It’s the people who keep bringing me back.  We got to work together, we got to eat together.  We worked hard together with a common purpose – to dig a well to a deeper depth.  The original plan for a few men who were lined up to work alongside me didn’t work out.  God had other plans.  His plan was for me to spend some time with some inmates from the nearby prison and two guards (they promised I could shoot their AK-47 next time if I brought my own bullets – there is “no sorry” – all shooting is accounted for!).  I would not have had the opportunity to hear their stories, or eat with them, or laugh with them, or work together with them.  I would not have otherwise crossed paths with them.  This was God’s original plan, not mine.  Of course, it was a better plan.  I can’t see all the pieces come together.  We did not accomplish what we set out to do.  We did work hard for several days, but the river rocks won.  We did not succeed in getting in a new well.  Not this time  . . . But when He calls me to imitate Him, and He calls me His dearly loved child, it causes me to strive to be like my Father and to imitate Him well.  And because of His transforming work in my heart, I can live a life of love, just as Christ loved me and gave himself up for me, and I can know that it’s as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  I pray that He will take this offering and use it for His purposes.  I am grateful for His plans and for the time with the people He brought across my path.

Digging Deeper - a Well in Kasesse

Digging Deeper – a Well in Kasesse

Beaten down bit from hitting cobbles

Beaten down bit from hitting cobbles

Eating Together

Eating Together

Harvesting Corn at the End of the Day

Harvesting Corn at the End of the Day

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bricks-for-the-church-walls

Moving Bricks to be Fired

8,000 bricks for the walls and huge bundles of grass for the roof!  Working side by side, bricks were made, formed, and carried to be fired.   Soon the roof will go on and the final walls will go up at Odong Baptist Church not far from Gulu.

roof-materials

Bundles of Roofing Material

While Odong church is being built, its members encourage a new young leader of a nearby church by working together to also construct a platform and make preparations for a crusade in the area.  This young man has the opportunity to receive leadership training that can strengthen and bring about maturity in the church.  It’s encouraging to see churches working together to build each other up.

crusade-at-night

Into the Night

new-jinja-student

New Church Leader

rich-speaking-on-platform

Crusade Preaching

hello-from-palei

Hello from Palei Baptist Church

tithing

Tithe Table

 

The people from Palei Baptist Church say hello to you!  They were glad to see us again and welcomed us in their usual way!  What a privilege to worship together and express our thanks to the Lord  together!

Alpha & Gift with Mandazi

Alpha & Gift making Mandazi

baking-oven

The Oven

Follow the tempting aroma of cakes of “mandazi” (little fried bread); if you keep to the worn, slender path you will find yourself at the kitchen of  Alpha and his wife, Gift.  Their two daughters, Debra (4) and Mary (2) will not be far from Mama’s skirt. Alpha and Gift have worked hard to build their own bakery, complete with an oven, work benches including a large area for rolling out dough, and tools needed for baking cakes and breads that can be sold to all.

baking-tools

Rolling Pin and Knives

This is how Alpha supports himself, his family and others.  He is one of our graduates of the local Bible school who is now continuing on to the Uganda Baptist Seminary in Jinja.

Three times a year he goes to seminary in the southern part of the country for three weeks at a time for training.  It will take him at least 2 ½ years to complete his courses.

Alpha works and ministers in a place where the prosperity gospel flourishes, and ministry is most often characterized by getting rather than by giving.  He is a joy to work with.  He is a great example – through his ministry the real gospel of Jesus is getting out to others.

rich-cooking-cakes

Assistant Patissier

We watch while Alpha not only provides for his own family, but is generous to others as well.  We get to see God’s word in action.  “You know these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me.  And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard.  You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”  (Acts 20:34-35)  There are half a dozen guys from the association using their gifts like this and attending seminary.

We are humbled as we see the sacrifices they make.  They remind us of Christ’s example, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)   It is a great joy to see the church being strengthened and built up.

alpha-and-rich-w-cakes

Neatly Arranged Cakes

Pastor Rich, Debra & Gift

Pastor Rich, Debra & Gift

We get to encourage them by giving them scholarships to go to Jinja Seminary.  We don’t chose who goes, we ask the association to chose faithful men who have demonstrated a heart for ministry in order to strengthen their church and the church association. It starts with local Bible school in their own language, and then those with strong enough English skills can go to Jinja, if they wish or if they are able.  If they don’t have the minimum level of education required, they can go for enrichment and still receive training that will benefit their church.

alpha-stoking-the-oven

Stoking the Oven

 

This morning I was greeted with a text message and a couple of pictures – Hal managed to connect to his wifi router!  It was fun to talk over the phone and hear joking and laughter in the background.  Pray they continue to experiencing lots of energy for long days of teaching in hot weather, and that they continue to connect with students and new friends.  Just one more day in the Paidha and Zombo areas before they journey to Gulu for a few days.  Enjoy the pictures:

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New Friends at Paidha

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Teaching at Local Bible School

It’s 8 pm Monday – the end of a hot, dry season day in Paidha that began at 7 am.  Rich is hopeful the small shower in their room at The Country Cottages will produce water so he can remove some of the red dirt that’s accumulated on his skin, maybe even warm water!  As soon as he can figure out the combination to open the valve . . .

Early in the morning the guys started their day with a little coffee, an egg (or maybe two) and some bread to get them through the day.  At Paidha Baptist Church, the first session with local Bible school students began as planned.  Rich’s morning teaching was being digested by hungry hearts.  After some time, they were informed that a respected elderly man in a nearby village had died, so they should interrupt Bible school to go preach at the funeral now.  Without further discussion they, along with a record 16 people, squeezed into any space available in the little covered truck to jostle their way  through bumps and ruts on the road to the village.  Over 700 people were gathered to grieve, waiting to hear.  It was a perfect fit.  Have you ever watched in amazement as a gifted artist uses brush stokes to bring vivid color and life to a canvas?  Rich was comfortable talking with people, shaking hands, teaching and preaching.  The man who had died was a believer so the people could celebrate the encouraging words that we are going to see him again.  The people were strengthened, clinging to the truth that Jesus is with us, and the reminder that no one ever died in Jesus’ presence!  What a privilege and pleasure for Hal to be along for the ride, being a witness to such an impact on peoples’ lives.  It’s exactly what the Lord planned!

Speaking of time and energy . . . supplies have been rounded up, along with two additional passengers, and the trip to Gulu is already behind them!  Hal and Rich are getting settled in Gulu at a place where a celebration with traditional music is in full force.  They were told the music should stop by 8.  (I wonder who asked that question . . .)  🙂 It was after 8 when we were talking on the phone and Rich told Hal that maybe they meant 8 am not 8 pm!  LOL!! That is probably more accurate – any predictions on which time is closer to the music stopping?

Tomorrow they will get to experience a new kind of music as they worship together with families at Gulu Baptist Church.  It’s a joy and privilege to travel to the other side of the world and come together in unity to celebrate and worship the Lord!  “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:21)

hal-and-rich-airport-2017-cropped

Pastor Rich and Hal

These two are bound for Uganda and bound for a real adventure together!  There will be no lack of energy and passion here … to love people, embrace culture and humor, and to challenge thinking while teaching biblical truths and encouraging others.  Both are excited and full of anticipation for the next few weeks.

Yesterday at 7:00 a.m. we knelt together, thankful for the privilege of another trip, and prayerful for travels and all that lies ahead in the days and weeks of early 2017.  We don’t know what they hold but our God does, and we know that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, so we trust in Him and anticipate the journey.  The time for all too familiar preparations is over – running errands, ordering and crafting special tools, packing and weighing bags, writing a message to send along in a book to a dear friend, and double checking passport and paperwork – it’s time to go.

At one o’clock this afternoon (30 hours later if your are keeping time), a call from a not-so-energetic travel-weary voice said they had arrived safely and the trip went really well.  Only two more hours of driving and they would be at their final destination!

Now their first night’s sleep is over.  It’s 9:45 p.m. here when I receive the first “good morning” greetings.  It’s 8:45 a.m. there so the bright sun is already shining on this dry season day.  It’s time to make their way to the other side of town to “collect” the truck and some equipment and supplies.  Today they will keep moving as much as possible to keep their energy and stay awake through the day.

Thanks to all who encourage and pray!

Road work on the way to Kasese

Road work on the way to Kasese

North to South to West

North to South to West

The amount of development going on in Uganda is unbelievable – every major road is being repaired.  This made for a pretty smooth trip – shorter than expected, but still long – about 30 hours of driving in four days.  A new power plant is going in at Karuma Falls – a huge erector set of electrical lines are being built in the country!  Power (electricity) is becoming more consistent. 🙂

Baboon hopped on board as we drove by slowly

Baboon hitch hiker hopped on board while moving!

We got to travel with two of our missionary team mates in Gulu who were interested in the possibility of purchasing a unique portable used drill rig in Mbarara, who brought me along for another opinion.  I enjoyed many hours of sharing life experiences, thoughts and hopes and seeing crazyAdd Poll stuff along the way that you wouldn’t see at home.

It was a pleasure getting to know our team mates.  The drill rig was a very interesting idea, but everything was worn out, and they wanted top dollar for it!  Everything is normal for here in Uganda!

Huge river rocks = difficult drilling conditions!

Huge river rocks = difficult drilling conditions!

Unlocking well lid

Unlocking well lid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was the Bible School near the town of Kasese, about 30 miles from the Congo border.  We met Darrie Turner there to asses the well that is having problems.  We arrived just in time for dinner and to celebrate Darrie’s birthday with him, enjoying a delicious birthday cake made by his wife, Debbie!

Coming up for fresh air!

Coming up for fresh air!

The Bible School well is going dry. It was installed ten years ago and the river has cut a deeper channel four feet below the original water level, which greatly affects the production of the shallow well.

Rock Layers River level

Rock Layers
River level

We were just there for assessment and to brainstorm about how to solve the problem.

The bonus was we got to see Pastor Timothy.

Hal & Pastor Timothy

Hal & Pastor Timothy

When we last met in January 2015, his wife had died just six months before, leaving him to care for a six month old and ten other children.  Since then, he has married a wife who loves and cares for his children as they were her own.  Wow!

Pastor Timothy, wife & new baby boy!

Pastor Timothy, wife & new baby boy!

Pastor Timothy is in a much better situation, and is working as the principal of the Bible School.  He sends his greetings and thanks to all who have helped him through this rough patch.

Elephants

Elephants

We also got a chance to see Francis the “fundi” (tradesman) from Paidha – Oz’s good friend 🙂 .  He is now studying at the Bible School with his wife and two sons.  He has completed his first year with another year to go.

We got back on the road to Gulu, passing through Queen Elizabeth Game Park after a police stop for a passport check – We’re glad we brought them along with us!

It was good to be back in Gulu and pray with Gulu Baptist Church on Sunday!

I knew I was beginning to shift gears when the thought crossed my mind in the ladies’ room at the airport, “Should I put this roll of toilet paper in my backpack?”  We were in Seattle preparing for the next long flights to carry us to Uganda.

Riding through the streets of Kampala with the wind blowing in my face (this time it really was just the wind without the odor of rotting garbage or sewage on a hot day), I wondered if there was a better way to shift gears, to be refreshed with a new perspective after sitting at a desk behind a computer each day of the week.

We stayed in Kampala three nights, shifting to a different room each night because of scheduling conflicts.  Having running water, a clean room, and Western-style dining at first helps prevent cultural whip lash.  The highlight was our family reunion with Joyce and her grown children, and nieces and grandchildren.  Babies are being born and engagements are in the air.

160907-roxy

Roxy

Shifting to Gulu was a pleasant drive.  The roads have been repaired and paved so dodging pot holes and on-coming trucks doing the same did not demand the usual tense driving concentration.  And it was fine that I chose not to take the airport toilet paper.  There is a new place, about half way between Kampala and Gulu to stop for a bite to eat and use a flush toilet!  Someone saw a profitable business opportunity that Muzungus (white people) would gladly support!

Jesse and Rachel welcomed us to their Gulu guest house they’ve been working on.  Ever worried about security?  Not an issue here – two large dogs, and the armed U.N. guards from right across the street sit at our driveway entrance because the trees provide a shady spot there!  (Roxy, a 45 kg/90 lb. Mastiff and Nora, a small German Shepherd mix do belong to Jesse and Rachel).

160907-hal-in-kitchen-brghtjpgSo, we have had a chance to get pretty settled in our house for the month.  A mattress, mosquito net, drinking water, a “gas bomb” for our 2-burner camp/cooking stove, a tea pot for hot water, and some Nice cookies and peanut butter are in place!  We enjoyed connecting with our World Venture field director and others we will be working with this trip, and are looking forward to the ministry opportunities unfolding before us.

Thursday will be our first time to travel to Kitgum (about 30 miles south of the Southern Sudan border), to meet with some church leaders.  If you are praying for us, please pray for the time with the leaders there – for wisdom and guidance.  Thanks for being with us on this journey!

Welcome home team!  Hal returns next week but sends his greetings and prayers for a smooth re-entry for all of you!  Specifically, he says, “I am still working half days, the spare key is still in the front, and the roads are still smooth as glass.  Room #1 at the Country Cottage is still the best one, they are still serving Starbucks out of a Nescafe bottle, the broken thermos was immediately replaced, and I now have some deeper friendships!  Thanks for a great trip – the people of Uganda will forever be grateful and remember you!”

Enjoy a few pictures (thanks for posting, Janet):

Last Morning

Last Morning

Dan and Sis-in-law Cheryl

Dan and Sis-in-law Cheryl

Dana Joanie Oz

Dana Joanie Oz

Sunday Teaching

Sunday Teaching

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late Night Preparations

Late Night Preparations

Feast

Feast

Mom and boy

Mom and boy

New Mom

New Mom

Only two more “sleeps” in Gulu.  God multiplies energy and much valued time with women, and gives wisdom and strength to best give a “push” for several building projects under way.  Wednesday morning (our Tuesday evening), the van will be loaded up to begin the journey back to Kampala where they will sleep one night at the Red Chili.  Navigating through the masses of every sort of transportation you could even imagine on Thursday will eat up the day whether to visit a market place, experience a Dutch cup of coffee, or any other destination of choice.  By evening, the van must be filled up – with petrol, baggage and boarders  – for the drive to Entebbe Airport – about a 2-3 hour drive with lots of traffic! Baggage will be checked, security will be passed and the first of 3 planes to get home will be boarded! 🙂  If you see them after they get home (maybe give them about 3 days to re-orient), ask about something you read here.  This barely scratches the surface.  I’m sure they will remember these stories and be glad to fill in more details from their perspective for you! Thanks again for prayers for all of their travels and the journey home. You are very much loved and appreciated!

After arriving in Gulu and a little sleep, the team was energized as preparations began for meeting new people in a never before visited village.  A mini couples’ conference was on the schedule “not far” from Gulu – actually, it was quite far and took a long time to get there.  Preparations included purchasing onions, tomatoes, oil, salt, 12 kilos of meat (um, no refrigerated meat section in a grocery store within many, many miles . . . ), and then figuring out how to later improvise and add to the preparations when more people showed up than were planned for.  It’s all part of the dance!

Pastor David chose to bring the team to this village to hold somewhat of a couples’ conference – it’s a place not usually reached by others.  Among many other needs, the builders in the group again noticed that the church building structure is in great need of repair.  The pastor from this village had developed cancer, going home to be with Jesus about a year ago, leaving behind his widow and five children.  Before the conference began Cheryl, Joanie and Shannon easily managed to attract a crowd of children.  This allowed Dan and Janet to facilitate the couples in a luxuriously undistracted discussion of Bible verses from Ephesians and 1 Peter.  It may have been the first time for these couples not only to hear the rich words from the Bible teaching how to live together as husband and wife, but also the first time to join together with their spouse in a discussion, and be heard.  The Lord’s presence was there, clearly at work in the hearts of many.  They joined together to worship and pray, raising their voices thankfully and dancing to the Lord!  They are beyond grateful for the team coming to visit them, to care about them – so much so they gifted Dan and Janet (for the team) with a goat and a rooster!  This is the part where the “humble dance” takes place.  The gifts are humbly accepted – such costly gifts from people of humble means.   Thank you – all of you who are praying and listening to the stories, being supportive in so many ways to the people in Uganda and the team.  They all send their greetings to you!

This was the last of the big events on the “team schedule”.  They will welcome the chance to gear down just a bit for the remainder of the trip.  Today, Sunday, the team will visit churches and enjoy worshipping, praising and dancing before the Lord with brothers and sisters from Gulu and surrounding areas.  You are invited to join in wherever you are!

The way we perceive is dependent on our interpretation.  Perception takes on new meaning as travel finds a person only a few days old in a brand new culture.  An adult watches a child’s interpretation, as he maneuvers social norms by trial and error, with patience and often affectionate humor, all the while cheering him on because of his willingness to try!   The humble experience of becoming like a child has the potential to transform our way of thinking and feeling and being – it can hold the power to allow us entry into another’s world.  No wonder Jesus said we must become like little children, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ” (Matthew 18:3)  Catch a glimpse of the trial and error, the affectionate humor, the humbling experiences and the patience of our hosts as we attempt to enter their world.  Melodee writes about her conversation with Dana:

A refreshing call from Dana, confirmed again and again that his presence and the presence of all there are exactly where God has led them.  This being my first experience as a “missionary” wife, it is most exciting to hear of the “goings on” in a land where night in Uganda is our day, and day is our night.

Yesterday, Dana said, “he broke tradition”. YIKES!! Let me share . . . While the women were working in the kitchen, it was mentioned that water was needed to complete what the women were doing. Dana said to himself, “How hard could that be?” So, he took along to young boys and himself, with buckets in each hand.  Walking “down” to the nearest well (approximately one forth of a mile), and waiting in a long line while each person filled their own containers for washing, bathing, etc., it was Dana’s turn . . . Filling up each of his buckets and each young boy theirs, they proceeded “UP” that one fourth mile dusty trail, for Dana, his buckets were about forty pounds each, all the while the boys and people laughing at him (with respect of course).  He asked the pastor what was so funny to the people during this gathering of water.  The pastor said, seriously, “This is women’s work.”  He broke tradition. :-((((

The people, he says, love to feed you.  It is all they have to show the deep gratitude they have for the missionary.  You eat about five times a day sometimes. Each time there is the washing of hands before and after a meal because fingers are the most used for eating. . . The women hold a bowl of water in front of you and you dip your fingers in to wash off.  Dana decides to help them and takes the bowl for others to wash . . . He had broken tradition again.  :-(((((   Poor guy, he’s just trying to help.  That’s my Dana.  The Ugandan people are steeped in tradition.  Chores are etched in stone between men and women and has been “since time began”.

Last Sunday he said Dan decided to wash the feet of the people there . . .(oh what a blessing that would have been. I would so wish we here in America would humble ourselves and do the same).  However, this too is not a man’s job in Uganda . . .

Some of the group went to market, Dana stayed back he said to reflect, figure out a way to improvise a situation for a generator that had gone “kaput”.  With no tools to fix, one must figure out another way to make things work.  My Dana is the guru of figuring out and improvising . . . this is what he does.

He says, all are a bit weary but no one complains.  I heard a hello from Janet in the background.  Dana says the women of this team are diligent, dedicated to teaching hygiene and mending sores, compassionate and lovingly kind.

Love to you all praying here at home, your prayers are deeply appreciated and held in high esteem there.

Breathe Jesus !

Melodee

3 Zeo Well 6The team is making connections with people and “moving around” from village to village – at times on foot, at times by “borda-borda”, at times by van, at times by truck.

3 Zeo Well 1

New Zeo well in progress

Building Projects:  A new church structure for Palei, and a kitchen for Akir Baptist Church, host of the local Bible school, are under way. And two wells have been installed in the Paidha area by the “Water is Life” Drilling Project team.  One of them is in Zeo, working together with Pastor Francis’s church and the local government, not far from the Congo border, that services over 1,000 people. 3 Zeo Well 2It was great to be part of this church and community effort together! 3 Zeo Well 4

Women:  Health and hygiene education for women has been highly effective. As women gather there is much to share with each other, so the chatter of friendly conversations is a joy to hear and observe; as the teaching moves to women’s health and hygiene, the chatter suddenly stops.  “You could hear a pin drop.” Each one’s attention is riveted. Many have never heard how their bodies are made, what to expect and how to care for themselves. It’s a joy to express care for the women, letting them know how fearfully and wonderfully God created and loves each and every one!

Medical:  The team decided together to stay in the area an extra day so those in need can be transported to a hospital where they will receive medical care.  Those with less serious sores are treated with a clean bandage. Simple first aid supplies are a luxury, bringing a welcome bit of relief and healing to some in need.  It’s a tangible way to show we love because Jesus loves!

Tomorrow the team will spend their last day in Paidha area. They will say good byes and begin another transition as they prepare to travel to Gulu area.3 Zeo Well 5

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