Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photos from Uganda

Ken with one of Robert's and Sarah's triplets

Nate with one of the triplets

Nate, Ahnika and Elizabeth

Bruce preaching at Busoba

Bruce preaching at Wabiyinja

Bukeeka church

Baptisms in the Nile

Fountain of Hope high school students

Fountain of Hope kitchen

Preparing posho at the school

Adventure in Uganda

Every trip must have its adventure. I think today (Saturday) qualifies for this trip’s adventure—at least we hope that is the case.

Today’s journey was to Busaba, about a 2½ hour drive from Jinja. It is the farthest village we travel to. Leaving Jinja, we crossed the dam over the Nile River. Just after crossing the dam we saw a police officer on the opposite side of the road pointing to our van and signaling for us to pull over. Robert was driving and immediately complied.

A police officer approached the van and demanded to know who was taking pictures. We looked at each other and shook our heads. Elizabeth raised her hand and said she was taking some pictures with her phone. Thus began our first experience with a Ugandan police shakedown.

After demanding the phone and panning through the pictures, one of the officers asked Elizabeth if she was a terrorist! That changed the tone of things. Robert got out of the van and talked with the police behind the van to try to straighten things out.

Apparently there is a sign as you approach the dam that says “No pictures!” Simeon and Nate noticed it, but didn’t say anything because they simply didn’t think much about it. In addition, they were not aware Liz was taking any pictures. But it is a violation to take pictures on and of the dam because of the vulnerability to terrorist attack.

Not surprisingly, the situation upset Liz. We were comforting and encouraging her while trying to explain the matter to the police. A man without uniform intervened and it was clear he was in charge. He began to insist this was a serious violation and ordered Liz, Martha, and Bruce out of the van (Martha and Bruce, because they had to get out in order for Liz to get out). As the man in charge continued to accuse and question at the same time, he said they would have to take Liz away. Martha insisted since Liz was not an adult and she was under Martha’s care, she would have to go with Liz.

After a few minutes, the man dropped the idea of taking Liz away and said she would have to pay a “penalty” for the violation—2000,000 Ugandan shillings (about $75US). Liz didn’t have the money on her, but Ahnika quickly handed over the 200,000.

With the money handed over, (and pocketed by the man in charge) we were ordered back in the van. Robert returned, we were able to retrieve the phone, and quickly left, breathing a sigh of relief.

Then comes the rest of the story…As we began driving away we started talking about the situation with Robert. He was rather matter-of-fact about the fact that “these things happen,” but pleased that we were able to leave with his having to pay 50,000 shillings to the police. Then it dawned on us that two “penalties” were paid! Robert was shocked and really disappointed. And we all just shock our heads in amazement. But, we were also very grateful that it was only money that was lost.

We then took the opportunity to talk with the kids about sometimes you have no control of the situation and the best you may be able to do is submit to the unfairness. You also need to recognize you have to choose you battles. Some battles are simply not worth the cost. Some are worth the cost. Choose wisely, and be ready to pay the cost for the battles you choose.

The remainder of the trip to Busaba was uneventful compared to how it began. Busaba is a 45 minute drive off the paved highway, with little in the way of public services. It is also a center for witchcraft, which Robert pointed out to us so we could be prepared for whatever happened. The visit turned out to be filled with joy.

We were greeted with great enthusiasm. One elderly woman came running to the van, waving her arms and calling out Jesus’ name. She grabbed Bruce and took him over to the worship group that was meeting under a temporary tent. Their church building had been destroyed by a storm last year so they now meet under a jackfruit tree. After the team got organized, our hosts decided to move the tent nearer the jackfruit tree so more people could be shaded.

After more singing and introductions, the children went with Martha and the young assistants for Bible story and activity time. Ken and Bruce each provided teaching from Scripture with a focus on the Gospel. As is the norm, they were both received enthusiastically.

Following the conference time, Jawali (our taxi driver) and Sarah distributed beans, rice, and flour to the oldest attendees and Martha gave out some animal toys to the youngest. She was almost overrun by the children, but worked her way back to the van before it got out of hand.

The trip back to Jinja was a time to relax and appreciate the countryside. Small plots of corn around villages, fields of rice with scarecrows sprinkled through them, papyrus growing at the edges of small bodies of water, a bridge that doubles as a road and a railroad. A train came down the tracks about one minute after we crossed the bridge, so we were pleased that we didn’t have to see what happens when a train and a vehicle come to the bridge at the same time!

Dinner again at the Sityos. Fish and chips and lots of fresh pineapple. We will never tire of the pineapple.

Friday update from Uganda

Friday brought a slight change of schedule. Originally designated as a rest day, we instead went to the site of the pastors’ wives conference in order to share a message and distribute toys to the children, health kits to the women, and clothing to everyone present. After a teaching time from one of the women’s leaders and a time of greeting from the women’s director, Ken and Bruce each provided Bible teaching for the women.

Both teaching times were enthusiastically received, as is common in these parts. It is gratifying to see the appreciation for the Bible teaching. The people are enthusiastic normally, smiling and laughing easily. Although they lack many basics we would considered necessities in North America, their joy for Christ and for one another is infectious.

Lunch of matoke, rice, and beef was served until all had their fill. Everyone is amazed at the volume of food Ugandans can eat at one sitting. But as it was explained to us, it may be the only meal they are able to have in a day so you eat as much as you can. A very different attitude towards food from what we are used to.

Distributing the toys, clothing, and health kits was somewhat raucous, with children clamoring for toys while matching clothing with approximate sizes. News spread in the village about what was happening so we had many onlookers as we left.

Back at Robert and Sarah’s house we had another marvelous meal. We feel extremely blessed to be cared for so well by Robert, Sarah, and all in their household.

Monday - Thursday Update from Uganda

Monday brought us back to Fountain of Hope School to see the campus and to spend time with about 200 high school age kids in their weekly fellowship time. Again, energetic singing was the sound of the day. The song leaders were all high schoolers and the students sounded like a choir. Bruce shared a message with the students of “One Faith, One Hope, One Baptism” that was very well received.

From the school we travelled back into Jinja for lunch at a wonderful outdoor hotel restaurant. Great meal! Bruce tried Stoney, an intense ginger ale-like drink that puts Canada Dry to shame.

After lunch we drove out to the Nile in hopes of giving Ahnika and Nate their adrenalin rush for the trip…bungy jumping at the Nile. Unfortunately, we arrived just a few minutes after the site closed so it was back to Robert and Sarah’s house for another filling, delicious meal before turning in for the evening. This is supposed to be the “light” day for the week, so we are gearing up for what is to come.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is the time for the major teaching experience of this trip. The church at Bukeeka sponsored a conference primarily for pastors to hear about dealing with conflict from a biblical perspective. About 75 pastors, pastors’ wives, and others—many travelling some distance—came to learn about how to address their conflicts biblically. Bruce taught the three-day seminar on personal peacemaking and conflict coaching using material from Ambassadors of Reconciliation in America. The seminar was enthusiastically received with many participants saying “we need more of this” because of the conflicts they experience in their churches and homes. Attendance certificates are being delivered to those who attended at least two days of the training.

While Bruce was teaching, the rest of the team ministered to students at Fountain of Hope and delivered supplies and gifts to residents in the bush in the Bukeeka area. It is in the bush where you see the greatest challenges to survival. The team was blessed to bring hope and some tangible support to people in need.

Elizabeth Mcduff: My first impressions of UGANDA 

   When Pastor Goodfellow, Martha, and I arrived in Uganda it was about 10:30 pm. After we got our visas and luggage we got ready to get loaded up to go to the hotel for the night. I was very scared. I didn’t know anyone that well so driving to the hotel was terrifying. Then driving in to where we were staying was like going in to the bad part of town at night. I was so scared all I wanted to do was call my family just so that I would be comforted by the sound of there voices. I didn’t sleep well that night at all and got up at 4:00 am. But by the time we had breakfast I was able to call my sister, Grace, who was just as relieved as I was when we talked. By the time we got in the van to go to Jinja everything seemed so much different. It was all so pretty; all the green from the trees and all the colors from the store fronts. I was in love with Uganda. And by the time we had met Robert, Sarah, the babies and the kids from the villages I was also falling in love with the people.

I knew before I left God had something great in store for me and now I'm experiencing this great blessing.
Bukeeka Church

Sunday was a day to spend with the church. We joined with the Bukeeka church of their morning worship with Ken and Bruce each bringing a message of the Gospel to the people. The African worship experience is more expressive than it is in North America. The people sing with heart, soul, and body. Harmonies spring up spontaneously and there is a freedom that just different from most North American churches.

Bukeeka church has a dirt floor that is about as hard as concrete. The congregation has added on to the church from two years ago so it now seats about 500 in plastic lawn chairs. They now have sheet aluminum walls to keep some of the wind and rain out. But the aluminum also keeps some of the heat in, so there is a trade-off; better at protecting from the weather, worse as keeping it cool. They have also recently built an office for Pastor Robert so he can have a place to work when he is there. His home is about15 miles away and the roads make the journey take longer than it does in America.

We had lunch at Fountain of Hope School a short drive up the road from the church. The meal was excellent! Rice, beans, and beef cooked in tasty juices. I asked what to call the dish and was told: “Rice, beans, and beef.” The perfect descriptor.

After lunch we travelled about 10 miles, the last several miles on dirt roads and a dirt trail that took us down to the Nile River. There, a service of baptism was held for about 75 people. It was fascinating to stand by the Nile, watching people being washed of their sins, listening to the people lift their voices in song to God in a language I don’t understand, knowing the Gospel is at work in ways and in among cultures I don’t understand very well, but also knowing God’s Holy Spirit works through Word and Sacrament to build and strengthen his Church.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

GGI Uganda Trip 2016 - Beginning the Journey

Greetings from Uganda! The Grace Giving International 2016 Uganda Mission Trip began one week ago so we thought it would be good to bring you up to date with what has been happening since we arrived.

Ahnika, Simeon, and Nate Klimper flew to Uganda from Portugal with Bruce Zagel. They arrived late Tuesday, 21 June, after flying through Amsterdam. All four were excited to arrive but also ready to sleep. It had been a long day. Pastor Robert Sityo greeted them and took them to a guesthouse not far from Entebbe airport. Ken and Martha Goodfellow, along with Elizabeth McDuff from Kennewick, WA, were to arrive the next night on the same flight, so rather than leaving directly for Jinja, the group stayed at the guesthouse until the day after the Goodfellows arrived with their 18 (!) suitcases. Believe it or not, all those suitcases did not cary Martha's clothes. They were filled with supplies for the mission trip; Bibles, story books for children, snacks to go along with the story books, and commentaries to be given to local pastors that were donated by Bob and Betty Zagel, Martha and Bruce's parents.

While waiting for Ken, Martha, and Elizabeth to arrive, Ahnika, Simeon, Nate, and Bruce went with Robert to take a couple of young gentlemen to the bus station in downtown Kampala. This trip allowed the newcomers a chance to get a firsthand look at the vibrant downtown area. People, traffic, and the African sense of traffic made the afternoon both enjoyable and educational.

The next day, after Martha and Ken were vertical, although not terrible alert because of the long journey from Spokane, WA to Entebbe, the group went to Jinja to settle in at their home-away-from-home, the Nile Hotel Jinja. This place serves as the "home place" for most of the time in Uganda, except for a few days towards the end of the experience. The hotel is only a 10 minute walk from Robert and Sarah Sityo's home which makes it very convenient.

The next morning, Friday, 24 June, it was was time for shopping for supplies in Jinja. Martha led the group, gathering beans, flour, rice, and other supplies that will be distributed to villagers in the bush over the next couple of weeks. A big supply of Ziploc bags comes in handy to pack the supplies in manageable containers for distribution.

Later on Friday, the group travelled to Buloba (about a 20 minute drive) for the first of two nights of preaching in evangelistic sermons for the community. The community is largely Muslim, so not everyone is open to hearing the Gospel. Robert commented that because it is Ramadan, the Muslims would stay in their homes until after sundown, but they would certainly hear the message broadcast over the loud speakers. The whole group enjoyed the singing and preaching and the local Christians seemed to appreciate it greatly.

We hope to catch up on the week tomorrow evening. We will also try to have each member of the team contribute to the blog so you have everyone's perspective.

Please pray for Sarah Sityo. She was diagnosed with typhoid fever yesterday and is taking five days treatment for it. As a mother of infant triplets and the primary organizer of the logistics for our visit there is a big load on Sarah.

More to post tomorrow night.