Fixing Pot Holes - I've told you about Gulu, the pothole center of the world. Well, shortly after the Wood's left and we arrived, the city actually started working on the potholes. They started on the south side of the city and worked their way north towards our housing complex. I was sure they'd fix the two potholes closest to us but after waiting a couple of months it became apparent I was going to have to continue to slow down and/or swerve out of the way to avoid them. A few weeks ago we meet an American, John, who is living in our complex. Had him over for dinner Friday night and like all conversations, the potholes finally came up. Both of us were disappointed the city hadn't repaired the last two...right outside our gate.
Bingo!! We decided to get up early Saturday morning to fix them ourselves so I carted dirt from our yard in several buckets, loaded up the truck, honked outside his door and we took off to fill in the first pothole. Didn't make a dent in it so went back to the apt and loaded up again, this time with more buckets and some rocks as filler. Did pretty good and decided that was all we should risk that day...standing in the middle of the road and we'd try again another day to repair the other one. We agreed to meet early Wed morning and finish off the second pothole. All the while I get the feeling someone is watching us and recording a grey truck with license plate 113R and reporting us to the city. Maybe the police will come get me...I don't know...just a feeling someone is watching.
Tuesday morning I drive out of the apartment gate, round the curve and notice a crew has barrelled off the pothole, digging up what we had just filled in, busting off the edges of the asphalt. I drive by slowly, trying to look as innocent as possible, when it seems that all 5 or 6 of the road crew are gazing at me. But I'm thinking, "how about that, a little citizen involvement and the city decided to do the job right...that they are now fixing the pothole." But when I come back home, do I dare drive back up the street and get picked up by the police and placed in a jail where there is only a bucket to use or do I take the back road...knowing these guys think it's me whose been playing in the street for two mornings now. I risk it and low and behold, there are just 2 crew members there now and they have finished their prep work and poured asphalt and gravel not only over the hole John and I had been working on but the other one we were going to tackle Wednesday morning....and three more potholes close by too! John and I are sooooo proud of ourselves and what we accomplished...just the two of us taking the inititative to makes things better for the citizens of Gulu (Ps. I was not wearing my Missionary Name Tag while working on the road.)
A spiritual thought. Consider the state of those who live in "third world" countries...the inequities in the world. In the end, what becomes of God's justice and mercy? Is this life the only one there is to weigh all in the balance?
When the righteous and innocent suffer, some become critical or lose faith. Former Prophet of the Church President Spencer W. Kimball offered the following counsel when we witness suffering:
“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.
“Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
“If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.
“Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle , 97).
We would love to take home these giraffes and several other beautiful pieces but they are much too large and fragile for transport back to the states.
You've heard of Simon...on the right above...working for us and on a farm to earn money for his mission. Here he is building another sun dehydrator like those we've delivered to a sister or two in the Church and to the orphange. Had a good chat with him today, Friday...talking family. Told me his father was dead. That Joseph Koney's rebels had forced Simon, age 11, to watch as they shot his father.
I asked Simon if he was angry when this happened. He said yes, he was angry, that he has not had a good life. I asked him if he was angry now. His reply, "I have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ." And now he is earning money to serve a 2 year mission to teach others of the joy and peace a conversion to Christ can bring into their lives. May cost him up to 400,000 shillings...takes close to a year to earn that type of money. This is why Pam and I are here. We are being blessed by the lives of these good people, who rarely complain about their circumstances, who even more rarely talk of the civil war. In one absurd sense, Simon was blessed in that the rebels did not force HIM to kill his own parents. Often that is what happened. The Acholi people want to move forward and the Gospel helps them do that at warp speed.
We've actually met westerners here who say that Koney is a myth...believe it or not! Tell that to the two adults I've met who as young men were directly affected by Koney. We've met countless other Acholi people who have their own stories...running and hiding as young children or whose parents were killed by Koney. These westerners who come in here and claim all this is a myth remind me of aquaintences I have who say the holocost never occurred or that communism and even anarchy are a good thing... that they lead to Utopia. It's sad that intelligent people choose to believe "whatever" without any investigation; all the evidence in the world will not pursuade them otherwise to reason otherwise.
Pam: On a recent visit with one of the Relief Society Presidents on the Gulu side, Sister Nighty invited me to have lunch with her. I politely declined saying I had lunch before I came. A man stopped by and while we were talking, Nighty brought out mounds of mashed cassava surrounded by some kind of liquidy paste. It would have been very insulting to not eat any of it. They eat the cassava with their hands, dipping it in the sauce, but they were kind enough to give me a fork.
The cassava was sorta-kinda like heavy mashed potatoes and tasted fine. The paste smelled really good. I asked her if it was the g-nut (peanut) paste I've heard so much about. She said no, that it was made from sim-sim (sesame seeds). She showed me how she ground them with her mortar and pestle (sp?). I commented that I also tasted some kind of meat. She said there was no meat. I said, I thought I was tasting meat; if not what was it? She said some word in Acholi I didn't understand. Finally the male guest said it was "the little fish". Ah, I knew about the little fish. I saw these little minnow type fish laying in buckets every time I went into the market. Very disgusting looking.
Actually, they tasted very good. After my eyes adjusted to the darkness of her hut, sure enough, I could see the flourescent eyes of the fish in the sauce. The dish suddenly didn't taste quite as good. Reflecting on this, I thought of all the times either my mother, or later in life I, would try to hide some ingredient used in a recipe. Anyone remember sauerkraut cake? Generally the food would taste good, but the thought of what was being eaten, just not so appealing. Certainly the case here. This dishes "eye" appeal caused in MY mind a loss of its savor, even if it was delicious a few moments earlier!
Just part of another day in the life of a missionary in Gulu. And we are loving it!