Archive for October, 2014


Pay Up or Move Out

[I wrote this twelve days ago on the first evening I was on the island. I am currently back in Jinja, Uganda, where there is internet service, so I am finally able to send this.]

It is October 19 and my first day back on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria, Uganda. My arrival brought to my mind the previous trips to this isolated place. My mind tends to remember the good points and downplay the struggles. I have been here since early afternoon and have been reminded of many of the struggles I have gone through in the past to serve here.

There is a huge government celebration this week – the visit of the prime minister of Buganda, one of the many kingdoms throughout Uganda – and so the owner of the only viable guesthouse on the island has doubled the room rate to take advantage of the government visitors, which makes staying here difficult for an already tight budget. It is not that it is expensive by American standards, but rather that I have not been able to budget for this unexpected increase and now have to fit it in to my end of year budget that is already straining to carry the expenses. So the bishop is trying to negotiate a better deal, but, of course, the phone reception is very bad, so he was not able to solve the problem tonight – this is because the owner does not live on the island.

[Follow-up on 10/30 when off the island: Actually, we discovered that the owner was traveling with the dignitaries, but he refused to meet with us. The owner was actually quite rude to the bishop, telling him that if I didn’t wish to pay the double rate, I should move out and stay somewhere else. This attitude is unusual since most Ugandans will negotiate, especially if you’re staying for many days and renting more than one room. There is no other place on the island to stay unless you’re a hardy 20-something, which I am not, and you can camp out somewhere, or stay in camping-standard rooms. The owner knows he has a monopoly and is taking advantage of it. But now we are motivated to find alternatives…we’ll have to get creative, and perhaps the lesser rooms at a different guesthouse will have to do.]

As I began to set up my room and unpack, there was an extra bed in the room. As I tried to move it a couple of inches, the frame disintegrated and dropped the heavy wooden mattress support onto my toes – so I begin my adventure with bloody toes. The manager came and completed the dismemberment of the bed and hauled it out piecemeal. He was very apologetic about the toes.

The gas on the island is much inflated over the mainland, so this will impact our budget as well since we are using a generator for my presentations AND have a car.

Insect life seems to be less during this season than the Spring when there are millions of gnats per square foot during the evening hours. I’m very glad about that, but the wet season they are having has increased the mosquitoes, which of course, are the ones that carry malaria. So I am watching my malaria-preventive regimen pretty closely. My arms and legs were covered with bites and I hadn’t even left the guesthouse in the city – that was inside the room, so I anticipate some extra care here on the island will have to b e taken.

I am teaching a week long Bible Training Institute and then a two day Marriage conference, culminating in the weddings of a number of pastoral couples. It should be a very interesting ten days.

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On My Way to the Ferry

I have arrived in Uganda last Thursday and have been up to my ears preparing for my trip to the big Island just off the coast of Jinja, Buvuma Island. It is the largest island in Lake Victoria and the only one with consistent ferry service. All the other islands are served by motor boats which are long leaky vessels powered by outboard motors and sometimes crammed with fifty people and all their belongings. Just last visit in June, I read in the local paper of a motor boat sinking that cost the lives of many people – few Ugandans can swim – and which sank because it had been overloaded in an attempt to make more money. So, though the ferry is a small and dangerous looking barge, I am actually thankful that I have it to make this journey to the island and have not yet had to take a motor boat.

Even the Ugandans seem to be aghast at the idea of a musungu (white foreigner) taking the motor boats. On the last trip when it looked like we were forced by circumstances to take a motor boat to the mainland, Gail and I were actually standing in line at the boat landing at 7:00 am waiting to board when the police captain saw up from across the road and intervened by telling us that the ferry had been repaired and was just now back in service (even though we had been told by several the opposite). But his concern was so great that he made a personal call to the ferry authorities to verify that the ferry was indeed back online, and then made the effort to keep us out of the motorboat. I’m not sure what all that means, and I am sure that one day I will take a boat to one of the other islands, but for now I am thankful for the ferry, such as it is.

We are headed out for that very same ferry this morning (I am waiting for the car right now) and we will embark on our mission, Alfred and I, to Buvuma Island to hold a Bible Institute for the pastoral leadership that serves these 15,000 people and those of the nearby islands (who will boat in to the meetings), and then the following week I will conduct a marriage conference for 50 couples which will culminate in a wedding for 10 of those couples, which I will conduct.

During these two days of intense preparation, I have had several leadership meetings and have spent many hours on the little administrative things one has to do to make all this come together – buying supplies, managing the printing and copying of handouts and of newly translated materials (the first time we have succeeded in accomplishing translation – and even now it was mostly the work of the bishops I work with to make it happen). Having translated materials, however, does not mean we are done – I still had to get the electronic files, edit the layout of the materials to reduce copy expenses which are charge page by page, of course, then have them reproduced in volume for me to take. I spent almost 4 hours yesterday working on this, and we are picking up the many copies even at 7:30 this morning as we leave town for the ferry. Se we have been busy busy busy.

I did manage to work in visits with key leaders. My church, Mosaic Fort Worth, has generously donated funds for certain key projects and items to donate to the family of orphan we minster to here. So mixed with all the errands was the blessing of dropping off all the items I carried over in an extra suitcase and participating in the joy of giving – and let me just say, dancing was had by all. The one image that sticks in my mind is an adolescent girls dancing about waving a packet of underwear in each hand. I don’t think I have ever responded to receiving underwear in such a manner – makes you think…

I also gave funds to finish a church building which came just exactly on a workday, and so now the new building has walls and is enclosed for the first time, thanks to Mosaic. I also gave the funds to start the water tank project at the home of the orphan, which I will talk about further in a later blog. Again, dancing was had by all at the realization that long treks to the well with heavy water cans may be a thing of the past for these children.

I will be out of touch now for ten days because there is no internet on Buvuma Island. So please pray for us as Alfred and I and the bishops and pastors and leaders and couples all embark on this next leg of the journey here in Uganda. I don’t have time to edit this, for my car has come…so please excuse typos and misspellings and mis-wordings. In Him always, Bob

Off to Uganda Again

I’m off to Uganda for my third trip this year.. It’s been an inspiring year so far from witch-doctors (see http://wp.me/p1ffcP-fn – “All Things Work Together for Good”) to by-the-road conversions to fire-fighting (see http://wp.me/p1ffcP-fG – “Terror in Tojwe”). I held the first Buvuma Bible Institute, strengthening the church leaders on Buvuma Island with intensive teaching for five days. I will continue that his trip with another Institute of five days to take them a little further. We covered Leadership and Hermeneutics (How to Interpret the Bible) last time. This time I’ll cover Soteriology (The Doctrine of Salvation) and Spiritual Gifts.

Additionally, I have been invited through a missionary to minister to a new group of churches that are centered in the Mbale area in Uganda, as well as having a presence in other nearby countries. I will teach in four separate areas with them in Uganda and renew my acquaintances with the leaders I met last Spring on my trip there. During this time I will be in three areas in northeastern Uganda that I have not visited before, and will travel the farthest north that I have yet made it – exotic sounding places like Soronko, Lira, and Butiru This new group of churches is the Chrisco Fellowship of Churches and gives us an opportunity to reach a whole new part of the Kingdom with our church-planting and building up ministry, so Gail and I are very excited.

I will also continue my economic development program, which seeks to help Ugandans become self-supporting. I work with a local organization in the Jinja area to facilitate that work. So far this program is experimental but hopeful.

So it’s been a very profitable year in the Lord. I am achieving my P1100175goal of going three times, and by the time I return just at Thanksgiving, I will have spent almost 20 weeks in Uganda this year.

Other Notes:

  • If you’re not reading this report from my blog, remember that you can subscribe at meadeinternational.org and follow me as I report directly from the field with actual experiences on the “missionary road.” I will only have one nine day black-out period this trip during the time I am on Buvuma Island which has no internet access. So I should be able to send reports consistently.
  • Here’s some pix of some fellas we met along the road last trip to the Mbale area – we did not get out of the car to talk to them for obvious reasons. Baboons – can be very dangerous.
  • Pray for me that I avoid any of the disease areas – Uganda is not on the travel advisory list at this time, may it continue to be so! And please pray for Gail who has to stay home this time which is very hard on her…
  • P1100167 (640x480)Remember to check our new fund-raiser at http://wp.me/p1ffcP-g2

A Fund-Raising Idea

My brother, Eric Black, is a professional artist. Recently, after I returned from a trip to Uganda, he asked to look at some of my pictures for a potential art project. To make a long story short, he produced a beautiful piece that is charming and heart-warming as well as having an interesting story. Nafula

The piece is called “Nafula” which means “Rainfall” and is the name of the subject in the piece.

He has offered to donate most of his proceeds from “Nafula” to the ministry of Meade International. So here’s how it works. For a gift of $200 or more, you will receive a signed and numbered print of the original. 10% of what is given will go back to Nafula’s village in humanitarian work of some kind.

  • It’s pen and ink with a very little pastel, a delicate and unforgiving style that my brother has perfected.
  • The print will be 16 x 20″ giclee, (gi-clay)
  • A giclee is a digital print, signed and numbered by the artist.
  • Acid free, museum quality heavy cover stock paper.
  • It is the the best art reproduction method available today.

The story: I wNafula framedas teaching church-planting to a group of pastor in a village on the back side of an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda. I often use painter’s tape to hold my white-sheets (portable whiteboard) in place on the wall. When I am done, I throw the tape away. I discovered though that few Ugandan children have ever seen tape like this (or probably any tape), and so when I am cleaning up, a line of children always forms to see what I will give them – they are always thrilled with the tape. I didn’t think much of it at first, but when I was finally packed up and made my way out to the car, I found that the children had decorated their faces with the bright blue tape.

I have found this same phenomenon all over Uganda and have left behind many brightly decorated bands of urchins when I drive away. Nafula was one of those children. I just happened to snap this picture in a group of children, and it was the picture that captured Eric’s trained eye. It does make a beautiful art-piece for the wall.

Are you interested? Send me a “comment” below requesting a print of Nafula and the amount you’d like to donate. I will contact you with further details, and soon your print will be on its way to you. I know you will enjoy her as much as I do.