Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
When planning to go to Jinja, I really wasn't sure what my time would look like. I knew that I had ministry connections there, and wanted to check back in with those guys and maybe volunteer with them. Marlena had arranged that we would be staying with her friend Sera Kasonga at her ministry's house. Sera runs a boy's home, where she has pulled 16 boys off the streets and given them opportunity and protection. I remember walking through the gate at the boy's home the first night we arrived in Jinja; I was greeted with 32 hands and 16 hugs all at once. All the boys were shouting, "Uncle! You are most welcome!" After getting my stuff set down and gathered my bearings, I went back to the living room to sit with the boys. A feeling came over me and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Over the next few days, we were able to sit with Sera and hear her story as well as the story of how the boys home came to be.
Sera was a Rwandan refugee from the genocide that took place there back in the 90's. She fled to Uganda at a very young age. For years, she continued to face one bad situation and circumstance after another. Finally, when she was in her Senior 4 level of school (roughly 10th grade), Sera was introduced to couple from the states. They knew she had a drive to finish school, and also saw that she was beginning to build relationships with these kids on the streets. The American couple wanted to sponsor her through the final 2 years of her schooling. After she finished school, they noticed how impacting Sera had been on some of these street kids that she had been ministering to and spending time with. The couple said they would like to pay for Sera to go to university, but they also gave her the option of opening a home for these boys instead. Sera chose the boys.
Most of the boys have lost their parents due to illness such as HIV/AIDS, and some have lost theirs through tribal warfare. So for these boys, the streets chose them. All of them have a unique story, and through their struggles all have come to know the Lord.
Through our 2 weeks at the home, I really connected with many of the boys. They would all leave very early in the morning for school, before I would wake up. During the day, I tried to visit people I have seen on my last trip to Jinja in 2009. Once the boys got home, either watching the FIFA World Cup, or actually playing soccer were common occurrences. One of my favorite days however was taking the boys swimming. Many of the local hotels have nice pools, and for a fee, they are open for visitors. Marlena and I wanted to treat the boys to a fun afternoon, so we spent about 3 hours at one of the local hotels. Everything at the boys home usually happened on a whim such as playing cards or soccer, and occasionally, I would pull out my guitar and play for them some worship songs.
For me, the boy's home was really about relationship building and trying to show love. Both of those things came very easy because the boys are always giving them. I was just amazed at their response to life in general, given the horrific past many of them have.
Leaving the home was hard because I know the boys experience "Goodbyes" way more than I ever do. I really pray that the Lord will allow me to continue in relationship with them and hopefully see them again some day. Please pray for Sera Kasonga as she continues to help those boys grow and realize the potential they all have.
Please if you have any questions about the Boy's Home, don't hesitate to drop me a question in the comment section!
Hanging out down at The Nile, which is practically the back yard!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
On the morning of the 14th, we (Sarah Ray, Heather Ray, Pat Harpe, Emily Harpe, Emily Gamil, Katy Lindquist, Katelyn Wilson, Geofrey and myself) traveled to Pallisa located in Eastern Uganda. Sarah had a contact there named Simon. Simon is a Ugandan man who is on staff with YoungLife; a youth outreach organization. Going there, we weren't completely sure what our time would look like. The remainder of the large team was still at the farm and we would all later meet in Jinja before they head home. Sarah had asked Geofrey and I to come along. One reason being that there were no guys with them, but the other was that it would be a great opportunity for me to spend time with Geofrey and for him to gain some great connections in other parts of the country.
Our 'venture' (to say the least) to Pallisa, which should have taken maybe 7 hours, ended up taking about 14 hours. But thankfully, we arrived safely and were greeted by Simon at about 11:00 that night. The next morning, we took a short walk around Pallisa town and got to hear about the ministry Simon is taking part in. YoungLife club only happens on Saturdays, and unfortunately we would not be there on a saturday. Simon did tell us about all of the dedicated volunteer staff that YoungLife had in Pallisa. After discussing with him our desires for our time, we began making plans. We decided that we wanted to take all the volunteers on a day trip to Mbale and Mt. Elgon; both in eastern Uganda.
In the beginning of the week before taking the volunteers out, we went to a local school for 2 afternoons. Simon was also affiliated with the school. We hung out with the children playing volleyball and also teaching them some fun YoungLife style games. Also, once a week, the Younglife volunteers get together in the evening and have a prayer and worship time. We were blessed to be able to take part in that for this week.
On thursday that week, we traveled with the volunteers 2 hours to the east. Mt. Elgon was beautiful and it was so great to see all the YoungLife guys really enjoy themselves. Simon told us that this may be the only time they do anything like this all year. The highlight of our day was getting to hike to the base of Sipi Falls; which is 100+ feet high water fall. We ended our day by taking them to Mt. Elgon Hotel for a big late afternoon lunch. We were so thankful that we had the opportunity and resources to be able to do that for the leaders.
After our time in Pallisa, we traveled back towards Jinja where were would meet the rest of the team. But that's for another post! Thanks for reading.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Many of you probably remember stories about our friend Geofrey from Canaan Farm. Just to refresh your memory, Geofrey is a 24-year old Acholi man from Kitgum, Uganda. When Geofrey was 12, the rebels raided his village. His family was able to get away but Geofrey was kidnapped. For 2 years he served in the LRA as a child soldier. He would sleep in the bush every night for only a couple of hours, and was forced daily to raid other unsuspecting villages and homes. For those 2 years, Geofrey saw many of his friends get killed before his eyes. After really learning the ways of the rebels, he understood how he could escape without being caught. One day during a raid, he stayed behind and while the other soldiers were leaving, Geofrey snuck away. He traveled in the bush for 4 days with no food or water before finding his brother working in a nearby district. Geofrey then stayed with his brother for another 2 years before traveling to his family. After almost 5 years away, Geofrey was reunited with family at Canaan Farm in Masindi District.
When I arrived to Uganda, Richard picked me up from the airport. We hung around Kampala and Entebbe for the next day where we got to do a lot of catching up. He shared with me about Geofrey and how he was doing with school, life, music, etc. Hearing from Richard, Geofrey has been very discouraged lately and was not doing well in school. He had actually traveled to Southern Sudan and was working there for about 2 months. Richard did not want him to go, but Geofrey is an adult and Richard respected his decision to leave for some time. When I told Richard I was coming to the farm, he contacted Geofrey. Geofrey came down right before I got to Uganda.
A couple of weeks ago, Geofrey came to Palissa (eastern Uganda) with myself, Sarah Ray, and the younger girls from our team. We went to work with YoungLife volunteers. In that time, Geofrey and I were able to lead worship together. It was also a good experience for him to get away from where he lives and meet new people. Through that time, Geofrey gained some great connections and might partner some with YoungLife in the future.
In my time here so far, I have really gotten to spend some quality time with Geofrey. Most of our time in the beginning was spent playing music. However what I'm learning about music is that it's a great way to break the ice into further conversations and relationship building. Through the weeks, Geofrey has really opened up to me and we have really dug deeper into what is now a strong friendship. In my time here, I have seen him change and his drive to continue school have really grown. I have really enjoyed my time hanging out with Geofrey, and am looking forward to going back to the farm later next week and pick back up with him. God truly is blessing Geofrey's life and he is growing into such a leader. He loves people so well and has such a caring heart. Please pray for Geofrey that he can really follow after the Lord's desire for his life. I tell him often that he is still alive for a purpose and that God has an extraordinary plan for his life.
Please keep Geofrey and the refugees of Northern Uganda in your prayers. They have all come through so much and it takes much faith and persistence to rise above the events of their pasts. With the power of God, all things are possible. Thank you.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
When we got on the road leaving out of Kigumba (on the main highway) toward Rwokayata Village (the farm), my heart was pounding. We had 20 minute car ride left. I began to recognize where I was, and also seeing familiar sights. We drove by Geofrey's house....the bore hole with children smiling and pumping...the obnoxiously large termite hill...the acacia garden...and then we turned right. Women began singing and dancing. Familiar faces were smiling and greeting us. It was about an hour until dinner and I had that same feeling you get when you arrive home after a long trip away.
For the next week, I got to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. The farm is always changing, there is always a new building or crop. Richard toured us around to see the new medical clinic and vocational school that were being built. The next morning, we began construction of the new teacher's house alongside some local builders. Throughout that week, we also prepared for the team that would be arriving soon.
The following thursday, we traveled to the city of Jinja to purchase supplies for the Yobel Jewelry Project. We went to the leather tannery and a few fabric shops. That evening, we stayed with our friends Joe and Melissa. It was good to see them. Friday morning, we traveled from Jinja to Entebbe and meet the team of 16. That evening we traveled back to the farm.
Over the following few days, the team was introduced to the village life of Northern Uganda and I loved seeing their reactions and responses to what they experienced. Then for the next 2 weeks, everyone focused on different tasks. Some worked with some of the men and women in the jewelry project creating new designs and samples. Others worked on the construction of the teacher's home, and everyone at one point was able to do a few hours of home visits. During the home visits, we would help with daily tasks of gardening and planting or cleaning. Some of the team members were physical therapists, so it was great for them to work with kids and adults that have disabilities or general pain.
The highlight of my time with the team came at a time I did not expect. We were at the weekly friday jewelry meeting, and our team had brought supplies to do foot washing and painting nails. I decided to go play music for them while the women were getting 'pampered' :)! I sat down and began to play 'Endlessly' by Desperation Band. At that moment, I was struck by the joy in the women's faces to have their feet washed. The lyrics to the chorus are:
"With your majesty here, I fall to my knees, I love you endlessly.
With the beauty of your son, I find myself undone, I love you endlessly."
I can't really explain what I felt in that moment. But seeing the beauty of Christ in the face's of those people in that moment is something I will never forget.
Over the next few days, projects were continued and relationships were formed that will hopefully last forever. As usual haha, I was and will continue to be asked to bring my guitar to every gathering and play some music. I love it though, I know that music is a gift that the Lord has given me and I enjoy blessing others with it.
So, this is a very short summary of the time at the farm. Since being at the farm, I have also traveled to eastern Uganda to do some things with YoungLife volunteers, and now I am in Jinja. I will be posting about those things as well. On July 2nd, I will be traveling back to the farm and staying for 2 weeks before I head back home. Thank you for your involvement in my life and work in Uganda. Your prayers are more appreciated than you know.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Construction of a new hut!
The Interns and Sarah at the Jinja Leather Tannery
Heading to the Farm with the Intern group
Ochaya "Jackson" repairing a muddy road!
Friday, June 4, 2010
We were greeted with open and loving arms when we arrived at the farm. It was so refreshing to see so many familiar faces. Everyone has asked about Andrew and Evan! You guys are dearly missed here as well. For the next few days, I spent getting the lay of the land and we started a few projects. The intern/teacher house is now in the process of construction. We have also had to repair a few of the roads around the farm to prepare for more vehicle traffic in the coming weeks. During or first few days, we also began expanding the Yobel Jewelry project. The jewelry workers on the farm are creating new and beautiful designs.
In this time, I have been reconnecting with Geoffrey, Dennis and Jackson. Those guys really were awesome leaders and friends the last time I was here, and it has been so good to see how their lives have changed and they have grown. Geoffrey has been given a guitar and is playing very well. We are continuing lessons in my time here. Dennis is in school and striving hard to succeed. Jackson has moved back north to his home of Gulu and is seeing a girl whom he plans to marry in the next year. This time feels so different but so good, like a new chapter in a book. Its been great to be here with the other Americans as well. Great relationships are forming.
I am currently riding on a bus between Jinja and Kampala. We came down from the farm last night to Kampala to scope out the city and purchase more jewelry supplies. Then we went to Jinja, where we met up with some old friends Joe and Melissa Terranova. After staying at there house last night, we awoke this morning and went to the Jinja Uganda Leather Tannery. That was a really cool experience, very smelly, but good. We bought some leather to use for new jewelry and necessity designs for the women and men to make on the farm. For the rest of the day, we have to pick up the remaining 16 Americans from the airport and then travel back to the farm.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue construction on the farm, host medical clinics, and further the jewelry project. The farm is growing and changing so much and God is truly blessing the dedication and efforts of all those involved. Thanks for the prayers and support! Love to all!
P.S. I tried uploading photos but the internet is not cooperating with me, sorry but I will have to try again later.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Last week was finals week. I had 7. My brain is still in recovery. The good news is that I am officially finished with my freshman year! It does feel good to be done; however I am already missing my community there. The summer will be good though; God has big plans.
The last time I posted, I wrote about going back to Uganda. Well, in 2 weeks, I will be back with Richard and his ministry at Canaan Farm. God has truly provided and made things very clear that I am to go back to Uganda this summer. Within 3 days of deciding to go, the Lord provided the majority of my financial needs through great friends and supporters. If you have been involved either in prayer, giving or both, thank you.
My family and I will be driving to Memphis from Little Rock on the 25th. My flight is on the May 26th. I will be in Uganda until July 2nd. This trip will look different from the last time I was there however. This time, there will be about 20 people on the team. We will be working on the construction of a school at Canaan Farm. Last time I was there, it was just the V-team (Andrew, Evan, and I). The thought of 20 Muzungus (white people) on the farm at one time kind of overwhelms me, but it will be good. I am excited for this chance to get to know all new people and serve alongside them. Technically, I was asked to go on this trip as an Intern. This means I will be in more of a leadership position and help more with the behind the scenes tasks. Because I have spent excessive time at Canaan Farm already, I will be able to help be a bridge for those who have never been to the farm. I am excited to help in that process, because I know how much of an impact my time at Canaan Farm had on me.
As you all know, my use of Internet while there is very limited. I will be doing my best to post blogs and pictures. There is a rumor that Canaan Farm now actually has internet. I'm not completely sure if this is true, but given that it is, I will probably have more internet use this time around. I love being able to share pictures and stories of my time there with all of you. Once I get back, I will be able to post more of those things, so keep a look out for that!
-THE TEAM. Pray for relationships and communication. Pray for the hearts of all
going that they are will to let the Lord change and move them in there time at the farm.
-LEADERSHIP. Pray for those leading this trip. Taking 20 people by Ugandan transportation
4 hours from civilization and coordinating all the details that go along with a trip like this can be
stressful. Pray that the enemy has no chances to get in and mess things up.
-THE FARM. Pray for the people of the farm that they will see the Lord in all that is done. Yes,
physically we may be the ones traveling to the farm, but it is because of the Lord's grace and
provision that we are there.
-SAFETY. Traveling 10,000 miles away to a foreign land is never completely safe. Pray that the
Lord protects and guides and that we keep our eyes fixed on Him always.
Thank you all so much for your prayers and time. I will do my best to keep the blog going while I am there. I will try to make at least 1 more post before I go. Please write comments, I want to hear from you too!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
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