It’s Labor Day here in Gulu…a national holiday. The offices are closed so I’ve been spending the morning doing chores here at the guest house. I’ve pretty much given up trying to fight the red dust on a daily basis. It is what it is. But every few weeks I do the best I can to dust my bedroom and give everything a good wipe down. Right now I’m feeling accomplished with the morning’s tasks. The house is relatively clean, the laundry is hanging on the line and I’ll sleep good tonight on clean sheets.
It’s been a while since my last blog post. I think that my life now has settled into a routine here in Gulu and I’m not sure what’s blog worthy anymore, to be honest. As I sit in my room looking out the window…the tree which lost all of its leaves during the dry season is full of leaves again and soon it will begin to bud with those huge orange flowers. I’m so happy to have rain and the cool air at night makes it possible to sleep without the fan if the electricity is off. Once again I’m under the mosquito net nightly…with rain comes those blood-sucking flying vampires. At night when I’m under the net I constantly hear them buzzing all around me and I’m sure one has somehow made it through the netting but when I turn the light on to check…I can see them flying just outside. It’s a satisfying feeling…to see them struggling outside the net, trying their best to get at me. I feel triumphant watching them buzzing around me…my defeated enemy! No blood for you!!
The power continues to come and go. I made a comment on Facebook about how
surprised I am at the happiness I feel when the power comes back after being off for several days or even for six hours. If I’m home, I know the power is coming back because my fan always kicks on first before any of the other outlets get power. Not sure why…but the hum of that fan makes me so happy inside! It’s strange I know, but I’ve taken it for granted my whole life. Electricity makes life so much easier. Most people here in N. Uganda don’t have it yet. If they do have it, they mostly only use it for light at night and to charge cell phones. They don’t have refrigerators or lots of electronics to power. I’m realizing that the fridge is pretty much useless if you can’t count on a somewhat reliable energy source. I’ve had lots of food spoil due to being without power for 24 hours or more at any one time. So what’s the point of having a fridge is there is no constant power supply? When there finally is a constant power supply in N. Uganda and more people do begin to use refrigerators…it’s going to change things dramatically, especially for women who do all the cooking. They would be able to cook enough food at one time to make three or four big meals which could be kept in the fridge and they wouldn’t have to go to the market as often and meat could be bought and stored for later use. Women work incredibly hard here and a lot of their time involves cooking. They grow most of the food, haul the firewood, do the cooking, cleaning, washing clothes by hand, caring for children. Ladies in the US…if you only knew how easy you have it when it comes to raising children in a first world country you would never complain again about piles of laundry you have to pick off the floor and put into a machine to wash or loading the dishwasher or turning your oven on to cook. I have so much respect for the women here.
For my peeps at my home church, Saint James on James Island, SC…here is a pic of the completed church you helped to build. It’s a very beautiful church! They are having weekly services but as you can see from the pic of the inside…they do not have pews or an altar or altar chairs yet. I’m excited because this is already a huge congregation and I think it will only continue to grow.
I’ve been busy with many things in the couple of months. We finished up the January term at the college. I’m happy to say that my students did very well on their exam in Old Testament Prophets. The students taught me a lot about the culture here and about African traditional religion. Traditional spiritual beliefs that are mixed with Christianity beliefs continues to be a challenge for the Church here. Many people still go to witch doctors, have small idols or charms in their homes that they worship and many follow traditional customs like polygamy. Like Elijah on Mt. Carmel challenging the 450 prophets of Baal…N. Uganda needs the power of God to come and show that He alone is Lord. This is my prayer. I’ll be teaching Intro to Theology next term and I’m looking forward to it. The college is moving to its new location in time to begin classes the week of May 11th. We have been working hard to get it
ready. The classrooms and dorm rooms have been cleaned and painted, the kitchen house has been repaired and is nearly ready for cooking. The buildings have been wired for electricity. A whole new bunch of students are coming which will increase our numbers from 40 to about 70. The college is growing and I’m excited to see how the Lord will use it to equip many men and women for ministry in N. Uganda.
Things here take time…often LOTS of time. I’m learning to be more patient. I came back in January with the funds to purchase the sound equipment and video projector for the Jesus Film Project. It took over three months to finally get to Kampala to buy the stuff. It required coordinating many things. Kampala is about a seven hour drive. I can’t drive myself…I have to have a Ugandan with me. Then we needed help knowing where to go. Kampala is a huge city and knowing where to buy quality things is challenging. But eventually the timing was right and Rev. Collins and I made the trip to Kampala. We were aided by a man named Simon who is on the sound team at St. Francis Church at a local university. He took us straight where we needed to go to buy good equipment. We did in three hours what would have taken three days without him. He was extremely helpful! We also made it to the Bible Society to buy bibles and got repairs to the truck while were there too. Rev. Collins had an interview at the US Embassy and we are grateful that he was approved for a US Visa because he has been invited to spend a month in Michigan this summer at a youth camp. It’s not easy these days to get a US Visa if you’re from certain parts of the world. Anyway…we got everything but the video projector…which cannot be purchased here, which I did not know or I would have purchased it and brought it back in January. So….I’m going to get the projector in the US in June and bring it back with me. We got two speakers with stands, mic, sound board, UPS to protect the electronics from power surges and all the necessary cables. We will rely on a generator for our power needs on the road. I think I’m about to learn a lot about how to operate sound equipment! LOL! All in all…the Jesus Film Project is off to a slow start but it’s all in God’s hands and His timing. As I’ve been thinking and praying, I’m pretty certain our trips out with the film will be as much about teaching discipleship as calling people to faith for the first time. When we went out in March to Apaa village the feedback we got was how encouraging the film was to people who were already Christians. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of who Jesus is and His promise to always be with us as we journey through this broken world of ours.
The Archbishop, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntnagi, will be coming to the Diocese for a week starting May 18th for a pastoral visit. Everyone has kicked into high gear preparing for his visit. There will be a huge service at St. Philip’s Cathedral on May 24th. I’ve been helping to write invitations and put together the order of service. My friend and co-worker with whom I share an office, Rev. Canon Willy Akena, has begun his studies at UCU for his Master in Theology and Development. Normally he would be doing these things. I’m very excited for him so I’m trying my best to fill his shoes where possible. I look forward to meeting the Archbishop.
Lastly, I want to mention another post I made on Facebook about six weeks ago. I commented about how sad I was that some girls of the Women’s Development Center (WDC) were leaving the school because they could not pay their fees. That day, there was a stream of girls coming in to talk to Willy and they were all upset. I asked him what was happening and he told me they could not pay fees and were being sent home…but they did not want to leave. I felt their despair. These girls (ages 16-18 roughly), for whatever reason, did not attend school as children. Many cannot even write their names. They come from rural villages and they either did not go to school because the parents could not afford to send them or their parents did not value an education for them. So when they saw an opportunity to learn a trade at the WDC…either tailoring or hairdressing…they took a chance and left the village. The course is for one year and it empowers them to be able to provide a living for themselves. It’s probably the only opportunity they will have to get skills like this. They are also discipled while they are here and they learn about the love of Christ for them. So when I saw them crying because they were having to leave, my heart just broke. Some days the challenges people face here weigh on me heavily. When I made a comment on Facebook regarding this…I had no intention of raising money. I just felt the need to express my heart that day. However, $1200 was contributed to my mission fund to go toward the fees of these girls! Wow! The Lord must want me to do something about this problem. As I thought and prayed about it, I felt what I needed to do was take this money and invest it in such a way that it would benefit all the girls and making a lasting impact…not a momentary solution to an ongoing problem. Besides, if you offer scholarships to a few girls…the other students feel that is unfair. So I came up with an idea. The school has a production arm that sews school uniforms for local schools. it was develop to help the school be self-supporting. However, the profit margin is so small that they don’t make money at it. They need to produce different products and they need a market for their goods. What if I could invest the money in buying materials to make hand bags, purses, etc. and get churches in the US to agree to buy one box of fifty products to sell and the money would go directly to scholarships. Ultimately I’d like to lower the tuition to an amount that is actually more affordable for ALL the girls. By my estimation, if I got 15 churches to agree to buy one box of 50 products for $1000 per year for three years then the production unit could gross $15,000 per year…enough to dramatically lower the fees for all the girls. The products that they make are really cute. I brought some home at Christmas to sell and sold them all rather fast. I’ve discussed this idea with the staff of the WDC and they are excited and willing to work hard to make this happen. They understand that what matters at the school is the welfare of the girls and keeping the school open. However, instead of this being a handout…it’s a hand up. By buying the material needed to make the products to get the production started on this…I would be investing in a small business which would benefit the students. If you would prayerfully consider accepting a shipment of these products to sell in your church it would go to empower young girls with a vocational skill that could change their lives. And I’m not exaggerated…change their lives! I will be helping to facilitate this project and also helping them to create a market here in Gulu for their products as well because ultimately they need customers here to make the production unit of the school successful in the long run. Let me hear back from those of you who are interested in helping to empower these young girls. I can give you more detailed info about getting involved.
Well, the power has just gone so I think it’s time to end this long blog before the battery on my laptop is drained. I’ll be home on June 10 to a few weeks. It’s time for an annual follow-up with my docs. It’s been just over a year since I was diagnosed and had surgery for colon cancer. Praise God…I’m feeling great! But I have to have a follow-up colonoscopy…which I’m really looking forward to! (said no one ever!) I’m looking forward to some rest, to taking hot showers and eating some steak and bloomin’ onions! Until then…thanks to all of you who pray for me on a regular basis. It makes a huge difference!
Love in Jesus,