Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Visitors



What a joy it has been for us to have visitors from Canada over Christmas.  My second cousin Donald and his family arrived from Calgary on Dec. 18th.  When they left  the temperature was -32 C and they're now baking in +32 C degree temperatures. 

 Quite a shock to the system especially as Don and the boys have been working outside putting up gutters.  It's perhaps the first time I've ever seen these guys slow down.

  As well as meeting and greeting lots of folks we've enjoyed showing them around New Hope and taking them out to the village to visit our sponsor child and his family.

  I loved their ingenuity as they made a basketball hoop out of an old bicycle tire for Sam and his family to play with.  They've also enjoyed taking on some of the kids here in some friendly basketball games.


We put the boys to work peeling matoke for a special meal with our family group.

Don and Joanne have enjoyed having their coffee outside in our tropical garden.  Note the Tim Horton's coffee mug bought at our local market in Kiwoko.



 Christmas Day they joined in our colourful church service complete with our own little Rudolph and beautifully colourful gomesis.
It has truly been a fabulous gift to have them with us.

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

"There were shepherds ..."


One of the interesting features of living cross-culturally is discovering just how much we all have in common.  Over the years I've been involved in various places in presenting the story of Jesus' birth.  It always includes a certain degree of typecasting.  The sweet little girls are the angels, and the rambunctious boys end up as shepherds or sheep.  I was amused as I practised with the children in our Sunday School that things aren't any different here.






 Yesterday we presented our scripture readings to the rest of the children spread out over the grass and heard again the chorus of angels crying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."   I loved the fact that the angels were wrapped up in a mosquito net, that the prophets wore the traditional kanzu, and that our angel Gabriel was resplendent in brightly coloured woven cloth.  The message however, crosses all cultures. "Today in the town of David, a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Really White"

A week or so ago we attended another wedding; this time for the sister of the boy we sponsor at New Hope.  The family is Rwandan and so the cultural traditions were again different from anything we had experienced before.  We travelled to Ngoma about 60 km away to attend the ceremony with some other friends from New Hope. 

The wedding was delayed so to pass the time we wandered through town creating the usual stir as mothers hustled their children out to see the 'Mzungu.'  We also toured a milk storage facility where milk from local farms is stored in refrigerated tanks before being taken to Kampala for processing.  The lab technician gave us a full run down on the tests she carries out to detect watered down milk, etc.  This particular area is known for its cattle and wealth is measured in the size of ones herd.

By 2:30 the wedding finally got underway and we settled into our plastic chairs to observe the proceedings. One of our friends was called on to translate since there were 'white' people at the event.  In fact the crowd was told not once, not twice but three times that these people "really were white.  They had not made themselves white." The wedding ceremony itself was held up at one juncture while paper work was hunted down but eventually the deed was done and the bride and groom exited the church.








 We were thankful for our friends who explained many of the puzzling customs of the day and graciously put up with all the attention we generated. 











 We stayed at the reception long enough to enjoy a plate of delicious Rwandan food.






Then we made a get-away before David got caught up in the embarrassing position of not having a cow to offer to the couple.  Guess the nice blue towels weren't exactly the right gift for this occasion.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Update on Fatiya

I had asked for prayer for this little girl who was scheduled for heart surgery.  Following a series of tests before the surgery, the surgical team decided not to proceed with the operation.  The doctors were concerned that they would not be able to control her breathing both before and after her surgery and that the risks were too high.  After a CT scan the doctors determined that the facial cranial surgery should be completed first.  The neurosurgeons haven't had much experience with Aperts Syndrome so the way forward is not clear.  Please continue to pray for this little girl and her mother who was understandably very shaken by these developments.  Pray too for our staff who are faced with the emotional strain of seeking what is best for these children.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nakakooza Fatiyah

Fatiyah
 A few months ago I attended one of the community outreach days organised by our Special Needs staff and met a special little girl named Nankakooza Fatiyah.   Fatiyah was born with Apert Syndrome a congenital deformity that has significantly affected the development of her skull.  She also has a heart defect and needs to have that repaired before she can have surgery on her skull. The high pressure in her brain affects her eyes and compromises the development of her brain.  Through the generous donations of many, including our local community, Fatiyah will be undergoing heart surgery tomorrow.  The operation will be risky so we would ask that you would pray for the surgeon and family of this little girl.  When I first met Fatiyah I was moved by the deep love in her mother's eyes for her little girl.  In a society where children such as these are often marginalized it has been wonderful to watch how this mother has been supported and encouraged by our community here at New Hope. 





Saturday, November 16, 2013

Small Things

This past week the children in our last year of primary school finished their national exams.  These exams determine the educational future for these children and are taken very seriously.  To celebrate the completion of this landmark in their lives, our P7's have been enjoying some fun activities.

On Thursday afternoon a group of them came to our house to do some baking.  We decided to add some extra fun by blind-folding some of them and sending them off to collect lemons from our enterprise farm to use in our lemon bread.  It was fun watching them try to direct their friends to the trees and judging from the giggles they enjoyed it too.  Cooking in Uganda doesn't often involve precise measurements (a bit of this, a lot of that) so we had to do a quick lesson on measuring dry ingredients.





 We also narrowly averted baking disaster when someone tried to put in 1/4 cup of baking powder
instead of 1/4 teaspoon!




 Once we got the measuring straightened out, all went according to plan and we produced scrumptious lemon loaves which were enjoyed at their evening banquet. They all posed for a picture before heading off to prepare for their evening event.



The next day one of the girls from the group dropped by our house.  As she came in the door I saw tears glistening in her eyes and I asked what was wrong.  She told us she was leaving today to return home to her mom and that she appreciated our kindness to her.  The girls had played games with her a few times and I had often greeted her and said a few words but we had no idea that these small gestures had meant so much to her.  It's little moments like these that remind us to be faithful in the 'small things.'




Monday, November 11, 2013

Dirty Feet


As many of you know Catriona broke her foot two months ago stepping off the porch of the house we were staying in.  She loves living in Uganda primarily because she loves to be out and about.  Whether it was helping in the Special Needs class, walking with the toddlers in Hope Family, or baking bread with David family, Catriona was always busy.  The last two months have been hard.  As I watched my girl struggle to take a step I knew how difficult it was for her to be stuck at home.  Slowly, slowly (as they say here) the foot is starting to improve.  The bone has healed and now we wait for the tendons.  One day soon I hope to see these very dirty feet again but for now Catriona is learning the secret of contentment and so is her Mom.

Shouts of Joy



Yesterday our family group celebrated the graduation of Sarah from nursing school.  Sarah lived at New Hope several years ago and is fondly remembered by many staff and children here.  She has overcome many challenges to reach where she is at and so we gathered to give thanks for God's work in her life. 






Preparations for the event began early in the morning.  David helped put up tents which will feature later in the account, Christina helped with the decorations and I got the unenviable job of shedding cabbage.  Aunt Lucy, our family mother, cooked matoke and chicken in giant pots over an open fire.  At 11:00 we all rushed off to bathe and get ready for the event.






By 12:00 we had gathered and after a few opening remarks we began feasting on the meal prepared by David family.  Pictured here is the rice, cabbage, matoke (steamed banana) covered in g-nut sauce (which is perhaps our favourite Ugandan food), and chicken in 'soup.'  When we first arrived we found it challenging to eat this much food at one sitting but now we all polish it off in record time. 
Then it was time for the musical entertainment.  Just as the songs began, the heavens opened and rain began to pour down.  The wind picked up, the tents began to sway and everyone rushed to take cover.  In the midst of all the turmoil one of our staff members collapsed and David rushed off to find a nurse.  He managed to track her down, drive a car to the entrance of the tent, carry the patient to the car and then drive her off to the clinic to be admitted.  (She is now recovering at home).
 

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the way Ugandans take such interruptions to planned events in their stride.  Everyone just hunkers down and waits it out.  Eventually the rain slowed down and proceedings resumed.  Several people made speeches and Sarah shared some of her own story.  My favourite part of her speech was her description of her brother teaching her to write her name in the dirt before she started school.  It was also moving to hear from Sarah's mother who was so thankful for the people who had cared for her children when her husband died.  As Sarah's mom raised her hands and broke into song I thought of words from Psalm 126.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter; and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."  The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. 
A day filled with the unexpected but finished with a 'shout of joy.'
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Washers and Dryers

Laundry again; it may not be exciting but it does feature prominently in my life in Uganda.  The lady who usually helps with our wash has been gone the last two days and so our wash is piling up.  Just before lunch Christina and I decided to tackle it ourselves.  Haul the water from the cistern, fill the basins, add the soap and we're in business.  The sun warms our backs and we feel rather smug that we're doing this ourselves.  As the last piece for today gets pinned on the line there's a knock on the door.  Two girls from the secondary school, who have finished their exams, want to know if I have any jobs.  Glancing down at my splattered skirt I chuckle to myself.  Wouldn't you know it.  "Not today," I smile "but try again tomorrow."  The afternoons wears on and as the girls and I carry on with school we hear a pitter-patter on the roof which quickly escalates to a serious drumming. "The clothes!" we wail.  Oh well tomorrow's another day. Thankfully living in Uganda has taught us that there are much more important things in life than front-load washers and spin dryers; today though I wouldn't have minded one.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

We Are Rich!

Uncle Mulu (David Family Father)

"We are rich!"  The words caught me by surprise. It was just before 6:00 in the evening.  The smell of freshly baked pumpkin cake lingered in the kitchen.  The cake had been baked for Uncle Mulu the father of our family group.  It was his birthday and the kids wanted to celebrate.  One of the girls came after school to bake the cake and as we waited for it to cool we began chatting about the tree outside our back door. 







I'd been told by several people that the jackfruit were
ready. Under the bumpy green skin is sticky orange flesh which I must admit is a bit of an acquired taste.  The kids in our family group love them and so when I offered one to the family, Agnes raced off home for a bike to transport it.  Arriving back in record time, she scampered up the tree, twisted the stem and gave a cry of delight as the jackfruit landed on the ground with a resounding thud.  After strapping the jackfruit on the bike she rode off happily calling out, "We are rich."  How she captured the joy of that moment.  Gifts for her family had made her rich. 



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Clothesline With A View



 As I went outside to collect the clothes from the line the other day I couldn't help but marvel at the view. A gentle breeze blew softly as the sun cast long shadows on the green grass. Folding laundry with this view is a joy.

The view the next day wasn't quite so picturesque.  High winds whipped clothes off the line as fast as we could pick them up and folding them was out of the question. There are days my life feels a bit like those wind blown clothes and I'm glad for the Heavenly Hands that pick me up and set me straight and remind me that He's the one in control on the calm days and the windy ones.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Exams

Every now and then I'm tempted to post under the title TIA (This is Africa). 
The S4's have begun writing their national exams this week.  Uganda has a long history of corruption associated with these exams with teachers, students and officials equally to blame.  In an effort to stem some of the cheating outside invigilators are brought in, the exams are delivered to district offices and must be picked up just before an exam begins, and teachers are not permitted anywhere near their students around exam time.  This Tuesday one of the exams was postponed and to ensure that no further teaching went on police officers turned up at our secondary school to ensure that the students were not being taught.  In a country where teachers frequently do not turn up to teach it seemed rather ironic that they would send the police to check that teachers weren't teaching!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kampala


Kampala, the largest city in Uganda is built around six hills.  David and I had a better sense of how hilly the city really is while staying overnight there last weekend.  Our guesthouse was perched way up on a hill just in front of The Church of Uganda cathedral and commanded a fabulous view of the city.  Modern office buildings and the Gaddafi mosque dominated the scene.  As Friday wore on, the Muslim call to prayer was mixed with the sounds from a brass band who were serenading a wedding party at the cathedral.



As the sun began to set we hailed a boda (motorcycle) and headed off to find an Ethiopian restaurant we were interested in trying.  Travel by boda is often the fastest way to get around this congested city and is guaranteed to bring an adrenalin rush.  Women typically ride side saddle but since David and I were sharing the boda I straddled the seat behind the driver and held on for dear life.  Following the maxim "an inch is as good as a mile" our driver sped through traffic dodging cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and most importantly other bodas.  As we approached intersections or entered roundabouts I decided it was better not to look.





Before I knew it we stopped in front of the restaurant, paid our fare and then sank gratefully into our outdoor seats.  The Chef's special was a superb platter of Ethiopian dishes which we thoroughly enjoyed. Then it was back on a boda for a return trip to our guesthouse where we sipped tea in a banda overlooking the city.



The next day we were able to visit a Scottish nurse, who is working with an organization ministering to street children called Dwelling Places.  Although Kampala has a growing middle class and an elite of extremely rich folks, there is also a vast number of poor people who inhabit the slums of the city.  Children, many of them fleeing desperate poverty or rebel activity in the north of the country make up some of the children on the streets.  Others are the victims of abuse or abandonment.  The Dwelling Places staff work on the streets ministering to these forgotten children.  Imagine the challenges of working with children who have never slept in a bed, eaten meals at set times or attended school.  The staff offer medical care, housing where appropriate, schooling and eventually resettlement with family if possible.  It was very helpful for us to meet someone who has such a breadth of experience in a Childcare ministry in Uganda.  Check out their website if you're interesting in knowing more about their work.
Following our visit we hopped on another boda to meet up with some New Hope staff who were travelling back to Kasana.  As we sped through the busy Saturday afternoon traffic my eyes caught sight of a scripture verse printed on the back of a boda driver's vest.  "Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight."   How apt, not only for riding on bodas but also for the work we and others are engaged in here in Uganda.





Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thank You Bananas

A market trip to Kiwoko on Saturday is always an adventure and yesterday was no exception.  Christina and I squeezed into a car with some other folks and headed down the road which is considerably narrower these days since it has piles of dirt waiting for the graders to come along.  When we reached town we dashed off to quickly buy our fruit and vegetables aware that there were large dark clouds overhead.  Christina went in one direction to point out to some friends where to buy bananas and I went in another direction to get tomatoes. It was then that the wind picked up and the first drops began to fall.
When rains comes all the vendors scurry to cover their wares and everyone else runs for cover. People hide under tables and on the porches of shops.  I squeezed onto the porch of someone's house as the rain fell in torrents.

A few minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard someone say "She wants you to enter."  An elderly lady stood behind the curtain that is her door beckoning me.  I ducked inside a small room already filled with others who have fled the storm.  They made space for me on a bed where a small boy was sleeping, oblivious to the storm raging outdoors.  The old lady touched my arm and laughed and then pointed to a faded piece of paper taped to the wall.  The paper revealed that my hostess has a certificate as a birth assistant from Kiwoko hospital.  I smile and congratulated her in my feeble Luganda.  This brought more laughter and then everyone settled down for a good chat as the storm continued.  The roof soon began to leak and battered old tins were quickly put in place and everyone shifted position.  The old lady occasionally peeked out the door and I could see a river of mud cascading down the road.

The afternoon wore on and the old lady continued to hold court clearly enjoying her company. Eventually the drumming on the roof eased to a 'pitter-patter' and I saw people begin to emerge from their hiding places.  I thanked my hostess who gave me a hug  and I slipped through the curtain to the muddy street.

Before too long it was business as usual as vendors uncovered their wares and the bargaining began again.  I spotted Christina who had found shelter in the home of a brother of one of the students at our secondary school.   We finished our market shop but before heading home I quickly dashed back to give the old lady a bunch of bananas as a thank you.  My last glimpse of her brought a smile to my face.   She had a story to tell and so do I.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1942

Life without power has become the norm for us over the last couple of weeks.  Blog posts are definitely a luxury item which we’ve had to do without.  It’s amazing how excited we get when the lights come on.  (Well except at 3:00 in the morning when all the lights you forgot to switch off come on). 
 We’ve been reading “The Moffats,” one of my favourite series of children’s books, by the glow of a kerosene lantern.  We got a chuckle the other night when one of the chapters described how to light a lantern.  “Hey we do that,” said John.  We also close the shutters on our windows, and use charcoal for cooking lunch, and buy vegetables from a boy on a bike, so the Moffats seem very much like us even though the books were written in 1942! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

3 in 1

David and I attended another wedding this past Friday.  This time it was for a man who had been our compound worker when we first came to Uganda in 2010.  Weddings here are often complicated and costly affairs.  The man must first pay a dowry for his wife and then find money for the wedding itself. 
We arrived in Luwero, where the wedding was to take place, a little before the scheduled time of 12:30.  The first person to greet us was Medi in ball cap and work clothes which was our first indication that things would be a little delayed.  The church the wedding was to be in was having revival tent meetings that week and one was in full swing when we arrived.  We were escorted to the front of the tent with several small children following us. They kept trying to stroke our skin to see if the 'white' would rub off.  We were greeted warmly by the speaker and I was afraid for a moment that David would be called upon to address the crowd.  Thankfully we were shown our seats and we proceeded to listen for the next two hours to the proceedings which were of course all in Luganda.  Finally around 2:00 there was a break for lunch and we were assured by several people that the church would soon be ready for the wedding.

Around 3:00 we finally settled onto our wooden bench in the sweltering heat.  We were so tightly packed in that I could barely breathe.  A procession began with lots of hoots and howls from the assembled throng.  Medi appeared at the front 'smartly' dressed in a navy blue suit and all seemed to be going to plan as his bride made her way down the aisle.  Strangely there seemed to be another couple at the front but we assumed they were attendants.  Then to our utter surprise the place erupted in screams again and another bride made her way down the aisle.  As she reached the front it dawned on us that there were actually three couples getting married.  The ceremony continued with one man after the other saying vows and then it was the women's turn.

Following the ceremony we squeezed to the front to greet Medi and his bride who were delighted we had come.  Medi and Joyce smiled broadly through the whole affair and didn't seem to mind in the least that they were sharing their day.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homecoming-Celebrating 25 Years

 
Last weekend was a time of celebration and reflection as New Hope remembered twenty five years of service to children in Uganda.  Many of the children who grew up here came back to be reunited with each other and the staff who had worked with them. 

Jay and Vicki Dangers 
Jonnes Bakimi
 

 
 
 
 



 There were games:

tug-of-war

basketball,

and of course football!

                              There was food:  the lines went on and on but it was well worth the wait.




 We had time in our family groups to share a meal and a welcome home cake. One of the biggest thrills in our family group was to meet a young lady who reportedly had died but turned up alive and well and now working as a doctor.  





 
We also planted fruit trees in our family groups to symbolise our hope for the future.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






There were moments of joy as we watched people embracing one another and deep thankfulness to God as we saw men who had grown up here testify to how God is using them in the work today.

 
 

 
There were also moments of sadness as we heard words of pain and bitterness from those whose lives are still broken.  It was a reminder that while we can meet physical and emotional needs there is ultimately a deep spiritual need that must be met in each one of us by God Himself.  The weekend is over; the work continues.