Sunday, July 05, 2009

Africa Saga, July 2-5

Family and Friends,

Heads up - the following will be a bit long, as I haven’t been able to get to an Internet café in the last few days. Consider it a four-day email and read part of it each morning with your Starbucks. You’ll have a laugh - yet see the things that touch our lives here! Please read. There is so much I want to share. Missing van, police stop, near miss ... things are great here!

July 2: Three of the ladies from Illinois have sponsored children from Namugoona Primary, which is the site of one of our libraries. Today we visited those children’s homes. For the sponsors, as well as the rest of us, it was rather heart wrenching. I accompanied Connie to visit the home of her sponsored child, which was a girl in 6th grade. Maggie’s parents are not living and she lives with her grandmother. We cut through little passages off the dirt path to get to her door. As we entered the tiny one room home, we saw one twin bed, which was for the grandmother, against the back well, and a three-bunk metal bed against the wall on the right. It was shoved tight against the grandmother’s bed, leaving only a small space on the floor for sitting on a mat. There was no other furniture – no room for furniture. The room was probably a little larger than the size of many of our bathrooms. Maggie has three siblings who have been sent to other relatives in the village because the grandmother doesn’t have income to support them. Some are not attending school. Maggie remained because Connie is paying for her schooling. The grandmother was so grateful; she threw her arms around each of our necks and danced for joy.

Debbie and Jeannie’s sponsored children are orphans, as well, one living with a grandmother that has had a stroke; the other with an aunt. Debbie’s little boy sleeps on a short sofa that doesn’t have cushions. One house seemed somewhat nicer, with two tiny rooms - but the dirt/mud was crumbling off the walls leaving the limbs showing. None of the homes have water or electricity. The kids go to the local well to get water before they leave for school. What more can I say other than thank God for our many volunteers who have continued to good works after their trip(s). Through Libraries of Love volunteers, hundreds of students have had their school fees paid; others have received school lunches; our volunteers who have been to Uganda have/are paying college fees for two young men; they have provided a fence for a school; donated shoes to an orphanage, and continued to support Libraries of Love through funding and volunteer work. Truly impressive people!

In the afternoon, we ‘launched’ the opening of Uplands High School Laurel Library. I know, I keep saying these libraries are awesome, beautiful, amazing, etc. - but they truly are. Add in the new maps and globes in the libraries and they are quite impressive. The people here are even more amazed and their gratitude is overwhelming. The opening was perfect with singers, dancers, dignitaries, plus the team trying to stay awake during another one of Madame Marshall‘s speeches. J After 13 libraries, we are experts and can put them together quickly. However, as I tell my volunteers – the schools consider every library a miracle. Thousands of children would never have books to read, if we didn’t bring them and make it possible for the students not only to read in class, but to share the books in their homes.

The evening found us at the home of Noah and Jane Semugoma. Noah is the headmaster of Uplands H.S.; Jane is the headmistress of Namirembe Infants. They invited several of our friends and administrators for a delicious dinner. When I am alone in Kampala, my ‘home away from home’ is with Noah and Jane. They always have my bedroom available and make me feel at home. They have been good friends for the past five years.

July 3rd - My kind of day!

Marsha and I got up early to go to the airport and collect the ladies ‘five day late’ luggage. The luggage was in her name, so they would only let her enter. She did an excellent job and was soon back with nine pieces of luggage, most containing things to give to children and adults here.

As we left the airport and was on the road into Entebbe Town, the police stopped our van at a traffic check.

I listened and watched as the police was pointing out three problems; our driver was licensed only to drive a lorry (truck) or a car (not true); part of the van’s registration on the windshield was covered (true) and, it was a passenger van - so the luggage should have been on top, with passengers in the seats instead of luggage (crazy). Our driver was getting nowhere, so I got out to visit with the police. He pointed on his paper to the violations with which we had been charged. I decided to try the friendly approach and soon talked him out of the luggage charge. The other two charges came to 85,000 schillings ($42.50). He wanted me to just give him the money and said I would receive a receipt later. I declined. Therefore, our driver had to take a boda (motorcycle taxi) to a local bank, where he would pay, and receive a receipt.

I saw local stores near so decided to walk to one to buy airtime for my phone. At the store, I found two really cute caps for my two grandsons. I had been looking for presents for them everywhere, so was totally thrilled to find these. We headed back to where the van and been; the van was missing, but the policeman was still there. He said the van driver had driven off looking for us. I excitedly pulled out the caps to show him, yakking on and on about my grandsons and how they were going to love the hats, plus my granddaughters. He found it hilarious that the missing van and the tickets didn’t bother me at all; I was just excited about the hats and my grandchildren!

We went back and picked up the rest of the team and headed for Mukono to create a library in the Martin Nkoyoyo Integrated School, which is home to sighted and blind children. It was founded by our good friend, Ret. Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo. It was a small library (only 300 students), so took hardly any time. An amazing girl scout troop from Round Rock First Methodist Church had collected books, and the stuffed animals that correlated with them, from Kohl's department store over a year’s period. The plan is for the blind children to feel the animals as their teacher, or a sighted child, reads the books to them. However, the girl scouts recorded the books on cassettes tapes, also, so they could listen. The teachers and students were ecstatic! The library was extra special with all the stuffed animals sitting by their books!

Finally, we were off to Mbale Town, which is a 3 ½ drive from Mukono. When we arrived at the long bridge at Jinja, the traffic was lined up for miles, as they were working on the bridge. Ugandan traffic stretching for endless miles is different than ours. It is every type of vehicle vying for every inch of space. The two lanes become five and there is barely a few inches between the vehicles in the front, back and sides. Actually it is not really lanes - it is just crammed vehicles scooting in any possible slot. After awhile, I was bored! So, I collected the only candy we had in the van - starburst - and gingerly opened my door and stepped out, squeezing between cars, matatu vans crammed with people, and trucks with lots of people standing in the back. I slowly walked between these handing out the candy. It was hilarious! Everyone was laughing and reaching for candy; people were even getting out of cars to come and get some. When I ran out, I went back to see what else I could donate to liven up the wait! Aha - we had friendship bracelets that we give to the students at the schools, in a variety of colors. I started back down the tiny area between vehicles. I now have all sorts of new friends that will remember the crazy muzungu handing out things! Everyone was having a good time, but when I reached the truck with the people in back, I heard engines started and had to make a dash for our van to avoid being squashed.

Soon after, there was this crazy truck that looked like it was driving sideways down the road. Unbelievable! The driver signaled our driver to pass. When we did we were looking at headlights of a semi! Being the brave soul that I am, I was riding in the front seat. So, of course, I yelled (laughing) "God, I’m coming home!" I must say, after many summers here, I had faith that somehow my driver would save the day. The ladies in back were a bit in shock, but then laughter filled the van. For their husbands reading this - no worry. Really they are quite safe. God is on our side.J

There you have it - a day of arriving luggage, missing van, police tickets, traffic jam turned into fun, beautiful library, and a close miss! That is what I call a perfect day in Uganda! LOVE IT!

We arrived in Mbale and the team checked in at our regular hotel, where we have become friends with the management and staff the past few years. I left the team and went home to Pastor Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu’s home. After spending six summers in their home, it is truly no different than stepping into my home in Pflugerville. It is where I belong and I am always thrilled to return to share all our news and many laughs!

July 4th

The next morning several of us walked to Namakwekwe Primary, which has now had a library for 10 days. It was Saturday, but many students still have classes that day. We couldn’t get in the library, but had time to visit several students. Their classes had already been to the library twice to borrow books and they excitedly told us books they had read. I then looked in the library window to see an enormous amount of cards in the file, meaning they had busy checking out books. Plus on the board was a lesson teaching the students how the spine label/fiction books are organized. I just wanted to dance! On the way ‘home’ later I was in the van and saw an older boy walking, holding a book. I had the driver stop and asked the young man to let me see the book. It had our spine label with the pocket inside. He said he was from Mbale Secondary and loves to read.

We celebrated the fourth at Sisiyi Falls … a bit of paradise.

I now have my boda (motorcycle taxi) driver’s number programmed in my phone. I do love to ride on bodas; it’s a crazy thing to do, but certainly livens up one’s life as you navigate through the traffic – definitely covering your eyes every once in awhile, while throwing up a quick prayer. J

Sunday – July 5th:

We just had a service at Pearl Haven, our home church, pastored by Wilberforce and Sarah. Somehow God uses the services at Pearl Haven to totally ‘work-over’ my heart and life each year. The praise that raises the rafters just melts down through my soul. I had tears in my eyes almost the entire service and could hardly speak at the end of it to introduce the team. I can hear the second service now as I am typing; I wish I could send it to you through email. The presence of God in the service makes me want to bow down on the dirt floor and thank God profusely that He chose me to serve in this county.

Thank you for your prayers. Again, sorry for the long email – but it isn’t often this trip that I have time to get on a computer.


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