The Eiden Family is joining up with a.k.a. HOPE What:
providing education and empowering communities for traumatized, orphaned, and otherwise underprivileged and underserved in Uganda.When:
June, 2013-June, 2014Why:
We love Jesus and want to share His love. We are being obedient to His call. How:
lots and lots of prayer
March 23, 2013
About a month ago, I (Sarah) promised myself I would not worry or stress or ask any more questions about moving to Uganda until Nick got back from his Spring Break visit. I knew that a lot of my questions would be answered, and that we would either have a whole new realm of concerns, or that some of them would be alleviated. Well, he is coming home tomorrow….
And I was right! Many of our concerns are gone, simply because we have more knowledge. I got to speak with him a couple times, got some texts, and saw lots of pictures this week. The first thing he said to me was “You’d better start packing!” He is so full of joy and passion for God and what He is doing in Uganda. I hope I never forget the image of my darling husband’s face surrounded by little black faces with big smiling white teeth. I am so thankful l for that skype date with our two little blonde babies blowing kisses and high-fiveing through the computer to Daddy and “Uganda kids.”
But now comes the part where we have to work. The decision is made. God is moving. He has made it clear- praise the Lord! It is time for the details-- renting out the house, selling the car, deciding what to pack, what to sell, what to toss, and figuring out the finances of this whole shebang.
Hee Hee Hoo.
We can do this. We are good at details. If our Heavenly Father can orchestrate the Who and the What and the When and the Where and the Why of this project, I’m sure He can handle the How.
Having not gotten back to Jesus House from Fort Portal until 2AM, the night was short. We were to go back to Naguru and to Feed My Lamb to see the kids, and Clare was picking us up at 10. Plus, I had to pack up, as this was my last day in Uganda. I sleepily and slowly packed up my clothes and gear, sad to be leaving, yet excited to share all that I had to share with my family upon my return to Kansas. Because one whole suitcase had been dedicated to supplies and gifts for the students, I was able to reduce my luggage by one – fitting one suitcase inside the other. I packed what I could, and prepared to head for the community of Naguru. Clare picked us up, and John had already found the time to wash the car, inside and out, following our very muddy adventure the previous evening. Chris and I hopped in, and off we went to the school.
We arrived, and this time, because Clare had also been absent, she received the brunt of the welcome, followed closely by Chris, and I brought up the rear of appreciation, albeit significantly more than my first arrival. The kids are so joyful, and so loving, without restraint. A part of me wished they had a little more restraint – the part of me that still worries about what germs and sickness these beautiful children are covered in. However, this part of me is so quickly overtaken by the love and hope that these children see in us. Having these thoughts is convicting, albeit natural and acceptable, but so quickly pushed aside. I love these children, and the risk of whatever they might pass on through normal contact is far outweighed by what I hope to pass on to them in the name of Jesus. These children are the least of these, and I will insist on loving them, even when my First World standards try to stand in the way. Chris, Clare and I made our way of the hill to the schoolyard, each with our own pile of clanging kids. I’m not sure of it was recess time before we arrived, but it certainly was once we reached the school. All but about six students were out, playing, running, laughing and being some of the most joy filled children I have ever met. Soccer was the main event for the boys, enthusiastically kicking a tennis ball from end to end of the 40 foot long dirt yard, desperately trying to squeeze the ball between two piles of rocks forming a goal. Of course, whenever there was a point earned, the ball continued to fly off the ‘field’ and down the hill, across the trash pile, settling against the building that houses the ‘toilets’. The boys race down after it, cackling and shouting with excitement of scoring a point, not a thought about the filth that they are playing in. They just retrieve the ball, put it back in play, and go at it again. The only thing that seems to distract them for the love of the game is my taking photos – I got very brief pauses for impromptu posing, and they are quickly back to their sport.
The girls are moving around only slightly slower than the boys, laughing and giggling and running around. Apparently, even in Uganda, girls are more relational than boys, as more conversations were taking place, in between the running and jumping and playing. There was something that reminded me of Duck Duck Goose going on. There was no fighting, no bickering; just happy energetic kids. One of the little girls came up the hill with a small chink of frozen juice (where she got it, I have no idea). She offered it around to her classmates, gladly sharing what little she had. It was completely natural for her to share what she had, even when it was obviously a special and rare treat for her. I saw no hesitation in her sharing, just a communal love and respect for her classmates. This was reciprocated by her fellow students, as no one took more than their small portion, and none expected to take more than their proportional taste of the treat. These kids love and care for each other like I have never seen children do. These kids, who have nothing, freely give it away.
Soon, Teacher Clare gently calls for the students to come in, using a peaceful and calm song, not having to raise her voice, nor repeating herself more than once. The children bound into the classroom, knocking against one another as they squeeze two and three wide through the doorway, to their desks. Today the classroom is divided into three sections by a couple of large boards serving as temporary walls. Clare greets the children, and allows Chris and I to do the same. Clare then shares that it is my last day with them for a while, telling them that I have to go home to “collect Sarah from this picture (pointing to our family photo on the wall) and the children.” The children all started clapping emphatically, so terribly excited that I will be bringing my family to meet them. There is no talk of the boarding school, no talk of moving, no talk of even a new project. They are simply excited to meet my wife and kids, because they have been told how much we care about them. I stand up and explain that I have to go back to get them, and that it will take a few months for me to return with them, but in the meantime, God will continue to love them, and that I will continue to love them, and I will tell my friends about them. I tell them that I look forward to seeing them again, and I thanked them for letting me come meet them. (By the way, I was somehow able to hold it together for this, in case you were wondering.)
Then, Clare tells them that we found Andrew, and that he sent them bananas. Chris and I went to collect them from the car, and three of the older students were sent as helps. We carried the fruit up the hill, and placed it on the front table. It looked like a lot of bananas, until you looked at how many mouths were pursed toward them. Each child would get half a banana. Clare told the kids that we would be sharing them, and that there would be no fighting, pushing or being rude. Every student calmly sat at their place, patiently but anxiously waiting the delivery of their snack, which in reality was likely the only food they will have eaten today, aside from their bite of iced juice. For at least a few of them, it might have been to only food they could expect for the day. But each and every one of them sat, quietly, patiently and politely. Clare asked for a volunteer to pray for the meal – yes, the meal of a portion of a banana. Several hands shot up, and Clare called forward one of the girls, and handed her a bunch of bananas, and told the rest of children that it was time to pray. The girl prayed proficiently, and formally, but honestly, thanking God for this blessing, and for taking care of them. This was a beautiful moment. The students all said “Amen” and went back to patiently waiting. Chris counted the bananas, and told Clare that we should have enough, so we started passing them out. Each little one received one entire banana, and said “thank you” when they gently received it, not grabbing or reaching or begging. Clare seemed very surprised that the quantity was sufficient, and I told her that it was the story of the two fish and five loaves. Clare praised Jesus, loud enough that all could hear, thanking Him for blessing them with the bananas. I suggested that she tell the story, but she suggested I tell it. I stood up and asked the children to listen to a story as they ate their banana. I had their attention.
I told the story, slowly, wanting to make sure I didn’t mess it up, and to make sure that I was giving the students enough time to eat and think at the same time. I told the story in the way that my son’s Bible story book does in what it titles The Boy Who shared His Lunch, starting with “The mommies and the daddies and the aunts and the uncles and the grandmas and the grandpas and the children”. The kids paid good attention, and then Clare followed up, checking for understanding. The kids new that the point of the story was that God loves them, and will provide for them. They added that sharing is important, and that when God provides, we share that. I praise God for that opportunity. After the bananas were all eaten and the peels were discarded, Clare asked of the children wanted to take me for a walk through the community. They enthusiastically agreed! Clare led us out of the classroom, across the schoolyard, and down the hill. The other two teachers had several of the boys re-tuck their shirts, because “we want to look like gentlemen” as we walk through the filthy, sewage ridden and disease filled slum that is their community. The boys quickly obeyed, and continued bounding down the hill.
After the bananas were all eaten and the peels were discarded, Clare asked of the children wanted to take me for a walk through the community. They enthusiastically agreed! Clare led us out of the classroom, across the schoolyard, and down the hill. The other two teachers had several of the boys re-tuck their shirts, because “we want to look like gentlemen” as we walk through the filthy, sewage ridden and disease filled slum that is their community. The boys quickly obeyed, and continued bounding down the hill.
After the tour of the community, it was time for Chris and me to leave. We had to stop by the Jesus House to get my luggage, and then head to the airport. I had to catch my plane home, which was bittersweet. I love Uganda, and I was not ready to leave. However, since I will be moving my family here for a year, I need to go home and prepare! There is much to be done in Kansas, so that we can get to work in Uganda!
I woke up again to the pleasure of a cozy warm blanket, and a comfortably cool temperature in my room for the beginning of my second morning in Fort Portal. Clare prepared breakfast for us, consisting of eggs, avocados, milk-tea, some of the best pineapple ever, and jipati. It was scrumptious, as always. After breakfast, we ventured out to our meeting set with the RDC (Residential Development Chairman), set for 9:30 AM. So, of course, we left the house at 10:30 AM. We arrived at the government offices, and learned that the RDC would be In at some point after noon, perhaps as early as 1:00 PM. We had other places to go, so we got the phone number from the secretary, and Clare called the RDC. He confirmed that he wouldn’t be in anytime soon, so we walked down the hall in search of somebody who would be able to see us. We struck out there, but did find the office where Chris would need to be filing the forms and requests when the time came. Our visit was not a total loss. Besides, the LC5 had given his support, and the RDC is well under him.
As we walked out of the building, Clare got a call about the land that that LC5 had told us about. Clare arranged a visit to the land, so she dropped Chris and I off in the shopping area of town, and she headed out to check out the land. While she was gone, Chris and I walked around, checking prices of things, and getting a feeling of what will become the home of my family in a few months. I was able to find some souvenirs, and finished my research about shopping in Fort Portal. When we had run out of places to go, we walked back to Hotel Dutchess to continue waiting for Clare. We didn’t mind that this place had the internet and some cool drinks. Add to that my lunch of delicious chips (French fries), and we had quite the spot to rest and wait.
After a solid three hours of not hearing from Clare, she called us and said that she would be picking us up in 20 minutes. Chris said that she sounded excited on the phone, so we expected good news about the land.
Clare eventually returned, in love with the land, and saying that she negotiated a great price. Clare did a great job haggling, and wanted to take us to the land to show us the potential. We were ready to go, but had to make a stop first. Clare had a friend who needed a ride, and we needed to pick him up. Andrew was a friend that Clare had come across, and he was in the Fort Portal area, and was going to hitch a ride back to Kampala with us. We drove 5 miles into the hills and found where he was staying. We found a white 21 year old with long surfer-dude hair who hadn’t shaved in months. This was Andrew from Seattle, Washington. He had piles of bananas to bring to the kids at Feed My Lamb, as well as his backpack and a huge sack of potatoes. He piled into the car, now filled with Chris, Clare and I, plus Clare’s cousin, Robert, and another local who had helped broker the land. So the six of us bounded down the dirt roads toward the land, stuffed into the little car, designed for 4.5 people at most. We drove, and drove, and drove. We drove for an hour on a dirt road, 45 kilometers away from Fort Portal, and then reached the turn off to the land. Chris turned left onto a muddy road, and we then realized that it was a very muddy road. Chris gingerly continued down the hill, anxious to get to the potential school location. Clare got out to walk ahead to see of the car would be okay on the road, that had been perfectly dry two hours previously when Clare had easily driven right to the site. We decided that we should not take the car any further right as two large off-road trucks full of Ugandan Army soldiers started toward us. Chris slowly but surely backed the car up the hill about 100 yards, tires spinning and throwing mud up in the air, but making it back to the “main” road. I was at least a little concerned about the two trucks full of armed soldiers, but our new friend Andrew jumped out of the car and walked up to the truck and started chatting it up with the soldiers. They praised Chris’s driving backwards through the mud, and asked us our business. When they heard that we were thinking of buying land here to start a school, they told us that we would have good company for neighbors – Uganda’s President’s wife had just bought 500 acres, because oil had been discovered nearby, so she took up a big chunk hoping for the same. This was actually good news for the area, because the government was going to pave this road that was currently too muddy for us to drive on.
We decided that we still wanted to see that land that was down the muddy road, so we took off on foot. I happened to wearing my boots, jeans and had my pack with supplies and water. However, others in our group were less prepared (for the adventure that we had not planned). Chris was wearing his fancy dress shoes, which did okay in the mud, but Clare and Andrew were wearing flip-flops, which they ended up taking off for much of the trip. Andrew fared okay, but Clare sustained several small cuts from stepping on stones and sticks buried in the mud. By the end of the trip, she was hurting. She was a trooper though, leading us (from behind) to the land! We walked for what seemed to be much longer than Clare’s estimated 2 km. We walked through several small villages, where people came out of their houses and shops to see and greet us; I take it whites don’t show up here much, or ever. We finally arrived, and found a breath-taking view, with rolling hills with a river at the bottom of the valley. The land was beautiful, and Chris and I started snapping photos to show others when we returned. But then we started looking a little closer. There wasn’t a single part of the land that was flat; we would have to dig significantly to put up a building, and even more for a play field. The land was covered with rocks, which would have to be removed in order to have a play area, buildings, gardens and a tea plantation. And it was remote. We walked the area, a very beautiful area, but not perfect in its current condition. I gather Chris, Clare and Andrew and we held hands and prayed that God would show us the land that He has selected for us, regardless of whether it was this parcel or elsewhere. We ventured back to the road, and headed back to the car. I tracked the distance on my GPS watch (which I had not reset at the beginning of our hike, so we didn’t really know how far it was until we got back to the car), learning that the land was 3.1 km from the turn off from the long dirt road, that (we learned on the return trip) was 45 km from Fort Portal. Chris navigated our group of six back to town, but not before we saw what both of us thought might have been a zombie……
Chris fueled up the car while I popped into the store, grabbing drinks and some cookies for our journey back to Kampala, now 5 hours behind schedule. We would have to make the 300 km journey in the dark, not arriving home until early the next morning. This was not the ideal time to travel a rural highway in Africa, especially for three white guys and Clare.
We made it for about an hour before the first police checkpoint. The very friendly officer did a good job of asking what I recognized as beginning interdiction questions. When he was satisfied with that, he asked what we had brought for him from Fort Portal. I hope he enjoyed the rest of my cookies as I would have. Three more checkpoints without issue, and we were back in the capital city. We dropped of Andrew and his gear, and then Clare dropped Chris and me at Jesus House at 2:00 AM. I gave Clare some bandages and triple antibiotic ointment to Clare and some instructions on how I thought she should doctor herself. Chris and I fell into the apartment, and crashed quickly. This was the beginning of my last night in Uganda, and I was not excited about having to pack and depart in the morning.
Today I awoke to a new Ugandan experience for me: using a blanket. I do not know what the temperature was, but I know that I was comfortably snuggled under a blanket at 7:30 AM when my alarm when off. That was a pleasant and welcome feeling. Fort Portal is a little cooler, especially in the evenings, and I enjoyed that, sleeping very soundly and peacefully, after staying up a little too late writing about our exciting news from our first time in Fort Portal.
Clare prepared a delicious breakfast – the first Ugandan breakfast I’ve had that involved more than bread and bitter. She added to those items, bringing frees cubed avocado, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion, and the piece-de-resistance, an onion omelet. Clare quickly told me that the tomatoes were safe for me to eat, because not only did her mother’s garden produce them, but she washed them with hot water immediately prior to slicing them for us. Let me tell you – it was delightful! It was a great way to start our only full day in Fort Portal.
After the meal, Clare suggested we pray, and grabbed Chris and my hands. We stood in the living room, but nobody started. Clare looked at me as though it was obvious that I was supposed to be praying, and she said “you, Pastor, pray for us.” Clare had first called me “pastor” the previous evening, after I prayed for dinner. I am humbled that Clare finds my prayers to be worthy of such a title. Chris drove us to our appointment with the LC5 Richard R. (Local Councilperson 5 – that is, five of five, which is the chairperson of the council of five). We left the house about 50 minutes late. And by that I mean leaving the house 50 minutes after we were due at the office of what would be similar to our county chairperson. Clare told me that we would be fine, and that 8:30 did not mean 8:30. Chris reminded me that we were on African time, and that it was probably going to fine, although I could see that he thought we may have been pushing the limits of the time warp. We arrived at the government offices, and found out way to the LC5’s office. His receptionist, now that we were 70 minutes overdue, told us kindly that the man was not yet in for the day, and to please have a seat. We shook hands with the receptionist and another man who was waiting in the office for the Commissioner. Chris and I talked about the plan, the meeting, and the amazing work God has done in the last two days. Then we moved on to talking about our mutually favorite television show The Office. After about 30 more minutes, LC5 arrived, and went through the reception room into his office, and closed the door without a greeting. Two other men when in and out over the next 20 minutes, and then we were invited in.
He calmly shook our hands as we introduced ourselves, and had us sit. He apologized for his being late, saying that he had been meeting with the town Bishop, who, because he was a religious man, could not be put off, even for a set meeting. I noticed that on the desk was a wooden carved scripture: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper - Isaiah 54:17.” He allowed us to explain our intentions, and asked us to sign his visitor logbook. Chris explained the project, and Clare and I occasionally added our thoughts. Chris was calm and spoke with clear intention, as though he was at peace. Chris explained what the name “a.k.a. Hope” means, and why it was chosen. From that point forward, the Commissioner worked the word “hope” into his sentences as often as possible. Chris and Clare both explained that this project will become self –sufficient, and will be operated by Ugandans, despite being started by Americans. The Commissioner asked several questions, which Chris answered, with Clare and I adding tidbits here and there. The Commissioner told us that he was aware of some land, about 40 acres, that is available and might be perfect for this. He told us about the land, and it seems like a viable option. He said that he would make a couple of calls for us today, to check into it, and would call Clare with the details. He even said “let me do the groundwork and give you some answers about Kijura.” He suggested that we could buy land for a better price if the white people don’t come, and the school isn't mentioned, because both are associated with money. Then the Commissioner told us that we are “most welcome” and that the community will welcome anything that brings hope. He said that he strongly believes that education is empowering, and that these people need that. He continued, saying that not only did he think this was a good idea, but that we have his “unconditional support” and the support of the local government. He said that land isn't cheap, but he believed that we will be able to find land that we can afford, and, perhaps most importantly, he looked at Chris, and he looked at me, and said “you are very, very welcome here, and you can rely on our support.” What a blessing that God has placed this man in this position at this time! Seriously – Praise The Lord for ordaining every aspect of this project! The Commissioner shook our hands, told us again how welcome we are, and we left.
Clare did a little dance in the hallway to express her joy! Chris and I stayed composed, but with grins from ear to ear. Then she told us that while we were waiting for the LC5 to show up, she went down the hall and made an appointment for tomorrow morning with the RDC (Resident District Commission), who was the third person we needed to talk to. As in, the third person that Chris needed to talk to in the next 5 weeks – but we were led to them in the first week! We drove away from the government complex, bound for the Dutchess Hotel.
We took the scenic route, Chris says, because he was so excited from the meeting that he wasn't thinking clearly about his navigation. We made it, parked and found our way in. Yesterday, we had been told that the owner would be in by 9:00 AM, and it was pushing 11:00 AM, but, neither the man nor woman who own the place were in. We decided that we could sit and wait for a while, since we wanted to sit and discuss what great things God had been doing for this project, even in just the last two days! We bought some drinks from the hotel lobby, and sat on the front porch at a table. Clare enjoyed her Coke, while Chris had his local favorite, Navara, and I tried a new local pop. Mine was a non-alcoholic malt beverage, made with pineapple. The flavor was like that of a pineapple soda (like a Fanta) but with more bite. It was very good, and refreshing. Our trio sat and enjoyed our drinks, and decompressed from the meeting. We talked and gave the glory to God, thanking him for His blessings. Then Clare asked about me and my story. I told her my history, but I focused on the last few months. It is an interesting story, even to me; especially looking back to see how outrageously far I have come (spiritually and physically) since November 4, 2012. After an hour of relaxing and sharing, we decided that since the hotel had brick oven pizza, we should eat, which would also increase the chances of seeing one of the owners. We ordered a pizza with bacon, mushrooms and onions, and not five minutes later, Helen, one of the hotel owners, arrived.
Helen joined us at our table (technically, her table) and allowed us to tell her about our project. She took it all in, and provided some good feedback. She told us that she is from the Netherlands, and that she is a tour guide for European tourists, who wanted to visit Africa. She said that she has been to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and many other places, but several years ago, she was planning to guide a group to Uganda. In preparation for this, she and her husband visited Uganda, and had a “gut feeling” that Fort Portal was the place for them to settle. They decided to build a hotel, and three years ago, they began construction. She shared that her experience with the local government was mostly positive, although it wasn’t without challenges. Helen gave us her email and phone number, and offered to help whenever we needed in the future. Another person placed directly in our path! Our pizza came right as we were wrapping up with Helen, and it was great. It will be a welcome meal to share with visitors, or even just when we need a taste of home – not home, but America. Home might soon be somewhere else……..
After lunch, we drove to the house that Clare’s cousin is offering for rent. We found it on one of the main roads, about half way between the turn off to Clare’s mother’s neighborhood, and the main road in Fort Portal. The house was undergoing some renovations, but it was beautiful. I walked through, taking photos, soon realizing that the house was much larger than I thought. I counted four bedrooms, which made me think that it will be out of our price range. Clare hasn’t gotten a definitive answer yet, but she estimated the monthly rent at 500,000 Ugandan shillings (only $200 US per month!) This house is beautiful, with a full wall and gate on the street side, and a tall hedge/fence surrounding the remaining yard and garden. If I can get that house for that price, I expect to take it.
I am writing this on the couch in the living room of Clare’s mother’s house. There is a gentle breeze sweeping across, and it is raining. I look out the window and see tall trees, and green everywhere. This place is beautiful, and so are the people!
Today was a great day! I should say that today was a blessed day, as there were multiple examples of God at work in our mission today. God is good, and it is only because of Him that we are even on this journey, and it will be only because of Him when we have success!
This morning, I took a pleasantly warm shower, and then joined two of the KCM workers for breakfast. Edith and Diana, both Ugandans working at KCM, and I talked as we ate our buttered bread and drank our milk-tea. We talked for only a couple of minutes before they asked if Chris was still sleeping. I told them yes, and they both about died laughing. Edith thought that it was high time for Chris to rise, and went to walk him. She returned, unsuccessful. (Chris did get up a few minutes later.) After breakfast, I went to the office area of the Jesus House compound, to use the internet. As I was working / checking in with the rest of the world, a small girl came in and without saying a word, held my hand and just watched my laptop screen as though she expected me to keep working. I introduced myself, and she told me that her name was Peace. I asked her why she had come to the office today, but she said nothing. I walked her back to Edith, who immediately jumped up and hugged her, joyfully yelling “Peacey, Peacey!” Edith then produced a photograph of Peace and Emily, a volunteer who had recently returned home. Edith also handed Peace two new dresses, apparently provided by Emily for her specifically. A few minutes later, Peace and I found ourselves in the lobby of the office again, so we took some photos together, including the one of us holding hands. A very cute, but a very quiet little girl. Pastor Peter later told me that Peace lives in Kyampisi, and that her father is in prison, and that she and her grandmother had come to have Peter take them for a visit.
At about 11:30 AM, Clare joined us at the Jesus House, and we began our journey from Entebbe (KAMPALA?) to Fort Portal. Clare had a car left in her care by another of her “friends” from England, which made the transportation easy. (The word ‘smooth’ first came to mind here, but that would not be accurate. Although the roads were traveled were some of Uganda’s finest, there are a surprising number of speed bumps and rumble strips along the highway.) With Chris at the wheel, me in the front passenger seat, and Claire in the back, we ventured out of the capital city area, bound for the more rural Fort Portal. Chris navigated skillfully out of the city, and soon we on a two-lane headed northwest.
Through our trip, I have seen several Ugandan police officers. I have primarily seen them standing on a street corner, or leaning on one of the police vehicles. Let’s assume they were conducting stationary patrol and keeping the peace, and not doing nothing, as I was told (and as it appeared, even to a trained eye). However, today, I observed them making a road black. As we crested a hill, there was a large military-style truck marked police off to the side of the road, with several policemen standing on both sides of the road. There was a sign straddling the center line of the two-lane highway, which read ‘Stop Police Checkpoint”. As Chris drove closer, he slowed, but it was only as we nearly at the checkpoint did and of the officers motion for him to stop. Chris did stop, but it was apparently farther that the officer had wanted to walk to reach us, as he scolded Chris for not stopping immediately when directed. Chris apologized, and explained that he had stopped as soon as he had seen the signal from the officer (not mentioning that it was as subtle as could be). The officer, wearing fatigues and carrying an AK-47, was not having any of Chris’ apology, so Clare spoke up from the back. She had a conversation in Lugandan, but later told us that the officer asked her which one of us was her husband or boyfriend. Clare explained that we were ‘workmen’ here to help her, and that Chris is not used to driving in Uganda. This lead the officer to lecture Chris about looking ahead of the vehicle, and being ready to stop so as to not cause a collision. The officer had Chris produce his drivers permit, and we learned for certain today that a Tennessee driver’s license is sufficient in Uganda. The officer handed back Chris’ license, and warned him again about being more careful. With that, we were off again.
About half way through the 4 hour drive, Clare suggested we take a break, and directed us off at a certain village along the route. Chris parks and Claire found some facilities, for a bargain price of 200 UG Shillings. Then we headed for a market near us. Chris and Clare convincingly insisted that I try some of the meat on a stick. They were truthful with me, telling me that it was goat; surprisingly it was very good. The flavor was good, and it was well prepared. We finished our snack, and piled back in the car for some more of Chris’ Uganda driving.
The roads here do leave something to be desired. They do have some road signs, and the highways are well striped defining the lanes of travel and the like. However, as I said, you will find speed bumps, some of which resemble small mountains, even on the highways with marked speed limits as high as 50 km/hr. Speaking of speed limits, Chris had earned another talking too from some other officers. Apparently, 86 km/hr is too fast in a 70 km/hr area. This time, as we came around a curve in the highway, which was marked at 70 km/hr, we found three police officers on the side of the road, with one of them very clearly indicating for us to stop and pull over to them. Chris obeyed, and was greeted by a policewoman dressed in an all white uniform, which denotes her as a traffic enforcement officer. The lady officer showed Chris a display of 86 km/hr on her handheld Decatur radar gun, and told him that this road was only 70 km/hr. Chris apologized and said that he hadn't noticed any signs indicating that. She requested his driving permit, which he produced, and she said that she was going to write him a written warning, which would only cost him 100,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $40 US). She then continued, telling Chris that she was going to keep his license as collateral, until he brought back a receipt for the payment, and that he needed to pay at the Bank of Uganda in Fort Portal (which was still over an hour away). It was only later Chris brought the proof of payment back to this specific officer that he could retrieve his license. This didn't sound like too great of a system to me. The female officer walked away and began writing on her clipboard. Now, a significantly friendlier officer, donned in fatigues and with his trusty AK-47, came to the car, and started explaining the fine system that had already been explained by the first officer. Clare apologized several times in Lugandan, and they went back and forth for a few minutes. I noticed that the female officer with the clipboard seemed to be making herself busy, but did not seem to be actually doing anything with her pen and paper. What Clare said must have made a difference, because a third officer, a male dressed as a traffic cop, snatched the license off of the clipboard that was still held by the female officer, and handed it back to me with a smile.
We were warned that ahead we would find an overturned truck, and that there isn't a day that passes on this highway that there isn't a person struck as they walked on the ‘side’ of the road. With that, we were released, and the officer gave us a very large smile, and said that we are to take care of Claire, and that she is his sister (in the larger sense). I said that she is my sister too, as I patted my heart. This obviously amused the officer (a white guy with the tan earned from a Kansas winter, claiming a native black Ugandan woman as a sister) because he laughed heartily and told us to enjoy our trip. That was a tense few minutes, because all of us in the car knew that once that license was gone, it was never to be seen again, fine paid or not.
After our tour of local law enforcement, we did see the overturned truck. Chris knew it was coming, due to the bush branches that had been laid along the highway shoulder for about 100 feet, apparently indicating some sort of problem ahead. There was no police warning of the hazard, no tow truck to remove it, and no people at all around it. Just a large commercial size truck turned on its side, with the concrete culverts strewn about one of the lanes and into the ditch on the side.
We continued down the road, passing through several small towns, known as villages. Uganda is a beautiful country, and as we traveled the beauty just increased. We were soon surrounded by rolling green hills and tea plantations. As we turned one corner, there was a group of about 10 baboons on the side of the road, just sitting and playing as though cars were not whizzing past. (Our car was whizzing less, now.) Before long, we arrived in Fort Portal.
The first thing I noticed about Fort Portal were the bright colors. The buildings are painted a variety of bright colors, and there is a variety of vegetation along the roadside. I was taken aback by how pretty it was! I immediately felt like this was a good town. I wanted to explore right away, knowing that it was so very likely that this will be the home of my family in the future. I told Chris that the streets reminded me of Europe, with the bush hedges along the median and shoulders, the well-defined sidewalks, and the curbs that were painted in stripes. The area was full of people, although not crowded. The traffic was flowing well, despite many cars and trucks on the road. Chris skillfully circled the roundabout (traffic-circle) and headed for Clare’s childhood home. We traveled about five minutes from the city center to a dirt road, and headed into the village. We passed small homes, obviously of the poor, and larger homes with decorative walls and fancy (locked) gates. We soon came to a house of middling value, with two goats staked in the front yard and a chicken wandering about. We had made it.
Clare took us in, well, she ran in and we followed at a normal pace for visitors. Clare introduced us to her mother, Francis, who warmly greeted me, but quickly recognized Chris as a returning friend. We sat and visited in the living room for a few minutes, until the ladies left Chris and I so they could prepare the guest rooms. After about an hour at the house, catching up and settling in, Clare, Chris and I ventured out into the city of Fort Portal.
Now, despite all the words I have already written, this is where the story gets good. Chris found a place to park near a hotel very near the main city roundabout. Clare walked us over to it, and told us that it was a place that muzumbos (white people) often stay. Clare then said she wanted to show me a clinic in the area. We walked just up the road, and found “Sarah Medical Clinic”. Clare said that she didn't remember that this was the clinic name, but we all found that fun.
Clare then walked us around the shopping district. I popped into a furniture store, and made sure we could get anything the family needs – we can. Clare then conducted us into a grocery store. Clare introduced us to the lady at the front counter, who owns the store with her husband. (Chris had warned me on our way that Clare knows everybody in Fort Portal.) Clare asked her about furniture, and the lady told me that if I have a way to get it back, it would be cheaper and I would have better selection if I shopped for in Entebbe. We wandered through the store, and I found the largest avocado that I have ever seen. It was larger than a softball. We left the store and continued walking.
Clare said that she knew that the mayor of Fort Portal owned a store nearby, so we should check to see if he is in. Sure enough, Clare introduced us to the mayor. Clare told him who we were, and reminded him about the project she had already spoken to him about several months previously. The mayor asked us to go sit and talk with him, right then! He walked us out of his store, and sat us at a table near the sidewalk and asked what we wanted to talk about. Chris shared his vision for a school and orphanage in the Fort Portal area. The mayor was excited, and told us that he thinks their community needs this school, and that the project will be supported by the community and people. The mayor then suggested we talk to several other government officials, and named three specific job titles for those individuals. Claire and Chris understood this list, as they had the same people in mind. The mayor also mentioned an area nearby that is giving land away to people wanting to start businesses, and though that our plan would fit in to their criteria. How exciting is that – the possibility of free land? That money could be spent in other areas, rather than such a big portion going to the land purchase! Praise God even the possibility! Somehow, the mayor had even more to tell us. He looked at Chris, and looked at me, and shook our hands. He loudly proclaimed that we will be welcomed here in Fort Portal, and that nobody there will look at us and question us about why we are there, or who are we to come to that area. The mayor practically yelled, on the sidewalk in front of his business, that all are welcome in Fort Portal, and that we specifically are welcome in Fort Portal. He looked at me and told me to buy land and start a family. Clare told him that I already have a family, so the mayor told me to bring them here! Wow! As if that wasn't enough, the mayor told us about a white Italian man who had visited Fort Portal, and like it so much, he moved here, built a house, and then built a hotel. The mayor suggested we seek out the hotel man, because he recently went through all the steps of getting a business started and built, as a white person from another country. The mayor heartily welcomed us again, shook our hands, and off we went – to find this hotel man.
We walked to the area that the mayor had pointed out for the hotel, and asked at least one person where it was, but we soon located the Dutchess Hotel. It was a very nice building, and was clearly catering to outsiders visiting. We went in, and asked for the owner, who had just left. His staff said that we could find him in the morning, usually after 9 AM. We promised to return, and asked the staff to tell their boss that we would like to speak with him. We walked away, still inspired and feeling that God was leading us step by step.
We started walking back to where we had parked the car. As usual, I had made my way to the front of the pack, despite being the least likely to know where we were going. I crossed a street, with Chris and Clare following, and walked over to our car – only, it wasn't our car. Chris laughed at me briefly, and then we saw that Clare had found yet another person she knows. Clare introduced us to her uncle, who also happened to have the personal telephone number of the county official that we needed to speak with. Clare called him, and he set a meeting for 8:30 the next morning! Clare was so visibly excited that I took her picture. The backdrop of the photo just happened to be a bank. The security guard walked over and told me that I have better not photograph his bank any more. He seemed to be doing this out of obligation, because he and his colleague shared a look that seemed to convey “are you going to say something, or do I have to?” I put my camera away and apologized, which was sufficient. We then walked to where the car was actually parked, and Chris drove us back to the house.
Clare and her mother prepared a beautiful dinner for us. It was delicious! Clare explained that everything on the meal, with the only exceptions being the beef and the rice, was grown in the house garden. The delicious avocado, the greens called Dodo, and the matoke, all were grown by Clare’s mother and her family. It was very yummy.
After dinner, which we finished at about 9:00 PM, Chris and I headed for bed. Instead of going to sleep, I wrote this.
So here I sit, on the canopy bed with the bug net installed, head lamp on and laptop out, writing about my day. My day in Uganda. The day in Uganda that God placed every step for me, and has shown me that God wants me here, with my family, soon. I have no doubt that God has called us here, and I am eager to get back here with the family in tow, ready to change lives for Christ. In Uganda. Yup – in Uganda.
Today started off the same as yesterday. I had breakfast, consisting of buttered bread and milk-tea. I took it alone today; I guess I missed everybody. Chris was still in bed, and the others weren't about at that time. No matter, I didn’t have long until my first visit to the Feed My Lamb school in Naguru.
At about 10:00 AM, Chris and I left the Jesus House compound, and boarded a taxi (a minivan jam-packed with people with places to go) just outside the gate. I got to sit next to the conductor, so he kept jumping in and out at every stop. I remember thinking to myself that this is something that would normally freak me out - by that I mean, cause significant anxiety about safety and health, but it was not. I felt fine. I did make note to myself that this would not be easy with two children and a wife, but that there are other ways to travel with a family of four. Chris told me when we got to our stop, and we each paid our fare of 2500 Ugandan Shillings (about $1 US). We crossed the street, and popped in to a grocery store for water. We had to check our bags at the counter, and were subjected to a wand magnetometer by a security guard, as is common for any substantial grocery store here. We found our water, checked out and collected our backpacks. We then walked through the streets of Naguru, passing the Chinese-built hospital, a football field, and some very nice houses. Then we crossed the street. Literally across the street from these large, well-built buildings full of well-to-do people, was the slum. This slum is home to the Feed My Lamb school. Chris asked me to video the kids’ reaction to his return, because he was surprising them. I gladly did so. As we turned the corner and started up the hill to the school, the kids saw Chris from their recess break and charged him. I was actually worried that he was going to be knocked to the ground for a moment. He survived on his feet, and was welcomed as a returning hero. Then the kids noticed me, and came over, saying “hello, Nick.” They knew who I was, even though they had never met me. I was overjoyed that it was so meaningful to them that Chris and Courtney, and now I had come to help. We walked, with the kids holding or hands and clinging to us, up the hill to the school yard. Clare came out yelling and crying and immediately latched on to Chris. She kept pulling back away from him to look at his face, and then burying her head in his shoulder again. Then it was my turn, a very loving welcome from Clare, with big hugs, yelling and crying. The video looks like the Christian version of The Blair Witch Project, with shaky camera work and lots of yelling, but it is heartwarming.
Somehow, Clare was able to gather the children up and get them back into the classroom. The classroom was dimly lit, and very cramped. There were benches/desks for all but about six of the children. They all had a place to sit, and slid themselves into their places, one right against the other. There were posters on the wall, a few of which were factory made, but most had been created by hand, with all the typical elementary school subjects, such as days of the week, a number chart to 100, and the like. There were also three posters dedicated to welcoming Chris and me, complete with pictures of us that we had sent. There were several handwritten notes from the children, welcoming us, pasted to the wall. I have never felt so expected. Clare settled the kiddos, and welcomed Chris and me, again. She had Chris stand up and say hello, which quickly prompted several questions about Courtney. Chris explained her absence, and assured them that she would return with him in July. The children erupted with applause. Then it was my turn. I introduced myself, and thanked them for their warm welcome.
Chris then told them that I was bringing my wife and two children back in the summer, probably, which received quite the applause as well. (although not the level of excitement that Courtney got. She trumped us all.) Chris then led us in several songs, which the children loved. Then we went out to play. The kids selected a game that you all dance around until Chris calls a number, and then you have to hug into a group totally that quantity of people. It was a crazy free-for-all, especially with the prospect of hugging onto Clare, Chris or me. Unfortunately, I got out pretty fast, as I had waaaay too many kids in my group. Sad for Nick. The play continued for a few minutes, but then the sky opened up with a heavy rain. One of the students quickly moved their water jug to where the roof was directing a steady stream of water. We then went inside, and had “quiet time.” I have to use this term loosely, because about half of the class was dutifully quiet, while the others allowed Chris and I to take photos and visit with them. After about an hour of the rain, it ceased, and Clare told the story of Abraham and Sarah, like I have never heard it before. It was accurate, but interwoven into the portions where Abraham was obedient to God, were school rules. For example, "Abraham obeyed God, so he did not fight in class with his friends." After the story, we all prayed, and school was dismissed for the day. The students filed out, and happily gave Chris and me hugs and high-fives. A very quiet girl shook my hand, carefully slipping me a note in the process. I opened the note after the rest of the line had passed by, and I found that it was from Daisy. It was a hand-drawn picture of a rabbit, a hen and a turkey, plus some flowers. Tears came to my eyes, just seeing how important these children are to God, but how forgotten they seem to be. And yet, they were so joyful!
After the students left, Chris and I took Clare to lunch. We went to a nearby place, called Good Africa. It is a coffee bar and restaurant, catering to the well-to-do Ugandans, or the ordinary outsiders. We sat and talked, and ate, and Clare told me her life story. It is not my story to tell, but let me tell you that she has overcome what many Americans have not even thought about facing, and has turned her struggle into a passion for helping others, despite any personal cost or difficulty. Clare is a strong woman of God, who loves Jesus more than anything, but shares that love with everyone she meets. She is a joy to be around.
After lunch we went back to the Jesus House to collect the items that I had to give to Clare and the children. As we went through the suitcase full of clothes for her boys, teaching supplies for the school, and toys for the students, Clare was nearly overcome with emotion. She praised Jesus for the blessings, and thanked Him for Sarah and I. I know that Clare will put these items to good use. Clare showed the clothes to Phillip, who immediately put on a brightly striped sweater. He was so happy, bouncing around the house and on and off of both Chris and me. Phillip snached my sunglasses off of my head, so I took him to the clothes I had brought and we found the sunglasses that had been given to him. (Thank you, Landry and Kelby!) He felt so cool to have sunglasses. I took him out front and photographed him in his new duds. Then Phillip and Chris and I played the game of Phillip driving his new matchbox cars under the couch, so that Chris and Nick can try to find them. This quickly led to the game of steeling Nick’s flashlight. It was a pretty fun series of games.
After John had hand washed the car, using the light rain as an assistant to the washing, Chris and I left, leaving Clare and Phillip for some needed family time. Chris and I took the car for an oil change, which took 45 minutes, and cost 95,000 Ugandan Shillings ($38 US). While the car was being serviced, we walked about, and ended up having Alvaro soda in a local billards/dance hall. It was empty save for the four young men playing pool. We enjoyed our drinks and went to collect the car, and head back to the Jesus House for the evening.
Chris and I both took the opportunity to talk to our wives on the internet. Georgie, Peace and Melaka joined me and we Skyped back to Kansas, seeing and talking to Sarah, Andy and Bethany. Once we discovered that we could high-five through the video-chat, that was about all that we discussed. Eventually I was able to get the kids to sit with Chris instead, and I got to tell Sarah all about my day with the kids of Feed My Lamb.
Good Morning Uganda! My first time waking up in Africa was pleasant. It was warm, while not hot, but humid. I unburied myself from my mosquito net, put on my sandals and headed out the door. I found a bright and sunny morning, with flowers and a garden that I had not noticed when we had arrived in the dark the previous evening. I wandered over to the outdoor dining table, and found Georgie, Peace and Melaika, eating breakfast. Barbara came out and quickly offered me everything on the table, introducing me to each of the items in case I had not seen them before. I tried everything – the sliced white bread, the butter, and the milk-tea. The kids were already being rambunctious, and happily included me in their joking. When we had finished eating, we all went to our separate quarters to get ready for church. This didn't take long for me or the kids, so we were all back to goofing around in no time. I was able to snap a photo when all three of them were checking their hair in the large mirror in the living room of the apartment Chris and I were staying in. Soon, Pastor Peter arrived, loudly welcoming Chris and I and receiving lots of hugs from the children. Peter also brought a very exciting item – a wireless router. After about ten minutes of trying, we figured out what the password was for the Wi-Fi, and Chris and I were able to check in online, letting the world back home know that we had arrived safely. After about 15 minutes of Facebook, Collin loaded Chris and I, the three kids and Barbara into the minivan and drove to Kyampisi for church. The ride took about 45 minutes, and showed me even more of the beauty of the Kampala area. We turned onto a dirt road, drove through the village of Kyampisi and arrived at the church. Chris was greeted like an old friend by young and old alike. I was not ignored, as several little ones immediately grabbed my hands and started leading me around the church grounds.
It looked like the church service had started just a few minutes before we got there, so we were conducted to the front row of plastic yard chairs, and asked to sit, at what was clearly the place of honor. As soon as I sat, two kids hopped up onto my lap, happy to be with me, especially in front of so many of their friends. The church service was very similar to those in America. The first while was spent singing, mostly in the native Lugandan, but one in English. Everything else was bi-lingual, meaning that if the speaker used English, a translator reiterated it in Lugandan, and vice versa. Pastor Peter gave a sermon on Unity, based on the story of the Tower of Babel. I enjoyed what he had to say, but I enjoyed how it was delivered even more, with the two languages being intertwined seamlessly, both Peter and Barbara switching back and forth from English to Lugandan. It was beautiful and powerful.
After the sermon, we sang again, and then the service was over. Except no body left. They just turned their chairs and sat in groups of friends, fellowshipping. I was greeted again and again, with loving smiles, hopeful gazes and long handshakes. Young and old alike came up to me, grabbing my hand or hugging me. This was not the reserved emotion I was told to expect. Maybe it was because Chris had paved the way and brought me along, or maybe because they recognized that I was there to love them. Either way, I was very welcome, more so than at any church I had ever attended. A young man came up to introduce himself, and I remembered that he was one of the drummers for the service. I asked him about the drumming, and he told me that it was competitive to get a seat at a drum, as many people like to play. I asked for a lesson, and he excitedly led me to the row of three drums, and taught me several of the rhythms, which I was able to mimic, to his surprise. Then I told him that I played at home.
I was then paraded around the church area, looking at the children’s church and school area, and admiring the partially constructed new sanctuary that we had just had church in. The people were all so happy! They have the love of Jesus in them, and they are happy to share it! I found Chris with several of the girls, singing songs that he had taught them last time he was here. We soon left, headed back to Jesus House for lunch.
Barbara made a delicious meal – my first truly Ugandan food. We ate beans and rice, which is surprisingly good and filling, matoke, g-nut sauce, and finished with watermelon and pineapple, both of which had been drizzled with mango juice and seeds. Chris describes matoke as “potato bananas” but I think it tastes and feels more like yellow or acorn squash. It is yummy and thick, and goes with anything. The g-nut (from ground-nuts) sauce was like a thick soup, that had a flavor that resembled peanut butter, but a looser consistency. I can see why Courtney warned that you can actually gain weight by eating like Africans.
It was mid-afternoon by the time lunch was finished. Peter was headed out to the mall for some errands, so Chris and I rode along so that we could get a few supplies. We ended up at the large Western-style mall, which has just about everything an American mall would have, plus much tighter security. We checked our bags and went into the supermarket, which was much like a large drug store, with food options, as well as most staples for life. We picked up the needed items, most notably a power strip that connected us to Ugandan electricity and outlets, but provided us with both American
and Ugandan style outlets. This cost 32,000 shillings (about $13 US). We then strolled about the mall a bit, allowing me to get a feeling for what products are available in this part of the world. I found that just about anything is available, but some things are more of a luxury, and are priced accordingly. Most items are comparable, or less expensive than in my hometown.
After the mall, we rode back to Jesus House, and had a brief break before loading up again, this time with all the teachers from Kyampisi. Peter was sending them out as a thank you gift, and we were allowed to tag along. We were taking in the Ugandan Cultural Show at the Ndere Cultural Center. It was three plus hours of singing, dancing and drumming, all with Uganda’s version of Ricky Ricardo to talk us through the historical and cultural significance of each act. I learned a lot, all while seated outside in the comfortable, albeit humid, Kampala evening. After the show, Collin drove us back to the house.
After a quick check-in on Skype with our respective wives, it was time for bed. I could already tell that there was something special about this place, and I knew that this trip was leading to something much bigger.
Chris and I had finally arrived! I was in Uganda, and I’m pleased to say that the Uganda airport was significantly superior than our previous stop. We made our way to the customs desk, where we were each granted a 3 month visa (despite asking for significantly less) by a very happy Ugandan man. We each paid our $50 fee and made our way to baggage claim, where we were met by Collin. Collin and Chris immediately knew each other, hugging and happily carrying on. Collin and I introduced ourselves. We found our baggage, and headed out to the taxi that Collin had already negotiated for.
I immediately noticed how beautifully green Uganda is. Our drive from the airport lasted about an hour, as we wove through the capital city, which was actually a collection of many smaller cities immediately upon one another, similar to the Denver Metro. The scenery was so exciting. There were people everywhere, and everything was painted a bright color. In my opinion, Uganda looks just like Africa should. Vendors and shops are constant, with their products on display in front of their buildings. Traffic in Uganda is interesting, to say the least, and scary at times. More concerning than the apparent lack of respect for signs, lane markers and general driving etiquette are the boda-bodas, which zip around like mosquitoes. These are small motorcycles that ferry passengers about town as a taxi service, but weave between cars and pass on both the left and the right of any traffic that might be in their way. We made one stop, popping into a currency exchange place, where I changed $200 US to 530,000 Ugandan Shillings. We jumped back in the taxi, and kept on our journey through the city.
We arrived at Jesus House, just after dark, and the gate was dutifully opened after we knocked on it a few times. Jeffrey, the gate keeper and one of the custodians of the property, took us to the apartment over the office area, and then we met Barbara. Barbara is a lady who works at Jesus House (which is where the Kyampisi Childcare Ministry (KCM) is headquartered). She showed us where we would stay, and made sure we were settling in. Soon, three young smiling faces came to the two-bedroom apartment, and I was introduced to Georgie, Malaika and Peace. These three were staying at the Jesus House with Barbara as their caretaker for the time being. I immediately recognized Georgie from Chris and Courtney’s Facebook postings and blog. Chris and I put our luggage down, and played with the kids for a bit. They were so happy and clingy, wanting to be in constant contact with either Chris or me, climbing on us if we sat, or holding our hands and arms if we were up. Soon, Chris suggested that we head out and find some supper.
Collin drove us to a shopping area near Jesus House, and dropped us off. Chris first walked me to a "supermarket", which was a well-stocked grocery store. As I would learn was common, we were met at the door to the store by a security guard, use wanded us with a metal detector. Hearing a couple beeps by our pockets, he touched what he must have correctly determined to not be weapons, and waived us into the store. Later in the trip, I would eventually learn that they are primarily concerned with bombs, not personal weapons, as if you are permitted to carry a firearm, you just leave it at the door with the guard, similar to the coat and bag check also available at the entrance to all of the larger stores. We walked through, and I could immediately tell that nearly anything I could want or need was available. This included ice cream sold by the scoop, or soft-serve (not sure if this would meet the safe eating rules set forth for Americans), and a large bakery counter with a wonderful selection of all sorts of breads and treats. Chris and I each bought a chocolate muffin, and completed our tour of the store. We then went upstairs, and looked through what I would have called the Housewares section. We saw everything from TVs, home stereos and other electronics, to stoves and ranges, refrigerators and other home appliances. The prices were not exorbitant by American standards, but most Ugandans would find these to be a luxury, or unattainable. We left, and Chris took me to where he thought we should have supper: Mr. Tasty.
This was every bit of a chicken house that could have been on any corner in America. We ordered at the counter, sat and waited for our number to be called. I ordered a two piece fried chicken plate, which came with chips (French fries) and coleslaw (not on the acceptable food list), and a bottle of Coke, for 7000 Ugandan shillings (less than $3 US). We found a table and soon our food was ready. We ate what was a normal meal for Americans and Ugandans alike. The meal came with ketchup and chili sauce packets. The ketchup was like ours, and I would welcome the chili sauce to our standard condiment list. I ate everything but the coleslaw, and we took a taxi home. This taxi was different than the car from the airport. This was a minivan that stayed at the stop until it had all 14 passenger seats filled, which was a short wait, and then drove a route as a city bus would, sans the maps or any indication of where it was going. The driver just drove, which was plenty to occupy him, and there was a conductor seated by the sliding door to manage the stops and payments. We reached the Jesus House, paid our 1500 Ugandan Shilling fare ($0.60 US), and made entry to the compound when Jeffrey unlocked and opened the gate.
We started to settle in to for the night, when I realized that I did not have a mosquito net, which is “required” for sleeping in Uganda, and this entire region of Africa. Chris told me that he did not have one either, and would find one tomorrow. I, however, was not feeling great about this idea, so Chris sent me to the house attached to the office area, where Barbara and the kids were living for the time being. I knocked on the door, getting no answer. I saw that the kids were jumping and dancing in the bedroom on the side of the house, and I waved at them. They waved back, but didn’t seem to get that I was trying to get somebody to open the door. I knocked again, still with no answer. So then I walked nearer the window, and the three kiddos pressed their noses on the windows and again waved. I saw that Barbara was there also, laying down facing away from the window, not having any idea that I was there. I gently knocked on the window, which sent Barbara about four feet into the air. I apologized, which only slightly calmed Barbara. She was able to provide me with a mosquito net, which I dutifully used every night. I headed back to the apartment, locked the gate on the doorway with the provided padlock, and slept very well. God had blessed the long journey to Uganda, and I was so pleased to have arrived safely, and to have a very comfortable and safe place to sleep.
My physical journey to Uganda was a long one. I hugged and kissed my family goodbye, and drove away from my house in Hays, Kansas at 11:30 AM on Thursday, March 14. I drove three hours to the airport in Wichita, Kansas, and boarded a flight to Dallas. After some delay in Dallas, we took off and arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, only about 75 minutes late. I found my bag on the luggage carousel, and at about 1:00 AM, found a seat in the check-in area, where I would wait the four hours until Chris was due to arrive at 5:00 AM. I passed the time by working on the homework for the church leadership academy that Sarah and I had started the week prior. After that I turned to Hulu for some television entertainment, and the night quickly turned to day.
At about 5:00 AM, I saw Chris come in and start to check in. I walked up behind him, not trying to sneak, but trying to decide if this was the man that I was going half way around the world with, as I had never met him before. Turns out it was him. We shook hands, I met his father, and we both checked in for the next leg of travel without issue. After that, we both sleepily went through security, just starting to get to know each other. (Chris didn’t sleep either; he said that the combination of too much to do in preparation, a drive of several hours, and pure excitement proved too much for a brief attempt at sleeping. I agreed; I had no trouble staying awake in the sleepy airport.) We found our way to the gate, hours early, and sat alone for quite a while. We got to know one another quickly, skipping the small talk, and getting to the point. We talked about Jesus, love, hope and Africa. We learned about each other, and our spouses, who knew each other 15 years ago, but have not seen each other since middle school. Sarah had sent a gift to Chris, so I delivered the dvd of a Christmas pageant from Sarah and Courtney’s time together in Chicago, and Chris skipped forward to the noted point, as instructed. Soon, we were watching as a preteen Courtney was doing an African dance with several other girls to celebrate “Christmas in Africa.” I learned that Chris had a good sense of humor, and as he put it, “Courtney always had a little Africa in her.” Soon enough, it was time to board the flight out of Charlotte to Washington DC. We were seated separately, and the early-morning regional flight went by quietly.
Washington DC left us with enough time for breakfast, and before long, it was time to board the plane that would take us all the way to Africa. We checked, and were reassigned so that we could sit together. Better than that, we had a three seat section for just the two of us, which was great for the 12 hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As soon as we stepped on board, I felt like we had already arrived in Africa. The PA had music playing that could only be described as traditional African woven with some jazz, which was great, until I realized that it was only about a five minute loop, and we would hear it for the next 45 minutes from boarding to just after takeoff.
Chris and I chatted, continuing our conversation about Africa and the exciting possibilities that God had in store for us, as well as some good “getting to know you” talk. For the next 12 hours, we drifted in and out of sleep. The Ethiopian Airlines crew was something straight out of the 1950s, when commercial flight was just hitting its stride. The flight attendants were all female, all tall and thin with strikingly beautiful African features. They were all extremely polite, and spoke very good English. They were so interested in serving us that they would wake us up to make sure that we didn’t miss any of the services; even if you had just fallen asleep a few minutes prior….. We ate lunch, dinner and breakfast on the plane. I’m glad that I brought along reading and entertainment, because the in-flight movie system was not working properly. I was so excited, and so tired, that the flight was tolerable, although I found myself a little concerned about the prospects of bringing Andy and Bethany along for a similar ride. We arrived in Ethiopia after a flight of about 12 hours on a stopwatch, but 20 hours according to the sun. We flew from morning Friday to morning on Saturday.
We took a shuttle bus from the international terminal (which we didn’t set foot in) to the regional terminal, where we sat for about 5 hours due to a delay. This terminal was about what I expected from an Ethiopian airport. It was small, not bright, and not clean. It was crowded, with most of the seating already taken. There was a wide variety of people; a collection of all shades of black, white and yellow skin being represented. I noted, in particular, that there was lots of Indians and Asians. This was the only airport that I had ever seen lounge chairs out for people. Chris and I found a pair of traditional airport seats, and waited for our flight to come up in the arrival/departure tv screen. We were able to find some open wifi, and let people know that we had reached our destination continent safely. I’ll be honest with you; I was proud of the way I was handling this airport. I was not scared, and allowed myself to not think about all of the germs that must have been on every surface that I was obligated to touch. I convinced one of the young ladies keeping a shopping kiosk to let me charge Chris and our cell phones. Eventually, it came time for us to go through security, which was similar, but less invasive as in America. We went to the gate waiting area, and eventually made it in to our plane. We boarded, and flew to Entebbe, Uganda.