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Africa Inland Mission
September 12, 2013 2:14 am

Fun fact alert! There are 42 plus languages (including a Ugandan sign language) spoken regionally in Uganda. Emmy and I have only bumped into about 10 so far, but will most certainly encounter more. One of the fastest ways to start a conversation with a total stranger is to whip out a bit of the local dialect. Even if we only know how to say hello, people’s faces immediately brighten. In the line for the ATM this morning I gave the most basic greeting in Luganda and received a 3 minute congratulations for learning Luganda (A language that I know perhaps 30 words of).

Part of this has to do with the social customs of Africans in general. For the most part it is considered rude not to greet someone that you have made more than passing eye contact with. Furthermore, greeting is an important part of familiar relationships. There are different classes of greetings and the more formal ones can take more than 5 minutes to complete. They consist of ritualized greetings and blessings and are specific to the language and the region. Needless to say I do not know how to say any of them.

Even so, we are learning the shortened greetings and a few other useful phrases. The best part about learning is that it reverses the assumed status dynamic between a white person and an African. The usual assumption here at the center is that the bazungu are to be treated with respect far beyond what we would normally get if we were Africans (for Africans respect is based on gender, age, and authority). But when we become learners, even a 6 year old can pause us midsentence and correct a pronunciation or teach us a word. Furthermore, we get to participate in the meeting of 2 different languages at the center.

ACHERU has patients from two main regions; the Acholli/Luo/Luong (extremely similar languages) people groups from the north and the Buganda from the central region. As the groups meet there is often some friction because most of the staff at ACHERU are Buganda and only speak Luganda and Luzungu (English). But recently they have added a nurse named Ojok Tom from Gulu who speaks Luo and Luzungu.  This allows the staff to communicate clearly with the families from the north, without using patients who know some bits of English as translators. This also lets us learn Luo more quickly. It has become a bit of a game for us to greet everyone at the center every morning and have them return the greeting in kind.

This also creates a place for other information to be exchanged. Because we are learning the regional languages we are better equipped to build relationships with the people we meet. This also means that we get more opportunities to learn how we can be praying for these individuals. Sometimes we meet people in taxis or markets who we can speak with for a few minutes. In these short windows, an appropriate greeting can create conversation where it might not have otherwise occurred. This means we have that much more of an opportunity to share Christ.

The truly remarkable thing is that for the people here this comes across as an act of humility. For my part I just enjoy learning the language and trying out what I have learned. But traditionally white people have required the locals to learn English if they want to interact or do business. In the relatively recent colonial history (Uganda has only been independent for 51 years), to be part of your own countries government or civil service you were required to learn a foreign language. Whatever the cultural implications, I love to do it, and people seem to enjoy it as well. Best of all, it lets Emmy and I have good talks with awesome people about Jesus.

A short word from Emmy-

Before departing for Kampala and Kasese last Monday, some familiar faces came to ACHERU for follow up appointments: Lydia and her son William, and Jacqueline with her daughter Consemma. The hug I received from Consemma has possibly been the best I’ve had here so far. I was so full of joy to see every single one of their smiling faces. William and Consemma seemed to be healing well and both caregivers were happy to be seeing their old friends. This has become one of my favorite parts of being at a rehabilitation center. Children come for treatment and stay for quite a while to heal from surgery, so when it comes time for them to go home, it is so difficult to say goodbye. Their presence is truly missed. Therefore, when they come for a follow-up date that we volunteers are unaware of, we are surprised and so happy to see them! It is such an amazing feeling. I am so grateful that partings are difficult and reunions are full of excitement. It shows how the Lord is helping us to form relationships with so many brothers and sisters in Christ.

Last week we went with J and others to Kasese in South-West Uganda. There we observed and learned about an organization for disabled children in that area. We hiked up and down the Rwenzori Mountains multiple times to meet the children the organization helps! It was quite a work out! After 3 days, we went to our safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park! Wild animals are cool =)

And here are a few pictures from:

 

OUR SAFARI !!!!!!

RUUUUNNNN

He has not looked behind him..

RAWR

They looked very scary up close…

He chased us!

He chased us!

This Elephant is bad at hiding

This Elephant is bad at hiding

OOOO Everybody has a water buffaloooo But these are CAPE Buffalo!

OOOO Everybody has a water buffaloooo
But these are CAPE Buffalo!

 

-A.B. and E.B.

Hey! We aren’t behind on blogging this week! We have spent the last 2 weeks at the center, and it is really good to be home. We even got some projects started this week! This is particularly exciting for our American selves, because most of the work we have done thus far does not have a concrete outcome. Much of the “work” we do centers on just being with the people here.

The culture here is very relational, and we have made many friends; particularly with the staff. Many of the workers here speak English quite well and this certainly helps. Never the less, just being does not come all that easily, especially when I am looking for a concrete task to complete. So we learn new habits and ways to be. Sitting and talking is what I do for my work, but this kind is different. There is often no object to the conversation, and most of these talks are not explicitly about the gospel. This makes it hard to consider myself a “productive missionary” (whatever that is). Even so, these conversations are wonderful. Even the times when we don’t explicitly cover the gospel, it is possible to see the way Christ is moving in this place or in a specific person. The relational culture provides an excellent picture of the body of Christ.

Last week Emmy talked about the body of Christ, and I’m going to do it again. Here in Africa we meet so many different people with different views on everything. On the flip side, praise God because, when you meet a Christian there is a common thread of Christ that ties together all of these different perspectives. This common belief unites us with strangers in a strange and exciting way. Unity in the spirit allows us to speak our hearts to others. Even better, Unity allows others to see our hearts. Growing in the Spirit goes beyond the limits of language. We can talk to the mother of a child with Autism and tell her honestly that there is nothing apart from the love of Jesus to help her son.

So many times this is not what she wants to hear. Bazungu (white people) represent money and medicine in the villages. For many of these children neither of those things will help, but mothers still come for miles with their children and expect help. For these mothers all we have to offer is Christ. We cannot fix their problems. We can only be with them. We offer them encouragement and love. These intangible gifts are certainly not what the majority of the people are looking for, but they are the only gifts of consequence. The unifying belief in Christ allows us to confidently share the good news, and best of all, it allows the hearer to understand.

I am concerned that this post is a little on the heavy/confusing side, so I will end with a short story.

 

Ugandan Transportation and Teleportation: Is there a difference?

Ugandan taxis defy the laws of mathematics, physics, space, time, and often man. To begin with, An 8 passenger van is modified to legally carry 14. This misunderstanding of the manufacturer’s intentions is compounded further as the conductor continually stops to add more and more passengers until the vehicle contains 20 souls (22 if you count chickens). The conductor himself will gladly offer his own seat which serves as his base when he is not jutting 78% of his body out the window to scan for passengers to fill the remaining air volume in the cabin. Of course, this means that when he gives the “down periscope” order to his exposed limbs and trunk; he will sit in your lap.

Once the seething clump of souls in the taxi reaches critical mass, the supposedly diesel fueled, nuclear reactor, under the hood turns over and the driver snaps the reins. Sadly there is no scientific instrument sensitive enough to measure the interval between full stop and full speed. Suffice to say that time probably does not pass. In any case, the speedometer on the dash now reads 80. There are no clearly marked units but one assumes meters per second.

The speed is exhilarating until the casual human sardine looks out the window. Certain death and gruesome carnage are perpetually imminent. The boda boda (2 passenger dirt bikes that carry anywhere from 1 to 4 people, or 2 people and 3 goats) drivers scatter like schools of fish fleeing a shark. The driver uses his horn to announce his presence on the road and attract passengers. However, it seems unlikely that the sound of the beep will reach the intended target before the taxi. Never the less, the driver relentless taps out an indecipherable rhythm on his steering wheel.

Overtaking and slower vehicle takes significant mathematical calculations and a generous helping of bravery. Every taxi is painted the same and it seems that they repaint their taxis by rubbing up against other vehicles at high speed, passing just close enough to scrape off at microscopic layer of paint.

Suddenly the taxi collides with an oncoming lorry at speeds that would make an interstellar shuttle blush. Thankfully, travel near the speed of light converts the mass of the taxi and its 36 passengers into a highly energized plasma. The taxi passes through the lorry unharmed, but a little disoriented. Arrival is a rather sudden affair.

The transition from traveling at the speed of a bullet fired from a space ship traveling at the speed of light which has been fired from another space ship traveling at twice the speed of light; to zero takes a negative amount of time. The bones of the passengers re-congeal into their proper shape and their organs slow their bouncing. After their eye sight returns they are surprised to find that they have arrived at their destination 4 minutes before they left. Unless they were traveling in Kampala, then they were in traffic and often find that their infant children are now grandparents.

It’s exhilarating.

-A.B.

Oh dearie me… We have left too long between updates again. Nothing for it but to sum up!

The short short version is that last Friday, July 19th Emmy and I, along with our team, traveled to Karamoja with 2 of AIM’s long term missionaries (Linda Byler and JP). There we worked with children who have special needs, specifically visiting the outlying villages and hosting a Bible Club (VBS) for children who were able to attend. Then we came back to Kampala to see our team off on the evening of the 30th. After we said bye, we said hi to Emily (not the Emily I am married to, a different one) who will be at ACHERU until February of next year. Then we came back to our home in Uganda at ACHERU and finished out the week.

Short and sweet.

The short, but much longer version, goes something like this:

Friday the 19th – Sunday the 21st

We left ACHERU around 1 in the afternoon and loaded into Linda and J’s Land Cruisers. The goodbyes were tearful and difficult for all involved. Emmy and I would be returning to the center, but we knew that many of the Ugandan patients would be back at home by our return. For the team, this was the final goodbye to many brothers and sisters that they love deeply. For me, the tears on both sides of the parting, muzungu and Ugandan alike, testify to the unifying power of Christ and the powerful bond that is formed when any of his followers live together for a time. Mukama Malungi (God is good).

Though Uganda is not a large country, traveling often involves a hefty investment of time. While our final destination was the village of Kangole in the Napak District of the Karamoja region, we would stop to spend the night in Soroti. On Saturday morning we departed from the Starlight Inn in Soroti and prepared for the kilometers of unpaved road ahead of us. But low and behold, the Ugandan Road Authority has been hard at work! Much of the road was paved and the parts that were not had been graded recently! Even so, the drive still took around three hours. On our arrival we met our local contact (Anna who is one of the only local advocates for children with special needs) then went straight to the school and took in the traditional music competition. Different schools performed dances and played traditional instruments in the early regional stages of a national competition.

Music fest- Singing and acting portion

Music fest- Singing and acting portion

After about 2 hours of pretty awesome music we decided we needed to pitch our tents before dark and stepped out to do so. Half of us stayed at the local Church of Uganda and the other half stayed with Anna in her family compound. At the Church we pitched out tents in the classroom building (the tents acted more like mosquito nets than actual shelters). Those who stayed at Anna’s either slept in her home, in a tent under a newly constructed shelter, or were Ethan and slept in a Hammock under the eaves of Anna’s front porch. Both accommodations were extremely adequate and even had places for us to shower. At Anna’s there was a shower stall near the toilets and at the Church of Uganda there was a tree that shielded us from view. To wrap up the night about 6 or 7 young girls sang a few welcoming songs with all of our names in them!

On Sunday we were up at 7 for the Church service at the Church of Uganda. An excellent youth choir led the worship and one of the elders gave a good sermon on the importance of effective service to God. Around 10 the service concluded and we walked back to Anna’s compound for lunch and a relaxing time with the children there.  We returned to the church for the 3 pm fellowship time and were blessed to meet the very active ladies group headed by the widow of the previous pastor of the church. After fellowship we met with the reverend and his wife at their home. There we learned that though they have not been able to have any biological children, they have raised 18 orphans and put them through school.

Monday the 22nd

On Monday we visited all of the local government officials for introductions and announcements of our intent in the district. This is an important activity when any group visits a new area in Uganda. So much of the information available at the local level comes from word of mouth that a face to face introduction is well worth the time it takes. We took the afternoon to prepare for our Bible Club and village visits over the next few days.

Tuesday the 23rd – Friday the 26th

These days consisted mainly of two activities. For the most part, we spent our mornings in the villages and our afternoons at the church doing the Bible Club.

Village visits:

Possible TB of the spine

Possible TB of the spine

We visited several villages over the course of the week. Some were in walking distance and others were actually a 20 minute drive, or so, away. In each village we saw various types of physical and mental disabilities. Many of the maladies (Clubfoot, Cerebral Palsey, burn contractures, Osteomyelitis, paralysis, Tuberculosis of the spine, hunchback, and cataracts) we had seen before at ACHERU, so the team was able to offer some insight to the parents. Though for the most part this insight was a bit discouraging as most of the treatments were out of reach for the villagers; both geographically and financially. Even so, the team was able to offer some small exercises to those who were able. Most importantly, we offered prayer and shared the hope of a savior who will heal every wound and wipe away every tear. In the end this is the only help worth giving, and this must be our assurance in a place where there is no other help to offer.

In one village we found that the younger generation had all left to seek food and work in the distant cities because the crops had failed all across Karamoja. The people told us that about 20 villagers had already died because of hunger. The few that were left were mostly the very young children and the older elders. One of these elders told us about his younger days as a cattle raider and his experiences under Idi Amin’s Tyranny.

For a long time the Karamojong were semi nomadic herdsmen. They followed the grass through the seasons and many owned hundreds of cows. As Uganda grew the grazing land was limited and the Karamojong were no longer able to travel as they had done. They developed a tradition of raiding cattle from neighboring villages. During these raids many men were killed and over time, the region gained a reputation for near constant unrest. Guns came in from Sudan and other sources. Most any one might have a gun, and murder became common. During the reign of Amin there was a push to modernize the dress of the Karamajong who still wore skins. He gathered more than a thousand of them to one placed and murdered them. The man we spoke to was present at the scene and fled for his life. He was oddly emotionless, except when he spoke about the raiding, then you could see the pride he felt.

The experienced man

The experienced man

Around 2000 the government stepped in and disarmed the Karamajong. The army now holds the majority of the herdsmen cows at a central corral. This is designed to prevent raiding, but it also makes owning the cows somewhat difficult. In a strange way, the loss of the raiding and the loss of the cows have stripped the identity from the many in the adult generations of the Karamajong. Their land is not especially fertile, and many of the adults were never educated. Alcoholism is quite common and a cup of the fermented sorghum mash only costs about a quarter and may be the only thing a person can get to fill their stomach. Clearly this a place of much suffering. Unfortunately, this means that children with special needs are often on the bottom of the pile.

Bible Club:

Three afternoons around 2 or 3 PM about thirty deaf children and 15 or so other children would join us at the church for a bible club. We had chosen the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors for our theme for the week. Each day we started out with songs. We sang some of the songs that we knew the sign language to, and the children shared some of their songs with us. Learning a song with no verbal words in sign language is a great experience. After signing our team shared the story of Joseph and acted out the events as the story was translated into Ugandan sign language and Karamajong. After the skit we moved into craft time. Each craft was carefully constructed by the children and they really seemed to treasure them. Finally we had fun activity to close out the day. We played capture the flag and Ultimate Frisbee with the older children and sharks and minnows with the younger ones. Ultimate Frisbee reached levels of intensity that are not often seen in the states, and we were playing on gravel. Luckily no one had much more than a scratch at the end of the week.

Paulo

Paulo

We usually walked the children home and were thus able to meet some of the parents. At the end of the week one of the mothers gave the team a chicken as a thank you. That was a new experience for me personally. It was a blessing for us as a team to see the way the children came together and helped one another. Many of the children without disabilities mocked the disabled children, but they went ignored for the most part. Some of the other children actually ended up helping the children with special needs. One of the highlights of the whole Bible Club was the last day when Paulo (a young boy with moderately severe autism) came to the Club.He is non verbal and often spends whole days inside because he requires such constant attention. The other children, especially the deaf children, really stepped up and included him in all of the activities. Paulo is quite social and all of the attention actually served to calm his rocking, he actually sat still for longer than I had ever seen him sit when we visited his home.

 

We have many dreams for the development of Karamoja, but I think the best thing to pray for would be that the peace of Christ would flood the hearts of the people in the region. Without a significant heart change, much of the aid that comes to the area only serves to foster dependence. With leaders like the reverend and his wife (and their many children) I have a firm belief that prayer is all that is needed to open the door for the word of God to change this community. Please continue to pray with us.

Saturday July 27-30th

We left Kangole around 8 AM on the 27th and due to car trouble passed through the town again around 11 AM after a route change due to our need for a mechanic and reports of impassable roads ahead. Later that evening we reached our debrief campsite… at the foot of a beautiful waterfall. I would try to describe it, but that just won’t work. There are pictures, even then, I just don’t know. We spent Saturday night and all day Sunday at the falls. We climbed and we swam. It was very refreshing. On Monday morning we gave Linda’s car a rolling start down the mountain, popped the clutch and were on our way.

We arrived at Matoke Inn (AIM guest house in Kampala) just in time for dinner on Monday the 29th. The team scheduled to leave at 11:59 PM on Tuesday. As we said our goodbyes and celebrated my birthday a day early we all reflected on our trip. We realized that though many of us had changed over the course of the last six weeks, most of our families and friends would likely still expect our pre-Africa selves to return. This is not any kind of evil or sin on their part, but all the same, the team agreed that we did not want to lose any of the growth we had experienced. As far as I know none of the teams families or friends will read this, but as a heads up for our communities at home: This place is different. The people are different, and when we return to you we will have been changed, not only by the differences of the culture, but because God has worked in each of our hearts. I have seen the most timid members of our group preach powerful messages to not just strangers, but to their friends. It is then my prayer that the changes wrought in all of us would be for the benefit of our churches and homes, and that our churches and homes would receive whoever we are on our return. The book of Philemon comes to mind as I write this.

Perhaps the reason that he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – not longer as a slave, as a dear brother.

Philemon 1:15-16a

In Christ,

-A.B.

Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy!

March 12, 2013 6:04 pm
Published in: fundraising,General

This post is a special Thank You to the Edwardsville division of the Association to Raise Funds for Aaron and Emmy to Travel to Uganda on a Mission (Edw. ARFAETUM for short). This team is composed of several Core Members (Terry & Sherry Brakhane and Roger & Christina Gunther), Associates (Angela Ferando, Josh Gunther, Brenda Leitner, Bonnie Miller, Marvin Brakhane, Center Grove Presbyterian Church, and Trinity Lutheran Church), and Special Events Coordinator (Mike VanBeek). To date, our Business Partners include: Crystal Garden, Gillihan Concrete, Inc., State Farm-Carol Vangeison, Edward Jones-Matthew Johnson, Norma’s Produce and Greenhouses, Legacy Screen Printing-Connie Plocher, Thrivent Financial and The Bank of Edwardsville.  Without these organizations and individuals Emmy and I would undoubtedly be stuck.

We are enormously grateful for each and every person who has or will help to support our mission. God in His infinite and indecipherable understanding has seen fit to provide us with wonderfully generous friends and family. This generosity is not just financial; many people have given abundantly of their time and energy in planning, coordinating, and encouraging Emmy and I. We pray and trust that God will repay this kindness, because we are woefully unable to show even a modicum of the appropriate amount of appreciation. God bless.

-A.B.

P.S. Don’t forget come to Trinity Lutheran Church on Wednesday 3/13/13 (tomorrow!) hungry for soup. Mike VanBeek has been cooking up a storm and it’s going to be scrumptious. Also,you can sign up on the right side of the page for email updates!

March 5, 2013 1:57 pm

Hello again everyone,

We are fresh off our first official fundraiser and blessed by God in ways we never expected. The Uganda Love this Date Night was a rampaging success bringing in over 800 dollars. Moreover, God has seen fit to provide over $10,000 for our mission so far. I try not to think about it too much because I have a slight fear that I am still suffering under purple spot madness from my yellow fever vaccine. But so far, no spots! Emmy and I are overwhelmingly grateful for all of your prayers and support as we gear up to go. I have a special request that everyone could pray for Emmy as her nursing work has really started to ramp up in the last weeks. We have much work ahead of us, but God has even been gracious there. We have wonderful families and friends who keep finding new ways to help support us.

Coming up on March 10th Emmy and I will be giving a short presentation to Center Grove Presbyterian Church in Edwardsville. Then on March 13th Mike Van Beek has put together a wonderful soup dinner from 5 to 6:30 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Edwardsville. Please come out and thank him in person for this great gift, as Emmy and I will be in Jackson, TN for the dinner. Also, someone grab me a to go bowl of soup.

We are also gearing up for two Trivia Nights in April. There is now an official flier for the Edwardsville trivia night (Click here for the flier). We hope to see everyone there. Pro tip: brush up on your Ugandan trivia, it might just come in handy. Trivia Night Edwardsville is April 12th and Trivia Night Jackson is April 20th. Both nights will be a great opportunity to come out and prove that you are smarter than someone else is. We will have door prizes at both events so everyone has a chance to win even if they don’t know who holds the current record for wickets and runs in a single match of Cricket. (That will not be a question, I promise) The best part of both of these events is the opportunity to share both fun and fellowship with your friends and family. Feel free (heck, feel encouraged) to invite anyone you like to a trivia night or the soup dinner. Emmy and I look forward to meeting bunches of new people!

As I said earlier, please be in prayer for Emmy as she does school, work, and fundraising. Also, we have some other interesting opportunities coming up with AIM and would appreciate prayers for guidance in God’s plan for us as we travel to Uganda. Emmy will be applying for a Ugandan nursing license and this process looks to be a little interesting. Finally, don’t forget to put your email in the box on the left side of the page to receive updates straight to your inbox!

 

-A.B.

January 17, 2013 12:02 am
Published in: General

Emmy and I are getting into the swing of fundraising and other assorted preparations. We were both injected with a “weakened” strain of live Yellow Fever this morning… Aside from the small purple dots hiding at the edge of my vision that seems to have been a great idea! We sent out about 200 support letters this morning and have at least that many more to go. If you read this and think, “Hey! They didn’t send me one!” let us know and we will gladly shoot one your way. We are very excited to see where the Lord leads us during this time. Finishing school and going to Africa has been the stated plan for so long that it is a little heady to finally be in the ‘go’ phase.

-A.B.

— P.S.  3 Kudos to Ronnie Smith for our awesomely lame blog name.