Grace’s post: Prayers for Apollo and a Surprise Sermon

By Grace Babatunde

Apollo

We woke up to another beautiful day with blue sky in our new place at Agip Motel located in Mbarara, the capital of Mbarara district. The breakfast was around 9:30 am before some of us headed out to see our old friend, the driver for our host Rev. John. His name is Apollo, he had an auto accident last year in July with a broken femur. Thank God he is doing much better but not completely okay. Midge, who is a physical therapist, was there to give him advice on how to heal faster and get well soon. She looked at his x-ray and found out that the bone was not aligned properly and is falling apart. This man will need another surgery. We met his wife who has no job but a small farm to sustain the whole family. They really need help especially because he needs another surgery. Please keep this family in your daily prayer.

We were at the bakery shop for a light lunch and then we went for shopping at Mbarara’s open market. I could compare this market to our Saturday market in Portland but much more dense. At the end of the day we had supper with the board members from Partners in Mission (PIM). The PIM has members in the United Kingdom and Chicago as well. It was nice sharing food and faith with fellow Christians. It was then we found out that Spencer would be preaching the next morning in front of nine hundred people. We will keep you posted!

Thank God for helping us this far with our mission trip. We are going to miss all our new friends but we are eager to see you soon.

Grace

PS: Sorry, no photos today

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Chris’s post: Queen Elizabeth National Park

Written by Chris Rasmussen

Yesterday was our day in the park, Queen Elizabeth National Park to be exact.  This was named after our present Queen Elizabeth who loved Africa very much, in fact was in Africa when her father passed away and she became Queen.

We awoke early, 5 am, from our thatched covered bungalows to be escorted, with luggage, to coffee in the main lounge.  We were to meet our guide at 6:30 for a tour of the Savannah; we hoped to catch sight of a lion before they bedded down for the day.  As we drove down the darkened road, elephants foraged in the ditch and shoulder barely 10 feet away from us, but we could hardly see them with their dark gray coats matching the dark gray morning.  It was too dark to take pictures but Spencer assured us there would be plenty to view and shoot later on our river trip.

The guide jumped into John’s Toyota van and we headed off in search of the elusive lions and other wildlife.  She informed us various tidbits of animal behavior and facts as we drove deeper into the park.  One of the first animal spied were water Buffalo alone or in small groups of 2 or 3.  She informed us these were old males, too slow and too weak to keep up with the herd and abandoned.  She referred to them as “losers”.  Spencer and I were quiet, not quite sure how to digest this new nomenclature.  Soon, as we wandered around the rutted dirt roads we stopped before running into a Hippo sitting quietly in a deep mud puddle.

Not only was it disconcerting to see the Hippo there but it showed how deep the road ruts were.  As we drove on we saw Wart Hogs running in packs of 3-5, kneeling down to eat the fresh grass of the Savannah and thousands of kobs roaming the land.

Kobs are  deer like animals with spiral curving horns and the favorite food of lions.  Their cousins, the Waterbucks are larger and probably more like our elk.  While numerous, they were not as plentiful as the kobs.  A pride of 5-12 lions will consume 4-6 kobs per day.

After searching for lions for 3 to 4 hours we were starting to get discouraged.  We followed the kobs looking for herds running heater skelter away from a predator but still didn’t see any.  Our guide got word of a couple lions a few miles away and we headed that direction.  Kathleen, our doctor in the group, asked about gestation periods and litter sizes as we drove towards the lions.  Our Ugandan guide in British English explained about kobs and cubs; I was a little confused.  Apparently, kobs come 1 to a litter every 6 months and cubs come 4 to a litter about the same time.  We saw a pair of lions, male and female, far into the distance, lounging lazily in the grass.  After a few minutes another male appeared 100 yards away and also sat down.

We had seen our lions, our patience had been rewarded and we headed off to our next adventure.

As we turned off the main road towards the fine Mweybe Lodge, 22 kilometers in the distance, we ran into the famous rutted, rumbling and pot holed Ugandan roads.  This one was even paved at some distant time but it didn’t seem to offer much respite.  The lodge was magnificent, perched on ridge overlooking the wide channel connecting Lake George and Lake Andrew.  There were geckos and lizards scurrying across the grounds as we sat on the terrace restaurant and dined on Nile Perch and “Mexican pizza.”

The boats were several hundred feet below us waiting to take us on the river cruise.  We were accompanied on the double decker “Hippo” boat by a group of British “birders” who oohed and ahed at black headed weaver, white egrets, red breasted herons and local pelicans while I noticed large mammals and ferocious looking crocodiles.

There were more hippopotami than we could count but no elephants.  Apparently, the recent rains allowed them to drink in the forest without coming down to the water’s edge.  There were also many solitary water buffalo here but this guide was a little more “politically correct” and just called them older retired males, not “losers”.  They sat peacefully on the shore, facing the water knowing if they heard a predator approach they could quickly run into the water and swim safely away.  Spencer and I thought retirement could be a lot worse than this.

We got back into John’s van and started the slow ride to Mbarara, weaving through park roads looking for monkeys and elephants.  There seems to be a lot of baboons and we finally found a white faced monkey family to pose for pictures.  Waterbucks and wart hogs scurried across the landscape but no elephants.  We saw their scat but it was old and dried.  We finally left the park and headed towards Mbarara, 120 kilometers away.  Just before heading up the hills, out of the plains, a small herd of elephants appeared on our left and we got a couple distant pictures; mission accomplished.  The roads were so bad it took us 4 hours to travel the 70 plus miles.  We passed through the mountains, through more tea plantations and small Ugandan villages.  We arrived in Mbarara tired and achey, dirty and gritty but satisfied and amazed at all we had seen this day.

God has a wide and varied kingdom and we saw a new and wonderous slice today.  Thank you, God.

Chris

 

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Midge’s post: Saying goodbye, sightseeing, and a sense of gratitude

Submitted by Midge Birnie

Greetings from Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda!

It was sad to say goodbye to many of the friends we had made over these past 10 days at KSVS, but our time was up. We spent the morning spreading hugs and leaving behind several resources, then headed off to the Park.

Our drive took its past some baboons sitting alongside of the road, as well as many monkeys in and around the trees. This was as we passed through Kibale Park – located north of our destination.

We passed fields of tea plants as well as mint plants, a couple of Chinese rail company buildings – and the lifestyles appeared to be more middle class in and around those areas. Too soon, however, we returned to the mud huts with no water or electricity.

Stopped for lunch in the city of Fort Portal, eating at a restaurant frequented by tourists. We met up with a couple from Illinois who had recently arrived for a mission to help a local school put in a water tower. Spent some time sharing experiences. Driving along we next met up with a truck that had rolled over and was blocking the road. It seemed like all of the townspeople had come out to take it all in!  After conferring with them, we ventured off on a foot path trail as a detour. Very adventuresome! Got back on the main road and a couple hours later made it into the park. Kathleen and Abby were the first to catch sight of an elephant on the plains, while the rest of us settled for a few oryx grazing.

 We are staying tonight in the park at the Buffalo Safari Resort. Very nice. Finally get a hot shower. We are required, however, to be escorted if out after dark as there are wild animals all around us.

Everyone is so looking forward to tomorrow, a day that begins at dawn.

 The team has many fond memories of time spent at KSVS in Kamwenge. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.  Most of the students come from a home life that I was unable to imagine prior to my stay here. At the school, they are able to find a safe refuge with much respect and learning taking place.

For this, we are most grateful.

Blessings,
Midge

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Kathleen’s post: Improving public health and old hymns to an African beat

Written by Dr. Kathleen Dalke

After an emotional day in the refugee camps we regrouped and visited the local regional hospital. We had heard that the quality of care was poor, to name just one example we had heard that the anesthesia only works half of the time. What we found was quite different.

We met a young doctor who was raised in the village and returned after training. He was responsible for building a state of the art (relative to the resources in Uganda) hospital for women and children.

There are four physicians and three mid level providers. The physicians provide internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, anesthesia, general surgery and and neonatal medicine.  The doctors learned all of these skills with only one year of internship.

We toured the hall where they had a neonatal intensive care unit. They were taking care of five small babies. The smallest baby was slightly over one pound.

The earliest baby that survived in this hospital was born sixteen weeks early and weighed one pound.  The outcome of recovery from severe prematurity is similar to Portland area hospitals. This baby is now a toddler and doing well.

The labor room had two beds in a single 10 x 12 room, providing no real privacy. The operating room had three beds and they often had two cases running at the same time in the same room.

I was very impressed that the providers of Kamwenge make do with the resources they have and are striving to improve the quality of health in the region. The results from this work is slowly become visible. The average life span has even increased to 59.2 years. The HIV rate in this community has gone from 6% to 2%. Complications form childbirth have markedly dropped as the cesarean section has increase.

In the afternoon Abby talked to girls in the school (ages 9 – 20) about menstrual care, hygiene and the importance of staying in school. Her club at Lincoln had raised money for reusable feminine hygiene products and she distributed them after presenting a lesson on menstruation.

She also talked to a group of teachers about fertility awareness and taught them how to use period trackers and explained when the female body is most likely to get pregnant. The teachers were very grateful that she was talking to them and to the young girls about a subject that is often taboo in their home and school communities.

Abby and the girls discuss reproduction and menstrual cycles

At the end of school Spencer led some of us to a baptism of two students. One was a high school student that converted from the Muslim faith and now wants to become an Anglican Priest. The other boy was in primary school and is an orphan that is being adopted by one of the teachers in the school. The service was very moving. I will surely miss the old southern baptist hymns with an African beat. To wrap up the day we had a tough and stimulating discussion on the book of Amos and the role of the church community and individuals.

God bless the kind people of Uganda.

Kathleen

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Kathryn’s post: Birds, Refugees, Kids

Written by Kathryn Hill

Today was a day of contrasts. Fair warning, some of this blog might be difficult to read.

I am a bird lover and I have enjoyed hearing and seeing the variety of birds here in Uganda. I spent an hour this morning before breakfast sitting on the front porch of the Inspiration Center, just watching and listening.

The porch looks to the west, overlooking the rolling green hills and tall mountains in the distant. It is picturesque and peaceful. We have sturdy shelter, clean water, a comfortable bed and plenty of food to nourish us.

After breakfast, we drove more than an hour to Rwamwanja Refugee settlement over a dusty, windy, bumpy (Portland potholes are no comparison) dirt road. We waited over an hour to meet with the administrator of the settlement who gave us some history of the settlement, which has been in existence for over 50 years. Uganda is more kind and compassionate to refugees than other countries so they have been overwhelmed with refugees. They receive 600-800 new refugees every 2 weeks at this particular center and there are multiple receiving centers in this settlement. The refugees are picked up at the Congo border and given a chance to start over. They are given a number, finger printed and receive initial screening. They are then bussed 10 hours to the receiving center at the settlement where they get additional screening. The families are separated at night for sleeping in this area since they don’t have the ability to house each individual family. The women and children stay in one building and the men in another. Each building houses ~150 people, sleeping on mats on the floor.

Sleeping area in refugee camp

There is a dining area where they go through single file to receive their food.

Dining hall designed to put people in orderly lines for food, prevent rushing and hurting people

They have had to construct this type of station because the refugees are so hungry when they arrive they rush the line and a young child was previously trampled to death.

We saw several albino children at the receiving area; they have about 65 there currently.

Albino kids blister without sunscreen

These children are at great risk because they can be sacrificed in their home country. They have blisters on their lips and faces due to the sun and their light-colored skin. There is no sunscreen for them. They need hats and long sleeve shirts, which they don’t have.

There is a medical clinic at the receiving area and outside it we were introduced to one of the women refugees.

Woman fled home in Congo after attack

She had been attacked in her home in the Congo and when unable to give them the money they demanded, she was cut. They cut her face (she still had stiches in place) and body. They cut off her right hand and her left hand was badly injured. It was difficult to see her and hear her story. I can only imagine that her type of story is repeated many times.

There were also bright spots in the day. We saw a Crested Crane, the national bird of Uganda on our way to the settlement.

Crested Crane, national bird of Uganda

Everyone we interacted with warmly welcomed us, we have found the Uganda people to be consistently warm and welcoming. And we were reminded that children are children the world over. They like to have their picture taken and they like to play. Right next to the medical clinic at the settlement reception center was a playground. Children laughed, played with each other and rode the marry-go round. Their playful voices rang in my ears as we returned to the van and our dusty ride back to the Inspiration Center.

“And we were reminded that children are children the world over.”

 

 

– Kathryn Hill

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Abby’s post: Clinic, cooking, caring for others

Submitted by Abigail Dalke

Another warm sunny day in Uganda that brought many adventures for our team. As Monday rolled around we found ourselves regrouped and ready to take on another week. My day started around 6:30 for a nice run along the Ugandan countryside with Joel, one of the teachers taking care of us.

Afterwards, amidst the Nokia cell phones ringing, the crowing roosters and the constant chirping of topical birds, my mom and Kathryn headed over to the clinic for more cervical cancer screenings, Midge and Grace held educational talks on nutrition and sanitation, while Spencer and I observed the culinary class and taught the recipe for Dutch babies.

Grace and Midge talking with women about nutrition and sanitation

The teachers kept repeating “there’s always more we can do” in regards to sanitation and “the kitchen can never be clean enough.”

Spencer demonstrates making dutch baby pancakes in the kitchen

Although the final product wasn’t quite up to par with Spencer’s standards it was still a fun exchange of culture. Then, I made my way back to the clinic to help out in anyway I could. I decorated the previously barren clinic walls with posters about STIs, yeast infections, proper sanitation and other health concerns for patients to look at while waiting to see nurse Ruth, my mom, Kathryn or Midge.

Abby and Kathryn check a patient’s blood pressure

Personally, throughout the week I have developed exceptional flashlight holding skills along with incredible handing-forceps-to-my-mom skills. However, the main highlights of my day were:

a. Teaching a woman how to use a period tracker and about ovulation so that she could use it to know when it is the best time during her menstrual cycle to get pregnant. She was very excited as establishing a family and continuing to reproduce is extremely important to the husbands here and she had only had two children at the age of 34.

And then, B. We were asked to remove a young woman’s birth control implant, luckily we had lidocaine and the woman was able to bring her own sterile blade from the phramacy.  My mom made the initial cut but we worked hard together to maneuver the rod and break the fibrous tissue around it. I am proud to say that I was the one that used the forceps to remove the implant in the end and I wasn’t as weary around the sight of blood as I thought I would be!

Spencer leads bible study on the go

Anyway, today brought many fun adventures and we ended the night with a stimulating bible study discussion about prophets, a few rounds of bridge and a new houseguest that kept our enthusiasm and sports high as she giggled and trotted up and down the hallway (Rev John’s 3 year old granddaughter Emmy). Luckily, Chris was there to document it all and we look forward to sharing more about our trip with the church upon our return home.

Abby

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Midge’s post: Worship with singing, dancing, skits, and sugar cane

Today’s post is from Midge Birnie

Greetings from Kamwenge!

This morning we woke up lacking electricity. After scrambling around to locate our flashlights, we managed to get dressed, eat breakfast, and leave for church at KSVS by 8:30 am.

FPC Team dressed for church

We attended the worship service for the students and staff at KSVS. It was full of music, celebration and songs.

During the offering, people came forth not only with shillings, but produce and goods (avocados, sugar cane, candy, bananas, etc) as an expression of their offerings to God. Later in the service, these goods were auctioned off and converted into shillings. Someone purchased a sugar cane and presented it to Abby and Spencer as a gift.

Ugandan worshiper gives sugar cane to Abby and Spencer

The order of worship went by the Uganda Anglican format and was led by an Anglican priest from town. Spencer gave the sermon, which was well received by all. Two and a half hours later church ended, and, after a short break, we returned to watch an Easter Carol program presented by the primary school students. They did an excellent job – well disciplined, well rehearsed, and with lots of spirit!. Plenty of music, dancing, and Easter skits.

Easter skit by Kamwenge kids

Dancing in worship

Drumming accompanies singing and dancing

Singing Easter songs

Our stay here in Kamwenge has been on of much learning – lots of one-on-one with students, staff, and parents in the community. Rev. John has continued to promote, educate, and develop KSVS – in an effort to gradually change the lifestyles and dreams of the children and community. I, personally, have spent time with the soccer players, catering to their sprains and strains in preparation for the big game last Friday. The ladies who come with back and neck pain are more difficult to treat – but compassion and hands on approach is well received. They have a difficult life, with many children to care for, cooking, cleaning, laundry and gardening – all without running water, stoves, or electricity, just to name a few drawbacks.

Tonight we are able to kick back, have some time for devotions, and summarize our time spent thus far – and what we hope to accomplish in the coming week.  We have been blessed with warm sunshine and some exciting rain storms.

Blessings and peace,

Midge

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