Just another day in the life…

My African Life...

I have been called to live and serve in Uganda, East Africa. This blog will track my journey and record my progress. Here I will share with you as I pursue the calling on my life to be a community health educator in Uganda; as I plan and develop health programs and passion projects; as I anticipate and experience the joys and struggles of life abroad; and above all, as I dream of Africa!

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Our Arua Adventure!

I want to first apologize for taking so much time to finish the post. Our trip to Arua was about a month ago and I should have had this post out a while ago. Arua was such an amazing experience for both Jess and I and I’m glad I get to finally share our journey with you.

Arua is about an 8 hour bus ride from the capital city of Kampala. The main reason for our visit was to retrieve Tabans school papers so we could start looking for schools here in Entebbe. We were at the Entebbe taxi park around 8 am and arrived in Kampala around 9 am. From Kampala we took a large bus to Arua town. At the back of the bus were a total of 6 seats. Typical Uganda transport they easily crammed 9 people in. We didnt pay for a half a seat but thats what we got. For almost 7 hours we road knees jammed together and arms tucked in. It was a long hot and sweaty ride. We drove through Paqwach where we saw the nile river, elephants, and baboons. The land quickly changed and was incredibly beautiful. The area was vast and wide open with tall grass and palm trees.

Passing the Nile river

At each stop people rushed the bus in hope to sell food and beverages. It’s the same at each stop, chicken and goat on a stick, peanuts and crackers, and luke warm soda and water. We arrived in arua town around 6 pm. Taban told us we would take a pickup truck to his village of Agi in the morning. We were relieved to climb off the bus and I thought surely a 3 hour ride in a truck would be better than the bus. We found a hostile in Arua town and stayed the night there. We decided to play cards before bed. Taban did not know any games we did of course so we taught him a few simple games. We started with go fish then moved on to bs which we called liar so Taban could better understand. He picked up the game quickly and soon came to life. He came up with what Jess calls “Tabanisms.” Taban is usually quiet and reserved which made these sayings all the better. You also have to understand that Taban like alot of Ugandans use broken English. It sometimes takes them a bit to process whats being said and to then respond. So when he quickly blurted out these “Tabanisms” during our card game we couldnt stop laughing. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards. If your caught lying you have to pick up the entire discard pile. In this particular hand Jess and Taban where all over me, calling my bluff at every turn. At one point Taban called me out and I had to pick up a large stack. While picking up the stack Taban said with a laugh, “Caleb, you want to die in prison?!” Jess and I laughed uncontrollably for several minutes and at later times at the thought of it. The next came when Taban played his last card thinking he had won. Jess and I called him out and he had to pick up the whole stack. He then said, “I made it to the finals but failed to bring home the trophy.” Jess and I again started cracking up. These sayings were probably a lot funnier if you knew Taban and it was kind of a had to be there moment but we felt they had to be shared.

The next morning we arrived at the Arua taxi park to head to Agi. This portion of the journey we traveled by small pickup truck. The vehicle was about the size of a single cab Toyota pickup. Among people these trucks carry extra cargo as well as passengers belongings. We climbed into the bed of the truck. After about 20 minutes and 10 or so passengers, Jess and I asked Taban what we where waiting for and why we weren’t going. Taban said they where waiting for more people. Jess and I thought with 10 people in the back among all the cargo and 4 more in the cab the truck is surely full enough and we should be going.

waiting for more passengers. Taban camera man

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Jess and I sat next to each other sitting on a large bag. Jess was facing the front while I was looking out the side. After the bed was full they started loading people on the tailgate and others on the side of the truck with their feet inside. People where even sitting on top of the cab. By time we where fully loaded my lower half was similar to a catchers squat in baseball and with so many passengers crammed in I could not rearrange or adjust. My lower half was pinned in an unmovable position. I told Jess I wouldn’t make it this way for 3 hours. She thought the whole situation was comical but I was not happy. As for Taban this was nothing new. During the ride Jess counted a total of 22 poeple in this small truck. We couldn’t believe it.  I was sitting upright and the man behind me (who we later discovered was sick) was using my back as a rest for his hard head. He would often dig his head into my back or lightly hit his head against me as one would fluff a pillow. After about an hour my legs and feet where almost completely numb. Luckily in another half hour the truck stopped to unload a few passengers I slowly pulled my legs and feet from the others and started climbing over people. It was like crowd surfing to the back of the truck where I sat on the tailgate with my feet hanging over the back.

The truck nearly full. they fit 3 more there no problem

We reached Tabans village of Agi about an hour later. The whole truck ride we saw many brick homes with roofs made from elephant grass and Agi was the same. As we where walking up the dirt road Jess described the area as quintessential Africa. Houses and dirt roads enclosed by tall elephant grass, beautiful compounds made up of several brick homes with grass tops.

houses through the elephant grass

And many mango, coconut and orange trees. Taban taught Jess and I greetings in his language among a few other things. Taban and a lot of others in this area are of the Lugbara tribe. The language is also called by the same name. Nearly every person we passed outside of their home Taban would say, “Mingoni?” Which means “How are you?” In reply everyone would say “Mamuke,” which means “I’m fine.” After about 15 minutes of walking we reached Tabans home. Jess and I thought it was beautiful. The compound was neatly kept and the house like the others was built with dark bricks and elephant grass for the roof. Some of the houses were painted with amazing designs. The bricks on the house where outlined with black paint. They mix charcoal with water to make a paint like paste. The people in this area where certainly very resourceful.

the whole family and a few neighbors in front of Tabans house

The family, friends and neighbors all came to greet us as we arrived. His mother brought out a large mat where we sat in the shade of a large tree. Taban and the village Elder were the only ones who knew English. For the next few hours we removed peanuts shells and visited with the Elder. Most everyone in this area makes a living by farming. The elder expressed their struggles with the hot and dry climate. The dry season runs for over half of the year. He and Taban say they can go half the year with no rainfall which allows for very little crop yields. They struggle to feed themselves with whats produced and don’t have much to sell. The elder said during those times they pray hard that God will provide enough rain for their crops to survive but alot of times they dont survive the hot weather.

nieghbors compound

Around 5 pm we decided to head to Yumbe where we stayed in a hostel that night. Everyone thanked us for coming and let us keep the large bag of peanuts we’d worked so hard to shell. We would be back the following day. Again we would take the pickup into Yumbe but this drive would be much quicker. Taban told us about a half hour. We waited at the roadside for another truck to come along. Within a few minutes a truck passed and we waved it down. It was again loaded with far too many passengers but they somehow found room for 3 more. I was again sitting on the tailgate and Jess and Taban where sitting on the side with their feet hanging outside. About 10 minutes in it started to rain. Very rarely does it rain lightly in Uganda and this was no exception. It soon started pouring and everyone and everything was getting soaked. I don’t know if the standard for trucks to carry them but someone pulled out a tarp big enough to cover the bed of the truck. Everyone around the perimeter held on. For some reason everyone in the truck including Jess and I  started laughing. We laughed nearly the whole way there. The tarp waived and roared from the speeds the vehicle was traveling. Which in my opinion was way too fast for the conditions. All of the roads are dirt obviously and covered in pot holes. In a very short time the road was complete mud with huge puddles. With our legs over the outside of the truck mud and water was flung up all over our legs and feet for nearly 30 minutes. The truck was going far too fast for these muddy roads and several times it felt like the vehicle was sliding. The rest of the way I was fearing the worst. Praying and laughing uneasily the whole way we made it safely. We walked another 10 minutes in the pouring rain to the hostel laughing and relieved from our near death experience. We sat at the hostel and dried off while drinking hot tea and playing cards. That night while lying in bed Taban and I had a deep discussion about life. He told me most days he hated his situation. He said Entebbe felt like prison. Somedays not eating and sleeping on his clothes on the concrete floor. He says living conditions in the village are a lot of times better. He said he hates seeing his mother and other family members dig everyday of their life and not seeing crop yield in the dry season. He told me he sometimes asks God why he and his family were put on this earth if they mostly suffer with lots of hard work and little results. I asked if he ever felt angry with God. His reply was, “How can someone be angry with God?” I told him I felt that God was giving him an opportunity through friends and family at home in America. A chance for him to finish school to change his life and hopefully his family’s. We talked about the first time we met when we where passing the soccer ball back and forth. He said he was glad to have someone to play with but he was fearing a friendship in his words. He said he was scared of what I might tink of him and his family and how they have to live. He was worried that I wouldn’t accept him. He knows now that Jess and I don’t care about that and that we will always be good friends and will help him where we can.

The next morning we took boda bodas from Yumbe to Agi. They took a shortcut on a narrow dirt road. The drive was absolutely beautiful.

Taban and I cruisin.

We arrived much earlier than the day before and Taban wanted to show us around. After greeting everyone he took us inside the house. There where a total of 3 rooms separated by concrete walls. The construction of the roof was amazing.

roof from inside

He showed us around his land where they were planting beans, peas, cassava, and sweet potatoes. He took us past the fields to what he calls “The Bush,” where he hunts dove and squirrel among other small animals. They either hurl stones by hand or make bows. For arrows he says they use spokes from bicycle wheels. Everywhere we went where many orange, mango, and coconut trees. They are all in season around the same months and Taban says it’s a great time. He and his friends go from tree to tree eating fresh fruits all day. Unfortunately for us they’re not ready until November or December. He took us just up the road to the watering hole where they pump their water for the day.

pumping water at the bore hole

Next he wanted to show us a place where the Nile could be seen far in the distance. It was about a 20 minute walk and we where starting to feel the heat we had been warned about. We sat on a large rock which overlooked the land that went for miles. We sat for a while admiring the view, watching cattle and bodas pass by while snapping photos. We walked back to the house where we again sat and visited with the family and neighbors. Taban and the elder translating for us. After sitting for a while one of the neighbors walked over with a chicken in hand. Or Au as they are called in Lugbara. Pronounced Ah-oo. Taban told us they where giving us this Au as a gift. Jess and I where very surprised obviously not expecting a chicken and we thanked them for the gift.

Jess and Taban with the chickens

I was thinking to myself what the heck are we gonna do with a chicken and how will we get it home on our 10 hour trip. Well it turns out we would have to figure out what to do with 3 chickens cause they kept coming. Shortly after another neighbor brought a chicken for us. Then as we where leaving Tabans mother had one of the kids snatch up a 3rd chicken for us to take home.

Taban loving the chicken

They thanked us for coming and we returned the thanks for allowing us and for the generous gifts. We headed down the dirt road chickens in hand. Each of us had our own chicken. Taban and I held ourslike chickens, by the legs upside down. Jess quickly fell in love with hers holding it upright against her often stroking it as though it were a lap dog. Jess and I were laughing the whole way down the road and the fact that we where carrying 3 chickens all the way back to Entebbe.

Taban and I carrying our chickens home

We again loaded into the truck. This time I sat on the cab with my feet resting in the drivers window. Jess and Taban where holding the chickens as I had no free hands. We arrived in Yumbe and again walked to the hostel, chickens in hand. Everyone stared and laughed at the crazy mzungus carrying chickens. From Yumbe we took a car to Arua town where we would again load into a large bus. We got into the car and the driver tossed our chickens in the back. The chickens left droppings everywhere and one jumped on me and was clawing at my back and neck. The driver stopped and let a passenger out and informed us that one of our chickens had laid and egg. Taban carried the egg the entire way home. I jokingly asked the driver if we could pay in eggs rather than shillings. I thought by time we arrive they may have laid a fair payment. I thought it was funny but I don’t think he did. In Arua town we boarded the bus and started the 7 hours back to Kampala.

The chickens now live happily at Judith’s house where Jess stays. They also now have names. Jess named hers Mrs. Feather-bottom, because it lifts its rear feathers in a funny way. The others, Au and Encoco, which means chicken in Luganda.

Jess love her Au

Aside from the transport I had a great time on this trip and enjoyed seeing how Taban and his family live. Arua is a beautiful place and the people are generous and friendly. I now understand how Taban and his sister Grace got to be as kind as they are. It really was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I will be going back next week for a couple of days. October 9th is Uganda’s Independence Day and Taban says they have a huge celebration in his village that we cannot miss. Please keep Taban and his family in your prayers as they go through difficult times especially in the dry season. Also for Grace, Tabans sister as she is still struggling with six children to feed and care for. Please pray for Taban and I as we travel back to Arua next week. Pray for safety of our transportation. There have been generous donations to Grace and Taban for school fees but we have not reached the needed amount for Tabans school and Grace is always in need of support. If you would like to support Taban or Grace please let Jess or I know via email. Thankyou to everyone for your thoughts and prayers and support.

Matovu, Caleb

Email calepi01@gmail.com

pierce.jess@gmail.com

For drying cassava if I remember correctly

the view that overlooks the Nile. its hard to see in the photo

football made of plastic bags. We kicked it all around the village

Taban with brothers and sisters

chillin

One Step at a Time

My Dearest Friends and Family,
I have been agonizing the last week about how to perfectly word this, but I haven’t been able come up with anything. So keeping in line with my brutal honesty lately, I’m just going to say it…

 

I am coming home with Caleb in 21 days.
Ok, whew. There it is. It’s out there.

 

I have had such a wonderful outpouring of support from you all when I confessed my struggles. Many of you told me it would be ok if I needed to take a break, so I started tossing the idea around. And after a long and teary conversation with the parents I decided a trip home would be best.
I hate admitting this is what I need. It feels weak. It feels like I’m copping out, giving up. It feels like failure. It’s so incredibly humbling. Though perhaps that’s why it’s happening. Perhaps this is all part of the plan. This has been such a humbling experience in so many ways, that a trip home only half way into my “one year plan” isn’t all that surprising. And really what has gone right with that plan anyway? Nothing. And I did say near the beginning of this blog that I need to redefine my definition of success and failure. And obeying the Lord’s leading is never failure. So I plan my ways and God directs my paths – and for now He’s directing me back to the States. Home for the Holidays. God is good. A blessing in disguise; because I hate not being home for the holidays!

I don’t know what the time at home will bring, or where God will direct me next. My parents have been wonderful in allowing me to come home and recuperate. The whole family all together again; 5 of us in a 3 bed room house, me with no plans and no prospects. Wow – not at all where I envisioned myself being at 25 years of age; moving back to Roseburg, living with my parents, again, very humbling. God’s ways are not our ways.

I spent this past week in Jinja with Robin and her daughters. It was such a wonderful trip. A time to rest, reconnect with Robin and visit another malnutrition rehabilitation center. Robin has been so so wonderful about my decision to come home early. She has been both supportive and encouraging about me taking the time to figure out the next step, and very welcoming of me return to work with her when the time is right. She shared with me that although her heart was always here, it took her 10 years of going back and forth before the timing was right to move here full time. Oh, how I hope it doesn’t take me that long, but as cliché as it is, life is about the journey, not the destination.

Our time in Jinja allowed Robin and me to talk through not only my personal journey, but the program’s direction as well. We were both very encouraged and inspired by our visit to our friend Renee Bach’s malnutrition rehab center, Serving His Children (www.servinghischildren.org). It gave us both new ideas and motivation on how to improve our own program. These stirring of feelings, ideas and emotion made me start to doubt my decision to come home. Then I received an email while in Jinja, from a woman I’ve only met once, who had no idea I was thinking about coming home. She does however follow this blog and so knows I’ve been struggling.

In her email she wrote,

“Bill and I have been reading your online communications lately and praying for the Lord to direct you. It sounds to us like the Lord is directing you to come home. Much as you love Africa and the people, and much as you have wanted to serve the Lord there, that may have been His plan for you ‘for a season,’ not forever. God only directs us one step at a time. Sometimes we’ll see the next step, and think that’s the whole future path, when it’s really just one step, and He shows us the following steps when He’s ready. If you’re feeling now that God wants you back at home, then that what He wants. Don’t get hung up on ‘what people think.’ The only thing that is important is what God tells you to do and walking with Him.”

 

She goes on to encourage me with Proverbs 3:5-6 and remind me of Acts 16:6-7, where Paul wanted to go and preach the Gospel in Asia and in Bithynia, but “The Spirit did not permit them,” because He wanted them to go in a different direction.
Wow – talk about cutting right to the heart of it. God is so good! God is so faithful! This was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. She addressed my fears while reminding me God is not finished with me yet. What a beautiful confirmation from the Lord!

I do love Africa, and it still is my heart’s desire to serve the Lord here, but for whatever reason, the next step is to head west; to head home. I don’t want to jump ahead, I don’t want to try and map out the course, like I always do. I want to take it one step at a time. This maybe a short season at home, a furlough (fingers crossed), or it may be a longer stint. I would love to return to Uganda in January or February, refreshed with a better idea of what to expect and hopefully a little more prepared to face it. And I hate to admit it but I am holding on to that with one hand, hidden behind my back, while holding the other open to God’s plan. But I know He wants both hands in front of me, open and ready to receive, nothing held back. Oh, what a work in progress I turned out to be! Thank you Lord for your loving kindness and long suffering!

To those of you that support me financially on a monthly basis: I cannot thank you enough! I do still require your support to get me through the month of October. And well you committed to continual support for the entire year, beginning in November your monthly donations are no longer necessary. However, I would ask that you would remain open to the idea of supporting me in the future, should the Lord ever direct my steps back abroad.

Thank you to Robin and the ZEMBA Children’s Foundation Board, for believing in me and giving me this opportunity! (ok this is starting to sound like an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards!) 🙂 But seriously, THANK YOU!

To all of you: Thank you so so much! Words cannot express my gratitude! You have walked alongside of me, even if a world away. This next season is going to be a difficult one; as I wrap up projects here; get Taban settled and ready for school; say my good-byes and head home to so much unknown! This is most likely to be a confusing and emotional few months and am grateful to all of you and my ever-loving family. Please keep them in your prayers (as well as myself), cuz they’re gonna have a whole lotta crazy to deal with when I get home!

I haven’t listed my prayer request out before on this blog (I don’t know why I never did), but today I am going to.

For our last few weeks here please pray:

    • For wisdom in wrapping up the gardening, beading and micro-loan projects.
    • For the ladies we’ve been working with over the last few months. That they would seek the Lord for direction, guidance and wisdom as Caleb and I will no long be here guiding them.
    • For Taban. Caleb’s leaving is going to be really hard on him especially since they are together 24/7. Pray that his transition back to school after a 1 ½ away will go smoothly. Pray that his school fees will be able to be covered beyond this year, that he will do well in his studies, that he will make friends there and that the Lord will direct his future as well. He won’t start back to school until February, so also pray that he will be able to find a small job to help pay for some of his expenses after we leave and to keep him busy until school begins.
    • For both Caleb and I, as coming back to America can be emotional, reverse culture shock and all. Also pray that we’d be able to find jobs and that all of us living back home together would be an enjoyable time for our family.
    • For myself as mentioned before, I am most likely to be an emotional wreck! Even though I know that obeying the Lord, wherever He may lead, even home, isn’t a failure – it still very often feels like one. I dreamt about this for years, now here I am throwing in the towel. I know that’s not the Lord’s truth, but it is the lie Satan keeps whispering in my ear. Pray against that PLEASE! It will also hard to say good-bye to everyone without really knowing when I’ll be back again.

There will be more posts, more prayer requests, and more therapeutic processing to be done. But I wanted to let you all know where I am at, and that I’ll be seeing many of you in person in less than a month.
Thank you all again for you love, support and prayers!

Mwebale nyo nyo nyo!!!
Jessica

In the Name of Therapy

Ok here we go….

Slept TERRIBLY last night! Stayed up too late reading and it was so hot (I haven’t broken down and bought a fan yet. Stupid, I know), I had to leave my window open. Unfortunately I don’t have a screen on my window so of course I wound up with a whole lot of unwanted guests. I was EATEN ALIVE last night!!!!!!! Yes, I have a mosquito net, but had taken it down earlier to shake out the dead bugs. I forgot to put it up last night and then it was too late because I would just wind trapping the bugs inside with me. So I slathered myself with anti-itch cream, literally using it like lotion. Didn’t do much good. Finally at 7:00 AM – it dawned on me…. BENADRYL!!! So I took 2 pills and of course knock right out! Wound up sleeping til 1:00 in the afternoon! Thankful I didn’t have anything planned until our Kigungu trip at 3:00.

This has been a pretty good week. Spent some time with the babies; had a great day of community visits with Blessed; got one of the mamas set up with a micro-loan to start a cooking business; had time to myself to read and work through some “issues;” I even made it to aerobic class twice! All in all a good week. So thankful for that!

But oh how fickle my moods can be! How quickly I can become frustrated and discouraged! I was already exhausted and kinda grumpy from a rough night, so when my first interaction of the day was negative it started me off on the wrong foot. I walked down the road from my house to buy airtime to call Caleb to come and meet me. I was just standing there waiting, when this really creep guy walks up, stands RIGHT INFRONT of me and says… “Hey Baby.” YUCK!!!! I was SO not in the mood to deal with this guy! So I very bluntly to told him to go away, I didn’t want to talk to him. Of course he wouldn’t take no for answer. I never felt physically threaten but I HATE THAT!!! It just so creepy and unnerving. And when he wouldn’t leave, I finally just walked away to wait for Caleb somewhere else. Thankfully he didn’t follow!!!

Caleb comes to meet me and due to things out of his control, he was a half an hour late, making us so very late getting out to meet the ladies for a beading session in Kigungu. On our way to Kigungu, Caleb updates me on how the gardening projects are going. I haven’t been able to go with him the last few times because of community visits with Blessed. The ladies haven’t been managing their gardens very well, despite our encouragement. In fact they haven’t been watering them, and so a number of plants haven’t germinated. When Caleb asked them about watering, they said the wanted us to buy them water cans. Totally unnecessary. They have jerry cans, they have buckets, an old water bottle would even do. But we have bought hoes and shovels when we started this project because they had none, so now we’re expected to buy watering cans too. When Caleb said no, find something else to use, the next excuse was we don’t want to use our water (because then they’d have to pay a bit more), if we wanted the gardens to be watered we have to provide the water. REALLY?! REALLLY?! Oh brother! It’s always something! There is such a horrid cycle of dependency here. Perhaps we didn’t help it any by provided the hoes and shovels, but we planted these gardens so they would have a means of feeding their families, but they really don’t seem to care. So discouraging. We gonna have to a have serious talk about this. But we went out today to work on the beading project, so we’d deal with the gardens later (same group of women, in case you didn’t know). None of the ladies showed up. Granted we were late, but no one came. We meet a Susan’s house every Thursday to work on the beads, so they knew we were coming but Susan said they hadn’t finished rolling the last set of papers we gave them so they didn’t think they need to come. Drove all the way out there for nothing. Wished they would have called or something. Oh well. So since there were no new beads to count or examine I asked to see the ones the didn’t from our first round of paper rolling. Unfortunately they were not stored correctly and a big chuck of the bead are ruined and probably won’t be able to be used. All the time and money – wasted. I’m trying not to be too upset, I knew our first round was practice, but they had turned out so nicely, I was excited to use them. Hopefully we can learn from this mistake and do better with this next batch!

I also found out that Sophie was taken back to her grandmother today. She still has her NG tube in, but because she’s getting her medicine regularly, she’s gained weight and is doing much better. I just wished they would have called before they took her back. I didn’t get to say good-bye. Major mixed emotions! I know that she should be with family and that we are a rehab center, once the baby gets better they go back home. But I’m so attached to her! I know where the grandmother stays and I know that I could go and visit anytime, but they live in Kampala and the likelihood of seeing her regularly is slim. But please keep praying for her! Especially being HIV positive and having been so malnourished she gonna have a bit of a rough life ahead of her!Will just have to trust God to give Soph the love and care she needs!

Really today was pretty typical. Nothing going quiet right, learning the hard way. TIA they say. “This is Africa.” Thankfully tonight is a power-on night and the mosquito net is back up where it belongs. Clinging to God’s faithfulness. Guess we’ll go to bed and try again tomorrow.

My African Life 2.0

A few weeks ago I was able to video chat with Mom and Bradley, not something that happens very often (due to lack of power, unreliable internet, time differences, ect…). We had missed Dad, he’d already left for work. But the next day I got an email from him.

There is an ongoing debate between my parents and I every time we talk, email, Skype, ect… about the amount of blog entries I write (or rather am not writing). They’d like to see more, I feel like I can barely get out the ones I do post…. whatever, not really the point here. But of course the blog was brought up in this email from Dad. He made is points on why more post would be a good thing, all of his reasons true and valid. And yet, I was still not totally convinced I could produce more. And then at the very end of his email he wrote….

” So try to blog often.  Maybe it could be a way to unwind? You are so good at relaying your thoughts and feelings.  I will pray that blogging will be a way for you to unwind and relax.” One point for Team Parents.

I hate writing. I always have. In my “True Confessions” post, I listed reasons why I haven’t/haven’t been able to write more often. But this idea of blogging as a way to relax and process My African Life, is starting to sound more appealing.  Y’all responded so well to my ugly, yet honest true confessions, and I felt much better afterwards, that I’ve decided to give this therapeutic writing a go round.

When starting this blog, I envisioned it as a place to write about the programs we’re doing, to update everyone on how the babies are, to share funny quirks about life in Africa, and as a place to share ideas, concerns and inspiration related to public health and community development. Not that this still cannot be a place for all those things (I hope and pray it will be). I just have realized (with the help of continual “loving” reminders from Mom and Dad) that you all really want to hear about me, how I’m doing, what I’m thinking and feeling and how God is moving in my life. Besides, too many updates on programs alone may start to feel like a report from the United Nations, and really, who reads those?!

No Mom, I am NOT promising to write more often. I may end up doing so as a result of this new perspective of my blog, BUT NO PROMISES. So I am going to try to reflect, process and yes, probably vent from time to time. I think this will be good for me. I don’t want this to become a place where all I do is list all my complaints and wine a lot, but as part of the therapeutic process I’m sure this will happen from time to time. However, if it’s happeing too frequently and I start to become a real downer, please someone call me out on it!!! I don’t want to be “that girl!”

So here we go. Refocused, inspired and ready to start anew.

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER: Because of my ridiculous battle with guilt, I am publicly proclaiming that while I have hopes for revamping this blog and posting more – but if nothing becomes of it THAT’S OK. This is my blog I can do as I please with it. I will not feel guilty and pressured if things don’t work out the way I hope!

WHEW, ok then.

 

For Better or For Worse….

I cannot even begin to express my overwhelming gratefulness and appreciation to you all! I poured my heart out and it was UGLY! But no one judged, no one told me how awful I was, what a bad missionary I am. Nope. Instead you all send notes of love and encouragement and reassured me that I’m not a crazy freak and a horrible person. In fact you made me feel quiet normal. Thank you for that. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for encouraging me to push through, or to be ok if its time to come home. Thank you for sharing about the difficult things you’ve gone through and how the Lord brought you through them. It can feel so lonely and foreign here at times – but its so awesome knowing that as different as the surrounding maybe we’re really all going through similar things and that I’m not alone it in – that you are all there fighting alongside me, even from the other side of the world!

I am so so grateful to each and every one of you that commented on the blog or sent me an email! I was very nervous after I hit the “Publish” button and my true feelings were out there for all to read! I have always talked so positively about Africa and get upset with those that don’t! Most of what people hear and know about Africa is so negative that I like to try and shine some positive light on a very misrepresented continent. So to have such strong negative feelings and to publicly share them, I was afraid to further skew views or that the negative would cancel out all the positive that really is here. But your responses were wonderful and didn’t make me feel that way at all! There is one email I received, in which my friend Mel Chastain, managed to describe my relationship with Uganda perfectly. And she has given me permission to repost the email here for you all to read.

 

Jessica~

 

I just read your latest post and you brought me to tears.  Reading your words is just like having a conversation with you; I write the same way, so I get it.  I know this isn’t applicable yet, but the only analogy I come up with is marriage.  Obviously, you aren’t there either, but bear with me. 

 

First, you meet that great guy (Africa).  He’s handsome and charming and says everything right.  You spend every spare moment together and think about him when you’re apart (your first trip over there).  You know he can’t possibly be perfect, but the flaws are just invisible and you fall head over heels in love with him.  Then, oh joy of joys, he proposes!  (the calling from God to move)  You plan the wedding to every detail (4 years of college) and know that it will be a perfect day when you finally commit your life to him (get on the plane to go).  The wedding is stressful, but wonderful (24 hours in a plane circling the globe) because you know life will be challenging with someone else, but you’re excited nonetheless.

 

Now you go on the honeymoon together (your first few weeks in country).  The off-color joke from a local vendor is quirky, but workable.  The slow local transit system is frustrating, but that’s okay, you have all the time in the world.  The prices are high, but you deal with it because you’re together.  The bugs at night are really annoying, but you put up with all of these things because you are with the one you love (Africa) and you know that it will all work out.

 

Then, you go home from the honeymoon to reality.  Back to work, car payments, phone bills and increasing gas prices.  Now the love of your life is working really long days and you only see each other an hour or two each evening and he’s stressed because it’s still 90 degrees and the grass needs cutting.  You’re trying to balance the checkbook and stressing out that the bills add up to more than the paychecks (your unintelligible bus rides and overpriced goods).  His friends come over to watch the game, but their wives/girlfriends are people with whom you have nothing in common and it’s awkward for you (your friends being overcharged because of their alliance with you).  To top it all off, when he butters his toast in the morning, he leaves crumbs all over the counter.  Arrgh!  (Just one more thing you don’t want to deal with: staring, no internet, no movies, isolation…pick one).

 

I want to go back to the honeymoon!  It was fun!  Our whole life was ahead of us and we were going to do it together.  Sure we got upset at stuff, but we could face it side by side.  However, you signed up for a marriage (long-term mission trip), not a courtship.  You know, I think all of us girls have a starry-eyed view of marriage.  Whether you watched a good one growing up, or a bad one, we all have an idea of what ours will look like someday.  Maybe it will and maybe it won’t turn out that way.  But if God is truly in the middle of it, you can’t help but succeed.  I always heard that marriage was a lot of work.  Daily.  Eeww!  Why sign up for that?!  In my case, I am blessed to be married to a man who has been my best friend since we were 16. 

 

Are you? (Africa, again)  Did you see the flaws and gloss over them just to be together?  Probably.  I know I did.  Now, let me be clear:  I love Chance deeply.  His flaws are just things that he does differently than I do or don’t do.  That doesn’t make him a bad husband, it just makes him different from me.  –okay, the toast part was true–  But I still love him.  When we have a decision to make, I wonder if it is really important to do it my way, or will his way accomplish it the same?  What will make him happier?  Will the day go smoother if we do things his way or mine?  Just like your trip and current job, it’s about sacrifice.  Sacrificing your will to God’s and know that just because you don’t know what’s next doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan. 

 

It sounds to me like you are a Type A planner, just like me.  Staples is my happy place in August; all the pencils, and markers, and highlighters and color-coding stuff just make me swoon!  It also makes it really hard for me to trust God to work out a plan that He hasn’t let me in on yet.  Please know that I say this from a perspective of one who is just like you.  I promise I’m not judging; I’m truly understanding and empathizing.  I’ll be praying for you to just rest in His presence.  The work will get done and His purpose will be accomplished whether you struggle against it or go with it.  Just rest in Him. For the record, I’m bad at it, too!

 

One more thing…please don’t be scared about marriage now, too!  Honestly, it has never been work for either one of us.  We communicate a lot and often.  We are both married to our best friend and we are both doing our best to walk with God.  If you have those things, I truly believe that you will have a wonderful life together.  Remind me later and I’ll tell you the funny story from our honeymoon (it’s ‘G’ rated!)  I believe deep in my heart that we will be together until God separates us by death.  As will you and Africa, when your time is complete and you board that plane home (?) to Oregon.  It will be terribly sad and heartbreaking when it comes, but you can rest in the fact that God has more plans for you.  Maybe another trip somewhere exotic or maybe a quiet life with regular Starbucks trips.  Either way,  you’ll be with Him and that is the only thing you need to worry about.  You know, one time I was griping to my girlfriend about the toast crumbs and she said something I’ve never forgotten, “You don’t like those crumbs, but if anything ever happened to Chance, you’d miss them.” 

 

I have never looked at toast on the counter the same and it’s been about 18 years since she said that to me.  As hard as it is, maybe you can look at just one of your “crumbs” the same and realize that someday you might not be there and then you’ll miss that one thing that was just overpowering you today.  (I’m trying to give hope here, and coming up short!)

 

I’ll be praying for you.  And you should know that your folks were right:  I really, really like and appreciate your “real-ness” with us.  It makes me feel closer to you and also makes me feel like you are a real person who’s serving in a different capacity than I am, but you aren’t a super-Christian.  We all struggle with feeling worthy of the calling God has given us.  Please hear my heart when I say I’m glad to know that you, as a young woman living on the other side of the world, struggle with the very same things.  It bonds our hearts and joint workers for His kingdom.  Please stay in touch and let us know when the gloomy clouds on your heart begin to part.  And they WILL!

 

Blessings and hugs,
Mel

Thanks for letting me share this Mel! I couldn’t have worded it better myself! No I’m not married yet, but I’ve reached the age where majority of my friends are and most of you that follow this blog are – so this is such a perfect way to describe my relationship to Africa that everyone can understand!

I was talking with Caleb about my “True Confessions” post. He read it, laughed, then said, “Wow, honest. But there’s still a lot of crap you left out!” I love my brother!!!! But then he said, “As frustrating as it all is sometimes, I think I’m going to miss all of it when I go home. And I think it might be a good idea for you to go home for a bit and re-energize. But you know if you weren’t here you’d really really miss it!” He’s so right! So is Mel and her oh so wise friend! If my “crumbs” weren’t there on the counter everyday I know I’d be devastated!

Things aren’t perfect just because I shared my grievances with you. But you all reminded me that this is often how God works. No his intention isn’t to make us miserable, but we are told that if we want to be more Christ-like, we have to be refined by the fire. Maybe I’m not here to make Africa more like Christ, but Africa is here to make me more Christ-like…. maybe its both….

 

And so, for now t its for better or for worse, til Christ has us part.

 

I REALLY REALLY LOVE EACH OF YOU SO SO SO MUCH! AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU ALL!!!! and as cliché as it may sound, I REALLY COULDN’T BE HERE ADN DO THIS WORK WITHOUT YOU LOVE AND SUPPORT!!!!

True Confessions

So I know I said that the next post would be about our trip to Arua – but Caleb and I are “co-writting” it and it’s taking a bit of time – seeing as we haven’t really had power all week and can’t make it to the hotel – where there is a generator – very often. Also because there are some other things I don’t really want to, but NEED to share with you!

 

WARNING: this is not going to be like my normal posts! I am going to open up and be honest here – It may get UGLY !

 

I don’t want to share these things, because they are struggles, they are negative and they show my very imperfect humanity that I don’t enjoy fessing up too! and also because I have my fair share of pride and don’t like to admit I’m vulnerable or weak, or unable to do it on my own! I don’t like to admit I’m struggling or need help, until I just can’t take it anymore and I spill my guts to a close friend over a glass of wine, or make a very teary phone call to my mother!!!

 

I am aware of the fact that I haven’t blogged very often, and when I do post, it’s about what’s going on,(programs, babies, other people), not very often about me, how I’m doing, about how I’m dealing with living and working in Uganda. I know my letters home on previous trips were much more frequent, heartfelt and open. I think this is because of a few different factors….

A. I had more time to myself, where I could process, uninterrupted, in peace and quiet.

B. Caleb wasn’t here – don’t get me wrong… I AM SO SO GLAD MY BROTHER IS HERE WITH ME!!! I don’t know what I’d do without him and am DREADING October 25th, when he’ll be flying home!!! but having him here gives me someone to talk with, to confide in, to process things with! and for those of you who know me well, know I’d much rather talk about it than write about it! And so when I’m struggling or having a difficult time, I talk to my brother! Where before there wasn’t really anyone to share with and I’d write my heart out to you all.

C. Much of the newness, excitement and the romantic, exotic charm of Uganda has worn off – and so little things I’d share before are now just day to day occurrences and don’t seem like something worth sharing.

D. I’m scared of what you all will think if I am really truly honest.

 

But I’ve been encouraged by my parents to let you all in on my life here in Uganda. To share the good, bad and the ugly.

I don’t want to.

I have gone on and on and on for the last 4 years or so, about how much I LOVE AFRICA! How I feel more at home in Uganda than in the States, how I want to spend the rest of my life here. Oh how naive, I was. And I feel like confessing my struggles and frustration with life here will make me sound hypocritical, like a bad Christian/missionary. But I’ve been reassured, that you all really do want to know, that it will better inform you of how to pray for me and the work here and that you won’t be judgmental.

 

****sidenote: I KNOW THAT I AM BLESSED. I KNOW THAT I LIVE IN BETTER CONDITIONS AND AM MUCH MORE FORTUNATE THAN 99% OF THE PEOPLE AROUND ME. I KNOW THAT OTHERS ARE FAR WORSE OFF AND THAT THIS COMPLAINING/VENTING SESSION IS PETTY AND I AM PROBABLY BEING RIDICULOUS!!! but I am also being vulnerable.****

 

OK, enough beating around the bush. Here are my true confessions… please be nice…

 

  • I currently hate it here. I’d rather be home in the US. I don’t know what I’d do at home, but its much easier to live in the States. I hate that it takes hours to try to get anything accomplished here! There is no such thing as good service here!  I hate that sometimes people follow you around the store, right on your heels, trying to help you, not even letting you put your own groceries in the cart, and then at other times there is no one to be found when you need help the most! It takes at least and hour for your food to come when you order at a restaurant. Most of the time the don’t even have to food listed on the menu, or they’ve run out right at meal time. I don’t want to even get into what it’s like trying to get my laundry done!!! We have been without power for most of everyday. My internet no longer works at home, so I must go to a hotel and use theirs. It’s easier for me to go in the evenings, but I can’t be coming home on public transportation to far after dark – it gets dark at 7:00 here! No power also means cold showers, no movies (a great way to unwind at the end of a crazy day!), and stumbling around in the dark, fighting off bugs and other creatures that can only be sensed and not seen! All of this use to be charming – now its just annoying!

 

  • I hate being starred at everywhere I go. Often pointed at. “Mzungu” shouted at me all the time (Mzungu means white, not even white person, literal translation, just WHITE). Random people (mostly men) making stupid remarks both to me and at my expense. I hate not being able to blend in. To always be expected to pay for everything all the time. I hate that the women Caleb and I work with in Kigungu (doing the gardens and the bead project) are getting razed by their neighbors because they are “moving around with mzungus,” so they must be getting money from them! And why are they helping you and not us?! (oh the guilt – but guilt has its own bullet point!) I hate that I can’t move around the community, visiting the families of the children we assist with food and money for milk, because it makes Blessed (the Ugandan lady the works with Robin and oversee the community assistance program) a target. She’s moving around with a white lady – they must be carry money! Or if I’m seen out and about with Blessed and later she goes on her own, they assume she has money or nice things because she knows/works with white people! I hate that the lady, Odra, who helps me with the beading project, may possibly get harassed and overcharged when she goes to buy the supplies for the jewelry because people have seen her with me, a white lady. and think she’s spending my money not her’s, what’s it matter to charge the white lady more, she’s got the money! And often Odra’s going by herself to buy her own materials for her small business, but they don’t believe her – just get more money for that white lady. I hate being the white lady!

 

  • I wake up each day, exhausted, but for no really reason. I feel unmotivated, blah to the extreme and would rather stay in bed than face the challenges of the day.

 

  • I am angry most of the time. I’m angry at the boda men and market vendors that constantly try and often succeed, at over charging me. I’m angry at the all the people who talk about me in Luganda on the bus. I don’t know what they’re saying, but I know enough to pick up on the fact that I’m being talked about and for whatever reason often laughed at. Which leads me to being angry that I don’t know more of the language! That its difficult to communicate and impossible to converse with the women I work, without a translator – but really, how can you have a meaningful conversation via translator!!!

 

  • I feel guilty ALL of the time! I have always, my whole life struggled with guilt, and here the guilt is intensified to the extreme! I feel guilty that I’m white. I feel guilty I’m an American. I feel guilty I have more money than most people. I feel guilty I can’t do more to “fix it.” I feel guilty when people ask me to give them money, to pay for their child’s school fees, to buy them something, and I don’t. I know that throwing money at the problem is short-term solution and in the long run does more harm that good. But most of the time there is nothing I can do for people. It feels like we may be doing more harm than good. I hate that feeling! I feel guilty for not working on program stuff all of the time. I know that isn’t realistic, I know it takes time for thing to get up and running – that life moves slower here, and that I’m still learning. But I feel like I need to fix it! That should have the answer, and know what to do! I feel awful that I don’t! and I feel guilty for not updating this stupid blog more! I know that there is no condemnation in Christ. I know feeling guilt is not from the Lord, doesn’t matter – I still feel that way.

 

  • I miss my family. I miss my girlfriends. I miss Portland. I miss Starbuck, mexican food and happy hour. I miss American English, and being understood the first time I say something. I miss my boots and cashmere sweaters. I miss Netflix. I miss toilet seat covers in public restrooms. I miss feeling my age. I miss having consistent electricity and wireless internet. I think I miss the consistency and readability of a developed country. positive note – i don’t miss the rain! 🙂

 

OK, I think that’s enough for now. Well, there it is. I hate sharing this. I hate that this is my reality at the moment. That this is how I feel. I hate exposing these thoughts and feeling to you all.  I am imperfect. Feel totally incapable. What the heck am I doing here? What happened to the love and passion I used to have? I posted a couple of months ago about the different stages a missionary goes through – and I realized I’m in stage 2: Everything is terrible. Yup, still there! Oh GGGRRRR!!! I’m so ready to move on! I know there are probably lessons to be learned in this stage, but I’m sick of it! Oh Lord, please restore the love and joy and passion! Feeling so weak, so worn, so weary.

 

I was trying to figure out the other day why this trip is different. Why do I feel so differently? I realized that this time I am responsible for something. I am here trying to accomplish something. Before I was just here, volunteering a few days a week, and yes I had frustrations, but I really got to just enjoy Uganda. I didn’t have any real goals, expect to just be, to soak it all in, to enjoy.  As mentioned before, the newness has worn off. And there is always some reason, some obstacle, some problem, preventing the work that needs to be accomplished. and constantness of obstacles, makes it so much more tempting to just not, to just give up, to just hide away and not face it.

 

Gross. This sucks.

 

It’s scary to have a dream come true. A dream is something to look forward to, to plan for, to think upon, to dream about. But what happens when that dream, because a reality? What happens when you don’t live happily ever after? When you dream isn’t all you dreamt it would be? What then? I devoted the last 4 years of my life for this; to be able to move to Uganda and run my own projects. I gave up everything for this.  And here it is, it’s happening. Shouldn’t I be elated? Overjoyed? I’m not.

 

I know that this is the point in the blog post where I’m supposed to get all inspirational, and spiritual and be a good christian missionary and tell you all what God’s showing me through this. But I can’t. I’m not there yet. I’m still wallowing in the miry clay. I could lie and make up something, I’m pretty good at “christianese.” But I won’t.

 

However, I was encouraged the other day by a small devotional I read, and was reminded that “He who began a good in you will be faithful to complete it.” So for now all I can do is stand firm in that promise.

 

God,

you started it, you’ll complete it. I am feeling incredibly weak, and can’t continue this on my own! Am thankful your strength is made known through my weakness. I know myself well enough to know I am a prideful, self-reliant person. If this is how you are going to humble me so that you get all the glory, so be it. But it still sucks. Please give me strength to face the day. Please give me love for the people. Please give me patience in every moment and daily interactions. This is one of those more of you, less of me moments, isn’t it? So here, on the internet for the hypothetically for the world to see, I am admitting that I’m weak, incapable, prideful and too self-reliant. Forgive me. I am publicly surrendering this all to you. Take the program with all it’s goals, needs and problems. You’ll run it better than I ever could anyway. Stupid of me to take this long to realize it! Just help me to be quiet enough and humble enough to hear to leading and directing! Give me more faith – I think I need a big measure! Have this gut feeling you are going to ask me to do something crazy with the program and the way we approach things that logically doesn’t make sense. Give me the faith to trust and obey and do it! Kinda scared of what that maybe! I know that perfect love casts out all fear, so please reveal your perfect love to me!

Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Amen.

 

The Acacia Project

The Acacia Project was designed to be a partner program to AcaciaTree Uganda Malnutrition Rehabilitation Center, and was born out of the need to educate and assist the parents and caregivers of malnourished children in Entebbe, Uganda and the surrounding communities.

Strapped with a 49-page plan, health textbooks and a big dream, I headed to Uganda (Brother Caleb in tow), with high hopes of an easy start up and quick results. Oh how naïve I was! Here I am four months later, “the plan” readjusted many times over, working in an unfamiliar community and taking a whole new approach!

Unable to begin in the area of Entebbe I had anticipated, I am now working in a community – a village really – called Kigungu (pronounced Chi-goon-goo). Kigungu is located on the shores of Lake Victoria with a predominate fishing industry and a high HIV positive population. This is not the area I had hoped to be in. It located behind the airport and is a long, expensive and very dusty boda boda ride away. But like most other places in Uganda it too has worked its way into my heart.

The reasons we are beginning to work in Kigungu is because they are a neglected people, with little access to resources and dwindling hope. Another reason is Ngabo Susan (Mama Dora). Susan is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. With striking features, a constant smile and visual determination she really is the ideal woman to begin the project with.

Susan and her husband are both HIV positive. Her husband is a boda boad driver; they make very little money and are considered on the lower end of the social ladder. Susan does little odd jobs here and there, but with no real source of income. They have X children, a bit older and one younger one, the mischievous and adorable 2 year old Dora. We had connections to Susan, because she and Dora are one of the success stories of AcaciaTree Uganda Malnutrition Rehabilitation Center.

AcaciaTree Uganda is two-fold: Severely malnourished children with no families, or so bad off their family is unable to give them the necessary care, come live with Robin at the center (her house). Children that are able to stay with their families become part of the community program, where food-assistance, regular visits and counseling are given. Susan had a child before Dora that died of malnutrition, and when Dora started to head down that same path, Susan sought out assistance and was referred to Robin. Dora not so terribly off yet and Susan full of determination not to lose another child, were able to stay together at their home in Kigungu and became a part of the community assistance program. Susan is now one of our biggest advocates in the Kigungu community and has mobilized other women to join our new project.

The more I work in Uganda and the more I learn about the malnutrition problem specific to our area, the quicker I realize that my approach must be different from the one I had intended to use. Uganda is an incredible fertile land, with no lack of food. The local diet is pretty healthy, far better than the average Americans’. So with good, health, nutritious food available, why are children suffering and even dying of malnutrition? It’s cruelly ironic. It turns out the problem is one of economics. The women know what they should feed their children, and want to give it to them, they just can’t afford too.

The price of EVERYTHING here in Uganda has gone up, way up! Rent, fuel, food; even the cheapest of food have become unaffordable for many people, and the foods they can afford are not the most nutritious and don’t make for a well-rounded diet. Malnutrition is a problem for anyone, but for young children it is especially concerning as they are still in their developmental years. And severe malnutrition in a child can have both physical and mental long-term effects. The high cost of living combined with little education and little to no job skills, are leaving people in an endless and often hopeless cycle of poverty and hardship. Unfortunately these problems are always intensified for women and children. It puts them at higher risk for disease, makes them more dependent on others, as well as putting them in more vulnerable, compromising positions, where they are often taken advantage of.

The readjustment of “the plan” and the new approach are designed to target these very problems. We hope through The Acacia Project:

• to empower these mamas to be able to provide for themselves and their families

• to end the cycle of malnutrition and decrease the poverty level in the communities in which we work

• and to provide hope.

So what does this mean practically? How will it all play out? Well, not exactly in the way I had expected! “A man plans his ways, but God directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. Oh how true! While some of what I planned to do is happening, Caleb and I are taking a giant leap of faith and starting up projects we hadn’t really planned on.

Like mentioned above, our program is called The Acacia Project, and under this project there are four parts: 1. Health Classes, 2. The Beading Project, 3. The Gardening Project and 4. Microloans.

1. Health Classes: I have started a women’s health class held once a week (Wednesday afternoons) at Calvary Chapel Entebbe. A small group of women and I meet and are working our way through various women’s health issues, childhood illnesses, disease prevention, nutrition, family planning, ect. This class has made me realize both how much and how little I know! But these are my mamas – the same group of women I’ve worked with since my first trip to Uganda and I love them! They are so responsive and truly interested in learning. We will also be starting health classes with the women in our new community of Kigungu.

2. The Beading Project: The Beading Project is something that really scares me and totally excites me at the same time. We are starting up this project with the women of Kigungu. We are beginning with five mamas (including Susan), all HIV positive. Each of these women have children of various ages and are struggling to come up with rent, food and school fees. The women will be creating jewelry out of the beautiful and unique Ugandan paper beads. We’ll be buying well-made quality product at above average prices. Then the products will be made available to you all to purchase. The money made from these beautiful beads will help each of these women pay for the struggles mentioned above as well as paying for medical bills, and starting their own small businesses.

3. The Gardening Project: working with the malnourished and those at risk of becoming so, proper nutrition and food access is a huge part of the program. Caleb and I attended an awesome farming conference in Kampala called Farming God’s Way. The concepts and principals we learned there we are excited to teach the women. We are going to start this with the same group of Kigungu mamas. Each of them own a small patch of land and we are going to create “well-watered gardens,” that require far less labor than traditional African farming, and produce a far higher yield. For other families in our area that are often going without food, but have no land, we will be starting self-contained gardens. While rice, beans and a local staple called posho will still need to be purchased, we are hoping that these gardens provide the more expensive foods such as fruits and vegetables.

4. Micro-Loans: This part of the project won’t be as hands on, but we’re excited about it. This will be done with the some of the women in the AcaciaTree Uganda Community Program that live in Entebbe and surrounding areas. If a woman has a skill or an idea and a market but no money for start up costs, we’ll provide majority of the capital, to be repaid in regular installments. Then the money that’s paid back will be given to the next woman for her venture. With both the beading project and the micro-loans, we’ll be doing financial and business counseling and mandatory saving plans with each woman.

I didn’t expect to take on so much and I have no idea how this will all turn out but this is where God has lead us and it’s in His hands. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m learning to redefine what “success” and “failure” means to me. While I still struggle with this concept every day, I’m learning polla mpolla, slowly by slowly as they say here, that if I am obeying God and what He has called me to that’s all that really matters. Even if I fail, if the gardens don’t grow, if the beads don’t sell, if no one learns anything from the health classes, it won’t be a failure, because I have obeyed the Lord and that is the really success.

Please pray for wisdom for both Caleb and I as this is often feels like a heavy burden. Pray that God would guide and direct us through each step of each program and that the mamas would be blessed, families provided for and God glorified. We will try our best to keep you all updated on how each of these programs is coming along and how you can become more involved (please be patient in waiting for updates as the power and internet are both very unstable here).

Each of these programs requires a certain amount of start up costs, as these families are so poor we’ll be providing most of the starting materials needed. If you’d like to give to one of these programs; sponsor a garden or start a micro-loan or buy and sell the paper bead jewelry, please let Caleb or I know. There are so many ways to get involved, even from half way around the world! Again, thank you all so much for your wonderful love and support!

All of this wouldn’t be possible without you! I know that together, by the grace of God, we can make a difference in lives of the families of Uganda.

Mwebale nyo! Mukama emiksa! Thank you all so much! God bless you!

Nabukenya Jessica and Matovu Caleb