Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Such a Simple Thing

I have written about having Eye Clinics and giving away reading glasses.

On Monday night, we were sitting in the Church Service that we held after the Eye Clinic.

Pastor Darryl got up to preach and called out the Bible reference.  

In the front of the row, an older woman started digging in her bag. She first pulled out her Bible which was worn and had obviously been used a lot.

Then, she continued to dig until she pulled out her new reading glasses!  She gingerly placed them on her head, found the Bible reference and began reading.

I could not help but wonder how long it has been since she could comfortable read her Bible!  I was so happy for her!

Beautiful Faces

We held another Reading Glass Clinic on Monday night in Bwaniha village in Lumino.  

The people there were also very excited to be receiving eye glasses.

As I was viewing my photos, I noticed how beautiful the faces of Uganda are.  The people here are so loving, so welcoming.  Enjoy the beautiful faces.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bush Church Service Advice for Newbies

The louder the music, the more people can hear.  The more people who hear, the more will come.  

I think this is the idea that the pastors in Uganda have about Bush Church services.    We had a Bush Church service on Thursday night at Kwechombi Church.  Here are some observations about a typical bush service; along with advice for the novice attendee.  

  1. The locals believe louder is better.    - Makes sense, the loud music draws in more of the community, curious onlookers who then hear the Gospel.  Just carry ear plugs and you will be fine.

  2. Singing and Dancing are a must - Ugandans are born with rhythm.  I know some people who I think were dancing in the womb.  The people love to dance.  They love to sing.  They love to watch people dance and sing.  Expect lots of it!

  3. Formal introductions are important - I have addressed this in a previous blog (Bududa Mountain trip).  Everyone of any importance must be introduced, in a certain way.  I used to see it as a waste of time.  “Why are we wasting our time on this?”  I see now that it is a very important part of culture and customs.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.  You can’t get out of it.

  4. Foreign Visitors are a great honor - This is something that I have always struggled with.  Here, in Uganda, we are put on a pedestal, sometimes literally, because we are visitors.  I have tried to get out of it, trying to sit with the people, etc. This is another culture & customs thing. They WANT to honor you.  Let them.  Enjoy it.  When you get back to the USA, you will just another Joe.

  5. People are watching you - At a bush service, you are in the bush. Literally.  There are other bushes around.  People are hiding in those bushes watching you.  All the time.  You may not see it, but they are there.  This is a good life lesson.  Live life always as if you are being watched.  Set a good example.

  6. People praise the Lord differently in Uganda - This may seem obvious, but not always easily accepted.  People are freer here in their worship time than the churches I attended in the USA.  Nothing wrong with either method. Just different.  I have learned it is okay to be yourself during worship time.  I don’t raise my hands.  The person beside me does.  That is okay.  The purpose of worship is not to be uncomfortable because of what is going on around you but to WORSHIP THE LORD.  

  7.  Bugs are present - Another obvious one, but needs to be said.  Bugs are in the bush. Wear bug spray. I found a tick on me that night in the shower.  A tag along.  

By following this simple advice, your next Bush church service can be an amazing worship experience!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Smiles in Abundance!

Smiles were in abundance!  Such a simple tool can make such a difference.

Many struggled to put them on properly.  Ears and hair were an issue.  But, once that challenge was overcome, the smile that broke out on the faces was priceless.

What is this amazing tool?  This tool that many adult Ugandans need but can never afford to purchase?  

Reading Glasses!

We went to Kwechombi Calvary Baptist Church to hold a reading glass clinic and a community church service.

When we arrived, there were about 50 people waiting patiently under a tree.  The pastor had invited some of the local community members to come for a reading glass clinic.

Pastor Darryl Womack was the brains behind the operation, he has done many similar clinics in Moldova.  He got us organized and then the smiles began!
Shelly and Darryl helping a patient

We began by using a “Reading Glass Diopter Chart”.  You know, the chart that has the same sentence in progressively larger font, each font showing what strength glasses you need, from 1.00 to 3.50.  

Using the Diopter Chart

The directions on the chart said to hold the paper 14 inches from the face.  What is 14 inches exactly?  So, I measured a ribbon and tied it to a clipboard, giving us an exact 14 inches from the nose to the paper.    The people, though, seemed to think that it was necessary to keep the ribbon on the nose while they were reading the paper!

Refusing to drop the ribbon!

Then, we decided we could use two papers, so I used a stick to measure the 14 inches of that paper.  It was hilarious when some of the women would not put down the stick to read the sheet.

NOT a magical stick

After the people found their approximate strength, they were sent to the actual glasses.  There, the team had people trying on an upper, middle and lower strength to find the best for them.  

When they found that perfect strength, they would get so excited that those that could read would just start reading a whole paragraph out loud!

Finally, we also gave them sunglasses to help prevent cataracts.  I think some were more excited about those than the reading glasses.

The entire experience made me realize how blessed I am.  I wear glasses all the time, can’t see without them.  I can’t imagine going through life without glasses, what I would miss.  I am blessed that I take my glasses for granted.  It is an essential thing for me.  Not something that is an optional thing, such as new clothes or new movie.  I see glasses as a MUST.  

But these people see glasses not as a necessity but as a luxury that they cannot afford!  Such a different perspective.  But now, we have changed their perspective on life - literally (no pun intended)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

On the Side of the Mountain

July 12

On the side of a mountain.  I don’t know how to better describe it.  We were sharing the Gospel on the side of a mountain.  The local people were saying, “We have never seen this before!”  A group of 12 white people, slipping, sliding, panting, and turning red as they walked from house to house to share the Gospel with the people.

Banana, matoke, guava, jack fruit, and palm trees cover the mountain side;  Beneath their shade grow coffee trees, corn, cabbage, tomatoes and beans.  Six inch foot trails snake around, up and down the mountain; curving out of sight around a huge flowering tree.  Houses made of mud, branches and iron sheets as a roof are tucked away in the folds of the trails.  All trails intersect and seem to lead to the same places, some plummeting straight down the side of an incline, others sloping gently but taking longer to reach the destination.  Fresh spring water erupts from various points in the mountain, providing water for the inhabitants – people, livestock and plants alike. 

Cows are the prized possession of the locals.  “Mzungu” cows, loosely translated as “white people” cows.  These are the exotic breed that produce about ten liters of milk a day.  It is common to enjoy a large mug of steaming, hot milk, bananas and toasted peanuts for breakfast or a mid-day snack. 
We struggled to reach our destination.  The steepness of the mountain, combined with an uneven trail made it difficult for all vehicles, even our four-wheel drive truck.  At what seemed to be the “end of the road” for vehicles, we unloaded.  There were many men and boys waiting for us and helped us to carry out supplies to our primary location.  We walked about half a mile to the main house. 

An iron sheet roof had been added to the house since my last visit, providing a meeting area for the group.  We were welcomed whole-heartedly by the entire village.  The Chairman went through the usual formal ceremony customs:  list the order of ceremony, introduce his people, his people introduce him, introduce Beatrace, Beatrace introduces me, I introduce the team, more people come and get introduced.  This is the usual custom for any meeting in Uganda.  It generally takes at least 30 – 45 minutes to get through formalities if it is done right.  People must be introduced in a proper order and if not introduced yet, the person will not truly speak, only a brief, mumbled greeting until he has been introduced.  It seems very tedious and formal to me, but is necessary if you really want to show respect and be respected.

Finally, they served us steaming milk, roasted peanuts and bananas at 11:00 as a snack.  Beatrace, Kim and I then began looking at several huts as possible places for the team to sleep.  We checked one house, across the ridge, onto the next mountain, but the inhabitant was recently diagnosed with an infection, so Kim and I decided that was not the best choice.  We went to a second house, back across the ridge, that belonged to one of our translators.  It was perfect.  We took the girls there to hang mosquito nets.  The men and couple, James and Judy would be staying at the primary location.
After setting up, we had a lunch of matoke, peanut & tomato stew, peanut & bamboo stew, beans, cabbage and posho.   All the locals sat behind us and watched us eat. There were about 30 of them.  

We ate and ate.  Ate some more.  Then the locals asked us why we were not eating!  We ate some more!

Finally, to my relief,  Beatrace said we did not have to finish everything!  We then set out, with heavy stomachs to visit a church.  We walked about a mile, across the mountain and then up the “road”.  The church, like all the buildings, sat on a piece of land that had been carved out of the mountain by hand with a hoe. 

We went through another 30 minute formal introduction, finally coming to my part of introducing the team and having the program.  One team member shared her testimony, three women sang “Amazing Grace”, beautiful but a little slow for African taste, then one team member preached.  But that was not enough, they wanted more!

 The Chairman turned to me and said, “Madam Director, do you not also have a word to share with us?”

I replied, “Sure, I have a word.” 

I scrambled to grab my Bible, whispering a prayer, asking for inspiration.  I shared out of Ephesians 1, about the blessings that we have as believers, then turned it around, stating that unbelievers do not have those blessings and briefly shared the Gospel.  My first sermon – Don’t tell Dad!  The people seemed to enjoy it.  A couple of choirs sang for us, then we walked back down the mountain to have games and evangelism with the children.

Claudia was in charge of this, so Kim and I walked back to the house to prepare an American dinner, spaghetti. After dinner, we went to our huts to sleep.  Claudia and I took a bucket bath.  No one else would try it, unsure about how to do it, afraid of completely undressing in the wilderness?  Not sure why.

That night, the dampness set in and I froze all night.  So did everyone else.

July 13

The next morning, I sent the driver to buy blankets for everyone!

We had breakfast, spam, eggs and bread. Then we waited.  I had been given a schedule, showing the day’s itinerary that the chairman had written for me.  By the time the translators and chairman arrived, we were already two hours behind! 

We walked about a mile and half to another church, across two mountains.  When we arrived, there was no one there, so they took us to see a waterfall.  Another mile to two miles to it.  It was beautiful. 

On the way back to the church, we found a guava tree and enjoyed it’s fruit.  So sweet, odd texture but delicious.

We had a church service, briefly.  The majority of the ceremony was the formal introductions. Then a team member preached the Gospel.  The chairman then announced that “time was against us”  and that “Africans struggle to keep time”.  So, we divided into teams and went visiting door to door.
Kim and I tried to hurry back to the house to do some house keeping, but we kept getting stopped by people greeting us.  We arrived back around the same time as the team members.

We had a great lunch of matoke, stewed beef, beans, scuma and posho.  We were then informed that the children at the school were waiting for us!  We walked about 2 miles to a school down the mountain, St. Tim Primary School. 

The chairman told me that he had only scheduled 30 minutes at the school!  We had just walked 45 minutes to get there!

I asked if we couldn’t have at least 45 minutes.  He agreed.  He then started with the formal introductions, eating up all of our 45 minutes and then some!  But, as “African’s struggle to keep time” we just continued forward and began counting our 45 minutes from the time that the introductions ended.

The kids loved the games.  It is amazing how something so simple like a giant tunnel or sack races can bring so much joy.  Meanwhile, half of the team was doing wound care for the kids.  At the 30 minute mark, Claudia stopped the festivities and shared the Gospel.

The chairman asked me what we would do next.  I told him, “We can go door to door from the school to the house.    But then, that is all.  The team is finished.  No more today.  We are too tired.”  I had been noticing that the team had blank, far off stares even when standing and working.  They were exhausted.

We broke off into groups again and went door to door.  Kim and I tried to hurry back to prepare dinner for the team.  I say tried because it was a struggle going straight up the mountain.  But we did arrive in time, sat down to breathe and stop the world from spinning and then prepared dinner. Nice American dinner of chicken tacos with Velveeta cheese! (easy meals)

Beatrace asked at dinner if we could go door to door in the area below and to the left of the house in the morning.  I agreed, thinking that we could delay our departure by two hours, no problem.
However, that night, it began raining at 9:00 and did not stop until  6:00 the next morning.  I was so thankful for the blankets but dreading walking, sliding rather, down the mountain the next day.

July 14

We had breakfast and then decided to forgo the visitation; the trails were just too slippery for our untrained legs.  We packed up and started our exit.  Because of the rain, the van was parked at the bottom of the mountain!  We had to slip, slide, stumble and fall for about three miles before we reached the van.  By that time, it was 11:00!

We then slid, fish-tailed and spun our way out of the villages, the mud was deep and sticky.
It was a great trip.  Exhausting but wonderful.  I want to do follow up soon.  A team is coming in September that is already excited about the possibilities! 

Next time I will take a few items I forgot – a blanket, jacket, Gatorade and more protein.  Besides that, it was great!