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!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Real Missionaries

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

Meeting with Professionals
Wednesday, January 13
We visit the mission in Mbale to meet with Shawn and Dennis; we share some of the things we have learned at the church in Tororo and they give us some good advice concerning our relationship with them along with some suggestions as to what to do as we go forward. They claim that, having made most of the mistakes it is possible to make regarding mission work in Africa, they have come to a good understanding of what to do. I’m not sure about the “every mistake” part, but they have had remarkable success and it is always good to get some lessons.

We also see the relatively new Good News Productions International - Africa office. The facilities are first rate and the programs being made available in East Africa are impressive. We met Vince and Joy and they presented a bit about the work they have done and will be doing.

The Mbale Church of Christ

Lunch was tentatively set to be enjoyed with Shawn in Mbale, but late in the morning, we get a message from Israel, who was at the church in Kachumbala. He tells us that the church is set to prepare a meal for us and that “there is nothing I can do to stop them!” So, we take off for Kachumbala, about 12 miles NW of Mbale.

As we gather to depart, we get out a number of the Trane tote bags, these loaded with an assortment of goodies that were requested by the Mbale team members. This was at our invitation; we thought it was the very least we could do, to acquire and transport the little necessities and indulgences for this dedicated group of missionaries. It does seem that chocolate is high on most everyone’s list. As word got out that we were going to provide this service, I received a variety of additional items from family members in the States. These included dress up clothes for grandchildren, DVD’s, Bible study materials and toys. Shawn expected to reimburse us, but we had way too much fun doing this to listen to that suggestion! This transfer marked the delivery of the last of the items we had brought to give away, save a couple of soccer balls and a few extra bags. We were traveling lighter now!

As is the case everywhere we go, we are warmly greeted by the leaders at Kachumbala. The congregation is already in their small, rented church building and wait while we have a brief discussion of the program, which includes us delivering a message. There is an extended period of amplified, can’t-stay-in-your-seat singing. The choir led and the many children followed, clapping, swaying and singing. And smiling. It was as big a set of smiles as has been my pleasure to witness. Eventually, I was invited to introduce the team, but today, it was Bill’s turn to be the “big drum.” He delivered another good message that was well received, this indicated by some comments made by members after the service.

Much as it was at Butaleja, the congregation here has acquired some land upon which they plan to construct a new building and we went to see it. After passing through the small town, we entered into an area of mud huts. One of these was on the property that the church had purchased. A mother and her children (and a few others from the neighborhood) were out in front of one of the small homes. We stop and greet them. I ask Pastor William what will happen when the church starts building and he tells me they will not have to move and he expects the family to stay where they are. Israel tells me that with a well maintained roof, the basic mud, straw and stick structure could last 30 years.

We meet a family at their home - a mud hut - on the church property

Coming here and meeting the people is pretty much like throwing a rock - we land on needs. The congregation needs $150 for a year's rent. We gather and decide that we will provide this for them. The plan is to forward the funds to the Mbale mission. We talk about sending one of the leaders, probably Pastor William, to MTI for training. He says there are three that would like to go. We decide we can provide scholarships for two. We do not discuss this with them, but we will see if it is possible for us to take on all three. We encourage them to visit MTI and get information about enrolling. I hope they follow up.

The “lunch” that Israel told us about was actually planned as an after-service, after-visit-the-new-property, early dinner. And we do not eat until around 3 or 4 (I am writing this two days after the visit and everything is already a blur). You have to understand it’s a muzungu thing to take note of the actual time. We are quite hungry, but this observation is not intended as a complaint, just an offering of facts. The graciousness of the people here towards visitors is humbling and we often find ourselves deeply moved by the generosity of those who have so little. In a material sense. Compared to what is the norm for us.

We are led to a small building sporting a sign declaring it to be a nursery/day care, through a small room where bottles of water and pop are set out and into another, equally small, room that is nearly overwhelmed by the tables and chairs set up for the meal. There is a serving table to one side, a groaning board living up to this descriptive name as it is loaded with a marvelous, eclectic meal prepared by one of the congregation who has attended a cooking school. She must have gotten a really good grade. After prayer and a poem recited by a young boy in a slightly too large suit, we serve ourselves from a selection that includes vegetables, rice, beef, chicken, spaghetti Bolognese, and plates of different types of locally grown sweet potatoes. The latter come in white and yellow with flavors that verify they are of the same family as our deep orange yams. This is all finished with a fruit salad, a tasty mix of watermelon, papaya, mango and jackfruit.

Enjoying the afternoon meal at Kachumpala

After the meal, I approach Pastor William and tell him we have a gift - the $11 (about 25,000 Shillings) from five-year old Elli who wanted this to go “to a family.” William expresses his gratitude and says the church will find someone who needs this then let us know what they have done. Just now, about three weeks after the end of the trip, I received an e-mail from him, explaining that they provided the gift to an orphaned girl named Esther, who was able to buy books, a school uniform and shoes.

We leave for Tororo late in the afternoon. When we arrive at Milca’s, we have tea and not long thereafter, a full dinner. I am likely to spend nearly two weeks in a third-world country and gain weight!

I cannot emphasize too much how we are constantly taken by how graciously we are treated by our hosts. Our western view leads us to ask Samuel over and over what we can do to ease the obvious load we place on them. I know Sylvia has, behind the scenes, made some provision for us with her mom. But Samuel also reminds us over and over that it is an honor for the family to have guests and they will do nothing less than offer us the best. Graciousness. We are being taught a lesson here.

Entry from Eileen's journal
Wednesday, January 13
Heading to Mbale where the Messiah Theological Institute is located, we pass bikes laden with pineapples, bananas [350 lb-worth on one bike!], and cassava roots. One very young boy carries a yellow plastic jerry can on his head weighing around 42 pounds. Hauling water is a major occupation unless you live in a city like Kampala, Tororo, Mbale, and only then if you have running water. I ask about the banana leaves some carry. They are to keep bricks from drying too fast. Samuel tells us there are 60 types of eucalypti and over 300 types of bananas. I tell him there are over 2000 types of palms in the world.

We meet Shawn Tyler and Dennis Okoth, get a tour of the facility, and are given cold, COLD, bottles of water and soda. We learn of the plans for Livingstone University – land has already been purchased. They assure us they are willing to work with ministers we support and will help with Israel. We want to continue with scholarships. They also explain the pastor situation in this country and that Israel is not atypical. Money is important for power and leadership. However . . . they advise us on how to deal with things, that someone else besides the pastor, his wife, or family should handle the money. Israel should be accountable for what he spends outside of his salary. Also, there should be documents as to who owns the church building and land. Samuel will arrange for us to meet with the elders tomorrow and then Israel.

Samuel, Jack and Shawn at the Mbale Mission. Eileen and Dennis talk in the background.

We meet Vince and Joy Vigil of Good News Productions and see the solar-powered video machines they use. The videos are made in Nairobi and deal with topics such as sexual activity and pregnancy before marriage. Joy translates for the large deaf population during worship services. We’d planned to go to lunch with the Mbale group but a phonecall to Samuel tells us that “ a lunch worth having” is waiting in Kachumbala. We leave the many Trane bags filled with missionary requests [seasoning mixes, chocolate chips, M&Ms, gifts from family, baby items for Joy, etc.] and the group is excited. Sylvia, remember the glitter glue I just had to buy because every child needs glitter in life? Philip Shero was happy to have it for his children.

As at Butaleja, we are greeted with warbling and handshakes. This is a desperately poor area and is where OCC sent money for famine relief – purchases of rice and seeds for planting that will happen soon. Later we are shown the pathetic millet.

Lunch? No, even though it is 12:30. A children’s choir and then two men [one translating] lead songs and dances in worship. I am reminded of David’s joy before the Lord. The entire congregation joins the singing and dancing, including me. While Bill, Jack, Israel, and Samuel confer, I weave myself among the people dancing and shaking hands. This is one joyous celebration. There are people here from many church families and we are told that the three ministers in town work together. Bill does a synopsis of Romans. Later he asks if it was too much. Claudia’s brother who is a missionary in Rwanda gears his lessons for 8-year-olds so I tell Bill, “Yes. Too much.” However, I think some of the ministers here learned because I heard a few amens. The ministers would like teaching Israel tells us. We promise scholarships for two and maybe the third man later. Also, we leave a soccer ball for the boys. The girls ask, “Where’s ours?” We promise to send a netball.

It is 4 p.m. and lunch is served, created by the lady who’s been to culinary school. Oh, my goodness, was it wonderful – fried chicken, fried potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens plus peanut sauce, sodas, rice, peas, carrots, another sauce, fruit salad. After a young boy recites a poem for us we walk to where the church will build a building. They tell us, due to the drought and famine, they are months behind on their rent – $150/year. Rebels once displaced many of the people to camps and killed off the men. There are many widows and orphans. Later the team determines to give them a year’s rent. On the way back I take photos and show each person which brings grins. I hope to send photos to Israel so that he can use them as an outreach tool.

The girls at the church are still singing and dancing!

Another long day. We are exhausted, especially Bill still quite sick.

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