Saturday, April 27, 2013

Week 7
While in Kampala last week with our Mission President, he told us of a miracle that had just occurred...One of his best missionaries, faithful and obedient in every way and a couple of weeks before leaving home from his 2 year mission was driving a Church fleet truck when a couple of boys darted out from a large truck coming from the opposite direction.  He hit one of the boys head on.  He looked in his rearview mirror and saw the boy flipping through the air onto the road.  The 3 missionaries who were in the back seat turned around and watched the boy hit the road.  There was $300-400 damage to the vehicle.

The missionary elders stopped to help, which they've been told not to do (they/we are to head to the nearest police and report the incident).  Sure enough,  a mob gathered and began stoning the elders.  They jumped into the truck and headed to the police.  Later they met up with the boy and his family at the hospital.

The doctors were examing the child but could not find a single broken bone, bruise or scrape.  They said he could not have been hit.  The elders assured the doctors he had been hit so the hospital kept the boy overnight.  The next day, the doctors were still insisting the boy had not been hit and released him as he was perfectly OK.

The father of the boy was approached by a number of witnesses to tell him he could get good money because the elders  (Muzungus) had hit his son.  His reply, "Why do I want money from these people.  They have hit my son but he is alive and perfect.  I have my son.  I would not take money from them for any reason."

This is simply an example of a not so infrequent African miracle and the good that can come from being faithful and obedient, as well as the honest heart of some of these people.     Surely the Lord intervened this time because of the goodness of this fine missionary.

Coincidentally, I was asked to drive halfway to Kampala yesterday (Wed) to pick up a missionary who was having "visa problems" in Ethiopia.  Turns out it was Elder Lee, the very driver mentioned above.  He leaves for home next week and the Church decided to move him out of Ethiopia to Uganda in the event the local police authorities wanted to make an arrest for hitting the boy.  Can take a long time to get out of jail in that country, even if innocent,  so better safe than sorry.  He told me he was doing about 60 KPH when he hit the boy....36 MPH.

Pam's day yesterday, Saturday:
Seminary 9:00 at Gulu Branch.
Training a Young Women's counselor 11:00 Gulu
Training Relief Society President at Bardege at 1:30
Music conducting class back at Bardege at 3:00
We travel to Pope John Paul Boarding to see one of our young members - an orphan - where Pam teaches her seminary at 5:00
Dinner at 6:30 at Sankofa Cafe where she is served a "wrap" in about 30 minutes and I get my hamburger about 30 minutes later.  Generally the food is good here, but not that night.
Preparing for meetings on Sunday

Today, Monday - Preparation Day...some time for ourselves, site see, shop a little...not.

Had to take one of our elders to hospital this morn.  5500 shillings  pay upfront for consult fee...$2.14.  I'm thinking if this is what Pres Obama is talking about, bring it on...I'm liking Obamacare.  Next they refer him to surgery for consult...22,000 shillings. $8.56.  I'm still impressed.  Doctors want to operate immediately but of couse you have to pay in advance.  2,500,000 shillings. $973.  The doctor happens to be our next door neighbor who tell us they will give a missionary discount.  This is what they call their package deal...pre-surgery prep, surgery, 2-3 day stay in the hospital...all wrapped up in one.  A HUGE amount by Uganda standards, but still not bad by American.

I try to reach our mission doc in Kampala but he is tied up so I go looking for 2,500,000 shillings.  Go to my local ATM machine...the power is out...naturally.  I head down the road to Centenary Bank.  They have 2 ATM's but they are both down.  There are 19 people waiting in line to use them and I imagine they are still there this afternoon.  I walk across the street to Crane Bank.  Banker walks me to their outdoor ATM's.  They are non-functional.  He takes me to bank officer behind the tellers.  I tell him what I need.  He listens then tells me the ATM is now working.  I go back to ATM only to find it does not work.  I walk behind tellers to tell him so and how can I get the money.  He says he cannot help me.  I say, the tellers can't help me withdraw on my VISA card?  No, I can't help you.  Come back this afternoon.  Mission doc calls.  Doesn't like the diagnosis and wants me to meet him halfway down the road  (three hours) with the elder so doc can take him to Kampala to doctors we use there and can trust. 

Heard from Mission Dr tonite...Monday.  The diagnosis from the Gulu Hospital was incorrect.  The elder required a little local anesthetic, a quick snip of a hemrrhoid and he is headed back to Gulu today.  100,000 shillings total. 

On second thought, if this is what President Obama's healthcare program is bringing I might as well live out my life in Uganda.

The "missionary discount" was typical of what many dishonest people charge "Muzungus" or white folks.  They think every white person is rich.  Generally in their culture, they don't see it as dishonest to charge 10 or 20 times what others pay.  "God has provided" by putting a Muzungu in their path.
Most store items have fixed muzungu prices and are a lot higher than what we pay in the states.  For example, a half gallon of unrefrigerated shelf-staple orange juice and a pint of yogurt are $9 (american).

Pam is cooking dinner for American student neighbors tonite...seemingly all day in the kitchen.   Not something I recommended but you know how good her heart is.  I run to the market for her and upon returning see a host of armed guards walking a dozen or so prisoners down the road...handcuffed.  I'm thinking they are the lucky ones.  More often than not, when someone is caught stealing or causing a disturbance, folks here don't wait on the police.  The police are around largely to restrain political unrest and don't respond to robbery, theft, etc.  So folks just take justice into their own hands and beat/kick their fellow comrades until they have repented of their transgression.  None of this waiting 1, 2, 4 years for a trial like in US.

 At the fish market.  Just pick what you want right off the ground.

In the cooking class held for the prospective missionaries, some of them had never had an egg, even though they are relatively abundant.  They are too poor to buy eggs.  We buy eggs directly from a farmer to assure more freshness.  Eggs are not refrigerated.

 Another miracle...just don't see choc chip cooks around here.  No chocolate chips at all in Uganda.
 If anybody in Gulu has been trained here, you wouldn't know it.
 Now my favorite place...not the coffee but the food and real ice cream.  And free internet.
 This is not real clear pic but there are two sports betting shops next to each other and one right across the street behind the camera.  Now this is truely a sad site...perhaps the saddest I've seen here. In a country where the average income is 10,000shillings a day or about $3.80 (US)...far, far lower in Rural Uganda where we are. Most have no income, just live off what they can grow.  Yet people are lined up out the door to throw their money away.
 Rainy season at Gulu Branch Chapel...Saturday.
 Gulu Branch Primary children.
 This is what happens when you stop on the road in a small city.  Folks selling toys, bananas, meat on a stick (looks pretty good), sodas, etc...swarm your car.
 Birds-eye view of our Bardege Branch buildings.  Primary meets outside in the thatched roof structure in the front of the photo.  This is rented property.  We are currently looking for land to build on.
 The spelling may be different but the intent is clear.  This place has invited us to free dance entertainment every Friday nite.  And some State Dept folks have just formed a softballteam that plays at 3:00 each Saturday. I'm sure our youth and prospective missionaries will enjoy.
The Mission Home in Kampala...actually Kololo.  This is rented.  The Church buys homes around the world for our mission presidents to live in for the 3 years they are called on their mission but in Uganda you just can't be sure who owns the property as there is no title search.  So instead of buying, we just rent.  Our current MP is leaving for home after 6 years in Africa.  His first 3 years he served as an International Public Affairs Director for Africa...he and his wife.  They got home and were immediately called on a new mission.  So now he is headed home and a new MP will take his place in June.  The old and new MP's will meet for 2 hours and 2 hours only..that's all the talk time they get.

 Elder Melton killed a cobra outside the home of a Church investigator.  The elders were teaching them in their yard when the woman shrieked.  The cobra had been terrorizing them for some time, eating their chicks.  Elder Melton (Durbin South Africa) killed it with the stick in his hand.  He said he couldn't allow the cobra to possibly bite the family's young children.  His companion is over 6' tall so you can see this was a large snake.  As you can imagine, Elder Melton is a hero to this family.
 Finally settling in and decorating our apt a little.  These are wax paintings.  Very colorful/attractive.

Held our first Institute activity last night, a movie night.  We showed The Testament:  One Fold, One Shepherd.  We had a dozen that came.  Even though we explained that it was showing simultaneously events happening in the Book of Mormon and in Israel, some didn't understand, but they certainly felt the spirit and the reality of our Savior.  Another tender mercy:  power lasted the whole time and the rains didn't start til everyone was well on their way home. 

Even though there are many challenges , we love serving here and we love the good people.  I dare say we are likely safer here than in the United States, EXCEPT when driving!  We feel the Lord's watchful care every day and know he is blessing the lives of so many of his beloved African children through the restoration of the Gospel.  We are so thankful to be a part of this great work.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Week 6
A typical Sunday...after listening to tape/band music blaring from a nearby hotel all nite long...all nite, non-stop...7 pm to 7 am.

  • Met with Gulu Branch President at 8:00.
  • Met with Bardege BP at 9:00
  • Picked Pam up and attended Gulu Branch meeetings from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  • Left for Bardege Branch to attend their monthly Branch Council meeting...which the branch president told me he hasn't held since last October.  (Attended the Gulu Branch Council meeting on Saturday...first one they've ever held.)  Both council meetings went pretty well, all things considered.
  • Arrived home from Bardege Council meeting in time to grab a quick bite to eat and headed to the Gulu Branch for Mission Preparation Meeting with about a dozen in attenance.  Six of those are planning on a mission within the year.  We'll have a couple of missionaries come home within the year but we have 6 out now between the two branches...there you go Bishop Peterson...can you beat that?
  • Pam stayed home to prepare dinner for a US married couple with a business in Gulu as well as a single BYU student on study who leaves back to BYU in a couple of months.
I am meeting with my first prospective missionary who is beginning his paper work tomorrow and may take him to...oh, no...Kampala Tuesday to get passport, police clearance...just to get things going.  (Can you tell yet I dread the Kampala drive...6-7 hrs of dodging people, bicycles, boda-bodas, buses and gasoline haulers.)  On this trip we saw maybe 8 large trucks broken down on the highway.  Two flipped over...too top heavy one of which was hauling gasoline...didn't see any US hazmat team around...guess they don't care about the environment afterall. Watched a lady right next to us try to cross the road in Kampala and got totally clobbered dead on by a boda driver doing 20 MPH or so...boda-boda, a motorbike...meaning border to type transportation.  The roads really are lawless.  You can't stop to help in this sort of situation.  Folks will come running, starting blaming anyone, including us, a mob forms and then you are in trouble.  As I mentioned earlier...if we are in an accident, our instructions are to keep going, find a policeman...whatever we do, do not stop and help anyone injured or check damage to your car or another's.

That said, I did get radared doing 71 KPH in a 50 zone on way home from Kampala.  The police asked if I "accepted liability".  Yes...I'm guilty.  Then he said you pay 100,000 shillings ($40) and I confiscate your drivers license.  Pam sticks her head over and says we are calling the US Embassy.  Which one he asks?  Gulu! (Which is just a couple blocks away from our apt)  I roll up the window, call the fleet manager of our Church fleet back in Kampala instead.  He says tell him you are missionaries, have little money and see if he will take 60,000 to let you go.  By the time I roll down the window, he comes to Pam's side and says, because you are missionaries, I have no authority to fine you.  I don't take your 100,000, I don't take 60,000.  You are free to go.  We left but then turned around and gave them some sugar we had just bought at the grocery store that morning in Kampala as a "thank you".

A Tale of Two Flat Tires:  Beside having the best tires Goodyear makes I managed to blow a tire on a rock Friday.  Fixed it Saturday for 25,000 shillings or $9.60.  (I learned later this should have cost me 5000-10, terribly ripped off but over here it's live and learn.  I later called the thief that took me to the cleaners and gave him a piece of my mind.  Saturday I was walking "downtown" Gulu and struck up a conversation with a young lady who was having a bike tube repaired.  1000 shilllings or 39 cents.  I should have gone to the second guy.

When we first arrived our Mission President, Eric Jackson, told us we'd never get caught up and that the mission would not move forward without senior couples.  I'm beginning to see how vital senior couples are.  Branch leaders need so much basic training, prospective missionaries need close supervision to keep them on track.  He has essentially made the couples mission presidents in our respective areas.  We interview prospective missionaries for worthiness, stay on top of their tithing faithfulness, help them earn the money they've committed to before turning in their mission application, help them work to earn money for suit, shirts, ties, socks, hygene items, passport, immunizations.  With a mission 25% the size of the United States, you can see it would be impossible for the mission president to get the work done by himself.  To my Church friends, if you haven't already, commit now to serve a mission when you have "aged a year or two".  The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. 

A pic below of a colourbus (English language) or Awal (Luo) on my head.  These are used as wash basins, serve food out of or as we've seen here placed over the heads of little babies as they are being carried on the backs of their mothers to protect the baby's head from sun burn.  This is the purpose of the protect my grey hair from getting white.  It's wood of some sort but I'm told it's a a pea pod but as you can tell much longer.  They come in all sizes.

We've been taking pictures of signs we are seeing around Gulu and on the highway.

While in Kampala yesterday, Thursday, I had to take what is called a long call....a short call is #1, a long call is #2.  Pay toilet in a "mall" area.  200 shillings...about 8 cents.  So what do you get for 8 cents?  I'll tell you what you don't toilet seat, no toilet paper, no soap, no hand towels to wash the cold water off your hands.  (Before I used the facilities, I returned to my car to my emergency supply of TP)

It's 5 am Friday now.  The roosters start their thing at 4:00 and the Muslim call to prayer has just begun.  The mosques use mics and speakers that can be heard for quarter of a mile or more.

 This is a "good" road in the rainy season.
 This is the Uganda broom.  They just don't use brooms with handles.  Just bend over and sweep their dirt streets or lawn areas.
 See these everywhere.  A partially completed building.  This is an apartment.  Hundreds of these buildings just in Gulu it seems. All along the highway. Perhaps started by an NGO who ran off with the money and left investors with nothing or worse, left the Ugandan people who were to benefit with nothing.
 Live hens hanging upside down on a bike...for anyone's pickiing.  Where is PETA when you need them?
 Pam teaching keyboard at Gulu Branch Bldg.
 Colourbus.  I look like Gomer Pyle...oh wait...he just "came out".  I look like George Patton!
 Knighty, our Relief Society present is making these school uniforms...cutting without patterns and sewing.  Maybe 3000 SH for the top. ($1.17)
 Kids love their pic taken.  These were on their way home from school for lunch...then they walk back to school again for afternoon.  They gather around, laugh, want to see their pic on the camera and laugh some more..  Some of them like to feel the long hair on my white arm.
 This sweet old lady hung around me and the kids for 10 mins or more.  I thought she would be begging for money.  All she wanted was to have her pic taken so she could see it on the camera herself.
 All along the highway.  People make charcoal to sell and place it in bags along the side of the road.
Inside our Mission President's home where we stayed Wed nite.

 Tablecloth Pam made
 Darrin...recognize this guy?
 Just what I need when I go to get a haircut...some good luck

I really like this one.  Patience, patience as we work with these meek, humble people.
 "Live like a King" case you can't see it.
Boy, if this is what we are all working for...I don't know about it all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Week 5

Last weekend our mission president came to Gulu to organize a new branch...the Bardege Branch.  It had been a dependent branch of the Gulu Branch up until now.  Will take a while to get paperwork completed, MLS up and running. 

We left Sunday afternoon with the mission president and drove a couple of hours south to Chobe Safari Lodge where we received additional training Sun eve and Monday morning.  We were joined by another senior couple from Lira.  Chobe is located in Murchison Falls National Park.  We'll be visiting the falls with the first friends/family that come to visit.

Monday morning Pam and and I took a short walk down the main road into the reserve.  Immediately we saw an elephant.  I ventured a little closer than I should to take a picture but returned unscathed.  Also saw monkeys, Kob, wart hogs.  We were out looking for giraffe but didn't see any.  I also ventured down to the waters edge of the Nile where I stood within 20 yards or so of 5 hippos.  They were in the water cooling down.  I kept my eyes on them seeing if they were getting any closer each time they came up out of the water for fresh air.  Had they begun to move my way, I would have headed back to the lodge.  I've heard it said that more people are injured by hippos than by any other wild game.

Tues we spent the morning and afternoon driving around with the young elders showing us where members of the Gulu Branch live.  Locating people is so challenging for us as there are no road, zero.  And every red dirt road looks the same...even the potholes look the same in each dirt road. So we can't be told to drive down Moore Street and take a left on Gatchell Drive then it is 3rd hut on the left.  One just has to drive to these homes over and over again to remember how to get there.  We wrote down directions as we turned from one street to the next...looking for landmarks, signs, barns, etc., to help us remember how to go on our own.

 Prospective missionaries over to cook us dinner last week.
 Yes, this is Pam getting ready to down a tablespoon of ants.
 Here are the ants uncooked.  They were cooked up in a brine water.  Very crisp and salty.  Not bad either.
 Bumped into this fellow at the market.  Notice the hat. Has been living here 10+ years.  From Mobile, AL.  His son works at a hotel here in Gulu and can get the big games on cable.  Hmmm...can't wait for football season to begin.
 Branch member...I love her cheeks.
 Murchison Falls National Park. (Chobe Lodge) I'm probably 50 yards away.
 Ugandan Kob as in corn on the cob.
 Mango tree at branch bldg.  The children get hungry during church and go out to pick fruit to eat, even tho it isn't ripe.
 This little fellow was in our apt parking lot.  Walks as fast as a snail.  It's a chameleon.  Of course, Pam had to pick it up and when she did it turned it's body around and tried to bite her.  She screemed and dropped the poor fellow onto the pavers.
 Not a good pic but this is broken glass cemented into the top of a security wall to discourage intruders.

Not unusual to see a sign that says, "not for sale".  Part of local corruption, folks will sell property they don't even own and sell it to multiple buyers.  Take the down payment or full price and then run.
So the sign tells potential buyers, this property is not for sale.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gulu-Week 4
Hard to believe we've been gone nearly one month.  When one is busy, time flies.
We had 4 more baptisms last Sunday and received word that the Church is looking for property to build a chapel on for the Gulu Branch.  The BarDege/Laroo Branch bldging is rented as well but no immediate plans to build that I know of.  Two of the baptisms were that of a mom and child whose husband joined the Church a few months before.  FAMILIES...that is what the Church is all on Earth and throughout eternity.

I was able to arrange through our Physcial Facilities office in Kampala to have our prospective missionaries who are earning and saving money for their missions to care for the lawns at both buildings...monthly income 300,000 shillings...way above average.  I'll keep this going so that as one missionary leaves another prospetive missionary or two will take his place on the lawn care.  This will go a long ways towards meeting their missionary needs.

We have two neighbors with front lawn gardens...corn and okra.  I meet with each owner and a couple of our prospective missionaries to have the young men work their gardens for the owner but I would pay them....again earning money for their own missions.   Some of these monies earned will go towards paying high school tuition fees, which are quite high.  To say nothing of the final exam fee to pass on to the next level.

On another money making matter, we met a friend of a Church member Sunday nite...had them over for dinner.  This friend, William, has a non-profit that hires Ugandans to translate documents in digital format from US companies into word documents (we call that outsourcing in the US).  It's all about giving Ugandans the opportunity to become independent.  Pay is 400,000 to 450,000 shillings per month...up to $169/month.  That is good money over here.  I've already referred a couple of individuals to him, two of which are our local Church Branch Presidents.  One of those has been unemployed for a good while.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  There is no limit to the number of hires so as I identify other church members/prospective missionaries who qualify, this could be a real blessing for a lot of and out of the Church.

Ate some very good tasting Laboolo, fried green banana's tonite.  Taste like potatoes.  Isaac taught Pam how to make it.  He likes to teach us something every  nite.

Power went off Wednesday when the landlord failed to pay last month's power bill.  Trouble is, our 3 missionary apts are in our names with separate meters along with the other 4 apt homes in the complex.  No matter, if landlord fails to pay his bill, they shut off every meter in the complex.  So I beeline it to the power company, show them our current bills and receipts for the 3 missionary units and they issue re-connect order and tell me the power will be re-connected this afternoon.  I come home and start looking for the contractors turning off the them the re-connect order and give them ride back to our place.  They reconnect the lines.  What good that does, power is off to the entire city anyway.  Sometimes you can't win for losing.

Break through Thurs nite.  We senior couple have been teaching Institute (college age religion study).
Last week I asked Alfred, who just received his mission call to Ghana, to teach Institute tonite.  He did a great job!  Next week Santos, who is also preparing for his mission will teach.  The principle:  The more the locals lead and teach one another, the less dependent they are on the missionaries like us.  Also, the teacher always learns more than the student when preparing a lesson.  Having these young men and sisters teach will only increase their testimonies.

This Sunday we head to Murchison Falls/Chobe Safari Lodge with the Mission President for evening and Monday morning training.  Eric Jackson, our MP, is completing 6 years in Africa this June.  His wife and President Jackson first came to Africa 6 years ago to head up the Church's Public Affairs for the region for 3 years.  Upon returning home, they were asked to return to serve as Mission President for another 3 years  He is CEO of a chain of Peterbilt distributors in the west.  His sons have been running the business all the years.

A few pics below:

 Homemade stove...coals on the inside and cook on top.
 Went to Lowes last week to buy some lumber.
 You just climb up and get what you need.  This is my friend Isaac...earning money for mission.  Built a kitchen table and now a kitchen screen back door to cool the kitchen off.
 Meridian Coke has nothing on this Gulu distributor
 Planing the lumber we problem with sawdust build up...that's it in the background.
 Hardward store.
 Standing in the sawdust...Julie, what's the problem
 More sawdust.  Just builds up on the floor til they can't walk on it anymore, I guess.
 Another stove...multiple cooking eyes, with pots/pans on top.  Paid a lady 1000 shillings and her neighbors got upset that I didn't take a pic of theirs.
Metal shop