Time in Uganda

Let's Get Started

OK. I think it is about time to populate this blog with accounts of the 2010 Onalaska Church of Christ / Good Shepherd Lutheran Church mission trip to Uganda. I have access to two journals and will create posts from these.

To start with, there will be day-by-day entries following the intinerary published below. Whenever I add the posts for a particular day, I'll change the color of the text in the list from gray to green. So, you'll know how far along we are.

With that, it is time to post... Updated May 15, 2010

The 2010 Trip - Day by Day

Day 1 ~ Thursday False start due to weather in La Crosse and Chicago

Day 2 ~ Friday La Crosse to Chicago and on the way to Brussels

Day 3 ~ Saturday Brussels to Kigali, Rwanda and on to Entebbe Arrive in Uganda at about 10:30 p.m.

Day 4 ~ Sunday Drive to Tororo; church service in the afternoon

Day 5 ~ Monday Bike repair service project at church and school; Visit to Aturukuku Primary School

Day 6 ~ Tuesday Visit Patewo Primary School; Lunch at Sam's mom's home; Attend service at Butaleja church

Day 7 ~ Wednesday Visit the Mbale Mission; Attend service at Kachumbala church

Day 8 ~ Thursday Visit prison near Tororo with Fabian; Women's program at Milca's

Day 9 ~ Friday Follow-up meeting at Aturukuku; Drive to Kampala

Days 10, 11, 12 ~ Saturday through Monday Visit Murchison Falls National Park and the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary; return to Kampala

Day 13 ~ Tuesday Shopping in Kampala; Depart for Brussels at 11:40 p.m.

Day 14 ~ Wednesday Brussels to Chicago to La Crosse; Home!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rural Experience

Entry from Eileen's journal
Entry from Jack's journal follows

Tuesday, January 12
Around 3 a.m. I broke the toilet lid – couldn’t get it up fast enough and fell on it. Sigh. I am grateful Milca’s toilets are not the hole-in-the-ground type. Grateful, grateful. My back . . . ! 5:20 a.m., I finally get up for the day. Hard to sleep with Aturukuku School on my mind. When leaving a young mother’s four little ones started chanting, “Muzungu, muzungu!” I bent down to greet them and show the mother, holding a baby, my photos. When I finished the lady said, “Give me one thousand.” Confused I said, “One thousand what?” When she looked away I realized she was asking for one thousand shillings, about fifty cents. I didn’t have it to give. Samuel said later it was good not to reward that kind of begging. Later I saw him give money to a girl. “She’s blind,” he explained. I am having a lot of tears over many things. I think of my friend Claudia’s father who was a missionary in Zambia [Rhodesia] for 40 years. He had tears as he lay dying. “What will happen to Africa?” That, too, is what I think about. Africa needs Jesus.

The roosters start crowing around 5:30. Much of the house is up – Milca, Genevieve, Ronnie, Samuel, Jack, myself. The brakes on the van are bad, among other problems. Sam is getting the repairs done. Our devo is about hope. We finally head for Patewo School around 10:30, hours later than planned. Girls do a dance and sing about having no mothers and no fathers because they’ve died of HIV/AIDS. All the girls are older except for one precious little girl around six years old. She dances as well as the older girls! Musicians arrive to play traditional music for dancers, women and girls, showing off their skill and flexibility. A man with bells on his ankle stamps out a rhythm for the dancers. The instruments, the musicians, the dancers – they’re all amazing. Samuel tells us to give money to the “harp” player to acknowledge his skill and we are happy to do it.

This small community, where Sam’s mother Miriam lives, is amazing with its care for each other. It is strong in faith, members of the Anglican Church. The leaders tell us their wishes, a roof for the church. The walls of the old church collapsed in a storm so the church meets in the school. The people made bricks and built the new church walls but haven’t enough money to buy all the tin for the roof. Our team gives enough money to buy ten more pieces of tin. The building will be used as a school classroom later. Right now the school has 700 students and 18 desks. One teacher teaches 200 5-7 year olds in a 20 by 22 foot classroom. Incredible. Many of the classes meet outside but that is a problem when the rains come. We give the community a box of soap and one of bags of salt, the teachers gift bags, and the students soccer and volleyballs. As at Aturukuku, the children start playing with the balls immediately! We are given straw bags the people have woven. How do people who have so little find ways to give?

Many of the toilets in this country are holes in the ground covered by concrete with a slit in it, a struggle for me to use with my back issues. Sylvia told me to wear long skirts since most of the women here wear them, at least in the rural areas. Squatting on the ground and keeping my skirt dry . . . hmmm.

Bill talks to the science teacher who wishes he had classroom items such as compasses, protractors, a thermometer, magnets, cylinders. When heading to the van Jack is approached by two teenage girls. They’d spotted the two baby dolls in the duffel with the balls that five-year-old Ellie had given the team. Her dad works with Jack. The girls wear big smiles and beg for the dolls, “Please, please, please!” Jack says, “Why not?” I asked the girls if they’d share the dolls with the others and they say they will. As Samuel tells us to “pile up” I see them passing the dolls to the younger girls. A happy moment. We head for Sam’s mother’s house. A sofa and chairs are moved outside under the mango tree where we eat lunch. Samuel explains that the spongy millet bread here is “food”. In other areas matoke [made from a particular type of banana that is mashed and steamed] is “food”. The house is surrounded by beautiful trees – a massive jacaranda, an avocado, banana trees. Mosquito-eating lizards, agamas, skitter up the side of the house.

Soon we head for Butaleja, a VERY small village. Samuel tells Bill and Jack that one of them will have to give a short message to the church and that we have to eat if we are offered food. We are offered fruits and drinks. The people here believed in voodoo, witchcraft, and curses until Israel taught them about Jesus. Since then they’ve sold their goats and chickens to buy land for a building, have made bricks, and soon will be firing them. One young man, Richard, would like to get training at Mbale. We give the church soccer and volleyballs for the kids. They give us eggs, a rooster, a jackfruit, mangos, and maize. We are overwhelmed with their generosity. I read that westerners are more charitable than hospitable and that Africans are more hospitable than charitable. Not true.

Winding our way to this village on a one-way grassy, dirt road we’d passed a group of boys playing soccer with a ball they’d made from rags. As we leave Jack suggests we pump up one of our remaining balls and kick it into the boys’ game. He gets to do the kick. I will never forget those boys leaping for joy when that ball sailed into the field, especially the boy who was as tall as a man. They raced after our van to thank us. Is this a good time, or what?!!!!!

Trust? Trust is riding on the left side of narrow, Ugandan roads lined with people and bikes in the dark, Jack driving. Jack hits a man’s arm and we stop. The man is not hurt, just drunk. This scares me so much.

Rain cools us off but I am a wreck. Finally Samuel asks Jack to let him drive but I am still a wreck. A terrible road and too many vehicle headlights coming our way. Which one will give to the other? Watch out for the people on the roads! I wish, wish, wish the road was paved! Ruts! Ooph! Ooph! Ooph!

It is late when we arrive in Tororo. Dinner once again is after 8 p.m. An exhausting day. I feel bad for our cooks. I give Enoch a toy car to keep him from being so pesty. I mention the “women’s program” I am to do – Samuel has told me it will be here at Milca’s – and Genevieve does not know about this. Uh oh. There is a tension in the air and I don’t know what to do. Samuel tells us we can leave clothes to be washed – a boy has been hired. Ronnie, we learn later, washed them by hand. I asked Samuel why I never see underwear on clotheslines. Too intimate. You hang it in the bathroom. So I wash my underwear in Milca’s bathroom and drape it over the bathtub and around our bedroom.

Entry from Jack's journal
Our Rural Experience
Tuesday, January 12

Whoever believes in me ... streams of living water will flow from within him.
John 8:38

Flowing water makes stagnant water move.
African proverb

It promises to be a busy day and we get off to a late start as repairs to the van take longer than expected. We are loaded up with gift bags for the teachers at Patewo and a duffel with soccer balls, dolls and story books. The road west of Tororo quickly changes from paved to dirt and is rutted and pot-holed in ways that are clearly world class. There are people walking and riding in droves - the familiar “Ugandan mass exodus” So many people, going somewhere. Slowly, by our standards.

We are late getting to Patewo, although late is not a clearly defined concept here. People are waiting patiently. Again, we have the pleasure of gathering under a large shade tree near the church, just walls now, as the small congregation works to re-build after the original building collapsed some years ago. The church leaders explain the situation and throw us a curve. We have come to see what we can do for the school and now we hear requests to help rebuild the church.

We are greeted by the Reverend David Livingstone Oworo.

We did later take up an offering of 220,000 Ugandan Shillings, enough for about 10 pieces of roofing tin. This is another issue wee need to decide how to deal with. As we had seen in 2008, Patewo is ridiculously overcrowded with 700 students. There are neither enough classrooms nor desks. Some of us walk around the school while Gordy checks out the well - a pond in a low-lying area down from the church.

Students have access to a borehole, but it is often so crowded they can't get to it. So, they go without or go down and fill their yellow containers in the pond. Bill observed that you could throw a rock in the air anywhere in Uganda and it would land on a need. This one plopped right into the still, murky water of the well. We pull out a duffel with the soccer balls and give two of them to the boys. Again, we had purchased a netball for the girls. A few boys got right to the task of inflating and the balls were soon serving their intended purpose. The dolls that Elli donated were also in the duffel. The plan was to find a family with girls and give them the dolls, books and money. But two of the older girls at Patewo had seen them and were soon asking Eileen - pleading actually - if they could have them. We talked about it briefly and I thought, “Why not?” An opportunity. Eileen told the girls she expected them to share with the younger girls and they went away positively beaming, new dolls carefully cradled in their arms. Eileen said later that she had seen the girls passing the dolls around with a group of other students.

Patewo teachers showing off their Trane bags and the story books donated by Elli.

Next, we go to Sam’s mom’s house for lunch and a chance to relax on upholstered furniture hauled out of doors by young boys who are there to help out. Alex, the principal at Patewo, joins us and we learn a bit more about the church and school. Too soon, it is time to load into the van and head for the church at Butaleja.

We sit amongst tropical foliage outside Sam'e mom's house.

It is a LONG drive. Only 25 miles, but trust me, that’s a haul on the rough dirt roads. We drive through the town twice before we see the young man who has been sent to the main road to flag us down and lead us to the church.

The congregation meets in a home for now and we are first offered the chance to sit and enjoy some refreshments. In spite of the large lunch, we cannot refuse the hospitality and enjoy as much as we can of the fresh fruit that is laid before us. We then move to a room serving as the sanctuary where we are once again greeted with great enthusiasm. After hearing a brief the history of the church, I offer a short message. We then go and see property the church has acquired for a new building. The congregation had sold eggs, hens and goats to raise the money. And even more impressive to me - I consider building materials and Home Depot to be a single, unified concept - the people had made bricks from mud taken out of a pit on the property. They are arranged in large stacks and will be fired tomorrow.

The congregation has mde bricks for the new church building.

As we prepared to leave, we give a soccer ball, a netball and a pump to the youth of the church. Then, they give us a jackfruit, some eggs, corn and - of course - a rooster. I knew what to do with it straight away, being experienced as I am in such things. We piled into the van and headed out on the long drive back to Tororo.

Early in the trip, I told Samuel I wanted to give at least one of the soccer balls at random - just come across a group of boys, toss them a ball and drive off. He told me he had seen some boys playing soccer with a homemade rag ball in a field we would go by as we left the church. When we got there, we stopped, I got out and kicked the ball in a high arc into their game. They saw the ball as it was still in the air and just stopped and looked up. When it hit, they went wild, running and jumping and kicking the new ball around. Very quickly, they came running to the van; Samuel assured them that the ball was theirs and one of them said, “You gave us a very nice ball. Thank you!” Then, they went back to the game and we drove off. It was one of the high points of the trip.

I had been driving for a while and it was getting dark. We were still out in the country west of Tororo with a ways to go and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I handed over the wheel to Samuel. But I hung in long enough to drive into a small town just after it had gotten fully dark. There were people walking and riding around on bikes everywhere. Not an unusual sight, but add the darkness factor and it was not the most enjoyable of driving experiences. Then, a really BIG truck came out of the darkness ahead. There were no lights, just a looming shape. As I adjusted to this threat, there was a “thump” - I clipped a pedestrian with the side view mirror on the passenger side. He wasn’t hurt and after Samuel talked to him he just wandered off, apparently a little tipsy. The group opined that it may have been more him running into the van than the other way around. Maybe so.

Samuel drove the rest of the way in. I never told the group just how shaken I was. It was a lot. I appreciated your words of comfort. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. The African proverbs are something to think about!