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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.

From Seat-mate to Friend

We are in Tororo teaching a five day Institute on Christian History.

Report from Gail:

I recently spent several days with my friend, Irene, who lives in Mukono, Uganda, near Kampala. She is the Director of Prison Fellowship Ministry in Uganda. She and I met on an airplane the very first time I went to Uganda. I was taking a ten day vacation from work to join Bob in ministry. It is a long trip from the US to Uganda and I was a bit overwhelmed at the all the travel involved.

Irene and I sat next to each other and we talked and slept and talked some more. It was a ten hour plane ride. When we got off the plane we had to go through customs; she was in the line for Ugandans and I was in the line for Others.

We had exchanged mail addresses and began to correspond and get to know each other. On some of my vacation trips, we would stop by to see Irene and her son, Dickson, who also works for the ministry. We have built a friendship over time.

On recent trips, I have gone and stayed with Irene for a few days. I have a big need to understand the Ugandan culture, especially Ugandan women since that is who I minister to most of the time. Irene and I have had some great conversations. It is nice to have a mentor.

Irene has many facets to her ministry. She visits the prisons to minister to the prisoners; she brings medical teams to help with those needs and a very large part of her life is spent providing a safe haven for 18 children whose mothers are incarcerated and don’t have a place to grow and be fed and loved and sent to school to get an education. The feeding and school fees are quite large and Irene depends on the Lord to provide these necessities, mostly through donations. It is a walk of faith.

I was able to visit Irene one time when the children were home on holiday and about to go back to school. I helped them get things ready to take to school-bags of sugar, soap for washing clothes and washing bodies, pens and pencils and many other things. Irene and Dickson and I shopped for these supplies that every Ugandan child who boards at school must have. I was able to do some devotions with the kids at night, and after their chores we played card games. I had a couple of games that my grandkids had taught me, and I passed them on to the children. We had great fun.

My next trip, the kids were in school so I didn’t see them. But, I was able to go to the prison where their mothers are incarcerated.  I was able to talk some with the mother and tell them how much I enjoyed knowing their children and how much the mothers were missed. The same visit we went back a second time to the prison for a celebration time. It was quite interesting.

This trip the children were also in school, so I missed them again.  But we did go back to the prison. The reason for this trip was that Irene was bringing a lawyer to meet one of the mothers so that she could make an appeal to the court. While the inmate talked to her lawyer, I was able to talk to two of the other mothers. They both spoke English, so we could actually talk. They spoke of their plans for when they get out and their dreams for the future. One of the women had become a Christian in the prison and began to minister to the other women. Now she is the pastor of the women in the prison. Both these women only have two years left on their sentence. I asked the pastor if she would come back to continue ministering after she got out – she enthusiastically said she certainly would!

On our way back to Kampala, the lawyer was very hopeful that he could help the mother that he counseled with that day. It was encouraging news because her term was fifty years, and for a crime she only observed. But the police scooped her up in the arrests, and she was given the same term as the actual criminals, even though she was only a by-stander. Sadly, this is not an unusual tale.

Another High Buvuma Moment

Waiting out in the lake for the first baptismal candidate.

For the first time since I have been coming to Uganda, I was invited to baptize new believers while on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. The pastor who invited me was the same one who loaned us the replacement generator for the entire week, so I could hardly refuse, though I wouldn’t have anyway. Baptism is difficult generally in Uganda because of the lack of large enough bodies of water, making it necessary but expensive to transport their church members to places where they can baptize. They baptize in the biblical manner, by immersion, and frequently I find groups of ten or more awaiting baptism in the mainland churches. However, there on the island, it is no problem, for the mighty Lake Victoria surrounds them on all sides.

Preparing them with the pastor translating.

We actually walked the short distance down to the lake from the church site, winding our way along a narrow trail through the forest at the edge of the village and then along the waterline. As we arrived, the lake spread out before us, the mainland visible in the distance. It was a calm day, so the vista was beautiful – a perfect day to baptize – though toward the end, the daily rainy-season thunder began to roll and boom to the south of us.

There were ten candidates there waiting to be baptized. The overseer, a man called Apostle Jessy, has planted five churches since sitting in our church-planting class almost three years ago. This makes him a true apostle according biblical usage, one who is sent out on mission, the primary mission being church-planting.

Wet but happy!

As we sat by the edge of the water, I briefly explained the meaning of baptism to the group of about thirty from the church who had gathered to witness and celebrate, answered any questions from the ten candidates, then headed out into  the lake. I had to wade out quite far to get deep enough to baptize, and even at 50 yards the water was still only just above my knees, but that is where I made my stand. One by one the candidates waded out to me, and the pastor assisted me in translating and lowering and lifting them into and out of the water. “Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I would ask, followed by his translation.  Each candidate would answer, “Yes,” in Lusoga, meaning that sometime recently they had become a follower of the Nazarene.

And down he goes…”buried with Him by baptism into death and rising to walk in the newness of life.”

Many Ugandans fear the water because the art of swimming is rare there for some reason even among the Lake dwellers. I could feel the tension in many of them as I helped them to cover their noses. Then holding tightly to their arms crossed on their chests, I lowered them down with a splash, and pulled them back up to sounds of celebration for each one back on the shore.

I believe that when a person comes to know Jesus personally, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit of God dwells in them and covers them inwardly and outwardly (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19-20). Because water is used as a picture of the life of God, baptism is the perfect way to demonstrate the Christian life because it pictures this process of covering. Once they are completely covered by water head to toe, nothing physical can touch them without coming away wet from that touch. And so it is with the follower – nothing from this world, even if its intent is evil, can touch their life without its purpose being changed by the Presence of God (coming away wet, so to speak).

Returning to shore to celebrate…

I don’t wish to sound smug on this idea. Tragedy is tragedy and leaves its mark on us, and I do not speak lightly of such pain. Faith is about following even in the presence of tragedy, not falling to the temptation to bitterness and blame, but trusting, instead, even in sorrow and loss when we can’t see any light at all. In following Him, we give over even our sorrows to Him, the one Who promises that He will give us rest if we cast our burdens on Him (Matthew 11:28). I don’t believe, though many may disagree with me on this, that God causes us to suffer, but it is the world in which we live that hurts us. Rather, He knows this world that has turned away and walks with us even through the darkness.

I always encourage those who are baptized to continue to walk in the manner in which they have been baptized – wet with the Spirit of God, for it is impossible not to be touched both by the good and the bad of this world.


We are progressing to a new area today, moving from the Jinja area to Tororo in the east of Uganda, about 100 km. We will pass through the baboon forest where there are always many baboons and their families out begging for food along the road. While in Tororo I will teach the second Bible Institute of this trip on Church History, Medieval to Modern. This class has been wildly popular because the people and leaders here have no connections to the past history of the Church, what their heritage is, and where their own churches come from. And I enjoy the subject as well.

The guesthouse we stayed in on Buvuma Island, painted inside and out to cover earthquake damage repairs.

Continuing the tale from our last post, we arrived at the guesthouse on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria on Saturday afternoon to find the always- promised three precious hours of evening electricity unavailable because of generator repair issues. We were invited to use our own generator, which proved to be too small for the load and blew a seal – there we were without lights OR a generator to run our own program on Monday.

But, all is darkest before the dawn, or even before bedtime in this case –

The view from our room each morning.

we got a replacement generator even before we entered the church I was scheduled to preach at the next morning. I casually mentioned to the hosting pastor that we were working on generator issues, and he graciously promised us the use of one of the generators he uses in his little shop near the ferry landing before we had walked the thirty steps from the vehicle to the church doorway. We ended up using his generous generator all week for the training – a truly fine kingdom provision.

Now for the rest of the tale about the guesthouse.  About the same time on Sunday that the guesthouse manager finally arrived from the mainland with his repaired generator, to his consternation so did a troupe of workers with a large truck and many bags of cement and cans of paint. The owner of the guesthouse, who does not live on the island had scheduled major renovation work for this week on the guesthouse, but failed to inform his manager, who spent the afternoon on the phone with his boss clarifying what all these workmen were doing there.

Huge cracks left in the walls after the earthquake.

Well, about a year ago, the island experienced a severe earthquake. The walls of the guesthouse took a beating with large cracks up the walls and across the ceilings, some sections offset from each other along the crack line by as much as 1/8   to 1/4 inch. The crew began tearing into the walls with hand tools, sometimes removing only the plaster, other times completely cutting through the walls, brick and all. Within hours of their arrival, there was debris piled in the hallways and dust hovering throughout the building and even penetrating the closed door of our room and coating everything we had left exposed. This went on all week and was still going on when we left on the following Saturday. We would leave to go to our conference in the morning, return about 6 pm, and spend 30 minutes “un-dusting” our room every day.

The benefit to the guesthouse of all this chaos is that it gets a hugely needed face-lift with every surface, I hope, painted freshly inside and out, which was desperately needed, by the way, even without an earthquake to

BEFORE -This was a crack all the way through the plaster and brick that they dug out by hand

motivate them. The building had fallen into a sad state of brokenness and despair that even seemed to touch the three person staff, no longer the friendly greeters that they once were, but recently somewhat hopelessly sullen as if the future of their jobs was slowly disappearing before their eyes. Now, I expect, they will perk up as business gradually returns to the refurbished hostel.

AFTER – The same crack now filled with new cement.

The benefit to us is that our traditional Buvuma roost will receive the attention that will make for more pleasant stays in the future. I have to admit, even we were getting a little depressed in that broken-down, “go-ahead-hit-me-again” atmosphere oozing from the pores of the place the last few times we’ve stayed there. Unfortunately, there is only one other choice on Buvuma Island at the moment – a new guesthouse up on the top of a hill overlooking the lake – and they have captured the corporate business from the local palm-oil developer who is planning big things for Buvuma (see previous posts on that subject) and is willing to pay corporate rates to the guesthouse. We stayed there last time with a great discount that the bishop wangled for us, but this time the rate was 2 ½  times higher with no grace, so we returned to our old haunt as described here.

The pictures tell the tale, so I will stop here and let you read the captions.

This repair was all the way through outside and inside. A little paint and no one will ever know it happened…




Too Much Light Only Leads to Darkness

We returned from Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria tired and ready for some amenities. I am utterly embarrassed that I am so dependent on electricity. Standing in our guesthouse room on the island with no electric light, depending on the little rays that filter in through the window, trying to brush my teeth with the thin beam of the morning sun trying to scrape through the small, very smoggy bathroom window, trying to get my shoelaces through the right holes in the dimness, eating breakfast while brushing each piece to see if anything I may not want in my mouth is sticking to it (banana peel, paper, dirt, etc.), I realize that I am simply an electricity addict, or at least a light addict.

It’s not like we didn’t get any electricity at all on Buvuma – we were supposed to get generator power from 7pm to 10 pm every night at the guesthouse. But on Saturday night a week and a half ago, the first night on the island, the guesthouse generator was out for repairs. The manager who runs the guesthouse invited us to use our own generator, the one we use for our presentations during the Institute. You probably can feel where this is going. BAD IDEA, Bob, but what I know about generators I have learned in the last three years, and most of it is still over my head, electrically speaking.

The guesthouse we stayed in on Buvuma Island.

The lights did go on throughout the whole building, and then, as if to tempt fate, so did our little electric iron for a brief moment while I attempted to deal with some packing wrinkles in my Sunday outfit. All of a sudden, total darkness! I found out later that we “blew a seal” on our small generator. Now we had no lights at all and no generator. I learned from this that irons are a no-no electrically speaking, when dealing with generators. Early to bed, early to rise, makes Bob a grumpy guy.  I’ve always considered myself a night person, but I need light to do anything I want to do after the sun goes down, so  maybe I’m just a “light person.”

The next day, Sunday, the manager’s promised repaired generator appeared at the guesthouse. However, it turned out to be an on-and-off sort of affair. Some nights it cut out at 9:15 and did not turn back on. Others it would go off for twenty minutes, then come back on, sometimes two or three times. Most of the time it flickered from bright to dim continuously.

Have I mentioned that we are currently dealing with our American sense of privilege and trying to dump the arrogance that privilege breeds in our attitudes so that we can serve among these people with authenticity? This “spiritual assignment” arises from a series at our church, Mosaic Fort Worth, just before we left for Africa. It sensitized us to the amount of unearned privilege Americans enjoy, and especially American whites. The electricity thing is just one more area that has convicted me about the life I lead back in the States and the amount of privilege I take for granted every day.

Most Ugandans in the cities and towns here live with regular blackouts that last hours at a minimum and occasionally days. In the thousands of villages, shanty towns, agricultural centers, and out on the island, they are not wired at all – no electrical infrastructure. The people live without electric light all the time except for an occasional generator in a shop or bar or solar light panels which give power for brief periods. Living with darkness is normal to this culture.

I confess that we both were relieved to be back where there is infrastructure on the mainland in Bugembe where mostly the lights are on when needed. I struggle between a strong desire to serve this people-group on the island and the totally selfish desire to have access to mere light, the miracle of electricity. Should I care about this as much as my emotional system seems to? I confess also that I can’t even find the right questions to ask myself about this issue, to ponder it and extrapolate some changes in perception or self-perception. That’s how privileged we are! I can’t even come up with ways to deconstruct the vast privilege in which I live or write meaningful questions for this post.

I want to challenge myself to live without light for a while so that I can truly appreciate it for what it is and what it adds to my life when I have it. I want to challenge my current privileged ability – and apparently my deep emotional “need” – to have light always at my fingertips. Our culture even has a virtual plethora of flashlights – to the point where some stores give them away free as marketing campaigns. But such abundance of light is not available in such cheap profusion here in Uganda, and “torches,” as they call them, are even a bit of a luxury, so much so that I don’t see many among the people at night.

These people have made peace with the darkness, just as their ancestors have done for centuries. In contrast, we westerners even live in a historical time of privilege, being a generation that will likely never lack light, even though my own mother remembered living “pre-electric” out on the farm in Idaho as a child.

I think I have a lot to consider…and again, I am humbled by it. I also seem to be in a bit of darkness about how to proceed.