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.