.  It went from lush green, to rolling hills, to the snow-capped Mt. Kenya, to drier parts.  When taking off she said we would have a relatively smooth ride, but there were moments when I was glad the little black bag was near.  It wasn’t the smoothes flight, but thankfully I never lost my delicious breakfast.  In the distance I started to see a decent sized village, and before I knew it, we were circling in to that same town.  A gravel runway out in the middle of no-where.  A soft touch down and the three of us exited the plane.  My two travel companions hopped in vehicles and took off.  A FH (Food for the Hungry) vehicle arrived to bring more fuel for the plane.  The guys asked me if I needed any help... since there was nothing around... just a simple shelter for shade and a pit latrine.  I explained that I was waiting for a friend to arrive from Kalacha – a few hours’ drive into the Chalbi desert.  I couldn’t get hold of Eddie on the phone and so I thought I should remain at the airport until he comes to find me there. 

The airplane took off for another village and I took out my Sudoku puzzle book.  Peace reigned as I watched the stirrings of outer Marsabit.  Sheep herders sat out in the hot sun while their flock munched on dry grasses.  The wind turned up small funnels of dirt and uniformed school kids ran up the path following the fence of the runway.  I knew I had water, and I soon got hold of a phone number for another Africa Inland Missionary, in case I needed it, but within 20 minutes the FH vehicle came back.  The driver asked if I was Karen.  Apparently Eddie had left a message the day before for me to ride with FH into town because he had a meeting to attend.  I chuckled and hopped into the vehicle.  Off to the office we go.  I sat in the board room and read for a while, but then I started getting bored and hungry.  At 1 pm I decided to go for a walk.  I explored the whole town of Marsabit.  The streets are filled with vegetable and cloth vendors and the northern people are a beautiful bunch.  The Islamic people are wrapped in glittery cloths and the tribal people have their necks, head, and ears loaded with small beads.  I wish I felt freer to take pictures, but I hate being a tourist and this is their home.  English was hard to find and I felt bad for not knowing any Kiswahili.  FYI, TMI – I delightfully found a package of feminine pads in some far, back corner shop – I forgot to pack them for my two week getaway and was just thinking that morning about what I was going to do.  I was starting to imagine that I was going to be a real village woman and go sit on a rock for a few days.  J

After touring town I found a restaurant with strings of beads decorating the door that could offer me water, stew, and corn meal ugali.  I ate in peace before heading back to FH, where I was presented with a cup of chai and told that I would need to keep waiting.

Well, now it’s 5:30 pm... still no sign of Eddie.  FH has transferred me to their guest house... I’ve emailed Rachel that I’m safe in Marsabit and that I’ll see her when I see her.  Oh... TIA (This Is Africa)... things never happen according to plan or time.  J 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Team Time

     Lacking a laptop at the moment, I'm simply going to have to use words to tell you about my life.  Without a laptop, I can't upload pictures, send newsletters, watch videos, or keep up with my NGO documents, but thankfully I have a tiny netbook to help me get by. 
     I want to say how grateful I am for my team that I serve with here in Soroti.  They are wonderful people and they truly support me and encourage me.  I have often struggled with there being so many mzungus in Soroti, but at the same time I wouldn't want it any other way.  We are all here to live out Christian lives in every area of ministry - whether evangelism, training church leaders, being in the school system, visiting the lost in the market, walking alongside the street boys, nursing, living out a heart for adoption, and so much more.  As much as I love being in Africa, I will forever me a westerner, so it's also nice to get together with my team, to share delicious meals, worship together, laugh, cry, and study God's Word.  Sometimes we help each other get through cultural frustrations and remind each other why the Lord has brought each one of us here.
     Two weeks ago, the Obule team (which is half of the Team Beyond members here in Soroti) had a three day retreat.  My friend Beckie and I were going to go with on the retreat to help with child care while the adults had their meetings.  Due to so much rain lately, we were unable to make it to Mbale, although not for a lack of trying - three vehicles went out one morning to see if we could find some way to cross Awoja river, but to no avail... so we returned to Soroti and planned a spiritual retreat from home.  Beckie and I had a blast looking after the kids in my home.  They came on Thursday from 9-5... for playing, worship, crafts, hiking, a meal, stories, and sack races.  On Friday morning we repeated the program with the children and finished off the retreat at a hotel with a buffet lunch for all.  The kids were refreshed and excited to have a fun program in our own city and the adults were grateful that they could be without their kids for at least 8 hours - so they could watch a video seres on prayer and spending time talking to God together.
     The day following the retreat I began looking after baby Kate.  She is a new addition to our team, in the process of being adopted by the Tiesenga's.  The Tiesenga's needed to leave the country to get their visa's renewed so I spent four days being a single mom while trying to keep up with ministry.  Wow, that is a lot of work.  Kate is a great baby - sleeps well, so happy, but I just want to say that I am proud of all those single parents out there who can really make it work!!  People ask me if I am ever going to adopt a baby from here... and I would love to, but there is absolutely no way that I am going to do that alone!!  So, all things will have to wait - in God's perfect timing.
     Ladies Bible study on Monday nights continues to be a huge blessing... we are studying "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby and it's so very good.  Waiting on God, hearing His voice, how to be a unified member in the body, and so much more.  I have come to realize even more that God is my Rock and Fortress through all things.  My Prince of Peace.
    Hopefully the motherboard and chipset will arrive soon from Kampala so that I can have my laptop back soon... then I can upload picks of both the retreat and the latest speaking assignment I had in Gulu town.  :) 
     On a note of praise, the NGO board in Kampala just accepted my application to get a work permit, so now my papers have been transferred to the Immigration office.  I'm praying that before Christmas I will have a three year work permit in my passport!!  I ask for your prayers in this too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

While living in the Philippines, I heard this wonderful artist and over the years this song has grately touched my heart.  Today my ipod shuffled to this song again and I burst into tears.  Sometimes I strive to remain strong in the Lord, and to work hard for His glory, but sometimes I just want to crawl into His lap and admit that I am just a child.  I'm so glad my Father in Heaven is there to wrap His loving arms around me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bululu Youth Conference

The village of Bululu requested that I come back to help lead a two day youth conference.  I was excited to once again go out to this remote place and teach these hungry people.
 On Thursday, 90 youth gathered together to listen to Pius preach, to sing songs, to play games and share a meal.
 The theme was the "Peace of Christ" and thankfully God placed some wonderful stories on my heart to share.  And Max Lucado was also very helpful - I love his children's books.
 Here I am teaching the children how to have a sack race...
And before you knew it... the boys were fighting for a prize.
 The girls were also super excited to play!
 Day 2, even more youth camp... up to 125 gathered for worship and teachings.
Here I am sharing with the group about the story of Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Praise God, the tomb is EMPTY!