Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Internet - normal in Uganda

This is my sixth attempt to type this email in the last hour. I type - poof goes the electricity. They did try the generator, but just as I typed that bit of information in the last email - and included that I bet it would run out of gas, it did!

Sunday started off great. We only had one eight-seat van for our 15 volunteers. We stuck the four men in the small back of the van where luggage should be. It was really hilarious. Their heads were facing forward with their chins resting on the back of the back seat. Every time we turned a corner or hit a bump, loud groans were emitted, as we women howled with laughter! Dave named it the Muzungu Mobile. Actually, as we passed groups of people, we could here the laughter from the native people as well, as they observed the jammed van.

I wish I could think up new words this year to describe the service at Pastor Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu's church. I promise you, services in huge cathedrals and expensive churches would have a hard time comparing with those in this dirt-floor church. The joy and presence of God seems to just settle over all those present, as our wonderful friends turn loose and sing and dance before the Lord. It is truly hard not to set your feet to dancing, along with the choir, as the beautiful worship music practically raises the rafters. Actually, when our favorite song began – “Set My People Free” (Moses), I do believe I did see a line of muzungus with Sarah leading them dancing across the front of the church and down the middle aisle.
Pearl Haven Christian Center

Paul sang in the service. He has shared a song for the past three years in the services. As I told him, he gets more relaxed and comfortable every year. I admit: his song was so beautiful - so worshipful - I was in tears. The sermon about the Holy Spirit at work in our lives each day truly touched hearts.

Later our group conducted a children's church. We sang “Making Melodies” and “Sing and Shout,” along with other fun, interactive songs. Sarah came up and led the children in “God is so Good,” followed by children leading the same song in their many varied tribal languages. Then we all sang together with everyone singing his his/her native language. Debbie White and Elena Mott were the voices for a fantastic puppet show featuring a hippo and crocodile, with the hippo trying to get the crocodile to open his present - the gift of salvation.

A little neighborhood boy came in the service. He had on some little pants with straps that hung on him with no underwear. Someone had tried to tie the straps together with a plastic bag. He wanted to hold everyone's hand and was quite interested in feeling of Dave's whiskers. It is difficult at times for the team to deal with the poverty they see as they interact with the children.

Later in the day, we held a youth service with Dave speaking. He did an excellent job...with a little help from his pastor, Cody Busby. :) Actually, this is the second year Dave has shared in the youth service. It is always good.

This team has all played a part in leading the services and sharing Christ, so if a name is not mentioned, be sure that that person was at the front of the church taking part in leading songs or speaking, as well. The team has worked together beautifully.

Sunday evening, the team met in the conference room of the hotel with Sarah, Wilber, Billy (Sarah's nephew), Nixon (who took care of us at the hotel) and John (our hotel driver). We furnished a great American dinner - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies! This was our last meeting in Mbale so as we sat around the table, many people shared:

Scott loved how singing and dancing became even more vibrant and active as the services progressed ... first service, second service, and then the youth service. He laughed and said the youth service was like a talent show. One guy seemed to even be dancing the Salsa to the music.

Someone mentioned that there were some children in church from North Roads Primary that carried their books we had given to them in their hands.

Dave said he wondered if perhaps African music was a glimpse of what it would be like in Heaven. He laughed remembering the fact that he had just made a major point in his sermon when a rooster crowed really loudly.

Melissa was humbled to hear that the church was taking up clothing to deliver to a poor church in another city. As Wilber said - if you have two outfits, donate one!

Buming was impressed with the huge trees growing out of rocks at Sisiyi Falls. It was explained that birds fly over them and drop seeds through “poop” and the trees are formed.

Dr. Patrick and Helen Mutono and family. Read about their medical mission: http://www.lodoi.com/.

We were impressed that Dr. Patrick and his family came back to Uganda after living eight years in the States and earning his degree in the UK because he felt he needed to be able to answer the following: If he were talking to God, how would he explain what he had done with his life.

Donita thought we should tape a service at the church and sell it as an aerobic workout tape. :)

Debbie mentioned she was impressed with how the people realize the significance of the libraries and how they will provide greater possibilities in life. They understand the difference the libraries will make.

Paul said he was impressed with how the team fit together - each with unique talents and skills.

Buming loved the morning sermon and found it thought provoking.

Wilber commented that he was impressed on how each team member took ownership of their part of the library. By letting Ugandan people help us, we were showing them love. He said that young men's lives have been changed through working with us. They will do things more excellently and timely.

Wilber was thrilled with the Christian books donated to his church. They are beginning a School of Ministry now that they have reference materials.

I donated the accordion to Nixon - who is improving by leaps and bounds. Dave donated a new pair of shoes to John, our driver, wrapped in what looked like Valentine's paper! Funny!

In the first week, we created two absolutely beautiful libraries stocked with thousands of books for almost 7,000 students, interacted in many small groups - as well as one-on-one with children, played many sports games with teachers and students, and shared His love with each student, as well as teachers and administrators. The team has become exactly that. We have also definitely been part of a larger team, as so many people from the church and schools have played a part in all that we have accomplished.

This morning we walked to Namirembe Primary, which houses our first library. They held a huge assembly outside with the choir singing and students giving summaries of books. The students have reading time each day and visit the library each week to check out books. As we met with the teachers, one after another told of the huge difference the libraries have made in the students' speaking, reading comprehension, and testing scores. They said that students that have left and moved to secondary school have come back to report that they attribute their high scores to having a library in their primary school. They also said that many parents try to move their children to Namirembe Primary when they hear the reports about the library and the changes it has made in the children's reading ability.

Later we played netball, soccer, and basketball with the students. Scott was teaching karate to a large group of boys and David Bien was showing them how to “stand” on one hand. Donita had the bubble blower going and many of our group were holding hands and children. What a beautiful day.

We also met with the students, 200 at a time. We again had the opportunity to sing Christian songs and share about the love of Jesus.

There aren't really words to describe how wonderful it is to go back with teams for the fourth year to this school. We have developed such wonderful friendships. We are so excited when we see each other; we just dash into each other's arms! We are developing the same relationships with our others schools - but this will always be our “baby.”

This is long so I will wind it up. A headmistress that has a school in the largest slums in Kampala has emailed me for over a year wanting a library. Today she persuaded us to bring the team to see her school. The school was definitely in the slums, and could use a library, the same as many others.

The funniest part: She had her car to carry four of us and ordered a matatu (white small window van) for the remainder. This matatu was truly a disaster. It probably should have been in the junk yard some time sooner. But, they bravely piled in. However, when it was time to return to our hotel, the fun began. The headmistress said she had to get her children, so that we all needed to take the matatu. The legal limit of passengers is 14 - we were 18! I admit ... I sat in the front and tried to keep from laughing all the way back. I ride matatus often, but try never to put my teams in them. We were crammed - really crammed - with little air. Put that with hitting major traffic jams - two lanes that were now at least four, people and motorcycles weaving in and out - motorcycles headed the wrong direction in traffic, cars that you could touch by putting your hand out the window in any direction - and you can get a picture of our adventure.

Of course, you should add in some really bumpy, dirt roads to the excitement. What fun! I think all visitors should experience this! The team did great and it gave us all a good laugh!

Have to go. The Internet access is closing. I hope this is readable since I can't go back and check!

Love to you all. What an amazing journey it has been! Your loved ones will be home before you know. Thanks for letting them travel!