Category: Uganda 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!

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.

Teaching Parenting on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria to pastors and church leaders.

Last Spring while we were here in Uganda, I was asked to prepare a three-day conference on Parenting the next time I would come, a subject I have taught much on over the years. The material I prepared looked so promising that, when I arrived here in September, I taught “Christian Parenting, How to Raise Up a Generation Mighty in Spirit” at the five- day Lake Victoria Bible Institute on Buvuma Island, and have been requested to teach it in Soroti for a five day as well two weeks from now. Apparently, this is a subject the Ugandan Christians are much concerned with, as they watch their younger generation pulled away from their city churches by steamy pop music videos that foster all manner of sexual misbehavior and local TV that runs continual heavy doses of, well, steamy pop music videos that…. The decidedly unwholesome influences that are dominating American youth are also taking the young people of Africa by storm, and even more so.

We are still here in Tororo, teaching a conference on Parenting for three days.

I have been shocked again by how enthusiastically the here receiving the information I am teaching about godly child discipline. I guess they get almost no teaching on this subject, and what they get is mostly cultural or traditional, not particularly Christian. The comments range from private thank-you’s delivered quietly by earnest moms and dads who desperately need a Christian approach to parenting, clutching our hands in gratitude, to public testimonials from pastors during the question and answer times about how helpful it is to them and how much Uganda needs to hear this message. Again, I feel somewhat overwhelmed by this outpouring.

But even more exciting has been the response of certain students in the classes to the material. I always blend stories into my teaching to make it practical and applicable, and during the teaching on Buvuma, I told several unplanned stories about honoring parents and children who forgave their imperfect parents for mistreatment during their childhood. I rarely try to think of these stories ahead of time, but just allow the Spirit to bring them to mind at the appropriate moments to emphasize a point here and there. To be honest, I don’t much remember which stories I have told after I am done teaching since they are not part of my notes.

This is the church on the island where the Institute takes place. This time we hosted up to 140 students, the highest attendance ever from the island, the mainland and outlying islands.

On the last day of the teaching during the lunchtime, Gail and I were sitting outside the church building in the shade of banana trees and cassava bushes when a student asked if he could speak to us. He sat down and told us the following testimony. He said he was badly mistreated by his parents growing up, to the extent of beatings and deprivations that left their scars on him when he finally left home. He said that he was going to get married when he was 25, but just before the marriage, he realized how bitter he was toward his parents and their marriage. He said the bitterness overcame him, and indeed had done so many times before and since, and he decided then that he would break off his marriage plans, which he did, and that he would never get married. He was now 34, a pastor, and until this conference, had no plans ever to get married.

Gail and I sit in the shade of banana trees and casava bushes, eating our lunch.

I did not ask what the nature of his injuries were with his parents, but it was not hard to fill in the gaps, knowing that this culture is full of “caning” (beating children with thin rods), rejections, abandonments, drunken abuses that include kicking children (testified to even today at the parenting conference I am currently teaching in Tororo), etc. I have seen the physical scars left by caning on children, meaning that children are sometime caned to the point of blood, leaving permanent scars on their bodies.

This young pastor said that he sat in the conference, knowing that he would never have children and wondered why God brought him to this training. Then he told us how he had been deeply touched by the teaching about  forgiveness and honoring parents, how the Holy Spirit had convicted him, and how, difficult though it was, he had bowed his head right there in his seat and prayed to forgive his parents. He wanted us to know that a heavy burden had lifted off his shoulders as he prayed, and that God had healed him of deep hatred and painful bitterness. He just wanted to thank us for sacrificing to come and love the Ugandans, and that he knew that God had sent us. He also said, now with this freedom he is experiencing, he can accept and embrace the idea of marriage and leave the conference excited about the possibilities.

More teaching…

We were stunned – deeply touched, but stunned. Any comments about forgiveness had been worked into an illustration, for it was not in my notes. Again, as has happened so often here, I have prepared and taught a particular subject, organizing my notes into a teachable and orderly presentation while all along God has been about His redemptive business in the hearts of the students who will sit under the teaching – and I might include the heart of the teacher.

It did not surprise us so much, then, when the bishop later told us of an additional testimony he had received from another pastor of deep spiritual healing during the conference of crippling bitterness against his parents also.

Mission work is full of surprises. We give our gift by faith, which to us is a simple offering, while God, with a grin, I’m sure, multiplies beyond any ability of ours threefold, tenfold, and a hundredfold.

Not Just an American Disease

This seems to be the trip that we will remember for diabetes. Two of our associates are now diagnosed with diabetes. This is serious enough in the US, but in Uganda it is a serious matter indeed. One doesn’t really know how sick he is until he discovers he can’t be cured by a short trip to the doctor and a regimen of miracle drugs. No such relief comes with the diagnosis of diabetes.

Bob preached this morning in the church where the three day conference will be held end of this week.

Mr. A (name changed to protect his identity) is our close friend and partner in ministry here. He was in the hospital when we arrived. We had heard this news before we arrived and were expecting him to be on the mend by the time we were ready for our usual ministry together. However, it was not to be so. We visited him in the hospital during our first week, traveling out into the bush far from town to find a small private hospital ministering to the locals. He lay there in the bed in a ward with ten other patients, unable to walk by himself, and only able to sit up to with difficulty to greet us. His worried wife hovered nearby.

We visited a bit, trying to determine the nature of his illness, and were told that he has diabetes (type 2, we assume, since insulin is not involved). We prayed for him and left to make the journey back to town with heavy hearts for his suffering. They are working, of course, on his diet to get his sugar levels to come down into a functional range. But we knew, as we drove away, that this will require an entire lifestyle change for him and his family, and we wondered how he would weather it.

We knew a pastor in another country where we worked in missions who was diagnosed with diabetes, and the memory does not give us much comfort. He was unable to deal with the lifestyle changes required to manage his sugar problems, and perhaps because of lack of education, he failed to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition. He refused to change. He died about a year after his diagnosis, apparently of a heart attack. We know by now that heart issues often accompany diabetes,  and the treatment for both go hand in hand. The sadness of watching his family suffer the loss of their husband and father, and their ensuing struggle to restructure their whole life to find financial stability in the wake of his loss hung over us gloomily as we drove away from the hospital in Uganda.

Our friend here is an ebullient little man who has planted many churches across his section of Uganda, which is how I met him. We were traveling together and struck up a conversation, and he asked us to include his group of churches in our ministry. We have worked with him ever since. He is full of energy and always sits with Gail during the meetings, watching over her, and making sure she is comfortable. He is forever urging us to eat more when the food is served and is insistent that we pause to eat in the morning when the tea and gnuts (a nut exactly like the peanut only smaller) are served for breakfast. “Bob?” he will say, and as I turn to him, he is invariably holding up my tea-cup or pointing at the bowl of nuts, “Tea is ready.” If I am busy, and don’t immediately sit for tea, I will always hear shortly, “Bob?…”

We missed him much this time during the training. It just wasn’t the same without his extremely dry sense of humor, always delivered with a total deadpan face, held perfectly 1…2…3…, then followed by a tiny knowing smile. One doesn’t know how important someone is to them until they are absent.

We are very concerned that he will be able to adjust and that he will take the warnings from the doctor seriously about his diet. Mr. A is a small, thin man. His sugar issues have nothing to do with his weight, as is the case with so many. His diet is rice, beans, greens, a little chicken or goat or beef, and some fruit when they can get it. He lives far out in the bush with no access to sugary drinks or foods that Americans are accustomed to. Even visualizing how he should change this natural and organic diet to adjust his sugar levels is a mystery to me. I’ve got some serious reading to do.

We visited him at his home about two weeks later. We took him a glucose meter so that he would not be required to make the arduous trip to the hospital every week to have his sugar level tested. I’m not sure how he was making the journey because even when we saw him, he was still lying on his pallet in his house, was just barely walking with the support of a stick, and could not ride the back of a boda boda (motorcycle), which is the primary form of taxi here. Yet somehow he had returned just that day from the distant hospital. The diet seems to be working little by little, but his blood sugar has still not fully returned to normal.

Our other associate has been diagnosed for a longer time, but, because we are not so close, we did not know. This trip though, when we found him, his legs were swollen, painful, and propped up. His wife told us he had diabetes. While he lives in a city and has much more access to medical treatment than Mr. A, his situation is still serious.

We pray for them, and are looking for ways to help that will work in this environment where ready medical interventions are not always accessible or affordable. But we are on a learning curve. So far, all I’ve discovered is that cinnamon helps lower both blood pressure and blood sugar. Who knew? [NOTE: Only sprinkle on foods and drinks, and do NOT take in large doses – do some research on how to use cinnamon properly. Improper use can be dangerous.] When we get home to the US, it will be time to do some serious research. In the meantime, we pray they both will do what they must to adjust their lifestyles. Mr. A, for certain, must face that his situation is not going to go away with some drugs, as those in his village are used to doing. He must face the reality of this disease. His learning curve will be much bigger than ours and much harder.

[If anyone has advice about controlling diabetes, please message us on Facebook™ or comment below this post, or send us an email – email not listed here to prevent spam.]

A World So Far Away

From Gail

We have finished a five day Institute on Christian History and are resting up.

When we first arrived in Bugembe, we were so happy to see Alfred and Julie, our good friends. It is always nice to see friendly faces to help us get back to this new-all-over-again-to-us culture.

Julie and I had been in touch by email a few times while we were in the U.S. She has a ministry in the local prison in Bugembe.  She goes every Sunday morning from 8:30 to 9:30 and shares with whatever prisoners come to the meeting. They consider her their “Pastor” and seem to enjoy the services. Julie asked me to come and minister with her and I gladly accepted.

We passed through several locked doors and then went outside to an open courtyard. We climbed several steps to a cement stage of some kind that took up about one third of the courtyard. About 50 male prisoners were expectantly standing and waiting on the stage for the service to begin.

I was feeling quite nervous – I had thought I would be talking to the women prisoners, so I was surprised that no women had gathered. This was my first time to visit a prison for the purpose of speaking, and, in fact, I had only been in a prison setting 3 times ever, one in the U.S., and now twice in Uganda. Another woman regularly ministers with Julie, and they opened the service with prayer and some worship music. Finally three women prisoners arrived but they sat directly behind us.

All of this was so new and strange. We were all up on the “stage” together, the men were standing, but when I started to speak, they had no seats, so they sat down on the stage in front of me. The women sat on the only three chairs, but directly behind me while I was speaking, so it was impossible to have eye contact easily.

I had picked Psalm 139 to share, which I normally share with women. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God knows all about each of us, and He is always with us. This always flows well with women and is a message they especially need to hear. Surprise indeed as I retooled these now familiar words to the needs of the men! Of course the words of the Bible are for anyone and everyone, so it was really only my own mindset that had to shift.

I have taught this beautiful psalm several times here in Uganda and it is one of my favorites. Each time I have shared it, the message comes out in a different way – an emphasis on a different section of the psalm. It was true again that Sunday, and I pray that it spoke to the men. Julie was my translator, and, though we have not worked together before, we were a smooth-running team.

After speaking, Julie opened the floor for questions. The men asked not about the lesson, but questions about their lives, something about the judges who sentenced them. I was way in over my head, but gave it a game try anyway. I have no idea even now what I said to them.

I was still in shock that I was speaking in a prison to male prisoners when I had predisposed myself so thoroughly to talk to women. It gets surreal when you assume something is going to be a certain way, and then, when you step into the actual event, it’s nothing like what you prepared for. I’m certainly not afraid to talk to men, and have on many occasions. In this case, reality trumped my pre-conceived notions of what the meeting would be like. It became even more peculiar when the women sat behind me, and I had to swivel back and forth front to back while I was speaking.

As to the women’s questions, they asked to speak privately to me because they didn’t want to speak in front of the men. I mentally prepared myself for some significant spiritual ministry with these hurting women, but when we pulled aside privately to hear their important question, they asked for money for food, pretty much as if I hadn’t spoken at all.

It was a humbling experience for me. These forgotten and marginalized people seem to live at the daily level of need and gut-level survival, not at the level where abstract concepts have any impact. I realized as I left the prison that as far as the life I live every day, I had just visited a whole other world. It’s a world which exists side by side with the one I live in, yet so far away. And I have no experience at all with that world – a great deal of sympathy for them, yes, but no experience…and maybe a little dismay, if I’m being honest.