We are finally on the internet but most of the time it is not working so I am not at all sure when I can send this missive. I thought I’d try this evening to start the compositionof a letter with the idea that I would send it when I am able. As I write this I am literally drenched in sweat even though the sun has been down for an hour and a half. My saving grace this evening is a fan that I have aimed directly at me.
I thought I might give you some idea of what Karen and I are doing on an average day. Today, however, was a kind of very special day that mocks that word “average.” .” We both got up this morning when the rooster, whose roost is directly out our bedroom window, did his thing of welcoming the rise of the sun. We had endured a torrential rain storm the night before the effect of which was much amplified by the tin roof on our house. The rain made the cleared ground outside the house a sea of mud so I did not try to go to the cathedral for morning devotions. The devotions start at 7:30 and we are called to prayer by a drum that beats at 7:00, 7:15 and then at 7:30.The house (pictures below and above) we live in consists of a screened porch area where we eat followed by a sitting room with a couch, chairs, desk and bookcase, followed by a bedroom followed by two small rooms that are used for storage and a closet. Our bath house and our latrine are both located some distance from the main house and our kitchen tukal or house is right out the back door. There is a “piote” or 4x4 meter house with ten chairs and a central table outside the front door in which we can entertain guests. A generator house that I had built, which is made of brick, completes the list of buildings. There has never been electricity in the building we live in or in the bishops compound next door. We purchased a large generator when in Kampala that now powers our beloved fan and lights as well as recharges our cell phone, computers, flash lights, batteries, etc. The generator operates three hours each evening. All of the 6 small buildings in our compound are surrounded by a palm fond fence within which there are also gardens for growing vegetables and a parking space for the diocesan 4 ton Isuzu dump truck. This is our current home in which we are quite comfortable.g when the rooster, whose roost is directly out our bedroom window, did his thing of welcoming the rise of the sun. We had endured a torrential rain storm the night before the effect of which was much
amplified by the tin roof on our house. The rain made the cleared ground outside the house a sea of mud so I did not try to go to the cathedral for morning devotions. The devotions start at 7:30 and we are called to prayer by a drum that beats at 7:00, 7:15 and then at 7:30.
We cook over a charcoal fire or two small kerosene powered burners. All water for washing clothes, dishes or ourselves has to be hand pumped. We daily purify our drinking water. “Maudie” is the name of the woman we have hired to help with the household chores, which if Karen had to do them with my help would leave her no time for teaching.
Today as I have said was not an average day. We began by attending a service at 11:00 with the bishop and with the clergy, youth leaders, mothers union and evangelism officers from most of the Diocese’s parishes in attendance. After opening prayers, a sermon and a talk from Bishop Samuel representatives from each arch deanery stood up and introduced their delegations to Karen and myself and we in turn did the same for ourselves. After the service and meeting we went out into the space between our compound and the cathedral where the 4 ton Isuzu truck, the two motorbikes and the 52 bikes we had purchased with funds from churches in Iowa and Illinois had been set out. We gathered around the bikes, cycles and truck and all laid hands on them to bless them for God’s work in Nzara diocese. Chairs were brought out from the cathedral and placed under an enormous Mango tree and then in groups of three and four people came up to claim their bikes and to have their picture taken. Then came a period when people got out pliers and screw drivers to adjust mirrors, pump tires full of air, tighten bolts, etc. Then, just as in the US, out came the food for the festive meal which people ate in the shade of the tree. The bishop invited us during this time to have a conversation with the principal of the Theological College in nearby Yambio. He wanted to speak with Karen about possibly teaching English at his school.
After everyone left I walked across the road to inspect the work that had been done on a building project we have just begun. This site is the location of five mud walled Tukals or 4x4 meter buildings that are roofed with thatch made of dried grass. They have mud floors and each has only one very small window. The diocesan nursery school/kindergarten was displaced from where it used to meet and so we are reconditioning three of the tukals for their use. We are putting concrete floors in each of them, plastering them inside and out with cement, painting them inside and out and putting additional windows in them that will be covered with screening and bars for security purposes. The tukals are very dark and the new windows and white interior paint will allow the students to see their books. One of the thatch roofs, that the white ants have completely destroyed, will be replaced. We are buying small chairs for the children to sit in and making a blackboard for each tukal for the teacher to use. When we are done the school will have much better facilities then they have had previously. An excellent teacher from Uganda has 52 pupils divided into three groups by ability and age.
The other two tukals in this group of five will be used to house nine guests that are coming from England on Sept. 29th from a group called Flame International. They will train 50 to 60 people from the diocese as councilors for those who have suffered major trama due to the murder, raping and destruction of property that they have personally witnessed at the hands of a group called the Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA. This group has no political, religious or ethnic agenda other than power and personal gain. The last major raids were about a year and one half ago but the memories still run very deep and are very painful and occasionally there are still minor raids that leave everyone terrified.. About 40% of the dioceses parishes are no longer functrioning because all the people and their pastors have fled to safe areas like Nzara.
On Monday we will be distributing food to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)in live nearby. We hope to distribute some 23 fifty kilo bags of beans and 30 such bags of corn meal or flour. This is enough food to feed some 24000 families for three or four weeks until their gardens can produce more food. The money for this feeding program came to the Diocese from the Diocese of Salisbury in England. Evidently there was a BBC news story about this camp that caused them to raise $4000 dollars. In the afternoon, after the ceremony dedicating the bikes was over, I went to nearby Yambio to order the food. I got a local merchant to give us a significant discount given the amount we were ordering and where it was going.
While I was over in the area of the 5 tukals we are refurbishing I looked in another tukal that is located nearby to see if the torrential rain of last night had affected the 40 bags of cement we have stored there. Three weeks from now we hope to begin the manufacture of cement blocks using two machines that we purchased in Kampala. Each of these is capable of producing two such blocks each time the chambers are filled with cement and the heavy duty levers are pressed down to eliminate air spaces and thus produce a uniformly shaped block. These blocks will be used to build a small office building with four 4x4 meter rooms for the diocesan officers. The Trinity Foundation in New York will give the diocese up to six computers, a printer, a satalite dish, solar panels, internet connection and training IF such an office with a cement floor, iron bars on the windows, and a solid roof is built. They want to safe guard their considerable investment. Currently the bishop and staff have to operate out of their back pockets and without any office equipment. Because it’s a new diocese they have lost access to their former office building in Yambio which is located 27 Kilometers from here.
This “average” day was so busy that I completely forgot that we had talked about showing a film using a video projector and speakers I brought with me. It was to be shown at the Cathedral at 7:00 PM when it is dark enough to see a film. So far I have shown a Jesus Film twice to about 600 persons. It is based on the gospel of Luke and is dubbed in what I have learned is the modern version of the Zande language that is spoken in Sudan. It is slightly different from the Zande spoken in the Congo and the Central African Republic. I have also shown the Disney cartoon film called “The Lion King,” which is in English, to about 300. On 10 upcoming parish visits I expect to show it to 2400 more people.
The main part of the day ended with a meal of greens, beans, r ice and two of the very small Sudan bananas, that I just love, augmented by a glass of the freshly squeezed juice from some passion fruit and a hand full of ground nuts (peanuts) that were roasted in our own little kitchen. I had a cup of “African coffee” with lots of powered milk and sugar and Karen had decaffinated tea as we reviewed the day. Then came the writing of this way too long email and bed at 9:30 when the generator was turned off. I hope this gives all of you some idea of what life on a typical day is like. Keep praying for us. We believe that this is where God wants us to be right now and we are doing well.
Bob and Karen