Well we finally got here to Kampala (capital of Uganda which is South of Sudan) last Thursday evening or exactly one week ago now. So much has happened that it is hard for me to even know where to begin. We are living in the house that the Bishop Samuel’s children occupy with one of his wife’s sisters, who acts as their guardian, while they attend school here in Kampala. Simon (Diocesan Development officer), Mordicai (the Diocesan Secretary), Ezekiel (Bishop’s Chaplain), the bishops children and several children and teenagers that he allows to stay here are about 15 in number. Our meals (mostly beans, rice and greens for supper and bread, fruit and tea for (picture is of main street in Kampala, Uganda) breakfast) are cooked on a charcoal burner in an outside courtyard and we have three bathrooms and many bedrooms for all these people. It has been hard because of our schedule to find time and more importantly quiet for my daily prayers, bible reading and meditation but I have managed.
We have been busy buying things which can be difficult at times. Our biggest purchase has been a four ton 2002 Isuzu dump truck for hauling cement, rocks, sand, and tin roof materials for various building projects as well as, on occasion, people. We have also bought two electric generators: one is a very large one for the diocesan buildings and the other is a smaller and more portable one that Karen can use to teach English with the Rosetta Stone program and I can use to show a film about Jesus that is dubbed in Zandi the language of the people as well as the Disney Film “The Lion King.”
We have also found and purchased two cement block making machines that are capable of producing together some 500 blocks a day. It is a very simple machine that church volunteers can use to produce the blocks that we will use to build a church office, a training center, some guest rooms, and a diocesan school in Nzara. The machines can then be transported to the sites of various churches to make the blocks to build new church buildings, infirmaries, and schools. Because we have the truck we can easily, using church volunteers, haul sand from nearby areas for cement making (five parts sand and one part cement) to building sites. Volunteers will be used to hand dig foundations and brake up the stones for those foundations. The individual parishes will be challenged to pay for the timbers to support the roofs and for the workmen to lay the cement blocks. Because the diocese would only be paying for the cement and “zinc” roofs, with money raised from USA churches, and because of all the volunteer labor the cost of constructing good size permanent buildings would be very little compared to what it might normally be.
The Diocesan Development plan that we are using as a blueprint for our actions was developed at long meetings held over the last six months. These meetings involved church lay and clergy leaders as well as various community elders and calls for the building of many new permanent buildings. Every church building, except the cathedral, in this diocese is made with mud bricks which disintegrate when it rains and of grass roofs that have to be replaced frequently. There are no decent health infirmaries in the smaller communities and many of the school operate under trees and do not attempt to meet when it rains as it frequently does. The development program also includes various evangelism initiatives to bring the gospel to those who have not heard it, micro financing programs to empower women, the training of health care workers, and various educational programs that are much needed.
Just yesterday we purchased 22 footballs (which in the USA would be called soccer balls) as well as three nets and six volleyballs and 12 whistles for umpires to use. The diocesan officers that are here came up with the idea of forming what we would call a youth football league among the parishes that already have soccer fields or access to them as a way for the church to reach out to youth in a more highly visible manner. The balls they now use are frequently nothing more than plastic bags that are tied together in the shape of a ball and the volleyball nets are a single robe strung between two trees. In time we would buy simple uniforms for the teams that responded to the challenge of organizing themselves more fully and we add more teams. As far as this project is concerned I would mention the importance of such things as simple volleyballs in the lives of the youth and adults of St. Andrews which is located right on the border of the Congo in the town of Sungondo. It once was a parish that had six chapels around it. All of the people of this entire area have fled further to the North or are staying in a camp organized by the United Nations which is guarded by Ugandan troops. This area was raided by the troops of the so called “Lord’s Resistance Army” about a year and a half ago and the people are afraid to return to their homes. They only venture out into the surrounding jungle like area to plant, weed and harvest their gardens, The Bishop traveled to this area in the company of 34 Ugandan troops a few months ago. He was the first “outsider” from the church, government or charitable organization to visit them in 18 months and to see their terrible plight. There were over 1600 people at the service he held and the service lasted about five hours. There is nothing for the youth of this camp to do all day after they finish their garden tasks and sooooo the bishop made sure we ordered two volley ball nets and four volley balls plus two footballs for the youth of St. Andrews. When Bishop Samuel made this dangerous trip he brought with him a new highly competent pastor to begin to see how the diocese could effectively minister to the people and provide for their needs.
There have also been two trips to what we might call a Walmart-type store in a very large mall to purchase all kinds of household supplies from toilet paper to slotted spoons for cooking as well as some food items like pasta and spices. We have also bought a small refrigerator, two fans (it wasn’t possible to use such things without a generator) and two kerosene burning burners which we will utilize to cook our food instead of charcoal. We also have purchased a bed and other kinds of furniture for the Bishop’s House which is where we are staying temporarily. I think we will be quite comfortable.
We plan to leave sometime Saturday for the three or four day trip to Enzara from Kampala. After we get to Enzara we will go to nearby Yambio, the provincial capital, to order the 52 bikes we will be providing the clergy of the diocese. Each of these bikes is capable of hauling 100 kilos of freight or another person. Because of the generosity of so many congregations in Iowa and Illinois we went way beyond our original goals for the 52 bikes and so we were also able to fulfill the Bishop’s dream of buying two brand new, but very rugged, motor bikes that are made in India for the diocesan secretary and development officer. These are the men that have to organize the volunteers and the building projects and these new bikes will make such projects possible. We have put an entire diocese on wheels and have revolutionized their lives and opportunities to further the work of our Lord God among ALL the people of this area.
I am writing this first communication as an email and it is very long. Future emails will be short and there will be a longer blog with pictures. My cell phone number in Uganda is +256 718 587 535 and my number in Sudan is 249 955 506-769. Buying a calling card for Sudan as the cheapest way to call. Remember there are 9 hours difference. So call from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM your time. My email is email@example.com and Karen’s is firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks for donations in support of God’s ministry in Nzara can be sent to the Nzara Development Fund, US Bank, 115 Perry St., Galena, IL 61036