Saturday, July 11, 2009
Day Three: On to Tororo
22 June, 2009
Denise and I awoke around 5 a.m. to the music of crowing roosters, even though the sun was still nowhere to be seen. Soon another distant sound caused us to wonder who was up that early chanting and beating drums. Stephen later told us it was the Muslims at a nearby mosque.
It felt good to shower! We strolled around the yard and discovered another set of rooms across the patio that house Stephen and Mary’s daughter, her husband, and their baby boy. Stephen presented us each with a copy of his worship CD, and we gave each of them a book.
At breakfast Stephen read the June 22 devotional from the book we had given him. Amazingly it was on the passage from Matthew 28:18b-20, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The devotional centered around God’s power, both infinite and infinitesimal. It emphasized that God’s power is all we need to go with us anywhere and to do His work of bringing others to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Stephen read with such expression and authority that we were all deeply moved, and of course we all agreed that it was a perfect message for us to hear on this particular day as we began our work in Uganda.
After a breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, toast, bananas, and African tea, we loaded up the 14 passenger van and left...the four of us, plus Pastor Ruth and George as the driver, looking like the Beverly Hillbillies with several of our suitcases tied to the top of the van. Our first stop was the bank, where we stopped to exchange our money. I exchanged five hundred U.S. dollars for 1,053,000 shillings –what a deal! The bank was guarded by men armed with rifles.
Military personnel carrying rifles were also positioned on nearly every downtown street corner. It is a crime to take pictures of the military, so we were very cautious with our cameras, but there were so many things that caught our attention: Women carrying large bundles and baskets on their heads; motorcycles with three or four passengers; bicycles carrying everything from large crates, to giant bunches of bananas, to women riding sideways, cradling a baby. George navigated the streets like a pro, but again, there seemed to be few rules of the road besides “Chicken.” All drivers are constantly honking their horns. At one point a turning car clipped the side of the van. We Americans all gasped collectively, but both George and the other driver continued on as though nothing had happened.
Our next stop was at the Bible Society of Uganda. There we purchased 15 boxes containing a total of 300 Bibles to take to Kings Primary School later in the week. Mind you, we now had fifteen boxes, 20 suitcases, and 6 passengers in and on the van as we headed north toward Tororo.
The rural roads also have many bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians, especially near the villages and towns. But now animals were added to the mix: goats, chickens, and small herds of cows frequently walked alongside the traffic or even wandered onto the roadway.
Pastor Ruth filled us in on some personal information and on Smile Africa’s history as we traveled. She began the ministry in 1997 as a ministry to those suffering with AIDS. Hers was one of the first Christian-based ministries to reach out to that group. The focus shifted in 2007 to ministering to the street children of Tororo. In that year many children were rounded up in Kenya, driven to Tororo by the pickup load, and deposited there. These children were regarded as pests and left to survive on their own. Today Smile Africa ministers to around 450 children daily. Around 2/3 of the children are from the Karamajong tribe, nomadic herders who engage in violent cattle raids and send their children out to steal on the streets. Many of these children have traveled to Tororo by attaching themselves to the underside of a car or by some other resourceful means. Smile Africa provides the children with a cup of porridge in the morning and a noonday meal, plus classroom instruction six days a week. They also teach the children many life-skills such as gardening, washing dishes and clothing, making brooms, etc.
We were so engrossed in Pastor Ruth’s stories that George’s sudden veer off the road caught us by surprise. Ruth had told us we would be stopping for lunch, but nothing could have prepared us for “chicken on a stick”! About twenty youth converged on the van on every side, many holding large “bouquets” of roasted meat on long sticks. Others extended baskets of avocados, bread, or fruit. All of them vied for our attention and our business, some even reaching inside the van. It was quite entertaining, though we felt bad. We really didn’t feel that it would be wise to eat the meat, not knowing how it was processed and prepared, or even how fresh it was. Chicken on a stick was clearly a favorite of Pastor Ruth and George, however!
It was difficult to see out of the van as we traveled because the windows are below easy eye level, and the van was so packed, there was little wiggle room. Still, I kept my camera ready and bent to peer out as much as possible. We drove through small villages; past rice paddies; and past fields of tea, maize, and sugar cane; through a large national forest, and even across the Nile River.
Our hotel in Tororo is new and quite beautiful! Our rooms are on the second floor. (There is no elevator, but I am perfectly fine with that.) Denise and I are roommates again. We have one double bed and one single, which I will sleep on. One mosquito fits over both beds. We are glad the room has a fan since there is no air conditioning. We also have a balcony and a window in the bathroom (yes, we have our own private toilet, sink, and shower head!) and a nice large fan. Jan and Jeanice are two doors down, and Grace, Pastor Ruth’s daughter, will be in the room between us. We have a perfect view of Tororo Rock from our balcony.
We just got checked in, and then we went to Pastor Ruth’s home for dinner. Grace had been busy cooking for us. We met Pastor Ruth’s husband and sons, Albert and Gilbert. They have a total of nine children, but only four still living at home. Their home is comfortable and homey. The meal was very good...samosas, chapati, rice, chicken, beans, cabbage, and soda pop. I wish I had been less tired. I regret not taking one picture at Pastor Ruth’s home, and I also regret eating only a little of the delicious meal. I have wonderful memories of the hospitality we received there, but sadly, my body was calling so loudly for sleep, I could only long to sink into the covers back at the hotel.
Unfortunately, back at the hotel we discovered that one of Denise’s bags was missing –the one that contained all of her clothing and personal items, plus the soccer balls she brought for the children. (She was clearly most concerned about the soccer balls!) She couldn’t remember specifically whether or not she picked it up from the Entebbe airport, and when we started looking at the lost baggage instructions they said that all lost luggage must be reported within 24 hours. That deadline had just passed. We sat down and prayed. Then she called her husband in California and asked him to contact Northwest Airlines. We learned that the bag had never made it to Entebbe. She also contacted Saphon (the former soldier whom we had met in Entebbe). Since he lives there she thought that he might be able to go to the airport if the bag was found. I promised Denise I’d take good care of her in the mean time, and we found a skirt and top of mine that she can wear tomorrow.