Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Musana Camp: Part 2

 One of our favourite parts of being at the camp was seeing it in action.  A group of street kids from Jinja who are part of an organization called 1moreChild arrived for their retreat on Friday. There are roughly five hundred street children in Jinja – mostly boys. A number collect scrap from the rubbish dumps and others beg on the streets. They are nearly all from the Karamojong tribe from north-east Uganda and live in a slum village, Masese, just outside Jinja. The Karamoja region in northeast Uganda is one of the most marginalized in the country. Karamoja suffers from local conflict and severe drought and the Karamojong tribe has been looked down upon as backward and primitive. Many of the children are orphaned and move south in search of food.  We were told that some of the boys were imprisioned for being on the streets. 1moreChild  provides various levels of support for these children, ranging from assisting families with school fees to fully-managed homes.

As we walked to the site for lunch we could hear the excited voices of 40 boys and their two leaders.  After a lunch of beans and posho that was happily gobbled up, the boys were off to try out the swings and kick the footballs around.  It was funny to see their shoes all lined up outside their tents.  Shoes were obviously for travel not for playing.  The boys were arranged in four groups and after developing cheers (eg. "We go, we go" "United we stand) the relay races began.  I have seen many relay races in my life but have never witnessed such intense concentration as these boys carried  spoons holding water down to be deposited in a bowl.  The team with the most water was the winner and I doubt that more than a drop or two was spilled in the whole group.  Water is precious! Our kids enjoyed helping out with the relays and had fun playing a tag game that involved grabbing a flag from opposing players. After dinner that night it was stirring to hear them sing around the camp fire.  The opportunity Musana camp is given to speak into these lives and allow them the freedom to just be boys is exciting to witness. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Musana Camp: Part 1

We spent the last week at Musana Camp a 900 acre property on the shores of Lake Victoria which New Hope Uganda began in 2009.  At present the camp serves as a retreat centre for groups from New Hope's children's centres and also for other church groups and ministries working with children.  We travelled to the camp with Uncle Sam who heads up the accounts department, his 11 year old daughter Stella and Margaret another member of the accounts department.  David was asked to come and assist and we were only to happy to come along.  We left Kasana around 12:00, did some errands in Kampala and then headed for the camp.  The last few hours of the trip involved some of the most challenging driving conditions we have ever experienced here.  At places the road has ruts of about two feet deep and in wet weather is virtually impassable.  We marvelled time and again at Uncle Sam's ability to maneuver his mini-bus around ruts and muddy patches all the time avoiding bodas, bicycles, cows, children and the occasional large truck coming in the opposite direction.  We passed by large sugar cane plantations and had some stunning views of the hills and valleys in this region.  We arrived safely around 6:00 and gazed out in awe at Lake Victoria spread out before us.

 The sun set as we ate dinner at the camp site and then as darkness fell hundreds of little lights began to appear on the lake as if a whole city street had suddenly materialized on the water.  These lights are actually the lanterns of small fishing boats.  When moonlight is scarce these small craft spend the night on the water fishing for small fish called mukene who are attracted to the light of the lanterns.  It was truly a magical sight, too difficult to photograph with our camera so you'll have to imagine the scene. There is a small fishing village in the cove bordering the camp property.  The vast majority of Lake Victoria-Uganda fishing communities are located directly on or adjacent to landing sites. Most people live in houses of simple mud-and-wattle construction, thatched with grass or reeds.  These communities are sometimes squatters on private land and the health and social problems in these villages tell a very different story from the idyllic picture of twinkling lights.  As the camp has worked to resettle and compensate the squatters on their property the desperate needs have become very evident.  We pray for wisdom for the staff as they seek to share the love of Christ with the people in this community.

view of fishing village adjacent to the camp property

small fishing 'canoe'

Sunday, August 19, 2012


During the school holidays I've been doing some tutoring of children who are on site at New Hope. One of the girls I've been working with is called Mary. She arrived here about a year ago and as is so often the case had missed quite a bit of schooling. Another teacher volunteering here began working with her and she made rapid progress learning to read. As I listened to her read I was impressed by her determination and drive to master every word she encountered. To check her comprehension I had her try to retell the story in her own words which was more difficult for her but again she persisted and together we rewrote the story she had read in her own words. The notebook we recorded the story in had a blank space at the top and on a whim I asked her "Would you like to draw a picture to go with your story?" Her eyes lit up. "Yes aunt." With painstaking detail she carefully copied a picture from the book and then coloured it carefully trying out several pencil crayons until she found just the right colour. For the next few days we began working on writing about topics which interested her and although she was at first reluctant to draw without copying she is gaining confidence in this skill as well. I love watching her draw, head bent in concentration and determined to get it just right. I'm looking forward to her progress in the months to come.

I'm taking a break from tutoring this coming week as we travel to Musana Camp which is a camp operated by New Hope on Lake Victoria.  David will be helping with the camp accounts and the rest of us are coming along for the ride.  No internet there so we'll look forward to doing some posts about our trip once we return.  We would appreciate prayers for our safety as we travel.



Couldn't resist posting pictures of this little fellow.  Joshua's mom Christine is our delightful house worker who cleans Auntie Constance's house where we're staying.  She's trying hard to teach us some Lugandan and loves to prepare Ugandan food for us to try.  For days she's been telling me that her four year old son wanted to come and see the new auntie who is staying in Auntie Constance's house so on Friday she brought him along.  He greeted us all with respect.  These polite greetings are instilled in children from a very early age.  He then spent the rest of the day happily following his mom about or playing ball with John.  By the end of the day he was comfortable enough to give us all a hug good-bye.  A treasured little vistor who we hope will come again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Horns and Horticulture

 Today brought another interesting interruption to our routine with Dodo's arrival on our doorstep at 7:00 to let us know that he and Ronald would be plowing the maize field today.  Since we were last in the field harvesting maize, the family group had slashed down the stalks and the field was ready for the plow. Uganda is blessed with two growing seasons which means that there is always work to be done in the gardens. We frequently see cows/bulls with their imposing horns going by our front door but until today haven't had the opportunity to see them plowing. It's impressive to see someone of Dodo's stature handling these large beasts. We learned that it takes two people to work the plow.  One to direct the cattle and the other to maneuver the plow.  Learning these skills are an important way that New Hope seeks to prepare these young men for the future. The man helping the boys plow the field was eager to be photographed and posed happily beside the animals.  Ronald and Dodo tried to get him to say "chapati"(popular Indian flat bread eaten here) to make him smile but he refused preferring instead to strike a very dignified pose. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blessed be Your Name

 As we sang this song in church today I was struck by how powerfully it expresses the experience of so many here. 
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name

When I'm found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out

I'll turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in, Lord

Still I will say . . .

Blessed be the name of the Lord                 

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name

When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name

On the road marked with suffering

Though there's pain in the offering

Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out                          

I'll turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in, Lord

Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious name

(Photos include children from the Special needs class) 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pork Anyone?

The hole the pig fell into

 One of the things the kids are enjoying most about homeschooling is the interesting interruptions to the book work that often pop up. Today it was Dodovico from our family group who dropped by to see if we wanted to buy some pork. Knowing our fascination with these things he asked if we would like to come and see the pig. Aunt Lucy (David family mother) has three pigs which are kept by village people. One of the pigs had fallen last night into a hole which had been dug for a new latrine. After managing to pull her out it was discovered she could stand but not walk and so it was decided that the pig would need to be slaughtered. We arrived in time to see it being cleaned out. Unfortunately the pig was carrying six piglets which will be a huge loss since these would have been sold. It's always amazing to see how they use banana leaves as a cutting board, a cloth to clean knives and as wrapping paper. Dodo posed reluctantly with the banana leaf package containing the liver all neatly tied together with a stem from a banana tree. (Talk about utilizing your environment)! We all enjoyed eating it later in the day. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Maize Harvest

On Saturday we harvested maize with the David family. We chatted and sang together as we worked.  Below you'll see some scenes from the morning.

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth.
Psalm 104:14

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Zipporah and her oldest son last summer 2011
As many of you know our initial involvement with New Hope Uganda was through child sponsorship. The first child we sponsored was named Nagayi Zipporah and although she had left New Hope over three and a half years ago we have managed to find her and maintain contact with her each time we have visited.  She married a Muslim man and she and her two children were living in the town of Wobulenzi about 35 km from where we're located.  Yesterday morning we learned that her husband had died suddenly in an accident the night before.

We were able to arrange transport and travelled with some family parents and other relatives to the burial.  The burial took place at the home of the mother of Zipporah's husband which was some distance off the main road and the town of Wobulenzi.  As is common, a huge crowd from the surrounding area was in attendance.  We estimated that there were approximately 400 people there.  A canopy had been set up and when we arrived a Muslim imam was speaking to a large group of people. 

We were met by Zipporah's half brother, who had travelled from Kampala and led over to see her.  She was sitting on the ground surrounded by a large group of women and was extremely distraught.  She clung to each one of us crying out especially for her children who are now without a father.  We spent the next two hours sitting on the edge of the crowd.  At 4:00 there was the call to prayer and the imam led the group in the afternoon prayers.  Following that the actual burial of the body took place.  At a Muslim burial here women are not allowed to witness the burial.  Zipporah was led away at this point and collapsed on the ground. 

We waited around as the crowd dispersed and she eventually made her way back to us and we were able to pray with her.  We learned that her oldest son is suffering from kidney issues and is quite ill.  His face, stomach and legs were very swollen and he appeared very lethargic.   She is in an extremely vulnerable position faced with a sick child and an uncertain future.  In the past it would have been quite common for Zipporah to be married to a brother of her husband but this practise has been discouraged as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

There is much that remains unclear and as we wait to see how this situation develops we desire your prayers that we will be given wisdom to discern how our role in her life should continue. There are no easy answers. We are thankful that her half brother is a very fine young man who is concerned for her welfare.  Ultimately we are praying that her trust will be in the God who "upholds the widow and the fatherless" (Psalm 146:9)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


One of the curiosities in the use of English here is the use of ambiguous words or phrases that often leave one guessing about what someone really means. The most commonly heard is probably "somehow" as in "I arrived there somehow" (which likely means there was some adventure along the way). David sometimes uses this word to describe his days in the accounts department. "I worked on things somehow!"
Somehow also seemed the best way to describe
 David's attempts to give himself a haircut not too long ago. Since he didn't have a pair of clippers he asked the boys in the family group next to us if they'd like to use their slashers on his head. (Slashers are long sharp tools which even young children in Uganda use to cut grass on the compounds). After they figured out he was teasing they quite enjoyed watching him take the scissors to his head. I eventually stepped in to try and prevent a complete scalping but the results could best be described as we cut David's hair "somehow." The following day when David asked one of his colleagues about his haircut he received another fabulously ambiguous remark. "I have been noticing that!" 

3 year old Jonathan with his slasher