Monday, September 30, 2013

Uganda YWAM Project

Part I of V

Days 1-2:  3rd-4th September
Having just returned from our Summer visa run to the US 6 days before, I repacked the bag I had just unpacked a couple days before and prepared to head out back to Uganda. I’ve documented well the struggles I have with leaving, and this time was of course no different. However, maybe it was jetlag or maybe we’re getting better at it – or more likely, maybe God was answering the prayers of the many people who were praying for us those days specifically! – but this time we were a bit more resolved about my leaving and the fact that it is part of what God has called us to in this journey with EMI.

Ready to depart LHR with my trusted side-kick, intern Michael.
In some ways, I think our time back in the US was helpful in that regard, as we left with a bit of a renewed resolution and contentment that we are in fact doing what we feel God has called us to do, however hard it might be at various points of the journey. (I know when Alisha reads this, she’s going to laugh at my saying this because the night before leaving I may or may not have been pouting and singing a slightly different tune!)

All travel days are long, so here’s nothing more than a chronicle of our journey:  1 hour train ride to London, then 1 ½ hours on the London Underground with our luggage (via 4 different trains, but importantly, no stairs or escalators!) to Heathrow. After checking in and waiting for 2 hours, we took off on our 8 hour flight to Uganda. On arrival, after getting visas, collecting our luggage and exchanging money, we drove an hour and a half to the guesthouse in Kampala to pick up the 4 team members who arrived the night before. Then it was 2 ½ hours on to the site in Jinja.

Volunteer Yao (center, in hat) had a great attitude despite
her rough inbound journey.
One study I saw estimated that there are nearly
eleventy-bazillion bodas on the road in Kampala, though
I would guess that number is a tad low.
We did have a hiccup along the way when one of the volunteers’ flights from America was 4 hours delayed, causing her to miss her connecting flight to Uganda the night before us (part of the team arrived the night before). They rerouted her through Egypt, and then onto Uganda where she arrived at 3:45am – not ideal! On the plane, she met a nice couple and they took her to their home in Kampala (which was kind, but a bit risky since she didn’t know the people). But that morning, she called me on my Ugandan mobile number shortly after our arrival to say that the people she'd met were putting her on a boda to take her across town to connect up with us. What a way to start her first trip to Africa! (If you remember from previous posts, a ‘boda’ is a motorcycle taxi in Uganda, of which there are many in Kampala that make for a very busy and hectic situation on the roads.) Nonetheless, just as we arrived at the guesthouse where we were meeting up with the others who had arrived the night before, there was volunteer Yao with bag in tow on the back of a boda!

Arriving in Jinja, we stopped at the mobile phone store to get the team connected with phone SIM cards and data – funny how that paradigm shift has happened on trips. It wasn’t that long ago that having internet and phone access on a trip was rare. Now, it’s almost becoming an expectation of people since pretty much everywhere in the world has cellular phone access. Finally, around 4pm in the afternoon – nearly 22 hours after heading to the train station in Colchester, we were at the guesthouse on site.
Hands down, the most dangerous place to be in all of Africa
is on the highway.

Arriving on the YWAM Hopeland base, we were greeted
by a beautiful site. Having been in operation for nearly 30
years, it was a stark contrast from many sites we work on
that haven't been touched in years.
Days 3-4:  5th – 6th September
Because of the flight schedule out of Uganda this time of year, our project time with the ministry for this project is a bit longer than normal. Coupled with having to stick around while some of the team goes on safari, this will be my longest trip to date. And, with a team of 14, this is also my biggest team ever. Consequently, from a work standpoint, there’s definitely a more relaxed feel to our schedule since we have a lot of people for more days than usual.

The campus where we’re staying and working is about 10 minutes East of Jinja, the third largest town in Uganda and probably my favorite town in the country. It has a very small town feel, but it’s also a bit more developed than the other towns so it’s a nice place to visit. But the site where we’re at is very rural, so it’s definitely out of the hubbub of town and is quite peaceful.

After a brief meeting with ministry leaders (most of which are
Ugandan, though the site director is British), we did our
customary walk of the entire site.
Perhaps having lived in Uganda gives me more of a sense of
familiarity that leads to me ignoring my instructions to the
team to wear 'long trousers' when out and about! Oops!
Intern Deryck (center, Wikimania t-shirt) was a fun guy to
have around. The combination of his Cambridge-grad
intelligence and typical engineer's sense of humour made
him a big hit with the team (at least with the engineers,
anyway - I'm not sure the architects could understand! ;) )
Lost.
The overall site is over 70 acres, though we’re working on two smaller portions of it. One portion is about 5 acres where the new primary school will be, and the other area is about 2 acres where they have asked us to design housing for their existing conference center. Apparently, they have hosted conferences for up to 350 people before, with people sleeping on mats on the floor! Their hope is that the conferences will be a major funding source for them to help build the school, as well as to help fund all of their other ongoing operations on site. For that reason, they’re asking us to design accommodations for as many people as can possibly fit in that portion of the site since they’ve been asked to host 900 person conferences before (they’ve declined due to their limited hospitality capacity).

Though YWAM is an enormous organization with over 18,000 staff worldwide, they have a very decentralized leadership structure, and each country office is generally independent of the others. Thus, though they are big and well known, they are not always very well funded, depending on the country. Having a hospitality site could therefore be a major stabilizing force for YWAM Uganda’s financial program.
YWAM Hopeland Director Dr. Tim and his wife Jackie - with
volunteer Jaz (right) from the EMI team. Tim was a medical
doctor in Britain before he moved his family to Uganda 15
years ago. Close your eyes and you can't tell his son's voice
apart from a local Ugandan boys. A very thick African accent!
But the primary school was the main reason they asked us to come. They currently have 150 nursery school children, and the parents of those children have been begging them for years to start a primary school so their children can continue to receive the strong Christian education being provided. It’s exciting to us that this school is a response to a request from the Ugandan people – development always works best when the ideas for meeting the need come from the people being served.
Meeting with the nursery school Head-Mistress (Principal
in the US) to learn about the need for a school.

Walking the site - nibbling on sugar cane.
The team has made quick work of the short day and a half of work time, and already basic plan concepts for both projects have been started and accepted by the ministry leaders. By the way, though the site director is a British guy, the remainder of the leadership team is Ugandan, and the overall country director is Ugandan as well. Seeing that kind of integration of locals into the leadership of the ministry is a good testament to their desire to truly be a part of the local community.


Getting straight to work - as far as number of hours spent
working, the architects on EMI trips typically put the
engineers to shame...so I can't pick on them too much.
Also, though we did have a 2 hour power outage today, since they’ve built a new dam on the Nile River in the past few years the power is much more reliable in Uganda these days than when we lived here. The ministry said the power outage today was actually quite unusual. The downside to the new dam is that once it was finished and filled with water, it covered over a large chunk of the whitewater rapids I rafted while we were living here. (They still do the rafting a bit further downstream, though I’m told it’s not quite as good as it once was.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Little reminders of His faithfulness

by Alisha :)

Romans 7:6: “Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”

With Brad being gone on his project trip to Uganda for a couple weeks, I took the boys to the zoo the other day. They each bought a small bag of sweets. I didn’t buy one then, but after tasting one of theirs I decided a little while later that I might buy some too. As I stood in line with my one pound coin and a scrumptious bag of sweets picked out, I felt a “no” that somehow led me to hang the sweets back on the rack and leave the little side shop.

I rejoined the boys at the park structure just outside the window and we all headed up to toward the giraffe enclosure where Graysen had his heart set on face-painting.  He had been longing to get his face-painted for many trips to the zoo.  Watching all the fun, Jonah soon decided to get his painted too, and seconds later, Brodie was keen to join in as well. As Graysen finished up very pleased with his colorful, leopard spots, I suddenly realized I had to pay in cash rather than with a debit/credit card!

Frantically, I hunted through my wallet in search of gold coins or bills - we never carry very much cash! Coming up two pounds short and in a panic, I dug one hand deep into my front pocket and found a pound coin.  Still desperate for one more, I reached my other hand in the opposite pocket, and there was the pound coin I still had after putting the sweets back on the rack.


Later in the day, I realized what a blessing that coin was. From it, I learned that listening to the gentle “yes” and “no” promptings in our heart leads to living by God’s Spirit rather than the “do’s” and “don't's” of the law. There would have been nothing ‘wrong’ with buying the bag of sweets, but God had a different plan, and it was better than mine. For years, Brodie has had to forego things like face paint in order to avoid allergens that sent his whole system into a tizzy.  But as he's grown older, he's becoming more and more tolerant of different foods and things that used to set him off.  On this afternoon, he got the chance to be a kid in a way he'd never had before.

Jonah (left), Brodie (center) and Graysen (right)
Brad's caption: They often act like wild animals, but on this
occasion they got to look like them too! (Words spoken like only
a loving father would! :) )

All three of our boys enjoyed the fun of strolling off with spotted-leopard and striped-tiger cheeks, because God delights in the details.  Everything we do is an opportunity to live according to the promptings of the Spirit, in both big things and small things alike. If we have a gentle spirit and are willing to make the effort to listen, so often God rewards us with treasured little reminders of His faithfulness.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Uganda Project trip time!

In just an hour and a half, I'm catching the train to head out to my next project trip in Uganda for a couple of weeks! We'll be designing a new primary school for YWAM at their Hopeland Base campus in Jinja, Uganda. It's my biggest team yet - 14 total - and already one volunteer has missed her connecting flight in Amsterdam. Pray that this minor glitch is the last of the logistal problems we face!
Also, as always, you can pray for Alisha and the boys as their job of staying home is often more difficult because it's normal life but with one parent removed (i.e. pray for Alisha!). The boys start school tomorrow as well, so that's of course on our minds.
Overall safety and good team unity and effectiveness in working together are always at the top of the prayer request list as well. Be on the lookout for further updates on the trip in the near future...possibly on Twitter and Instagram too!