Thursday, September 15, 2011
Recovering, Retracing, and Reflecting
A view of Kampala, capital city of Uganda
This post covers our final week in Uganda: three days spent recovering from malaria, and the remainder of the time retracing our route back through Tororo, Kampala, Entebbe, and finally home. As I walked through these final days I found myself reflecting on God's direction and purposes demonstrated to us and worked in and through us, as well. I hope you enjoy this final leg of the trip.
16 July, 2011
Having malaria gives me empathy for all the children we have seen suffering with it. Many of them still go to school and few can afford treatment, other than the plants that have been found to relieve symptoms. Ironically, Simon pointed these out to me on our hike up to Sipi Falls.
We had hoped to go back to the school today, and now our hopes are pinned on Monday. We have some business to take care of there and things that we left behind need to be organized. We also have blessing bags for the board members and gifts of clothing for the teacher’s children. At the moment we don’t even have the strength to put them together.
John is taking good care of Denise and me. We are both very thankful to have him here, especially because we are on the 5th floor with no elevators. Sarah checks in on us regularly and gets us what we need from town. She often sits with Denise to give her company. Our other Ugandan friends call to check on us as well. The hotel staff has been very gracious, saying, “Sorry, sorry,” when they see us. We know we are being prayed for and we have the best care available.
18 July, 2011
It has now been three full days of sitting around the hotel feeling awful. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've had more sleep in the past three days than I had in the whole two weeks before I got sick! Since I started treatment almost immediately after symptoms began I was expecting to bounce back more quickly, so when I awoke still sick this morning I was discouraged. Denise was feeling better, but not well enough to travel. If you knew what the trip to KPS is like, you would understand! Besides, it took everything we had in us last night just to put together the blessing bags and clothing for John to take to the school.
We sent John off to finish up the business at the school this morning, and the new teachers we hired for the school came to the hotel along with Harriet, a new assistant for Sarah, our board chairwoman. When they realized we were sick they wanted to pray over both Denise and me individually. Wow! What passion and fervency we each experienced! The tears flowed freely, and I think with that came a bit of strength. I was later able to ride in a car to a dressmaker's shop and buy what must be the only "night dress" in Mbale! I have been sleeping in John's t-shirts, and wanted a nightgown so bad! I had asked several where one could be found, and nobody seemed to know.
Christine, a lady from the UK who works in prison ministry here, and her friend Steve, took me to this woman's shop. When I asked about a night dress, she said she only had one. I tried it on and it fit!
"I think it has my name on it," I said.
"For a child of the King there are only Divine appointments," she replied. Although it is typical of the kind of faith we observe among believers here each and every day, I will never forget her comment, and I will always treasure my precious Divinely appointed nightgown!
John is back from the school, having finished all of his assignments. I am feeling better at the moment -it comes and goes. I have only had watermelon and Sprite today. When we asked for watermelon last night they said they didn't have any. Quite a while later they appeared with some at our door, apparently having gone to the market to buy it! The hotel personnel have been accommodating.
I have a humorous room service story, however. Last night John ordered a pizza, and it arrived with two missing pieces. The temptation must have been too much for someone -we hope they enjoyed it! To repeat our now often-used expression, "TIA -This is Africa." This story will go in our list of TIA anecdotes!
In case you are supposing that we are miserable here and missing home, I need to let you know: the weather reports I have seen from Iowa make me want to stay in Africa. It is currently only 72 degrees in our non-air conditioned room on the 5th floor! We have a fan and a gentle cross-breeze. During the night it gets a little chilly and we have to close the windows. It rains a little bit most days, but the rain has never interfered with our activities. A wedding took place on the grounds next to us from Saturday morning until 3:00 am on Sunday with lots of music, drums, trilling, and dancing. It rained hard a couple of times, but the party went on and on!
Each time I come to Uganda it seems that God gives me a passage of Scripture for the trip. This time the passage He put on my heart was Psalm 103. I have found it applicable on many occasions throughout the trip, but last night when I was feeling very low I asked John to read it to me. It then occurred to me that God knew I would need reminding on this trip that He "heals all our diseases" and that "He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust!" Oh boy, do I feel like dust! It has filled me with contentment. He is as near to me here as He would be anywhere. I know there have been many prayers on Denise's and my behalf, so I have to believe that He has allowed this illness for a reason, and His healing will come in His time and in His way.
21 July, 2011
We have been on the move the past few days, and our activity has required every ounce of strength in my being. Denise and I got rechecked and got some new medications before we left Mbale on Tuesday. We went to an American-run children’s hospital for this. Dr. Derek who had visited us at the hotel is the executive director of this Christian hospital. When we arrived the staff was finishing morning devotions and they continued humming and singing hymns as they checked us over. It was quite reassuring and soothing. Our blood tests came back negative for malaria, but we were told to rest for another 24 hours.
We didn't exactly follow the doctor's advice. Although we didn’t feel up to it, we stopped at Royal Palace School on the way to Tororo and handed out clothing and bags. First, we visited each humble classroom at the school that has swelled to qround 150 students.
Then Denise and I sat on chairs and handed out clothing and school bags to each class as they passed by.
John was kept busy toting suitcases and even helping to dress the younger children.
We overexerted ourselves –sweat poured from us -but the joy expressed by the children and staff was worth it. Pastor Stephen and his wife said it was like Christmas for the kids. They had never had such a thing done for them, and they were so excited that much of the community even gathered around, peeking in the gates to see what was going on.
We settled in at the Prime Hotel once again. Wednesday we felt better and accomplished many things in Tororo. First, we met with the Minister of Education and the Inspector of Schools for the area to discuss holding a teacher conference next year. They were enthusiastic about the conference held in 2010, and were happy to hear that we have plans to do another one. They had some good suggestions for topics, as well.
Next, we visited Agururu Primary School –a government school that accepts students with special needs. Some of their teachers had attended last year’s conference and requested a visit from us. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. The headmaster took us on a tour of the school, visiting each classroom. We had a delightful visit!
The students seemed happy and were accommodated as well as could be expected. Many of the special needs students board at the school, but the living area is lacking.
After praying about it we returned the following day and left money for the school to purchase mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets, as there were children in need of these essentials.
We also returned to Smile Africa, where we visited Pastor Ruth’s mother and gave the adolescents book bags filled with some self-care items (including sewing kits, washcloths, lotion, toothbrushes, New Testaments, etc.)
We also gave a monetary gift to each of the staff members, who were extremely happy and grateful. They all remembered John from his Fist Aid class, and some of the teachers even call him, “Dad.”
Pastor Ruth invited us for dinner at her house that evening, and we enjoyed delicious food plus a relaxing time with Ruth and baby Esther -a delightful one year old who was rescued as a newborn from the garbage of a slum by Pastor Ruth a year ago.
Ruth's husband Basil, Pastor Stephen, and some men from Hope 4 Children joined us for dinner as well.
Today (Thursday) was our morning to finish up business in Tororo. Denise wanted to stop at a purse shop we had passed every day “just for fun.” The owner of the shop was so excited when we each bought a purse! She said that she had just finished her morning devotions and had prayed that God would send her a special blessing that day. She showed us where she had put her Bible just as we drove up. She was convinced that we were the answer to her prayers!
John had been eyeing the fire department all week, so we stopped in to take a picture of him with a Ugandan fire truck. The firemen were so excited to meet him! They all wanted their picture taken with him, and they also requested copies of the pictures!
We said our goodbyes to Pastor Ruth and Pastor Stephen began driving us back to Kampala.
Pastor Ruth had informed us over dinner that she had received a limited time offer to buy 500 Bibles just released by the Bible Society of Uganda in the Karamajong language. She has pastors who travel to Karamoja to take the Gospel to this primitive, violent people. So after discussing and praying about it we decided we could come up with the money needed to purchase these, and Denise called her to tell her. She was giddy with excitement!
When we reached Kampala, we went to the Bible House and met with the associate director and the Karamajong project leader, who welcomed us as only Ugandans can, and discussed many aspects of their ministry with us. They were so pleased to be able to distribute these Bibles through Pastor Ruth (the men knew her), as they know that the Bibles won’t be given as “objects” but as the Word of God. They will be given with prayer, a message, and instruction for their use. In the end the Bibles cost even less than what we were expecting–equivalent to a little less than $2.00 each! What a deal! Do you suppose God had a hand in that? The Bibles will be delivered to Tororo.
We stopped at a market to do a little shopping before checking in at Lubowa Gardens, our starting place, and having a delicious dinner of sizzling chicken and beef.
On Friday, 22 July, we went to the Entebbe Zoo. It was good to be out and feeling almost normal. The zoo itself wasn’t impressive, but we had a good time there with Saphan, Alex, Alvin, and Elvis (the boys are pictured below).
We arranged to meet Agnes of Early Learning Center, and found ourselves at the site of a guest house and coffee shop her husband is building on the shore of Lake Victoria. It was a lovely place to sit and visit for a while.
We discussed holding a teacher conference in Entebbe, and Agnes agreed to help us with that. We gave her our remaining clothing for her Early Learning Center students, some of whom are refugees or children of prisoners. It was great fun spreading a little more love and joy.
Saturday was our last day to wake up in Uganda, and the day we headed back to the U.S.
I snapped these last photos of the gorgeous bougainvillea planted around Lubowa Gardens. Breathtaking!
We left the hotel near noon for our grueling return trip -3 hours to Addis Ababa, 17 hours to Washington DC, a 6 hour layover in DC, 3 hours to Chicago, and then a 5 hour car ride home. Of course there were several hours between flights, as well. In all, the trip was nearly 40 hours long!
A young man named Chester sat by me on the long flight to DC. A teacher from Cameroon, he was chosen to teach math in a South Carolina high school for the next three years. He had never traveled out of his own community, and was both excited and anxious. Throughout the flight he would say, “Mom? Mom? What does this mean?” or some similar question. When we got to DC John and I invited him to go with us through immigration and customs, then we steered him in the right direction for his connecting flight. He was in awe of Dulles airport. "Is the what all U.S. airports are like?" he asked. We assured him that for the most part they differ only in size. He is in for some culture shock!
We were quite tired by the time Tristan and Robin met us in Chicago, but we both stayed awake until we picked up our car (now with a new transmission) in the Quad Cities. It was Tristan and Robin’s anniversary, so we ate with them, but decided that neither of us were in good enough shape to drive. Each of them drove a car while both of us slept the remainder of the way home.
HGEA’s July 2011 trip to Uganda officially came to an end near midnight Sunday, July 24th. Many significant, amazing, unbelievable things took place, and we were blessed beyond words. None of it would have been possible without all the support of our friends and prayer warriors. We thank God for our supporters daily and ask Him to bless you for your compassion and generosity toward the people of Uganda. As Pastor Ruth often remarks, “They will never be the same!”
If you are interested in contributing toward next year's trip, please visit my Heart of God East Africa Donor Page!