Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kamwenge Stories

In late August/early September Geoff and around 25 young people traveled about nine hours southwest of our home in central Uganda to minister to the people in the village of Kamwenge. 

The village itself is extremely impoverished—not just economically, but spiritually. Fishing villages are notorious for alcoholism, promiscuity, poverty and numerous abandoned children. Kamwenge fulfills this typical profile.

The following are a few random stories from their week-long outreach. These stories highlight God’s hand on the lives of His children and the commitment of our young people to honor Him.

The EYO outreaches traditionally have been week-long and jam-packed with practical help in the form of building new housing structures or shoring up dilapidated roofs/kitchens/ pit latrines, etc, and working to improve area garden yield, plus football tournaments to draw community members together; once together the youth preach and teach God’s truths to the crowds. In addition, they visit most of the community members in their homes and share their personal encounters with Jesus, revealing His great love for all, in hopes that more will give their lives to our great, loving Father. In the evenings after the football matches they show the Jesus Film in the local language and again preach God’s truth.

It was during such a week in Kamwenge that the following random stories had their origins.

As our EYO group set up and hosted a football match each afternoon as part an area tournament they came face-to-face with young children of 5 or 6 years being the sole caretakers of infants and toddlers. The crowds pressing in at the football matches and subsequent evening film comprised these young children, idling teenagers, drunk adults and trouble makers looking to stir up discontent. 

One afternoon, when villagers disagreed with the referees' calls, a large portion of the crowd loudly and threateningly argued. There was talk of bringing machetes to settle the “unfair” outcome at which point Geoff and one of the young men raced off in the van to retrieve the local police. (You don’t call the police here—they rarely have phones or vehicles with which to respond, especially in such a remote place as Kamwenge—you must go to them and facilitate their transport to wherever it is you’re needing them.) With police presence intact the crowd backed down and the match and evening activities were able to continue.

At one football match Geoff noticed an infant sleeping on a blanket not far from the football field boundary line. For almost two hours the infant was unattended. He never did find out who was responsible for the baby. It slept, quite contentedly amidst chaos—no doubt the usual for this little one.

One night one of our young men went out at 1 a.m. from the place where they slept to receive a phone call and found an unattended young child of about 5 or 6 years of age, sitting on the ground aimlessly playing with a plastic bottle. There were no adults in sight. The real problem of abandonment revealed in this instance deeply struck him.

During the daytime hours the young people split into small groups, spread out in the village and visited the local people. During the course of the week they built a new structure for one of the elderly men and also worked hard in the gardens of older villagers. Sitting with the people of the village and sharing the good news of Jesus and what He’s done in their lives energized and challenged the young people. One young man ran up to Geoff after a pretty intense encounter, freshly challenged to dig deeper in his study of God’s word, “Uncle Geoff! I have GOT to read my Bible more!” He was exasperated that he couldn’t answer all of the man’s questions with confidence. Awakened to his need to know more of God’s truth, he committed himself to expanding his knowledge of the Word.

One of the older EYO members also serves as the manager of our New Hope Maize Mill. Throughout the week he needed to frequently make decisions and stay up-to-date with his employees’ needs. His cell phone, hovering low on battery power, needed to be charged, but there was no charging site near the EYO base camp. Geoff immediately offered our van as a “charging station.” Hindsight is 20/20 goes the saying. His generosity was the first in a long series of falling dominoes which added significant stress to the later part of that day. A run down car battery, a football match about to start 4 km away, a need for the heavy and numerous pieces of sound system to be hauled to the field and only one small motorbike found hastily when they realized the car battery was dead meant one EYO member journeyed back and forth ferrying all the needed items. The match did NOT start on time, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind too much. Geoff, however, loathed his “bonehead” maneuver as he termed it.

After days of one-on-one discussions, marriage/foundational doctrine teachings to area leaders, and the preaching at each football match the week culminated in one rousing award and recognition ceremony. Present was a wealthy local goat farming family who gave the EYO group a healthy, robust 8-month old male goat as an appreciation of the love and compassion shown to their village. There was no room in the small bus to carry a very large he-goat 9 hours home, so Geoff and a few of the boys hog-tied it, placed it in a large Rubbermaid tub which barely fit in the back of our van, and then began the long journey home. 

Every so often the goat would shout out, once at a very inopportune moment. The van was stopped by the police—a very common occurrence here. It does NOT necessarily mean you did anything wrong to warrant being pulled off the road, but often boredom (and so taking the opportunity to pull over the white man and engage him in conversation) or even fishing for bribes might serve as the catalyst. As the police officer was talking (and Geoff said he was talking and talking and talking, enamored with his own story) the goat loudly yelled out. Everybody in the car froze, waiting for the officer to take opportunity to levy a fine, but the officer was so taken by his own words he didn’t even hear the goat. Laughter, only slightly controlled, broke out, but the officer remained unaware of the extra passenger, which fueled even more laughter. There was no fine, no attempt at a bribe and they were soon back on the road, still laughing. The stop was due to officer boredom as best we can figure.

When Geoff is part of these outreaches he endures long hours of driving, simple suppers anywhere from 10-midnight, little water, perhaps no discreet place to bathe, sleeping in the van, hours of hearing local language & no to little English, and lots of stares as the only white man in remote villages. It’s all worth it, however, as he finds these times ideal for interaction with our young people. 

Faith has been honed in many of the youth as they’ve given of themselves to people who have little materially and also truly need God’s spirit to fill them with the truth of the Gospel.


When the group arrives home after their long drive I love hearing their stories tumble out with excitement over all that God did in and around them. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing some of  them as well.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Train Them Up!!

Geoff was gone all week with the young adults on the outreach with the EYO team. He has exponentially MORE news of God's goodness, faithfulness, power and influence than this space can hold.

At this moment, however, he is asleep--recovering from the weeks activities and the L-O-N-G drive home last night.

Before he brings the stories of God's truth infiltrating the village of Kamwenge, I NEED to share how God continues to impact the lives of the young people of New Hope in areas in addition to EYO.

One of our sons who is finishing up his 11th grade year in a secondary school in Kampala (remember, our secondary school is only able to accommodate up to the 10th grade year) came home last week for a short holiday between terms. He had a chance to share many things with Geoff before Geoff left for Kamwenge. As I worked nearby in the kitchen, his excitement was tangible; he couldn't get his words out fast enough to tell of the many things God has done and is doing in his life.

He goes to secondary school near a "Teen Challenge" ministry with whom he did an internship when he was in one of his IY placements last year. The leaders of "Teen Challenge" were so impacted by his faith and subsequent leadership abilities that they offered him a free place of room and board during his two years of further secondary studies. They only asked that he remain somewhat engaged in the ministry to former addicts while also going to school, something he is VERY happy to do. Listen to his revealing words of passion and amazement regarding when he teaches God's truths to the addicts that are presently part of the "Teen Challenge" live-in program.

"I'm teaching and I'm like, 'where is this stuff coming from?' and I hear Uncle Jay's voice and Uncle Geoff's voice and I'm loving it! I'm teaching 50-year-olds and they come in down (he performs a visual at this point by hunching over and hanging his head down). As I teach I see them start to raise up (he demonstrates this by straightening), and they're lighter and starting to see the truth and I love it! I'm just teaching the truths I've learned here (at New Hope) and for me they're what we've heard often, but the men whom I teach the manhood truths to are like, 'Wow! This is deep! I wish I'd known this ten years ago---I wouldn't be like this if I'd known that!!'"

Remember, this is an 11th grade student, out of the physical covering of New Hope--where Fathers and Mothers, Aunts and Uncles have always been there for him, now in the city with all its draw toward anything other than God, yet he has not only remained faithful, but is freely sharing with others in desperate need what he's been given.

Here's my 2nd story which makes all the mucky mud, swirling dirt, biting and/or stinging bugs, and extra demands of daily life here all worth it! (I introduced this next one with that sentence lest someone think life here is one endless series of positive testimonies without a backdrop of real challenges--because the challenges of daily life here are real, just never, not ever, more powerful or overshadowing than the truth of God being worked out in the REAL lives of these young people whom God has given to New Hope to raise in Him.)

One of my young mentorees left this morning for her final IY internship to get more exposure in accounting practices many hours from here at our Kobwin site. I sat with her late afternoon on Friday and asked her to tell me what were the most challenging and most encouraging aspects of her IY year so far.

The most encouraging? During their recent outreach to an impoverished area where two of our former teaching staff have ventured out and started a primary school, she saw one of the IY members change before her very eyes. "This one," she said, "was stubborn and would not easily cooperate with the rest of the team. There was always resistance to obey, to help, to take part, but she stopped her stubbornness and became a real part of the team." I commented that it sounded like the stubborn became humble and allowed God in to change her heart, to which she brightened, "Yes, I watched it happen and it was amazing. I was so encouraged!"

Then she talked of another one of our daughters of the ministry who has frequently taken up sharing during the evening devotions in the family group here on site. This daughter has graduated from secondary school, is working on site with us and attends University courses on the weekends. What has challenged the IY girl is God's truth being shared with them by a peer. More than once the older girl has exposed the hardships of leaving New Hope and "going out into the world," by reiterating stories and experiences of what is "really out there." Over and above any advice she has given to the young ones, is her exhortation for each one of them to remain reliant on God and His word. She makes the case well that if they stay close to God, in His word everyday, understanding and trusting Him, any challenge or difficulty that arises is not insurmountable. But, like the ancient prophets she also countered with, "but, if you do not study God's word and do not trust Him it will NOT be easy for you."

What I love most about this? Having a peer of these young ones saying the same thing we leaders have been saying, makes the message louder, clearer, urgent and the young ones' ears hear it again, really as if for the first time. That's fine with me!

My joy? That the older one has trusted in her Father God, has allowed Him to prove Himself in her life as she has been uncompromising in her character and so NOW has a voice with the young ones, which we "old people" often don't have.

Don't get me wrong--it was the seeds the leaders sowed for all the young years of life of the older daughter which are now blossoming into beautiful and powerful fruit. It is the hand of God who is rewarding the daughter, who in tough times continued to choose Him, with strength and a message that others can hear.

I am full of praise for our God who has worked in our hearts to keep us here these 11 years, who has kept numerous other staff here for 30, 25, 20 and 15 years, and who ultimately is showing Himself faithful in the lives of the young people entrusted to us.

There. I hope I whetted your appetite for what Geoff will soon share in this space!!!!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ready to Fly!!!!!

With Geoff on the EYO outreach this week, we are holding down the fort with all things normal. Well, sort of. (Or as we say here, "somehow.") Next week Geoff will post a blog about the outreach, so for now let's get you up to date on the recent happenings.

There is the young brother of two of our David Family kids who wants to help his mom out at home by bringing in a little money during the school holiday. (The Uganda school calendar is currently in the midst of their three week holiday between 2nd and 3rd terms.) He comes each morning around 9 a.m. and rakes leaves, mows grass or kills snakes, just your basic Ugandan lawn care needs. Yesterday he showed me a snake he killed while raking (barefoot). Thank God he didn't step on it! He usually stays through lunch time and goes home about 3 p.m. He's a pleasant little chap and adds a smile to our days.

Toby and Acacia were asked to be a part of the activities of a visiting outreach team this week. Yesterday they finished up construction work on a bath house for a local family and today they will repair a mud structure in a village about 4 km from here. Acacia wasn't so sure she wanted to be a part of it all, but she has really enjoyed it and is looking forward to today. Of course, Toby is always up for new people and extra adventure, so he's loving being a part of the team.

Then there is Sam, who despite the holiday, is still going to school each day with his S4 comrades. Their holiday will be shortened to two weeks due to the upcoming national government exams. Study, study, study. It's been a steady stream of books, late nights, early mornings and long days at school since the academic year began in February. This morning at the breakfast table he looked at me with his big eyes and whined, "Can I PLEASE stay home today??" (Well, it IS raining quite heavily and has been all through the night . . . we all know that Ugandans don't move around in downpours . . . but, "No.") I'm such a meanie. We agreed that he would wait until the rain had slowed, which just happened about 5 minutes ago and so, he's off to another long day of learning.

There hasn't even been a Saturday that he has had off in quite awhile! Except for last weekend.

We took full advantage of last Friday and Saturday by going into Kampala to celebrate his recent 18th birthday. Also, Toby, Acacia and Kevin met some new friends this summer at MK camp, so they met up with 3 of the kids on Friday. Sam tagged along as they went to the movies, ate at KFC and did some mall lounging. We took Sam out to dinner (Indian food at Khana Khazana) on Friday and then enjoyed watching, "Cool Runnings" at a "new to us "bed and breakfast where we stayed. (Sam LOVES that movie, "Yeah, man!")

Saturday was saved for sole focus on Sam, whatever he wanted to do. That meant starting the morning off by sleeping in as late as possible, taking a leisurely breakfast and then going hover boarding. Unfortunately, our excitement twisted to frustration as we got the news that the owners of the hover boarding enterprise are Seventh Day Adventists---who don't work on Saturday! Disappointed and not sure what else there was to do in Kampala, I quickly ran to a nearby shop which carries, "The Eye Magazine," a Ugandan tourist magazine, to check their listings for "things to do outside in Kampala." Geoff got on the phone with Steve Brown, of our IY team, who has now lived in Kampala for the past six years and knows a great deal about what's out there for fun activities. Between the two sources we came to know about "Adonai Paintball adventures" which also offers zip lining. Given the choice, Sam chose zip lining and we learned our lesson, AGAIN, to not so quickly sink into moaning, groaning and complaining when met with disappointment! Zip lining was a great adventure with much more challenge than hover boarding would have offered!  I wish you could have seen Sam's face!

As a matter of fact, here is Sam's face (and Toby, Acacia and Kevin's faces, too)!!! Enjoy!

strapped in and ready to fly!
A little pose before the adventure begins.
High above the ground is no problem for this smiling kid!
Because it was Sam's birthday and also his first time to zip line, the owners comped us a second adventure with more ropes and precarious bridges to scale, plus two more zip line runs!
Acacia, after finishing up the longest zip line run.
Pure joy after flying through the air about 10 meters high and slamming into the padded  safety catch.
Toby pauses after scaling a thin log to hook himself to the zip line.
Taking off to fly over bananas and be the focus of village spectators!
They had SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pictures for the family



And so, dear family, these are pictures of our long awaited 20th anniversary celebration, BUDGET style in the Seychelles on Mahe Island. I hope you enjoy taking a look. I have included brief captions so you can follow along chronologically as to how we enjoyed our days there. It was one of the most beautiful places we have seen on God's Earth. I would love for each and every one of you to be able to visit here some day. It does NOT take thousands of dollars, contrary to popular belief. If you are ever serious about planning a trip to the Seychelles, ask us how to help you TRULY enjoy while not going broke!

We couldn't resist a picture of this funny sign--this was in the Addis Ababa airport and the language in Ethiopia has some different letters! It looks like it says, "HaHa, NO SMOKING" 


The Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles, airport is right on the water.

The view is stunning as you exit the airport--straight up the mountainside!

The view from our patio. Directly down the hill is the beach. The layout (STEEP HILL TO CLIMB) reminded us of Laguna Riviera. 

We stayed at a place called Surfers Self-Catering Chalets and the business owners started with the above restaurant which is situated on the beach. The 6 different chalets for the Surfers hotel are located up the hill behind this building.

Our first time putting our feet on OUR beach!

I was still dressed in what I wore on the airplane, but I didn't care, I just wanted to put my feet in the sand!

Can you find the bird? In the center of the photo, the bird is yellow with red splotches. This one visited every morning .

Our beach. So beautiful.

One of the ways we saved money was by riding the public bus everywhere we went. It was only  about 40 cents to ride as far as you wanted. Of course, the real thrill was the way they drove on the narrow roads above cliffs overhanging the ocean or forests. Even a millionaire that can afford paying for a luxurious hotel suite should ride the bus at least once! Otherwise, they miss out on the total local experience! Believe us, not only do the drivers' skills give you a "thrill" but seeing how the locals dress, talk, interact and get around gives a better overall picture of the Seychellois culture.

Standing in front of the daily open market in Victoria. Fresh fruits, vegetables, souvenirs, fish and various oils are the types of things filling the various tables.
red snapper and tuna

You better believe we bought some of this very special essential oil (packaged in a used Jack Daniels bottle)


Enjoying our complimentary champaign given to us for our 20th anniversary by the hotel owners.

Geoff loved the rocks on our beach, both at high tide and low tide.

Ad on the bus stop at Anse Royale. Anybody interested in getting a degree from the University of the Seychelles? Can't beat the location!!!!!

The bus stop at Port Lanay and a sweet picture of our daily limousine.

Port Lanay is a beautiful inlet situated on the north west side of Mahe. If you want to spend about 500 euro/night you are welcome to stay here at some of the nearby resorts, or you could spend about 7,000 euro/night at the farther south Four Seasons for their hilltop 17,000 sq. foot accommodation. It is certainly beautiful and tranquil, but trust us, you can enjoy the Seychelles without dropping that many dimes.

The Seychelles has a strong Catholic culture. This cross in Port Lanay is testimony of the faith of the Seychellois.

Port Lanay has amazing rocks which strikingly rest on the beach. It is also a great inlet for snorkeling.

Another view of the rock formations at Port Lanay

In the early part of the morning the beach at Port Lanay has few people.

After leaving Port Lanay we stopped off at Anse La Mouche. It was said to be a great beach for kids, as it is very calm. We found it to be deserted and not as pretty as other beaches. There were a lot of fishing boats just a 100 feet or so out and there were many dogs running loose. But, it was nice to walk along the shore just the two of us.

On our third day we took the bus to the North shore of Mahe in order to hike the Anse Major trail. The reward was a secluded beach that could only be reached by hike or boat. Our feet were free transport, plus the beauty along the trail was outstanding and not to be missed!

The trail takes you high above the north coast of Mahe and the colors are extreme.

Besides mansions you also find local "houses" (this is more along the lines of a shack--made of sheet metal and poorly built doors and windows.

looking straight down from the trail

regardless of where we were on the trail the views were stunning

wow.

Evidence of faith is everywhere

What to say? it is truly breathtaking!
The reward of our hike! A lovely, private beach with only a few people on it.

The trail also took us out of the shelter of the forest and through some pretty rocky and blazing hot portions, too.

It was here that we ate the lunch we packed and soaked up the sweet view of the Indian Ocean on Mahe's northwest side.

This beach was just over the rocks from the first beach we came upon at the end of the hike. A film company was getting ready to shoot a movie and kept badgering us to leave. But, we stayed for a little while and took in the pretty surroundings.

On the way back we took a different route for a short bit and found this tree growing out of the rock.

Back in Victoria later that afternoon we found some Gelato near the open market place.

Yup.

This bird and its partner hopped about each morning just off our veranda. They always traveled together.

Fruit bats were plentiful and flew during the day. They are huge and also a local cuisine item--fruit bat curry. NO, we did not try any. 

Enjoying the late afternoon low tide and warmth. On our 4th day we simply enjoyed our beach and didn't travel anywhere.


But on our 5th day we took a tour of some nearby Islands--"Long" "Round" and "Moyenne" which means middle. We can't remember our boat driver's name, but we can tell you that the answer to most of our questions was given as follows, "Ya'Man!"

Heading out from Victoria to hike and snorkel.

We stopped on the way to feed some fish.

They jumped out of the water to snatch bread from your hand!

heading into Moyenne

Exiting onto the soft white sand

A few people have owned Moyenne Island in its known history. The most recent was a man from the UK who bought it in 1961 and lived there from the 80s until he died in 2014. Half of the island is a sanctuary and the other half deeded to the government for tourism.

We snorkeled in the waters just beyond the breaking wave.

This is the simple house that the owner, Gresham, lived in on Moyenne.

Large land tortoises were introduced to the Island by Gresham and continue to live there. One of them is being a bit cheeky and trying to bite my behind. 

After hiking, snorkeling, and a beach BBQ we docked in a shallow sand bar area between a number of Islands and were allowed to explore, swim and enjoy.

The sand bar was very long and provided beautiful views of nearby Islands.


Another sunrise on our beach inspires worship of our Creator!

God made some funny looking creatures! These guys were constantly busy on the beach.

Geoff got up early every morning and enjoyed the sunrise.

We headed to the west side of the Island on our last full day on Mahe. This is the view from the bus stop just a couple hundred feet from our chalet.

When we got off the bus at Baie Lazare we first stopped at an intriguing cemetery. Most of the graves were not marked and many were broken apart.

Exploring the west side of the Island led us to this conglomeration of signs. It reminded us of Laguna!

We hiked for more than 2 hours in forest, neighborhood and near a few swanky hotels.

This was our reward. Aaaaaaaah

We walked for awhile on the beach.

The surf was much stronger on this side of the Island. We were stopped by security guards who informed us that we could go no further as it was private land. They wouldn't tell us who owned it, but were happy to direct us to exit through the the neighboring resort--which, in our opinion, wasn't much to look at. 

After about an hour we were back on the village road and came across this interesting fruit stand tended to by "this person" who wrote on the sign in front of the stand, "Please, I am not a woman." (Apparently, this was important information.)

Very eclectic taste in building decor.

Finally we made it down to the other side of the beach, which we could see earlier, but weren't allowed to walk to over the rocks behind us! So, it could have taken us about 15 minutes instead of an hour had the private property not been in the middle of our path. Oh well, we love exploring and we certainly loved seeing the locals.

This is one of the rocks we climbed once we made it to the other beach.

The surf at Baie Lazare has very strong currents and swimming is not allowed during May-September.

But, the beauty and serenity is definitely not hindered by strong currents!

This little beach vehicle is a cutie and I want one! I've never heard of it before, "Moke"

The reason behind the name of the Bay, "Baie Lazare"

Waiting at the bus stop at the end of our hike--I'm enjoying the view of "MY Moke"

We capped off our final full day of exploration with Sunday brunch at Les Dauphins. Red Snapper, veggie fritters, various salads, yummy fruit and desserts that will give an instant sugar coma! Fried sweet bananas, sugar glazed coconut and sweet potato drenched in sugar glaze. It was killer.

Our waitress insisted on taking quite a few shots of us in honor of our 20th anniversary. The beach at which the restaurant  is Anse Royale and its water can be seen in the back ground.

Back on our beach to watch the sunrise on our last morning before we flew out we found a hermit crab making his way back to the forest after a night of carousing.

Gorgeous sunrise at Surfers beach, Anse Parnel.

Aaaaaand, the steep hike back up the hill to our chalet.

Our chalet's veranda

The hotel's resident dog came to tell us goodbye on the morning we left. 

On the way to Victoria we stopped to snap a photo of the cross we saw every time we traveled into Victoria. It is located at Anse Royale and was one of many we saw around Mahe.

Another cross prominently displayed in Victoria

We enjoyed a rich coffee and pastry before heading out to pick out some souvenirs.


I hope you all have enjoyed this little photo tour! One last thing to note: If you can fly a carrier other than Ethiopian, you should. Not very comfortable, food--pretty bleh, on board safety attention a little lax, but on the up side the coffee is amazing! Also, the Addis Ababa airport is the absolute, most chaotic I have ever been in! With the poor PA system employees resort to yelling out the names of destinations in an effort to gather groups of travelers together. Then they shuffle groups of people back and forth between security gates. Absolutely hilarious in one sense, but also frustrating. One group of travelers were shuffled in two different directions only to be told once arriving (finally) at their gate (at midnight) that their flight was cancelled until 7 a.m.