Uganda–Final Thoughts

June 28th, 2014

The Uganda experience has been a center of my pondering in the three weeks since we returned. I wonder about the depth of their joy in the midst of deep poverty, injustice, and overall economic hopelessness. It is more than a superficial smile. It is a joy in the presence of Jesus. This is such a contrast to the American scene where cynicism reigns and any unfilled desire often leads to an angry response.  The difference seems to be the American entitlement and the African “normalcy” of death and disaster. Houses with electricity will have an indicator light so inhabitants will know the electricity is off so as not to use up the battery power unnecessarily. We dress down to show our casualness where they dress up to show that they are not bound by their poverty. The “big man” syndrome is in deep contrast to the American egalitarian.

Shamila’s dark slum house with the “local brew” seating with very drunk men immediately next to the tiny living space where girls and woman were ripe for abuse haunts me. Rebekah is not yet 2 but she needs a safe living space. But there is none. Rose’s tearful prayer request that her business would make some money rings in my spirit. She does not want a handout. She wants help and the dignity of work. Fred drives day and night to get his family out of the slum into a two room house with a yard. Running water is far beyond his hope. But even in their humble state, the hospitality was rich.

Hope Alive! Africa (http://www.hopealiveafrica.org/) is providing genuine help so people can live rather than a handout. Help is far harder and takes much longer than a handout which alleviates immediate problems but often creates dependency and promotes our internal Messiah complex and inflated sense of self.

The Rest of the Story

Ambrose did not get his government scholarship. He is praying that somewhere he will be able to find private funding for his desire to study electrical engineering. Contributions through Hope Alive! could be life long help to him and others like him. Catharine and the HA! staff exist to be a help to hard working students like him.

My cellulitis responded to the two weeks of antibiotics. I rejoice that I had a physician to diagnose and tell me what medicine would help and that I had plenty of funds to purchase them. Many of the folk there would have no such resources available. Disease and deformity and death are constant visitors.

Martin did get concrete help for his seriously damage eye. James (on the right) ended up going with him to the hospital to ensure the doctor really invested in his care. The pebble his weed eater had propelled into his eye had ruined the cornea and the underlying structures. There was no choice but to remove they eye. In his helplessness he had come to Hope Alive! his former employer because he had experienced the kindness of the Lord there.

As Catharine says, Hope is the confident, active expectation of good based on the character of God.

Uganda Last Days

June 21st, 2014

We left Wednesday and Thursday, our last two days unscheduled, figuring that things would come up or that we’d need some rest time before we began the journey home. That turned out to be a very good decision. Most every moment was spent in personal conversations with World Venture missionaries flowing out of Tuesday’s teaching time. So Café Javas was Thursday’s meeting place.

It felt a bit weird to be in a place that could have been imported directly from South East Portland. I sat on the veranda with a great view of the garden below and of the new Hilton they are building.

The hotel dominates the skyline from most every angle and reeks  in rich luxury. It fascinated me for the sake of contrasts.

I got this picture beginning with a car wash – just a lot with poor men hand carrying water in jerry cans to wash cars making a few cents per car – then very nice nice buildings behind, and then the dominating hotel. The slum where Shamila and Rose live with Rebekah and Emmy is in another universe, just a kilometer away.

The conversations ranged from sharing life to wrestling with impossible challenges. Loved getting to know these amazing people and hearing their stories.

Wednesday evening was the second teaching time at Lugogo Baptist Church. We arrived early so I could spend time with the people. I was glad to see Emma again. He had impressed me with his positive spirit, deep love for Jesus and obvious intelligence.

I asked for his story about getting into the Hope Alive! Africa project. His story was almost too much to hear. He and his brother – maybe 8 and 9 – had been in their slum home, alone after the adults went to earn a few schillings. They heard a loud noise in the early morning, ran out to see bulldozers coming to raze all the houses in the area. Frantically the little boys dragged their few possessions out of the path of the bulldozers. Emma described their panic, what it felt like to see their home being destroyed, the impossible task to get things out, the blood flowing freely from the ripped skin of their small arms.

People contacted Hope Alive! and they came to help. A hired truck was there to get their meager possessions off the ground, but there was no place to go. Their mother went back to the village but the boys wanted to stay in the city so they could go to school. The ended up joining another family in their tiny slum home.

Such systemic injustice is common. There is a law that says if construction displaces people, the owner must help resettle the people. But a bribe to an official is all it takes to evade this responsibility. It happens often in the economic miracle of Africa. The economy progresses, a very good thing, but at the cost of lives of the poor and oppressed, a tragic thing.

 

The teaching time was a delight. Listening to stories for nearly three weeks gave me a better connection with the culture so I was able to make better application of the biblical principles. The people responded eagerly to my question and answer style and the discussion was animated.

 

Getting to know Pastor Dennis was a delight but a frustration because we had so little time to talk. His delight as I used my Bible projected to answer questions is a technique he will adopt, I think. He was going to a pastors’ conference focused on the nature of God, a most important question. So we were soon into intense Bible based discussion of our understanding of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a deep spirituality he showed. I wanted to spend a lot more time with him. Another trip.

Thursday evening meant packing. Catharine was traveling on the same flight, heading to a World Venture Summit and the last session of her doctor of ministry program. Pip’s polite request that he be allowed to go with was denied and we left for the long drive to Entebbe. Traffic was dense and the 90 minute trip took almost 2 1/2 hours. We made use of Catharine’s Platinum status to get a quick check in and spent some time in the KLM traveler’s lounge, a first for me.

The 11:45 pm departure meant the 8 hour flight to Amsterdam was almost all in the dark. I missed seeing the Sahara and the Mediterranean coast. But the Greek Islands shone out like pearls in the night. Three hours in Amsterdam and an 11 hour flight to Portland was blessedly uneventful if really long. My own bed  felt really good!

Uganda Tuesday

June 15th, 2014

Doing the spiritual warfare training (resources here) with the World Venture missionaries (here) was an event I’d been looking forward to. We had met many of them already, enjoying the interactions with fascinating people. As I expected the session got deep fast with lots of interaction and immediate application. Of course tea and conversations followed with individuals asking very personal questions.

Sherry and I went to find Florence, the lady who is the care taker of the Hope Alive! Africa country office (in the background of the picture). We had enjoyed talking with her, seeing her delight in serving and making sure everything was clean and ready for use. As we shared stories of our children I was struck with the vast difference in lifestyle between rich Americans and a lady who lives in a slum. But we have a common love for children and Jesus.

We gave her a book mark, explaining that the wooden piece was the outline of our state of Oregon and the heart cut out in the middle was our commitment to love and pray for her. You would think we had given her the crown jewels! Then she knelt down in front of me and then in front of Sherry to express her gratitude. Fortunately I’d been warned so I didn’t reach to lift her up to alleviate my discomfort.

We went to a home visit to see Shamila and her family. We were welcomed into her house warmly. I was taken  aback to see a very drunk man laying in the front part of the tiny slum home. Then I remembered that her mother supported the family by being the dispenser of “home brew” for the people in the slum. There is a VERY strong pressure for young women to grant sexual favors to

men and to get pregnant. The narrative is “No man will accept you as a wife until you prove you can bear children.” It is a formula for abuse. Since her whole life is spent in the immediate vicinity of drunk men, it is no surprise that Shamila got pregnant. That means she has to leave school. But unlike many others, Shamila had the resources of Hope Alive! to help and redemption work kicked in. She went to live with Carol, the site supervisor and her husband as she delivered. There she saw first hand what marriage and family can be. Revolutionary. She is taking a year to raise Nimungu Emanuel (Emma) and her sister’s 2 year old, Rebekah, while she is in police training for a year.

Shamila woke Emma up from his nap and of course I soon had him in my lap. He just stared at me as if to say “what is this strange creature holding me?” Even as I smiled and talked with him, I felt very much the mzungu (Swahili for someone who wanders without purpose / someone constantly on the move. Now it is the general word for white person, people without family, village, or tribe.) I just felt the outsider trying to understand how one lives successfully. Emma got some lunch from Shamila and soon was smiling and enjoying us playing with him.

We went to Rose’s home which was back to back with Shamila’s. The difference was striking. Where Shamila’s was literally and metaphorically dark, Rose’s was filled with light. The results of a gospel life in the extreme economic poverty of the slum was overshadowed with the hope of Jesus. Her son, Stephen, a Hope Alive! project graduate is working in a high tech job and supporting his family. Rose bubbled with joy as we talked. This is where Shamila can find good support as she raises the children and her Mother tries to make money selling mangos in the street so she can stop serving local brew.

We had supper with Jay and Kait. She did a a short term as a nurse with Hope Alive! and decided to give her life to serving in Uganda. Then she met Jay, a godly fun physician who wanted to marry her. “Only if you come to Uganda,” she said. God overcame his initial lack of interest and they were married. Now his Indian ethnicity has given them wide open doors to work in this largely unreached powerful East African sub-community of professional and merchants. Listening to their story against the earlier time with Shamila highlighted the power of the gospel in the lowest and the highest strata’s of society.

Uganda Sunday Monday Julius and Grace

June 4th, 2014

I was very much looking forward to seeing Julius and Grace Twongyeirwe. They have been in our home here while Julius was an M.Div. and D.Miss. student at Western so we had heard a lot about Proclamation Task (http://www.proctask.org) and its mission to train African pastors for effective Bible exposition focused ministry in a world where exposition is quite unusual, in part because there is no training or resources available.

Julius asked I preached at Berea Baptist on Sunday. The morning began with the the Bible study hour on the packed veranda of a local school. It was a nice day, but I wondered what would happen if it were a windy rainy day. Later during the service a wind gust blew the screen over which was a bit disruptive! The young men quickly tied the screen to the railing and all was fine after.

As I sat enjoying the leadership of the young man leading the study, I watched the primary school children from the boarding school struggling to get water from the tap in the yard. I wonder how many American children would do that with laughter and partnership as they were doing.

After church we went to a local eatery to have lunch. Abby found that they were doing free face painting so her brilliant personality came out delightfully! Isabelle is in university studying law and doing super well. She was the only first year student ever to make the finals of the mock trial. It was a delight to hear her heart for advocating for the powerless in Africa as well as leading the worship ministry at the church.

On Monday we went to their home in north east Kampala. When they bought the ground is was jungle. Grace’s Mom first cried and then was angry at Julius for taking her daughter there. Now it is a very nice compound with city all around. Grace adds to their income by raising 500 chickens for sale. She leads Shalom ministry which helps other pastors do such things so they can sustain their life while pastoring.

We drove 17 kilometers north of the Proclamation Task training center. Because it is located on top of a hill outside of the city, there were many witchcraft shrines there. Julius greeted the witchdoctors and told them that as they walked and prayed, it would disrupt their activities spiritually. All have moved now. Julius continues to invite them to the PT activities Smile

The building is quite large with four classrooms, a chapel and supporting living space and toilets. The roof is a recent addition. Now if they can get sufficient funds for windows and doors, they can keep the cows out and begin training activities. You can help!

Afternoon was Ugandan lunch and shopping at a shop in the African craft mall. One of Grace’s BSF leaders had a nice shop and we enjoy talking as we shopped.

Uganda Friday and Saturday

June 2nd, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have been looking forward to spending time with David and Abby Kakeeto. They have founded A Perfect Injustice, a ministry to street kids in Kampala.

You can see some of what they do here or at their Facebook page here. They have a home where the boys can get off the street and live in a safe environment. They

have successfully brought more than 35 boys into their homes. What I didn’t know is that they also do home resettlements, reuniting street children with their biological families and communities. Since in Africa a person without a family and a tribe is lost, this is critically important. To date they have done more than 100 resettlements.

P4220016We met them for lunch in Old Kampala, close to the Gaddafi Mosque not far from their home. They offered to go to the American style coffee shop or K2, a local Ugandan hole in the wall restaurant. Of course we chose the latter. It was Sherry’s first taste of Ugandan fare. The yummy beef in g-nut sauce (ground nut, or peanut as we call it) came steamed in a banana leaf.

Labeled LunchThat went on top of the other items on the lunch plate. Matooke is a staple food. It’s a green banana which is mashed and steamed cooked. Posho, another starchy staple, is finely ground white corn flour which is mixed with boiling water until it gets stiff.  The others have common names, but different flavors. I topped mine off with fresh mango juice as we sat and talked for a couple of hours.

The only challenge was walking to the restaurant. This is NOT Portland where pedestrians have right of way. Rather they have the lowest level of priority. One of the few walk lights in all Kampala helped us cross the very busy main street. Most of the cars gave way for Sherry with her cane, but not so the bodas, the little motorcycles, which are the main form of public transportation.

Saturday was Dorothy’s wedding to David and the Watoto Central Church, a large downtown church with branches all over the Kampala as well as other cities. David is one of the leaders in small group ministry there. Dorothy is an orphan for whom Hope Alive! Africa has literally been a life saver. Dorothy is delightful but there were some difficult family dynamics with her aunts and cousins: Think Cinderella and you’ll be close.

P4230003We’d missed the “Introduction” which is the traditional wedding so we were at the big church wedding. I’d wondered what the Ugandan ceremony would be like. It turned out that the Anglican prayer book had influenced things so that it wasn’t all that different until the end when the extended family members were invited up to join the prayer. P4230009Then everyone was invited up to meet the couple. You don’t walk up of course. You dance up! One of the men held a a large basket where you could put money to help them get started. Big hugs were the norm.

The reception was later in the afternoon. We skipped it since listening to many speeches from family I didn’t know out weighed the interest in  the Ugandan dancing that would be a big part of the time.

I used the time to give solid reading the draft of Randy Alcorn’s new book, hand in Hand, which he graciously allowed me to comment on. It is his development of the age old issue of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

Romans 15 at Good Shepherd Community Church

May 31st, 2014

I get to preach Romans 15 three times at Good Shepherd Saturday evening and Sunday morning. There is way too much to do justice to of course. The Power Point is here and the outline/summary is here.  I will finish journaling our Uganda trip after I enjoy the preaching.

Murchison Animals on Video

May 30th, 2014

The still pictures are good, but videos are even more powerful.

Of course the winner is the lioness and her cubs on the hunt here. If you listen closely, you will hear her calling her cubs.

I love watching giraffes moving across in their stately elegance across the savannah here or feeding in the forest here

Crested cranes as beautiful, but also enjoy being quite artistic as they “display” trying to stir up an interest in romance here. It is common in humans too, but usually is not see elegant.

There are SO many antelope in the park, ranging from the small oribi to the comic Jackson’s Hartebeest to the national animal of Uganda, the Kob with its curling horns. They are in this video here. There are also the larger darker waterbuck.

The trip up the Victoria Nile allowed us to see a riverside elephant family here.

Hippos are very common. The female group here included a mother and small son here. On the  other side of the river was Mr. hippo here.

Crocodiles are fascinating but We saw several sunning themselves, laying with their mouths open, or running alongside the water. I was despairing of getting a picture because they were all to quick to slide back into the river. The very last one we saw was not in quite so big a hurry as you can see here.

God loves to create a wide variety of amazing animals.

Uganda Murchison Falls Thursday

May 30th, 2014

 

IMG_5883At the top of the Murchison FallsWe began our our trip to the top of Murchison Falls with a ferry crossing of the Victoria Nile. What we had seen from below was far more dramatic from the top as the whole river goes through a slot in the cliff that is just a six meters wide. Still pictures can’t do justice to the scene at all, so I took videos. This one is from the level of the bridge that was built in 1960. It lasted two years before the river rose up and destroyed it. If you look closely you will see the river reaching up toward me as well as Pious and Sherry at the “wet spot.” Then I walked to the top of the falls and took this one. Then I walked down river to over look the most intense part of the falls and took this one. I zoomed to see the little island I’d climbed onto on yesterday’s boat trip, where I looked up rive to the falls and shot this one. Finally I went up to the “wet spot” where the spray drenches one quickly and took this one.

IMG_5884IMG_5900

It seemed that the “guards” were not going to allow us to leave as we headed for the south gate and into Masindi and continued back to Kampala for Connie Jarlsberg’s birthday party at the Italian Restaurant.

Uganda Murchison Falls Wednesday

May 26th, 2014

We began our full day in the park early taking our breakfast as soon as the restaurant was open. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the forest down to the Victoria Nile is a fabulous way to get a day going.

I had asked Henry to join us since he had done so well on Tuesday. It was a good decision. As we drove through the savannah, seeing all sorts of animals, we discovered he was a bird expert too. That delighted Catharine, who is also a birder. There some others in the Lodge, and more stereotypical birders: dress in odd clothing, totally earnest, carrying telescopes and large lens cameras. Not a smile in the group.

The White Nile came into view as we crossed the high ridge, but our interest was else where: the antelope were running for no apparent reason. That signals lions on the move. Henry and George, our driver, lead us in searching through our binoculars. We drove further. At one point George climbed up on top of the Range Rover peering intently up the hill.

“There they are!” he cried excitedly. They were far away, but there was no doubt about it. Henry directed George to drive up that way. As a senior ranger he could over rule the “do not drive off the road” rule. We went up the hill through trees and savannah, toward the spot they thought the lions might come out.

 

And they did! A lioness emerged from the trees moving purposefully. We watched intently only to see her look back and call her cubs. First there were three and then another larger one came. Henry explained the last one was probably not her cub, but one that had joined for some reason.

Even through it was getting big enough to be really dangerous, I could not but think, “how cute!”

They kept moving behind a tree and then into view again for a bit. Finally they were out of sight, looking for lunch. Who cannot marvel at such things – well I guess antelope don’t!

Our three hour game drive turned into more than five hours. There was so much to see there’s no way to get it all into a journal entry. There are more pictures here if you want to take a look. I will put videos into the final travel blog when I get to cheaper internet.

After lunch, we went down to the boat to journey up the Victoria Nile the see the bottom of Murchison Falls. The day was beautiful made even better by the fact that there were not many people so we got to take the new smaller plush boat with soft seats.

The hippos were everywhere, their distinctive snort rolling across the water. This was just one of the many hippo families we watched feeding in the afternoon sun.

The crocodiles were large but quickly slid into the water as the boat approached. It wasn’t until nearing the end of the trip that I was able to catch one on video.

The elephants are always fun to watch. Catharine caught the picture of the day when this big one decided the sun was a bit hot and he needed to cool down – or maybe to wash up.

Fish EagleMalakite King Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved seeing all the exotic birds. The two that were most fascinating to me were the Fish Eagle – related to the American Bald Eagle – and the Malakite King Fisher. Both are super colorful and a complete delight to watch.

As we continued up the river the foam thickened, indicating that the falls were near. We pulled up to a small island near the trail that  you can hike up to get to the top of the falls (next time?). The captain maneuvered the boat carefully and finally he allowed us to step off and climb up a rock to get the best view of the falls.

On the island closest to the falls
I will stand on that bit of rock above the falls on the rightOf course I climbed up to the top – and not just because of the view which was spectacular. What a wonder to think that the huge volume of the Victoria Nile comes through that tiny split in the rocks.
 
The journey back down the river went way too quickly and soon we were docked and headed back to the lodge.
 
P4210005Sherry decided to a massage and discovered that the masseuse was a fervent Christian so they had a great conversation. Catharine and I jumped into the pool and fulfilled a smile as we sat on underwater stools and sipped our juice. Then it was dinner on the veranda with Pious joining us.

Uganda Murchison Falls Tuesday

May 25th, 2014

There is just no way I can express the beauty of this park! I put pictures on my facebook page here. Since internet connectivity is expensive I won’t repeat them here.

A large number of people live in extremely modest housing, usually just a single small room with no water or electricity. They cook with charcoal and carry water from a common pump in the area. The problem is that well to do people want to build nicer houses so they just bulldoze these and the people have to find another place to live, usually far away from the place where their lives have centered. You can imagine the disruption.

P4190026Driving up, I was struck by the public nature of life here. Everything happens in front of the little shops and rooms where folk live. It is hard to get pictures of as we drive along. The bodas (small motorcycles that are a primary form of public transportation) are everywhere, hauling everything. We saw one group of people struggling to fasten a coffin to the back of a boda.

We had our first view of the Nile as we crossed at Karuma Falls. Catharine and Pious (our driver) both warned me not to take pictures. This was one of the hot spots back in the day when Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army were active in this area. Soldiers in their barracks made a “no photographs” rule and it stands. I complied since didn’t want my camera confiscated. As we crossed the Ayago Bridge, Pious told us that the LRA would hide under the bridge and jump out to ambush passing vehicles, attacking people, stealing everything, and burning the cars. He was caught in an ambush once and escaped only by bending as low as possible with bullets flying everywhere.

The entrance to the park was a chance to stretch our legs and pay a lot of money to visit. While there is some of the “soak the tourists” mentality, and I fully agree with paying for the chance to see such beauty. We laughed and worshipped as we began to see all sorts of animals, but hurried on so we could catch the lunch at the lodge. The Paraa Lodge has the style of British elegance so we were welcomed with hot towels and fresh passion juice.

We went for an afternoon game drive and Pious found Henry, a senior ranger, who guided us. They were amazing. Herds of water buffalo, families of wart hogs, huddles of giraffes, clusters of elephants including babies, four kinds of antelope including Kob the national animal and my favorite, the tiny Oribi, and birds of all kinds including huge eagles and storks, but it all topped off with the lions.

The rules are NO off road driving – strictly enforced!! But Henry told Pious to go there and soon we were watching a lioness in full relax. She rolled over on her back inviting us to come rub her tummy. We resisted the call! We were just 25 feet or so away, so we got a good look at her.

But that was just the beginning. Henry took us back near the airport and again told Pious to go off road. We drove through the savannah nearly a kilometer to find two lions.

The first lion was a tragic story since he had lost one of his back legs, probably to a poacher’s snare. After a bit Henry moved us to another tree with a second lion. We awe struck as we watched them from just a few feet away. He stretched, yawned, looked and then decided the shade was better in front of our Land Rover, so he ambled over and laid down just in front of the bumper and relaxed. Can you spell unbelievable??