Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week 22...A Day in the Village

We postponed this weekends blog until Monday in honor of Nick Chase who passed away Tuesday and whose funeral was Saturday.

Nick was one of the finest young men I knew and I got to know him very well as Priest in the Young Men's organization of which I served as President before our mission call.  Nick, who had just graduated from high school and I had lunch one on one on a couple of occasions before we left for our mission.  We talked about the weaker members of his Priests Quorum and what he and his quorum members could do to strengthen them.  Nick loved his fellow Priests and wanted to serve them in every way he could.

Thurs night I taught Institute because our local Ugandan teacher had a conflict.  As I began the lesson, I looked out over the 15 or so college age kids in attendance and thought about how difficult life is for them in Uganda.  I wanted to tell them that life is difficult for all people, no matter where they live.  I then began to tell them of the loss of my good young Nick.  I began to cry and was unable to gain my composure for a number of minutes.  I cried as hard as I've cried in a long time.  I then told them that no matter where one lives, no matter how healthy or wealthy one may be, everyone has trials, troubles, afflictions...that they are not to feel sorry for themselves but know that God loves them and will sustain them when life is difficult to bear.  I reminded them of President Thomas S Monson's words..."just give more".  No matter how downtrodden they may feel, just give more, serve more, study the scriptures more, pay their tithing faithfully, keep the commandments as best they can...then comes the Peace which the Savior promised his disciples...not the peace of the world, but His peace, that peace which surpasses all understanding. 

I visited Kitgum 100 kilometers away Sunday morning and talked about Nick.
I cried again.  As Pam and I knelt in prayer this morning, tears filled my eyes once again.
Perhaps it is because I know the unspeakable pain of losing a child or because I could not be at his service Saturday and feel some sort of closure.  I watched the clock here all day Saturday and anticipated it's 10:00 am start.

Life is difficult no matter where one is.

I love you Nick.

You've heard us mention Simon  (Si) and we've posted pics of him working around the house for mission money.  It is Simon who watched as his father was shot and killed by Joseph Kony's rebels when Si was age 6.

Simon joined the Church in March and has time to earn money and prepare spiritually for his mission. He is making great headway. This blog post is dedicated to our day in "the village" Monday, 5 Aug.

His mom lives in "the village".  "The village" is really any place outside of the city a ways.  We would call it "in the country" back home.  He wanted us to visit her and teach her a gospel message.  Because she doesn't speak English Simon did all the teaching in Acholi and then translated some of our thoughts and well wishes to her and her family.  We also met Si's grandma, a sister, some nephews and nieces.

A pictures tells a thousands words as we say so here you go.

 The village is about 25 miles up the road from Gulu.  About 15 miles outside of Gulu, we approached this tree.  "Here is where I watched the rebels kill my father.  Right under this tree." Simon told us.  At age 6, all Si could do was to continue walking to Gulu where they had been headed with his Dad, find his sister and then an uncle who was serving in the military who helped find and retrieve his father's body.  As wev'e told you we have met westerners who say the Joseph Kony story is a myth.   No form of government is perfect but the Ugandan government hasn't been involved in slaughtering it's own people like Kony's rebels ..."The Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA), he calls it..  Don't you love how people take good names and good causes and pervert them in such a manner as if killing, kidnapping and raping is done for the Lord?  Kony is still loose and on the run by the way...maybe in the Congo to our west, may South Sudan to our north, lieing low because the hunt is on...but he is not in Gulu!  There was a world-wide campaign in 2012 to capture him but he has successfully alluded all authorities.  He waged a 25 year war centered in Gulu that ended 7-8 years ago and set the city back farther than that.
 Scenery on the way to the village.
 It rained heavily last night.  I had just washed down the truck earlier in the morning.   It was a 4-wheel drive kind of day.
 The ceiling inside his Mom's very nice hut.  The center pole holds up the roof supports and thatch on top of the roof.  Just amazing to me that the thick thatch keeps the heaviest of rain water from coming inside.  You can see the thatched roof in the picture below. The 2010 calendar is the only picture or artifact in the hut.
 Naturally, Pam found a cat.  See lots of Calico cats over here.  Very common.  Far more so than in the states.  Notice how "happy" the cat appears as it is trying to claw it's way out of Pam's arm.  No matter, Pam is determined to make that cat love her.  (Pam:  he did "love" me when I gave him scraps from our meal.  His mother, seeing how much I love the cat, offered to let me take it home.  That would have been better than the live chicken they wanted to give us, but I declined.  Again, it shows their generosity.  The cat helps to keep out the mice and rats.)
 Si's Mom's place.  The building on the left is her kitchen.  On the right is her very attractive and neat hut.
 Si and him Mom in the kitchen/hut.  She is 52.  He says she is very old.  By Ugandan standards, she is.  His grandmother is 72, a very attractive older woman.  His sister is about his age and can speak good English and can read it.  She asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon.
 Cooking up millet-pocho in the kitchen/hut over small logs set on fire.  Was pretty smokey in there.  I had to leave eventually as the smoke was burning my eyes.
 Some nephews with homemade ball.  The center is filled with plastic bags tied around with leather.   You should see these kids bounce this ball on their knees and professional soccer players.  Likely the only "toy" they have so they get good at it at an early age.
 Rice paddy.  They simply throw the rice seeds onto the ground.  This was done in February.  Will be ready in about 4 months.
 Beyond the rice paddy, Si's cassava field in the background...the low plant...this is the plant we've bought often that tastes like a large potato wedge we've told you about.  We've eaten it after being boiled in cooking oil and lightly salted.  We are eating the root of the cassava.  This field was planted in Feb also.  Each plant represents one cassava stick planted into the ground. Takes 2 years to grow.  Will be ready when he comes home from his mission.
A cow drawn plow.  She owns two of them.  To the left of the plow you see a yoke to which the cows are tied/yoked together while they pull the plow through a field.
One of three baskets hanging outside the kitchen hut to hold eggs recently hatched.
Here are a few eggs in one of the hanging baskets.
The lunch his mom, grandma and sister made for us.  Beans, rice, chicken cooked in oil...the best chicken we've had here and posho.  The pocho is what looks like the roll at the bottom of the plate.  It is like cream of corn but cooked til it feels a roll...firm.  Not like runny grits.  Sort of a bread replacement.  This was truly the equivalent of a Christmas feast.  These Acholi people who have so little, who live off what they grow, are so good at heart.  So little in material things but so giving, so charitable.  Pam, Si and I ate in his Mom's hut.  Mom, grandma and his sister stayed in the kitchen hut to eat.  We asked Si why they wouldn't join us.  "I am here with you."
This lucky guy has a lot of girlfriends in the yard and supplies a lot of eggs and  baby chicks for the family.
Here is just part of the family...Mom, grandmom, sister, nieces and nephews, Si and Pam.  They all live in the same village...maybe a ways down the road.  Nobody ever offers to take my picture so when I long dead and gone my grandchildren will always think grandma served her mission to Uganda by herself...not that she couldn't have!  As we were about to drive away other relatives living in neighboring huts (perhaps a block of so away) came by, but didn't get their picture. 
It was a muddy ride out.  This is on driver's side window.  Just glad I had the window up.  It was a comfortable day temperature wise.
This is millet growing in a field.  Reminds me of tall "crabgrass"...that thing on the top of the week with the seeds dangling on it?  Pull off the brown millet you see there and pound it down with a long stick in a wooden bucket. 
Place the millet in this small, wooden"barrel" and pound it to death.  Then they winnow it by tossing in the air from a flat basket. The wind blows away the chaff leaving tiny grains a little larger than a mustard seed. The little grains are ground by rubbing the grains between two flat stones. From that they make a very runny porriidge (the traditional breakfast - that you drink) or they make pocho, like what is shown in one of the previous pictures.

This concludes our day in the village.  It was one of the nicest days we've had in Gulu.  A beautiful 25 drive into the village, cool temps, wonderful people, slipping and sliding our way back and forth down a road that at times looked like a shallow river we were riding in.  Took a picture of the riverbed we traveled through for 4-5 miles but couldn't download it for some reason.

p.s.  Si was very excited this weekend because his "brother" (a cousin he lives with in Gulu area) was baptized.  Si was able to baptize him. They were both elated.


  1. I am sorry for your loss of your friend Nick. I'm sure your stories about him touched others as it did me.

  2. Yes, I am also sorry about the loss of your friend Nick. Peace and comfort to you as well as his family.

    Pam, can you please take a picture of Brooks by the truck so we know he is really on a mission with you? :-)

  3. Nick's service was so beautiful. I was honored to sing in the choir at the funeral and attend the graveside service as well. Tamara and Cesar and the other children have been models of grace and strength through this last week. They even gathered the youth on Sunday for a special meeting to speak with them about the circumstances surrounding Nick's passing, what he was struggling with, and what the youth should do if they ever feel what Nick was feeling. They are amazing people.