It was the day before Thanksgiving before I realized that Thanksgiving was upon us as this is not celebrated here in Uganda so I had no reminders…..like those in the U.S. do with the many advertisements for black Friday sales…..haha
It’s hard for me to recognize that we are in the Thanksgiving season and quickly moving into Christmas. Usually at this time of year I’m thinking it’s time to turn on the heat and pull out the warm winter clothes. Well, it’s just the opposite here.
We are moving into the dry, hot season as I think it’s been a whole week now since it’s rain. I’m use to daily storms and wet boda-boda rides from the village, now it’s time to get use to the dusty rides. Instead of turning on the heat I’m thinking about purchasing a fan. Now, that power here in Gulu seems to have improved by 95% I think I can enjoy it.
As this is the time of year to look back and give God praise and thanks for all He has provided throughout the year I realize I have much to be thankful for, in continued good health, the love and support of family and friends, and the ability to be doing what I had dreamed about doing for so many years.
I truly like living here in Gulu and doing the work I am doing. When I first envisioned coming to Uganda I thought most of my ministry would be working with the children and a small portion of it with adults. I guess that was my vision as I think God had something else in mind. I’m working mainly with women and I find that I enjoy what I am doing and really feel this is where God wants me and wants me doing.
I so enjoy working with these women as they make the work easy due to their desire and eagerness to learn new skills and they don’t want me to stop at just the sewing and quilting. They want to learn it all..from English…to math skills…to knowing more about the Bible…and any other skill I can teach them. As much as I wanted to work with children I’ve come to realize that maybe the best way I can be helping the children is by helping their mothers. When the children see their mothers willingly putting an effort to learn, to take on a new challenge and to be diligent in their effort to learn; when they see the self-confidence increasing in their mother; when they see her hope raising; when she brings home words and wisdom from the Bible I know that this can only have a positive influence on her children. Perhaps, this is how God intended for me to work with children, through their mothers.
The ladies’ project has been continuing without my presence for the last week but I hope to join them this week. They have been working on some very nice projects and I’m anxious to see how they are progressing on them.
The Project has been taking on a more official and definitive shape. In the last few weeks we have been meeting to discuss and define objectives for the project as well as adding some rules and regulations for members to follow.
Currently, I have two groups of ladies that I meet with weekly, an intermediate group and a beginners group. Both groups have approximately 40 to 45 ladies each and as I wrote previously, the project is temporarily closed to any new members. Although, I’m amazed at the creativity some women use to manage to get into the program anyways.
One of the rules we established was in attendance. The attendance of each member will be very important as this will dictate their availability to the Project’s fund and we feel will weed out those who are serious about the program versus those who come when they think something is being given for free, i.e. reading glasses or other gifts from America.
How the money from the sale of quilts is going to be handled is something else we have been discussing. Soon, a bank account in the name of the project will be established, naming 3 members as signatories. A treasurer has already been elected but I think an assistance treasurer from the other group should also be named. Next, we’ll be working on establishing specific guidelines on how the project funds will be used. After much discussion amongst the women it was decided that a certain amount of money would accumulate in the account and then anything over this amount will
become available to the members as small loans, as in microfinance loans.
I didn’t realize how much I missed working with numbers (i.e. accounting/math) until loans were mention. I had taken a couple of online courses in microfinancing loans before coming to Uganda and found it quite interesting and was hoping to be able to use this new knowledge in the future, so when the ladies mentioned this loan scheme my interest perked right up as well as my desire to start calculating interest rates and amortization schedules…haha.
Recently, we elected project leaders for each group and I have selected 3 ladies to be trainers. The trainers will be very beneficial to me as I can now explain a project to them and they, in turn can explain and work with the other ladies in completing it. I am also hoping to begin working with the trainers to train them on cutting and design. The cutting will take some time as I first need to teach
them some basic math skills. Fortunately, they are very anxious and more than ready to learn. I have ample space in my home and it is set up to accommodate the project so it will be an ideal place for training and they are willing to travel here from the village which is about 12 or 15 miles. They will be on bicycles so it’s not too bad of a trip.
At the end of August, to celebrate our first year of the project we had a big celebration. We rented a tent, chairs and a DJ/sound system with some Acholi christian music; cooked a couple of goats and a few chickens; bought some soda and then had a great time dancing and eating away until early evening. The dancing was strictly Acholi style, something I haven’t learned yet. The women were trying hard to teach me but I’m afraid I need many more lessons. Possessing some dancing talent would help too! I’m grateful my dancing, or attempt at dancing, generated so many laughs though. I had a great time learning and just being silly.
We invited one of the local pastors and member of the local council to join us, as well as the school headmaster and the ECM Gulu team. They were very gracious and encouraging in their speeches and impressed with the progress of the women.
I think everyone had a great time that day and one baby choose that day
to be born. His mother, after some dancing and eating went into labor during the festivities. My worker, Otim Renaldo drove her on his motorbike to the nearest clinic so she could deliver. I was later honored to be asked to name the child.
After searching and coming up with several names that would reflect on our celebration day I took it to a vote at our next meeting and the name Jesse was chosen. The name means a gift from God. The baby boy is now named Otim Jesse.
Something else that we have added to the project is ending each meeting with some Bible study. This is something we have
always tried to do in the past but many times it got forgotten in our haste to work on projects. However, since we are relying on God to make this program a success we know Bible study and prayer has to become more of a priority. We usually end our meetings with tea and bread and have now discipline ourselves to put the projects away once tea is ready and take out the bibles.
I’ll usually come prepared with a verse or a chapter from the Bible that I’ll read in English and then one of the ladies will read it from the Acholi Bible. We then discuss what we just read, asking questions on what we think the verse(s) are saying or what God meant by what is written and how we think we should be using it in our daily lives.
The last few weeks we have been looking at scripture that speaks of how we’re to love one another and treat one another.
(Thank you Pastor Jim and Burncoat Baptist Church for the use of your sermons on this subject and for putting on the website.)
I’m really enjoying this part of the meeting because it gives me an opportunity to get to know the women that much more as they share their thoughts or give testimony on how certain scripture has worked in their lives. They tell me how happy they are that someone from America would want to come to teach them about the Bible. Just recently, we had one lady express her desire to become a Christian and so we prayed with her in her desire to accept Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! I will soon follow-up with her in her decision.
Demonstrating God’s love
In September, to put to action what we have just been studying about loving your neighbor, a group of us ladies got together to help another member in the group. This woman’s house was accidentally burned (by a child) and she and her 6 children desperately needed another house. So, to help in the building of the new home some of us took a Saturday away from quilting and went out and cut down some grass that would be later used as a thatch roof on a new home.
I can tell you that it was quite hot working in the noon time sun but we did put in a few hours of good work. My first job was to collect previously cut grass so it could later be bailed. I don’t think anyone trusted me yet with the sickle. I think they were afraid I’d slice my leg instead of the grass. After assuring everyone that I could handle the job I was taught the correct way to cut the grass. There is a technique!
After enough grass was cut we bailed and tied the dried grass. To secure the bales the women used ropes made of braided fresh grass. I amazed them at how fast I could braid. I just pointed to my hair and explained that in America it is common for women to braid their hair so that is how I learned.
Once that job was completed we then headed to a shady tree and collapsed while we waited for our meal to cook. It was a long hot afternoon but we all felt really good because we knew we were helping someone in need. As this was the rainy season, we were praising the Lord that there had been no rain the night before and the sun was bright that day. The grass was prefect for cutting.
I have visited 2 new churches since my last update. One church in the village of Labora and the other in the village of Acet.
The church in Labora is pastored by the husband of one of the ladies in the project and is not too far from Tegot village. I think the ladies from this church wanted to hear more about the project. I’m afraid though that I didn’t go prepared to talk about the project and therefore didn’t bring any of the completed quilts to show or demonstrate. I had been told that they wanted me to come just to visit and pray with them. I now know though,when I’m asked to come and visit it really means come and talk about the quilting project.
However, I did bring them some bibles, in English and Acholi; some bible study material and sunday school curriculum as I try to do with each church I visit. I also spoke a few words from the Bible.
The second church in Acet is out past Lalogi and is some distance away so for this trip I hired a driver with a large van. This church had made it clear that they wanted to hear more about the project so this time I came prepared. I had 10 ladies from the Tegot project who volunteered to go with me. So we drove through Tegot and picked up each lady waiting along the road on our way to the Village of Acet. It was a long drive but it was never boring. The women kept the ride very interesting with their singing and with their noise makin, especially during each little market area or group of people we passed along the way. They wanted everyone to be aware we were passing through I think. I haven’t had that much fun on a drive since my school bus days!
This church was having a general assembly day with several small churches coming together to worship and the pastor thought this would be a good opportunity to talk to a large group of women about the project.
First though, the pastor informed me that I was giving the main message or sermon for the day. Normally, I would have panicked at such a request but I tried to be well prepared for this visit and was grateful that I had prepared a message from the Bible. My interpreters first thought that my message was too long and I was frantically trying to shorten it, that is until the pastor said he wanted me to give the main sermon. So I relaxed and decided to leave it as is or at least most of it and prayed God would use it as is. When working with an interpreter a 20 minute message can easily turn into 40 minutes or longer.
Later, we were able to talk to the women about the project and answer their questions. I allowed the Tegot women to answer most questions and to talk about their part in the program, as this is their project. Unfortunately, I could not give them a definitive date on when I would be out to start a project in Lalogi or Acet.
While I was there I was asked about joining the pastors in a trip to Southern Sudan to teach about the Bible. I wasn’t able to do it on the day they were going but sometime in the future I may participate.
A little over a week ago I was either bitten or stung and either by a spider or bee I assume, as I have plenty of both in my house. The bite was to my face and it hurt but I didn’t at first realize that I was bitten. After a couple of days the bite became infected with one side of my face swelling up and I had a hard lump about the size of a lime in my cheek…infection. I visited the clinic where the doctor gave me some antibiotics and antihistamine. After a few days the swelling came down and the lump is now down to the size of a grape. (Sorry, but there’ll be no photos of this..LOL)
I have kept myself quietly confined to the house during this time and am now suffering from nothing more than cabin fever. I praise the Lord that the infection did not spread any further in my body as it did seem quite the infection.
My lease on my house is coming up for renewal at the end of November and I’m happy to report that it’s being renewed with no increase in rent and with the promise that a wall (around the compound) and gate will be going up by year-end. I thank the Lord for both of these happening.
I was wondering about the rent increase but also knew that more and more NGO workers are leaving Gulu so that does leave room for negotiation. I am very comfortable in this house and was not looking forward to moving if the rent increased. This is a great house and I know how blessed I am to be living in it and at such a reasonable price.
I thought I could live without a wall and gate around the compound but being a muzungo ( westerner) creates a lot of curiosity, i.e. children peeping in the windows for one, so to afford myself some privacy I want a wall fence.
Once again, I’m also so grateful for the packages and supplies I have received. It is always well appreciated and well needed.
I was recently able to make some ladies very happy with some of the reading/magnifying glasses that I received. Shortly, I will be sharing with the ladies in Tegot village some of the fabric that was shipped to me. I know they will use it to make dresses or skirts for themselves and for their families.
One special care package included some pure Maine maple syrup, that I have throughly enjoyed on my banana, papaya, and pumpkin pancakes and much-needed duct tape. Thank you son!
I would ask that you continue to pray for me, especially as we go into the Christmas season when the pangs of loneliness and missing family and friends are intensified.
I’d also like to ask for prayers on some changes I will be making soon with the project. Please pray God’s guidance and wisdom as I develop these changes.
Also, I would like to announce that I will soon be putting up a page showcasing some of the women’s quilts that will be available for sale. I hope to have this completed very soon and will have more information at that time.
I thank you for reading this update and for your continued prayers and gifts.
If anyone has any questions or would like to ask me more information please feel free to contact me. You can get my contact information under my Contact page.