Archive for November, 2017


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!