I get to preach Romans 15 three times at Good Shepherd Saturday evening and Sunday morning. There is way too muchÂ to do justice to of course. The Power Point is hereÂ and the outline/summary is here.Â Â I will finish journaling our Uganda trip after I enjoy the preaching.
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.
Crested cranes as beautiful, but also enjoy being quite artistic as they â€œdisplayâ€ 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 Jacksonâ€™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.
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.
We 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 canâ€™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 â€œwet spot.â€ 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 Iâ€™d climbed onto on yesterdayâ€™s boat trip, where I looked up rive to the falls and shot this one. Finally I went up to the â€œwet spotâ€ where the spray drenches one quickly and took this one.
It seemed that the â€œguardsâ€ 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 Jarlsbergâ€™s birthday party at the Italian Restaurant.
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.
â€œThere they are!â€ 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 â€œdo not drive off the roadâ€ 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, â€œhow cute!â€
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 â€“ well I guess antelope donâ€™t!
Our three hour game drive turned into more than five hours. There was so much to see thereâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 â€“ or maybe to wash up.
I loved seeing all the exotic birds. The two that were most fascinating to me were the Fish Eagle â€“ related to the American Bald Eagle â€“ 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.
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 wonâ€™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.
Driving 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 Lordâ€™s Resistance Army were active in this area. Soldiers in their barracks made a â€œno photographsâ€ rule and it stands. I complied since didnâ€™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 â€œsoak the touristsâ€ 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 â€“ 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 poacherâ€™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??
We left the house early because it is the first day of the school term and traffic is a killer. So we pulled out at 6:40 headed for the Hope Alive! country office where the training of the mentors and staff would happen. I tried to get pictures of the traffic and all the students walking but they really didnâ€™t show what was happening. This truck full of police officers shows some of the crowds!
The view from the staff room on the second floor was beautiful. So green with beautiful clouds and lots of people hidden behind the green. Catharine took her rightful place as executive director and we all did some work until the 9:00 teaching time arrived.
Catharine gets gifts from some of the students. One was this fine rooster who proudly oversees his flock. Florence is the full time house lady for the office. One of her jobs is to care for them. She is quite popular when they smell her food.
I love teaching with Bible open on the wall so I can ask questions, point to words, make emphasis, and get people into Godâ€™s word directly. Pauline, financial secretary, is in the green to my left. She is full of life and laughter. She won a Master Card Foundation full ride scholarship to Arizona State University, so you see how bright folk are here. The issue now is getting all her papers from the embassy for her visa. They just take longer sometimes.
As I was finishing up my teaching I heard a weed eater going so I took my tea and found this fellow. He is â€œslashing,â€ cutting grass. It is usually done with a machete, but he is doing the up to date method. I wondered how long it would take him to do that whole area. I asked if he slashed the yard at the country office. No, they said. Someone else had that job though he had to leave a couple of months ago.
As tea finished, I heard James and Catharine talking earnestly about something. They went downstairs, so I followed them. It turned out to be Martin, the former grass slasher. He was dabbing at his right eye and clearly in a lot of pain. As I listened, I heard that his eye had been seriously injured. Surgery had not helped at all. He needed more treatment but had no money at all. It was very likely he would lose his eye, he thought. I heard him say, â€œI have no where to go except to my friends at Hope Alive!â€ We heard more of his story and then gathered around him to pray. James (far right) took him upstairs to see what could be done. What a helpless place to be.
Most of the day Saturday focused on teaching spiritual warfare to the fifteen or so Hope Alive Country staff at the country office. I donâ€™t have to try to get them to believe in the reality of the demonic. Most have had personal experience with it. Most have been taught that you have to go to a gifted pastor to deal with the demon, so my approach to get the person who has been attacked to do their own spiritual work â€“ usually with help from your friends â€“ is very different.
This picture of the group is â€œAfrican styleâ€ with everyone as stiff and serious as possible. They laughed at the â€œrequiredâ€ pose so hard we almost never got the picture taken. â€œAmerican styleâ€ (below) felt much better for this fun loving group.
There are so many fascinating stories here. William, in the sport jacket at the back of the left picture, is a Hope Alive! Africa graduate who is now moving into a mentor role. He is getting 10 students assigned to him so he can mentor the student and also whatever family the student lives with. Where death is so common, it is some times a biological parent, but often an aunt or even an older sibling. Keeping students in family arrangement is crucial to success in life in Africa. He will do Bible study, teach life skills, help with homework in order to help the student learn spiritual and earthly life.
Sunday was Lugogo Baptist Church (http://www.lugogobaptist.org/). We already at the building both Tuesday and Wednesday for HA! sessions, so there were many familiar faces. But I had not met Abby yet. Neither did I get to hold her. She had a very good place with Catharine. The worship was African which means whole person worship which feels a bit weird to this American fellow, but one does get into it. A little girl in front of us was really going until I turned the camera on (of course). You can see her here.
Later a fellow from Congo did a song â€“ full of energetic praise. The congregation joined in. About half way through a group formed spontaneously (I was told â€“ and itâ€™s typical) and danced to the front to express their praise. You can see them here. Sherry thinks this would be good for Grace, my church back in Gresham.
Friday I noticed that I had a sore spot on my right leg above the ankle but didnâ€™t pay much attention. Just a bump. It didnâ€™t improve on Saturday. It was a little hard to sleep since it was painful if I laid on it. I showed it to Sherry and Catharine Sunday morning. Both were concerned. Sherry thought it looked like the cellulitis I had four hers ago, but that spread rapidly and caused both fever and great pain, which were not present. Catharine thought it looked like a bite, which made sense to me. She recommended using a cortisone crÃ¨me which had worked for her. It made the red much deeper and felt good but did not change the pain or the knot.
Catharine knows a physician who is part the World Venture team. He and his wife had arrived on the Saturday midnight flight. I was planning to chat with him Monday â€“ donâ€™t want to cause problems â€“ but both ladies wanted to advance the agenda. Catharine called his wife, knowing she would be going to Dorothyâ€™s shower. Jay was still sleeping but called back later. Catharine sent him a photo and he asked lots of questions before arriving at the cellulitis diagnosis and prescribing an antibiotic. We drove to the pharmacy and bought them over the counter (how different from USA!). I followed doctorâ€™s orders and started taking them immediately.
As we pulled out of Hotel Zebra I was struck by the fellow closest to us in the picture. As you look closely youâ€™ll see the local way of dealing with paraplegia: No wheel chairs or motorized scooters, but this hand cycle. In this case he has help from his children as he heads up the hill. The other traffic is quite common. The motorcycles are â€œBoda Boda,â€ the most common form of public transportation. There are walkers on the side of the road everywhere. This woman with a large bag of something was in a rural area, with no houses anywhere in sight. Just before I snapped the picture, she raised her arms so that her forearms were relieving the burden on her head and neck. I asked Bosco how far she might be walking with this heavy load: â€œ15 or 20 kilometers,â€ he said. My heart went out to her and many others with such loads. If is a blessing to have a bicycle to be your cart especially if you are transporting water containers.
We had to stop at the Equator, of course. If nothing else they have public toilets, a rare thing here. I was more interested in the local people than in shopping so I wandered down the road a bit to find Rachel and her Mom playing and hoping to make a sale. My reaction was to stay on the other side of the road and not interfere. She saw my camera and invited me to take pictures. So I came over and quickly made a new friend. She invited me to look at her wares but I had no money with me. â€œLooking is free,â€ she laughed. I stayed to play with Rachel. If you look, their shop is a shipping container. As we left, I playfully asked Rachel if she wanted to go with me. She took my hand and was ready to get in the car!
As we entered Kampala, Catharine stopped at the Post Office to check mail. The clerk was her friend (not surprisingly she has many friends in this very relational culture) so they chatted happily. Notice the thing here you would never see in a post office in the USA?
We arrived back mid afternoon with a couple of hours free, so I accepted Darrie Turnerâ€™s offer to talk about things Ugandan, especially traditional religions and spiritual warfare. I really appreciated his kind offer especially since he and Debbie got caught in traffic that delayed them nearly an hour. Their stories and experience of people who have to keep the ancestral spirits and local demons happy made me want to preach the gospel of freedom in Christ to everyone. If you do not feed the spirits by spilling some of your food or drink on the ground or do sacrifices of chickens before building or planting, you will be in big trouble. Stories are common of children sacrificed and buried in the foundations of larger buildings. They live in fear of enemies going to a witch doctor to put a curse on you and ruining your life. Over 85% of Ugandans are Christian though many are nominal. They are very syncretistic combining Christian practices with African traditions. A 2010 Pew study showed that about 27% of Ugandans believe that sacrifices to ancestors or spirits can protect them from harm. One common saying is â€œyou canâ€™t have too many gods here.â€ The Gospel must be preached and lived here!
The evening ended with Mutungo Outdoor Theater. Catharine invites friends to gather to enjoy a movie on her lawn with popcorn and snacks, of course. This time Frozen was the feature. It was followed by a supper of butternut squash soup with lots of stores and laughter.
The highlight of the day in many ways was the three home visits. We met Rose, the site supervisor, (going up to the door in the picture) and two of the mentors there and went to the three homes. As you can see, the homes are very humble. There is just one small room, a curtain for a door. No indoor plumbing or cooking place with an open trench to carry the water away.
The first home was Godfrey. He is a pastor in a small church caring for his son, Caleb, and Ivan, a foster child, both Senior 4 which is the the equivalent of our high school. That is when everyone takes their exams. everything depends on your score and you only get one chance. If you do very well, there are scholarships to university and the possibility of a life style with such things as indoor plumbing if you graduate. If you pass, you can go to university, but you have to find your own funding. If you do not pass, then you are pretty much consigned to a life of poverty.
Godfrey kept expressing his gratitude for our visit. When he heard that his home was the first we ever visited, his gratitude exploded! From my American perspective, I have done nothing for him other than my contributions to Hope Alive! Africa (yes, you can do that too!). From his perspective I had honored him immensely.
I expressed blessing to him for being a father faithful to his son as well as other menâ€™s sons. I blessed him for working hard as a porter in a factory job that seems like virtual slave labor to me â€“ he was so grateful to have a job (paying perhaps $30 per month) so he could buy some food, charcoal to cook food, drinking water, and pay his rent (perhaps $12 per month). He left his wife in the village with another child so he could get an education for Caleb. Sherry and I told him of our family and he rejoiced with us. He kept laughing in joy as we talked.
We met Sarah and her daughter, Shamim in the second home. She was a bit embarrassed she had only one â€œchairâ€ for for Sherry to sit on. I joined the others on the reed mat on the floor. After a bit, her son, Sharif, arrived. As we told stories Rose asked if Sarah was ready to be saved. I was a bit taken aback by the question, but folk here are quite open to say they are not saved when talking with believers. Catharine joined Rose is speaking the gospel to Sarah, but she was not ready yet. I asked if she went to church somewhere and she said she was Catholic. We were a bit surprised since her children have Muslim names. That was from her husband who was gone. When we asked if she worked, she was a bit shamed to say she did not. She just does odd jobs any where she can to get money for rent and food. We prayed for her and departed. I asked if I could do a picture so I could pray for the family and found that she felt very honored that I wanted that.
As we approached Annetteâ€™s home, an actual house which she managed to acquire through hard work and some gifts from others, I saw four grave stones. They were her husband and three of his brothers, all dying of AIDS, the epidemic disease here. Annette had been a widow since 2002 and was HIV positive herself. She brought out two chairs and insisted that I join Sherry there while the others sat on mats on the grass. From the right are Peter, her cousin, Ben, the HA! mentor, Norman and Collins, her sons, Annette, Catharine, and Rose, the site supervisor.
Annette asked if we would like a soda. I was clueless as to what to say. Knowing her poverty, I was inclined to decline. Suspecting that her generosity was real, and taking some facial clues from Catharine and Rose, I accepted. Of course I wanted to whip out my wallet and pay but that would only despise her hospitality. She was very pleased to give us something. I still marvel how I measure everything in economic terms even though I cognitively know honor-shame, and hospitality. Then we had do figure out which soda to get. No way I was choosing Coke since that would be more expensive. They enjoyed explaining Ugandan sodas and we decided to have Fruitee.
Collins is a top student and also a gifted football player at position 8 (striker in soccer). I said the Portland Timbers needed him. It turns out some from their area are top professionals in Europe, UK, and America. There is real possibility that he could join them. But school is his first priority. Norman is the brilliant student, loving science especially. Annette glowed as we pulled the stories out of her sons. As in the other homes, we asked for prayer requests. I was struck that Annette asked for a very real gift: Life.
The family joined us as we walked to the car. I looked behind me to see this scene. I am very glad she a woman in the most dire straits is saved, marveling that she smiles and blesses everyone. I want to have her attitude of joy, generosity and hospitality in my position of richness and privilege.
We checked into the Hotel Zebra, getting excellent help as you can see. The video is here. The entrance to the hotel was not so impressive, but the facility was very nice. Only problem is that there was no electricity in the town so everything was dark. The greeter assured us that the generator would go on soon and be on all night. I will admit I was skeptical, but his word was good. After we got checked in we went to visit some of the homes of the students. I will put that in a different post since it was so moving.
Thursdayâ€™s supper and Fridayâ€™s breakfast were on the veranda. I find that I am a huge fan on Katogo, a savory mix of . . . well I am not sure what. Iâ€™ll have to find out. [Update: it has many variations but always includes matooke, a kind of green banana, and a sauce often with inexpensive meat â€“ it was a poor manâ€™s food which has become very popular]
I was deeply touched by the attitude of the mentors, especially Patrick. He was a student from extreme poverty who enrolled in the Hope Alive! Africa program, graduated last year and is now serving as an intern. I have rarely seen some one so bright and also so committed to humble service. His love for Jesus came out strongly as he took a turn leading in the singing and then prayed. Wish I could have gotten more of his story â€“ but he was too busy serving.