Uganda Project trip – March 2013

The team (L to R): intern Dan, Rob, intern Matt, Alan, Jingo
John our driver for the week, me, intern Jonny, Jana, Tim,
baby Zach, Izzy and Angie - more about them in my later
posts from this trip.
(*Note: If you want to view any of the pictures closer, simply click on the image.)

Sunday February 24th:
I think Alisha and I have tried something different each time I’m heading out on a project trip in hopes of finding a way of doing it that will be easier. To date, no such luck. This time, since Alisha’s parents were leaving the same day a couple hours after I departed, we went to a hotel for the night near the airport since our car wasn't big enough to fit all 7 of us plus all the luggage (and also, Heathrow is a two-hour drive from our house, which makes for a very early start for morning departures). So Alisha’s parents were led by Brodie on the train and tube in London and Alisha and I drove with the other two boys and the luggage to the airport. We did have a nice evening in London, stopping off at the Science Museum for a bit (Museums are free in London!) and then dinner at a noodle bar.
But when the time came the next morning to say goodbye, it was once again just as hard as it always is. As the boys get older, it’s getting harder on them I think, or at least they communicate their sadness much more openly. It weighs on me, as Graysen becomes inseparable from me the last 24 hours, crying off and on, and Jonah just gets quiet and says things like “I hate this life”. I think Alisha and I as parents sometimes underestimate how difficult this ‘missionary lifestyle’ is on our kids, and that it’s a sacrifice for them too. I don’t just mean me leaving for a couple of weeks a few times a year, but also moving around for the past 5 years, and then me running off to some far off lands while they’re left behind in a different far off land.
Jonah especially notices and misses what he thinks is a ‘normal’ lifestyle. Of course, when we’re back in America, he doesn't really feel like he fits in 100% there either, so defining what’s ‘normal’ anymore is elusive. This is basically summed up in a book called ‘Third Culture Kids’ – which is a great book for parents who have raised their kids overseas. The gist is, missionary kids don’t fit in – not in their country of residence and not in their home country, and thus they are a part of a ‘third culture’ which is basically their own (and their siblings). Having once again moved overseas to a new country and culture this past year, it seems that we have permanently cemented our kids into the status of ‘third culture kids’.
Fortunately, a quick Google search found me
nearly the exact site I saw from the plane, though
you'll have to imagine full cloud cover blanketing
the full area, apart from the peaks you see here.
But back to the trip, after a final goodbye at the airport (Alisha and Jonah delivered me via the Underground while the other two stayed back with Grandma and Grandpa), I met up with part of the team flying out as others were on different flights. After an hour delay on the runway (always fun when you have an 8 1/2 hour flight ahead), we took off. Within an hour, I was looking out at the snow-covered peaks of the French Alps sticking up through the clouds (I could kick myself for not taking a picture out the window!). A couple hours later (3.5 hours into the flight), the map showed us flying over Benghazi, Libya, where the US Ambassador was slain last September with much controversy following in the news.
I find it amazing to think that we live just a 3 1/2 hour flight from such a place. Growing up and living in America, one gets the feeling that anything that happens outside of the Western Hemisphere is on a completely different planet. I never dreamed I would actually pass overhead or even visit some of these places you hear about on the news. I’m sure given the last 5 years of our life, you might not think much of reading about me flying to this place or that place all over the world. But the reality is, it is still a big deal to me! I’ve been to a lot of countries and places, but I still feel like a rookie in travel. It just shows how powerful growing up with one perception can be and how it’s next to impossible to change that paradigm in your mind. I’m still a home-body at heart.
Our flight route from London Heathrow to Entebbe, Uganda.
You can see Benghazi, Libya (marked by the red Google 'A'
marking) just to the East of our flight path.
If you could pardon me for spiritualizing this for a bit, I would point out just how difficult it is for our Christian faith to be received by so many around the world on the very same grounds. Growing up feeling like they have to earn God’s favor, or follow a set of rules and customs to be found good enough, or that they don’t matter very much and their life is meaningless – beliefs that enshroud most other religions in the world – this seems like an enormous paradigm shift for them to overcome. And yet, here we are setting out to try to provide hope to a group of kids in Uganda by giving them a school that is safe, clean, is inviting, allows them to feel proud, and even teaches them to take care of the environment (God’s creation) by using new technologies to run the school – biogas from cow droppings to fuel the cooking, solar power to help run water pumps and other items, rainwater harvesting so the groundwater table isn’t overtaxed, and other simple ideas that can help make a school function well.
Our old neighborhood in Muyenga, Kampala. Our house
was down this road on the right, past the white house you
see to the right of the road a ways down. Our boys named
this street 'scary hill' since it turns to dirt just above where
I've taken this picture and becomes very narrow, windy and
difficult to pass.
Same old Kampala - so much to love, and so much of a
stench to be repulsed by.
Anyway, those are my thoughts as I fly to Uganda for this trip (currently over the southern portion of the Libyan Desert). This world can feel like a small place from 35,000 feet up in the air going 530mph, though looking at the map on my screen and seeing myself getting farther and farther from Alisha and the boys, it can also feel fairly immense too. I sure hope the next 12 days are a good experience, but I also hope they pass very quickly!
The newly rebuilt gazebo at the EMI East Africa office in
Kampala! So much nicer than the original structure, and
bigger too, which is important considering that nearly 30
people gather there each morning for prayer!
Monday February 25th:
Waking up in Uganda was a strange feeling! Partially because I had gone to bed at 3:30am, but more so because it felt like I was home. It was a busy morning, and reminded me that leading trips when I was living in Uganda had some perks - namely, I could take care of all the little in-country details before the team arrived.  So, before heading out of town, we had a number of stops to make, not the least of which was a very fun stopover at the EMI East Africa office which probably lasted 3 times longer than it should have! The team had a good attitude about all the stops, especially when one of them was for lunch, so after all the errands, we headed out of Kampala a few hours later than we were supposed to. How quickly I can readjust back to African time. ;)
We arrived at the site and the slower pace continued, as we walked the site and talked with the ministry. However, the Ugandan general manager of the ministry was not available, and thus we weren’t able to do our all-important programming meeting as we’d planned. Oh well, if I’ve learned one thing on trips it’s that you have to stay flexible and expect things to take longer than you think.
Our vehicle for the week - a matatu. What it lacks in pizazz,
it more than makes up for in lack of comfort, unreliability,
and an overall poor safety record. However, with that
said, I've yet to meet a matatu driver I didn't like.
Arriving at the guesthouse 20 minutes from the site, we were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice (and big) two-story building, shaped kind of in an H-formation, that would be our living quarters for the next week. It’s run by a group of nuns from a monastery that is on the other side of the property. We were shown our rooms and I was quite happy to be given my own room (along with a few other team members), with my own little bathroom. Such a luxury on a project trip!
The team seemed happy enough with our wheels.
After dinner, the team’s tiredness was beginning to show so we turned in for the night after an abbreviated ‘get to know you’ meeting. Going to bed at 11pm felt early since I am still on UK time (3 hours behind).  Something I’m thinking about on this trip is to really try to be present here, focusing on the moment at hand and taking things one day at a time. So often I can either get preoccupied with missing home or be thinking too much about the product we need to finish by the end of the trip. Instead, I want to really learn all God wants me to on this trip, especially as I interact with those around me.
Traffic on the roads was heavy.
I sent an email out to the team a few weeks before the trip and told them to come to the trip with no expectations of how they will be helpful. It’s likely that God wants to use their technical abilities, but it’s also just as likely that God wants to use them in the life of another person, either a teammate, or a local person they meet.  I was reminded of this email by one of the volunteers, and I realized that I had forgotten about sending it, but it was a good reminder for me to heed my own advice and look for ways to invest in the people God’s placed around me this week.

Touring the existing nursery school campus - this site was
not a part of our work on this trip. (The large concrete
openings are a new experimental bio gas system - more on
that in future instalments of this trip blog.
A shot inside one of the classrooms of the school. I'll talk in
more detail in the next blog about it, but our team's job on
this project was to design a new school campus for an
existing primary school of nearly 300 students. Currently,
the school meets in these very run down, leased classrooms.

It's impressive how tuned in the students are in the classroom,
which is hot, dirty, dusty and poorly lit. Even so, these
students recently placed 2nd out of 30 schools in the district
on their national exams. If this classroom was in America,
can you imagine the mass exodus of students into home-

Next time...I'll introduce the project and ministry we were there to serve, but first...
...Introducing Zach Butcher, the youngest and easily most
popular member of our EMI team.

Baby Zach was a mega-star around the Ugandan children,
most of whom had never seen a mzungu (white) baby before.

By my count, I hadn't worn a hat in over half a year, and yet
on this trip, I wore one nearly every day. Perhaps some
sociology expert out there can tell me why I did this, since I
can't really say that I know why myself. Was I: a) trying to
appear taller and thereby obtain more esteem as a project
leader? b) using the hat as a coping mechanism for missing
my family? c) hiding the growing number of grey hairs
creeping onto the scene lately in a last ditch effort to maintain
a young persona? d) lazy and taking full advantage of my
short, 'project trip haircut' where it doesn't hurt my head to
wear a hat?


Ryan Williams said…
Give your boys this reminder found in John 14:1-3, which says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
Ryan Williams said…
Give your boys this reminder found in John 14:1-3, which says: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

Take comfort in the fact that what you are doing each time you go away on your EMI trips can symbolize for your boys what Christ has done for us. Use this image as an opportunity to strengthen their faith in Christ.


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