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!

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