Tag Archives: Uganda

WoH2014damage04Two days ago, the Wells of Hope Academy church pavilion was flattened by a rainstorm that also took the roof off their new kitchen. It is hard to imagine the venue where we fell in love with such pure and joyful souls, the structure in which we were fed both spiritually and physically, being squashed to its foundation. Those happy, eager faces arranged in lines at the windows of that new kitchen must somehow be less bright today as the beans and posho are served even from within the wreckage. I feel helpless sitting in my living room some 7,600 miles (12,200 km) away. I might be tempted to ask God, "Why?" but I already know the answer to "Why?" questions. Somewhere, somebody needs an opportunity to answer their own "Why?" question by responding to this need.  Structures don't rebuild themselves and Eucalyptus poles may grow on trees but the money to erect them into church meeting places doesn't. According to Ephesians 2:10, we were made for the express purpose of carrying out the needs God orchestrates into our lives. Is this one calling for you? There are around 120 little brothers and sisters in Christ who now have no meeting shelter and need a new roof on their kitchen. They have many other needs, but these are urgent. Won't you please help my friends, your Christian siblings? 

WoH2014damage03Visit WOH's donate link to help.

Those of you who followed our journey through Uganda might remember Wells of Hope as the ministry grounds of Steve and Gina Gant, our dear new friends, who hosted us at their home in Kampala and who, coincidentally, lived about a mile from our house in Jacksonville before moving to Uganda though none of us knew the other then. Wells of Hope visits and disciples prisoners in Uganda, serves their families, and ministers to their children at the Academy.

 

kitchen before
kitchen before
kitchen after
kitchen after

 

 

 

 

 

lunch line during our trip in April
lunch line during our trip in April

I haven't written since our trip for several reasons. First, I had so much to say while we were in Uganda, I feel as though I should either come up with something profound to say or keep quiet. Second, school is in full swing and I've been busier than I could have imagined I would be during a Summer semester. Last is the least valid reason of all but probably the weightiest, and that is because we still just don't know where our piece will fit into the whole Uganda puzzle.

From where I am, isolated in my prerequisite studies, a nursing mission in Uganda appears small in my window. It is no less a priority, no less real, and no less the path I am following at God's direction; I just feel so far removed from Uganda and her children. I remain connected to my friends I made in country by way of Internet, prayer, and a common love for the same people, and that helps me keep focused on the mission rather than the baby steps toward it I am making, but progress feels slow and our deployment to the mission field far removed. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I like "tree of life" references - maybe it's the Lemmon in me - but I'm somewhere in that deferral that makes for heart-sickness right now. It's not a condition of being lost, afraid, or doubtful; it's just that 2021 is so many pages ahead in the calendar.

I'm in good company. Jacob (aka Israel) had to work seven extra years to earn his bride, Rachel. Noah, wasn't told to go sailing; he was told to build an ark. With the world mocking him, he stacked gopher wood until he had the resources to begin scraping, planing, boring, and fitting the logs together into a floating fortress that would be seventy-five years on dry land before the first drop of rain fell on it.

I, too, have received a share of mocking, of condescending interrogations, missiles of doubt fired from people, some nurses themselves, who may mean well but tend to emphasize obstacles rather than successful experiences, strength, or hope. The shock of disbelief that is typical of most people who hear our plans for relocation and service overseas is so staggering that I tend to keep the long-term plans to myself in casual conversation and just say, "I am studying to become a missionary nurse," to which responses are usually more positive. Leaving off the word "missionary" saves me even more interrogations, and usually evokes a response about a relative who is, was, or wants to become a nurse, but removes me even farther from the end goal of treating and educating Ugandans in abundant living in Christ Jesus.

I took a practice nursing school entrance exam, the HESI A2, this morning to see what kind of things I can expect and to feel closer to the process. I was encouraged with my results but received valuable feedback concerning what needs attention. I visited the websites and Facebook pages of my missionary friends, and rejoiced in their successes, praying for their ministries and the people they serve. In my bedroom, a handmade Ugandan souvenir hangs on my wall, reminding me to "Always remember Uganda." I cannot forget her! She's in my heart, which is torn to be this far removed.

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 NIV)

It was not for Noah to pump water up the hill or perform test-trials on his workmanship. He was not required to study meteorology or predict weather patterns. His job was to build an ark. Mine is to become a nurse. For now, I don't get to know the end-game, and I am not yet responsible to guess it. Trivial though daily assignments may seem, they are steps along the path of obedience. While I have no child in my arms, and no soul to heal just yet, I do have homework, and no task is irrelevant when I am doing it in obedience to the Lord. I will look to Noah's example as I continue on, as removed from Ugandan souls as a ship on a dry hill, and do what comes next, contenting myself in the knowledge that I am doing my Master's will.

Day Sixteen, April 30:

20140430-134523.jpgThis morning we got up and availed ourselves of the hotel breakfast and committed to get some rest before our flight home tonight. The thoughts and memories of this trip, however, made it difficult to sleep, as Cindy and I both stirred the cauldron, pouring over it our dreams, hopes, and plans for the future.

Restless, I calculated our trip expense log and discovered we spent much less than we planned even with the last-minute hiring of Anthony our driver. Cindy and I marveled at how naive it was to have even considered taking this trip without him, and wondered what we had been thinking when we expected to bus or taxi across Uganda. Silly Mzungu! Renting a car was once an option for the uninformed, but since roads have no markings, and traffic here is a culture-shock nightmare, I would have killed us or someone else the first day!

God has orchestrated every step of our journey to be exactly what we needed, and I need to remember every detail so that I don't miss whatever instruction He has in the experience of it. Conversations play over in my head (complete with accents) and are accompanied by the questions, emotional responses, and spiritual misgivings about what I witnessed here. There is corruption here like nowhere I've been, but there is also unrivaled need and shallowness of spirit, as each person scurries after their own needs, and the women, usually abandoned by self-serving men, are left to scurry after the needs of their children, or are forced by their own selfish fears to abandon them too. Such women either find creative ways to shed their responsibilities or creative ways to meet them. Selling a child might land a mother in prison, but either way she would be free from the overwhelming burden of feeding two mouths with no income. Incarceration is a form of liberty with meals included even though prison is only a slight step up from living in a latrine. Farming is everyone's responsibility here. Even if one has no job, one is expected to grow something to feed their family. Since farming even a small plot is hard work, the lazy choose other means. Alcoholism is rampant here, as there seems to be much heartache to escape and little resource to ease the pain except the gathering of drunkards and the abundance of alcohol in various forms. Certain illicit drugs are being introduced too, and the addiction of the night life, which I have not witnessed, drives them to attack anyone who might have the resources they need. According to police, the number one crime is robbery, followed by murder during robbery, since the primary method is blunt trauma to the head of an unsuspecting victim, most often a boda-boda passenger, who is easy prey since s/he is already exposed and can be delivered to predators by the boda-man. Investigation and enforcement is difficult since a victim could just as easily be identified as a traffic accident victim whose pockets were cleaned out by locals while s/he was incapacitated, as is allegedly customary. Generally speaking, everyone needs, and there is an underlying persuasion that it is okay to take from those who have extra, like Bzungu (white people), who are perceived to be a limitless resource of wealth. This is why most expatriates live in walled compounds behind locked gates and barred doors. Everything that is not secured disappears at night.

I am conflicted about that. In my studies of the Proverbs I read:

"Whoever builds a high gate invites destruction." (Proverbs 17:19b NIV)

I always considered that if one removes the curiosity and includes one's home among those of his neighbors, he is less likely to be victimized by them than if he erects this "high gate." Those that had tried this, however, told us that they found themselves victims of theft, prowling, and vandalism nightly. I considered setting up a reception shelter outside my house, with a bell to be rung when my clinical services were needed. If I freely give, it seems reasonable that I should have no fear of losing what I have, but I can hear all my new missionary friends laughing at that statement even before I ever say it. The proverb, I think, refers to one's attitude that they control the security of their property, rather than trusting God and being a steward of His resources. Proper stewardship requires prudence, and I learned that even the side view mirrors on a twelve year-old Toyota are a hot commodity around here, where some locals have never even seen what they look like. Enough about security. I'm no longer a cop!

Certain aspects of this trip have been especially liberating.

  • Spending time with Cindy without daily hassles. Being on unfamiliar ground kept either of us from being expert at anything, and on even terms.
  • Not driving. Letting Anthony, Carol, Laurie, Steve, and Charlie the boda-man concern themselves with the traffic suited me just fine.
  • Not shaving or styling my hair. Cindy thinks my curls and short beard are adorable.
  • Not fretting over every calorie consumed. Those who know me well know I track everything I eat. This trip, I just ate normal meals, abstained from sweets, cookies, cakes, ice-cream and nachos, and from throwing in the dietary towel, and I was just fine. I probably didn't even meet my minimum calorie goals any day but yesterday when the jackfruit might have put me over.

Recapping our ministry tour, we personally contacted:

20140430-134538.jpgI would be delighted to know that my communication about any of these ministries facilitated a stirring in any heart to contribute toward their support, not that the left hand should know what the right hand is doing, but just so the left hand knows it has a complimentary opposite hand.

Until we land in the States, Todd Lemmon, signing off in the fashion of the Wells of Hope Academy kids:
(from 2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV)

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
Now and forevermore. Amen!

Day Fifteen, April 29:

20140429-231058.jpgThis morning we tagged along with Steve, Gina, and Wells of Hope as they met with the local police about a young man about seven or eight years old, who was offered for sale by a man who claims to be his father to a buyer who claimed he was going to use him for a ritual killing. I had heard such things still happen in the northern territories, but I never thought I would sit with, talk to, lay hands on, and pray for such a child in person. Since Wells of Hope focuses on the children of imprisoned men, and this boy's "father" will most certainly be imprisoned, the Gants and Francis Ssuubi, Director of Wells of Hope, responded to the call for help. Posting the need on Facebook, the organization found willing people to contribute to Willie's sponsorship.

While this dramatic story brings a rapid response of willingness, there remain forty-two (42) unsponsored children at the Wells of Hope Academy. In addition to this shortfall, the Academy is in need of desks for their teachers, 120 metal bunk beds, just as many wooden desk-benches, and latrine and septic improvements. There are other needs as well as hopes for more improvements in the future. This group is trusting God for support. I encourage any reading this who sense the Spirit's urging, to please investigate donation details at www.wellsofhope.org and help however you can.

As we sat in that dusty office, in the back of the local police holding yard, we greeted the accused child trafficker, and Wells of Hope communicated their desire to lend spiritual and emotional support during his incarceration. They also offered to care for, teach, and disciple Willie for as long as necessary. This was difficult, especially because the criminal investigators were present and often chimed in to interrogate the accused during the meeting. Knowing no other family but the man who betrayed him to his death, Willie cried when we took him away from that interview room. Taken from whatever he once knew, he had no way of knowing that he was being delivered to the safe, loving care of Wells of Hope and the love of Jesus Christ. It must have been a horrifyingly traumatic day for Willie, and it was a learning experience for all of us in attendance.

The police investigators were amazingly helpful, and patiently explained that there is no governmental provision for any such children. The line level police officers have often contributed to the welfare of such children out of their own meager salaries. We were told that the government relies solely on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Wells of Hope, for temporary custody of such vulnerable or abandoned children. We were shown a converted intermodal cargo container, in which as many as eight children may be housed for a few days at a time, in the custody of the police, while a few more often sleep on the floor of the open police reception area. Mr. Ssuubi told us of a boy who was "defiled" (sexually abused) by an officer in that setting only a year ago. Clearly, there is a need for missionary work, children's homes, and foster care in Uganda. Perhaps there is a need for humanitarian reform at a governmental level, but I have learned that governmental change is difficult, slow, and inadequate in Uganda. The response of Christ's hands and feet must not be to clutch the purse and tap the foot while waiting for social change, but should be to speed, feed, and meet the need.

I still do not know exactly how Cindy and I will fit into this response, but the discarded children of Uganda are on our heart. In Masaka, we accompanied the Okoa Refuge missionaries as they received two week-old Emmanuel, and now Willie with Wells of Hope in Kampala. We were blessed to meet the AIDS afflicted cast-aways at the YES Manna House and watch as a Jinja community and the Acholi women of Gulu were assisted by Amazima ministries and Going in Love (respectively) in keeping their families whole, virtually preventing abandonment before it happens. My mind is still whirling with all the possibilities and the overwhelming need here in Uganda.

From the police station, Steve and Gina Gant took us to a supermarket that felt very much like one we might see at home, although the food items were decidedly different. Imagine being in an American supermarket completely filled with everything that usually occupies a tiny bit of shelf space on what you likely consider "the ethnic aisle" at your local store. From the deli, we got Samosas, triangular fritters filled with vegetables, rice, or meat. We washed them down with the first soda I have had in over a year, a Stoney Tangawizi, and accompanied them with some dried jackfruit and a taste of sim-sim sticks (made of a sesame-looking seed by the same name).

We ate our car picnic as we waited for a Facebook contact to show the Gants a 4-wheel drive Toyota van, and when it arrived it appeared like a possible solution to their need. We shall see. My mind wondered if a similar van would convert to an ambulance or mobile clinic. My brain is already shopping for a vehicle and noting real estate prices! I'm afraid the next seven years are going to be long.

20140429-231503.jpgWhen we arrived back at the Gant's home, we were treated to a jackfruit carving demonstration by David, the guard and all-around helper in the small community where the Gants live. Once he showed us how to separate and eat the fruit and avoid most of its tarry white sap, we had a jackfruit peeling and tasting party, and got very sticky in the process. A jackfruit looks like a tightly closed green pinecone about the size of a July watermelon, smells like a pineapple when it is first cut open, has a fleshy meat, and a tropical flavor like someone blended bananas with pineapple gummy bears.

Our party ended just as Anthony arrived to collect us and take us to the hotel near the airport, where we began our Ugandan circuit. We took the opportunity of having an extra pair of hands to get pictures together with the Gants and also with Anthony. I always hate saying goodbye, and this was no exception. Stephen and Gina Gant were gracious hosts and have become good friends already, as I have already written. Enough about that. I hate goodbyes!

Before we parted from our trusted driver and friend, Anthony, we took him out to eat at Faze-3, a restaurant popular with Bzungu (white people), but which he knew to serve goat, a dish I had not yet experienced. The vote is in: goat beats African beef! And it's pretty darn close to beating American beef too.

20140429-231227.jpgIt was already beginning to get dark as we said goodbye to Anthony and hello to the friendly faces at the Sunset Entebbe Hotel. We knew Anthony had a long ride to Jinja through Kampala, on dark roads which we know he hates, but he delivered us to the end of our trip and I don't know how we would have survived such a journey without him. We have a day of rest before our plane leaves tomorrow night, so we plan to try to get some sleep since neither Cindy nor I sleep well on aircraft. Perhaps tomorrow we will venture back to the market or to Faze-3 in the hotel car, before making an early return to the airport.

Day Fourteen, April 28:

20140428-231119.jpgWhen I was a patrolman, civilians would often ride along with me to witness firsthand what police do. Today, I got to do a similar thing only with the shoe on the other foot. We spent the day with Steve and Gina Gant, who welcomed us to tag along with them as they attended a Wells of Hope devotion and staff meeting, then spent much of the day shopping for a van for the ministry. What an eye-opener seeing the ministry from the inside like that! Oh, and every missionary probably wishes they could watch someone else shop for a car before they are forced to learn from experience when they have to do it themselves.

20140428-230949.jpgOur lunch stop today was at a restaurant called "Daytona" so it was like we are near home. Okay not really. Great food though: roast pork, Matooke, and greens!

In the afternoon, we were met at the Good Africa Coffee shop (sort of Africa's version of Starbucks) with Mark "Boog" Ferrell, who did his best to sum up the ministry of 60 Feet in a brief meeting over coffee and orange juice. The ministry's website (www.sixtyfeet.org) explains their mission better than I could, but I will say that advocacy and support for incarcerated children is the thrust of this ministry, since many children are only incarcerated waiting for it to be convenient for authorities to release them.

It was nice to have Steve and Gina at the meeting with Boog. One neat thing that keeps happening is the more we talk about what I have seen and heard from other missionaries, the more I find that some coordination between them would answer many of their needs. This one has a metalworks shop while that one needs metal bunk beds. This one needs inexpensive travel accommodations while that one runs a hostel or guest house. This one needs someone to transport quilts to the US while that one needs something in their empty suitcases so they can pack zip-closure bags, children's toys, and other such coveted items back home with them. While we were sitting in that meeting, Cindy began to write on a piece of paper. As Steve began to speak of how nice it would be to have a conference to join the interests and resources of Ugandan missionaries, the thought struck Cindy vocal, as she revealed what she had been scribbling: a Uganda Missionary Conference, which we all thought would be a good idea.

Our meeting with Boog was brief on account of the van hunting appointments, so we exchanged contact cards and invited one another to stay in touch.

After our van hunt proved unfruitful but successful, in that the ministry did not jump at the first four-wheel drive van that came along, we headed home. While the girls started dinner, Steve accompanied me on a walk down the busy road to a produce market about a kilometer away. While we talked we considered the possibility of me running an ambulance, and visiting the Wells of Hope Academy on certain planned days to man a clinic and perhaps take a mobile clinic to the villages when their family tracing efforts uncover a need for it. It is a possibility. I still don't know where or how God will have me serve here. We returned home a little after dark (which is a no-no) with avocado, mango, banana, pineapple, onions and tomato, to share with our hosts. Gina made a delightful beef with broccoli dish which she served over rice, accompanied by several fruits we brought from the market.

After Steve and I finished the dishes and comparing music preferences and collections, the four of us hung out and goofed around on our electronic gadgets, sharing interesting bits as we crossed them until bedtime. I'm certain these folks are family and not only new friends!

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Day Thirteen, April 27:

20140428-214516.jpgSteve and Gina Gant prepared our breakfast and graciously explained the ministry of Wells of Hope (www.WellsOfHope.org). They take the true religion of James 1:27, tending to the needs of the orphans and widows, and combine it with visiting the imprisoned and meeting the needs of the needy which Jesus commended in Matthew 25:36.

James 1:27 NIV
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Matthew 25:36 NIV
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Wells of Hope, and therefore Gant Ministries, visits men in prison, encouraging them, discipling them, and caring for them. One of their greatest needs is for someone to check on and care for their families. Wells of Hope does that. They go out and find the families, bring back photos, reunite children who have sometimes been told their fathers have been executed or died in prison, and they work to ensure the fathers have a place in the lives of their families, even if a small one. Furthermore, Wells of Hope operates a school and home for the children of these prisoners, who often have no one else to care for them. This is called the Wells of Hope Academy, where we attended church service today.

We drove for about an hour and a half to get to the Academy, the last few kilometers of which was through a swamp which overwhelmed the roadway in several places. The swampy landscape is what Steve credited for the affordability of the land on which the Academy is situated.

When we pulled up to the complex, we found two large white buildings: a dormitory and a school, with one large thatched-roof shelter in between them. Under the shade of that shelter on a concrete slab were about forty-five of the most precious little worshippers I've ever seen, singing, clapping, and dancing in the name of Jesus. One of their teachers preached, but then a few of the children preached too, and did an excellent job! Ella, a volunteer who is a children's music teacher by profession, led worship, and the children really worshipped the Lord like I have never seen kids of that age do. They weren't just singing, but each one was praying and loving God in an individual way. It was fantastic!

20140428-214524.jpgWhen church was over Steve and Gina took us on a tour of the facility. The dormitories were nicely constructed and adequately furnished, but with wooden furniture, and the state instructed them to replace the wood bunks with metal. The classrooms of the school were empty because the kids dragged all the combination bench-desk pieces of furniture out to the church shelter for prayer meeting and would carry them all back in when it was over. They could use some benches just for the meeting shelter.

We saw how the ministry works with what it has and is seeking to make it better. Steve talked about future plans for upgrading facilities, improving land for productive purposes like farming, and working to include the children in keeping their campus nice. We saw the chicken house, the piggery, the only cow, and we walked to the nearest borehole well, where all the kids have to go to fetch their personal bathing water. They carry it in Gerry-cans, big plastic canisters reminiscent of the fuel cans used by the Germans in World War 2 (thus the name), and have it poured over themselves as there is no running water in much of Uganda. Being among these children and worshipping in such simple purity was refreshing, and seeing how Wells of Hope is caring for the children of the imprisoned was inspiring. Being with the Gants was a lot of fun too. Steve and I are two peas in a pod!

We kept the Gants up again, this time Steve and I swapped war-stories from his Navy experience and my police career. We must have bored the girls, because we found ourselves alone laughing at each other's anecdotes. We are having a great time!

Day Twelve, April 26:

I misspoke about our driver, Anthony, yesterday. He is not Busoga, but Buganda. He confirmed that the Busoga people are very poorly resourced and a main target group for missionaries in Jinja.

20140427-225813.jpgHe accompanied us to the Noah's Ark Children's Home (www.nacmu.org), where we met Peter Buitendijk, the CEO and founder. When we entered the property we thought we had entered a highly organized village, and security personnel directed us to the proper building. After we parked, a small child of about five greeted us and asked what we were there for. When we told him, he took Cindy's hand and escorted us to "Pappa," which is everyone's nickname for Peter. We were guided past huge buildings of western design and quality, and invited to sit on comfortable patio furniture outside a large, beautiful house. Inside the house, a Dutch man of imposing stature tended to business, addressed employees and dealt with someone on the phone, with all the appearance of a business tycoon or political leader of a small country. A few minutes later, Peter emerged and greeted us as if we were no distraction at all. He asked us our story and after showing slight amusement at our explanation, told us his. From his teen years as a misfit among his peers and exceptionally gifted bucker of systems and reinventor of wheels, aided by his wife whom he married at age 17 by permission of the queen of Holland, he started a life of enterprise and ingenuity, which flourished everywhere he went. When he got bored reinventing metal works in Holland, he began smuggling Bibles into Soviet countries. When that was no longer an adventure, he turned to missionary work, and since 2006, has carved out of this mountainside forest a complete village to sustain orphans and school children. With supporters from the US, UK, Germany, Holland, and other places, he credits God, the owner of all cattle on all hills with resourcing his vision for this enterprise. He didn't say how many children he ministers to, but with just under 200 employees, trucks, tractors, cars, intermodal containers, and thousands of acres of farmland and investment property, workshops, every level of school there is, and more children than I could estimate, he is a patriarch. He works on simple principles: if it's not good enough for me then it's not good enough for my kids; waste nothing but repurpose and reuse everything; use good business sense buying low and selling high; God's way works best. He uses the last one I mentioned as his first priority, requiring no less from his employees and business contacts. He is a wise man of enterprise, and he has obviously combined that with his heart for children quite successfully.

When we left Noah's Ark, we began to question the faith of ourselves and of mission endeavors which seemed to struggle, always at the brink of financial disaster. Peter's ideas pivoted on the supposition that if God is truly one's resource, His bounty would accompany His directive. Still, he cautioned that Uganda is difficult on new ministries, and said few last longer than ten years. Witnessing this vast children's project brought a strange mix of emotions that just left me with more questions than answers. It challenged the expectation that God's ministers live by daily provision and that blind faith drives beat-up cars and second-hand clothes. Godliness apparently does not require poverty.

Mukono, by the way, is considered the center for ancestor worship and dark arts in Uganda.

On to our friends Stephen and Gina Gant! These are folks we had heard very little about. Terri Terrill, a friend of mine from work told me she had friends who were missionaries in Uganda but knowing there are many, I gave it little thought until she actually connected me with them. The Gants invited us to stay with them in the capital city of Kampala, and were eager to introduce us to Wells of Hope, the ministry with which they are affiliated (www.wellsofhope.org). We followed the detailed directions to their house, and were allowed onto the compound in which their house and several of their neighbors' houses are situated. Warm smiles, firm handshakes, and the friendly barking of their sweet, silly dog, Molly, made us right at home. As we got to know one another it was uncanny how much alike we are. Not only so, but we discovered we were neighbors back home, with our houses less than a mile and a half apart. Stephen and I are about the same age, and he just retired from the Navy just before I retired from the Sheriff's Office. They made recommendations, encouraged us, and warned us about pitfalls of doing business in Uganda. We four had fun talking about ministry and the growth of our faith and relished the fellowship until yawns got long and eyes got droopy. I never know when to hush! It was tough, but I let them get some sleep, and we retired to our guest room. There were three.

Day Eleven, April 25:

20140425-232514.jpgIt is raining on our parade! We are checking out of the Kingfisher Resort this morning, and there is no sign of the twenty or so South African teenagers who were here on a mission trip, so the place feels empty. The breakfast buffet was not set up, but was exchanged for an a la carte menu, which delayed us in preparing to leave. As I went to settle the bill, expecting to use my Visa debit/credit card, which the clerk repeatedly promised me would be accepted, I was informed that the credit card machine is broken, so they would only accept cash. With our cash issue, this was bad news. The good news was the clerk apparently discounted the rate, because she only charged me 290,400 UGX (~$120 US), which is about right for one night, not two. God owns all the cattle on every hill, and He supplies!

Later:
Anthony picked us up and we drove the now watery clay roads, over some undercarriage-scraping speed humps, and through what appeared to me to be rivers, if not at least streams. Anthony is very careful and intentional, taking obstacles like this pollan-pollan (sp? slow-slow).

Jinja is a beautiful town, with many buildings and houses one might just mistake for American. The red stain of the clay splashed up on everything make two things clear though: first, that we are not in Kansas, and that forceful rains are a regular occurrence here. We crossed the Nile twice as we went about today, traversing Jinja's hydroelectric dam and bridge. As Cindy began to take a picture, Anthony cautioned that amateur photography of this structure is prohibited.

We stopped at a couple banks to attempt to cash our remaining American Express traveler's cheques, but no one would take them. We were referred to a couple branches in the capital city of Kampala, where we will be tomorrow. I guess I can use the ATM until Monday. We had cash enough to stop at the downtown marketplace and get a few souvenirs including a poster-sized map of Uganda Anthony found for me, which depicts all the towns that have highlighted our journey, and most of the roads we used to get to them. I will cherish it.

We got to the Baugh's house, which was a gorgeous home on Lake Victoria, and were received by a precious couple of God's hands and feet here in Uganda. Sent years ago as affiliates with the Bible Study Fellowship, Russ and Marcia Baugh adopted their Ugandan child, Joseph, though the Rafiki Foundation, but have since joined up with Every Child Matters (ECM) as missionaries to the Busoga Tribe, one of Uganda's most poorly resourced people. (See http://TheWayHomeAfrica.com.) They teach the Farming God's Way agricultural principles, and minister to fifty-seven "granny houses," of just as many widows raising their 315 orphaned grandchildren. The Baughs seek supporters willing to sponsor all or part of a granny house, which costs $2,200 to build. They are also starting a pastor training program, in hopes of deepening the knowledge base and Scriptural integrity of the local church leadership. Russ and Marcia were encouraging and helpful, sharing wisdom and anecdotal references to their application. Their primary advice: trust God, and don't need to know the whole plan! They gave us other missionary pointers too, like fund raising basics, discipleship emphasis, cultivating trusting relationships, and a priority of bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

As we parted with the Baughs, Anthony took us to his home church, Acacia Community Church, pastored by Terry Nester. He showed us around the grounds and the newly constructed meeting shelter which, he said, seats 300-400 souls each Sunday. He was proud of his local fellowship, as well he should be. I look forward to meeting Pastor Terry.

Anthony then took us to witness the beautiful Itanda Falls, where we took several pictures and walked a tour right down to the Nile. The falls were breathtaking, but we resisted the urging of local "divers" who tried to get us to pay them to go through the class 5 and 6 rapids without a raft. I can't imagine a sane person doing that. I can, however, imagine me taking advantage of the zip-line over these falls. Maybe next trip.

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We made it to our appointment at Amazima right on time, and met the Operations Director, Brad Lang. (See www. Amazima.org.) We were his only guests this week, so we got a little extra attention. He was relieved we were aspiring missionaries and not just Katie Davis fans. He chatted with us about the realities of missionary work in Uganda, and as he did, his exuberant passion spilled through. It was inspiring talking to someone so dedicated to doing whatever God articulates as His will for ministry! Amazima teaches and promotes Farming God's Way agricultural practices too, and Brad showed us the training fields. The lots farmed in traditional ways yielded smaller, less productive crops than those using the FGW principles, which were already yielding four or more times the traditional method. I was sold on it. Amazima supports community programs, including a Saturday Bible Study program, where sponsored kids are also given supplemental food items to augment their home meals. Since they get school breakfast and lunch, many do not eat supper unless they bring it home. We saw kids packing food bags for tomorrow's supply. We toured the playground, built four years ago, by Brad and some teenagers he taught some construction skills in the process. We walked and talked for quite awhile. Brad was very hospitable and tolerant of the aspiring missionaries from Florida.

Anthony, who is of the Busoga people (correction: Buganda), pointed out a couple ministries with which he was familiar that we passed as we left Amazima: Our Own Home, a children's home for kids with AIDS; and the Good Shepherd Folds, another orphanage in Jinja. I reference these so I can look them up later. We like Anthony's heart, and he has pointed us toward many good things on this trip. He surprised me with a small knife with which we can cut up our remaining mangoes. It was tough trying to do it with a hotel dinner knife. This will work much better. The TSA won't let me take it home, so I will likely re-gift it to him before we leave.

We made it to the Providence Guest House, a ministry of Heavenly Hope Ministries (www.providencegh.org). This is a guest house devoted to missionaries, and the proceeds go to help missionaries. The place was fabulous too! Roomy and well-equipped, we were given everything we needed, including a menu with some Ugandan dishes on it. We had skipped lunch to make our appointments, so I was hungry.

At supper we met a man and daughter here from Pennsylvania, to encourage and support the adoption of a child by the man's other daughter. Adopting parents and grandparents are my heroes, as they are rescuing the very children out of the need we seek to meet. The man, Ken, is a dentist, has been on many mission trips, and even in his fifties adopted a Chinese baby. That's a hero!

Listening to Ken's stories while reflecting on other conversations of the day reminded me there are orphan rescue initiatives, like children's homes and adoption, then there are orphan prevention initiatives, like those practiced by Amazima, where families are encouraged and supported in staying together. The latter goes well with the national Ministry of Gender's philosophy I have griped about in earlier posts, that a child is better off in even a bad home village than in a children's home. It was the idea that families just want what is best for their families that had me choked up in Gulu when I was addressing the Acholi women. I don't know what is in store for us, or what form our ministry will take, but it is exciting seeing the many approaches to ministry that are being taken by God's people.

Dinner at Providence was great, and two hot showers later, we were ready for bed.

Day Ten, April 24:

20140424-211439.jpgLast night it rained through the night and the coolness swept through the room. I don't think I could have been more comfortable. We woke to a symphony of birds: doves cooing so that I mistook them for owls at first, hundreds of sweet chirping things, and the exact replication of the "tookie bird" from the kids' Disney read-along books, "ahh ahh eee eee tookie tookie!" What I didn't hear was a large black annoyingly loud Ibis-looking bird we have seen and heard everywhere we have been, but a walk after breakfast would prove he was here. He apparently was busy collecting bugs with his long straw beak in the mud softened by the rain. I still haven't heard any of his obnoxious "caw cawwing" today. Speaking of birds, yesterday the eagles were swooping down at the roadway, taking advantage of the easy hunting backdrop when critters ventured to cross. Anthony had told us their talons can scratch automotive windshields, so he was nervous about them swooping too near the car. They were beautiful golden brown, much like our Golden Eagle.

The breakfast buffet here at Kingfisher was set with grains, fruits, teas, fresh whole milk, and an omelette bar attended upon request with beautiful brown eggs from nearby chickens. It was great, and we topped it off with a mango and some raw G-nuts we had in our room, a gift from Nancy Cordoza, that reminded us we were in Uganda and not California. Thanks again, Nancy!

Marcia Baugh, our point of contact with The Way Home ministry, told me she and her husband, Russ, would visit us at the resort this afternoon, so I gave Anthony the day off to spend with his family, and Cindy and I looked forward to enjoying our day of leisure at the Kingfisher Safaris Resort. There are boat tours offered here and I think we will take one.

We did our laundry last night and it is drying nicely on a cord I strung across our room. Cindy thought I was weird when I bought a length of 550 pound poly cord, but it has repeatedly proven very handy. As long as I'm talking about handy items for traveling to Africa, I must sound a recommendation for moist towelettes, quick-dry camp towels, zip-closure bags, alcohol gel (though the TSA made us leave most of it behind), travel-sized toilet tissue rolls, laundry detergent packs, and 3-M UltraThon 12-hour insect repellent. Thanks to those who recommended these things to us or supplied them, our travel has been much more enjoyable.

I read a passage in Acts in my devotional yesterday and I read it again today because I heard it speak to me:

"For so the LORD has commanded us,
'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
(Acts 13:47, NKJV; also Isaiah 49:6)

Later:
I spent the morning relaxing, snoozing, and reading the scores of emails I downloaded yesterday while connected to the hotel wi-fi. Internet connection is scarce in Uganda, and intermittent even at its best. I have had little opportunity to respond to correspondence, and calling home seems a mean thing to do until after 3pm, when it is 8am back home. I'm still not sure how much time my airtime cards allow since they are in Ugandan shillings rather than minutes, and hearing this cheap throw-down phone I bought is very difficult for me even with my hearing aids.

20140425-084936.jpgI booked our boat tour to the source of the Nile and we push off in half an hour. Cindy is shuffling the laundry on our homemade clothesline. Leisure doesn't come naturally for either of us, but Cindy for sure. We've wandered the beautiful gardens of this resort and found some very interesting and beautiful plants and animals. There is a Poinsettia tree here as tall as a house, and a strange bean-pod bearing tree with flat fern-like branches, the pods of which are as long as a forearm and quite wide. There are coconut trees and date palms, and pretty flowering mysterious things neither of us have seen before. The rain pushed some great big millipedes up out of the ground, and we were impressed to see how fast they move around.

Still later:
20140425-084943.jpgOur ride on the boat was beautiful! Franco, our captain, took us to where the Nile begins at the edge of Lake Victoria. He showed us many sights, including a monument to the first white man to "discover" the point, another park in honor of Ghandi, a hero in these parts, and a small island where the local tribe offers an annual sacrifice of two black goats to the demon of the lake. He told us the point used to be a waterfall, but since the hydroelectric dam was built downstream, the water has risen to just above the rocks. There was an island at the point, that was almost completely flooded over. The tour shops had water up to the base of them. It was quite a feeling being on such an ancient river, and being at the source of it.

When we got back, we found messages from Marcia, canceling our afternoon meeting, so we went to lunch, resigned to spend the whole day at leisure. After a brief dip in the pool and a nap, it was just about time for supper. Today showed the first sign of any intestinal distress, so I kept the meal simple and vegetarian, as breakfast and lunch had been.

We heard from our Kampala contact, Gina Gant who, along with her husband Steve, will be hosting us Saturday through Tuesday, and sharing with us the ministry of Wells of Hope. I also heard from a missionary nurse who runs a camping ministry, but is stateside right now, Kindri Van Puffelen. She gave me a recommendation for a missionary guesthouse that would be closer to things on the other side of Jinja, so we decided to check out of the Kingfisher Safaris Resort and into the less costly Providence Guesthouse tomorrow. I am told proceeds of that guesthouse go to fund other mission ministries. Anthony will pick us up around 9am.

Day Nine, April 23:

We got up with the roosters and were ready to depart at dawn (7am). Nancy Cordoza made us a lovely breakfast, an omelette of fresh local eggs, onions and tomatoes with avocado, bananas with odie (G-nut sauce), and oranges which I picked off the tree in her front yard. Talk about fresh organic produce! I could easily get used to this.

Saying goodbye, however, especially to such a sweet new friend, was bitter. We drove away leaving her to her ministry as we started out for Jinja.

20140424-145756.jpgWe left by way of the same road on which we had arrived, and travelled through Kamdini, the town in which Anthony and I had eaten on the way to Gulu. We crossed over the Nile River at the site of the future Karuma Hydroelectric Project as we had done before. This time I got better pictures. After we crossed, we encountered dozens of baboons lining the highway. As I raised my iPhone to take pictures, one lunged toward it as if I was offering it as food. This got a laugh out of Anthony and reminded Cindy to roll up her window.
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At a construction stop, we were rushed by merchants capitalizing on the captive audience. Bottles of cold beverages were thrust into my open window, as Anthony inquired about a local treat, roasted cassava, which was promptly produced. A brief exchange of currency and a wave of the flag man later, we were off again, and Anthony and I enjoyed our early lunch.

A well-timed potty break stopped us at the exact same petrol station at which we had stopped before, just outside Bweyale town. We passed through Luwero, a busy town, where we turned off the main road. Shortly after that, we found the biggest, most amply fruited mango trees I have ever seen. Anthony said these from this region are especially good, so we stopped and bought several from a woman selling them at the street.20140424-145842.jpg

We took a short-cut down Zirobwe Rd. that Anthony swore would shorten our drive by 50km. The problem with this shortcut is that it cuts through Lwajari Swamp and it is the middle of the rainy season. When we came to water that looked impassable, local boys ran ahead of our car to demonstrate that it wasn't too deep. Their dramatics were not enough to overcome the following obstacle however, where a large commercial truck was overwhelmed and swamped. Since we were in a small Toyota family car, we began to back up. Just then, one of the boys, Karema Usam, called out that he knew a way around the washout. He climbed in the car and showed us an alternate path, hardly as wide as the car, and through what seemed like the front yards of many farmers. When we emerged from the adventure through the jungle farms of the Lwajari, we thanked Karema Usam with a coin and watched him run off to save another traveler. The stuck truck was now well in our rear view.

We arrived at the Kingfisher Safaris Resort just after 3pm, only eight hours after leaving Gulu. The resort suites are fashioned after the pattern of circular mud huts with thatch roofing and the whole place has a strong African flavor. It is situated on the bank of Lake Victoria where the Nile River originates. It is beautiful, but feels touristy, and the menu has no pocho, cassava, matooke, goat stew, or other Ugandan food. At dinner, Hilani, our waiter, agreed to bring me pocho with my beef stew, though it was not on the menu. The "potatoes," he explained, were Irish potatoes and not African sweet potatoes. Cindy had rice with her vegetable curry, so that was close, but I already miss Gulu. When he served us, Hilani explained that he had made the pocho himself. Being from Kasese and Mburrara, towns of western Uganda, he knew the dish well. He pointed out that the other waiter was of the Acholi people, from Gulu.

Tomorrow we plan to meet with Russ and Marcia Baugh, of The Way Home, another ECM (Every Child Matters) ministry, although they have family visiting to adopt a child while they are expecting another. It's a big month for them!

Anthony, who is from this area, is eager to show us around.

Day Eight, April 22:

Nancy Cardoza, the founder and director of Going In Love Ministries, opened her home to us. She fed us local cuisine, and it was better breakfast than I remember having in any American restaurant. Matooke (plantains) in G-nut sauce (sort of like soupy peanut butter), avocado with passion fruit, and beans leftover from last night's dinner topped with a little local honey (much darker than orange blossom or clover honey made by Italian honey bees found in America). There is no talk here about "organic" or "unprocessed" because everything is. There are not many refrigerated markets, and when there are, the refrigerators are chilling the water or maintaining ice cream, a novel delicacy around here. We took our breakfast spoiled with such flavorful fare that fit nicely in my personal plan of eating healthy.

Nancy told me that she rarely eats meat anymore, having grown accustomed to Ugandan markets. Since her solar panels are not strong enough to support a refrigerator she only makes meat dishes on special occasions. She said chicken is more costly in the market than even pork or beef, and is a rare treat. There is no such thing as specialized pet food here, so the dogs ate whatever meat we left, plus some sardine-like fish which Nancy fed them whole. We had seen this before, when Carol Adams had fed her cat the same thing plus a couple eggs which I apparently broke on the way home from the market. In my defense, the whole flat of eggs was placed in a plastic bag for transport. This is the practice here.

After breakfast, Cindy washed our clothes and I wrung them and hung them on the line. This act is apparently the African equivalent of washing one's car because as soon as I finished and we left the house, the previously clear sky clouded up with large rain clouds.

Anthony drove Cindy, Nancy, and another guest to the Tegot-Atoo village about 20km away, while I took the boda-boda (motorcycle for hire). I don't know if my perspective was different or the back roads we took just lent us a deeper look into the culture, but the mud huts looked even less objectionable close up. Many were encircled by beautiful flower gardens, but almost all stood along larger planted gardens or farms. The terrain was dusty, as evidenced by the reddish-brown appearance of my clothes and skin after the boda-boda ride. It made me think of how I considered the dirty or dingy as more poverty-stricken. I am the same guy today I was yesterday, but today I am dusty. Big deal!

20140424-145133.jpgThe ladies of the Tegot-Atoo village received us like royalty, singing, clapping, hopping and cheering as we entered the church building. This church building was open, with a dirt floor, and only a few benches. The forty-five or so Acholi women seated themselves on papyrus mats as my boda-man and new friend Ochora Charles, also known as "Charlie International" turned himself into Charlie the English Teacher and gave the ladies a lesson. When English studies were over, the women of the Tegot-Atoo Hill Group got to work on their quilts. Working in several groups of four to five women, they practiced their new skill in hopes of raising money to support their families. The work was quite beautiful too, and we will be bringing one of the finished quilts home.

As they worked, the women got to use Charles' translation services to tell us what their main concerns were. Chief on everyone's mind was the welfare of their children. Some asked for more child sponsorships, others for medical support, many voiced a wish that they might obtain their own building so they could work on the quilts more than just Tuesdays and perhaps safely keep a community sewing machine. About half the women said they were raising children alone with no male support. While we were there, the group was interrupted by village drunks three times, and each time the offender was gently escorted out of the wide open church shelter.

One woman said that when she is sick she has to travel to a far away clinic for medicine, which costs her a day of work plus travel expense which few of these women had. She would like a clinic with medicine in the village.

20140424-145403.jpgThe women fed us, but did not eat. This made me feel honored way beyond my status. One team leader named Nancy (not Cordoza) came around and poured water over our hands for us to wash them as she caught the water in a bowl. Then she unwrapped a large platter filled with delicious food: cassava (a roasted root), pocho (a meal of corn like finely ground grits served as a firm paste), beans (similar to our refrained beans), mashed peas, and chicken. I are everything but left the chicken, too humbled to accept such an expensive delicacy. Everything was delicious, and makes me want traditional Ugandan food rather than the American food available at the hotels and restaurants.

Nancy's trusted helper Renaldo and Charles did a good job translating for the ladies, who speak Lau (pronounced Lu), the language of the Acholi people. These people are primarily farmers, although they mine rock when it is found on their property and fish when possible. Charles took me to a local market and showed me the produce of his community. Other than the dried fish and gigantic ocra, it looked very appetizing.

On the boda-boda, Charles explained to me that several thousand acres of the land through which we were traveling belongs to his family, who had recently decided as a tribe to begin selling 150-acre lots to interested investors. I thought it might be a great place to start or expand a ministry. Charles said he grew up a sponsored child of the Watoto Church, and has aspirations toward political office, which he demonstrated well as he spoke to the group of various-aged women though only a youth of twenty-two himself. A business major at the local Gulu University, he was well spoken regarding what it would take to build a women's center or cultivate a piece of property for the ladies' benefit. He knew how many bricks and how many shillings per brick it would take to make the group's dream a reality. With an iron in every fire, he was an enterprising young man and showed a lot of promise. In 2015, he even plans to build and open a nursery school, which he plans to expand to primary school grades in the future. Also, ladies, watch out! He's in the market for an American wife.   🙂

Back at the Cardoza home, I busily washed out my reddish-orange clay-stained outfit, then showered in what was no longer solar-warmed water, while the girls warmed breakfast leftovers for dinner. We talked until Nancy could no longer hold her eyes open and then we discussed our dawn departure the next day and scurried off to bed. These short stays are less invasive to generous hosts, but heartbreaking when time to say goodbye draws near.

Day Seven, April 21:

Up before dawn which, at the equator, is always 7am, we finally got to experience one of the infamous Ugandan power outages. We were told that it had been an Easter miracle that our power had only been off for a few hours one night while we were sleeping, but now it was out for real, and just as we were needing to pack and leave. Laurie Dickerson, Carol's houseguest, had the place nicely illuminated with candles, and was browning toast in a skillet on a gas-burning stove for us. Laurie is a missionary herself, a pastor of the Four Square Church. She has been quite the helper and well of advice and anecdotal reference. She let us know when our plans were too crazy to be carried out, but I think we left Carol and Laurie both fairly convinced we were crazy, maybe just crazy enough.

It was tough to say goodbye, but Anthony's urging and his warning that we really needed to arrive in Gulu by dark was enough to get us going. It seemed like such a short stay!

As we left the Fort Portal area, we left behind the wealth and cleanliness of their community too. I noticed even the soil seemed less rich, as the clay began to turn from a dark red to a more yellow orange. The clothing of the people we passed got dingier and a little more tattered, though it was still dresses, trousers and dress shirts, short-sleeved ones began to appear, some with holes torn in them from wear and t-shirts began to show up in greater number. The houses got a little farther apart, and a little more run-down, and I felt like we had crossed over into a more rural Uganda.

20140423-163918.jpgAs Cindy and I began to doze Anthony woke us up with the call, "baboons!" There along the side of the road as we crossed through the Budongo Forest, was a group of baboons, pretty as you please! Neither Cindy nor I could get to a camera fast enough to prove it, but Anthony assured us they would be along the road in several places. Sure enough, eight million potholes later, as we wound our way through the clay obstacle course that passes for a road in Northwest Uganda, as we skirted the Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda's largest game park, we encountered dozens of baboons, all lining the highway as if on display. A few seemed as interested in us as we were in them, but we didn't stop, and we kept in mind the advice we got from Laurie earlier: don't open your windows around baboons no matter what. Apparently baboons are very curious and also aggressive.

20140423-163858.jpgWe crossed the Nile River and were both surprised to see a beautifully roaring river over rocks and falls, rather than the long sleepy hippo watering hole we had both pictured in our heads. I guess the Congo River Rapids ride at Busch Gardens was named for this part, not the sweet stream that gently brought Moses to Pharaoh's daughter. Speaking of Congo, we spent the day paralleling the mountain chain that separates D. R. Congo from Uganda. We could only imagine what was going on just the other side of those mountains.

After we crossed the Nile was when I think we began seeing the round mud huts with thatched grass roofs one sees in storybooks about African people. These huts, though, were really neatly made, most appeared cleanly kept, and efficient for their purpose and the climate. I was amazed at how nice some were. Painted with solid doors, some had clothes lines strung between them. Others had laundry drying right on the grass roof. Seeing the ventilation and the thick layers of grass used in the construction, I began to feel sorry for the folks in rectangular brick houses under tin roofs in the equatorial sun.

As we neared our destination much earlier than we had feared, Anthony announced he was hungry much to my relief. We stopped at a roadside restaurant in Kamdini and had some chicken and rice to tide us until supper. Nancy Cordoza, our Gulu hostess, had prepared us dinner so we kept our late lunch light. It was a compromise for me to eat at a roadside restaurant, given the health concerns, but I prayed extra fervently over it and God kept it from being a problem. Cindy, however, had exhausted our supply of G-nuts while we weren't looking, and was too full for roadside fare. She amused herself taking pictures of me taking the adventuresome risk.

Nancy met us at a landmark hotel near her house because (and she is not the first) meeting us and directing us in was easier than giving directions on unnamed (or at least unmarked) roads. When we arrived at her compound, we were shocked at the aesthetic appeal. Even the walls and gates were ornate. The house was no different. Nancy explained the rental process and the fact there are no public utilities was how she found such a bargain, but she makes a lack of refrigeration and laundry work well for her, and we found it comfortable too. Cooking with gas, assisted by a pressure cooker, she prepared us a Ugandan dinner of beans, rice, chicken, bananas, and odie (G-nut sauce).

She made her home our own as she described her ministry to the local Acholi women. She is currently running a quilting group and looking for marketing venues in the U.S. And Canada, to help the women support themselves. She showed us some of the quilts and they were very nice. This group meets on Tuesdays, so we will join them tomorrow.

I got to talk to my daughter briefly tonight, in an attempt to resolve my banking issue, but it's way past bedtime. So good night.

Day Four, April 18 (posted one day later):

What a beautiful landscape Uganda has! Our driver, Anthony, met us at lunchtime yesterday at the Sunset Hotel, where we had a nice lunch before starting the journey to Masaka. With our late start, roads only two and a half lanes wide crowded with boda-bodas, pedestrians, all manner of truck, bus, and car, and the beginning of school holiday starting, there was a very slow ride to Masaka. There is a rich dark clay soil here that is used in the production of just about every building and even roads. The clay appears to crumble under pressure though, so many buildings are in disrepair and many roads are peppered with washed out holes. Our driver was certainly kept alert for his work!

I thought we had arrived at a marketplace, but soon learned that the "market" lines all the roadway in populated areas. Tiny booths, some of sheet metal, some clay brick, and others just stick huts, crowded together like a never ending flea-market. Everyone seemed to be selling something, and only a few, like furniture craftsmen and basket weavers, actually made anything. Farming accounted for some, but not all the market, as most were peddling clothing, used items, or just mobile phone airtime cards. Surprising was the number of idle people just watching traffic ride by.

20140419-065528.jpgWe made one stop at the equator, an obvious tourist attraction and photo opportunity. It isn't every day one crosses the equator! There was a restaurant built right on the line, and they kept the line painted with a stripe through their dining room. Very amusing! We used a public toilet and as I left it I heard a little girl ask me something but I couldn't understand her. I asked her to repeat herself three times and finally concluded she was asking me if I wanted to buy ice cream, so I said, "No, thank you" and walked away. Later it occurred to me, as I wondered why she would giggle so at my response, she was probably asking me if the bathroom was clean, prompting me to tip her. I missed that one!

Huge termite mounds dotted the red clay landscape. Matooke (plaintain) farms lined the unpopulated areas except those near the swamps, which were cluttered with fish peddlers so desperate to sell their tilapia that they stepped into traffic holding their catch as it twitched and flapped in their hands demonstrating its freshness. The swamps themselves were covered in a reed I had never seen before, but which Anthony told me was papyrus.

We ended up meeting Kelsey Linduff, her precious family and friends just as the sun set over the rolling green hills, and were welcomed into her home and hearth while Anthony caught up with Alex, Kelsey's security guard, whom he knew from their home village of Jinja. Kelsey's precious daughters greeted us with hand-drawn pictures addressed to "Mr. Todd" and "Mrs. Cindy." The children were precious and made us feel right at home. We shared stories with Kelsey's other guests and a wonderful meal prepared by Amanda, Kelsey's roommate. Before it got too late, Cindy reminded me we were not family and should get going, and we were led to the Zebra Hotel only a few kilometers away.

The hotel room was spacious and well equipped, but charged by the minute for web access, so I didn't write last night. We retired early and got up for breakfast this morning, baked matooke in a tangy pepper sauce that was wonderful. We met Kelsey at her home and her daughters pointed out the two monkeys swinging in the trees. As fascinated as I was with that, their eyes got even bigger when they reported that recently they had even been visited by a squirrel. Imagine being bored with monkeys and excited by a squirrel! I can't.

20140419-065623.jpgWe rode to the Okoa Refuge and spent a lot of the morning playing with the babies and toddlers. Cindy was in her element, as she found one of the recent additions, Lydia, who clung to Cindy like she belonged with her, and nestled quietly in her arms. I, on the other hand, played jungle gym to the rowdier boys, and was christened with slobber, snot, and all while I enjoyed the giggles of strangers who suddenly weren't so strange, and loved my little brothers and sisters like family for a good while. Around 11:00 and into the early afternoon we were serenaded by the primary schoolers. After listening to an educational Good Friday Bible story by Providence School graduate Audrey, the kids demonstrated a traditional Ugandan dance and took turns introducing themselves in song. It was wonderful, and I was glad to be in their audience. Afterward, Liv, Tyler, Kelsey and the other guests, Cassie and Katie, along with Amanda and the Workman's youngest, Judah, went for a walk to see the new clinic structure and the community center, both newly constructed for the benefit of the locals. It was wonderful to see the potential of those buildings and hear the vision of what is to come through the descriptions by Tyler and Liv. Vocational training, youth entertainment and involvement projects, and health training clinics and services, all in the name of making friends, for only in making friends can one make disciples.

This evening we will tour one of Okoa's rural facilities and see the new piggery. Tyler is excited about the prospect of helping families in the community, as well as Okoa grow more self-supporting through this project. Afterwards, we will dine with the Workmans and retire to the hotel. Anthony tells me we need to make an early start for Fort Portal tomorrow if we are to get there before sundown.

The view from the Zebra Hotel is beautiful! Also, I could get used to this food. It is quite tasty, yet mostly plant-based and unprocessed. If only more Americans ate this way!

Later:
While we were touring the new piggery, an amazing sight even for this transplanted mid-westerner, Liv got a call that a two-month old child had been found abandoned, and was now at the police station, waiting to be picked up. The ministry is so well respected they are the first choice call for such situations. The age estimate was probably off because the child we picked up was two weeks old, three tops, not two months. It breaks the heart to think of someone leaving a child like that at a hospital food distribution center, but warmed it to know that my new friends were there to raise this boy if need be, and care for him in the meantime if not. Inspirational!

We finished the day with a dinner out with the Workmans and Audrey at a restaurant called Port 9 (I think), a quiet cafe, until we got there. The kids all over the village, including our present company, Shami, Gideon, and Judah, were all excited about a termite swarm. Apparently, the kids collect them and the mommies fry them up. Our troupe spilled their bowlful before they made it to the kitchen, although the verbal agreement was already made with the restaurant to fry them up. What do you say to such an appetizing appetizer? You thank God the bowl broke!

packing graphicOur itinerary is paring down to a manageable level, as some of our would-be hosts have not responded to any of my email hails. We plan to spend the first day resting and acclimating to the other side of the world’s time zone. Our first stop will be the Okoa Refuge in Masaka. Then we will be staying with Carol Adams at Y.E.S. Uganda for the Easter weekend. Our plan is to go North from there to Gulu, where there are two ministries we will be visiting, both affiliates of Every Child Ministries, Nancy Cordoza and Cathy Hayes.  After our stay in Gulu, we will head Southeast to Jinja and its surrounding villages, where we hope to visit Russ and Marcia Baugh (also ECM affiliates) and Amazima Ministries. If we can fit it in, we may visit Mbale, where the Baughs have just begun building a children’s home and where CURE International has a hospital. If God will arrange it, we would very much like to meet the folks at the only UMC mission we could find in that area: Uganda Christian Solutions. On our way back South, we look forward to stopping at Noah’s Ark Children’s Ministry, a CRU affiliate run by Pietr and Pita Butendijk, in Mukono on the outskirts of Kampala, the nation’s capital. In Kampala, we plan to visit 60 Feet, the rumors of which were first to get our own feet moving toward Uganda at all. We seek God’s will, not our own, in this tour and with the direction for our lives. We are trusting that, nestled in His care, we will be safe and well.  His will be done!

We covet your prayer support. Thank you for caring. We will post pictures as we find the opportunity. Likely as not those will appear on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ugandatour2014, so be sure to visit and "like" that page so you get updates. Also, don't forget to subscribe to this blog if you haven't yet. Just enter your email address in the subscribe bar on our home page and follow the directions in your email.

Thanks all! Love and hugs!!

~Todd and Cindy


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20140315-162103.jpgIt is the ides of March, one month until Cindy and I depart for our exploratory trip to Uganda. We are looking forward to meeting new friends, building relationships, and witnessing firsthand the work being done and that needs to be done in the name of Jesus Christ.

We got some news this week that has us turning our itinerary over, but it is a blessing, because it will permit us to spend Easter with a friend, rather than among strangers. Carol Adams, of Y.E.S. Uganda, has graciously offered to host us for the holiday at her home and mission hostel in Fort Portal. She is a recent acquaintance and a beloved friend of two of our beloved friends.

Other news we got this week is a new prayer concern. Our home county is completely out of the yellow fever vaccine. We have been advised to travel to Gainesville to get vaccinated, as it represents the nearest supply, and we have been informed that we cannot enter Uganda without it. Other shots and medicines have been taken care of, but this remains at issue. Please join us in this prayer: the Lord will provide.

I worked my last shift as a police officer Wednesday, and today is my first day being officially retired. The last couple days have been full and eventful, with family visiting and congratulatory blessings being received. I thought I was emotionally prepared until, as I prepared my uniform for the last time, it occurred to me it was, in fact, the last time. A nervous hole gnawed at my stomach the rest of the day as I became aware that I was shedding a skin I have worn for twenty-five years. The last call I went on went rather poorly. No one was hurt physically, but tempers were lost and grace did not abound. It reminded me that, along with the uniform of a professional fault-finder and justice-minister, I must be willing to let go the demand for peace and replace it with a passion for mercy.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
(Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi)

Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:9 NIV)

Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni

Today, while working in the lawn, I listened to a sermon which referenced Simeon, the prophet who met the holy family in the temple after the time of purification was over (Luke 2:22-25).  Great emphasis was placed on the fact that, though Jesus was only a seven week-old child, this devout man saw in Him the glory of the promise that was to come.  So assured was he of who Jesus was that he was content to die happy, having received the promise that God had given him – that he would witness the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven in his lifetime.

The preacher to whom I was listening pointed out that many of us fail to recognize the promise of God, or become complacent as time progresses, and stop looking for the fulfillment of the promise.  He also pointed out that Simeon received a personal word from God, apart from Scripture, a prophetic revelation that he would participate in something new and wonderful.  Listeners were encouraged to hold on to the hope of God’s promise in our life, though it may seem to take a long time.  Like Simeon, we are to be sensitive to God’s call, and eagerly follow His bidding.  Simeon was called “by the Spirit into the temple” (v. 27).  He also showed discernment when he saw, in the little baby, the promise of the Messiah, the conquering King.

I couldn’t help but think of the newly birthed concept of this ministry.  I know that God is preparing us for something big in Uganda, and yet, sometimes, I am disquieted by the scoffs and jeers of those who criticize the plan or lack of specifics, or who attempt to dissuade me from serving a people so far removed from what I know.  As I hold this infant ministry concept in my hands, I see a great future – one in which Jesus Christ shows up in power to do mighty things, and He will let me be a part of it.

I’m grateful for the story of Simeon, and how his foresight inspires me to keep looking ahead.

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples (Luke 2:30-31, NKJV)

PrepareThe great heroes of the Bible endured long waits, disappointment, discouragement, and real strife, yet were commended for their faith.  Noah likely spent seventy-five years building the ark amid many who scoffed at him on the high and dry hill.  Jacob toiled seven extra years, a total of fourteen, for the bride he loved.  Even the leprous army commander Naaman, who at first went away angry, expecting Elisha to instantly cure him with a wave of his hand, obediently baptized himself in the Jordan River seven times before he became clean.  So who do I think I am that I should instantly be equipped for my ministry, though God has not even revealed to me exactly what it will be?  Why do I feel disappointed when those who might support me chuckle when they hear that graduation is nearly four years in the future?

Mine are trivial discouragements compared to what lies ahead.  They stretch me just enough to make it to and through the next one.  God is doing in me what I could never ask or imagine, and He is preparing me for something I cannot even fathom.  Every day my heart grows closer to that which lies ahead than that which I leave behind.  My grip on the material things around me is loosening, and the reality that we will likely remain stateside only a few more years is firming in the minds of my wife and me.  In our hearts, we are already in Uganda loving children not our own and serving brothers and sisters who today remain strangers.  In our minds, the Lord has made our calling clear, but in the minds of those around us, we are as lunatics forecasting rain on a high and dry hill where rain has never fallen.

We are looking forward to our visit in April, partly to make new friends, visit mission clinics and orphan ministries, and perhaps view a sample of the work before us – a spying out of Canaan so to speak.  A mostly selfish part of me also longs to put an end to the ridicule that comes after the inquiry, “Have you been there before?”  What always comes next is, “How do you know you will want to live there?”  The answer is simply: God didn’t ask me what I wanted.  I asked Him what He wanted.

“Want to” is something I am learning to submit to God, and what I find is that God changes my “want to” to conform to His will if I let Him.  Since He has called Cindy and me to prepare for missionary work in Uganda, God has fashioned my desire after His calling.  He has made me want Uganda.  My heart aches for Uganda’s children every day, and I’ve never met one of them.  Not only me, but He has imbued Cindy with the same passion.  Why Uganda?  I don’t know why, but I know!   Why wait?  Why a degree in nursing?  I don’t know why, but I know I am to become a nurse.   I am just doing what I am given to do.  “Want to” would not have had me in Uganda.  “Want to” would not have had me ministering to others in the first place.  “Want to” would not have me investigating the northern territories of Uganda, where war and violence are still fresh and where the Karamajong still fight over cattle and sometimes offer human sacrifices to appease an idol god.  “Will do” overcomes “want to” and God, who directs the hearts of kings like a watercourse (Proverbs 21:1), can move my “want to” according to His will.

booking air travel onlineIt's official.  We have the flight details for our 2014 Vision Building Tour!  Cindy and I are both so excited we can hardly do anything else.

Cindy dug in and checked every imaginable travel site and not only found us cheaper tickets than I could find, but found airlines and connections with which we are more comfortable, and also milked another couple days out of our two-week trip.   What a blessing to have someone with such great administrative skills built right into the marriage partnership!  She's amazing!

Prayer partners, be advised the travel dates are Tuesday, April 15th through Thursday, May 1st.  We will be flying into and out of, Entebbe.  Thank you for your prayer support!

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Some people are cast right into ministry, while others are called to make arduous preparations for it. Jonah got spit onto the beach of Nineveh, but Noah was called to labor on his ark about seventy-five years before there was ever a drop of rain in the sky.

I was feeling pitiful, wondering why God could not just use me like I am rather than calling me to nursing school, but I considered Noah. It had never rained before, but he stacked gopherwood. The earth was high and dry, but he cut timber and boiled pitch. Noah was faithful to his calling, even though it was years before God would call him to climb aboard and batten the hatch.

As I considered the years of schooling I have yet to complete before receiving my nursing degree and the preparations to be made for whatever God has planned for me, I thought I would read the account of Noah, hoping for some encouragement.

This is what I found:

Genesis 5:28-29 NIV
[28] When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. [29] He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed. "

His father named him Noah, to be a comfort for those of us who toil. Thank God for the story of Noah! and for the fulfillment of his type in the person and life of Jesus Christ, who seals us with His Spirit to withstand the tumultuous elements of this Earth for a promise on the other side of the storm!

Dear Father, today, make me diligent to the tasks at hand, keeping my focus on You, with my life in Your hands not mine. May the goal be before me, but my attention be always on following Your direction for my next step. Forgive my impatience, Lord, and cleanse me of it. Thank You for motivation, and for the promise of working according to Your purpose. In gratitude, I offer You this small gift: me.

Katie Davis and her work at Amazima Ministries inspires me.  This morning I received the Amazima Newsletter with a link to a blogpost entitled Some Sweet Words From Jesus.  In it, Katie describes the draw of her heart to the children of Uganda, and how God is teaching her to accept His will and do her part, no matter how insignificant it may feel at the time.  One look at the work she has done and continues to do proves that what she is doing is anything but insignificant!

Lord use me and mine for Your purposes, and make me diligent to the task at hand, never criticizing the opportunities You put before me as too small or not enough for anything less than my best.

Go traffic lightThe term missionary means sent one. Someone recently asked me who was sending Cindy and me to Uganda.  The answer was simply, "God."  I was, for a micro-moment, tempted to feel as though that was an inadequate answer, realizing my interrogator wanted more detail, but I answered him with confidence, knowing that God will reveal to us the people and institutions with whom we will partner according to His timing.

I was reminded of the calling of the prophet Isaiah.  It was revealed to Isaiah's spirit that God was deliberating, "Whom shall I send?" when he volunteered, "Here am I.  Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)  Isaiah was sent to block the ears and speak a curse of ignorance to the people who would have to wait for God's promise, the holy Root of Jesse, the stump of cutoff Israel, to be revealed.

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.[a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6:9b-10, NIV)

What once was bound up has been uncovered, and what once was sealed has been rolled away.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought deliverance from this curse (Joel 2:32), and I stand as volunteer to deliver healing to those whom the Spirit will turn.

As written in 1 Peter 2:24,

24 He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.  (NLT)

Isaiah was willing though he wasn't sure what he was volunteering for.  Cindy and I are not sure what lies ahead either, but we are willing to give up house and family and comfort to respond to this call toward serving the children of Uganda.  Every moment I am away, the passion for them grows stronger.

Dear Father, today, help me live the today You have given me and trust You with tomorrow.  Thank You for opportunity to serve You now, even as I prepare for a new ministry yet to be birthed.  Help me be patient and grow as You cultivate.  Raise up Your servants to do what needs to be done, and grant that my part may be played according to Your perfect will and timing.  In Jesus' name, amen!

When I was a young teen, or maybe a tween, I told God I would become a missionary.  Even through the distractions of girls and school, I still planned to go to Bible college, and carry out my mission.  I never had any specifics and knew nothing about missionary work, except what I saw of the visiting ones at Vacation Bible School or Missions Week at church.   Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball of that promise.  Even when the memory of it came to the surface years later, I pushed it back down and rationalized that I was in a service career, and that had become my "mission."  After all, doesn't the Great Commission make everyone a "missionary" in their own setting?  It sounded good for awhile.

While I was trying to decide on a path for a second career as my first one draws to a close, God gently reminded me of that promise.

I have spent some time working in a counseling office as a peer-support coordinator.  I was the guy people would come to when they weren't too sure about going to see the mental health counselor.  There's just something about that title that bears a repellent stigma.  While I was working in that role, I learned to love ministering to people on a personal level, especially those in crisis.  I knew counseling was not for me, but I was drawn toward one of two other options: nursing, which I saw as helping coaches, ministers of health in primarily physical but also the spiritual and emotional aspects as well; and preaching ministry, which I viewed as valuable, but intellectual with no material product.  I recalled Paul's instruction to work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and I recognized that pounding them on a pulpit was not the same thing.  I wrestled with this decision.  I prayed.  I cried.   One day, I was earnestly praying, desperate to know which way to go.  I reminded God how slow I am to recognize His answers, and asked that He please make this one obvious.

Just then a car passed me on the wrong side.  (Yes, I was driving at the time.)  As it zipped around me the car cut me off, narrowly missing my fender.  There in front of me was the biggest bumper sticker I have ever seen.  It was huge!  It was plain white with enormous black letters that simply said, "BECOME A NURSE".   My tears became laughter as I said, "Yes, Sir!" and began seeking information on nursing schools in my area.

A short time later, my wife, Cindy, and I had been talking about the passion we have for Africa and for children.  We were both confused about where we would put our skills to work for the Lord, but we were sure it would be somewhere in Africa.  Cindy has always dreamed of living in Africa.  If I really want to get her excited, we sit at home and watch Hatari.  Sometimes I can duplicate the effect just by scat-singing Chuck Mangione's Baby Elephant Walk.  We have a friend who immigrated from Liberia by way of a refugee camp in Ghana, but for some reason, we knew that was not our destination.  Right after we had this discussion, we were sitting in church when the pastor introduced a woman who had been on a mission trip to Uganda.  As soon as we heard the name of the country, Cindy and I looked at each other and mouthed, "UGANDA!" as we were both touched by the utterance of the word and somehow knew that was it.

The plan has been delayed by life, as plans sometimes are.  My best friend was suddenly struck quadriplegic, and needed someone to help him to rehabilitative therapy.  I thoroughly enjoyed ministering to him that way, and became comfortable moving another man around as is necessary when one cannot move himself.  When he was finally able to get to the gym on his own, I ventured off to school.  I have a lot of classes yet to take before I can even apply for nursing school, but I am taking it one day at a time, content with God's timing.  I know that He is developing me in more ways than just a nursing degree.  He is developing patience.  Sometimes the wait gets long, and the obstacles ahead seem daunting, but that's when I remember that God is already in my tomorrow.  He is with me today, and He will be with me tomorrow.   Just this morning, I received a link to a song by Templeton Thompson - "When I Get That Pony Rode" that, though Country and not necessarily Christian, helped me to remember to be dedicated and to patiently endure, to be content with slow progress, because the harvest will be worth the wait.

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Uganda mapAs my first career draws to a close and I begin preparing for what comes next, God has drawn me to go to nursing school to become a missionary nurse, and has tugged the hearts of both me and my wife, Cindy, in the direction of Uganda, where war and AIDS has left a vast population of orphans who need His loving care.

One night a few months ago, I caught myself giving advice to a teenager who had made extensive career plans but had never bothered to meet with someone serving in her selected occupation, or to visit the work-site of such a professional. As I heard myself criticize her for not exposing herself to the work and workers in her chosen field, I heard God say the same thing to me.  I immediately recognized I needed to go to Uganda, to visit the orphanages and mission hospitals, and meet the people whose needs I will someday serve as well as some of the people who are already serving there.

Since my retirement date is set for March 14, 2014, Cindy and I are planning to fly into Entebbe, Uganda in April and make certain stops, visiting orphan ministries and mission clinics where we can before returning home to build on that vision, and take the necessary steps to make this mission a reality.

I have already resumed my college classes to finish the prerequisites necessary to enroll in nursing school. I have long way to go, but it has to start with a vision. My hope is that this trip will fuel me with the passion it will take to drive me through the obstacles that lie ahead.

Thank you for stopping by. I would appreciate your prayers.

- Todd