Thursday, September 13, 2007
- We put our luggage in our van for the trip to the airport. After a discussion it was decided that there would not be enough room in the van, so the luggage was moved to the roof.
- We left the Colline Hotel in Mukono at about 1pm on Saturday.
- We made a pit stop at the site of the new (not finished) Namboole United Methodist Church. We visited with Rev John Kiviiri for a few minutes before continuing on.
- Bob C and Dewey wanted to attend the Futbol (soccer) game at the national stadium. The game was a part of the Africa's Cup of Nations tournament featuring Uganda vs. Niger. We had a view of the stadium from the Namboole location. Bob and Dewey were outvoted and we moved on.
- Moses, our driver, decided that it looked like rain. So we stopped the van in downtown Kampala and took the luggage off the roof and put it back in the van.
- Bob C, Byron and Dewey walked from that spot to exchange some money from US dollars into Ugandan Shillings.
- The rest of the group went to the Episcopal office with the van. There they put the luggage back on top of the van and covered it with a tarp.
- After reuniting, we filled the van with fuel and moved onto Entebbe, site of the national airport.
- Upon arrival in Entebbe, we took the luggage down at the Golf View Inn. That lasted for only a few minutes as most of us would be sleeping in another location. Therefore, we had to put most of the luggage back on top of the van.
- Although we were only going to be in the Golf View Inn (there was a golf course across the street) for a few hours, it was quite a bit more primitive than anything that we would stay in at home.
- We ate dinner at a nearby resort and then said goodbye to our hosts, Moses, David and James, and returned to the Golf View.
- At 200am we left the Golf View from Entebbe airport for our 430am flight. The airport at Entebbe is very interesting. Security was a challenge. Dewey and Jim were stopped for a time because someone was carrying a Swiss Army Knife. Our group was cleared of the crime and the knife was located and confiscated.
- The flight from Entebbe to Cairo, Egypt took about five hours.
- In Egypt, we had 25 hours before our connecting flight to the US. Egypt Air provided meals and a room for each of us at Le Passage Heliopolis hotel. It was by far the nicest place that we slept. We were a little uncomfortable because Egypt Air kept our passports during this time. However, when we arrived at the airport at 700am the next day, our work was easy. We had boarding passes and seat assignments already.
- Then there was 12 hours on the 777 from Cairo to New York City. And that's where all our troubles really began. Carol and Bob L both had luggage that did not arrive from Cairo. Egypt Air will not return luggage beyond New York City. This was very frustrating. Bob L then lost his toothpaste and shaving cream to the TSA at the security checkpoint. Dewey's bag was overweight and he had to pay a fee to get it on the plane.
- Our flight was originally scheduled for 640pm from NYC to Indianapolis (that's what it said on the tickets and itinerary anyway). When we arrived at the gate departure time was listed at 700pm, then 735, then 800, then 830. When we finally got on the plane, we had to sit on the runway for a long time. It was almost 1000pm when we finally got in the air.
- When we arrived in Indianapolis we were all greeted by family, friends and our leader and motivator, John Elliott. We are all extremely glad to be home.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Jim spent some time with Noah, a young man that is special to him. He arranged for Patrick Isabiyre, one of our student- pastors, to mentor Noah. Noah's desire, and Jim's dream, is to become a United Methodist Pastor. It looks like he is well on the way.
At the close of the celebration each teacher-pastor received a gift of appreciation from Bishop Wandabula. The men received wooden plaques with scenes and sayings from Uganda. Carol was the recipient of a woven rug or mat. We were all overwhelmed that we received anything at all.
This morning we are all finishing our packing and preparing to return home. Although we have all had a wonderful time, we are really ready to get home. Today we are in a 'killing-time' mode. We got a late check out from our hotel at 100pm. But our flight from Entebbe to Cairo is not until 435am tomorrow. We are going to see some sights and spend some time in a hotel near the airport.
We will arrive in Cairo via Egypt Air tomorrow morning around 1000am. Then we have almost 24 hours in Cairo. Thankfully Egypt Air is providing us with rooms so that we will not have to spend the whole time in the airport. We hope to see some more sights in Cairo, but mostly we are planning to take it easy.
Finally, we will get to Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday evening and will arrive (if all connections go well) in Indianapolis on Monday night at 937pm.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The last two days have been somewhat uneventful. Bob C. attended the Mukono Rotary meeting last evening. It was not like the Rotary Club in Franklin. There was no meal, and he didn't even get a flag. One of the goals of Rotary in Uganda is to bring every family up to poverty level. That amount, translated into dollars, equals $334 per month... for a family of eight. It is a different world here.
Byron and Carol are holding a meeting at the Academy this afternoon for all clergy couples. They plan to share from their experience to encourage this group that they can speak to somewhat authoritatively.
There is now only one more day of class. Many students and teachers began saying their goodbyes today. At the close of the Academy there will be a special ceremony with the Bishop in attendance. We are not sure what the ceremony will be like, but we believe that it will be long.
We got a substitute driver for our van today. Moses, our regular driver, was needed by the Bishop in Kampala. No one seems to know the new driver's name and he does not speak English. The highlight of riding with him is the speed, or rather, lack of speed with which he drives. It took us forever to get back into town today. We were being passed by trucks with heavy loads going up hills.
Finally, some thoughts on the professions of Ugandan people.
Most Ugandans barely survive. In nearly all homes there is no electricity or running water. In fact, doors seem to be optional. Often a curtain or some other piece of material divides inside from out. Many Ugandans farm. For most Americans, a Ugandan farm would be the size of nice garden at home. This is the source of much of the Ugandan diet.
Other sources of income include:
- Charcoal. Many people make charcoal and sell it for cooking. No one cooks inside the house. Many families have an outdoor shelter, or what we would call a barbecue pit for cooking.
- Brick-making. Bricks are made from the clay/mud that is everywhere. They are molded into a uniform shape and then allowed to dry in the sun for several days. After this they are fired in a kiln.
- Bananas. Bananas are the main agricultural product of Uganda.
- Sugar Cane. It is not unusual to pass a bicycle on the road loaded with sugar cane to take to market.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
In addition, several of our students are becoming ill. They are very crowded where they are staying and sickness could potentially move from person to person very quickly. Please pray also for those students that are sick to be made well, and for the others to not get ill in the first place.
One of the things that has struck us about Uganda is the greeting that we here over and over. Christians often greet each other with a 'praise God.' At home when someone gives my a 'praise the Lord,' I think that they are phony. There is none of that here, however. When I hear a 'Praise God,' I know that the praiser is completely sincere.
There is a gift shop at the Humble School. Many items in the gift shop are made here in Uganda. There are shirts and dresses, stools, jewelry, baskets and bowls. It is very interesting to see this sort of thing. The proceeds from the store go toward supporting the school.
One of the Bishop's plans for the future, as he shared with us on Sunday, is to start a children's choir based out of Humble School. This choir would travel to the US to raise support and awareness of the School and the United Methodist Church in Uganda.
Here are two stories for today:
Solomon is a young pastor from the Gulu district of Uganda. He lives in a tent with his mother and ministers in a refugee camp for children. There is a resistance movement in the north of Uganda, the Gulu area, led by the Lord's Resistance Army. One child became fascinated by a water faucet. Running water is rare in those areas of Uganda, but it is not unheard of. This boy was mesmerized by the running water and no one knew why. Finally, Solomon asked what was so interesting about the running water. The boy responded that it reminded him of how the blood used to flow in his village during the war.
In class today there was a discussion about clean and unclean foods. The students were told about the Levitical requirements and then they reviewed the Acts 10 passage in which Peter was given the freedom to eat any animals. There was then a long discussion about pork and Jewish people and Muslims. Finally, Isaac spoke up and told us that we should never eat pork because Jesus cast demons into pigs. He believed that if you ate pork, you would get the demons that were in the pig.
There are many tragic stories of hurt and loss here. There are just as many stories about superstition. Please pray for us as we try to minister here. Pray for our students that they will be able to learn and become more effective in their own ministries.
Monday, September 3, 2007
- Yesterday after worship one of the students brought us a jakfruit (sp?). It is a large green fruit that grows on trees. It is watermelon like in size and shape, but the texture of the rind is rough and bumpy like a walnut. It was quite a procedure to get to the meat of the fruit, but when we finally got there it looked a little like pineapple and tasted like a pineapple/ banana combination.
- There are several clergy couples in the Academy. This is very encouraging to see men and women entering into and working in ministry together. In addition, there are some other women (young and old) who are participating.
- One of our constant struggles is with the exchange of money. Ugandans trade in the Shilling. This is not a problem except that the current exchange rate is 1775 shillings to one US dollar. Thankfully, Byron made everyone a conversion chart. Otherwise we would be constantly scratching our heads and trying to divide everything by 1775.
- The singing of the pastor/students in the Academy is phenomenal. We could listen to them for hours on end. They sing with such gusto and passion that we Americans could easily be ashamed of our half-hearted attempts at worship.
- We finally had our meeting with the Bishop last night. Bishop Daniel Wandabula arrived at our hotel at 7pm with his wife and two visitors from New Jersey. After sharing with us his plans for a children's choir that would travel from Humble School, we were able to share some of our thoughts and concerns about the Academy with the Bishop. The gist of what we shared with him follows:
- The Humble School, as it currently stands, is not conducive to the school. The pastors are sleeping on bunk beds (three persons high) in classrooms. The bathrooms are not complete. And there is no running water in the available restrooms.
- There are many questions among the students about the increase in the influence of Islam. A future class on that subject would be good.
- Many of the students really struggle with English. There needs to be some sort of English training for them. At the very least, someone who attends the Academy could then hold a brief seminar on the content for those who cannot speak English.
- The schedule is too long for the student/pastors. They are in three classes each day, each lasting 2.5 hours. By they end of the day they are barely conscious. (Every student makes a great effort to stay awake, however).
The longer we are here the more it seems that there is to do. Pray that we can accomplish all that God has for us.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Bob Land gave the morning message at Loving Example United Methodist Church which meets at the Humble School. He had a congregation that included all of the resident children of the school and the pastors who are staying through the weekend for the Academy. Bob was the only one who did not have an interpreter translate his message as he preached. Bob had a lot of time to spend with the people after the service as his ride was extremely late in picking him up.
Bob Coleman preached at Mount Olive UMC in Mukono. It is a congregation meeting in a rented building. The pastor of the church and his wife, Patrick and Rachel, are among the best students at the Academy. We have all been very impressed with both of them.
Byron and Carol Fritz were able the share at Nambole UMC. This is the church that we all attended last week. Attendance was down from a week ago, but worship was spirited and vital nonetheless. Nambole Church is currently meeting in a sort of lean-to. However, they have purchased property and have plans to build by this time next year. There are three or four members of the congregation who are attending our Academy in preparation for answering God's call to ministry.
Dewey Miller was the speaker at Mutungo UMC in Kampala. It is a very small church (approximately 25 people) meeting in a rented lot on an alley behind a store. This congregation is the one that is pastored by Fred, who was mentioned earlier this week in this blog. Although the congregation is small, they were very gracious and supportive.
Jim Hertel preached to the congregation at Kawala, also in Kampala. This congregation is made up mostly of refugees from Congo. The room that they meet in (25' x 25') is in what can only be described as a slum. There were 80 people at the worship service who love Jesus with all their hearts.
Currently we are awaiting the arrival of the Bishop. We had an appointment with him at 3pm. It is now 630pm and we still do not know where he is. Oh well, such is life in the UMC.
Tomorrow classes begin again at 8am with worship. That is always a highlight of the day. The school is half over and our trip is more than half over. What seemed to take forever to arrive is not flying by.
The entire mission team is having a good time. We are healthy and laughing a lot. Every day it seems that God is answering prayers. Thank you for your support and continued prayer.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
When we got to Jinja we traveled to Bajaguli Falls. This is just a remarkable place on the River Nile. It is a long series of rapids, white water and islands. At first we just stood and watched God's beauty, and then we noticed kayakers and rafters running down the river. That made us watch even longer. No one on our team was bold enough to try it.
Upon leaving there we met up with Julius, the Jinja District Superintendent. He took us to his home and introduced us to his family. It is safe to say that his home is below standards for adequate parsonage in Indiana. It had about four rooms (very small) and a dirt floor. The walls were made from mud. He invited us in and we were able to pray that God's blessings would be on his house, his family and his ministry. Julius also took us to visit some members of his congregation. What an eye-opening experience for all of us.
Next we traveled to a vacant lot that the United Methodist Church owns. In the future it will be the site of a church building. We are exploring ways that UMs in Indiana can participate in the building of this church. It is a lovely location high on a hill overlooking Lake Victoria. We also visited with Isaac, another UM Pastor. Isaac's congregation of about 100 is losing their lease and has to move. He showed us where they are going. All they have at the new location is the start of a hole for their latrine. That hole (pit) seemed to go down forever. It made us all a little nervous when we got too close.
For lunch we traveled to the Triangle Hotel overlooking Lake Victoria. The view was breathtaking. We saw birds there that you cannot imagine. The most dramatic was probably the stork. In addition, there were dozens of fruit bats living in the palm trees between the hotel and the lake. Not all of the bats slept during the day. We saw several (and they were pretty large) flying around.
Lunch itself was interesting as well. We had a choice between talapia and chicken. Those that chose the fish were greeted with a very large, staring, smiling fish. Those who chose the chicken thought that they might be consuming some of the fruit bats from outside. The consensus was that the fish was very good, but the chicken was not.
Before we left Ninja we went to the site known as the source of the River Nile. The Nile begins at Lake Victoria. While we were there we enjoyed the cool breeze and caught a brief glimpse of a wedding. Adjacent to the Nile attraction there is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently his ashes were sprinkled in the Nile and the statue commemorates that event.
Tomorrow we are preaching in five different churches in the area. Since we do not speak Luganda, we will have to use interpreters. This should be an interesting, but great experience. In the afternoon we are scheduled to have a conference with the Bishop. It should be a good thing as we discuss future plans and the direction of the Uganda Bible Academy.
Pray for us. We have reached the halfway point of our mission. So far everyone is in good spirits. We have all taken turns being a little sick, but so far nothing serious. Pray that God will work in us and keep us help.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Grace may be the most popular female name. There is one girl at the Humble School who is named Blessed Grace. She loves Jesus and can sing like an angel. This Grace truly is blessed. There are two different Grace's who wait on us at the hotel. Both have the prettiest smiles and personalities. Last night as we were eating supper, one of the Grace's came to our table and asked us to pray for her and her family. She said that they had taken in 20 AIDS orphans and they were having a hard time financially. We think that Grace- she is about 20 years old- might earn about $100 a month. She lives with her family, and do not know their income. In any case, 20 children in any family would be a struggle. Pray for Grace and her ministry. (By the way, Grace always greets us with 'Praise God.')
Humble United Methodist School
The Humble United Methodist School in Mukono, Uganda is where our Bible Academy is being held. It is the only official UM institution in Uganda other than the churches. It is a residential primary school (K-7) which is focused mainly on orphans. There are currently 204 students at the school. Of those, about 30% are AIDS orphans. Many of the children are also HIV positive.
The school has been funded and built primarily with support from United Methodists in Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia. Currently they are working on a clinic (for the children and the surrounding area) and bathrooms (with running water).
The main problem for the school is in the area of funding. The staff are committed to the students, to education and to ministry. There just isn't enough money. One of the East Africa Annual Conference leaders told us earlier this week that it costs $1095 per student to run the school for a year. That is just a little over $90 a month to feed, clothe, house and educate children who have nowhere else to go. It doesn't seem like a lot.
We are almost to the weekend. On Saturday we are traveling to Jinja to see a wild animal park, the place where the Nile begins and place where we might coordinate a work project in the future. It sounds like a fun and full day.
On Sunday each of our team members will be preaching in different churches. For most of us it will be the first time preaching with an interpreter. It ought to be exciting. In the afternoon the Bishop (Daniel Wandabula) is coming to our hotel to meet with us.
Keep us in your prayers. The Academy is going very well, and you share in the success we are experiencing.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Joseph is a young man who wants to make a difference in Uganda. He was born in Rwanda in the late 1980's. In 1994, at six years of age, Joseph witnessed the genocide that ravaged that country which borders Uganda. Joseph remembers his father lifting him into the rafters of their home and telling him to be silent. Guards barged into the house and Joseph watched as his father was hacked to death with machetes. His mother and all his siblings also died.
Miraculously, Joseph survived and was able to get to a refugee camp where he witnessed the deaths of several more extended family members and friends. Eventually, he made his way to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. In Kampala, with a friend, he was able to scrounge the materials to build a shelter to live in. They took pieces of lumber and metal from local dump sites and garbage bins to make what continues to be their home. Now, while supporting three young cousins, he sells newspapers to make a living and attends the local university. Joseph wants to be a counselor and work with teens. He is especially interested in the lives and faith of teens in USA. Keep Joseph in your prayers.
Fred is the pastor of a small church in rural Uganda. The ladies of the church make beads and turn them into bracelets and necklaces. This jewelry is sold to support the church. Fred said that a while back his church built a 'church' (probably what we in the USA would call a lean-to). The problem is that the congregation has a hard time paying rent to the property owner. When asked what the rent was, Fred told us that they pay about 50,000 shillings a month. That is less than $30 US.
And now for the review, four members of our team attended a concert last night. Percussion Discussion Africa was playing at Club Obligato. The venue was neat. It is an outdoor bar in Kampala. The band was great. They played traditional African instruments and songs. We don't know what all the instruments were, but they sounded good together. One of the highlights for us was when we realized that the words to one of the songs was hakuna matata.
There were also girls who danced as part of the show. The weather was great. The music was good. The dancing was fun.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Today was a much better day as far as the Academy itself is concerned. Yesterday's morning opening celebration threw the whole schedule off. Today we were able to stick to it better. Each class lasts for two hours followed by a 30 minute review and test. The students have three classes each day. That is seven and half hours of class each day for students have not been in school for years. By the end of the last class they are all pretty tired.
Our classes are:
- Prayer and worship, taught by Byron Fritz
- Paul's Epistles, taught by Carol Fritz
- Church history, taught by Bob Land
- The Prophets, taught by Jim Hertel
- The Pentateuch, taught by Dewey Miller
- The Synoptic Gospels, taught by Bob Coleman
It is clear to all of us that these students are extremely motivated. They are called by God to pastor and are doing their best to prepare themselves to learn and minister more effectively. They are filled with questions and interesting comments on each subject.
This afternoon the power and water were off for a while at the hotel. Although it was inconvenient everything has returned to normal now.
Lunch today included talapia, goat, matooke, posha, rice and irish potatoes. Irish potatoes don't seem to fit on that menu. We are about to go to dinner. We'll see what's next.
Tonight there will be an equatorial full moon. We don't know what it will be like, but we'll see it anyway.
Most of us are surprised by the weather. Here we are on the equator, in Africa and the weather is beautiful. Sunny and 70's all day. We think that is probably lots cooler than it is at home.
Byron and Carol led some of the children (about 25-30) from the school in an assembly this afternoon. They did magic tricks, sang songs, gave gifts and had a Bible lesson. They had a great time and the children had a lot of fun too. David, our coordinator, still does not know where Byron put the scarf in his magic trick. (Byron made a scarf disappear to illustrate how Christ takes away our sin.)
Monday, August 27, 2007
At 8am the opening celebration of the school began. There was a time of worship and then greetings from EVERYONE! The headmistress of the school, the chaplain of the school, the host district superintendent, the team leader, the Academy coordinator and the Bishop's representative all thanked everyone. By the time we were done it was 1130. We had to abbreviate our class sessions, but they went generally well.
There are a few students who are having a language problem. They understand very little English. (Maybe we have the language problem.) We are trying to get someone lined up to provide interpretation for the rest of our time here.
Here are some prayer concerns:
- Bob Coleman missed half of the day because of illness. He is better now, but we are still concerned about his stomach.
- Some of the other members have had some stomach discomfort as well. Be praying for all of us.
- There are great needs all around us. Pray that we will be able to discern what to do, and how to do it.
- All of the classes were very rushed (but good) today. Pray that beginning tomorrow we will have a more regulated schedule.
- The Bishop may be coming to visit tomorrow. Pray that if he does he will not be a distraction to the students (pastors), teachers or the schedule.
There are some exciting things coming up. Be sure to check back regularly.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
- We waited in an Egypt Air 777 on the runway at JFK for two hours.
- That meant that we were two hours late for our tour of Cairo. We made the most of it though.
- We saw highlights of the Cairo museum including some of the treasure from King Tut's Tomb.
- We went to the Coptic (Christian) area of Cairo where we tried to see a church where it is believed that Mary and Joseph hid with the baby Jesus.
- We stopped on a bridge over the River Nile to take some photos of the river and the Cairo skyline.
- Next we got to see the pyramids and the sphinx. Because of our flight delay the site was already closed, but we were able to enjoy the view.
- We next went to a papyrus museum. One of the guides demonstrated how papyrus is made. Jim bought a papyrus with an Egyptian painting on it.
- We had dinner at a Greek restaurant with a great view of the pyramids. One interesting thing is that the bar was outfitted with water pipes.
- On the way back to the airport, our guide took us past the site of the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is buried right across the street.
- We boarded our flight to Uganda at about 1045 and took off a little past 11pm. We arrived at Entebbe airport at about 4am where our ride was waiting to take us to our hotel.
- After a little sleep (an hour or two) and a quick shower we went to church at Namboli United Methodist Church in Kampala. It was a great experience except that several of us had a hard time staying awake.
Now we are relaxing for this evening, trying to get rested up. Tomorrow we start teaching at 8am.
If you would like to send a message to someone in the group, please feel free to post a comment here.
Also, we are staying at Hotel Colline, www.collinehotel.com.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Rev. Bob Coleman
Rev. J Wesley Hertel
Rev. Byron Fritz
Rev. Carol Fritz
Rev. Bob Land
Rev. Dewey Miller
The coordinator of our trip should also be included in your prayers, although he will not be traveling with us. John will be taking care of arrangements at home.
Rev. John Elliot
Saturday, August 11, 2007
August 19 Team unity and effectiveness
August 20 Class preparations and study
August 21 Packing and planning details
August 22 Good health during travel & teaching
August 23 That Ugandans would be prepared
August 24 Travel to Indianapolis/ Flight to New York
August 25 Safety and rest in Cairo, Egypt/ Flight to Entebbe, Uganda
August 26 Rest and acclimation to Uganda
August 27 The beginning of the Academy
August 28 Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
August 29 Students would be open to Holy Spirit
August 30 Health and strength for all
August 31 Anointing in teaching
September 1 Safety during sightseeing
September 2 Preaching in Ugandan churches
September 3 Making connections for ministry
September 4 Leaders to be raised up
September 5 Not getting too homesick
September 6 Perseverance and stamina/ Strength for family at home
September 7 Conclusion of school/ Farewells
September 8 Travel safety
September 9 Rest in travel
Sept 10 Arrival at home