Blessings and love to family and friends and Home, (especially Buz, Malea, Tamara, Heidi, Dane and My Mother and Father) Laura
While we share a common home. We regularly travel far and near. Whether that be on mission, a study tour, or a great family vacation, we thought it would be fun to stay in touch. Here's the latest adventure...
Happy Friday from Uganda! Today was an extremely busy day. There's another team here from Colorado, which I'm assuming someone else from our team has already shared with you. We worked alongside them and Musana interns at the High School VBS that took place from 10am-10pm today. Yes…you read that correctly! A 12 hour VBS…they have really long days here. They will continue with day two tomorrow. The morning started out with a devotion on suffering then small group discussions.
After lunch, we had four hours of games and crafts. The Riverside team was responsible for the "crafts", which consisted of bracelet making and a thumbprint project for all the high schoolers. Two of our lucky team members were assigned other tasks…the forever photographer Sue and Jacob, of course, got to run and play games with the kids. Let's just say "crafts" was not the smoothest of the stations today! 500 Ugandan children rotating in five different intervals is not as easy as it sounds, plus we ran out of supplies three times, but God kept blessing us with alternatives. They were just so excited to participate. Plus, more than a few participated more than once, hence the running out of supplies. You just can't keep that many kiddos straight, so you do the best that you can and go with the flow, even when it's a bit bumpy. All in all it was a great day!
Personally, the team is on my case a bit about being what they perceive to be my "picky eating habits". Generally, I may not like certain things, but I do just fine and have found favorites in about every country I visit. Uganda has been a little trickier. I made fast friends with one of the High School staff members today and as we chatted away it was right before lunch. She generously offered to serve me lunch as we sat and shared a meal together. I'm not quite sure what I ate, can't say I liked it in the least, but it's the friendship I'll remember. However, I was quick to point this food advancement out to my team members!
Love and Hugs to everyone! (craigg, hunter and luke especially!) Michele
Friday the 13th
Today we spent the entire day with the high school doing VBS. Actually, Julie and I sent the team in that direction and then the two of us headed down to talk with Florence (social work) regarding a few issues. Our talk was very good and she will get back to us Monday regarding all we asked.
The high school. The day started with singing. Oh, my goodness, what beautiful voices. If I could just channel a quarter of their talent I would be so excited! This all took place in the dining hall, sitting on wooden benches, many of us to a bench. As usual I snuck a front row seat so I could take pictures… Following the singing Taylor (one of the interns) gave a devotional on suffering. She did a great job but it was way too long for the age she was speaking to. Afterwards we broke into small groups to discuss what was said. The basic understanding was that fear drew them to God because no acceptance meant an eternity to hell. There was little talk of God's love and grace. Jason's group (led by one of the teachers) was standing in the hot sun. The teacher TOLD his group that they would stay in the hot sun until they memorized all the questions and gave answers. Thankfully, the principal (Patricia) came by and TOLD him to get those kids out of the sun! After the group meetings, there were actually games for the kids to play. It was so much seeing the kids actually being kids! There is so little time for that but what a joy when they can just act their age! The one game had three lines with cups attached to them. The kids used a water gun to move the cup down the line to the finish line. Some got the cup to move a really long distance; for some it hardly moved. The first one to the finish line was the winner. The next game involved two buckets of water. The objective was to get all the water from the first bucket to the second one by filling a sponge with water and passing it down the line. The last one in line squeezed the sponge dry and passed it back to start again. It is fair to say water was everywhere; but the game was played with enthusiasm! Our group was responsible for making bracelets. Sounds easy enough but in this culture no one was satisfied with just one. We finally put a system in place to make sure that each child only made ONE bracelet. In Jason's words this station was "A missionaries ass whooping". Jacob was in a station that was painting each child's hands to make a mural on a wall. Now that was a mess but awfully fun to watch. The final station had two big parachutes to catch the ball to play volleyball. This was awfully fun to watch and the kids had a blast. As for me, I traveled from station to station taking pictures, until George Bush took my camera and took over! He is one of the cutest and most polite young men I have ever met. He reminds me a lot of Moses and Samuel!
For part of the afternoon Laura and I came back to the room and organized all the sanitary napkin kits that Kathy Ruiter graciously donated to this team. We counted and sorted and then put all the stuff that is going to Andrews together so we don't have to do it first in the morning. I have all the phones, the Ipads, the letters, etc. to take with us to distribute. Our plan is to help Andrew and his community paint the school inside and out. It sounds like a huge project and I hope he and his community have already started. Glenn comes in tonight and it will be good to add him to the team. I look forward to hearing about his time at Gaba. Hopefully our kids from Hope Africa will be coming to help us paint and then we will take them to dinner at Sol. I am so looking forward to seeing them. What a great group they are.
Tonight after dinner we are going back to the high school for a sermon from Kay (a pastor from a church in Colorado) and then to watch the first part of a movie, The Passion of Christ. Afterwards they will break into small groups for discussion but Laura and I will be heading back.
Hope all is good in the hood. Steve give Kyle hug for me and tell him congrats. I'm sorry I am not there to witness his wedding. Give Kari and John big hugs as well. I love you.
July 11 blog by Laura
"My Father's sun shines on the good and the bad, his rain falls on the just and the unjust"
"There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have lead as well. They too listen."
Well it is 11 pm and I have written and rewritten my first sentence too many times to count. What stands out to me that while we all are quite different we all are connected and loved by the Father equally.
"The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference."
Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr
Sue is right I need to go to bed, tomorrow is another blessed day.
Today was Meet and Greet Day with Musana. For those of us for whom this is the first time, we had a visit with the administration, learned the story, the current status, and the vision for the future. It is truly amazing what they have accomplished in 10 years. To think they started with 80 kids in 1 building and now have 1200 kids in three schools, an out-patient clinic, an inpatient hospital, a skills training program, and housing for 44 missionaries or visitors. They do all of this with a budget of $1,000.000, 90% of which is self-sustaining.
We toured the new secondary school, which was quite impressive. The kids take a trade course in their second year of high school, and another one in their last 2 years, even if they are going to go on an academic route (college prep). That way, when they graduate from college and unemployment makes it difficult to find a job, they have a skill they can support themselves with. We talked to a young student (probably 13) who explained the wiring of a conjunction box with two switches and a light bulb. He said his name was George. His friends called him George Bush.
The secondary students get up at 4am, prep for school, eat breakfast, then go to class until 4:30 (with an hour for lunch). Then they do athletics until 5:30. After dinner, they prep for the next day until 9:00. The school volleyball team is going to the national championship.
After our tours, we shopped in the Musana store where the goods are sold that the skills training graduates make.
I'm continually impressed by the graciousness and friendliness of the people here.
Tomorrow we are going to see the third school and the hospital.
We appreciate all your prayers as our bags are still enroute from Entebbe with Julie and Laura. (Another day on the road for them).
Happy Sunday Evening from Iganga! I'm sure you've all heard from Sue's post that we had quite the travel adventure. Luckily, our team is the best and everyone took it all in stride with grace, humor, patience and support for one another. Since our flights were derailed a bit, we did arrive in Uganda during the afternoon yesterday. My neck hurt trying to see everything I could possibly see out the airplane window!The trees and vegetation are the greenest of greens and the dirt is the deepest of reds that I have ever seen or maybe I've just live in Texas too long and brown has become my normal.
We did have a bit of a rest day today since we'd been traveling for three days and didn't arrive at Musana until after midnight last night. We slept in and skipped church…don't tell anyone! After lunch, we walked down to the primary school and spent time with the younger kids. We found them congregated in church having a spelling bee run by the older kiddos. This was not like any spelling bee I had ever seen before! The young man running the show was about 10 years old (going on 35) and is definitely a future politician, pastor or game show host. He knew how to get the crowd excited and how to keep them in line! The group of kiddos that had quickly taken me under their wing as I enter the doors won the competition, so we had all the more reason the be excited! We split up in went in different directions with kids in tow after the bee was over. I spent my time having various conversations with kids, one of which was the lineage of the British Throne with a 13 yr old boy named Sheema. I was laughing internally. Never something I ever imaged happened standing in Uganda.
Some of our group opted for some afternoon rest time, while Jason and Jacob had a personal tour of Iganga from our sweet driver Kyemba. While they were out the ladies of the group also attending a marriage conversation host by missionaries from Colorado for Musana staff and community members. This type of conference isn't the norm for their culture, but it was so interesting to see how thirsty they were to learn more about the potential of equality in marriage and the biblical approach that was being taught versus the pressures of what they feel externally in their country.
Everyone on the team is doing amazing!! Jacob has been a magnet with the kiddos and has been at ease with the culture. Jason is a rock and the kiddos adored him plus he was a great soccer player! Laura has been so strong in her faith and a true inspiration. Sue and Julie are amazing leaders!!! Judy is helping to keep our team organized and has such a loving heart for these kiddos! I would talk about Glenn, but he's doing his own thing this week! Miss and Love my boys! (Craigg, Hunter and Luke…Muah)
July 5-July 6: Let the Journey begin…
11:00 we are all gathered at the airport for a 1:45 flight. My father's words echo in my mind, "Better to be early than late." Our bags are checked through (each one miraculously making the weight limit). We even have time to grab a bite to eat, knowing our next meal may be hours away. The flight shows it is on time and we are rejoicing that our trip is about to begin. We've been prayed over at the airport and we are feeling ready to head out. Our enthusiasm didn't translate to the United staff unfortunately. As 1:45 got closer the announcements began. Due to the weather in Chicago (wa-wah-wa-wah-wa-wah) we will not be leaving on time. But someone decided it would be a good idea to board so we all did. At this point we see the plane and it looks miniature. Not even our carry ons will fit on board so they confiscate all those to put beneath the plane. Now mind you; we purposely pack that way so we have basic essentials should our other bags not arrive. And I'm not talking chocolate (although always very important); I'm talking underwear and such! So finally, after about an hour on the runway, where we've been told (a) the plane is being rerouted because of storms, (b) the plane doesn't hold enough fuel to get us to Chicago via this new route, (c) we are now going to stop in Wichita, Kansas because we will need more fuel, and (d) we have to fly very low because we have too much fuel to just get us to Kansas! So off we go! To Kansas for a short 15-20 minute refuel… sadly, this turned into a 2 hour layover. Once again we got off the plane and waited. The good news… there was a Chick fil A so we all filled our bellies. Finally, we took off for Chicago. From start to finish that journey took us 10 hours!
We went up to the United desk and the woman behind the counter was incredibly nice. She rerouted us (instead of going to Brussels to Entebbe) we were headed to Washington, D.C, to Ethiopia and then on to Uganda. We now are scheduled to land Saturday afternoon at about 12:50. Jason Gallas gained hero status last night. After working out all the details we needed a place to sleep. All the hotels that United was willing to give us a discount for were booked solid. This is where Jason stepped in and said he had free rooms at the Sheraton. So off we went. We weren't there very long, arrived at 11 and left at 4:30 a.m. but those hours in a comfortable bed made a huge difference! Thank you Jason. So on to today. We arrive at the airport at 5 a.m. all make it through security with no problems except for Jacob, who has stored delightful chocolate in his bag. He is now 2 for 2 being stopped. We again have time to grab something to eat and head off to the gate where they have already started boarding. We are all feeling good, our trip really is about to begin until… The woman behind the desk takes one look at our boarding passes, realizes they were issued by Uganda and proceeds to tell us they are not valid and we may not be able to get on board. First, they must board all the standbys. And we are told the next available flight out doesn't leave until tomorrow. LFinally, just as the doors are closing, they allow us on. We are not sitting together but we are on board. Unfortunately, no one seems to know where our luggage is, but there is a good bet it won't be in Entebbe when we arrive! So as of now, we have one more leg… We've been to Wichita, Chicago (We're not in Kansas anymore Toto), and Washington D.C, just to get out of the USA! We've been able to communicate with Glenn so he knows he's on his own, and Banana Village to cancel our reservations. Glenn will communicate with Kyemba so here's hoping he is at the airport to meet us! Look at all the excitement we've already had and we haven't even landed on ground!!!
On a positive note the team is still laughing, joking and getting along great. Couldn't ask for a better group of people. I am thankful for each and every one of them. And for those wanting to know…. Julie is rocking the leadership gig! She not only has done a fine job of leading us, but she's offered to dispose of other people's trash! What a heart!!
As we were leaving DC I made the comment that we may never land in Uganda and therefore maybe our mission this year is to share with people on the plane about God. I was somewhat joking (about the sharing part, not about never making it to Uganda). Well, we were the last people to board and not a single one of us sat with another. We were all seated with strangers in middle seats. However, by trips end we had all made new friends and literally got to share what we were doing. I even exchanged email addresses with the woman sitting next to me. So now we are sitting in our fourth airport in less than 24 hours! Sadly, there is no way to get any drinks. The only drinks available are on the other side of the wall and since we don't yet have boarding passes we are not allowed out! One more leg and then we will head straight to Musana.
Ok, so plans changed just a little. Let me start by saying it is now 1 a.m. on July 8 and we are just now getting settled into Musana. We are in the new guest house and the rooms are awesome. So roomy with a real live ceiling fan!!! So what happened. Our flight actually arrived in Entebbe on time; sadly, none of our luggage arrived. Let me repeat NOT one single suitcase is here. The bad news… we have no idea where they are but hope they will arrive soon. All our supplies, and all our snacks are in those suitcases. This could be a catastrophe! 3-1/2 hours after arriving we completed all the forms necessary to get our luggage when it arrives. Then we had to go to Gaba church where we delivered a suitcase to Glenn. We ate dinner in Kampala and headed to Musana. The drive went on forever and we found parts of the country not intended for driving on, but our faithful driver Kyemba delivered us safely. So we started this adventure at 11 a.m. on Thursday and are just now getting ready for bed at 1 on July 8th!!!
Having said that I am signing off. Love you all.