Friday, June 13, 2008

Amazing Journey

Dear Family and Friends,

I have 25 minutes before we leave for the grand opening of the libraries!

The days have gone quickly, as we have been working intensely from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can't imagine the work this is, yet there is the feeling of total amazement as bare rooms turn into absolutely beautiful libraries stocked with thousands of books. Around the room you can hear cheers erupt as the different volunteers finish the section of the library on which they are working. In fact, yesterday, I was beside myself with joy, practically jumping up and down, as I finished putting all the books in the 300 section of the nonfiction in order. As I was making a fool of myself, someone yelled at me and told me I had missed five boxes! What can I say!

The team had a chance to meet with all 3,888 students at North Road Primary to sing and share yesterday. They marched them in about 300 at a time. Oh my! Those beautiful, shiny eyes and their smiles aren't something I can describe. Different team members rotated out speaking and leading in singing. As several mentioned, it was difficult at times to look at those huge smiles and then let your eyes travel down to the tattered clothes and shoes that were not fit to even be worn - or no shoes at all. I finally had to walk away yesterday as I was in tears, before returning.

There have been difficulties, which make great memories. The guys had a huge room to cut the lumber for the bookshelves. However, they then had to take it up a hill and three flights of short stairs to take it into the library. Also, they didn't have a separate room for us to sort the books, so the library was a crammed place with book sorting and the assembling of the bookshelves.

Our hotel and the staff have been wonderful, with many becoming our good friends. There is a bit of a problem with the water. We consider it a miracle if we have hot water. I haven't had a hot shower yet. However, Donita and Paul's water was down to a trickle yesterday, so she came to use mine - and had a hot shower!

Last night, we thought the school was going to feed us, so we called the hotel to cancel the evening meal. However, they told us they had just slaughtered the chickens so if we could come it would be good. We did!

The young man, Nixon, who is assigned to make things go smoothly for us at the hotel, loves my accordion. He asked yesterday morning if he could play it, so I left it with him for the day and he 'blessed' us both meals with his playing. We all tried to keep straight faces since he had a huge grin as he played, but it was pretty bad. My guess is I will be donating my third accordion to someone in Uganda!

We have had a van shuttle, and Mbale is small enough one can walk between the schools, but you miss part of the excitement. Yesterday I was telling Scott and Paul that my boda-boda motorcycle taxi was going way too fast. Paul laughed and said he thought his driver was trying to set a speed record until he saw Scott go whizzing past. What fun! Rest assured. Most team members are not riding boda-bodas. I did take a bicycle taxi yesterday which is fun, also.

Back to the opening ceremony, since I am running out of time. The ceremony will last from 11:30 - 3:30. We are meeting at North Road and then moving to Mbale Secondary to view the library. We then move back to North Road for the ceremony. We will have 15 speakers. Though most have been given 5- to 10-minute time slots, that never happen. The speakers are government or school officials. Rev. Wilberforce Okumu will introduce me, so it will be nice to be on the program after him. I admit, I found last year's speech and just reworked it. :) At the bottom of the program it says that the American team leader is giving out presents. I am not sure exactly what that means. We did bring presents for 7,000 kids and 300 teachers, but that has nothing to do with the ceremony. So what am I giving and to whom? Oh, there is one last line on the program. It says: lunch - close of ceremony. Unfortunately, lunch is whited out. :)

After the ceremony, we are taking on the Mbale Secondary soccer team. We have heard they have been practicing two weeks so they can slaughter us. They could have skipped the practice. We have then been invited to Wilber and Sarah's for the evening. For those that don't know, Wilber is a pastor that invited me to his home on my first trip to Africa. We met on the Internet through the Ugandan Embassy site. His wife is a high school English teacher in a village. His ministry was instrumental in God touching my heart about providing libraries and sharing God's love in Uganda.

Tomorrow is our day of rest. We are going away to have an African BBQ at a place that has a falls. A Ugandan doctor and his wife that I met in Austin own the land and falls and have groups come for food and fellowship. We will be planning our Sunday services. The morning will find us in Wilberforce's church - which is a total, overwhelming blessing. My team will then conduct a children's service and youth service in the afternoon. It will be a busy - but wonderful day.

My love and best to each of you. Please keep us in your prayers.


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