Archive for June, 2015


Something happened in Uganda in 2014 that I never wrote about, and I want to share with you. We were experiencing an unusual amount of resistance, annoyances, etc. (See

https://meadeinternational.org/2014/03/22/all-things-work-together-for-good/

for the story I did write about it at the time.)

As we travelled from Tororo to Mbale in eastern Uganda, about 1.5 hours, the three of us prayed loud and long together about these breakdowns, sicknesses, lost items, and what I tend to refer to as mosquito attacks. Our prayer, frankly, was a bit of complaint mixed with calling on the Lord to intervene on our behalf because we were all tired of the constant pick-pick-pick.

When we finished our prayer, we relaxed into driving silence and watched the scenery as it flashed by. This road enters Mbale from the south, and the city is rimmed on the east side with a huge range of mountains that proceed off into northern Kenya, part of the Mt. Elgon range. A gigantic high ridge of this mountain range dominates the eastern horizon behind Mbale and is visible from many miles away from all directions. As we rode up the southern approach to Mbale, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to take a picture of this impressive mountain from the south, so I dug out my camera and snapped a shot.

I punched the view button and looked at the LCD screen to check out the quality of my picture. The photo was clear and clean, but instead of a mountain blocking the horizon, there was only blue sky descending to a distant flat plain with some trees in the foreground. I stared at the picture in disbelief. I looked at the mountain which obliterated-with-prejudice the horizon I was looking at. I looked back at the photo. As far as the picture was concerned, there was no mountain there. I blinked my eyes to see if it was my vision playing tricks on me. I passed the camera to the pastor who was with us, David Waisana. “David, do you see the mountain in that picture?” He stared at it, not sure what he was looking at – there was no mountain there. He too compared the picture visually with the actual horizon he could see with his eyes.

I took a second picture and produced the exact same effect. My camera did not believe there was a huge mountain blocking the eastern horizon, regardless what our eyes and our knowledge of the geography of the area told us. I was stumped. I have included the picture so you can see it. Do you see a mountain in that picture?

P1100069

As we continued along the road in confusion, the Lord spoke to me. He said something like, “What you see in the picture is what I see when I look at your many attacks and annoyances. These many irritating little events are like this great mountain to you, but to Me they are as nothing, for I have gone ahead of you, and I am also your rearguard.” Now I sat in wonder, staring at the very obvious mountain off to my right as we drew closer to Mbale.

Later, I snapped this picture of the mountain range from along the same road. Do you see the mountain now? See what I mean?

P1110087

Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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James and the Nitty Gritty

Some of you may be wondering about the detailed, and I might add overwhelming, process of getting James into the deaf school in Mbale. This post is for you. When we arrived at the school, we were given a gargantuan list of things that had to be provided for him to board at the school before he could register.

We traveled back into Mbale proper and found the large three-story mall at the center of town. Now this was not at all like the mall you’re thinking of – it was more like a huge, multi-layered outdoor farmer’s market-bazaar, only indoors without electricity and light. James in tow, we spent the next 3 hours going from cubicle to shop to kiosk locating and purchasing most of the following items until I began to fear we would never find our way back out of the bowels of this huge building. A few items then had to be located in other stores around town. Here’s the list: [“sh.” means shillings, current rate of exchange 3291 sh. per $1.00]

  • 1 sweater                                                  27,000 sh.
  • 2 pairs gray socks                                     4,000 sh.
  • 2 pairs black shoes                                  55,000 sh.
  • Medium size metal footlocker               35,000 sh.
  • 1 padlock                                                    4,000 sh.
  • 4 rolls t.p.                                                   2,000 sh.
  • 1 jar Vaseline                                             2,500 sh.
  • 2 medium tubes toothpaste                   3,000 sh.
  • 500 kg laundry soap                               4,000 sh.
  • 6 lead pencils                                            600 sh.
  • 4 bars body soap                                      2,000 sh.
  • 1 mosquito net                                          10,000 sh.
  • 2 pairs sheets small                                 26,000 sh.
  • 1 10-litre jerry can for water                     5,000 sh.
  • 1 plate, fork, spoon, cup, wash basin      8,500 sh.
  • 1 mattress                                                     45,000 sh.
  • 1 blanket                                                       30,000 sh.
  • 1 small flashlight                                         2,500 sh.
  • 2 reams paper, 1 doz. colored pencils     22,000 sh.
  • 4 kg. sugar                                                    10,000 sh.
  • 3 bars clothing soap                                    9,000 sh.
  • 1 dozen 48 page composition books        8,000 sh.
  • 5 pairs underwear                                        7,500 sh.
  • 1 double-deck bed to be constructed       200,000 sh.
  • 1 school uniform                                          40,000 sh.

Then back at the school as the sun disappeared behind the horizon, I paid the balance of the fees:

Academic & Boarding Fees for term      250.000 sh.

Discretionary pocket money at office     15,000 sh.

TOTAL       827,600 sh.

This huge number at today’s exchange rate against the dollar amounts to $251.45.

And just so you know God is in this situation all the way, last week, as we were getting ready to leave the island with James, Gail received a donation in the mail for James for…….. wait for it…….$250.00.

Yeah, you read it right. I’m thinkin’ James’ blessed donor really heard from God on this one. It’s just fun to live in the Kingdom of God!

Today we delivered ten-year old James to the Makhai Primary School just outside Mbale, Uganda. It is a mixed matriculation deaf school, which means they have a deaf department, but they also have regular students, and they mix them together with interpreters in class once the deaf children have learned signs. We dreaded leaving him there because of the bond we have formed with him and our fear of abandoning him as he has been abandoned so often, even though we know we are doing the best for him.

On the island, he rode with us one day, went to the training with us and we hadIMG_0491 him all day. At the end of the day, when it was time for us to return to the guesthouse and for him to return to his relatives where he was sleeping, he would have none of us leaving without him. He threw a first-class fit! He fell to the ground at the side of the car and refused to move, so that Alfred had to carry him across the road and deposit him with a relative. However, he beat Alfred back to the car, threw his soda through my window and stood banging and wailing on the car door. Alfred once again carried him across the road and deposited him with the relative who held onto him this time.

IMG_0490We were facing the wrong direction and had to drive out one end of the village to turn around. His wailing followed us out, we turned around and had to pass back in front of him going the other way, and his wailing again followed us out the other end of the village unabated. Alfred was a wreck and I wasn’t that much better.

So we feared a repeat performance at the school when it came time to leave. The head-mistress told us that they had a child similar to James who literally cried for three months, her wailing sounding out over the entire campus.

Here’s what happened with James. The deaf students of all ages came out to meet James when we arrived. During the time I was in the office taking care of final details, the students interacted with him…how can I describe this…”lovingly.” They gave him his “sign name” so he has a name in their community. They carried his gear and mattress from the car to his dorm room and helped him organize his sleeping place. All of this was carried out with excitement, warmth, and enthusiasm, as if adding one more to their community of students is an occasion for celebration.

James, who had first reacted with an angry “don’t touch me” attitude, looked conflicted – he knew what was happening because he is intelligent and he could figure it out from all the gear we had purchased to install him in his dorm, but at the same time he was confused and maybe even nonplussed by this outpouring of affection from peers. He almost immediately began to form a bond with an older student who was shepherding him around and taking great pains to interact with him. I’m pretty sure no one has ever treated him the way these students were behaving.

I expressed some concern to the head-mistress that he would run off as is hisIMG_0505 habit. She said the deaf students are such a close-knit group that they will monitor him themselves, which will probably circumvent his little dashes for freedom that have kept me and Alfred busy for the last few days.

As we were leaving, we hugged him and gave him a token from each of us to remember us by (of course, Alfred will be dropping in every month or so). He immediately waved to the students and started toward the car with us. We stopped and they gathered around him and took him back into the dorm with Alfred, and then, when he was distracted, Alfred came sprinting for the car and we drove off into the night.

Reach out, James, and take the hand that has reached out for you. Hold on tightly and live…

[Pix here are of the deaf students welcoming James and then us saying good-bye. This dormitory is typical of schools and better than what James has probably had to date. Alfred thinks from the state of his sores, fungal infested scalp, and many insect bites that James may have been sleeping outside.]

James Gets a Wonder Upgrade

We met James for the first time last Fall when we were on Buvuma Island teaching the Bible Institute. He was about 9 and hanging around at the edge of the crowd. We wondered why he wasn’t in school. Finally, someone told us he was a deaf orphan, having been abandoned by both parents. We began interacting with him and formed a bond during that week. I heard many things about this boy, which I have previously shared, but the Holy Spirit was saying, “This boy is Mine and he needs to be rescued.”

So I returned to the U.S. with a conviction that God was going to use Alfred and me to move him to a deaf school (I had by this time located and visited one in Mbale, a distance of about 150 miles from the island by road). So began this great adventure (see previous entry, “James and the Giant Mountain.”)

This trip as we interacted with him on the island, we discovered the most amazing thing. We were backing up to turn around, and our vehicle makes a beeping noise when it is in reverse for safety purposes. James was seated in the back seat, and I heard this little voice saying, “Beep, beep, beep….” My head whipped around, which of course silenced the demonstration. As far as we had been able to tell up till now, James has no language other than imaginative gestures and pointing, but he is bright enough to get his point across most times. We haven’t heard anything but squeaks and squeals from him as he uses his much unexercised voice to express his excitement. But, “Beep, beep, beep,” as clear as a bell? I was entranced.

We began a series of experiments and the results are WONDERFUL AND HOPEFUL! James can hear claps, whistles, falsetto tones, and any high pitched sound. He is HEARING IMPAIRED, but not totally deaf. He hears in the high range, but not in the low range. It is a true wonder! Sadly, without diagnosis or family to care for him, this has now gone ten years untended. I do not know all of the implications of this discovery, but I am pretty sure it paints a different future for James than the one we had previously begun to cobble together.

Can his hearing be restored completely with modern medicine or technology? Can he recover what he has lost in time and education even more effectively than we had hoped? Will he one day speak as clearly as any other person and hear the sounds of nature and conversation? I am no expert and will have to consult an expert as soon as possible. But I just continue saying, “ISN’T THIS AMAZING! THANK YOU, GOD!!”

By the way, he also clearly says, “Bye,” when people are leaving. Who knew? The world is at this boy’s feet.

James and the Giant Mountain

I have returned from the Island and am once again in contact with phones, email, and the worldwide web. When we arrived two weeks ago in the village of Kitamiru, we immediately inquired about James, the deaf boy Alfred was planning to move to the deaf school in Mbale with our help. James was nowhere to be seen. We discovered that his uncles had sent him off to a more distant island to be with his alcoholic father who abandoned him six years ago.

Apparently, James had developed some anger issues when no one could or would understand his gestures – translation: make any effort to understand what he was trying to communicate. So, predictably, James began to respond with temper – he is intelligent and demands a voice in a culture where no one sees him as more than an unpleasant aberration. So his three uncles “dealt with him” by sending him away. Now he was located at an even more remote and isolated place than we found him last year.

One of our hosts, Bishop Waako, informed us that even he was surprised at how far away the island was (at least six hours by motorboat). Alfred and I began to wonder if we would have to take a long motorboat ride to fetch him ourselves. I was resolved to do this as a last resort.

As it turned out, there was a pastor from that exact island attending the Bible Institute we were teaching. I was able to send him to investigate the situation and hopefully return with James and family representatives who could commit him over to our care. As I said in a previous blog entry, we had been forced to return to the mainland over that first weekend after the Institute. On Monday, when we returned to the village on Buvuma, there stood the pastor hoIMG_20150620_102108_497lding onto James.

The pastor told us that none of his family members, aunts or uncles, etc., would make the journey with James. His own father would not leave his drinking for such a meaningless task. This boy is truly alone in the world.

James was happy and surprised to see us – maybe happy to see Alfred and surprised to see me is more accurate. We concluded our second week of ministry on the island and then began what will be a great adventure for James, from the ferry ride to the city of Jinja to the long 100 mile car ride to Mbale on Uganda roads.

I talked to Alfred this morning, who is personally caring for James, and he said, “This boy is somehow disturbing me,” which is wonderful Ugandan understatement for “He’s quite a handful!” Poor single Alfred has no experience in parenting. Through the afternoon, I’ve received a series of texts from him that the boy has run off (James has had IMG_0425little discipline or care at any time, and so it is his habit to go where and when he chooses, which will be a problem for the school to sort out). The last text I received said that Alfred has finally found him and is on the way to our now long overdue meeting.

So James faces a giant mountain of change and opportunity that he will, I’m sure, at first find restricting to his 10 years of habitual freedom – he will find it difficult to live among people who actually care about him. Please pray for this little ten-year old. In many ways he is wise beyond his years in ways a child should never have to be. He is often a wild child who seems like an amalgam of Helen Keller and a child raised by wolves .

James faces a mountain. He will need lots of patience, love and assistance to climb it. Life waits on the other side…

Ugandan signage continues to amaze and entertain me as I travel about the country. The variety of enterprise is inspiring as the small merchants strive to raise the visibility of their tiny one room shops to the attention of the potential customer. The unique grasp of English – half British and half American and a lot of TV – often produces effects of language that leave me either wondering or giggling.

I found this one in Jinja just this week as Alfred stood nearby dickering with an IMG_0380smelectronics repairman. It hangs across the sidewalk and advertises the services of a saloon (hair salon). One of the services apparently is head massages, but here is how it is marketed: Head Massage for the Groom. I’m thinking these folks have cornered the market on all those poor grooms following around after their fiances, spending money left and right in preparation for the big day – just what the poor guy needs, a head massage. There’s major social commentary here.

Up near the mountains near the Kenyan border I saw this sign next to a dirt road that wound back into the trees: Disaster Risk Reduction Club. I thought perhaps it was a dance club of some sort because that’s a little how I feel when I take dance classes with my wife and both my left feet. It turns out that there are seasonal landslides in the mountain communities, and this is a volunteer rescue group who train to work in such disasters. Now it makes sense.

This sign was on a shop front and neither Alfred nor I had any idea what they sell – Hyper Social Power Pocket. We saw this on the sign for a nursery school – Jumbo Kids. I’m not sure they even got close on that one. Or this one that also advertises the opposite of what they probably want to advertise: Lady Luck Driving School. “Okay, here’s your certificate. Good luck out there….” Actually, this is probably just reflecting the truth about driving a car in Uganda. And this one on a school: Scared Hats Secondary School. Maybe they should have done their homework better on this one. Imagine a graduation certificate with that on the banner! I’m thinking maybe…”Sacred Hearts…?” If so, they need to fire their sign painter, or educate him.

I love this sign from a store that sells small household goods. Mind you, this is the name of the store in big bold letters: Everything Else Can Wait. They have a lot of confidence in their products. I was impressed by the confidence of this sign also: Fantastic Barber and Beauty Collection. However, the name over this clinic kind of intimidated me: Nutrition Sanitarium. I hear my Mother saying, “You need to quit eating so much fast food, or else…!” This sign on a bar is certainly more positive and encouraging: The Press the Button and Get a Favor Bar. Well, all right, I’m in! Or this competitior: The Happy Hour Joint for Selfless Service. You sold me! I’m in again!

Understatement can be good marketing too – this on a discount shop: The Miniprice Shop. And this on a hotel: The Wimpy Hotel. I don’t think that one works except as a movie title. And this agricultural sign way out in the sticks along the road: The Improved Pig Subproject. Again, great movie title! Bionic pigs? I wonder what the main project was.

I guess I always have a favorite. Every time I go to Buvuma Island, I pass this school on the way to the ferry: The Lourdes Meade Secondary School. It’s apparently a well-known school, with an interesting and not necessarily all-positive history if the stories are to be believed. I am asked repeatedly by Ugandans if I am related, and I reply, probably not, and please, don’t call me Lord Meade.

Many of you who have supported our efforts to rescue the deaf boy James from his difficult life and deliver him to the deaf school at Mbale are probably wondering what the status is. As soon as I arrived last Sunday, I began asking where James was and how he was. Here’s the story.

James, happy to have his picture taken

James, happy to have his picture taken

James is now about ten years old. Being abandoned and deaf in a community where disability is culturally despised and where there are no educational or social resources has all conspired to make rescuing him more difficult. He is very intelligent and so having no language, he is unable to make those around him

understand him. This is now causing some emotional damage as one would expect. Apparently, he was expressing quite a bit of anger and frustration when the adults around him could not or would not make the effort to understand him. This resulted in his three uncles (pastors James, happy to have his picture takenall) finally, after many years, locating their miscreant brother on another rather distant island and sending James away to live with his father. His father abandoned him about 6 years ago and has had no interest in him at all, and is a “a drunkard ma,” I am told. So this was not a good report.

Fortunately, we got phone numbers to the relatives in this far away place and after much difficulty, Alfred and the bishop have been able to establish some communication. God, of course, has moved ahead of us, as one of the leaders who attended this week’s Bible Institute was from this very island and knows the people and the culture there very well. So, P1100912bottom line, he has been dispatched by the bishop to return to the island, locate James and his father, and bring them back to Bavuma so we can get the father’s permission to move James.

It is possible that we will have James with us by Monday (tomorrow).

So many things must fall into place. The father must give his written permission and release the boy to Alfred Mafumba and the bishop; the local government official must sign off on this because it involves transporting a child; James must be willing to leave the only home he knows without any way for us to tell him why or where; then, having enabled Alfred to take charge of him , we must escort him to a strange school (remember that he has never been in any school) in a strange and distant city, and then leave him among total strangers; James has to cooperate with all this.

I can’t help but think that Alfred and I are probably among a very small number of people who have ever made any effort to communicate with and love this boy, and we had to go away last fall and leave him there. How will he regard us as he sees us again, and how will he react to us again leaving him yet again, but this time among strangers. And all without any language to help him understand! My heart breaks even as I write this.

So please, pray, call out to the Lord on James’ behalf. A lot has to fall into place before the end of this week when we leave Buvuma and return to the mainland again, hopefully with James in tow.

 

Written Sunday – I am back in Jinja briefly trying to repair various mechanical failures. I left the island on the early ferry Saturday and will return Monday. It has been an interesting trip so far in that we have been plagued with so many equipment issues that I spent most of the five day Bible Training Institute with just a whiteboard and markers though usually I am able to show PowerPoint slides.

It began the second day of our trip out to Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria. We found our car battery dead as a good morning greeting. New battery, no reason, called a mechanic (never know what you’ll get on the island) and no repeats the rest of the trip. Then during the same day, my generator inexplicably melted down – literally melting the motor coils. In working between that and a second borrowed generator from the guesthouse, at some point a surge was created that burned up my computer adapter. So then I was without electricity and without access to my computer where all my notes for the lessons are kept.

Fortunately, for one of the two studies I gave this last week, I had printed out the notes. On the second, I sort of punted from student handouts and other notes. So it has been an interesting week – kind of back to basics. Additionally, Gail is experiencing some household issues that are a little expensive as well without me around to solve them. So it has been a well-rounded attack.

I was grumbling to the Lord on Thursday about all the added expenses, and He pointed out that I was, after all, teaching on Christian Stewardship and Finances, so of course, the attack would come in that area. Suddenly it all made sense to me and I relaxed, knowing that God will be my rearguard, or “has my back” as we say it these days.

I usually get resistance to my Ugandan ministry in the spiritual realm – the “dark side” is so much closer and more out front here than in the U.S. In just this one week alone, I have heard that one of the district government leaders here is a well-known and practicing witch-doctor who recently contributed to the downfall of a prominent Christian leader from the island. Additionally, I was reminded again about the horrors still secretly practiced by African witch-doctors as one man testified of being instructed by one of these sorcerers to go find a child for him to sacrifice so that the local “god” could make him rich. These things defy western belief systems and are shocking to the typical omusungu (white person or westerner), but are quite common here.

All this to say, I am aware of the source of these little annoyances and am putting on the armor more diligently (Ephesians 6) each day.

And all that is why I am unexpectedly back in Jinja for a day or two, and why I am able to add some unexpected blog entries during my visit in the internet zone.