Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A wonderful but exhausting day

Greetings! It is the end of the day. We had a wonderful, but exhausting day. We went to Mary Kevin's school where our guys built eight 14 ft benches for the kids to sit on. The ladies visited classrooms and then tackled a huge storage area full of old textbooks, a few good books, and many rotted books. What a mess!

We then went to Namirembe Primary, the site of our first library. It was so good to see everyone for the third year. I checked all the shelves in the library and almost every book I picked up had been checked out many times. It was amazing. The kids could tell you all about their favorite books. Jane, the headmistress, had put together a welcoming program, which was great fun. Our team then took on some guys in basketball, using the basketball goals we provided last year. After a truly funny game, with the whole school including teachers cheering, we moved on to play a contest of netball. They also provided a huge meal. It was a great day. I am just so excited about the success of the library since it was our first!

Backtracking: After completeing the libraries, each one had a grand opening ceremony. Namungoona, which is the one that has children who don't have meals during the day, had a big tent donated, had baked a big cake, and had several speakers, with music by the students. We appreciated the ceremoney (though we would be quite happy without one), because we knew it must have been hard for them to find the funds to put it together. Their gratitude is overwhelming.

Mengo Secondary had a very dignified ceremony. The headmaster is very eloquent, but funny. We had a two-tiered caked. He asked me to say a few words before I cut the cake. I could hardly believe my brain kicked in and I said that the cake was like those in the room - two separate groups, yet now one. Hard to believe I could think that fast, isn't it. :) We then planted trees - one for the USA, Uganda, and Herb - the combination of Uganda and the States.

Bat Valley: I forgot to mention that when we played them in soccer, our goofy team did all these crazy warm-ups, such as jumping jacks, toe touches, jogging in place, and side shuffles. The other team watched awhile as they died laughing and then imitated us. What a hoot! The 1,500 students had a great time watching the 'sideshow'!

At the Bat Valley library opening, a small boy went on stage and read his Mother Goose Rhyme book. Some girls did a skit about the importance of the libraries and then they had students in traditional African costumes singing and dancing to the music of the bongo drums. This school presented gifts to the whole team, as well as cards to take home to those who were supporters of the 2007 project.

That evening, five of our six principals were present at a huge banquet at the Equatorial Hotel, one of the nicest in Kampala. The other principal had a death in her family. Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo was the guest speaker. We felt so humbled as we heard over and over words describing the books that they knew would expand their children's knowledge and benefit them now and in the future. They were so kind and we were honored to have our friend, the Archbishop, with us as a special guest.

The next day, we left early for the Archbishop's orphanage at Mukono. He has about 80 children, with 15 of those being blind. The blind children were all really young and so precious. They all sang for us and we returned the favor. They enjoyed a few tunes on my accordion as we sang. Paul had a young boy name Junior following him everywhere and holding tight to his hand. We started calling Paul daddy. :) He was the cutest little boy!

We had tea and cake at the Archbishop and Ruth's home. They also surprised us with a large dinner at the orphanage.

We then climbed back on our bus for the trip to Mbale. We were packed in this bus with about 20 boxes we needed to deliver. The seats were thin; the bus was filthy; and the roads were horrendous! We laughed and said we looked like we needed to add a few goats and chickens to the bus. I must admit, with this group, we have just laughed at everything - including this bus. When I get to Mbale, I feel like I have arrived home. It was so good to see Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu, and their daughter Mercy. The group had a nice guest house in which to stay. They didn't have hot water - but you have to make sacrifices. :)

Sunday we went to the Okumu's church. Their services are inspiring, lively, and simply wonderful! Their people love to dance in church. By the end of the song service there went Sarah with a group of our ladies singing and dancing across the front of the church, with Paul singing and dancing with the choir. Wilber is a fantastic preacher and we all enjoyed the sermon. At 2:00, the team held a children's service using puppets and action songs. There were probably close to 250 in attendance. At 4:00, Melissa Busby and Debbie Rhodes, who are both pastors' wives, attended a pastors' wives fellowship, headed by Sarah. Dave Moore (Kansas) spoke at the evening youth service.

That evening we returned to the guest house. Our cooks were three members of Wilber's choir, who had sacrificed church to feed us. We had them join us for the meal and then they agreed to sing for us. Wilber and Sarah came in and joined them in music. The walls vibrated and the music could be felt all the way down to your soul. It was truly an awesome way to end the evening.

Yesterday morning, we visited last year's school and Namatala Laurel Library. It also seemed to be going well. It looked beautiful. They had added some large paper mache animals to the tops of the bookshelves and put up more posters. I took the group back to a slum area behind the school where many of the children live. We went in a few homes. One home was a rectangular, mud building with three doors, each a different tiny home. The one we went in was so small and dark. It is home to a mother and ten children. As we walked through this area, the poverty was so stark. Yet, the kids and adults were so friendly - once again speaking about how the students bring the books home and share them with their families. We are so honored to add a bit of joy and hope to their lives.

Our team is getting fairly famous for being able to sing the Ugandan national anthem and the national school song. We bust out in it at every occasion just to surprise everyone. It has been fun to watch their reactions.

I better wrap this up. Every day has been wonderful! Today, I was figuring up children with which we have interacted. The total is around 6,000! What more could one ask for?!

I can't say enough about this team. Each one has been a trooper - even though we have been on the go from morning to night! It has been an amazing adventure. What a privilege to serve this wonderful people in Uganda who have become our dear friends.

I hope all is well on your side of the world. Keep us in your prayers. We are off to Northern Uganda tomorrow.

Love and best wishes,


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