Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Home again, Home again...

Dear friends,
We are finally home. I am unable to access the Internet from my computer for some reason so I am at Brinklow's using theirs. We arrived home at 10:00pm after 37 hours of travel. It was uneventful travel which is always the kind to have.

All in all, we accomplished all the goals we set out with in Uganda. Thanks in large part to the fellowship and partnership of our Ugandan friends. David preached again on Sunday morning at St. Stephens Anglican church in Kampala - Richard and Generous' church. It was wonderful with wonderful music. We dashed from their 2.5 hour service to Watoto Church (Charles' church) in Kampala. It was an inspiring Pentecostal service with great music and a good message. We spent a total of nearly 5 hours in church that morning.

Back at the hotel, we quickly packed all 9 huge suitcases with baskets and fabric and then sat with Richard and Generous and Charles to finish discussing a little more business. A surprise - we realized Josiah - the ACT-Muko Board Secretary had traveled all the way to Kampala to spend more time with us and attend church with us! He is such a dedicated volunteer for ACT and has been since 2003. Josiah teaches school in Ikamiro.

We left for Entebbe airport around 4:30pm just to avoid any possible traffic jam getting to the airport. We stopped at a hotel for one more meal with the Ugandans and then said our goodbyes at the airport curb. It is always so hard to say goodbye but we were also ready to come home.

I seem to be at a loss for words - unusual for me (Sue), I know - but I am exhausted. I plan to leave this blog open for a few more weeks just to capture some activities that will occur as a result of our trip. Again, thank you for reading this and praying for our safety and success. When I get my Internet connection resolved, I will post some additional photos from the trip.

Thanks for now...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Afternoon on Saturday

Generous and Sue hit the city (Kampala) center this morning to purchase fabric. So many people, so many small shops, so many vehicles, Sat food market, complete stimulation overload. The short street held just one shop that had the right waxed fabrics to buy. I purchased 17 different types of fabric there - so much that Generous and I could hardly carry them for the weight. We stopped two other places to get a few more pieces. One place was the home of a teacher Generous knows and the other was a little beauty salon who had some pieces of fabric. One makes money when and where they can. So, I have 23 different gorgeous types of fabric. David stayed behind from going to Jinja to see the source of the Nile and worked on his sermon. Generous and I tried to get him to come fabric shopping but somehow he wasn't too interested - go figure. :-)

We ended up at a clinic (like Urgent Care) and Generous got tested for Malaria. She is feeling badly with the symptoms of Malaria - achy, headache, extreme fatigue. She insisted I come back to the hotel and leave her to find out the results so we wouldn't have to pay more for our driver (Christopher drove the guys to Jinja). I have not heard from her yet as to how she feels. I am hoping she can join us tonight for dinner again.

The day is still very cloudy but the rain has stopped. It is about 85 degrees with 90% humidity. Instead of complaining of the heat, I'm trying savor it knowing what we face in a couple of days.

Tomorrow, David is the main preacher at the St. Stephen's Church of Uganda (Anglican - Richard and Generous' church here in Kampala) at 7am - 9am. Then we travel across town to Watoto Church (renamed from KPC Kampala Pentecostal Church) Charles church. Some of you know the Watoto Children's Choir - this church with a congregation of 20,000 supports the several Watoto orphanages here in Kampala. We will come back to the hotel to pack and leave in the late afternoon for the airport in Entebbe (about 45 minutes away). It is important we get there hours before our flight to avoid getting caught in a traffic jam here in Kampala and possibly miss our 10:55pm flight. We will fly 9 hours to Amsterdam - have a six hour layover - fly 9 hours to Chicago - arriving at 1:25pm on Monday - depart Chicago at 4pm for DTW arriving at 6:29pm on Delta #3489 (Jenny!). A very long journey home and more difficult with the time adjustment coming West.

We look forward to our "conveniences" and relatively easy lives again but I (Sue) always find it very difficult to say goodbye to our Ugandan friends.

Thanks for your prayers and those of you who have sent "comments" to the blog!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rain Down in Africa

This photo is Dr. David Pierce, Reverand Joshua from All Saints Church of Uganda (in Muko Marketplace) and Fr. Fred Birungi (new priest at Muko Martyr's who replaced Fr. Bruno)
Photo: some Ikamiro kiddos along the road.

Today (Saturday) we awoke to a thunderstorm. It can really rain here! Just for fun, here is a link to an amazing YouTube video that is a choir that simulates a thunderstorm in Africa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05ip-N0H1Ig Check it out.

I thought I would take a few minutes this morning to upload a few more photos as long as the connection allows. Have a blessed day.

The uploads are taking so long and we are paying for the connection so I think I'll wait to share photos later.

Back in Kampala

(Muko Martyr's Catholic Church and School!)
Dear friends,

This is Sue again. We arrived in Kampala this morning about 11:30am. We left Kabale yesterday about 4pm and it is an 8 hour drive so we decided to go 2/3 of the way to Masaka and spend the night. We had daylight until about the last two hours and it was an incredibly harrowing drive in the dark. The main highway, when there is actually pavement due to construction, the road is really about a car and a half wide. At the edges is broken off pavement that creates about a 6-8 dropoff. Suredly, if you hit that wrong, the car would probably flip. So, everyone drives down the middle of the road (no lines, please...) and when an oncoming vehicle approaches there is all kinds of flashing the bright lights and honking and using the turn signal to communicate with each other. At the last second each car approaching each other swerves to the edge of the road to pass. Christopher and Charles are both good drivers but I was riding in Charles car and it was much scarier due to the small size of his car. The van feels much safer! We arrived at about 9pm and had a late dinner (becoming a daily habit) and hit the sack. We left Masaka this morning, crossed the Equator and stopped to take pictures, and drove into Kampala and exchanged some more money and then hit the bit Kampala market. Oh my gosh it's hot here! The village region, as most of you know is at 6000 ft elevation and just beautiful weather like San Diego but cooler at night. Kampala is very, very hot and humid. We bought some gorgeous baskets in the village and more in Kampala to fill our suitcases that we brought all the items to distibute in. Israel finally got his suitcase today when we arrived back at our hotel in Kampala. The first thing he did was pull out his eyeglasses and put them on! We didn't even know he was missing those all week!

This afternoon we spent a couple of hours at our hotel in Kampala meeting with Generous and Charles regarding the land for the ACT Centre. We now have 5 possible locations so we created a matrix to objectively determine which piece of land makes the most sense. We had a great discussion and outlined next steps for Charles and Generous to take.

By the way, after we left Muko yesterday, just beyond the area where we visited Habuhinga Hill (the first proposed land), there was a big mudslide which destroyed 15 homes and injured a bunch of villagers. This had happened in Eastern Ugandan near Kenya a couple of days ago and 90 people died! We felt very fortunte that we had left the area and our prayers are with those who were injured. And we thank God once again for Christopher, our incredibly capable driver.

I need to go back and describe yesterday to you in Kabale! Oh, what a day! We awoke and went to the secondary school where Boaz, the oldest sponsored orphan is attending. He is 14 years old and what a nice young man! He loves his school. We then proceeded to Horby Girls School and visited the 10 young girls who are attending there. We first entered each of their classrooms. As we entered each one, the girls stood and greeted us with handclapping and singing wonderful welcoming songs. The whole school knew we were coming and were very excited. We toured their dormitories and then they had a class break during which we gathered the orphans into one room and distributed their packages and letter from all the sponsors. The most endearing part of seeing all the orphans (girls and boys) was that they all knew your names, sponsors! For instance, we met John Bosco and he said my sponsors and James and Barbara and he struggled with Ostler! It was wonderful. I shared with all the orphans a bit of information about all the sponsors as I handed them their packets and we took pictures of each orphan with our team. They were very, very happy with the school supplies and were looking forward to reading your letters to them. I am anxious to share their photos with you and tell you more details about how we found them. Let me just say this. We were all very impressed with the schools and the Muko HOPE children seemed very happy. They are still learning to speak and read and write English. They simply were not learning that in the village. The schools and the education they are getting is light years better than the village schools. Thanks to each sponsor for making such a huge change in their lives.

We are going to start moving on the second group orphans in another term or two once we have saved enough sponsorship money to buy their supplies and begin paying their tuition.

The boys schools was also very, very nice and the 16 Muko HOPE boys were really happy.

After visiting the orphans in their schools, we stopped by the Book of Hope offices in Kabale. We have 8 huge cartons of books of Hope in the ACT office in the village and ready for distribution. For those of you not familiar with Book of Hope, it is an nonprofit started by a minister in Florida many years ago. They distribute millions of these small comic book like books about the gospel. They are appropriate for differnet ages so the kids learn the Bible. The books are free if you are trained to distribute them. This will happen soon.

We had a debrief in Kabale at our hotel about the visit so far with Fr. Bruno, Blessing, Charles and Generous. We all agreed many things have gone so well. We said goodbye to Fr. Bruno and Blessing and left for Masaka.

Tomorrow, the "boys", David, Ced (his Ugandan name is Cedraka), Tim, Israel, Charles and Richard are going to Jinja to see the source of the Nile river and Bujaglai Falls. I've been there so I will stay behind in Kampala to shop for all the African fabric with Generous.

God continues to go before us in so many ways. We know for sure that your prayers help sustain us and this mission. We cannot wait to share with you all our funny, moving, scary, endearing stories with you upon our return. Oh, and also, we have some awesome pictures! God bless each of you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Evening 3-3-10

Charles and David here to update you of the progress of the ACT-Michigan Mission visit. First paragraphs by Charles. We had an incredible day today. We set of to Muko this morning with two main objectives - to meet the Sub-county Chief about our request for land and to distribute clothes and gifts to locals. This time around, we found the sub-county chief, Mr. Nelson Bikangiso. He ushered us into his office and after introductions went on to the subject of our visit. Our previous dealings with this gentleman gave an impression that he would refuse to recommend ACT for the land offer. He himself admitted he had given that impression in the manner he met us previously. But he noe confessed that his demeanour was because many people had wrongfully acquired public land in Muko and his job is to protect the public interest. He then dropped the knews - that since ACT was following the right procedures, he would would support our bid. He said when we have filled the requisite forms, he would sign them. We shortly departed his office with a sigh of relief, having got his endorsement.

We next headed for the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) centre nearby, to learn about their agricultural programs. We had a great reception from the staff there and they showed us around the ochard where they apples, pears and ather temperate fruits are grown. I learn that these crops have a very good chance to succeed in the area but was not satisfied with the care given by the staff.

Next we headed to the ACT-Office for the distribution of clothes and other gifts. A large crowd of foster parents and children had gathered. Sue and Generous took to the distribution as David, Charles, Tim and Ced proceeded to meet Rev. Joshua of All Saints Church to discuss possibility of ACT partnering with the two Churches (All Saints and Uganda Martyrs to use the land they occupy at Muko market for a redevelopment plan including the ACT Centre. Rev. Joshua and his assistant were supportive of the idea. A downpour ended our discussion and we headed to the Muko Campsite for lunch. As lunch closed, Rev. Joshua said he knew another piece of government land near Muko which might better suit oue plans. We thanked him for this info and off we went to see the land. To our mazement, this is a dream plot of land for our proposed ACT Centre. The 2 acre land is adjacent to the newly paved highway in the Muko prime area where we badly wanted to find land for the centre. Its just a golden opportunity if this land could be given to ACT. Although the Habuhinga opportunity is now on course, it has the challenge of 8km of difficult murram road off the highway. Habuhinga would also towards the boundary of the sub-country (hence less accessible) than the plot we had just seen located right in the centre of the sub-county.

The whole team believes this is the best location for the ACT-Centre. The challenge is now to include it in our request for land and hope to convince all the officials at the sub-county and the District that it should be part of land offered to ACT (along with Habuhinga). This calls for prayer. We hope you are standing with is in prayer on this matter. Thank you. This is indeed another incredible day. God is leading us to know and discover things in Muko we could never had come across without him moving ahead of us.

David adds:..

Thanks to Chairman Charles Tuhaise for his blog report above; I would only add a personal reflection on relationships and team member well-being. To say the least, there have been no illnesses or injuries--although we did not expect any. On a personal note, I can state that the culture shock is beginning to abate somewhat, although my learnnig curve is still quite high as related to Ugandan Culture in regards to family and marital customs, view of how to use one's authority, how to approach one another for a conflict resolution or negotiations in business, etc. I am learning much. As to the culture shock, perhaps a brief illustration may help. When we first arrived, many of us (not Sue, of course) approached our initial meals with the private thought, "Will I survive this?" The next day our thoughts evolved upwards to, "Can I tolerate this?" Now we come to our meals thinking, "Wow, this is great; I am looking forward to it!"
My personal relationships with the clergy here is at an all time high. I believe this has made a tremendous difference in how things are going--the trust fact is quite high now. For example, Father Fred (Roman Catholic) and The Rev. Joshua (Anglican, Church of Uganda) have churches right next to each other (about 150 yards apart and are the only two churches in Muko Marketplace). Until I became their friend, the two of them had not yet personally gone to talk to the other one--although they "knew of each other from a distance." Now they are eating together, discussing joint ventures, collaborating (possibly) on land use and with their two separate schools (also next to one another). I deeply appreciate how ecumenism can change the immediate world around us.

God bless and keep praying for the much needed ministry here.

David Pierce

I think

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The End of Sunny Day - Tuesday evening

We are attempting to post another report but the power keeps going off in Kabale. Nothing new. Today was highly successful on many fronts.
We got phones that work finally. We were sold SIM cards that had been expired. Two of our phone numbers are: 011-256-785-878-455 and 011-256-785-805-134. Please use these numbers for emergencies only. We might be out of range at many times as well.
We got called back to the CAO's office after David posted the blog below. That alone meant things were moving for ACT. We met with the gentleman in charge of land use and management for Kabale District. What a great guy! He was so interested in ACT that he asked to ride along to the village and up the mountain to Habuhinga Hill - the proposed land for ACT Centre. Balbaba, by name was literally an angel on our side. When we got to the hill, he negotiated with the village council chairman--not an easy task. But after a great deal of negotiation and relationship building, we were successful in getting the council chair and several of the men who used the space for their cattle to agree to the next steps. (By the way, Israel...not knowing what was being said to him, accidently bought a cow. Don't tell Lisa Renas, but the shipping bill may be rather large...in reality we renegotiaged for four cabbages! What can you do with college students? Israel is actually a very good team member.
Sue spent the afternoon with the women of MEP (Muko Empowerment Project). We discussed their basket-making and how the business will be paying them a wage once they have received more training and attain a highler level of quality. Then Sue taught the women about quilting! They had never seen quilts before. We actually passed around cut pieces of fabric with all the right tools purchased in Midland. The ecumenical sewing group in MIdland provided the fabric and tools. Sue showed them how to make a 4-patch. She was most surprised that most of them already knew how to sew and made perfect patches. We then spread them on the lawn and they exclaimed with delight to see the beginnings of a quilt! Sue will bring their patches back to Midland to show the sewing group. We explained to them how the women of Muko will make patches and the women of Midland will sew them with batting and backing to make the table runners and such. They were very happy to know they would be "sisters' with the group of women in Midland.
We came back to Kabale early tonight - 6:45pm. It is still light and we have some hours to take a breath and debrief our day.
David led us through a great lectio divina for our devotion last night. We are touched already by the wonderful Ugandans and their joy and hope. It is much we, as Americans, can learn from. Blessings to each of you and thank you for your prayers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tuesday morning...

David Pierce was trusted to post this blog...Sue is still trying to get our phones to work and is at the MTN (phone office). Ced, Tim, and Israel have gone to the Ikamiro Village to begin training on solar cooking and water testing. Charles Tuhaise is with me and we will soon travel to the Village, as well, to examine the proposed property for a new ACT Centre. Sue, David, Charles spend the morning at the office of the Chief Administrative officer (CAO) and we met with the assistant CAO. We are seeking their endorsement to petition the government to grant a lease for the land for the new centre. The meeting went very well--I remain amazed at the gentle style of negotiations and great respect for authority granted to all officials.

Yesterday, Monday, we spend a very productive day in a Board meeting with the entire ACT-Muko board--all were there. Some had walked in the rain and mud for miles to be there..but all were in an incredibly good mood with warm hospitality. After the board meeting, since it had rained buckets most of the day, the road to the Ikamiro Village was impassable--but we went as far as we could helping the Pastor of the Village (Rev. Julius Kyarikunda) get as far toward home as possible. The driver of the van, Christopher, is the worlds's best driver--no exaggeration. He is competent and safe...even though we had a few magical moments on the top of a very narrow road that was as slick as a January ice road in Michigan. I just try not to look while we are in traffic or on the narrow mountain roads. My prayer life has increased substantially in the van!

I appreciate hot water--though I have only seen it once so far...and I appreciate water, per se, though my room had none since a day ago. and I appreciate electricity...especially since I have it occasionally in my room--but not usually when I expect it. That said, I wouldn't trade this trip for any other...God is amazing and I see Him constantly in the people of Uganda--it makes other inconveniences rather insignificant and truly unimportant.

Last night the team had a moving and deeply person time of devotions and sharing...the team is quite close and spritually awake.

I hope Jenny had a good birthday, yesterday...sorry we have no working phones yet.

The team says "Hello and God Bless to all...and thanks for your prayers and support."

Charles Tuhaise wants to give a word:
As we held our Board meeting yesterday, torrential rain poured all day. The beautiful hills of Kabale had mist rising from the valleys, creating such spectacular scenery... What came to mind was, God has given Uganda so much wealth. This is not a country we should find poor people. I was sharing with David as we waited our turn on the computer to do this blog that what Uganda needs is good and informed leadership to turn this enormous potential wealth from God into good infrastructure and services for our people. May be ACT is one way to see this happen.

Just a word of greeting to all ACT fans and Associates. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. The mission visit is going fine and our meeting this morning with the Deputy District Chief Administrative Officer about our request for land was very positive. I just got a call from the office calling us back to meet the district land officer about our request. I now sign off as Sue, David and I head back to the land office.

God's blessings and peace to you all.

Charles & David.