Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013:  We are on our last day in Uganda, wrapping up the last pieces of our agenda.  We all had a good nights sleep, although we were all awake at 6:30 am which has been our normal wake up time.  After a good breakfast and REAL COFFEE, John and Michelle, traveled to Makerere University to meet with Professor Phinehas Tukamuhabwa, Ph.D who is a professor of Agriculture.  In the early afternoon, Karen, Dave, Michelle, Elizabeth and Kelsey went to the craft market one more time for some last minute purchases, in part to pick up some item seen during the previous visit, and to use their remaining shillings.  Around 2:30 PM our time, John, Dave and Richard Turinawee, attempted to locate agriculture testing supples, as well as outer clothing for the workers who will be doing the testing and field work.  We were not successful, as it appears the needed soil testing equipment will need to be purchased in the US and shipped to Uganda.  We will be able to purchase the needed clothing in Kabale.  Right now we are ready to sit down for our dinner, then we will leave for the airport, which is over an hour away.  Our flight is at 11:30 pm, and is approximately 17 hours of flying.  We have had a very good and successful trip.  Pray for us as we depart, Elizabeth has over 2,000 photos.  Our presentations in Midland and Holt will be very interesting and educational, we can not wait.  See you soon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dear Friends and Family: We just arrived back in Kampala at the Adonai House. Christopher, our excellent driver, did very well negotiating the potholes, traffic, and challenging roads from KabaleTown to Kampala. We arrived when it was still daylight, a really great achievement. We traveled between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. We have learned a new level of "Christopher talk". When he is aggravated or concerned he says, "Wow". If the aggravation or concern level goes up, he says" Wow, wow, wow". The most extreme agitations calls for "Really wow!" Christopher has been a rock for us, insuring our safety all of the time. We also feel this same serenity at the Adonai House- a place for missionaries to rest and regroup.Even as we write this they are planning a meal which will be rather home cooked. Everyone has been looking forward to getting home to some familiar food!
     Generous's daughter, Jorryn, rode home with us and we found her absolutely delightful. Our girls amused her with John's I Pad, playing with an application known as photobooth. This allows images to be distorted, which Jorryn found very amusing. It was nice to have some extra entertainment on the long trip back!
     Tomorrow John and Michelle will meet with Dr. Phinhouse, an agricultural expert at Makerere University regarding soybeans and barley. The rest of the team plans to repack all the suitcases since we picked up another batch of crafts at Generous' home and we need to fit it all in. Those of you who helped us prepare for the trip will understand the packing and weighing process. We plan to have dinner at the Adonai House before leaving for the airport. In just a short time we will be home again. We are thinking we will have time for one more blog tomorrow before we leave. We have had an amazing trip and look forward to sharing with all who can come to our debriefs on June 8th in Holt and on June 27th in Midland.

Saturday, May 25,

Dear Friends and Family:

Marriage is a blessing given from God and today we experienced this blessing in Uganda as guests of  Alexander Gumoshabe and his beautiful bride Phiona at their wedding in Kabale.  The wedding was held at St. Phillips Church of Uganda with ACT Operations manager Josiah Nankunda serving as the best man for the smiling groom, who was very handsome in a black suit and red.
The reception was held at Kigesi Gardens, a beautiful setting which was enhanced by three large tents, one for the wedding party and two others for the wedding guests.  A traditional lunch of matoke, roasted Irish potatoes, fried rice and white rice, white sweet potatoes with a choice chicken or beef with sauce, g-nuts, and large beans. To drink, there was soda or the local delicacy known as obeshera (a drink made from boiled water, sorghum and ash followed by fermentation to make a sorghum beer.
Justus Masanyu and Generous Turinawe served as the master and mistress of ceremony at the reception, where many gave speeches (mostly in Rukiga). The team was aided by Francis, Demus, and Haward who were able to translate for us. Gifts were brought forward with great ceremony to present to Alexander and Phiona with much dancing and singing. Dave carried the gift from ACT USA forward, with well executed dance steps much to the delight of all of the Ugandan guests.  The cake was cut with great ceremony and the bride and groom knelt in front of each set of parents to serve them a small piece of cake. Much to our surprise they honored the ACT Mission Team in same way!  A humbling moment of special honor for us.  They also gifted the ACT Team with one of the wedding cakes, and as this blog is being written we are sharing the cake amongst ourselves and the management, wait staff, guests and Generous and Jorryn at the Jopfan Hotel.
Music was a major component of both the wedding ceremony and the reception and at the reception the ACT team from America gradually made their way onto the lawn to attempt some of the Bakiga dance moves (an aerobic endeavor to say the least!).Karen and Kelsey performed Bach and Pachelbel for an appreciative audience. This was preceded and followed by a disc jockey playing exuberant African music. At the end of the reception, sad goodbyes were said to many as the team departs for Kampala tomorrow at 8 am.
A surprise visit by  Josiah, Justus and Alexander occurred after returning to the Jopfan. Alexander returned to faithfully carry out his responsibility to retrieve some baskets that he'd neglected to set aside as samples before the remainder was packed for the trip to Michigan. After quickly retrieving the baskets the team chased Alexander out of the Jopfan to join his bride who we thought might be growing more lonely by the minute.
God blessed our final day in Kabale in a special way through Alexander and Phiona's wedding.  We pray God' s blessing on their marriage and their life ahead1 We also ask for your prayers for safe travel as we begin our journey home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dear Friends and Family: Hard as it is to believe, today is our last day in the village with people we have come to know as friends.  We started off our day with a stop at the Internet Cafe, where we were finally able to send our blogs for Wednesday and Thursday.  Despite numerous tries, we were unable to attach pictures, but we promise that we have many wonderful pictures to share with you when we return, which will tell you the story of our trip much better than words ever could!  As usual, we began in the mist, but soon the sun broke through and we could enjoy the green hills of Uganda as we drove. Along the way we picked up our friend Haward.  We missed seeing him yesterday, as he was needed at home to help his family. Arriving in the village, we were greeted by Generous, who was busy getting the center ready for the meeting of the ACT Uganda board.  Behind the center, men and women were busy preparing breakfast and lunch for everyone.  Chicken, beef, matoke, rice, beans, cabbage, pineapple, watermelon, and African tea and of course was quite a feast! Included in this feast was even some spaghetti! A rare, but familiar treat for the visiting team!
The board meeting went extremely well, led by our excellent chair, Lydia. The US team was given the opportunity to share with the members of the Muko Team the activities we have done these past two weeks as well as projects we endorse in Michigan. The team seemed very impressed and willing to continue to work hard in order to continue develop the board and organization here in Uganda. There was some lengthy discussion about which schools the children should attend. We were happy to have Maureen, a probation officer from the Kabale District. Maureen was especially valuable in explaining that her job was less about working with children in court and more about protecting them and keeping them from abuse or abandonment. She shared with us that some children are accepted by sponsors that later stop their sponsorship and the children are left on the street. We assured her that we are careful to prevent this from happening to our ACT kids.
Having to leave the board meeting early, John and Michelle left with the members of the HANDS team in order to measure more plots, with the intention of measuring plots for the commercial endeavor. The first plots measured were close by, yet on a steep gradient which would make any mechanization difficult. After measuring three neighboring plots, the team headed back to the ACT office for the delicious feast.
            In the meantime, Elizabeth, Kelsey, Dave, Josiah and Demus, went to talk to the headmaster at Muko High School. Demus, who only has two terms left of school, was worried that he would be unable to finish due to the expensive tuition fees. Elizabeth, while conducting interviews, was extremely touched by his story, and, in an act of loving grace, consented to provide funds to help him complete his schooling. The trip was successful, and Demus could not stop smiling the whole time he was eating lunch. The appreciation was evident, and Elizabeth was strongly touched by the chance to make a difference in a life that has touched her deeply while on the trip.
            After lunch, the HANDS team once again left for more plot measurements in Ikamiro. There they met an elderly man who appeared to own half of the land in the county! John, Michelle, Herbert, Moses, Tito, Siriaco, and Obed (who has been helping take measurements) measured the largest (and prettiest) land plots that they have seen yet. James, the owner, had more land plots for the team to measure, however, if they had done all of it, they would have been there all day! They made a quick stop at the home of Friday and Ronald, the orphans that Michelle's family sponsor. Their older sister, Mila who is only 16, is heading their family. Michelle gave some skirts, shirts, and shoes to Mila, who laughed and clapped at receiving the gifts. Clothes were also donated to the village by the team, which will be distributed by Josiah.  It was another touching moment of how even the smallest action can make a real difference in the lives of the people here.
            Meanwhile, back at the center, Karen and Kelsey gave their final violin lessons. The students looked through most of the first beginner book to see what would be coming up for them as they practice. They all knew “Kookaburra” and jumped ahead to that page to learn it! Karen, Generous, her sister, and her brother all rehearsed “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” to perform together at the wedding of Alexander the next day. Kelsey and Karen will be playing “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring” and the Pachelbel “Canon” at the wedding. Francis, Haward, and Demus will also be performing some African music. This is a miracle that they are this developed in one week of lessons. Alexander has requested that Elizabeth shoot video and take pictures at the wedding, so we should be able to share some of this special time with you when we return.
            It was a heartfelt and difficult goodbye to everyone at the village as the team packed up to leave. Many pictures were taken, and even more hugs were given. It was extremely hard to say goodbye, but armed with the knowledge that some of the older orphans would be attending the wedding tomorrow, it wasn't quite as hard as it could have been. A few of the orphans have joined the older ones at the Centre daily and we have learned to know them better. We are excited to share with a few of our sponsors the details of these encounters. However, it made it harder to leave them. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dear Friends and Family: Our computer troubles continue...... The ACT Uganda computer that is in for repair not only wasn't ready for us this morning but will not be fixed until after we leave, due to the fact that parts must be ordered from Kampala.  So, with no access to the internet from the village for the rest of the trip we will be forced to send blogs from the Internet cafe in Kabale.  Sure makes us appreciate our access to technology back in the United States!  This morning John and Michelle remained behind in Kabale to visit a potato crisp factory with Justus and Stephen, who have been invaluable to the Ag team during our visit.  Karen, David, Elizabeth and Kelsey made the 45-minute trek to the village. We  arrived to see the peace pole being set in concrete in its new home in front of the ACT Empowerment Center.  “May peace prevail on Earth” is repeated in Rukiga, Kiswahili, English, and Kinyarwanda on the four sides of the pole.  With the new walkway lined in brick and the new wall of lava rock at the front of the property, the center is looking nicer every day!
Karen and Kelsey began violin lessons with Francis, and Demus.  Time was spent teaching them how to tune their violins and replace strings when necessary.  Other students trickled in and lessons continued throughout the morning.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth set to work sorting and packing the beautiful baskets, trivets and ornaments made by the women of the MEP program. Their work is steadily improving and really is “functional art”.  After lunch, Karen interviewed Francis, Isobel and Demus while Elizabeth videotaped, asking them to share their thoughts, hopes and dreams with us.  It was very interesting and touching to hear. Karen can't wait to share these with our MukoHOPE team. Lessons and packing continued throughout the afternoon. We fulfilled a dream for Francis when he actually phoned his sponsor in Ohio. The connection was lost after a few exchanges, but Francis was thrilled to speak to his American Mom. Dave spent a good part of the day working on finances, the budget and directing the building of the rock wall. Using his prison experience, he was able to coordinate volunteers to help construct the wall. Starting out with only Herbert volunteering, eventually a total of eight people ended up contributing, including a 2 and a half year old boy! All the volunteers were paid, and David demonstrated real humility by stepping back and allowing the volunteers to build the wall in their own way.
While the rest of the team worked at the Center, John and Michelle set off in search of more land parcels. While the goal was to see larger plots for the commercial endeavor, the team got to visit some other sites instead. The first stop was at a smaller greenhouse research station, where the potential size and design could be implemented. Greenhouses in Uganda share the same purpose as in Michigan: to extend the growing season. However, in Uganda this is done by lowering the sun's intensity, not enhancing it. After the greenhouse, we stopped to see the farm of a HANDS team member. Herbert's farm was similar to the Garden of Eden, both John and Michelle were extremely impressed with the techniques that Herbert has been employing. His garden demonstrated permaculture, water conservation, soil erosion prevention, and sustainable agriculture. The team enjoyed a nice lunch of cliff bars and the fruit of Herbert's land. After lunch, the team ventured just down the road to measure some more plots. These plots were mainly comprised of volcanic rocks, however, the team was able to see beyond the rocky terrain and visualize the great potential of a demonstration garden site. Tomorrow John and Michelle are praying that, after the board meeting, they will finally get to see some larger land parcels for the commercial endeavor. However, as the team is continually learning, God's plans do not always line up with ours, and we continue to pray for guidance as our trip concludes far too quickly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dear Friends and Family: Well, we are continuing to have computer problems! Dave's plan was to install the local internet network MTN onto Karen's computer and a computer that was donated in an effort to test Skype capabilities.  Unfortunately while at the MTN store, both computers were knocked off the counter top accidentally. Karen's screen was shattered and rendered useless for the rest of the trip.  The other computer appears to be working but may be too slow for Skype.  We have not picked up the ACT Uganda computer yet, but Dave continues to hope for the best for Skyping.  To send blogs for now we have to walk downtown to the local internet cafe. 
            On to our day- we left the Jopfan nearly on schedule at 8am and picked up one of Karen and Dave's orphans, Grace,  and Medard, arriving in the village about 9am. Stephen and Justus accompanied us to the village to continue their work with the agriculture team. When we arrived in the village, Stephen, Justus, John and Michelle remained working with the Ag team on developing a plan of action for the future.  In exchange, we picked up Josiah, Alexander, Haward, Demus and Francis and headed back out.
            Our first stop was Muko High School, where we have twelve orphans.  The team met with the headmaster Medard to discuss the new music program and outlining how Haward, Demus, Mackline and other senior children would become the leaders once the team leaves for the United States.  Karen also discussed leaving four violins that would be locked in the head master's office during the next school term for Haward, Demus, Mackline and others to continue their practicing. We also discussed the potential of Karen Skyping to provide lessons.  Our group then went to Mulore Prep School where we will have twenty-one children on May 27th  when the new semester begins.  With the beautiful hills of Uganda as a background, we were greeted with singing and dancing by the students, putting smiles on all our faces!  Karen and Kelsey played some songs on the violin for the students and teachers. There has been steady progress at this school with new dorms being constructed out of lava rock.  This school achieved the highest test scores in the district which is why it has been chosen for many of our students.  We then went to Haward's home for lunch and met his parents and extended family. We were served a traditional Ugandan dinner of white sweet potatoes, mutoke, rice, beans, soup broth, g-nut sauce, a cabbage dish, greens (like spinach), beef, pineapple, and watermelon.  Prior to the meal Karen was offered a glass of a fermented sorghum drink, that the Ugandans consider sweet but which was quite bitter to us, rather like vinegar.  At 3 pm we left Haward's house for some shopping.  The team (minus Kelsey and Dave) returned to the village so Karen could conduct a violin lesson, and Elizabeth could begin packing baskets for the return trip. 
            John and Michelle spent the day meeting with the Ag team at the Muko office planning for the future of the HANDS Program. The team including John, Michelle, Justus, Tito, Stephen, Siriaco, Moses, and Herbert Muhereza. The team conducted an evaluation of the technologies observed within the site visits and an evaluation of each land parcel was discussed to brainstorm what might be their best use. In addition the Ag HANDS team structure and communication flow was agreed upon by the working committee as well as the characteristics of the future HANDS Program Director/Manager and the Local Trainers that would be in charge of each demonstration gardens. In the end, a list of Action Items for HANDS America and HANDS Uganda was completed. At the conclusion, the team stood around the flip chart listing these action items and clapped in unison while Karen snapped a group photo. A great ending after a rocky start where a local man suffering from mental illness attempted to join the meeting as an ad hoc member. When he was quiet, all was well but the disruption occurred when he decided to give his input. This resulted in moving the meeting from the veranda to inside the ACT Empowerment Center. After enduring some shouting, Herbert, the ACT Security was effective in removing the man from the premises and a peaceful meeting led to good progress.  Despite the difficulties, the team left the meeting with a great sense of accomplishment and excitement for the program ahead. We believe that program has the potential to lift families out of poverty, improve individual families gardens, promote the use of sustainable agriculture technologies and help protect the beautiful natural environment of Lake Bunyonyi.
            We had dinner at the White Horse Inn and tried to calm Dave down after the computer mishaps. We have a picture that we will show our US friends in the debriefs. 
            So despite the fact that things generally didn't go according to our plans, that certainly went according to God's plan, and for that we're grateful.

Pictures from our first day in Muko! In the top picture, Haward, a talented musician, teaches Kelsey about a classic Ugandan instrument; afterwards, Kelsey returns the favor with Karen by teaching some students the violin.

These pictures depict how the women cook a meal to serve about 140 people. The women cook over an open fire right outside the office. It was exciting to be able to feed people meat twice in two days, especially when meat is typically only eaten on special holidays like Christmas.

In order to get the village meals, Alexander, John, Dave, Karen, and Michelle went to the market in Kabale. The team was a little shocked by how the meat is cut in order to be sold.

Blogging, Ugandan style.

We were welcomed into the village by our orphans with beautiful songs.
(The girl in the orange dress is named “Precious”, and the name certainly fits