Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eight Hour Trek To Kiburara.

All of the Ugandans are so very friendly! We have felt very welcomed and are grateful for the friendships we are developing.

So far, we have visited 6 wells. One well had no pump head, one well was working but the water took a long time to pump and come out, and the other four wells were non-functional.
Joseph, our driver, let Bart take the wheel with his International Drivers’ License and said he drove like a ‘commando.’ Bart is not sure what he meant, but had fun!

We installed both Rainwater Collection/Catchment Systems (RCS) today. The installation crew arrived yesterday, and worked yesterday and today to install the RCSs. The systems included all the gutters, downspouts, two 10,000 litre water tanks, and 3 filters to make sure the water is drinkable immediately from the tap.

Afterwards, we drove to Ibanda to get fuel (for the 3rd time – total of 750,000 UGX = $300), bought 3 mattresses (2 for Covenant Mercies facilities), 5 pillows, Coke, an Energy drink, rice, baby formula, and also checked on 2 more 10,000 litre water tanks.
We enjoyed a great dinner of goat stew, rice, mashed potatoes, chapati, and tea.
We will have a chicken butchering session in the morning to watch ‘dinner’ being prepped.

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Our first stop of the day was at a medium sized church, where we were surrounded by children shaking our hands, and joined in worship for a little while. We introduced ourselves and left shortly afterward headed for Pastor Ben Nbasa’s church.

His church had been meeting in a building without a roof for several years. Walls had been in place, and a fine layer of straw covered the dirt floor, but blue tarps provided the only shelter until three weeks ago when they were finally able to have a roof installed. The service was about three hours long, with worship, testimonies, a message from Pastor Moses, and several introductions. Children worshiped in the middle of the room while parents and adults were against the walls near sets of benches, and the passion of this congregation’s worship was powerfully sincere.

After the service, Pastor Ben invited the team to his offices for a lunch which a member of his staff had prepared for us. We had chicken, eggs, and soda, but what pulled some of us up short was the chicken. It didn’t look like chicken. And maybe that’s just because we’re so used to seeing nice and neat chunks of boneless meat arranged on a silver platter. It was strange pulling off hunks of chicken off random bits of bone, but we were hungry, and it was good. Grease coated our fingers as we got up from the table to wash and say goodbye as we headed off to visit yet another church.

People have welcomed us by giving us bottles of water. At first I thought it was a one-time thing, but it’s happened everywhere we’ve gone. Churches and schools have all thanked us for visiting by giving us bottles of water. What must it cost for these leaders to buy us water when they cannot afford it for themselves or their families?

A swarm of children – literally – would surround you if you took their picture and showed it to them. It was amazing how many children would crowd, pushing, shoving, hands reaching, necks craning, to get a glimpse at the bright screen that showed them what they looked like. Erin, Bart, and I took many pictures of these children, bright white teeth flashing, huge brown eyes gaping, colorful dresses and tattered shirts staring into the camera, it was adorable and endearing to see the excitement on their faces to see the Muzungo taking photos of them.

While we were gone, Mary spent the day at the church in Kiburara and made beads with some of the ladies here. They’ve been working on creating beads from paper to make jewelry to sell. It’s a lot of work, but we’re working and praying toward great success for the ladies as they prepare to eventually go to market with their products.

The church in this community was in a small mud-caked building no longer than 40 feet long. In spite of its size, it was packed with believers worshiping God. Drums, clapping, and children’s voices dominated the hot, still air as these wonderful Christians sang with all their hearts. After introductions were made, with many Hallelujahs and Amens, we were asked to sing a song for the congregation. It’s a good thing Bart had gotten Erin and me to sing “In Christ Alone” on the earlier drive; we all got up there and sang it for the believers, who picked out a drumbeat and clapped with us. Then three ladies from the congregation blessed us with a song, complete with choreographed movements and harmonies. Shortly after that, we made our way from the church to the banks of Lake George which was some 300 yards away. 

We laughed as we watched several of the boys jumping in the shallow waters, doing flips and dunking each other until we noticed the water containers they had taken out there with them. And then we saw the cow-pies littering the ground near the water’s edge, and the trampled grass where the animals had come down to drink. Finally we realized that the people of that village drank from and bathed in the same water that cow dung was swept into during the rains, and that they shared this water source with the cows themselves. It pulled me up short when I saw this firsthand. Dysentery is only one of the many problems caused by the poor water quality, and there is no other water source available to them at present. And yet the incredible joy and hospitality these people had despite their circumstances astounded us: we were given several purified water bottles and a bag full of oranges from their fields.

Before heading home we stopped in at a well at the Kanara Gospel Center, where we discovered the well, which hasn't even been up for a year, services 1,000 to 1,500 people a day and is still going strong. Although a part had gone bad within its first five months, the community leaders in charge of the well took the initiative to see to its repair and set it back on track, adding security measures to protect the pump lever from being unnecessarily abused. It was the first well we had seen with this added security protections.

Bed time; but the bar next door is blaring its music again. Last night they didn't knock off until 3:30 AM, so we would appreciate prayers for another power outage (including an outage for their generator) so that we can be well rested for tomorrow’s work! 
This web site gives you much more in-depth details posting a link to the teams other blog sites:


In short the team picked up another traveler (John) and made the eight hour trek to our friends in Kiburara.

Some great photos are being sent, and I will try to post them of the reunion in the village. Mary spent much of the day with the head master at the new vocational school and was helping the sewing instructor with projects that will help produce income for the students. Much needed supplies were also given to the staff.

They completed the rain collection system on the roof of the school in one day just before a huge down pour. Because it is rainy season one tank on the new system filled over night. Sweet success.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Trip Full Of Activity

Day four in Kampala was probably the busiest so far. By 8:20 sharp they were out the door, cramming in the Land Rover with Joseph at the wheel, and headed out to the first of what was supposed to be only two meetings with the various attorneys working with us to register the land bought in Kiburara. There had been a setback due to a lack of information being given, and Bart and Andrew were particularly anxious to resolve it as soon as possible, so work on the land could begin. Mary and Beatrice (our host’s wife) left us to shop for fabric for the vocational school while Andrew, Bart, and I (Cat) went to meet our first attorney. Everything was smooth sailing, even the hectic but ironically laid back traffic, until we met the second attorney where we ran into a few snares of the previous delay’s nature, resulting in two more appointments being made, and setting us back at least two and a half hours.
Consigned to falling a few hours behind schedule, we sat down to lunch at a Chinese restaurant which sold a mixture of Ugandan and Indian food with some Chinese food on the side, and called Chris at Farming God’s Way to let him know our revised schedule. We had hoped to meet him at 3pm 80 kilometers away in Jinja so he could show us around the farm he oversees and tell us about the style of agriculture he and his organization implement. We ended up arriving at the farm past five. Chris met with us and took us around to various plots, educating us on how “Farming God’s Way” technique works. Although they are affiliated with Katie Davis and the Amazima program, and though she does her work there every Saturday, they are separate entities. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool being on her turf and seeing where she works. Chris, a “no nonsense” Canadian who’s lived in Uganda since the late 1990s, showed us the differences between the traditional forms of farming and the methods used by “Farming God’s Way”. Part of their ideology is that the earth responds and yields its best when it is treated the way in which God designed it to be treated. Therefore, their methods, including zero tilling, using natural mulch to protect the earth’s nutrients and prevent tilting of the land itself, proved to be far more effective at consistently producing better, healthier, denser crops than the traditional methods of farming. Chris proved to have a wealth of knowledge that he was most eager to share with us, and we tried to absorb as much of it as we could. He explained to us how much he wanted this knowledge to reach as many people as possible so that the land could be used more effectively and fruitfully, and so that farmers would honor the Lord through the work he gave them. His message made so much logical sense; it would have been hard to find a point of contention or significant flaw in it. Chris is a trainer of trainers, meaning he goes to different places in the Southern, Eastern, and Northern regions of Uganda to train enthusiastic and driven farmers to know how to better care for their land. Farming God’s Way depends on three aspects: spiritual, management, and technical. It’s not possible to only utilize one or two of these methods; like a 3-legged stool, if one leg falls, the whole structure can no longer stand. To farm the way God intended it to be, there must first be a personal relationship with God; managing and stewarding the earth well is a job God personally gave mankind at the very beginning. And finally, farming is an occupation that requires much forethought and not just brute force. There are technical sides to it that cannot be ignored, such as when to plant, how much to plant, where to plant, etc.. Combining these three aspects well produces a means of farming that is done the way God intended it to be. When measures of success came up, he made a comment that he would consider success to be when farmers are utilizing Farming God’s Way methods without knowing who the organization itself is.

Our team would be grateful for your prayers as we head off to Kiburara to begin the second phase of our work, for good productivity, that the Lord would bless these water tanks for the Alpha and Omega School, for Mary as she has persistent sinus difficulties, and that the remainder of the land registration would move smoothly and quickly, with no more unexpected hurdles or obstacles. Prayer for the continual overall health of the team would be very much appreciated as well. :)

​We left just as the sun was setting and lightning storms were flashing across the sky. On our way out of Jinja we crossed over the River Nile.  Although it was nighttime at that point, Joseph, our driver, took us to the origin of the Nile where we got to see the river of the Pharaohs’, from which Moses was delivered as a baby in a basket, and the river where God displayed his power by turning its waters to blood. Although it was pitch black, we could barely make out the water hustling past us over a wooden dam-like structure, and were able to take pictures thanks to a caretaker who became our spontaneous, stand-in tour guide. We didn’t get back to the Wingate Guesthouse until well past 11PM. Today we are heading to Kiburara, an 8 hour drive out of Kampala to finish setting up the rainwater collection systems and finalize our work with securing the land for the three businesses.

See you in Kiburara!

Hopefully as the team is interacting with a multitude of individuals  each will learn from the other. What is working, what isn't.

No need to reinvent the wheel here. One concept that Katie's  group has had with success is called "Farming God's Way". Using sustainable farming methods that are good for the environment they are able to dramatically increase yields with little disturbance to the soil. This concept has worked well the the landscape industry in our own country and can now be applied to farming.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fast Foreword

The team  is eight thousand miles away. When I last spoke to Mary on Sunday (a miracle of technology, with a five second delay), the team had settled in for their work. 

Bags were packed with: sustainable business materials,  extra laptops for the Alpha and Omega School, sewing and teaching supplies, financial books and annual reports for business and financial training, water filters for clean water and for installation on the Rainwater Collection Systems at the school and church, medical questionnaires to assess medical facilities, medical delivery processes, clinic and hospital access, songbooks, and more items to strengthen the sustainable aspects within Ugandan communities.

They will be working to establish sustainable Ugandan Companies, purchasing 32 acres of farm land in Kiburara western Uganda. This land will be used for vocational training and livestock production, a soap factory run by locals and a much needed orphanage modeled after the Sanyo orphanage in Kampala.

They also plan to meet with two different attorneys in Kampala in order to finalize a Ugandan Bank established in the village called a Sacco. This bank is like a savings and loan company for the villagers run by locales for community development. 

Tomorrow they are off to Katie Davis’ orphanage, (you remember her book “Kisses From Katie”), to speak with Chris Sperling about an exciting natural method of farming called “Farming God’s Way”, east of Kampala (the second largest city) called Jinja. Then back to the Kawanda Guest House in the west.

God knows their steps and all they need to be about today. They are on His mission, and in His hands. There is no better place to be. They are having the most incredible time of a their lives. This is impossible to explain. If you have ever been on a short term missions trip, in a land far from home, it is an experience some are terrified of, some are exasperated by, and some could only wish for. It truly is the experience of a life time, and one this team is embracing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Green Lights Ahead

After much research, council, conversations and prayer we agreed this was an opportunity not to pass up. All the practicals; money, shots, visas, would and could be over come and dealt with. We serve a big God who has big plans. As long as we are walking in accordance with those plans, what's to fear.

President Roosevelt once said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".
Having fun at the Vocational School

          So we said "let's do this thing!".

Two weeks was still a short time to prepare. we moved into full prep mode and everything fell into place. It will take another entire blog to recount all the excellent folks who felt a kindred spirit in contributing funds, and a whole other group who couldn't send money but offered up much needed prayers. I n God's economy both are necessary.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Vision

What Bart shared that evening was a confirmation of what Mary and I had discussed over the past two years. What would it look like to live among our African brothers and sisters, along side them, sharing with them, working, laughing, and crying along side them. Being "salt & light" in a community that so desires to see an alternative life style.          

Mary and John in Kiburara Uganda
It was never our desire to impose a Western point of view on the African church, but it was our desire to listen and to serve them in ways they requested and asked for.

We experienced what many Americans experience on their first trip over. An overwhelming sense of generosity and kindness from people who didn't know us at all. This experience was nothing like what we saw in the media, or expected.

Simply put, we received much more from our host and hostesses than what we received. They say once you visit the continent you are forever changed by that experience  This was true in in our case.

Bart's vision was to meet practical needs in addition to spiritual needs. The wells that had been dug, the widow's homes that had been repaired, all necessary, all beneficial  but were there other practical investments that could be made to help the community?

Bart and his partner purchased 32 acres of land in Kiburara, (the village Mary and I had visited). They were interested in installing a rain collection system on the top of the new vocational school that had just been started the year before. They were interested in locating and repairing the twenty fresh water wells that had been dug.They had a vision for the acreage......... but what did that look like?

All practical, all beneficial.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Meeting

So the team leader from SMI we had never met. This isn't unusual in a large church like ours with multiple services. We knew his wife and daughter from ushering Sunday mornings, but had never met her husband Bart.

Tuesday night we skipped our track out with our running club at the local High School, and went to Bart's house to hear first hand of his vision and passion for reaching into developing countries and creating opportunities for local villagers. His new enterprise is called Sustainable Missions.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

So Tuesday was just crazy - they needed an answer soon. Was she in or out? Wanting to go, deep down for all the right reasons, a love of the country, a love of the  the people, and the desire to make a difference; but she only had a 48 hour window to decide! 

Meeting with girl friends for lunch, talking to our daughters, asking me what each of us thought, it was unanimous... GO!

Nov said it best;. Question:"so why are you thinking you should NOT go?" Answer: not having the money, and being afraid of travelling without Paul! 

So Nov said again, "why do you think you shouldn't GO?"  She got it! If God was in this thing, and we all thought that he was, he would provide the funds, and he would provide the courage. 

A funny thing about courage, (like Grace) you don't get it in advance, it comes right when you need it. So it was settled, she was going to Uganda!