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Three days in Mbale – Part 2

Christine voluntarily teaches tailoring to women from her area and is now graduating her first students in this ceremony.

From Gail – Monday the weather was nice (it is rainy season here), and Racheal and I went into town to buy some fabric for the students in Masanda and the classes that the other volunteer teacher, Christine, teaches in the village of Busoba. There were a lot of beautiful fabrics to chose from, but limited funds, so it was just a beginning. Here in Uganda they don’t have a scrap bin to buy from, so you have to take whole rolls or whatever is left on the roll.

Most of the students from the tailoring and the hairdressing classes gathered for the graduation, and some brought their relatives to enjoy the festivities. Here the volunteer hairdressing teacher addresses the graduates.

It was a lovely ceremony with many speakers:  the teachers spoke, and a representative from the students spoke, someone from the local government talked briefly, the teacher of the tailoring teacher spoke, and finally I was honored to be asked to speak. Most of what I had to say was encouragement to step forward into their new skills. It is expensive to begin a new venture, and there is little money to be had by most of the women. I suggested that they band together, perhaps get an older used machine and share with 2 or 3 others to split the costs. I am not a businesswoman, but I can see some practical things they might miss. I gave the same encouragement to the graduating hair-dressers.

The tailoring graduates proudly wore their measuring tapes to the ceremony. This graduate was the student speaker exhorting her fellow students to success.

We were then served a delicious lunch. The fellowship among the ladies was a joy to participate in. They have formed a bond with each other, and I am praying that their community closeness will remain as they support each other in business start-ups.

A small note: For a woman to go out and practice her new profession, she will need many supplies or certain equipment. She has no money to purchase them. Please join me in praying that these enterprising women’s needs will be supplied.

 

Each graduate had her own measure of joy to bring – this was a big accomplishment for them.

 

 

 

 

The hairdressing graduates were equally thrilled to receive their certificates of achievement.

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Three days in Mbale – Part 1

We are at the airport waiting to begin our trek home. This story is from mid-trip, about 5 weeks ago.

From Gail – We were able to return to Mbale, the third largest city in Uganda, for three days this trip and I am very excited to tell you the things I found there.

My friend Racheal has introduced me to several groups of women in the villages around Mbale, and I’m very grateful. On Sunday we drove to Masanda where Bob preached. We had a wonderful lunch the women had cooked. We had driven in straight from Tororo and did not yet have a place to stay. Bob and Pastor David went into Mbale town to find a reasonable guest house. They found the perfect one.

I stayed at the church building to lead a women’s meeting. Twenty-five people were there, 23 women and 2 men – these are the members of the local tailoring class that is taught in this village by Racheal, who gives this training for free to these very, very poor people as a ministry. First they wanted to demonstrate for me the skills they have learned. They spread out all over the one-room building to practice their measuring, tracing patterns, and cutting and sewing a girl’s dress or some pants or a shirt. All of this is done in heavy paper from bags purchased from the local cement factory because they can’t afford fabric to practice with. They were collaborating and advising each other, and they really wanted me to see all that they were learning. What fun to see the excitement in their eyes as they went to the sewing machines and began the sew these paper creations.

This group of 25 has just 2 machines to practice on and no fabric available. They each patiently wait their turn. While I was there watching, one of the machines had a problem with the bobbin and the machine became unusable until it could be repaired. It happened just like that…. This brought home to me the fragility of this process. Without the funds to repair the machine, often less than $10.00, 50% of their training equipment is sidelined until further notice.

It was a very enjoyable two hours, and I closed with a Bible study and prayer.

They are learning very well, but they could be doing better if they had more equipment. I am including a list of the things they need. They will persevere without these things, but oh what a difference a little support would mean! They need:

Scissors, sewing machine needles, tailoring chalk and pencils, erasers, a tool box, buttons, pins, rulers, tape measures, hooks and eyes, hand needles, oil for machines, elastic for waist bands, fabric for practicing and for making actual outfits to sell, more sewing machines, and funds to repair breakdowns.

There are two other tailoring groups in the Mbale area that have risen up through this ministry, and more are planned. These groups are taught by volunteer teachers with caring hearts, and the classes last nine months, so it is a major commitment for both the students and the teachers. The students are very serious in their desire to lift themselves by becoming self-sufficient.

The people kept coming and piling up the fruits of their gardens in front of us. Gail holds up huge Ugandan sweet potatoes.

We have finished our week of teaching among the new believers of Kamuda, a village area out of Soroti in north Central Uganda. We had around 75 total leaders in attendance from all around the surrounding area and some from far away, having come across the local lake, another large lake that cuts across central Uganda. It is much smaller than Lake Victoria but still an impediment to travel, so these had to take a boat across to get to Kamuda.

At the end of the meeting the people surprised us with an outpouring of thanksgiving. They sat us at the front in two chairs, then spoke blessings and gratitude to us for coming to such an obscure place where they do not get musungus. Little do they know…this is exactly the kind of place where we have been sent.

In my first trip to Uganda, we were driving north up a dusty and bumpy road north out of Jinja. I watched the various villages pass by and at that time, everything was new to me, so I was fascinated. As we drove, though, the Holy Spirit broke into my reverie, and nudged me a bit. It seemed that He said to me, “Do you see all these villages? Do you see the many churches along this road? No musungu comes here. These people don’t receive teaching. Most teachers go to the city where there are large

We were here when we wrote this Sunday, but discovered we were off the grid in this distant village, so could not send the post until tonight when we arrived back in Soroti.

churches. This is where you are to go. I have sent you to the villages.” The conviction of this was very strong. Since that time I have sought out the bush places, the villages and trading centers that are far from the cities. That is where I prefer to gather the leaders who do not receive teaching on a regular basis. Even in Soroti, a fair sized town, 50% of the group comes to the Institute from out in the villages, and they stay overnight in a house near the training site for five days. So places like Buvuma Island, Asinget out of Tororo, Soroti and Kamuda, the Samia region north of Busia, etc., are exactly the places I need to be.

The incredible bounty poured out on us from the people of Kamuda as a thank you for the teaching.

Back to Kamuda this last Friday. When the speaking of blessing was done, the people rushed forward and began to pile things at our feet. We couldn’t believe it. Huge piles of sweet potatoes dug from their gardens, a huge grain sack full to overflowing with oranges which grow here in abundance, bags of greens, a pile of po-po’s (papayas) that continued to grow as we sat there and people came by and added to it, and a pile of maize on the cob – corn to the westerner.

Finally, a number of grinning people stepped forward and presented chickens to us. A group of children, gathered tightly around their school headmaster, came forward with a chicken because, in between the Institute teaching, he had brought the students for a prayer of blessing. By the time the jostling was finished, we were presented with four (yes, FOUR) chickens. All of this was overwhelming and humbling. These people were bringing what they had to bless us and thank us for coming. There was so much that it took a long time just to pack it up for transport back to the “missionary house” in Soroti where we were staying.

This oddly shaped and huge sweet potato was in the pile.

A final note on all of this. We took Saturday off as a Sabbath because we were both very tired. As we sat on the porch of the missionary house, our four chickens, which had now found a home among the other chickens of the place we are staying, kept walking by where we sat. Now this was a large compound area and there were many places for chickens to go and pick bugs, but, not only were the four of them always together – perhaps the other chickens were abusing them socially because they were strangers, if chickens do such things – but they seemed to have an affinity for being near us. Gail and I had held them only briefly, and we were sure there was no way they could have bonded with us – again do chickens even do such a thing, and no offense to the chicken lovers among you, this city boy thinks chickens are not the sharpest tacks in the barnyard – but they had had a traumatic time of riding back all tied together and tangled up together, and trauma is a great bonding agent, sooo….

Bob and Gail meet “the chickens.”

My fantasy was that the trauma had bonded them to each other, and perhaps they were only attracted to us because we did not want to eat them, while everyone else only saw them as “dead-lunch walking.” But I wanted them to live, so I put them with these other chickens who now seemed to be taunting them with literal cackles of, “You don’t belong here,” “Hey, that’s my patch of buggy grass,” and “Gid-douda-heah, chicken,” then the inevitable, “Chicken, chicken…yellow-w-w chicken (Am not…Are too…Am not).” I might have come running to Mom and Dad, too, I guess. I know you will think my fantasies got carried away just a little.

The four chicken buds hang out together, seeming to stay near us throughout the day. What’s up with that? They had plenty of other places to go, but insisted on staying close to us.

But did they, really?

As we came back that evening and sat organizing our abundant vegetables and papayas on our little porch, two of these chickens insisted on visiting us. I’m not telling you that they wandered close by. What I’m telling you is that they both came up among the sacks and legs and arms and sweet potatoes being dropped into sacks, and threw themselves at us. Godfrey, our driver, drove them away three times, but as soon as his back was turned, there they came again until we had to push them out of the way just to get at the produce. I finally grabbed one up in my lap and spoke to it, and it did seem distressed, but as I held it, the other one flew up onto the sack right next to me as if trying to see what we, the chicken and I, were doing. Jealousy? I think so!

Chicken 1 was being talked to about being too pushy while we are trying to work, and chicken 2 immediately lept to the bag next to me and demanded to know what was going on and why I was not including her in the “lap-time.”

Then after releasing and shooing the lap-chicken away, this other one, the jealous one, sashayed over to the door of our room and nestled down on the concrete floor against the door jamb as if bedding down for the night (or laying eggs??! It’s hard to tell with chickens). If we had not chased her away too, we would have had to step over her to enter our room. So you tell me who’s fantasizing now, huh?

On another note, we are leaving Uganda on November 13, only 9 days from now. It might be a good thing for me to come home right about now because I’m starting to talk to the chickens…and even to understand a little of their responses. Anyway, we were blessed to have them for a short time and they were a fun diversion from the hard labors of teaching.

Kamuda Community Church 45 minutes into the bush out of Soroti in north-central Uganda.

Yes, we are still alive and well though we haven’t had much energy to write posts lately. We have been very busy in the Soroti region of north-central Uganda. I am in the middle of the second week of two five day, M-F teaching weeks. The experience has been wonderful, but last Saturday, after the first week, we didn’t move much, but took a long Sabbath rest, only going into town toward the end of the afternoon to eat. I suspect next Saturday will also be spent sleeping, reading, and resting. Last Saturday, I was scheduled to preach in a church the next morning and so spent the evening preparing. Next Saturday we will be preparing to drive to a completely new place that we haven’t been before, a place about 80 km from here called Kaberamaido. That will be the last conference of this trip before we head for home on Nov. 13.

Early Monday morning we drove way out into the bush literally – flat as a pancake and covered with bushes, more mango trees than I‘ve ever seen in one area just growing wild at the side of the road, small homesteads with crops of many varieties growing around every bend in the road. After 45 minutes of steady driving, we arrived at a district called Kamuda and a beautiful new church building set beside the road only finished and opened this last August. It is a bit of an oddity in this humble place to have such a magnificent structure, but the funds were apparently donated by a church in California, and the building is impressive by any Ugandan standard.

The new building serves as the central gathering point for leaders to be trained in an area where over 300 have come to Christ in the last 18 months – a true revival. The Christians here are all very young, but they are eager to learn and enthusiastic and only just figuring out how this church thing is supposed to work. Most of the churches scattered widely through the area are primitive mud-wattle construction with thatch roofs and dirt floors, but this building here at Kamuda sits on a raised concrete foundation with brick walls smoothly plastered over and brightly painted.

    Gail, wearing a gifted African style dress, has taken the inexperienced kitchen crew, who are handling their first large event at the church, under her wing, and goes to check on them before the lunch is served.

Let me describe the enthusiasm, as it exceeds my experience in Uganda so far. I am teaching fairly basic Bible truths since it is my first meeting here, and I need to lay some foundation. So I have taught things like:

  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16),
  • Prayer is a conversation between you and God,
  • The still, small Voice of God from 1 Kings 19:11-13
  • How to listen to God,
  • How to meditate in Scripture,
  • You are not under the Law, but under Grace, etc.

Some of the remarks that the students have made are, “My eyes have been opened! I never knew this,” “We have been deceived up till now, but now we can see for the first time,” and one excited pastor grabbed me on a break and said, “I have never heard such things. I’m being pinched and choked with every word so that it hurts me. Please don’t stop.”

The kitchen crew love this beautiful musungu adviser…as do I.

Today I taught on the church being an assembly of people instead of an institution or a building. I taught the priesthood of all believers from 1 Peter 2:5, 9:

  • You are a holy priesthood,
  • You are a royal priesthood,
  • You are all priests,
  • You all have a ministry,
  • You all have a gift,
  • You all have a calling.

    The hungry lunch line out to the kitchen.

I was astonished as the Holy Spirit fell in power on the seventy leaders gathered there, many of them less than two years old as Christians. A man was crying as the Spirit gripped him with the simple realization of who he was in Christ; a woman was weeping as she discovered that God wanted to use her to reach her neighbors with the gospel; others raised their hands to the Lord and a solemn quiet descended on the building; one testified that she had a vision of Christ standing at the front of the meeting with His arms outstretched to the people. My skin prickled with the presence of God. I prayed for one elderly gentleman who wanted his eyes to be healed just enough so he could read his Bible.

 

Bob teaching on the temple and the Holy Spirit.

All this because I taught a simple truth from scripture to hungry people. I am again impressed with the power of the Truth to set people free. The people are poor in this area, small land-holders who scratch out a living from their farms that fortunately sit on land that will grow virtually anything. They eat most of what they grow. Today they ate from the Word of God as He Himself walked among them.

We are tired, but we are having a great deal of fun! And…we have been invited now to three completely new areas to do training of church leaders, one on the difficult-to-access eastern slope of Mt. Elgon, the highest mountain in Uganda and third highest in Africa, an area where they seldom get musungu visitors but have many new churches. Hmm, sounds just like my cup of tea!

A quiet evening with James and Faith – James is drawing in his exercise book and Faith is copying words into hers.

The evening of our time together at Gail’s friend Irene’s home after audiology screening was a very sweet time. We had survived the painful episode with James, and he finally knew we were not going to leave him there alone among strangers once again. I hope he learns to trust us for our love for him, but it must be very hard for him to understand our ways and the reasons we do things, and why we keep disappearing for months and he only sees Alfred. He is a boy stuck in his own head and his own wounded heart. Time and consistency on our part will heal, I hope.

After we all came down from the shock and began to settle in for the evening, we were assigned our sleeping areas – James, Faith, and the two men – Alfred, who had accompanied us to be with James and Faith at the screening, and Godfrey, our replacement driver while Alfred and his wife wait for their baby to come – all together in the little dormitory Irene uses for the many children she helps and are now at school; and Gail and Bob in the guest bedroom in the house. Then dinner, then sitting around chatting and enjoying each other’s company – a quiet and friendly evening.

Gail repairs a tear in Faith’s dress.

During the visiting time after dinner, the door popped open and James and Faith came in with their new story books and plopped down around the table to draw. Gail spent her time sewing up a tear in one of Faith’s dresses, and I quietly worked on the computer. It was a perfect evening, a pretty little tableau of family at peace. I only noticed it in retrospect the next morning as I thought, “What a wonderful and quiet family evening that was!”

The two children fully occupied themselves, and whereas they had been busily dragging us around the market earlier in the day, investigating one wonder after another, now they were settled comfortably “around the hearth,” James copying a picture from his book with his pencil, and Faith copying words from her book with hers. This family scene lasted maybe an hour and a half, each of us comfortable in the others’ company.

James has drawn a picture that appears in his story book about Abraham. You can see he wrote the word Abraham on the picture. Should I be this proud? How far this boy has come!

James has probably never had an evening like that in an actual house. Just chew on that for a minute…

It was a measure of his trust of us that he wanted to draw in front of us and obviously wanted us to comment on his artwork (the next day he actually laid his head in my lap and went to sleep, so this little boy is gradually learning to be loved). He is becoming quite the little artist, and I’m wondering what he could do with color pencils or inks, though it might be difficult to hang onto such things in a school setting where so much is shared between the students. His lettering is still quite rough, but he was copying words from the book and adding them to his picture. One day, we hope to be able to converse in writing at least, though Gail is always gamely trying with her American “signs,” at least 50% of which are different in Uganda.

(l to r) Irene, James, Faith, Gail, Alfred, and Godfrey gathered on Irene’s small porch.

The evening was, on the one hand, a peaceful and contented family group learning to sit with each other quietly and just resting in the security of mutual support – nothing that would ever draw any attention in its simplicity and ordinariness. On the other hand, considering who these people are, and who they have been, and perhaps who they will one day be, it was a triumphant victory to be celebrated and shouted from the housetops!

Thank you, thank you, Irene. I will treasure that evening as the high point so far of my adventures with James, and now also with Faith.

Our journey to Kampala to have the hearing of the two deaf children, James and Faith, evaluated required a long journey from Mbale. This was especially hard for them, both active and inexperienced children from the village (see Part 1) cooped up in the vehicle for hours at a time. Two sad incidents occurred among all the fun and excitement of the three day trip away from Kavule Deaf School. The first was, as I explained in Part 1 of this story, that neither child qualified for any kind of hearing devices or aids since their deafness was nearly complete according to the screening tests.

James and Faith enjoying a relaxing evening at the home of Gail’s friend Irene.

The second incident was more disturbing, and I find it difficult to write about because of both the pain of relating it and the way it affected me personally. We decided to break the trip up into sections so that the children would not get too tired being in the vehicle for such long periods, and so that we could catch up on “care” items for them – clothing, shoes, supplies, etc. Our plan, then, included a stay-over in Bugembe (near Jinja) the first night with the children staying with Alfred and Julie. Alfred related that they were up at 5:30 the next morning, standing in their bedroom demanding attention and, of course, food. Alfred, showing wisdom beyond his years, invited them to join him and Julie in their morning prayer time. He said the two of them knelt dutifully and folded their hands, even though James, for sure, has never had enough language to receive even basic spiritual training. We really don’t know what’s going on inside his head during such times, but he has become an agreeably cooperative young boy over the last two years, and we are hoping to reach his spirit anyway before we will one day have access to his mind for such concepts as God and spirituality.

James, happy to have his picture taken when we first met him on Buvuma Island.

The second day, after the screening in Kampala, we planned to stay at the home of one of Gail’s friends in Mukono, a suburb of Kampala, and it was here that the incident happened. We had been to the market for shoes and clothes, and it was coming up on 5:30 pm when we pulled into Irene’s compound after a long, long day of many adventures in the city. I’m not certain even now what cues we mistakenly gave to James as we disembarked from the vehicle. Perhaps it was our gathering of his and Faith’s plastic bags containing their meager belongings, but not getting our own bags from the back. We began to lead the children up to greet Irene, Gail introducing Faith to her at her door, and I leading James in that direction.

I got about halfway to her door when I became aware that James was resisting me. I looked down at him, and as he stared at the house, he began a high-pitched keening from deep inside his chest, as if emanating up from his heart. I stopped and turned to him, and to my astonishment tears were running down his face – this little hard-hearted street child of two years ago who never shed a tear back then, but glared at us crossly and once even threw rocks and dirt at me when he became angry. I fell to my knees and motioned, “James, what’s wrong?” The sound of his utter despair continued to rise in volume as he stood frozen in place, refusing to make eye contact, staring ahead blankly.

The night we dropped James at his new school in Mbale after rescuing him from the islands. He has realized we are leaving him among strangers. This was a terrible moment for all three of us.

It took me, in my adult insensitivity, a minute to figure out what was happening right in front of me as this small boy was melting down. Then it came to me like a slideshow of tragic photos – the time we dropped him at his first school after rescuing him from the island and traveling across 150 km of southern Uganda in the vehicle, took him into Mbale to purchase his school supplies and new clothes and shoes, etc., the first city he had ever seen. Then we had to leave him there among strangers in a foreign place, and Alfred and I were near tears as we drove away into the evening, knowing that this was the best thing for him but that he could not understand, which was why he stood alone, glowering at us with my cap perched on his head, the poor and inadequate love offering I gave him just before I turned away from him and climbed into the car to leave him there.

Then I remembered moving him from that school to the new school at Kavule where he is now, away from the friends he had made and his first teachers ever in his life whom he had now adjusted to, and the teacher Catherine whose little family he had bonded with, and how we had again left him among strangers in a yet another foreign place, and had again driven away from him as he stood motionless and glared after us, unwilling to show anything but anger.

Of course James was reliving his abandonments, not just the “necessary” ones by us, but the time his mother left him when he was five because she couldn’t deal with his deafness on the one hand and her drunken husband on the other. Then, he relived the abandonment two years later on Buvuma Island when his father left him among the clan and disappeared almost for good, except for a brief alcoholic and abusive reunion just before we rescued him. We found him on Buvuma, virtually living by himself at age ten, without language except what gestures his bright little mind had invented to make himself understood–the boy with the scars on his back and face from the “canings” he received as early as age three when they judged him as “rebellious” because he wouldn’t obey them, only later discovering that he was deaf.

In those horrifying moments this week in Mukono, as I realized he thought we were abandoning him yet again, I replayed what I knew he had suffered, which he was telling us by the despairing sound of his grief and fear, the best a small deaf boy could do in the circumstances, echoed now by Faith who had seen by now that something was terribly wrong, and who began to cry reflexively also next to a baffled Gail and Irene. This tableau, even down to the time of day, was all too familiar to James. We had unwittingly set him up for it.

I threw my arms around James, and hugged him and began to tell him we were not leaving him, knowing that he could not hear me. I pulled back from him and gestured that we all were staying here tonight, that no one was leaving him, that “James, James, we are not leaving you. You are safe. You are safe. We love you. No one is leaving you….” But he could not hear me, and could not understand my words.

I took him to the back of the car and opened up the gate and pulled out our suitcase and our personal bags to show him we were staying here with him. Slowly, he began to respond, hugging me back, letting me hold him as the stiffness bled out of his little frame.

James knows abandonment.

James will see abandonment for many years to come where there is none in the unthinking actions of the people around him. This wound is deep and flows through the roots of his little being like a river of pain, not understood, misunderstood, owned personally, and turned into personal beliefs not about deeply flawed parents and weak and selfish clan leaders who did not acknowledge his personhood and value, but beliefs about James, himself, and his tiny broken identity – “ALONE,” “WORTHY ONLY OF ABANDONMENT,” “THROWN AWAY.”

I want to reach into this child’s shattered heart and piece it back together. In my own selfish way, I want to bring him home with me and nurture him back to life, even though I know that he needs to stay in his culture and be African. In place of the sewage of the world he has known, I want to give him the river of life flowing out of him. I don’t want to wait years until he can understand and receive – I want it NOW.

I also know abandonment, and remember it well, a small boy crying on the floor of the backseat of our car as we returned from the father and son Cub Scout banquet, which I attended with my mother. According to the Book, all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I know that’s why James came into the hall where I was teaching three years ago on Buvuma Island, and I know that my heart which has been mostly healed read his pain without knowing his story – it had a familiar ring. I know what I’m supposed to do. I pray for the years and the means to do it.

And yes, before you remind me, I know only Christ can ever be the river that heals James, but maybe I can be the hand that leads him there.

Picking up James and Faith from the director’s office before she knew she was coming with us – hence the sad look.

What an exhausting and interesting three days we have just finished. Exhausting because we are just a tad on the other side of the hill and have spent this time in the presence of the exuberant James and Faith, 12 and 8 years old respectively, and interesting because, you guessed it, ….James and Faith. These two deaf children have rarely been out of the village, and certainly never to a city as large as Kampala. We have learned some Ugandan sign language though. We can now say in perfect deaf Ugandan, “BUY ME THIS, NO BUY ME THIS, NO, WAIT, THIS, THIS AND THIS.”

In addition to these valuable insights, we have never, either one of us, ever witnessed a faster switch from, “This is the exact thing I want,” to receiving it, losing all interest in it, and demanding some other shiny or bright-colored object. At one point James insisted on receiving a “math set” which is a small metal box with a compass, etc. for math studies.  At his level he doesn’t have math (he is far behind his age group – see previous posts for his history) and doesn’t even know what math is, but knows a pretty box when he sees it. In fairness, it must have been astonishing to these children to witness the lavish excess that is available to any shopper in the city. We sought the fairer prices in the local outdoor market rather than in the stores, hoping that it might be a more familiar environment to them, but it seemed to me a bad case of Disneyland-itis for both of them even there.

A thoughtful James as he contemplates one of his drawings – he has become quite the artist.

Our values clashed horrendously as Gail and I sought quality shoes and clothes that might actually last them through our next visit in April, while they sought Minnie Mouse T’s with holes, or football shorts with small tears or split seams; we sought sneakers that would endure the hard labor of their rowdy recesses while they sought the used and recycled sneakers, painted with black spray-paint to hide the flaws, paint which will probably come off in the first sprinkle of rain the rainy season of which we are right now in!! I picked a wonderfully masculine pair of “air-” somethings in near-perfect condition and with cool spiffy colors for James, which any American kid would lo-o-ove  to have on their feet, but James would have nothing to do with them, gesturing emphatically by scissoring his hands back and forth and then a firm, double thumbs down – no, he had to have the old black spray-painted cast-offs across the street where they couldn’t even find a pair that fit him. I’m not going to admit to you who won that scrappy little brawl.

I can totally visualize him traipsing into class next Monday, leaving black-paint-run-off footprints behind him as it drizzles outside just about the same time as I am warming up my “Parenting” Conference in Soroti. (Note to my own children and grandchildren: No eye-rolling!). We managed to get them outfitted for the rest of this term, but I fear we will be back at it next trip. We returned them late today to their deaf school in Kavule outside of Mbale after some car-problem delays and an array of errands as we passed through Jinja on our return trip. Long day, tired old couple…’nuff said.

Faith in her Minnie Mouse T and her new dress underneath it. They both were desperately in need of new clothing and were down to basic school uniforms as their only remaining options.

Two sadder notes among all the hilarity of both children gesturing wildly and pointing from the middle of the rear car seat where they were firmly strapped in between Gail and me. Riotous gesturing broke out every time we passed anything remotely edible, any roadside shop with any kind of object that could be construed to be round like a soccer ball, or anything even distantly police-related (don’t understand that one, but I hope we are not unknowingly harboring a midget criminal hiding out from the law at the deaf school–I don’t think so, though: James is a very convincing twelve year old boy).

Sad note number one: The reason for our long trip of three days. We took the two children into the Kampala Audiology and Speech Center for a screening of their hearing levels, which neither child had ever had. Alfred and I had discovered that James could actually hear some higher range sounds when we were backing up the vehicle one time on Buvuma Island, and it was making that beeping noise – James was sitting there in the back seat saying very clearly, “Beep beep beep beep” right along with the car. We were, of course, stunned, and began to test him, and sure enough, there was some hearing there in the very high, loud range, which made us all hopeful that he might be a candidate for a hearing aid or implant device. I sat in the session with him and was encouraged to see him raise his hand repeatedly as the doctor played a variety of sounds into his headphones for his ears, and also through two different bone resonance tests. His tests, however, were negative for significant hearing of any kind. The doctor, who was extremely kind and professionally efficient by the way, told us that the best we could ever expect with a hearing aid is the possibility that he might be able to hear a loud car horn on the street or something of that nature.

James mugging with Faith in front of the Kampala Audiology and Speech Office in Kampala.

Faith was tested next and Gail sat in on that session. Faith also raised her hand repeatedly, but the doctor explained that all they were “hearing” were the vibrations from the sounds, not the sounds themselves, and even I could tell that when the same sound was applied at a lesser volume, James could not hear it. Unfortunately, Faith also could not be helped by a hearing aid. She told us that both children were now too old to develop speech because that part of the brain had atrophied from lack of usage, which our friend Michelle in the States had also told us would probably be the case.

Returning them to the Kavule School for the Deaf at the end of the journey. We sit and chat with the Director of the School, Samuel.

We were saddened by this news, but not surprised. The doctor strongly encouraged us to keep them in school, telling us that it would change both their lives if they had sign language and an education, and that this was the best gift we could give them.

Thank you all for praying for these two children, as I know many of you knew we were taking them in for screening. It is comforting to know that we have been led to the right track with James, and, now that Faith is also onboard, that she can also be redeemed from the very serious suffering that disabilities cause in Uganda’s poverty-laden society.

There is still a long road ahead of them – this adventure has again shown us what bright and eager children they both are. And, I must add, it was truly comforting to see how happy they were to return to the school and their safe, enclosed environment that they now consider their home, surrounded by their friends who have also become their family.

Part 2  and the second “sad note” in our next post.

We Are Watched

Here we sit outside chatting after dinner, our rented vehicle in the background, our host to the right, our new driver Godfrey all in white at center (while Alfred sits at home with his wife awaiting his new baby due anytime now).

From Gail –

We had a few days early last week to recuperate and sleep a little later after the intensive five day Bible Institute in Tororo last week. It was a nice break.  Wednesday night we were invited to a friend’s home for dinner. It is always a treat to accept a chance for hospitality and fellowship in a private home where we get to share how the people actually live. Most often we are not in a town or village long enough to be invited. Our schedule is packed from morning to bedtime. When we arrived at their home around 5 pm, there were several of our friends there and some new faces as well. A nice group.

This was our second week in Tororo, and we finished our stay here with a three day Parenting Seminar. I think it went well. We were also invited to dinner on Saturday night with the host pastor and his wife after the seminar ended that afternoon.  Then Sunday morning we made a very early start to drive to Mbale where Bob preached and I met with 25 ladies in the afternoon.

An odd thing happened at the Wednesday night supper – a sort of clashing of cultures that provided some humor and emphasized to us that we can rarely let down our hair while we are here. We had finished a delicious typical Ugandan meal of rice, beans, matoki (a kind of banana that is only eaten cooked), chicken, beef, and greens.  We were having some good conversation, and our hostess brought in some nice bananas that served for us as a sort of dessert, though in our experience, the Ugandans never have dessert, so perhaps a nod to musungu customs.

 

A close friend helps set the table for dinner.

Bob decided he wanted one, but I just wanted a bite since we have them for breakfast most mornings and I get a bit tired of them after a while.  He broke off almost half of the banana for me, but it was more than I wanted, so he broke it in half again and handed it to me.  All of a sudden, there was a flurry of talk among the Ugandans, making vivid the expression, “The natives are restless.” Their enthusiastic discussion was not in English, and maybe there was even a little bit of laughter in among all the Japadola flying about. What was happening, what had we missed?

These folks love us well and we never doubt it, so we were sure they would tell us what was going on, though sometimes we are left in the dark when we are with a less familiar group and this sort of thing happens. So when we asked, here is what they told us:

Our banana exchange had been closely watched by everyone in the room. They tell us often that they watch the way we interact as married musungus and enjoy seeing a “true Christian marriage” in action, and they see our marriage as a model, which puts us under a serious spiritual responsibility to them. Most of the time, though, we are just “us,” take us or leave us.

More chatting – we enjoyed the evening until dark, listening to a testimony of how a new friend met Christ after her anti-Christian husband became a Christian to her and everyone else’s surprise, and how she resisted and watched him for “evidence” until she finally knew it was real.

In this instance, they couldn’t believe Bob was breaking off a piece of banana for me. It is the woman in Uganda that always serves the man. Bob’s action caused them to wonder, “What does it mean? Was Gail too weak to do it for herself??” They thought that was hilarious. Finally, when they shared the joke, Bob explained that I only wanted a small bite of his banana; he tried to give me half, but I only wanted a little, so he broke off the small piece for me.  Not a big thing, just a husband-and-wife private exchange without earth-shaking spiritual implications.

Only, of course, it was not private at all. We are a curiosity to them, something to be watched and studied. It is hard for me to always keep that in mind. We are just being us – a married couple of 48 years (rare in Uganda, apparently), comfortable with each other, and doing things for each other without really thinking about it.

Guess I better remember to pay better attention! Who knows what we might be modeling with whatever we do next! I wonder if the men will be breaking off portions of their bananas for their wives next time we come. I hope they have picked up some of the things we actually try to model.