Gaba Bible Institute (GBI) – Uganda Project trip Jan-Feb 2011

Looking down on part of the site from our work room. The pit latrine and showers that we all used during the week are seen in the middle distance (small grey buliding with red roof).


Part I of III

Travel – January 27-28
For some reason, leaving this time was especially hard. I should look back at previous blogs to see if I’ve said that before! Part of the reason I think it was hard this time was because of how it went down. Since my flight wasn’t until late in the afternoon (5:20pm), I had much of the day to kill before leaving for the airport. So I decided to go to the school to say goodbye to Alisha and the boys. Well, I think that was a mistake as it made me sad to see them in their school environment and realize that I really knew little about their normal school day (since I never see them there). Then seeing them get choked up saying goodbye to me was really hard too. In the end, Alisha walked me to my car and I drove off a blubbering mess!
I decided that the best remedy for this was to pray for them, so I went home and I walked into each of their rooms and prayed for them. That was very soothing, and though the tears flowed as I did it, I really felt God’s peace come on me as I realized I needed to put my trust in him instead of my own ability to take care of them.
Anyway, we got to the airport and the three of us (me and two interns) met up with two of our volunteers, who happened to be from Denver. The flight to London was so nice. The plane was very empty so I got a full three seats to lay down. Out of the 8 1/2 hour flight, I estimate that I slept at least 6 hours! In London, we basically had just enough time to get to the gate for our next flight. Actually, I was the next to last person on the plane. So I walked through to make sure all 10 volunteers were on the plane too – but I couldn’t find one of them – Anna Rose, the only woman volunteer on the trip, was missing. I spoke with the flight attendant and after checking for me, he told me she was booked on the flight the next day. He let me borrow his phone so I called and left Anna Rose a message letting her know that I would be there to pick her up at the airport the following day.
I actually slept really well on the flight to Uganda too – sleeping another 4 hours. This proved to be a problem later that night as I wasn’t able to sleep for more than 3 hours once we arrived at the site.
Arriving in Uganda was weird, surreal, and fun all wrapped up together. It felt a lot like home of course and very good to see the familiar sights, sounds and smells. It took us an hour and a half to get to the site, so by then we were good and tired as it was well after midnight. And that began the rough night of sleep!
Saturday, January 29
I woke up at 8am after a restless night – I was up from 3-6am. I was the last one to wake up, so I felt a bit panicked as we were to start the morning worship and sharing time at 8:15am. Because one of our volunteers wasn’t there, I changed the schedule to do testimonies the following day so Anna Rose could be a part of it. Instead, we just shared how we came to know about EMI and what we hoped to get out of the trip. The worship time was great too as intern Phil (from Northern Ireland) is a very talented guitar-player/singer.
After that and a quick Ugandan breakfast – ‘rolex’, which is basically a Ugandan version of a tortilla (think thicker than a ‘normal’ tortilla and moist from grease) with an omelet-style egg all rolled up with grilled cabbage and tomato – we met with the ministry representative, Jeff Atherstone, to begin discussing the program for the site. They had had a previous EMI team come to their former property and master plan a new campus for them, however, after everything was done the local community rejected it outright and that essentially killed the project right then and there. The community apparently was unhappy about the project because they felt it wasn’t the best use of the land as far as the community’s financial interests were concerned.

Walking the site with Jeff (front right). As you can see, there are many buildings and partial buildings on the site, which made our job much more difficult.

The upstairs room of this building served as our work room.

Our work room during the week. It was so nice to actually work right on the campus.
Of course the ministry was very discouraged about this, but Jeff explained how this new site was something God had worked out as they raised the large amount of money required to purchase the land very quickly with a few large gifts. They also quickly made some key connections in the area, with a powerful governmental official living very nearby. They are involving the community in this new project by encouraging people to build hostels all around the site since they are hoping to have up to 1000 students at the University, but only 250 will live on site. The hostels will be a great source of income for the community, and allows them to develop something themselves that will greatly improve their lives by giving them a steady income. Anytime we can help people create business and income on their own, it’s really the best case scenario for mission-work.
There are a number of existing buildings on the site, which always makes master planning much more difficult as we have to tie in the new with the old. Fortunately, the survey on this project was done ahead of our arrival so that has given us a huge headstart.

Volunteers Tom (left), Rhett (center) and Jonathan (right) got right to work!

Volunteer landscape architect Ryan was like a mad scientist all week - spreading out his sketches and drawings all over the place, and thinking with a pencil. In the end, he developed some amazing sketches, and worked hard on figuring out the site drainage and handicap ramps.
Jeff explained that they are wanting to expand their current campus of 50 students in a two-year accredited program to a full, four-year accredited, Christian university that offers such programs as public health, agriculture (to give the students a practical skill), and disabilities studies. The disabilities studies is particularly interesting and exciting as it will give opportunities to people who otherwise would have none, as people with disabilities are very often tossed aside as worthless in this culture. The university is in touch with ‘Joni and Friends’ from the US (Joni Erickson-Tada) and they are planned to help GBI install ramps and other disability-friendly improvement on site.
At night, I went back to the airport to pickup Anna Rose. Traffic was terrible as this is the first weekend back for schools in Uganda (follows the British system of running the school-year with the calendar year). It took 2 hours and 20 minutes, but I was there plenty early and Anna Rose was in great spirits as she walked off the plane. Because she missed her flight, British Airways put her up in a nice hotel and gave her 3 hot meals! Apparently, she arrived in London just 20 minutes after our flight had left the day before.
We made it back to the site around 12:30am again, so it was another late night. But since I had powered through all day, I slept very well until around 7:00am.
Sunday, January 30
We finally had our team all together this morning so we took the chance to share testimonies as a team. I know I say it every time, but it is always such a blessing to hear people’s stories – each one is so different and personal, but in each case it’s a life that God has touched in a special way that has made them want to do something crazy with their life like getting on a plane to come to Africa to serve alongside complete strangers for two weeks. This trip is no different, as our group of 10 comes from all over the country (and Northern Ireland!) to meet up here and each one felt God’s leading in joining the team.
After testimonies and breakfast (the cook Sam is a great guy, though he gravitates towards the local eating schedules which has pushed our breakfast later and later – this morning’s was at 10:15am), we headed off to the nearby church. The building was actually pretty big and mostly full of women and children. I’d estimate probably 150 to 200 people. We came in and they sat us in front, and immediately asked one of us to share something. Volunteer Jonathan – a civil engineer from Indianapolis – had agreed beforehand to share if we were asked, so he got up and shared a bit about the importance of the bible in our lives. Next intern Phil got up and led a song with his guitar. It was a cool experience for both of them. Ironically, the local pastor’s message was on the same topic Jonathan has spoken on.

Walking to church - it was probably our hottest day.

Volunteer Jonathan sharing a message - I was glad that for once one of my team members volunteered to share a sermon message since I usually end up doing it!

Intern Phil leading the local church in a worship song.
Church was about 2 1/2 hours long, but afterwards they had a drama presentation that they performed for another hour. It was funny, but in the local language so we didn’t really know what was going on. As we were leaving, the pastors asked us to come for a drink in their home to visit with them, so even though we were quite anxious to get back to the site to work, we couldn’t say no. We had a soda with them, and they told us about the history of their church and asked if we could help them with their building. I told them that was a question for our local office, but first we had to ask Jeff since we are here as his guests. They agreed to come meet me tomorrow to discuss it further. I was pleased to be able to tell them we had an office locally, as it would have been very tough for us to fit in more work during our time here, but also because I was glad that EMI would be able to help this little village church.

The church building was actually pretty nice looking for as remote as it was, though the quality of construction was not what you'd hope for.

This guy was part of the drama show, which included a funky dance group. He reminded me of a Ugandan Elvis - good moves and the faded hairstyle!
(Funny sidenote: We learned a new word in church today – “anyhowly”, as in, “Some people eat this way, some people eat that way, some people eat anyhowly.”)
Returning to the site, I had a quick lunch as the driver was there to take me to the EMI East Africa office in Kampala to pick up a few tools we need for our trip. Driving into town got more and more surreal as we went. The guys who came along with me (volunteers Rhett and Tom, two engineers in their mid-60’s from Cincinnati, Ohio) were probably getting tired of hearing me talk about the many familiar things I was seeing the closer we got to the office. It was bizarre to drive on the roads and streets where I had driven many, many times during our time living here. In some ways, I was feeling very sad that we weren’t still living here, and then in other ways I couldn’t believe we had actually lived here. But mostly, it made me miss living here and the slower-paced, relaxed and family-oriented lifestyle we were able to live.
Arriving at the office, I got to see one of our old guards Patrick and current staff member Phil Greene. I gave Patrick a big hug and we exchanged “how are you’s”. It was so nice to see him, it made me a little sad that the boys couldn’t be here since they (especially Jonah) spent so much time with the guards. They really were good to our boys and did a lot of things for them.
We saw a number of familiar spots and I noted a few changes that had occurred in the past 8 months – most notable was the fact that the main road leading to our house (Kiwafu Road) was now paved. What a huge difference that would have made in our standard of living – no dust, much less dirt in our house, and a much faster trip to wherever we were going!

Me and volunteers Rhett and Tom (far right) with part of the EMI East Africa crew.
We stopped by a few places for various errands, and I was able to say a quick ‘Hi’ to a few of the people who worked in the various stores where we shopped (I was both amazed and touched that so many of the local people remembered us). We returned back to the site shortly before dark, so I took a shower (actually, a ‘bucket bath’ in an outdoor concrete stall) before dinner. At night, we plotted the next days’ work schedule as these first two days had been pretty choppy work-wise with church and the trip into town. The architects were making some progress on the master plan so the team was ready to start plugging away at some of the engineering data collection – percolation tests in the soil, evaluating the buildings, testing the nearby water wells, and dissecting the existing electrical systems. I’m really happy to have another structural engineer here so I can focus on the project leading side of things as well as help the architects move forward with the master planning and coordinating the team needs with the ministry.

A candid shot of the team looking out on the site below, charting out their various plans.

...the same shot, except this is what happens when you tell a bunch of engineers/architects to 'act' candidly and ignore the camera. Hats off to intern Phil (far left) who pulled it off nicely.

Comments

terri said…
Hey Bro, loved your journal post #1! Sounds like another amazing, God-led trip! Thanks for taking the time to take us all along with you thru your descriptions! Kiwafu road paved, that is a huge improvement for the neighborhood!How I wished it had been done while you guys were there to enjoy it :) Love you and look forward to journals 2 and 3 :) love,Terri
Traci Morrow said…
LOVE THIS!!! :) I have a smile on my face from the tongue in cheek manner in which you share, but also the real/raw emotions you felt as you visited Uganda after being gone nearly 9 months??!? Weird that its been that long.

You write very well and clearly and I love feeling and "seeing" your experiences.

Glad your'e home, and SO GLAD for your willingness to remember the poor in Africa. I love that they are not forgotten - but that God would call all those hearts from around the US to go and SERVE. When God calls us there is ALWAYS a cost, but what better cause to pay your dues for?! Well done. The poor are the heart of God. <3

Like Sister, I'm looking forward to journals 2 and 3. :)

xoxox
PS: do you ever go by your old house?

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