Saturday, July 12, 2008


It has been two weeks since I have returned from Uganda. I have been reading the blogs from Team Two and following Team Three. I wanted to take an opportunity to share some thoughts about Uganda and this trip.

I’ve held a child with AIDS,
Waded in the Nile
Gained a daughter
Saw God’s glory in His creation
I’ve wept with my friends,
Rejoiced with strangers
Saw children raising children
Received an African name
I saw a village ravaged by disease
Children playing around the graves of their parents
A family who lost everything due to a fire
Utter despair
I watched people celebrate the birth of twin goats
People give weeks of work as a gift
People marvel at their first taste of peanut butter and jelly
Most of all - I’ve seen hope, one family at a time,

One of the special times that we shared as a team was devotions. Gene and I took turns leading them but everyone contributed. We would read scripture and then ask questions of the group. We generated some great discussion.

One of the questions was – what do we do when we go home? What do we take with us from Africa?

There were some great answers but one that stuck with me was one that Renata shared. It was an analogy of the river that flowed out of the temple in Ezekiel 47. The river was God’s healing water. It brought life to everything it touched. We are to be sponges and soak up the blessings that flow. We are to take these blessings back with us and become a reed and let those blessings flow out to others.

I used this thought as the message for our church (First Baptist) last Sunday. Yes Mom – your son was a preacher for one Sunday. Actually, it was a team effort with Debbie and Taylor. We got asked Wednesday night and put everything together by Sunday.

One of the things I did while going to all the villages in Uganda was take a lot of notes and ask a lot of questions. I am hoping (with God’s help) that I will have an opportunity to present these needs to the community of Liberal. I would like to see if the Ministerial Alliance in our community would take up one (or more of these projects).

Here is the list that God has laid upon my heart.

Busia - Water Wells

Fort Portal - Computer Lab for Torro High School
Fort Portal - Medicine and Food for HIV students (17)
Fort Portal - New Dormitory
Fort Portal - Church (Fort Portal Christian Centre)

Kamwengee - School Supplies and Teaching Materials
Kamwengee - Batteries for Solar Panels and/or Generator
Kamwengee - Buildings for school
Kamwengee - Medicine for the treatment of Elephantitis

Medical Clinic (Shared by Fort Portal and Kamwengee)
Doctor (5 yrs @ $6000/yr)
Nurse (2 yrs @ $3000/yr)
Counselor (1yr @ $1000)


I realize that this may be unrealistic to think that ALL these projects can be done but not to have such a list would be trying to limit what God can do. I have asked Idah and Ben to put together preliminary budgets for these projects so that I can have some ROUGH numbers of what the cost would be.

The easiest goal is the last one - $64 a month for three years. Think about it – not much of a sacrifice and you would be giving hope to an entire family

Time to leave

Sorry - no pictures - only a monologue. The cameras are put away.

We awake on Sunday and get the word that Kaitlin is on the way home. She is very sore but there are no severe injuries – praise be to God. We are all very relieved and you can see everyone’s spirits lift. Breakfast tastes better and the air is cleaner.

We have to start the task of packing. It is much easier than packing to leave for Uganda. We have left most of what we brought. Debbie and I have everything packed in our two small carry-on suitcases, everything EXCEPT the mats. We have collected quite a few mats and baskets over the past two weeks. Every village that we went to presented us with these items. We went to the villages to give but left with more than what we took, both in terms of physical and spiritual gifts.

We have come up with the idea to take these items back to Liberal. We are going to offer them for sale and then send the money back to Uganda. That’s the funny thing about giving a blessing – God returns it many times over. The entire team decides that we should take their items as well. Now we have a dilemma – how are we going to get all this back? We rummage through the various bags that the team was going to leave and find two duffel bags. We manage to get every mat into them. We fill a suitcase with the baskets. Somehow they all fit.

We are scheduled to leave for the airport at 5pm. Our plane leaves at 8pm for Nairobi. Ben and Melody have told us that we will have a final team meeting before we leave for a time of reflection and final thoughts. The rest of the day is spent packing, sharing pictures, sharing thoughts and trying not to think about leaving – all except JJ. She wants desperately to stay for another two weeks. She is trying to make arrangements back home. I am praying that she will be able to stay.

Kaitlin arrives with Herb and Ellen. We are so GLAD to see her. We have to restrain ourselves from hugging her because she is very sore. It is so good to be together again. The day passes all too quickly.

Our friends start to arrive. Idah, Jerome, Boscoe, Mark, Richard, John, Kharm, Daphine and Fred. These people have meant so much to us. Without them, our trip to Uganda would have not been successful and not nearly as meaningful. They are very devoted to helping the people of Uganda. Ben has been very fortunate to have such a dedicated staff in Uganda. God has truly blessed Global Family Rescue. I hope that he and Melody realize how blessed they are and treat them as such. Without this nucleus and the dedicated field workers, GFR would never be able to do what they do. I realize that I would never have been able to appreciate them without being here as seeing what they do.

Team Two has decided that we want to take up a collection for them. We pool our resources and come up with a love give for each of them. We will present this to them at our final team meeting. All too soon, it is time. We have a special time of sharing with each other. I wish that Kaitlin could be here but she needs rest. Fred is the last to arrive. We are almost done but we all go outside to greet him and make him come inside. We all gather around him to let him know just how much he has meant to us. This man has protected us and I’m sure that he has saved our lives more than once and we did not even realize it.

We say good-bye to Kharm, Daphine, Mark and John. We board the ROSA for the last time and head for the international airport in Entebbe. The traffic is fairly light and we make good time. JJ has worked out things at home but she still does not know if she will be able to stay – it depends on if they can get her tickets changed.

Along the way, JJ gets the inspiration to interview everyone on the bus. She does a great talk show host impression (Joan Rivers comes to mind). Everyone is in stitches. When it is Idah’s turn, Gene tells her to answer in her native tongue. Most people would be surprised but not JJ. She does not miss a beat and ‘translates’ everything that Idah is saying. It is a ‘BUCKET LIST’ moment – laugh until you cry. If you have seen the movie, you will know what I am talking about. If not, watch the movie – it is worth it.

We arrive at the airport and it is time to say good-bye. We move quickly through security, check-in and customs. It suddenly dawns on me – I said good-bye to everyone except JJ. The fact that she is not here brings me joy and sadness. Even as I write this almost two weeks later, I am experiencing the same feeling that I had in the airport as my eyes fill with tears. I have come to love JJ as one of my own daughters over the past two weeks and I miss her terribly. I have an emptiness in my heart and pray that I will be able to see her again on this earth. I know that I will see her in Heaven.


International travel is not glamorous. Long periods of time sitting in cramped seats are not my idea of fun. I cannot get comfortable no matter what I do. I have to be careful not to sit too long because of my back. We arrive in Nairobi and board the 777 for London. This is the time to watch the movies that I missed on the way over.

We arrive in Heathrow and go though the same rituals, security and check-in. Taylor gets to experience Heathrow security as she gets her bag searched. She forgot and packed her Germ-X in the backpack. Too much ‘liquid’ and we journey on – minus the Germ-X. I ‘volunteer’ to sit and watch the luggage while everyone else explores the airport for several hours and gets in some speed shopping. Taylor and Debbie are experts at this and seem to be enjoying themselves. From London we board another 777 bound for Chicago. We leave London at 12:30pm and are due to arrive in Chicago at 3:20pm. More movies await – better than 9 hours with nothing.

The flight to Chicago does not bring any sleep and we make a bee-line for customs. Debbie, Taylor and I have one more flight. The rest of our team is home. We have one last good-bye in luggage claim and then they are gone. The three of us head for one last check-in and security checkpoint. We are back in the States and reality starts to set in. I use my cell phone for the first time in two weeks and start calling family (and work) to let them know that we have arrived safely.

We board the plane for Wichita and fatigue finally sets in. All three of us are asleep before takeoff. The next thing we know, we are ready to land in Wichita. My Mom and sister will be waiting for us at the airport. We are spending the night in El Dorado before we try and drive home. As we come through the gates, I see Mom and Jane and I know I am ‘home’. I am surprised to see Travis and Donna (but not nearly as surprised as Taylor). They have driven to Wichita on their anniversary to greet us at the airport. They have brought WELCOME HOME posters signed by our church. It is a great moment and one that I am enjoying again.

We retrieve our luggage and it is time to tell Taylor good-bye. She has been our daughter for two weeks and a true joy every minute. She is a very special young woman and it is been a great blessing and experience to get to know Tator-Tot. The trip to El Dorado passes quickly and we are so ready for bed. I’m not sure I remember my head hitting the pillow but I am thankful for a safe journey home and memories that I shall long treasure.

Paraa Lodge - Day 2

We awake to a beautiful morning. Breakfast is great and we check out and head for the bus. We want to leave by noon so that we do not get back to Kampala too late. We have decided to attend church in Namyoya on Sunday so that we can spend one last day with the people we have grown to love.

We arrive at the Nile and board the boat. The river is dotted with foam from Murchison Falls. We are several miles downstream from the falls and that is our destination.

Along the way, we see LOTS of hippos. They are a very aggressive animal so we keep a respectable distance.

We catch the occasional croc sliding into the water.

We see lots of Kingfishers along the river and pass several breeding grounds. They are very efficient hunters and they dive bomb the water with regularity. It is amazing that they can see anything because the water is very murky.

This is an African Fish Eagle

The river is home to many species of birds. Notice the fish in the beak of this bird.

We approach the base of the falls and can see that the river bank is covered with crocs. Our guide explains that anything that comes over the falls is dead or very weak – easy feeding and the crocs know it. They are enjoying the sun. Quite a few have their mouths open. The guide explains that is how they regulate their body temperature.

As we pass the point, we enter the channel and immediately feel the current from the falls. Our guide takes us to a rock outcropping in the middle of the channel. He maneuvers the boat so that we can get out on the rocks and take pictures – very cool.

The river banks are abundant with wildlife.

We head back down river to meet the bus. We are about 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled ferry crossing so we relax. Luke and Mike start a collection of lizards which keeps everyone amused as we watch them trying to corral the lizards. They are very elusive but they manage to capture 3 or 4 through teamwork and perseverance. The bus soon arrives and we start the long journey back to Kampala. No one is looking forward to seven hours in the bus.

The ride back is the usual adventure we have become accustomed to that is the trademark of driving in Uganda. As we enter the outskirts of Kampala, traffic is worse than usual. It is Saturday night and it looks like all 2 million people are out on the street. A boda-boda pulls out in front of us and clips the front bumper of the ROSA. The passenger gets grazed by the front left mirror. Fred avoids both the passenger and driver. They are fortunate that we were not going very fast.

What we witness next is unique (to us). It is a Ugandan traffic court in action. A crowd of people gathers quickly. The driver of the boda-boda is very upset that his taillight is broken. Apparently fault in accidents is decided by the by-standers in Uganda. In this case, the people tell the boda-boda driver that this accident was his fault and that we have no responsibility. A man from the crowd waves at us and says ‘ Bye-Bye Mzungus, time for you to go’.

What happened next was kind of a blur. We continued down the road for several miles when a car pulled out in front of us, we avoided the car but in doing so, we did not see a fresh speed bump (made of the same dirt that the road was). We hit the speed bump to fast and everyone was thrown in the air.

Unfortunately, Kaitlin was in the back seat. Three things worked against her. One, she is 6 foot tall, two, the back seat has a low ceiling because of the air-conditioning unit and three, the force of the speed bump is greatest in the back of the bus. She hit her head and compressed her vertebrae. The force of the blow put her into shock.

Debbie was the first to realize that Kaitlin was hurt. Michelle and Renata both used their medical training to help Kaitlin. We are all stunned and not sure what to do. There is no 911 in Kampala. We stop near a shop and call the main hospital in Kampala. They send an ambulance but trying to get them to find us will be like looking for a needle in a haystack. We tell them that we will meet them at one of the major intersections leading to the hospital. We are driving VERY slowly to try and minimize the bumps.

Fred is extremely upset but we try to assure him that this is not his fault. We need him to concentrate on driving.We hear the ambulance in the distance and soon they arrive. There is no way for them to get Kaitlin off the bus – no neck brace, no back board – none of the essentials that we would expect in America. It is decided that the best course of action is for us to follow the ambulance.

It is dark now and we arrive at the hospital. We locate a doctor and they have to search for a cervical collar and back board. The only way to get Kaitlin off the bus is through the window. Once the collar is in place, we get Kaitlin on the backboard and out the window.Renata, Michelle and Gene stay behind with Kaitlin. The rest of us board the bus and head back to the house.

Herb and Ellen Cook live in Kampala. We have contacted them to help with paperwork and transportation. They pick Gene up at the hospital and bring him back to the house. They need the insurance papers and some essentials for Kaitlin. We get some chapatti (Ugandan flat bread) into a baggy for Kaitlin and give them to Gene. They are Kaitlin’s favorite food. I LOVE CHAPATTI is the phrase heard every meal from Kaitlin.

Kaitlin - in good spirits (she must have gotten the chapatti)

It is the end to a very long day – one that has had a roller coaster of emotions. We decide to scratch the trip to Namyoya for church – our concern for Kaitlin outweighs the desire to spend more time with our friends. We are very concerned for two of our friends – Kaitlin and Fred. Fred is disconsolate about Kaitlin and no matter what we say to him, you can tell that it has little effect. They are both in our prayers that night.

Paraa Lodge - Day 1

We have a LONG trip in front of us. Today we head for Murchison Falls. We leave the house at 4am in order to beat the traffic of Kampala and arrive at Paraa Lodge by 2pm. As I get out of bed, I realize that I have a problem. I have put my back out of place from all the shoveling yesterday. The last time I did something like this was when we had a heavy snow in Liberal and I shoveled the driveway. The worst thing I can do is sit and I have an 8 hour bus ride ahead. I could stay behind but I did not come to Africa to miss out on an opportunity like this. As we board the bus, it dawns on me that I have an alternative, I can stand in the doorway and sit down as needed.

The bus is very quiet as everyone is still sleepy. We drive through Kampala very quickly, a stark contrast to the normal ordeal that we have come to dread. Even at this early hour, there are quite a few people up. Most of the traffic is heading in to the city. The further we get away from Kampala, the more people we begin to see. You see bicycles without headlights carrying whatever the owner is trying to sell in Kampala.
The sunrise is magnificent – truly God’s handiwork. The sky is ablaze with color and I have a great view. It takes my mind off my back pain (and the three Advil don’t hurt either).
We enter the national park and are warned that animals have the right of way. Something I had not mentioned up until now is the absence of wild animals in Uganda. Before I came to Africa, I thought Africa = Jungle = Wild Animals (elephants, lions, giraffe, etc.). Definitely a wrong impression – there are generally no wild animals EXCEPT on the game preserves – they have been killed for food or poached.

We head for Murchison Falls. The entire Nile River passes through a 20 foot gap. As we approach the falls, you can hear the roar. It continues to grow louder. As we round the corner of the path, you can see the mist of the falls. It is truly awesome. Words cannot do justice to how breath-taking this is. Hopefully you can get a sense of it from the pictures.
We head for the Nile River crossing – no bridge, a ferry that runs once an hour so we have some time to kill. On the other side of the river, we can see hippos and elephants. We don’t have much trouble finding things to keep as amused – simple things for simple people!
JJ sitting on top of the world

Once across the Nile, we can see Paraa Lodge in the distance. It sits on top of a hill overlooking the Nile. The elephants that we saw from the other side linger briefly, long enough for us to get some pictures but not long enough for us to get too close. They have a calf with the herd so getting too close is not a good idea. We have been warned that elephants are VERY protective of a calf, especially the mother. I guess if you spend 24 months carrying the baby, you are going to make sure that nothing happens to it.

The girls have a surprise for me when we reach Paraa Lodge. There is a massage therapist at the lodge. Renata and Michelle have scheduled a time slot but they give it to me so that I can get my back worked on. I’m overwhelmed by their caring and gladly accept their generosity. I’m not feeling too good after standing on a bus for 7 hours (lots of ADVIL). I’ve never had a professional massage before so I have no idea what to expect. It is very professional and this lady has magic hands. She works on my back for a long time and when she is done I feel 100% better. THANK YOU MICHELLE AND RENATA!

Next up is a safari. The lodge supplies a guide (Henry) complete with AK-47 for our protection. We head out in our faithful ROSA and Henry provides the narration and directions. He and Idah have lots of interesting tidbits of information. There are two types of predators in the park, lions and leopards. They are difficult to find since they really are only active at night. We ask Mike if we could drag him along behind the bus but Melody vetoes the idea.
The landscape is dotted with palm trees, definitely not native to this area. They arrived here courtesy of the elephants. Most of the elephants were brought here from Kenya. Apparently the fruit of the palm trees is one of the favorite foods of the elephant and the seeds were in the stomachs. They were ‘deposited’ and took root and the results are obvious.
We see vast herds of various species of antelope type animals. Giraffes, elephants, water buffalo, wart hogs and monkeys are also present. We see HUGE ant hills dotting the landscape. These are very complex with multiple spires of dirt. They look like a futuristic condo and obviously represent a lot of work.

Henry takes us all over the park trying to find the lions but we have no luck. I’m sure that they were in the tall grass (4-6 feet high) but not visible to us. It is well after dark when we get back to the lodge. It is time for supper and bed. Tomorrow, we take a boat ride on the Nile.

Namyoya - Work Day 2

Today is Thursday (June 26). This is the last scheduled day we have. The full team is headed to Namyoya. Those who did not go on Wednesday are anxious to see all the changes that have happened to the church since we attended services last Sunday.

As we leave Kampala today, we have to take a detour courtesy of road construction on the main highway towards Namyoya. The ‘detour’ resembles a BMX racetrack. There is no marked route, just a lot of paths. Ahead of us we can see several vehicles that have come to a dead end and are having to back up to try another path. It reminds me of rats in a maze. We get to a point where we have to unload the bus and walk. Our walk takes us by a garbage dump – a lovely bouquet of smells – not. The vehicles following us are not happy with the MZUNGUs walking and slowing them down.

We end up walking past a brick factory. It is interesting to see how they make the bricks, let them dry and then fire them in a very large kiln. The workers stop and watch us go by. A few greet us and wave. In all, we end up walking about half a mile. The bus has to negotiate a 15 foot embankment at a 30 degree angle. We have to get someone at the top of the hill to watch for traffic. The bus needs a running start to get up the hill.

We brought a couple of soccer balls with us today. Yesterday we had noticed a school on the way to Namyoya where the children were playing with another home-made soccer ball. We stop at the school but no one is outside. Luke, Gene and Jerome head up to the school with the ball and get met about halfway by several of the children who enthusiastically accept the ball. I’m too sure that the teacher appreciated the interruption but the children are certainly happy.

We are greeted enthusiastically

Easier to walk than ride

We arrive at the road to the village and get out. The roads are too bad to try and drive while the bus is loaded. The children know that we are coming and are there to greet us. The walk to the church is always much shorter and more enjoyable in their company. The people are already gathered at the church and we receive the hugs and greeting that we have grown to appreciate so much. I think back to the first day in Busia when this all seemed so strange and unusual. I was thinking – what have I gotten myself into – these are strangers, you don’t just hug people you’ve never seen before. Now it does not seem natural not to greet people this way.

Gene and I have a goal – we want to help with building the walls of the parsonage. It is not practical as we find out so we settle for what is most needed. Our project for the day is to back fill the main room of the house with dirt. If we were in the States, we would back the bobcat up and move the dirt in about 30 minutes – not an option. Like everything else we have seen, we will do this by hand.

No - it is not Gunga Din - Just me trying to keep from over-heating.

Robert showed up at the church. Gene really enjoyed working with him.

Gene and I struggled with the hoe. It was too short for us. I'm sure we amused the locals.

The line

Moving dirt - one pan at a time

A good view the of dirt pile and the line.

Gene and I alternate between using the hoe (looks more like an axe) and filling the wheelbarrow with dirt. A line is formed to pass dirt. The women of the village and several of our team members form the line. It soon becomes apparent that they can move the dirt faster than we can load the wheelbarrow and the containers. A couple of men appear to man the hoes and Gene and I become full time shovel users. It is remarkable how fast the room is back filled.

One wall done, one to go

The almost finished product - it considerably brightened the inside of the church.

Here is the picture of the church when we arrived. The mason is just getting started.

Here is the finished wall. I wonder if the scaffold is OSHA approved?

Not everyone can be a part of the dirt moving project. Some of our team helps put yet another coat of paint on the inside walls. One of the masons is applying stucco to the outside of the church. The rest of the team heads for the school. They are planning on working with the children during school.

The teacher at the school was glad to see the team.

See any possibilities for school supplies?

The project of the day was art.

The day passes all too quickly and it is time to go. No one is ready to go but we have an early day tomorrow. The girls have started another PB&J session with the children and today the adults join in. We run out of bread and start applying peanut butter directly to fingers.

It may not look like much but this is the result of our day. We have moved about 2 foot of dirt into the whole room. Before we started, you would have only seen Debbie from the neck up.

I am exhausted but happy. It is a day that I have thoroughly enjoyed.