Friday 29 November 2013

News and prayer requests from Kasese

I realise I haven't written on this blog for about 3 months.  It's been a busy time full of ups and downs.  Highlights have included a fantastic short visit by my brother and sister in October, and seeing the solar project really work better than I'd dared hope for (we've now installed them in 6 churches (see pictures gallery), and they're having a real impact, which I'll write more about next year. 

There have been plenty of challenges too, especially in Congo Quarter where the agricultural project following the severe flooding has run into multiple and overlapping problems including greed (people selling their seeds rather than planting them), laziness (people not watering their crops with the pumps provided), goats (an ever present menace here, especially when their owners don't tether or supervise them), and more misfortune with a section of river flooding again and wiping out some of the best crops.  Its not all bad news there though, as some farmers have worked hard and have some very good crops coming and we continue to have good meetings with the community leaders.

Last week the two BMS interns from Gulu, Dan and Henry, came down with BMS colleague Alex Vickers and two of his Ugandan colleagues Genesis and Amos for a joint development training programme along with Kasese intern Natalie, and myself.  We had a great few days working through some discussion material sent by BMS and visiting the projects here, with Genesis and Alex offering their agricultural expertise and general wisdom to the challenges in Congo Quarter.  At the end of the week we took the interns camping in QENP while Alex, Genesis and Amos headed back to Kampala and then onto Gulu. Despite some pretty heavy rain and muddy roads we had a good trip in the park, driving right past a hyena being scared off by a leopard only feet away from the car in the pitch black about 0.5km from our tents!  However, at the same time Genesis and Amos were on a far less exciting bus journey from Kampala back up to Gulu on a badly maintained road that we used to frequent back in 2008.  Their bus blew a tyre at high speed and rolled 3 times.  A few people were killed and many injured and Genesis and Amos walked out of it with some cuts and bruises but nothing more serious.  This was a stark reminder of why we pray before we travel, and why we've spent 2 years asking you to pray for us and our colleagues as we travel. It was also chilling to think that the future of all the excellent work that Alex has done in northern Uganda lies in the hands of talented and passionate individuals like Genesis and Amos, who regularly dice with death in Uganda's scarily fast buses.

If we needed any more reminders about the vulnerability of our local partners, two days ago Pastor Alfonse was beaten up, kicked in the ribs and had his phone stolen.  This attack was conducted by a group of Muslim men who are annoyed about the Baptisms at KCBC on Sunday where one of the candidates for Baptism is of Muslim origin.   If you've ever met Pr Alfonse you'll know that he's not one of those provocative preachers who likes to stir up trouble with other faith groups. Far from it. He's a man who treats all people with love and respect.  It so happens that his exemplary living and the work he does with street children in particular is drawing people to him, and through him to Christ, who shines through everything he does.  Some of these young people happen to come from polygamous Muslim families where they may have more than thirty siblings and consequently don't necessarily get much love or attention from their fathers.   

I won't say more about this now, but I leave with you a number of prayer requests for the busy week we have ahead of us:

1.  Thank God that Amos and Genesis survived the bus crash and pray for their continued protection as they do such great work up in Gulu, northern Uganda.  Pray also for those killed or more seriously injured and their families.
2.  Pray for Pr Alfonse and for his protection in all the work he does here in Kasese, and for a less aggressive response by some members of the local Muslim community.
3.  Pray for the 6 people being Baptised at KCBC this Sunday, one of whom is Amisi, the electrician who's installed all the solar projects and has really grown in his faith and confidence this year.
4.  Pray that the Baptism (the 1st we've seen in over 2 years), and surrounding week of evangelism  is a positive event for the whole community, which reaches out to others rather than antagonising them.
5.  Pray for the 20 people from Acholi Quarter who are graduating from the final BMS funded skills training course on Tuesday, pray that the important guests we've invited turn up, and for the Development Committee as we continue to work to find some form of sustainability for the work in Acholi Quarter now that the BMS funding is finishing.
6.  Pray for Jonah's "dependents pass" and passport, still stuck in Uganda's immigration department, without which we'll struggle to fly home next week!  Our applications were submitted back in March and the other 3 of us have our permits, but Jonah's file was "lost" by immigration.
7.  Pray for safe travels and good health for us as we embark on our 4,000 mile journey next week from equatorial Uganda to some welcome R&R in a British winter - Jonah's first ever winter!

Thursday 28 November 2013

Deaf children leading a choir and Thanksgiving at Jambo! - By Bethan

At the end of term (next week) our integrated choir has a performance to the parents and various 'esteemed guests'.  Moreen and I have been preparing the choir for this performance all year and are so pleased with their results.  Granted they don't sing like the Jackson 5 but at least they look as though they enjoy singing and a tune is vaguely recognisable.  The things that I have loved about leading this choir most are seeing Moreen take the lead and come into her own as a choir leader and a precious moment last week when the children were asked if they wanted to come and lead the group in a rapping improvisation that we had been playing with in our warm-ups.  It has got to the point where this warm-up has become part of the performance program!  But more than that: the deaf children have been taking turns at leading the choir and the children follow them as seriously (and with as much fun) as with the hearing children!  I was so proud to see Moreen revelling in being the leader of the choir and the deaf children growing in their confidence as they realised that 40 hearing children were following their every move!  I also love how the children (hearing and deaf together) are enjoying signing their songs and learning more and more how to communicate with each other across the hearing/non-hearing barrier.
  The hearing children love to sign too.

 The choir prepares to begin rehearsals.

 Moreen in her element leading the choir.
In a second part of my blog this week I'm going to tell you that Jambo cafe had its first 'function' today and it went so well.  It looked as though only two people would come for the Thanksgiving dinner we wanted to prepare for our resident Americans.  However, a last minute American regular came and remembered that it was indeed Thanksgiving day and joined the celebrations along with his Ugandan mate.  A three course meal was prepared all afternoon and would cost a whopping great big £10 (most average single course meals in nice restaurants can be bought for around £3).  The started was tomato soup and bread roll, followed by African chicken stew, peas in soup (a Ugandan specialty), roast sweet and Irish potatoes, pumpkin puree and of course 'stuffing'.  This feast was rounded off with homemade fresh pumpkin pie with ice-cream.  The diners had a great fill, shared what they were thankful for (which, thankfully, included Jambo café!) and had a great time together despite not being with their families on this special day.  Alice and Eliza worked from 7.30am up until beyond 7.30pm every day this week so I believe they deserved every shilling of the profit today's function will have brought them.  It's still a busy week ahead, though, with a birthday cake made today, a double-tier graduation cake due on Saturday, a large anniversary cake due on Sunday and a triple-tier graduation cake due for Acholi Quarter's Skill Centre on Tuesday!  But at least they will get paid handsomely this week.
 The group tucks in to their main course.

 The best pumpkin pie in Kasese!

 The feast laid out ready.
I'm so sorry the pictures are not straight - goodness knows how to work this blog to rotate them!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Update on Alpha - By Bethan

I want to update you on our first Alpha session at Jambo!  We had Alphonse leading, Alice waitressing and cooking, Natalie (our BMS intern), Noeline and myself plus an American boy and a German girl.  We discussed the first session of the Alpha course, which is 'Who is Jesus' discussing questions such as 'is he who he says he is?' and 'was he God or man or both?'.  The discussion that followed the talk by Alphonse encompassed everything from "was Jesus a prophet and do we have prophets today" and "did Jesus do miracles and do we also have miracles today" to "if Jesus existed do we also believe that Buddha and Mohamed existed and what does that mean with regards to faith?"  We all came to the conclusion, from our different backgrounds of long-held faiths to enquiring minds, that Jesus did exist and probably was who he said he was (fully man and fully God).  The next step is taking the leap of faith that is aptly named because we can only prove things so far before finally saying to God "okay, I'll leap across this canyon and believe in you fully regardless of facts and figures because you are bigger than human understanding!"

At a post-Alpha social gathering that most of the group went to (not me - I had to get back for kids' bath-time!) with some other people, the content was discussed further with the others who had not been and they decided that they want to come next week so we hope numbers will be up.

I have to say, as someone who has been a Christian for many years, it is refreshing to come back to the simple question of "Did Jesus exist?" because I take it for granted sometimes and I should never do that especially when trying to talk to people who are questioning me about my faith and don't have those basic assumptions to work from.

A little update on Israel Emmanuel too: he is keeping strong and growing very handsome indeed.  Noeline was getting a bit run down with him crying a lot at night but I showed her the best trick every breastfeeding mum should learn: to feed him whilst lying down and even asleep!  Now she is resting much more at night.  As if having a two-week old baby is not enough, she is now doing assessments for her tailoring course with a business exam coming up soon too.  Graduation is on 3rd December so we hope to see her graduate - maybe even top of the class!  Thanks for all your prayers for her.  She has also had some orders from the UK that are keeping her busy and helping her become financially secure... at least for now.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Alpha Course at Jambo! - By Bethan

We are starting an Alpha Course at Jambo! café on Sunday afternoon (10th Nov) running every Sunday until Christmas.  Please pray for good attendance and open minds as people come and explore life, the universe and everything.