Sunday, May 13, 2012

Inside the Wheelbarrow

The circus was in town and one of the attractions was a world-renowned tight ropewalker.  His posters and flyers boasted of his talent, saying he was the “Best from East to West”.  When the time came and the people gathered around, the walker very gracefully and with little effort walked back and forth across the rope carrying several different objects in increasing weight and size. The people were amazed, he followed this by riding a short unicycle across the rope for all of the people to see, and the children in the crowd oohed and aahed to see such a spectacle.
Then, he took a wheel barrow filled with 100 pounds of heavy sand, before he tempted the rope, he called down to the crowd, “I have shown you that I can carry my weight across the rope, do you believe I can carry this very heavy wheel barrow across as well as myself?” and the people all shouted up to him, “We Believe”, once he knew he had the confidence of the crowd he began across the rope adeptly he maneuvered the wheel barrow to the other side and back again.  There was another wheelbarrow on the platform filled to the brim with water.  He set down the sand and took hold of the other, he asked the people, “do you believe that I can cross this rope without spilling a drop of this water?” the people responded in unison, “We Believe” and they did.  He had proven his talent and shown his ability, the people watched with bated breath as the walker expertly crossed the line without spilling one drop. 

When he had returned to his starting position there was a third wheelbarrow sitting on the platform.  The World renowned and very talented tight ropewalker again called down to the people, I have easily walked and ridden, across this rope for you, I have carried a heavy load and carefully pushed the gentle water across for your viewing pleasure, thank you for seeing my talent and believing in me.  Now, to give you a real sense of my greatness, who will volunteer to sit in this last empty wheelbarrow for our big finale?” the crowd fell silent.

The person who would volunteer was placing his entire life in the hands of the tight ropewalker.  One slight misstep and any number of painful or even fatal accidents might occur.  However, great, and talented the man was, no matter the acts of grandeur that he displayed, no matter how many times he safely delivered the performance, and how ever thunderous the people cheered, no one volunteered.

It’s easy to say you believe when you are not in the wheelbarrow.

10 days, 10 days, 10 short days I cant believe that it is almost over. Living in temporary places, sleeping in temporary beds, having to be sure that my personal belongings don’t weight more than 100 pounds at all times.  Learning new ways of greeting, new languages, seeing amazing places both unpleasant and beautiful. Meeting and being inspired by so many people who have moved their whole lives to another country to “make disciples”. 

The one thing about my trip that I guess was always lingering but never became apparent to me (the elephant in the room as it were) is that at some point it would come to an end. I knew that some day I wouldn’t have 10 roommates anymore, that I would finish finals, that I would leave “hello” behind, abandon “ciao” and even forget “Wasuze Otya”.  I have been expecting to lighten my load along the way, giving away everything that I know is so readily available in the U.S.  I have dreaded every single flight all the way here.  I have missed the states and my family and my many close friends (who have been so good to remind me that I am missed and loved, thank you).  I have looked forward to the next step, excited for what is to come, probably getting caught up and at times forgetting to just be where I am.  Now I sit here thinking, about how in a few short days, I will be home, no plane trips to dread, no new places to visit, no plans to plan because I need to be there for a while.  The thought is overwhelmingly comforting and at the same time I feel like I’m suffocating. 

The idea of getting back in the swing of things, working a real job, finishing school, paying for gas, are not necessarily appealing things about my return.  Also, the idea of not having a “next trip”, a plane ticket to save for, and especially staying put, feels weird.  The things I am excited about, a cell phone, I can’t wait to have what will feel like full access to all of my loved ones.  This means a lot after being in such a remote place for months and months having to cut phone calls short and desperately see the frozen images and synthesized conversations on Skype.  Easy access to necessities, at stores, consistent electricity, running water and Starbucks coffee, just a few of my new found appreciations.   

This trip has been full of uncertainties, things like funds, flights, and shelter.  I had decided a while ago that the questions that I had, would never be “just answered” for me.  That I would have to have faith and not simply belief, (because there is a huge difference) but for the last 9 months I have been in a place where I have had no other choice than to walk that faith, to “get in the wheel barrow” by doing so I would have to give up my own fears, STOP laying in bed at night wondering; who, how, and when. 

Just trust, through that trust I have learned so many things about myself and about the character of God.   For example I learned that the things that I consider important are not necessarily important to God.  The things that are important to him are of little consequence to me (well not all of them) but how offended I could become when the importance of my needs was undermined. And how patiently God had waited while I ignored his concerns.  A big one was to let people do things for me, something that I have a really hard time with.  I don’t like letting others serve me.  I prefer to be the “hostess” or the “helper”, but in a place like Italy a visitor is expected to be available for conversation, no matter how much they would like to be doing the dishes or collecting the trash.  Because I have always felt like I needed to prove my worth by being valuable (a helper, a hostess, a fulfiller of needs).  I had to learn that my presence was valuable, and the invite warranted that, not the amount of work I put in.  Just for example.

This experience has been hard because it was very easy to say that I believed before I got in the wheelbarrow.  I left America for a trip that was not paid for, I had bought a one-way ticket to Italy, I prayed that I would somehow make the 4000 tuition.  God was faithful to me and gave me lots of extra work this summer.  I had made just enough to pay the tuition, I wrote a fat check that emptied my bank account.  The next step was the total expenses for my time in Africa, the plane ticket was 1400 dollars and the cost of my stay here has been 2000.  So my total living expenses for 5 months has been 3400 American dollars (less than my entire tuition for three months in Italy).  Through a few very generous one time and consistent monthly donors, I have collected about 2000 of the dollars I need to finish paying off my living expenses here, leaving me with a 1400 dollar payment still to make.

One of the common misconceptions about my trip has been that I am receiving some sort of payment.  This is just not true, the fact is that just like any missionary my time in Africa has been funded solely by donors, this is why I have been writing a blog to keep my donors up to date and to hopefully show that I am fulfilling a need that others cannot by giving my time.  I have had a very hard time saying that thus far, but as my time here comes to a close, I have a sincere need to fulfill financial obligations that have been overlooked. 

So thank you for following me on this journey and thank you for all of the positive feedback on my blog and thoroughly enjoying my stories.  And if you would like to be a part of that and my continuing journey please click the donate button and give.  ANY amount will help.  Please don’t feel obligated to give more than once and don’t think that your contribution will be unhelpful or overlooked. The pay pal is simple and the donation is tax deductible so you will receive a tax credit at the end of the year.

So this is my need, I place it before you, from my heart, from Uganda, from inside the wheelbarrow.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

I knew I needed change

I am house sitting for a missionary family on secondary side this week, a very welcome change of pace, indoor plumbing, running water, solar power, a refrigerator and stove, it really is the little things.

Today, I put off going to the primary side as long as I could, I sat around, I made food, I went online, I tried to take a nap.  When I finally decided to get off my buns and get to it.  I had two visitors, girls asking for work, who were quite determined to help me.  Camp is coming up this week and the kids are earning money any way they can to go.  Finally I told one of them that I had some laundry, but it was over on primary side.  So she agreed to meet me there.  I also had several people to visit, and speak with so I took off on bike to make some quick stops before collecting my laundry for her.

I knew I needed change so I could pay her a fair price (which is strictly measured and enforced here).  I went to a few people, who could only give me larger bills, finished my errands and went to meet Sara at my hut.  I collected my laundry in the laundry bag, got out the basin for washing and a Jerah can for collecting water, just as Sara arrived.  Handing her the necessities, I told her I would be back, I still needed change, and she requested to use our “bathroom” to wash in.  (for those of you who don’t know, the “bathroom” is an outdoor cubicle with a wooden door and a drain for bathing) I thought it was a funny request but told her that was fine. 

I left for the Forge, which I was hoping would even be open on a Saturday, but was not sure.  It was open and when I arrived I was a little desperate for change, so I took out the smallest bill that I had and it was exchanged in coin.  I gladly accepted and thanked the young man at the register (and God silently).  I went back to the hut, around to the bathing room where I knocked on the door and was greeted by Sara and one of the institute family children who were talking in Luganda.  I apologized for the coins, while I held them out for Sara to take and as her hand reached for mine, a small coin fell from between our fingers and landed snugly between two large decorative rocks before slipping out of view. I apologized again and hoping there were no millipedes under the rock tugged just at the edge and flipped it over, Sara pulled another back and just as her finger began to point out from her hand to retrieve the shilling. We all jumped about two feet back, because for some reason we all had only then caught a glimpse of the black coil about as thick as a finger under the next rock. 

Black is the worst shade of snake you can find in Uganda, Black Mamba, are known for having some of the most deadly venom found in nature. I yelled at the girls to get back because Sara was eyeing the coin like 200 shillings (.08 cents) was worth another try.  I called my roommate, who made a joke about how the snake must be going to market because he had his money ready.  Just then a young man, maybe 16 or 17 was walking by on his way home from market.  Sara said, “you, come kill this snake”. He turned and walked toward us, made a sort of grunt that sounded like a snigger, that said, “of course I can kill the snake are you joking?”   This made us all laugh out loud.  He walked right over to the place we were pointing and started pulling up rocks with his bare hand like no big deal, he told us to get him a stick.  I was on edge so I tromped over to pull a branch off a tree while Sara went to find another.  He took Sara’s stick and stabbed at the snake, then thwacked it a few times with the thicker side until it was in a few pieces, then he dug in to the hole and hanging off of the stick took out the part still attached to the head.  Because every good Ugandan boy knows that you must crush the head of a mamba, he finished it off with a rock.  The entire time, all of the girls were jumping around making noises like they were about to be sick or had discovered a bug on their shoulder, including me.  We said thank you as the boy ran off home.  My roommate took the snake carcass off to a ditch and I paid Sara. 

So, let us talk about the importance of the occurrences on this Saturday afternoon. 
I probably would not have gone to primary side if Sara hadn’t just happened to come by asking for work,
I definitely wouldn’t have gone to my hut,
I know I wouldn’t have gone to my bathroom if she didn’t just happen to ask to wash in there,
I wouldn’t have gotten coin if any of my friends just happened to have correct change. 
I would never have dropped a coin in that particular place if I hadn’t paid Sara in coin. 
I would never have pulled up that rock if I wasn’t paying her in that particular place.
We might have been in trouble if that young man hadn’t just happened to be walking by right then.

If all of this would not have transpired the exact way it did, I or my roommate could have just happened to be bit by a black mamba and died on our way to the bathroom. 

It’s true

Friday, April 13, 2012

“AUNTIE RACHAEL!!! can you sew for me”

So all of the babies in the baby house have measles.  Since I’m not sure when my last MMR vaccination was I am steering clear of that place for a while.  So since I had a lot of extra time in the afternoon I read the Harry Potter series, very good reading, I must say and to all of you die hard critics, who despise all things potter but love Lord of the Rings? Really?

When I finished, I did feel the void that comes with the completion of a dynamic and substantial series.  I’m on to some Japanese clan trilogy but all of that aside.  I had some free afternoons. 

I went to the Samuel family, who we lovingly refer to as the “Sam fam” to offer my tailoring services.  I just thought I could repair buttons or tears, even hem if need be.  I have a steady and strong backstitch when I have the time.  I walked to the girls hut and found My friend Doreen who directed me to the nearest little girl who went and spread the word.  At first I had a skirt and a dress that needed to be sewn back to their lining.  I sat in the main dining room and started threading my needle and little James came in with a pair of school shorts with gaping holes and a broken zipper.  He left and come back with more and set them on the little pile that was forming.  Other kids came running in “AUNTIE RACHAEL!!! can you sew for me”.  Finally the pile was half the table and most of the clothes needed more than patching, some needed overhauling.   Before I had the chance to feel over whelmed, James came back in and told me that if I wanted I could use auntie’s sewing machine.  I was pleasantly surprised that she had a machine.  I walked in to the house and was directed to a back room 10x10 with a good sized window, clothes hanging all over the walls from coat hooks and the sun shining in.  Sitting at the foot of the window was an early 1940’s vintage Singer sewing machine table set in perfect working condition. 

I sat down a little intimidated; I’ve only ever messed around with the pedal of my great-great grandmothers in our house growing up.  However when I opened the little built in drawer it smelled of strong cedar just like Grandma Bell’s machine.  Brought me back a few years.  I swear it had the exact same measuring tape bunched up and stuffed in just like at home, It was like my Grandma Bell put it there for me to find decades later and miles away.   Having never worked with a manual pedal before it took some trying to get the rhythm down but when I did it was purring right along with the beat of the Ugandan gospel music on the TV.   Aunt Esther left me to work but several kids sat around laughing and talking in Luganda and asking me when I was leaving and would I come back to Africa.  Everyone seems ask me that, I shrug and tell them, “If God wants”, sincerely, “but I have to finish university first”.  I reattached zippers, and patched holes, re seamed high slits, pegged together low cut dresses at the heart.  I stitched trousers and skirts, church dresses, shirts who I could tell had seen to slashing the garden many times.  Tiny waistlines cinched in an inch or two.

When dinner came I had to go, not because I was finished but because I get a tongue lashing from the kitchen if I’m late for dinner.  I said good bye and told the kids I would be back,

James asked me “when, next week?”
I said “no, tomorrow”
a few kids listening near by said “auntie , be serious”.

I told them I would be back and I was, I brought a few items that I repaired at home and got back to work on my new little friend. I had trouble with the bobbin, Esther came to my rescue, she handed me her baby and when she had fixed the problem she went to work on a couple of pieces. I think she was a little nostalgic, she told me earlier that she learned many years ago but had been out of practice.  The machine, seemed to obey her every command, smooth and steady she hemmed a skirt, and re-seemed some trousers.  While she did so I bounced baby Joel on my lap to the beat of the drums outside.  We were talking about her family and her health she just went along sewing while we talked and I felt a stream of warm pee stream through the lap of my skirt on down my leg.  Ugandan babies don’t wear diapers at home apparently.  The best part is that she just laughed and went right along sewing and asked one of the girls to take the baby from me, at which point the matter was settled.  Pee on me and the floor was no big deal here.  I did a great job of acting like I was not totally disgusted and even sat for a few moments so I could give proper good byes and the pee was a little dry by then.  I went home and changed, washed my leg down and set the skirt aside for proper washing the next day.  I’ll go back tomorrow, if they ask me to hold the baby, I’ll make sure to face him forward, so that there is no repeat offense.       

Just a little update, that’s what’s new. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My teenage years, I used to wake up on Saturday mornings to Ace of Base, My mother would be on the treadmill or cleaning the kitchen and I would walk out groggy eyed to see her dancing around to all sorts of Ace of Base tunes.  I would be frustrated at the bleary moment, that my one opportunity to enjoy sleeping in was dashed by “I saw the sign”.  This is how my Saturday mornings generally went, I woke up frustrated and annoyed then I usually went on doing what ever I generally pleased all day long, talked on the phone to my friends, visited neighbor kids, watched TV, read “Babysitter’s Club”.  Sometimes I would have to do the chores that I had put off all week, but over all, Saturday was a relaxed day in my house.  I thought I had it bad; bored, tired, and spending some of  “my personal time” doing chores was not my idea of a fun Saturday. 

When I woke up this morning at 7:30 there were teenagers slashing the grass in the field behind the institute.  Slashing is Ugandan lawn mowing, instead of a machine that clips the lawn; they use a short bar that is shaped like a hockey stick, swinging it back and forth to cut the grass.   They are cutting the high grass from the garden where they are just now plowing to prepare for seed.  Now before you think this is about my reflection on the work that I had to do on Saturdays compared to the work they have to do here.  This is less about work and more about attitude.

While my teenage self was sitting in my bed silently infuriated that I was woken up so early by my mother, these teens are singing, loudly, praise songs, as they spend a few early morning hours slashing grass by hand.  They are shouting, “your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me”.  I can hear them, in unison, breaking into harmony, as they trod slowly across their row of tall grass swinging the bar across the ground at ankle level.  When they finish, they go about their business, washing clothes, cooking, chopping wood, then; doing school work, doing odd jobs (I had someone from Samuel family repair my broken flip flop a week or so ago). 

The thing is, this is not an isolated case, there are teens doing this all week in other gardens all over the compound, older boys, praising and laughing at the mill, a choir meets behind my hut in the Ebenezer family preparing for Sunday morning service.  The drums begin all over the grounds at 6:30pm and stagger throughout until 8pm.  There is constant joy and gratefulness, women are laughing and joking, praying and teaching, in the kitchens.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not hear someone say out loud “I love my life”.  They really do, I know that some of them have two pairs of shoes, have a few outfits, and spend a lot of their time working, in that garden or helping with the little ones.  There are children fetching water all day long, some are fetching wheelbarrows full of water jugs and wheeling them back to the Family.  They are so happy and love where they are.

             The joy is humbling, I know so many people who live a life that the people here can only dream of, being paid high wages, working cushy desk jobs, where they are protected by all sorts of laws and given all sorts of rights. They leave work in a car of their very own, and have the freedom to go where ever they want, when they arrive home, there are the common luxuries that they take for granted, running water, a stockpile of food, reliable electricity, fast internet, a cozy couch, a fancy cellular phone.  There are stores within moments of their houses where they can go and use that cash they earned to buy things they want because generally all of their “needs” have been met.  So, they can choose what they want to cook for dinner, rather than eating what they can afford.  All of this and some of their Facebook status updates make it look like their life is consumed with what they do not have or with the sadness of their present situations.  I am very guilty of this.  When I was living in the states, things like waiting in line, a rude service representative, or bad cell phone service would frustrate me enough to write a snide post about it. 

            What I wouldn’t give right now to be stuck in line behind ten people in an air-conditioned target, to be handed a delicious latte by a very curt barista or to get any cell phone service at all, because I have talked to my mother a grand total of once, since I’ve been in Africa.  If I have to read the acronym FML one more time on Facebook, I may scream.  But, It WILL happen, some person’s flight to some exotic vacation spot will get delayed and they will whine and complain that they get to spend 2 less hours on their 7 day trip to paradise.  But while they do that, there will be a teenager, some where in their one pair of sandals, wearing a handed down shirt, who took a freezing cold bucket shower that morning, slashing grass, thanking God for their life. 

The lesson that this is constantly teaching me is one of gratitude, and gratitude to whom, the father, who has placed me in the society I was born in.  I have been afforded many luxuries that I have long taken for granted.  I know it will be difficult to remember when I am typing updates on my smart phone from a beach in Hawaii.  But I am going to do my best to choose every day to thank God for all that I have rather than curse him for what I do not.      

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

all I see is hope

Now that you understand the general structure of New Hope Uganda, you have to hear all about the people.  The co founders are an American and a Ugandan who had the vision of forming much more than an orphanage.  They wanted to keep Ugandan culture alive and offer hope to those who have been forced over the years to make tough decisions based on their personal situations.  Uganda was in a civil war when the Danger (co founding family) family arrived to Kampala.  There was so much unrest at the time that their children would fall asleep to gunfire at night.  They would hide in the hallway of their home when the fighting outside it got too close. 
More than this, Uganda had a huge AIDS epidemic, to the point where children were caring for their very sick parents until their death.  Children were so hopeless they would pray and try to “catch” the disease so they would not live much longer than their parents.  This adding to the other treatable diseases that were going uncared for in so much of the country gave way to a huge orphan population.  Then the Lord’s Resistance Army rose up, orphaning children as they swept through villages drafting child soldiers who were proving their allegiance and saving their own lives by killing their parents and leaving to follow Joseph Kony the monster who had the vision for this atrocity.  Not to mention devastating poverty and an impoverished mindset that saw so much pain that their hope was for little more than the next few years let alone any future. 

Side note, I am not an expert on these matters, these are relevant issues in this country (although, the civil war has ended, the LRA and AIDS have been drastically decreased due to a governmental lead to exercise them from the population) not because the are happening but because they have happened and what is left are broken lives that need restoration.  Obviously children were the main victims in this battle and obviously children will be in need after their families are stolen from them by the things that can kill, steal and destroy.  Obviously many humanitarians were looking to care for the orphans and their grandmothers that were taking care of so many grand children alone with no income.  I have visited a few orphanages and ministries, in my time here that are looking to help those in need.  Giving food to the hungry, sending poor families children to school, giving orphans a bed in a dormitory or a children’s home, even Adoption domestic and international. The difference at New Hope is the emphasis on fatherhood and family.      

The importance of fatherhood and the instabillity of the lack thereof, is something we feel even in America, not so much as orphans.  We see it all of the time, single mothers raising children with little to no help from the children’s father.  Women juggling work, school, homework, baby sitters, day cares, family help, after school activities, and trying to have a social life,  It is a struggle to raise a family, especially alone.  The issue here in Uganda is that there are plenty of aunties and jaja’s (grandma’s) who would be more than willing to care for these children if they were being supported by and American organization. 

This is not an up bringing that promotes family, rather it teaches children that the presence of a Father is unimportant, that women should be the responsible party for children.  Teaches these “families” that they have no need to strike out on their own to provide for their families, because someone else will foot the bill. This, in turn, robs growing, impressionable minds of the sense of achievement that a job well done can give.  The sense of self-worth that using your given abilities can bring.  The hope that knowing you have value and can share it with those you love holds and the pride of being able to support yourself.  These things are important when you are trying to provide hopeless children with an understanding of their aptitude, power, their hope for a future and sense of self worth.

I think the “New Hope” that this place is trying to bring is the sense of belonging that a family provides.  Giving each child a set of parents that love and care for them.  teach them, discipline them and set the expectations that a child should have in a family, this helps them feel that they belong.  While they are doing this they are also teaching theses children historic Ugandan culture, what a family looks like and how to do things for themselves.  The Long term effects can and have already had immense effects on the heartbeat of the community.  Teaching many of the older “new hope children” (as they are lovingly referred to) to choose well when they marry, the importance of being a faithful spouse, the importance of being an actively involved and intentional parent.  The importance of the family unit and how much their children will learn from them.  This creates lasting marriages, strong families, contributing members of society.  There are already signs of the successful sustainability of this place in the families and ministries that have been born from New Hope. 

The problem with living in Uganda at New Hope is that you don’t see the suffering that is typically depicted in “Africa” the Africa that we see in the US.  There are no children starving and begging, there are no orphans, no hopeless children digging through the trash for food.  There are no malnourished bellies protruding from tattered t-shirts.  No sickly untreated illness, no mistreatment, No lines waiting for the only meal everyone will eat that week. 

All I see is hope; all I see are healthy (even strong) children.  People who are constantly offering each other help.  Children laughing, washing their dishes, playing on the playground, goofing off while they wait to fill their water jugs.  Playing Futbol, walking to the garden together, doing homework in the family group.  Sitting in groups talking under the mango tree. Plaiting each other’s hair, cooking the chip orders for the week, tending the pigs. All I see here I hope. 

So many people greet me all day “Hello Auntie Rachael, how are you”.  I ask them how school is going, if they are feeling better, where they are heading, where they have been.  They ask me about the relevant present issues in my life.  This week it was a stomach bug they consoled me about and they all welcomed me back from a weekend in Jinja.  Maybe 40 people in the last three days have welcomed me back from my trip.  The families here are so close and caring, It’s difficult to remember that there is suffering here. 

So I have gotten to really enjoy Ugandan Culture, an abundance of it.  I am not being swindled for a boda ride, I am not being a mistrusted, mzungu.  I am not worrying about being robbed or mistreated.  I am not fearful or caught up in the tragic surroundings.  I am surrounded by the results of a ministry that has “done it right” and has proven it through their sustained longevity. 

Write more soon,  I hope this is giving a more understandable picture of the place I live and the important strides they are making toward Uganda’s bright future.       

Sunday, March 18, 2012

it's all in the family

So this blog is long overdue, sorry everyone.  I have just been struggling with some personal issues, ones that I’m sure I’ll talk about when I am ready. 

So, I want everyone to understand the compound structure a little more, at New Hope so that you might be able to see this world through my eyes, without being evasive or painting a half picture of things that are either good or bad.  I want you to see it as I see it. 

I want you to see it as I see it because I think it is hard to understand this place, even with the horrific, tragic news reports and the dramatic glamorous romanticized way that it is depicted in Movies and travel articles.  They are all spun so you will read it a certain way and feel a certain way and that has been my issue since I’ve arrived, struggling with the reality of what I see, the reality of what I feel and the romantic/heroic idea that I came here with.

I live on the continent of Africa, in the country of Uganda which is east Africa, Uganda is the Pearl of Africa, best known for being in the place where Lake Victoria runs in to the Nile river, being the source of the Nile, gains Uganda some serious credibility as a beautiful country, lush greenery, rich soil, good land.  I live in the district of Luweero, which is, on a good day, 2 hours north east of the capital city of Kampala.  If you take the Nakaseke road, passing the roaming goats eating Grass by the primary school.  You will drive 45 minutes on dirt and gravel road to get to the front gate. On the way you will pass vast open land, Bulls chomping grasses in a ditch, old women carrying baskets on their heads, children carrying Jerah cans of water, marshes with thick papyrus on both sides, a large pond sort of thing with a hazy blueish sort of film over it, that you will find people bathing or washing clothes in, even collecting.   After 20 minutes of the drive you will reach a tiny town with rows of shops selling wares of all kinds and on Saturday they have a market of women sitting on the ground beside the road with their vegetables stacked up on mats beside them.  Passing the not so busy town of Kiwoko is just the beginning of the land that belongs to New Hope, the mill is on the right, just off the road, milling corn to go to market.  You then pass the vocational school also on the right, teaching machinery, woodwork, tailoring, mechanics and more.  Coming closer to Kassana (the “township”where we live, kasanna means sunshine and man do we ever get it) you will simultaneously come to the front gates of the primary and secondary school property.  The main property where New hope runs from is on 2…maybe even 3, miles of land.  Land that houses at least 400 people all year and up to 700 at holidays. 

I live on what we call primary side, so at the gate you would turn left, and the guards would probably let you right in because you are a Muzungu (white person) and they only come this far in the bush for ministry.   The primary side, (primary school=primary) is where the church, clinic, administrative offices, special needs school, baby house, most staff homes, Institute of childcare and family and all of the family groups are.

The secondary side is where the secondary school is (jr. high, highschool) and the enterprise farms.  Acres of land that produce major crops that are used on site for cooking and sold in the market to support the community on site.  They raise, cattle, pigs, chickens, goats, grow corn, matoke, beans, g-nuts and cook or sell them for profit. 

Just very briefly, I have to add that they have a radio station in Kiwoko, a home of remediation for former child soldiers on the Lord Resistance Army. And a camp on Lake Victoria that runs all year for ministry groups.  

So the structure of the place is very important, to understanding the heart of the ministry, the place begins at the family groups.  There are seven family groups each has a family father and mother, ten to fifteen children, who are boarders or orphans.  They Live in a grouping of circular huts, made of cement with thatched wood or tin roofs, a main house, a cook house, a storage house and a main dining area that is open to the outside.  Each family has land it cultivates and some raise animals, goats, pigs, chickens etc.     

            The families at New hope are “families” all of the families, are comprised of family parents, children who board in the community and even staff who are assigned to be a part of a family structure.  A family at new hope works together, plays together, rejoices, suffers and prays together.  They have family parents, who they call auntie or uncle.  But everyone here is auntie or uncle.  They call each other sisters and brothers.  They come back to this place for holiday; they recall family memories from here, when talking to friends.  They know one another’s weaknesses, they know strengths, and they support each other, and cheer one another on.  They tease and spoil the little ones; they look up to the big.  They are a family. 
            Every morning…what am I saying…all day, there are children running to fetch water for cooking, for bathing, for drinking.  From the youngest to the oldest are in the garden, digging, sowing, harvesting, weeding or tending the family food.  Some are watching the babies.  Some are cooking in the kitchen.  Others do their homework in the main dining area, with the help of the older ones.  Some are working to make a little profit, making bread, or chips or pizza and selling it.  Some are making jewelry some are doing odd jobs.  It is a lot like a typical family.  Then in the evening, they gather for devotions, the older ones prepare devotions in between the parents leading.  They eat dinner as a family.  Talking, laughing, learning from one another, table manners, asking questions and getting to know and love one another one meal at a time.     

Once you understand the structure of the family groups you understand the structure of the entire place.  All of it is an environment that supports the family structure.  The parents run the home, the children work at home or in the garden and go to the school, the staff supports and runs the other parts of the place.  The mill the vocational schools, the admin offices, the baby house, the institute of child care.  All run to care for the families.  The baby house takes in orphaned children, the administrative office takes care of the legal work and the major land issues also the support from the states through world vision.  The primary and secondary school is attended by the family children and other children from the community.  The clinic is for medical care of the entire Kasanna area, people come for miles to get medical care.    The vocational school is attended by those children who graduate from secondary and want to learn a trade, the farm and the mill are worked by the older children after school.  The mill is to make profit to keep things running.  The church is for the families and the institute is to teach the long term successes and failures of American’s in Ugandan culture and to promote the basics for other ministries beginning here. 

Since this is already long I will post the rest tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading J    

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It’s beautiful and hard, and everything in between

It was while I was walking home from a friend’s house this evening, as I passed by the rhythmic drumming of the Jonathon family, I stopped to catch a glimpse of the fiery red sunset, and realized that I have been in Africa for a month and a half.

And while I have seen sunsets like this many times, as well as glistening starlit nights, the moon so bright we have to put down our curtains to sleep, I have walked across the road with the warm breezes blowing on my face, held shiny coffee colored babies.  Shook hands with some of the most hospitable people I have ever met.  Danced to lively Ugandan worship songs. 

I have also sat and listened to horrific stories, learned of peoples jaded pasts, heard of orphaned children who were living in poverty, alone and hopeless.  I have prayed with those who have lost their loved ones, something that seems to happen on a daily or weekly basis.   I have seen people carrying dirty water on their heads in huge jugs for miles.  Helped teach a 50-year-old woman who cooks for me how to read. 

In all of this I can find his Glory, because the sun was put into place by his hands, the stars and the moon specifically set in the sky, the breeze only comes because it is God breathed.  The babies were tenderly knit together in their mother’s wombs; the hands praise in all things, the worship is genuine.  The stories all have happy endings, the pasts are gone to make room for the future, the Lord has sent those here for the orphans, the dirty water that cannot satisfy is the perfect example to show the wellspring of living water that only he can bring, and Mamma Jen may not know how to read but she knows all of the gospel songs you could imagine and the Joy of the Lord is in her countenance.

I came here to teach, to hold, to care for, to help, to change and I have, but what’s more is that I have learned, and been lovingly cared for, and been changed.  It would be hard to describe to the me I was three years ago, where I am now.  I was a totally different person then.  Not this brave, or willing to be uncomfortable, not this well traveled, not this able to persevere, or trust in Him.  I’m not saying that I’m the best person or better than anyone else, I am just better than I was, and isn’t that what  we are always striving to be?

I don’t love Uganda, It’s hard and hot and uncomfortable, and challenging to this American born, very pampered, young lady.  I don’t love taking cold showers outside, or sleeping under a net in the heat, I don’t love needing to be wary of every infectious disease in Africa, I don’t love the lizards that more than occasionally scurry across our walls, I don’t love hearing bats in the roof all night.  I don’t love peeing in a hole in the ground, especially at night when the cock roaches are out.  I don’t love having to stop every two minutes on the road to formally greet every person I come into contact with.  I don’t love having the same three starches rotated at every meal (bread, potatoes, matooke)  I don’t love the general smell that you can only understand when you’ve been here.

But I do love singing praise songs with my friends under the stars.  I do love napping with beautiful baby Hannah on my lap, I do love when I walk in the kitchen and all of the ladies embrace me one by one and tell me how “smart” I look in my dress and try to teach me Luganda and laugh deep belly laughs at my accent.  I love my hilarious roommate, I love the people I work for, I love seeing Karson picking up reading a little more every time we sit down to practice.  I love taking the kids on nature walks to see the oxen or the sheep, I love the way Moses smiles when I walk in the baby house and crawls right over to me.  I love my Auntie Flo, Auntie Consequence, Auntie Blessing and Mamma Jen, I love catching a really good futbol match on the way home.  I love sitting on the porch at sunrise reading my Bible with a chill in the air and I love Ugandan MUSIC! 

So, It’s beautiful and hard, and everything in between. 

Just some of my thoughts.