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Africa Inland Mission
November 5, 2013 3:09 pm

Hello there! We have traveled much in the last few weeks. On the 22nd of October we left for a city called Mbarara in the southwest part of Uganda. From there we traveled onto Kabale, which is even further south, and to Kisoro which is on the Rwandan border.  On our way back to Mbarara we stopped for 2 nights at the Bushara Island Rest Camp on Lake Bunyoni. While we were there Emmy turned 24! After we returned to Mbarara we visited Ruharo Eye Center and then headed back to Kampala. Finally on the  30th of October we made it back to the center. It was quite the adventure. I have now seen an eyeball removed from a person, a blind woman walking down and then up mountains, and more Matoke than I ever care to see again.

The first stop into Mbarara was more of a rest stop after a 6 hour drive than an official visit. We ate dinner with the AIM team there and stayed the night. Then in the morning we were off to Kabale with Joel Skinner and Zilla (the unit leader and a physiotherapist respectively). We met up with J’s contact in Kabale; a man called Richard who is the Minister of Education for Children with Special needs in Kabale district. He works to mobilize the parents in the villages to get their children to school. Often children with special needs are only given the opportunity to go to school after their other siblings have all been paid for. Still other children have difficulty finding a way to transport themselves to school. That night after Zilla and Joel left, we met our first child with Richard who was named Friday.

Friday and that smile

Friday and that smile

 

At around 2 years of age, Friday had a fever and lost his sight and the power to move his legs. A cursory inspection showed that regular physiotherapy would be enough to restore significant mobility to his legs. However, this is unlikely to occur because of the family’s poverty and a general lack of access. Friday happens to live just 20 minutes from a school for the blind. Even so, he is unable to learn Braille because he crawls on his hands and knees to move and this reduces the sensation in his finger tips. As you can see from the photo above, his joy is not especially hampered by his physical condition. His aunt who cares for him expressed a wonderful peace because of her trust in God. We encouraged her in her faith and traveled home for the night.

That night Jesca, Richard’s wife, made a wonderful dinner for us. However, just before we left ACHERU I had a Doxy capsule get stuck in my throat and give me a bit of a burn. This was not a problem most of the time, unless I ate something hot that did not go down quickly. That is the only kind of food that Ugandans enjoy… I happen to enjoy it as well, unfortunately I was not able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. In fact, I had to give up early one night at dinner and beg my host’s forgiveness. They were gracious, but I was disappointed that I did not get to eat more!

The next day we traveled out into the village and after a short hike we met a family of 6 children. 4 of the children have developed a disorder that looks like Muscular Dystrophy, but it is hard to diagnose for sure. In any case, as they age their physical condition deteriorates, but their mental faculties remain mostly intact. The youngest child with this condition can still walk, while the oldest cannot stand. These children are blessed with two parents who love them dearly. They were very fat (a compliment in Ugnada) and healthy looking apart from their condition. Unfortunately, the parents feel that they need to keep the 2 children without special needs out of school to care for the other 4 while mom and dad work in the garden. Still because of the fertile land around their community, the family is able to feed all 6 children well and they demonstrated an obvious love for one another.

As we have mentioned before, white folk are a bit of an anomaly in some of the outlying areas. From what we heard, we were the first to visit this particular community. This means that everyone with special needs quickly heard that we had visited this particular family and can to meet us as well. One of those families was a Mama and her daughter called Promise. The child and the mother were both blind. But when you are walking behind her there is no way to tell [Video of Mama Promise strolling through town]. The mother reported that they had visited Ruharo Eye Center when Promise was only 1 year old, the Center had asked them to return when the child was 3 (sometime last year) but they had been unable to find transport. Because we were returning to Mbarara, where the eye center is located, we offered to give them a lift. More on that later.

After we visited this village, we traveled with Richard and his wife to Kisoro on the Rwandan border. The scenery was lovely and we had beautiful views as we drove there. Once we arrived we were welcomed into one of Richard’s relative’s homes and served dinner. Then we traveled back to Kabale for the night. African hospitality makes any journey a joy.

The next morning we left for Lake Bunyoni. While we visit with nationals we have to be on our cultural game nearly 24/7 so it is nice to slip back into American mode and relax after a long trip. Here we took in the bird watching and lake swimming. We are hoping that there were no nasty bugs living in the water, but we will probably dose ourselves like there was. The Island was a great break and Emmy became 24 in our tent there, so that’s cool!

CAW CAW

Birdie

After we traveled back to Kabale to pick up Promise and her Auntie, we made our way to Mbarara. We dropped Promise off at the hospital and spent the night with the AIM missionaries there in town. The next day we visited the Ruharo Hospital campus. At one end is an organization called OURS which does almost the exact same service as ACHERU. They work with physical disabilities and have their surgeries done at CoRSU. It was great to visit and see how other people do similar work. That afternoon we visited with Dr. Keith.

Dr. Keith came out to Uganda when he was 27 years old. Next year he will have been here for 50 years. His work ranges all over Uganda and Rwanda. But when he is not traveling cross country, he is based at Ruharo Eye Center. He took us around and showed us his patients, and then he invited us to return and observe surgeries the next day! We agreed and he made us promise to flee before we passed out if we felt queasy.

I wanted a beard net...

The following day we witnessed 4 or 5 cataract surgeries (they do those 3 at a time). We saw Promise’s surgery. Then came the big daddy. Dr. Keith has begun working with many children who have Retinoblastoma. This cancer that forms on the Retina and moves down the Optic nerve and into the brain, it is 100% fatal if not treated quickly. Chemotherapy can hold it at bay, but if the cancer grows too much it can necessitate the removal of the eye. This is how we happened to see an eye removed. Despite the obvious problems of having an eye removed, Dr. Keith made a great point after he took out the eye. He said, “You might say this child used to have cancer.” That, I think, is well worth the trouble.

After all of these visits we rushed back to Kampala and got Emmy to her birthday dinner (only 2 or 3 days late). For those of who are wondering, Sushi is apparently available in non-coastal regions of Africa.

that looks a bit unsafe...

As you might notice, only one of the children we met in our travels was helped, physically. This is becoming the norm. We have talked about the strange honor that is often shown to white people here. The conclusion seems to be that God has gifted us, for his purposes, with a skin tone that attracts notice. We are not especially able helpers for these families, but for whatever reason. Everyone in these villages knows that strange visitors came all the way from America to visit one family in our village. They came to visit that family that we do not associate with. They held the children that we fear to touch. These visitors could have easily been hosted by our elders and leaders, but they chose to visit the ones who are ostracized from the community. I hope the communities ask each other “Why?”

The answer is of course because Jesus loves these children. He loves them so much that he died for them. We have been given white skin. Suddenly, we are able to mean something positive because of it. Praise God for his ability to make our most mundane features assets for his kingdom.

-A.B.

October 22, 2013 2:40 am
Published in: In Africa!,Photos
Kevin and Aaron

Kevin from our earlier blog post!

One of the ACHERU staff, Stephen, led our group worship on Friday morning. He spoke on a very important and applicable passage from the book of John.  John 9 focuses on the story of a blind man who was given sight by Jesus. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples assumed that the man was born blind due to sin…they are right in that he, and all of us, are born into our sinful nature and a sinful world, but the disability is not because of a specific sin that the parents or the man did. So often we ask God “what did I do?” when something bad happens to us. What does this question really ask about God’s character? Is not HE the creator of all things, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving? If we question God but do not recognize who HE is, we are living in distrust of HIM.

How does Jesus respond to the disciple’s and our questions? “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” So that the WORK OF GOD might be displayed in HIS life…the purpose of our existence…for Christ to be shown in all that we do and for Him to receive the glory for it. God did not need us in order to survive. He was not bound by some special code of the Trinity to create man and woman. No, God made us in HIS image and for HIS purpose to bring him glory and show his powerful and loving character.

In Uganda, Aaron and I have met many children who are able to be treated physically at ACHERU and many more children who have mental disabilities that are permanent. As we talk to the parents, we tell them “Thank you for loving for child. God made him/her in HIS image. He has a plan for THEIR life.” We know that it is not something the parents or child did that caused this disability, but our own sinful nature from the fall of Adam. It is important to communicate those words to the parents. Jesus also says, “We must do the work of HIM who sent me.” We are called to live according to the word and the lifestyle of Christ. For the parents and for all, we can share with them the hope and salvation through Christ from sin and pray that they see God’s character and love for them.

On a different note, ACHERU has started discharging patients who have been here for many months to a year. It is amazing to see the kid’s wounds heal and their disabilities improve; especially when they have been here for so long. Praise the LORD who works miracles of the flesh and miracles of the soul.

-E.B.

Lubowa playing futbol with no fixator!

Lubowa playing futbol with no fixator! (from earlier blog post)

Kevin from my earlier blog post!

Kevin and I!

Lillian

Lillian before she went home.

October 12, 2013 2:34 am

Safari means ‘trip’ in Swahili so even though we did not go to a game park, that title is technically correct. We have been on Holiday in Kenya for the last week or so. We stayed 2 days in Nairobi (and saw lots of animals! Video here!) and then took a train to Mombasa. The train was supposed to take 15 hours to complete the journey… It took 21. The bus over the same distance takes 7 hours. We are taking the bus back. From Mombasa, we traveled to Watamu and stayed at a a resort on the Indian ocean. There we relaxed by the pools and ocean and went snorkeling! The meals, and indeed the rest of the guests were very Italian. In fact, this resort is so Italian that none of the printed materials have a bit of English in them. So we just kind of wing it. It is hilarious to meet Africans who greet you in Italian though. “Jambo, Ciao!” A bit of Spanish helps to bridge the gap, that and Alice, who just finished school for translation. She helped a lot, because as it turned out that 3 out of 4 Italians in that conversation did not speak English. It has been a great rest. My skin is burned though and we are ready to get back to the center. Today we travel back to Nairobi and Sunday we complete the journey back to Mukono. We pray for safe travel and rejoice to see our friends at ACHERU again!

 

Giraffes are so cool! My mud puddle! Look, he's just a little guy Hallloooo So cuteDSCN7509 Emmy with Bolt the CheetahI don't think this was poisonous... Snorkel is a funny word View from our hotel DSCN7597

Video !!! 

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.

August 24, 2013 6:47 am

The word ‘work’ means something a little different in Africa. Here in the south of Uganda there is electricity and readily available fuel. However, the electricity would never be described as robust and there are only a few farming implements that utilize fuel. Instead, the people here capitalize on another abundant resource, that is, themselves. Emmy and I recently spent a few days learning these tasks. I hope you find this interesting.

There are washing machines in Uganda. Apparently they can cost about 1.5 million shillings. To put that in scale, a waiter likely makes between 5,000 and 10,000 shillings a day (the exchange rate to dollars is around 2,560:1). So these machines are a bit out of reach for the general public. Even for a large organization like ACHERU, who could afford such a machine, the electrical grid may or may not be up to the task at any given time. Furthermore, water can be a precious commodity depending on the rain. So we wash by hand. We are blessed with a matron (Margret) that does this task on our behalf. But let us explore the process of washing.

You begin by putting a few garments in a basin half full of water, add soap, and swish. Now if you’re me, the job is done and it is time to rinse. However, if you intend to do it properly (Click to see how!), you take a six inch segment of the garment and rub it against itself, swish, and shift to the next six inch segment. A T-shirt can take about fifteen repetitions. Step two, put the shirt in another basin and do all of that again. There are bars of soap for particularly difficult spots and stains. Now you rinse in a third basin. All of this water comes out of a tap (in the rainy season), but the tap is over there under the tree and you are not. So go and fill your jerry can with water and lug it back over here. A basin of water is good for maybe five or six not so dirty garments. This will take a while.

Mama Lubowa, Emmy, and Carrol

Mama Lubowa, Emmy, and Carrol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you finish the wash, maybe tomorrow, you can chop wood. A band saw (handheld) is the cutting tool of choice for this task. Every week or so a truck comes and dumps a trailer load of 10 foot branches behind the kitchen. They need to be cut into 9 inch segments and split (with a dull axe welded to a 1.5 inch metal pipe) until they are only about 2 inches deep. This also takes a while.

 

They look happy!

This also takes a while

But now it’s time for cooking! Today we are making posho, for 70. Posho, Yay Posho (Click to see how!), is kind of like grits, made from maize flour, and cooked until it is stiff. It’s actually not all that much like grits. To make it you first heat the stove with the wood we just cut and put a huge pot of water on to boil. If you keep the fire high, the smoke is much more bearable. After we get a nice rolling boil, we add in scoops of maize flour. Then we take a wooden spatula/canoeing oar and begin to mix. Round and round and round we mix the flour until it begins to thicken. Now comes time for some muscle. Push down, lift up, sorry about the lump that fell on your foot, the burns will heal quickly. But watch out for the open flame under the pot. Remember that the Africans wear sandals for this. At this point our posho is the consistency of setting cement. Stirring it becomes a whole body exercise, made more difficult by the fire starting to smoke in earnest. There are chimneys that lift about 60% of the smoke out of the fire. The other 40% is filtered via the eyes.

Smokey

Adisa is a great teacher

Just kidding

Kitchen sink

After we have finished cooking we might like to lie down for a bit. Sadly there is not time. Onto the fields to dig (farm). Using hoes, a group of 3 women can clear a football field in about half a day. I can’t. Then we plant. Ground nuts, maize, cassava, eggplant, and tomatoes will all be ready in less than 3 months. There are 2 growing seasons per year in this part of Uganda and planting begins as soon as the rains come.

All of this work happens all of the time. Many of the women will work at one or all of these tasks in any given day. For the most part the men do not participate, except to cut wood. I am certain that I was the first man that Mama Lubowa ever taught how to wash clothes. The work is very physical in a way that takes more than muscle. After washing 3 shirts my skin began to chafe. I think a whole load of wash would draw blood. The farming is done barefoot and thistles and thorns will always claim their payment. I wonder what life will be like here when technology becomes as ubiquitous as it is in the states. Will the people lose something by their modernization? I know one thing for certain. Hard work and dedication do not make a person rich in this world, but they can sharpen a focus on Christ. Daily bread is a real thing here, and so is praying for it.

August 20, 2013 11:40 am

DSCN5636Men go abroad to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.  –Saint Augustine

“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” by Dr. Phil Brand and Philip Yancey became my reading companion for our journey through the east of Uganda. I highly recommend that you let this book be the escort to your morning tea/coffee (Ugandans use the term escort for whatever food item is going with their chai). I found this work on J’s living room bookshelf as me, Aaron, and Emily settled in to her home in Kampala for two nights. I had no idea that its contents would directly relate to everything we were going to be doing and sharing over the next week. The book describes 4 different sections of the body; the cells, bone, skin, and motion. The doctor recaps many of his experiences with patients both physically and spiritually. In each of the four sections, he relates the physical parts of our body to the workings of the Body of Christ. I will not spoil it for you. Read it =) “To be a member is to have neither life, being, nor movement, except through the spirit of the body, and for the body” –Blaise Pascal

DSCN5641

We began our assessments in Kampala on Tuesday morning. J brought us to a small church in a hilly village for a follow-up. We were expecting to have a meeting and some discussion with the pastor. But, here in Uganda, we have come to learn that you must be very open and flexible. Seven of the church members had gathered and requested that we give a message from the word. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was with us and we all shared (some more than others!). Aaron now has a moving message about ‘the least of these’ that he ended up sharing at the church we went to on Sunday morning too. J continually encouraged listeners to be the loving body of Christ wherever we went. I shared how God has been teaching me the importance of the spiritual over the physical. Emily talked about every single person being made in God’s image. After our sharing, J began her questioning and teaching. She charged this church body to become models of Christ’s love by going out in to their community to find the children with disabilities and love on them with unconditional care. It was a long and very moving experience for me to see how J works with these church bodies. They have many rational fears, but that does not mean they are excused from exercising Christ’s love for the ‘least of these’. Our next stop was to pick up wheelchairs for two children at Good Shepherds Fold in Jinja (our location Thursday through Saturday). We had quite a time fitting them into the back of J’s car. Emily and I ended up sitting on one seat for the rest of our time in Kampala! Lastly, we visited a mother and her child, Raymond, at their home. I have never seen a mother so at peace with her child having a disability. She spoke with so much love and strength about the power of Christ. This was especially moving because Raymond is a seventeen year old boy with Cerebral Palsy. He is non-verbal and completely dependent on his mother and family for his daily care. Raymond was an absolute sweetheart with a smile that makes your heart melt. Praise the Lord for the peace He has given that family.

Wednesday to Saturday- We made a few stops throughout Kampala before hitting the road: one at a boarding school for special needs children and one in Mukono at a home/school for mentally disabled children. We arrived at GSF (Good Shepherds Fold) around 4 p.m. We walked around the large compound and began to meet the MULTITUDE of children. GSF serves as an orphanage and school. They have hundreds of children come from surrounding villages for the education. DSCN5605

But, about 80 children stay indefinitely at the compound in a house with other children and a house mom. There are a few children with disabilities. Our main focus was to assess and love on these children. J had quite a list of to-do’s so we tagged along and helped with whatever we could. The new wheelchairs were presented to Sam (10 year old paraplegic boy) and Matthew (quadriplegia, with some control, secondary to CP) who were continually reminded to take good care of them. Many of the children had gone home for the holidays. But it was very interesting to visit a center that was something like ACHERU, but then again, completely different. The children there have integrated the children with special needs into their lives to a greater extent than we have seen elsewhere. The house mom’s are also very diligent with the extra care required for some of the children. But, just like ACHERU, the children with special needs love to run and play and joke around.

Saturday afternoon we made a short house visit and then spent the afternoon in Jinja before proceeding to our lodging for the night. Mto Moyoni is a beautiful area with bandas sitting right on the Nile River! It was a great place to relax and enjoy God’s creation.

Sunday morning we attended church where Aaron gave the message. The church was very friendly and welcoming. The pastor and his family treated us to lunch at his home. We learned about his life and his work with disabilities. For the evening, we stayed with a missionary family in Jinja. We enjoyed playing Scattegories and watching a movie. It felt a little bit like home!

CP, severly malnourished, pressure sores

CP, severly malnourished, pressure sores

Years of club feetMonday was James’ day! He is our tailor at ACHERU who, when he met J, asked for her to come to his home village and help the children there. Over the last couple of weeks Aaron and I have communicated between J and him to help this assessment to happen…and it did! James even brought Johnson, the orthopedic officer, from ACHERU to address those with physical needs as well. The village was waiting for us when we arrived and gave us one of the biggest welcoming ceremonies yet. I loved seeing James in his home with so many people that care about and depend on him. There were many children to assess; with time being short. I was giving the responsibility of dividing the mental issues from the physical issues. Sadly, this meant turning away families who did not have an issue that we were equipped to assess. We left after dark down muddy and narrow roads. The Lord gave us safety and a successful day! I pray that ACHERU will be able to treat some of the village children in the near future. I also pray for the children who have mental disabilities. For them, there is no ‘fixing the physical problem’,

birth deformity

birth deformity

and that was a difficult topic to discuss with the parents. But, we gave them all we had and the BEST that we had- the news of Jesus.

NOW, we are back at ACHERU and grateful for the experiences of this last week. It is always very hard to explain how are hearts have grown. For me, I have found more of my childish side. Some of the kids I encountered needed someone (in this instance, an adult muzungu) to act a little funny so that they could look past their sorrows for an instant and feel happiness. I am very joyful when I see the seriousness of these little ones melt away. But it also reminds me that I must strive for that smile to stay. And the only way for that to happen is for them to be founded in Christ’s love and his constant joy. This is true anywhere that I am: at ACHERU, in a village, in Jackson, in Edwardsville, at my job…the list goes on and on. We are never excused from sharing the gospel with others, and we shouldn’t want to be. It is our joyful privilege. May the Lord give Aaron and I that passion to continually burn bright for the Lord is dark places.

It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. – Saint Francis of Assisi

In Christ,

-E.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!

July 13, 2013 6:36 am

We’re back from the bush! Well technically from Gulu, but we did spend our days out in the villages. But I am already ahead of myself. This will be a longish update so grab some chai and a biscuit and settle in.

Thursday July 4th

We have invented baseball. Sort of. I think technically we invented flip-flop ball. Also the bat was a tree limb that we whittled a handle in. The ball was newspaper wrapped in duct tape and the score was 9 to 8 and the end of the second inning. Because soccer (football) is the dominant sport here, catching is not necessarily in the basic skill set. However, the men we played with are genuine athletes. Steven hit a grand slam on his second at bat. That night we made hamburgers and noodle salad. It was just like being home! To cap it all off we made bottle rockets out of baking soda and vinegar in empty water bottles. Yay America.

Friday July 5th

On a more missionary-ish note, Emmy, Ethan, Debbie, and I shared our testimonies at a “Crusade” that Charles’ (the Ugandan Physiotherapist) church put on. They built a stage on the roadside in a small village called Kasala. The minister jumped up on the stage, turned the amps up to 11 and started praying for the community and the residents. The overwhelming power of the speakers and the limited size of the community meant that every single resident must have heard that cry. Then the singing began. These men and women praised God with their whole voice, in front of a crowd that was not overly friendly.

The four of us stood up to share our testimonies and Ethan gave a good message about the importance of relying on God’s providence and accepting his offer of grace and mercy. The other speakers shared brief testimonies and messages on the importance of not letting the opportunity to be saved pass by. This was only one night of a 3 day event, but Charles told us later that over the course of the weekend more than 60 people came forward to be saved. Even better, the attendance at his church on Sunday was up by about 20 people! I hope Emmy and I will get a chance to visit his church again soon!

Saturday July 6th

BABY ELEPHANT

BABY ELEPHANT

Emmy fighting a baby elephant

Emmy fighting a baby elephant

So no big deal, but we pet a BABY ELEPHANT. Today we went to the Entebbe Zoo with Johnson (Ugandan Orthopedic Officer (Who has never seen a Lion?!)) and Samuel Mutumba (Africare Field Director of ACHERU) The zoo was smaller than most American zoos, but the rules are a little more relaxed. For instance, if the keepers need to move a baby elephant; they take out a section of fence, grab a stick and move the elephant. Then if a group of muzungu tourists walk up, they let them pet the BABY ELEPHANT and take pictures with it! Later if the same group walks up while the keeper is feeding the giraffes they invite you into the feeding area and hand you bunches of greens to give to the Giraffes. Not to mention, this zoo happens to be on the shore of Lake Victoria.

Sunday July 7th

Our feet at the source of the Nile

Our feet at the source of the Nile

Today we got to go to church as a team! We went to the Church of Uganda (Anglican) service at Uganda Christian University in Mukono. From there, Samuel took us to the source of the Nile. There used to be a water fall from Lake Victoria that met with an underground stream to form the River Nile. However, There is now a dam further downstream creating a very large, but very underwater, waterfall. This is not particularly interesting from the surface. We took a short boat ride and stood in the shallows at the 0 kilometer mark for the start of the Nile. We drove a ways downstream and saw some really cool rapids though! Thus ended our touring weekend before our trip to Gulu.

July 9th – July 12th

ACHERU in Minkalu

ACHERU in Minkalu

We left at 7 am and drove north until we reached the center in Minkalu, just south of Gulu, around 5 pm. This center is more of an outpost for Afaayo. They have an orthopedic officer and a physiotherapist, but they only do outpatient work. They serve a huge area with many remote communities. Our trip was geared towards raising awareness in these villages. Over the past few months, Samuel has been working with various clinics or other health facilities in the outlying areas to set up gatherings of disabled children who need services.

Clinic under a tree!

Clinic under a tree!

We did one clinic on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Each time we saw about 35 children and their families. On both days we were able to apply plaster

casts and begin the process of correcting some of the deformities. (To treat clubbed feet here they manipulate the foot into alignment and apply a cast. They do this progressively, changing alignments and casts every 2 weeks until the foot is corrected) One concern when treating children in outlying areas is the difficulty of ensuring regular follow up. The first village we visited was a 2 hour bike ride away from the clinic. The second was 2 hours away by car, so follow up might be impossible for some families. We identified many children who will require service at the hospital in Kampala and lengthy stays at ACHERU here in Kabembe.

Sticker Ministry!

Sticker Ministry!

During the clinics our team observed the work of the Ugandan professionals and had awesome opportunities to interact with the children in the community. We sang songs with them and played games. One of the best parts of the work for us is the chance to talk to the mothers and their children. Disabled children and their families experience significant stigmatization, especially in the less developed outlying areas. This limits the opportunities for the families to seek service because the children are often hidden away. However, we get a chance to encourage the families who have come out for service. Each one of the children has a beautiful smile, and even better, a small amount of physiotherapy (5 weeks) is usually enough to enable children who have never walked to stand!

Friday morning we departed around 9am for our journey home with a stop at Murchinson Falls. After some confusion and turning down a wrong path in the national park, we finally arrived at the Top of Murchinson Falls. The rapids were beautiful and powerful! We only wished we had more time to head downstream to see the waterfall! But, we had a very long drive still ahead of us. We did see A LOT of wild animals in to and out of the park: Giraffes, water buffalo, wart hogs, deer of all sorts, monkeys/baboons, birds, and killer biting flies… which we didn’t appreciate very much.  We didn’t arrive back at ACHERU until 11:15pm with our only stops being at the falls for an hour, potty breaks, getting gas, and picking up the new nurse, Tom. We experienced a legitimate African traffic jam for at least an hour or two. Some of our American criticism of rude drivers came to light here. But, we arrived back safely, happy to be at our African home!

Thoughts in Closing

Gulu is in the northern part of Uganda, which is traditionally viewed as less developed than the central region. Outside of the city, this may actually be the case. In a week we will travel to Karamonja with J, this area is extremely arid and even poorer. Famine and water shortages are common.

Through all of these trips and experiences we get to see the way God blesses people who have very little. Seeing all of the difficult circumstances that the people live with, day in and day out, it makes the phrase “daily bread” mean something new. We are blessed with so much and often lean on our own perceived ability to support our own existence. Here this illusion is blown away. The people depend on their community and their God for support in all things. When the family has a disabled child they often get put out of the community. Without this local support, the child often falls behind developmentally. I think this will be the core of our work here.

When we travel with J in the coming months, much of what we do will involve educating parents and families on the importance of treatment at an early age. Above all else we will seek to show the families how much God loves every child. We want to be the hands and feet of Christ in the lives of the children we meet. We pray that the families would be open to seeking treatment and to the idea that disabilities are not a curse or evil occurrence. The love of Christ is the only thing that can really save anyone. The whole world experiences the brokenness of sin; the veneer of wealth is just pulled back in this place. We cannot heal every child in Uganda. Even those we treat may not be healed completely. But if the love of Christ is evident in our words and actions, a seed of something much deeper and truer than physical health is planted. Our last prayer then is that souls would be saved and Christ would be loved by all the earth. Please pray with us for this.

-A.B. & E.B.

June 30, 2013 4:12 pm
Published in: In Africa!,Photos
Our beautiful hillside. Something to praise God for every morning and evening.

Our beautiful hillside. Something to praise God for every morning and evening.

 

<AIM gave us a book called “The Live-Dead journal.” It has been a book filled with words of truth on the days that I need it the most. The quotes from John Piper and Rosemarie come from the journal. >

“Are you sure that God wants you to keep doing what you are doing? For most of you, He probably does. Your calling is radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where you are. But for many of you… God wants to loosen your roots and plant you in another place. Some of you He is calling to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so keep it forever and bear much fruit.” John Piper in the sermon on the White Witness of Adoniram Judson.

SO much love from these children

SO much love from these children

This past Wednesday we had our first worship service/bible study on the compound. We were asked to lead the music and the message on this particular Wednesday. The time proved to be fruitful and encouraging. We were able to attract many of the caregivers and children to the service and had the opportunity to pray out loud with all of them. This experience was a turning point in the beginning of our journey for me. I saw how this center is truly functional without us. We are here to be servants, to help and to learn in whatever way we can, but AFAAYO will be just the same when we leave. There will be no issues with losing a needed nurse, teacher, or physical therapist. But, I have discovered that we are bringing something new to the table.

I believe it is a challenge for the staff to find the time and the energy to interact on a personal and spiritual level with the caregivers at the compound. Therefore, this is what we as a group are called to do. We are here to be missionaries. We have been building trust, relationships, and language, so that we may be able to share Christ and build brothers and sisters up in the faith. I myself have not really sought to have a conversation with an individual about Jesus or about faith. It is not something that I did well or often in the States either. I want to, but I fail. I have seen my weakness and my need for the Holy Spirit in this way. I become timid and uncertain of how to explain my Savior to someone who may not understand me or who may be disinterested. I can see here and now that God is teaching me how to make my will his own and his strength my own. I pray that my growth here in Uganda will be radical and will come

back to America with me in six months so that I may better serve my brothers and sisters, the church, and ultimately My Lord.

“The more I rest in his strength, the more my loving Creator fullfils the truest and deepest longings of my soul. My heart has ceased to be willful. My heart has become willing.” Rosemarie Hanson in Kenya

Jemimah was in a serious taxi accident where she broke her femur, shattered a knee cap, had a head contusion, and went through multiple skin graftings.

Jemimah was in a serious taxi accident where she broke her femur, shattered a knee cap, had a head contusion, and went through multiple skin graftings.

Please pray: For physical health- I have been experiencing headaches throughout the past 2 days that have dampered my willingness and energy to interact meaningfully with the children and the parents. Also, that our team will remain free of any intestinal issues and malaria. A few have felt under the weather on different days of the week. But so far it has been nothing serious. Praise God. For the sweet and beautiful children who have to suffer through so much pain and long-term healing. It was sad to say goodbye to two of the children this past weekend, but it was also exciting to know that they are recovering well enough to go home! For our team as we seek to truly be missionaries, not just workers-  to seek where our true need is and to be able to offer ourselves as servants of the Lord. For a mindset of thankfulness and gratitude as we love and grow with the people and the culture here.

 

-E.B.

June 29, 2013 4:12 am
Published in: In Africa!,Photos

Today I will forgo the words and stick with pictures!

Alice learned to walk this week!

Alice learned to walk this week!

 

This is our administrators baby. His hair is very fluffy.

This is our administrators baby. His hair is very fluffy.

The impromptu goodbye party for Muonge and Jamima.

The impromptu goodbye party for Muonge and Jamima.

I was trying to shake some sense into Muonge before he left.

I was trying to shake some sense into Muonge before he left.

I'm not sure Emmy wants me to post this one.

I’m not sure Emmy wants me to post this one.

Lauren, Olivia, Katie, Ethan, Michelle, Aaron, Emmy, Laurie, & Debbie.

This is our nine person team!

It's us!

It’s us!

This is where we worshiped last Sunday

This is where we worshiped last Sunday

There is a video of this, but It wont load.

There is a video of this, but It wont load.

This is the physical therapist at ACHERU at his church last Sunday.

This is the physical therapist at ACHERU at his church last Sunday.

 

-A.B.