Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 33

Mary and Praise
We became good friends with Mary, an emergency nurse at Lacor Hospital, when we admitted Martin for extensive care of his leg.  Mary is a celestial person…you know them when you meet them…no guile, doesn’t ask for any help, money, food. Doesn’t complain, or talk about her problems, but with some prying on Pam’s part, Mary shared why she personally couldn’t help Martin.  She has a 3 year old girl, Praise, who has cerebral palsy and many health problems.  She is very tiny (much smaller than our granddaughter Stella!) and still weighs less than 18 pounds. 
Shortly after the baby was born, her husband left her. He has provided no support since Praise was born.  She shed tears with Pam because the medical needs for this child are beyond her economic abilities.  She knew about the miraculous healing of Martin’s leg and requested a priesthood blessing for Praise.  Two of our young missionaries met with her and others in her family to give this blessing. 
With trips to Mbale and Kampala it was several weeks before we could visit with her in her home.  It was a very nice visit. We learned that not only does Mary take care of her own three children, she has several others she provides for. For example, during the war with the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army Kony), a stranger from Kitgum (two hours away) who had several family members killed and abducted brought his teenage daughter and asked Mary to take her in.  Mary and her husband had jobs so they took in a number of people like this.  After Mary’s husband left, Mary took the girl – now grown woman with a child -  back to her father’s village, but he refused to take her back because she would suffer too much living in the village, so Mary continues to support her and her little boy.  Mary’s estranged husband also continues to send his family members who are sick to her knowing she will not turn them away, but does not communicate directly with her and has not provided assistance.
Mary told us with much gratitude about the blessing the missionaries had given to Praise. Praise’s normal routine had been to awaken at 11:00 PM each night and stay awake crying the rest of the night. You can imagine how difficult this has been for Mary, a full time working Mom with no help from a husband. Praise also had sores or boils that would break out on her body.  Since that blessing the missionaries gave Praise, she has slept through the night EVERY night beginning that night.  And the sores? They have not returned.
In the meantime, a friend from the states sent our son a donation to be used however we saw fit for this mission.  After getting their approval, we decided to use it for the wheelchair with a special neck brace Praise needs.  The donation was the exact amount needed for the chair.  Mary was overjoyed, especially because that same day the money she had been slowly saving toward this purchase had been stolen and squandered by her stepson.  Her faith was renewed after tearfully questioning the Lord why she had to suffer so much when she was constantly trying to do the best she can to serve Him.
Last week Mary traveled to Kampala to purchase the wheelchair for Praise, which has to be fitted to the patient so the body and head are properly supported.  It should be ready in a week or so.  While she was there, another marvelous miracle took place to bless the two of them.  Mary shared the details with Pam and concluded with, “It is you that has done this for us.”  Pam explained, “NO, it is not us, it is the Savior that has done this.  Then Mary, a Catholic, said, “It is your God” who has done this.  Pam explained we worship the same God and our – hers and mine – God who brought all this to pass. As Pam was crying, concerned Mary said “Do not let me upset you.”  Pam explained that her tears were tears of great joy for this wonderful manifestation of God’s love that she has experienced  in spite of all her trials. 
Can anyone doubt that the power of faith such as Mary’s, and  the power of the priesthood administered by these faithful elders (missionaries), coupled with ministering angels on both sides of the veil can assist in performing miracles?  We know that this life is a time of great tests and trials to see if we will stay faithful to God, but we are so grateful for the continuous manifestation of the Lord’s tender mercies to those who exercise their faith by trying to do all they can to better their circumstances. 
Mary, Praise and some of the other children.
Because of Praise’s low weight and inability to eat most foods, we are trying to see if we can get some ATMIT for her, a special porridge with lots of vitamins and minerals, specifically for malnourished children. The church ships it to third world countries, but delivery within the country is the choice of the government. Gulu was on the list for the next delivery, but there is currently none in Uganda and it will take many months before it would arrive in Kampala, then  more months for it to get here, if even possible. It is very expensive to ship so the church is looking for a place in Africa that might prepare it, but that will take more than just months to materialize. In the meantime we heard from our former humanitarian missionaries that there is some in Utah. If anyone has any connections to get ATMIT, even just 10 pounds, my brother can bring it when he comes here December 8. PLEASE, if you live in Utah and you know how to get ATMIT, let us know ASAP. Or if you know of another good alternative, let us know right away.
A REMINDER, WE NEED MORE SENIOR COUPLE MISSIONARIES IN UGANDA! Any inconveniences you hear about are more than compensated by the wonderful spirit of these people and the work that is done here.  And with SKYPE you can still be close to your children and grandchildren. 
This is a typical bore hole (water pump) where locals go to get their water for cooking, bathing, washing clothes. Mary’s  house is the only home we've been in since we've been here that has running water.
Pretty neat ladder I stumbled across. Built like a tripod. The ladder legs on the front and the back tripod leg centered in the rear.
Looking up the can see how high this thing goes. Straight up into the top of a very tall tree.

Took a mini-safari not long ago on a “Preparation Day” with the missionaries. Heading down the dirt road to Chobe Lodge we came across this mess. I really couldn't figure out what had happened. The large truck with a load of propane tanks is listing heavily to the left but most of the tanks are on the road to the right of the truck. We got out and simply moved them off the road. They felt empty. Then we motored on by. We kept asking the driver, who was just sitting in his truck, if he was OK and he kept saying "no". I don't think he was hurt (because he did get out and started moving tanks also), other than a badly bruised ego and the likelihood he'd just made his last haul for his employer...probably former employer by the time this post goes out.
We were inside the lodge when an employee ran inside to get us....ELEPHANT, he shouted. We ran outside the lodge and here it was...maybe 20 feet away when I took the shot above. Not a place the safari employees wanted me to be  (pretty dangerous actually) but bingo...there he was so what am I supposed to do. He's eating foliage from the trees and headed toward the Nile so we circled back and soon enough he appeared on the other side of the trees at the water's edge. This guy has a name, it's not "Dumbo", hangs around the lodge a lot. We've been blocked from getting out of the lodge driveway when he has pushed over a tree so he could get to the leaves at the top of the tree that otherwise would have been out of reach. He has turned over a car  in the lodge parking lot at night after he got mad about something...probably just a bad dream. Certainly was for the car owners.


This seems to be his favorite pose. Beautiful derriere wouldn't you say? Certainly a large one!

Seeing double? I know u r probably tired of seeing the wildlife but in person one just can't get enough of it. And to see the giraffe run...pure grace and beauty.

We were this close! Could have fed him a carrot.

Believe it or not, saw this on the way from Kampala to Gulu last week The Big A-Mobile…not really. But with the progress I'm making with new Alabama Alumni Association Recruits, it may not be long before we see this very motif all over Africa. (Actually, credit goes to my daughter, Ceci Sandoval, for seeing this pic on-line and sending it to me) BUT STILL...I do have this African vision!!!!! ROLL TIDE!!!
In his classic discourse on pride, President Ezra Taft Benson characterized the many facets of pride:
“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ …

“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.

“… The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. …

(Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) was an American farmer and religious leader, serving as the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death and was United States Secretary of Agriculture during both presidential terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower.)









Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 32

The Burials

Remember that great D-Day movie “The Longest Day”? We had one Monday, 14 Oct 2013 and it was nearly as heartrending.


Got a phone call Sunday afternoon, 13 Oct, from our Mission President. He informed me three (actually four) Church members were killed in an auto accident not far from here…6 people – all relatives returning from a family burial earlier in the week died in a head-on collision on their way towards Kampala when their car went under a tractor-trailer rig.  The members were Tony, a return missionary just starting college; and a couple and their baby (with five more young children left at home). The accident happened quite a distance from their home towns but their native villages where burials take place are about three hours further north from us. Since the deceased all lived in Jinga (eight hours south) or Kampala (6 hours) we did not know any of them.


The mission president asked us to assist the Jinga priesthood leadership  by transporting the bodies in the back of our truck to their respective villages.  Five were being buried in a village 40 kilometers north of Kitgum and Tony in his village an additional 28 kilometers west.  We were also asked to transport Steve, the counselor in the Jinga branch presidency.  We had no idea where we were going on the muddy, pot-holed roads with no street signs or markers, but we also picked up Tony’s brother,  an uncle, as well as his “father”(uncle who raised him after his mother died), who were familiar with the area. 


Most Ugandans aren’t embalmed so the funeral has to take place quickly before the body explodes…sorry folks…that ‘s what happens to unembalmed exposed bodies after we die. One has about 3 days to get a body into the ground. Family members are responsible for finding/hiring a boda driver, truck or taxi to transport the bodies.  Unbeknownst to us, a benevolent member of Uganda’s Parliament made arrangements for the transportation of the bodies as well as purchased each of the caskets, so it turned out we only haul some of the relatives who had traveled all night by bus to Gulu.


 I had been instructed to properly dress Tony for his burial, which was scheduled for 3pm, followed by the burial of the other five at 4:00 at a different site allegedly a kilometer down the road.  The Jinga branch counselor was asked by the relatives of the other family to plan their service which was to include me speaking and then dedicating the graves, and Pam giving the benediction.


 As is so often the case, communications were mixed up.  We arrived at the first location around 2:30, , which turned out to be the second funeral scheduled for 4:00, but the services were already well underway.  We were told we should still walk back to where the burial service was taking place.    There were at least five hundred people sitting on the ground, most under tents, around the premises.   Pam was given a seat on the front row with all the political dignitaries and the catholic priest.  I was seated behind her.


As we arrived, the Catholic priest had already spoken and a local politician was now giving a sermon in their native language, Acholi. He also chanted a Catholic hymn which the person seated by Pam joined in. Pam commented to him that the chant was beautiful; “what did it say?”  Just then the Catholic priest came up to her and told her “You go!” several times.   She thought she had offended them by asking the question, and was supposed to leave, but wasn’t sure what she should do, especially since she didn’t know where I was sitting. Finally the man seated next to her said the priest wanted her to address the people – to give a talk, which she did on the spot.  She expressed her love of the Acholi people and her gratitude for their example of great faith in Jesus Christ.  She also shared a brief testimony of the Plan of Salvation and the resurrection Then I spoke briefly, our talks being translated into Acholi for the mourners.  I then dedicated the gravesites of all those who were still being buried on the family property just behind us…the baby, the married couple and two other family members, 5 in all.


We then headed to the service of the returned missionary, which turned out to be another 28 kilometers a way. 28 kilometers doesn’t sound far, but these are more rutted paths than roads, so travel is very slow.  The last few kilos were a bushwack around the huts.


When we arrived to Tony’s family property, the majority of the mourners were sitting solemnly under their tents, with a few of the women off to the side wailing.  While we were waiting for instructions regarding dressing Tony, Pam asked if it would be okay to go offer comfort to Tony’s sister who was crying uncontrollably some distance away from the other mourners.  She was told yes.  Pam sat beside her caressing her, wiping away her tears and talking to her, praying that the Holy Ghost would bring her comfort.  Not knowing if she understood any English, she told the woman of her own great distress when her little daughter died suddenly , but that the Holy Ghost could comfort her as He had Pam.  In a short time, she stopped crying and was able to join the rest of the mourners. 


I was called out with a few others to dress Tony.  Several dozen came to gawk as the casket was opened, but those at Tony’s head showed the respect and reverence Tony deserved.  It was not possible to dress him, so the clothing was placed alongside him.


 Here also, some of Tony’s family had changed their mind and hired a local priest to conduct the funeral service. Perhaps this was a good thing because by this time the black rain clouds and accompanying thunder were beginning to roll in.  We, as well as the truckload of mourners from Jinga needed to get on the road or we would never make it home on these muddy roads. Before the pastor began his sermon, I dedicated the grave site, even though the body had not yet been placed in the ground.  .  Again, our church priesthood leader translated my English into Acholi about the sacredness of this gravesite as well as Tony’s assured resurrection through Jesus Christ. 

The actual funeral service took place AFTER Tony was buried – everyone wanted to make sure the burial happened before the torrential rains came in.


Tradition is that the mourners come to comfort the family but may need to leave before the actual funeral service begins, especially if there are weather problems.  They then return in the evening, or if possible, over the next 3 days to offer solace. There were two large trucks of mourners (see Pic). One was local and the other one filled with a large host of people who had driven up from Jinja, more than 12 hours away from this village, with close to 50 people standing all the way either holding on to the side of the truck or to each other.  We can’t imagine how difficult this would be, even if they were traveling on a good interstate, but especially with the terrible road conditions in Northern Uganda. 


In one of the pictures below, the two trucks had beat us out of the burial but the first one was mired in the mud on the "road" which was the only one way out of the familiy’s property. They dug, placed branches under the tires but that big truck wasn't going anywhere. I decided to try to 4 wheel drive my truck out. I swung to the left of the rear truck then to the right of the lead truck and we got through OK. You can see there was no road left for me to drive on so I simply drove through the tall grass. Thank goodness there were no tree stumps as on other occasions.  The lead truck stuck in the mud then wanted me to pull him out. That wasn’t going to happen with my little pickup truck and I felt bad about leaving them there but there was nothing I could do about it. You can see how large a truck it is.


We apologized and headed down the road. By now the rain had begun falling and driving slowly...5 to 10 MPH (not slow enough for Pam).  Did a 10 degree donut almost sliding off the road.  A few minutes later we did slide off and were unable to get “unstuck” even with 4 wheel drive. Some walking and boda driving passers-by from the funeral stopped, crammed some tree branches under the tires, pushed the truck while I drove it and we managed our way out of what looked like a very dire situation. Five minutes later we slid off the other side of the road. Dropped into 4 wheel low drive again and we spun and bumped our way in the muddy road gully nearly 50-75 feet down the road until we popped back out onto the top of the road..  Don’t know how that happened except with the help of unseen beings who had to push us out of the muddy gulley. Our passengers were scared to death and wanted to walk back to town but Steve the counselor talked them out of it as it would have taken several hours into the dark.  I drove even slower at this point and tried to stay right on top of the middle of the road. Still we might as well have been driving on ice, slipping and sliding, managing the steering so as not to head into the ditch again. My shoes were so covered in wet red mud, having gotten out of the car twice to assess the situation, both felt like they weighed an extra 5 pounds…told you I’d gain my weight back. Most unpleasant experience…BUT WAIT…there’s more…


In the opinion of all in our mission it is too dangerous to drive after dark in Uganda. We were reminded of that just last nite by our Mission President, having dinner at his home in Kampala. We have avoided doing so like the plague!  But on the night of the funerals, it is now 7:00 pm, totally dark and we have 3 hours till we make it home down a horrible potholed dirt road to Gulu. Hard to see the many dark skinned people in dark clothes walking to and from their villages and there are NO street lights. Our senior couple friends in the south warn us about driving through the Rain Forest at night but at least it is asphalt covered…it is nothing compared to driving between Kitgum and Gulu at night. We are on a dirt road, most of which is dry but there are occasional wet spots and many pot holes…more than in all of Texas combined. We hit one of these spots and I lost control of the car and we spun out of control and ended up perpendicular to the road, front first into the weeds and muck…one more time again. I was fortunate enough to rock my way back and forth out of the mess and we headed home for another 2 hours or so….no damage to the truck. Was a white-knuckled ride home, believe me. We reached our front gate at 9:59. We had to rely on prayers and angels all the way.


In spite of the difficulties of this trip, we are grateful we were able to serve in some small capacity.  The people were appreciative of “Mzungus” coming to their village and the burials, and the Spirit of the Lord was in attendance as we bore witness of God’s eternal love for each of His children. 


Life is often like this journey, full of uncertainty as to where to go, how to get there or what to do, knowing full well there are always dangers around us.  Yet if we trust in the Lord, walking in faith in Christ, we will be able to make our way out of the darkness.  Experiences such as these help us appreciate more than ever the countless blessings we take for granted on a daily basis.  We are so grateful for the Savior’s tender mercies and the lessons learned from  this experience.


Perhaps 50 people in this truck all the way from Jinja, UG where the family was living at the time of the accident. I believe these people came up for the family who had been killed as I did not see this truck at the second service we attended.

The two trucks ahead of us as we were trying to leave before the rains came. The yellow one is in the bottom of a small gully, completely bogged down.  Nothing they could do would get them out.  They had no idea of the challenge they would face down the road if they were to have escaped. The muddy road would have taken them right off the side of it to the left or right. I imagine a lot, maybe all of these people walked into town 25 kilometers that night to find a place to rest their heads until the ground dried and the truck was rescued.  Maybe they all stayed back at the family's property. You can see there was no real room to maneuver around either of these vehicles. I could only drive my truck through the tall grass. Fortunately, there were no nearby trees blocking my way.  We believe it also was a tender mercy for these people that they couldn't get out that night.  Can you imagine what would have happened to those in the back of these trucks sliding off the road?  They were still in walking distance of the erected tents for Tony's burial.


The gathering storm clouds. Believe me, when it rains, it really rains here. Very little drizzle.I ’m talking sheets of downpour. This one could have been a lot worse though as it didn't rain hard and was a quick storm. We were headed in the opposite direction of the storm too.
"From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. Time in this setting does not allow even a cursory examination of the scriptures or our own latter-day history, which are so filled with accounts of angels ministering to those on earth, but it is rich doctrine and rich history indeed.

Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times." Jeffrey R Holland, Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 31

The Tippy Tap service projects made our Public Affairs Department online link.
Click below, scroll down just a little and you'll see under MOST RECENT NEWS Spirit of Mormon Helping Hands.  Mostly pictures with some small captions but it is nice seeing our two branches in Gulu on the to speak.
We love our new (since July) mission president and his wife as much as we did the Jacksons.  President and Sister Chatfield blessed us this week by visiting Gulu and providing additional training for our branch presidencies.  They encouraged us to keep the people's learning curve in a proper perspective.  It gets discouraging at times working with our Gulu leaders and members. It's like raising children/teenagers again.  You wonder if they will ever "get it."  Yet, with genuine love, patience, and perseverance they eventually do! 
We try to remember that these people have NEVER had experiences like what we take for granted, especially those of us who have had years of service in the church. These good people have had no previous opportunities for leadership,  for working with budgets, for handling large sums of money, for effective group planning, for teaching the Gospel.  There's been little need for them to understand time management.  They have struggled simply to survive.  While the process  of learning seems so slow, they are progressing, especially the youth and young single adults.  The young single adults bring us so much hope.  They are not bound down by the traditions of their predecessors that are often disabling and they have the zeal to move forward.  We always come away from Institute, YSA Family Home Evening and Seminary with good feelings about their future.
 EXERCISE All missionaries, including senior couples, receive a little white handbook of instructions when they first enter the mission training center.  This little book is studied and applied "religiously" because its guidelines serve to protect us from harm and they assure success to those who follow it.   One of its suggestions is 30 minutes of exercise six days a week.  It is left up to each individual how, where or what they might do that will qualify as exercise. I often see the young missionaries jogging, jumping rope, lifting homemade weights as well as a variety of other things.  Brooks, who has never liked any form of exercise, used to say he was a lover, not a runner.  (Don't ask.) Now he says that a person only has so many heart ticks so why would he want to use any of the remaining up on something so unpleasant when he could be saving them for another exciting Alabama football game.  His constant exercise here is exercising the Priesthood in a righteous way.
My favorite exercise is jogging because it doesn't take any skill.  Actually to any observer, my jog is more of a slow plod. Still, I enjoy it , especially with so much of nature surrounding us here as well as the pleasant people.  My jogging makes many of the Gulugans laugh.  Seriously, they laugh a lot when they see me jogging; I'm their entertainment for the day.  It's not mean ridiculing laughter at all, but they do think we are pretty silly to exercise this way.  Even though I know very little of the Acholi language, I've pretty much figured out what they are laughing about: 
"There goes that fat Mzungu.  She calls it exercising, but she moves slowly slowly like a pregnant cow.  She wastes too much energy.  Mzungus don't know how to work so they exercise instead.  They should just learn to work hard like we do.  If she would dig she wouldn't need to exercise."  
Actually, I've figured out what they are saying  because some who do speak English have discussed this with me.  The bottom line is still that I like the jog and the people like this entertainment.  And I have made quasi friends with many as I smile and greet them on the way.  They are friendly people who love to be acknowledged.  The children especially will shout out in greeting. The further away from the city, the more the people laugh and the more they love to have you speak to them, probably because whites are such a novelty in their area.
There are now some who "cheer" me on.  There are still a few children however, that see me, start screaming and go running back to their village.  One man ask me seriously if I was training for the Olympics.  Striking up conversations with the people makes it rewarding for both of us.
I've had a significant increase of pain in my legs over the last couple months. Some days I have suffered a lot. Brooks and our mission doctor felt I should get an ultrasound to make sure there were no blood clots or other serious problems. My greatest fear was not possible physical ailments, but that something might prevent us from continuing our mission. This would have been so devastating. Our time is already going by way too fast! Fortunately, the hospital tests and vitals showed I'm in very good health - except for ongoing problems with varicose veins.  Yikes! The doctor apoligized that their hospital was not equipped to operate on them! It's okay. I can live with that and actually realized I have a Melaleuca supplement that will improve my circulation. Life is good - no fears.

Another Tippy Tap Project....this time with a group called Kicaber as in "Catch a bear". The word actually means God's Mercy.  This support group helps assimilate former kidnapped rebels back into Ugandan society. It's a challenging thing as many from their original villages disown them. The govt has given amnesty to these former rebel fighters, many of whom were kidnapped as children and forced to fight for Joseph Kony, which as you'll remember from an earlier blog, really never existed...this according to some Western (U.S.) "Progressives" we've talked to who are promoting One World Government.  Hmm.  Which form of Rulers Law do they think we should emulate? 
So we went to the headquarters of Kicaber and built two Tippy for adults and a smaller one for the children.
 One of our Gulu Branch sisters hammering holes into the soap that will dangle on a string  from the Tippy Tap.
While some of us erected the taps, Pam played games with the children for a couple of hours.  Above..."Red Rover".
 Above..."Duck, Duck, Goose, Goose."
Having quite a number of large storms each night.  This one brought with it a hail stone larger than Pam could hold in two hands.  Actually looks like a hand.   We felt it was symbolic of some cosmic being sending a warning to the people of Uganda to repent or else.  A hand of warning! Actually its was formed from a latex glove I  filled with water and froze for part of our FHE activity.

Pam suggested this for me.  If I thought this program would help, I'd certainly enroll.

41 Dolls and still counting...being made by Pam and the sisters as Christmas gifts for children in hospitals and/or orphanages.  As we've mentioned, it is rare to see a toy anywhere in Gulu.  Perhaps a torn up soccer ball or a ball made out of wadded u plastic bags and wrapped tightly in a vine of some sort.  My favorite is what we've seen in early American  history books...little children rolling/pushing a bike tire along with a stick or even just their hands.  Believe me, the poorest in America would be considered very rich to the people of Uganda.

At one of the markets.  This is most common way for moms to carry their children around...wrapped in a shawl type piece of clothe, dangling off the mom's back, legs spread eagle around the mom's waist.  Seems like the legs split out like they are would be painful and hurt the child's leg development but we are told by [American] medical professionals this is a very healthy way to carry a child.  This one looked like it had been knocked out with Ambien as it's head was about to fall off it's poor little body...or so it appeared. 

Reminds me of how my parents used to put us kids to sleep which they  suggested for our children when they were ill or having trouble sleeping   You old folks...remember paregoric?  It's also called camphorated tincture of opium.  It would absolutely take your breath away when swallowing it...soooo strong, so we would dilute it with a spoonful of sugar...even then, it was so strong one would holler and shake like a wet dog to help it go down the throat.  I didn't know what it was at the time...only that it would "settle down" the sick kid.  Back then you had to get a prescription for it in Alabama, but it was over-the-counter in Florida where we always vacationed before moving to Utah.  Hmmm, maybe that's why we really liked going to Florida with our young children.

This very old man by Ugandan standards was born in 1933.  He still had one visible tooth.   He made  whistles out of a goat's horn and was selling them for 1000 shillings each.  The larger ones also had a large chicken feather in it, which is to clean out the spittle after blowing the horn.  We bought a few and planned to meet him a few days later to buy more for the grandkids (to irritate their parents with) but there was a big rainstorm and he didn't show.  We keep looking and asking for him, but no luck.

A pretty day at the market.  Seems like the tomatoes, peppers and onions are getting larger and healthier looking, likely because of the good rains.

“The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 469).  (Pres Hinckley...former president of the Church)


Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explored some possible reasons for spiritual unsteadiness:

“Is it simply unintended forgetfulness? Or is it a failure of intellectual integrity by our refusing to review and to acknowledge past blessings? Or is it a lack of meekness which requires the repetition of such stern lessons, because we neglect the milder and gentler signs beckoning us to ‘remember Him’? …
“… We need the Spirit daily to help us remember daily. Otherwise memory lapses will occur when we are most vulnerable. It is not natural to the natural man to remember yesterday’s blessings gratefully, especially when today’s needs of the flesh press steadily upon him” (Lord, Increase Our Faith [1994], 101–2).

Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said of Neal A Maxwell after his passing,
"I know of no other man who spoke in such an interesting and distinct manner. His genius was the product of diligence. He was a perfectionist determined to exact from every phrase and sentence vivid imagery that brought the gospel to life. Each talk was a masterpiece, each book was a work of art. I think we shall not see one like him again."
I personally remember something Elder Maxwell said in the 70's or 80's that illustrates what President Hinckley was alluding to: "God does not begin by asking about our ability, only about our availability. And when we prove our dependability, he will increase our capability" Worth reading one or two more times.

 A free doo by a neighbor.
 A host of cooking pots.
Sorry...bad pic...but the lady with all the cooking pots can see the stove she is using...built up clay/mud with a place under it to place firewood.  A hole on top where the fire crackles through to heat up the food...usually rice and beans, posho

Oh my they say in Utah...this scene and the one below almost caused me to wreck my Nissan-not Toyota Truck.   This is happening right in downtown Gulu for all to see.  What humiliation for these prisoners dressed in yellow to be out sweeping Main Street!  In America, we call this "cruel and unusual punishment".  Well, don't know how cruel it is but definitely unusual to see criminals have to pay back to society.
Notice my sideview mirror.  Doing 50-60 or so down the highway last week when a large truck tractor rig or happened so fast, clipped my sideview mirror...he doing about the same speed.  So we were that close to catastrophe.  Luckily my "give-way" mirror mount gave way and all that happened was the shattering of my mirror.  While my mirror replacement is on order, I went to our favorite grocery store, Pari, and located this small mirror that nearly fits perfectly into my mirror mount.  Held in place with package wrapping tape.  I have to keep reinforcing the mirror as the potholes, sun and rain are pretty tough, causing the mirror to fall out..
Now, I'm not saying this is the only stop sign in Gulu but it is the only one  I have seen.  And, as you can see, you really can't see it.  Oddly enough it is situated right in front of a round-about where stop signs are not supposed to be placed as no one stops at a just yields to the car already in the round-about coming from your left.  Here in Uganda where we drive UK yield to the driver in the round-about coming from your right...a hard thing to remember.  Have been here 7 months now and still get in on the wrong side of the car.  I figure by the time time I leave here, I'll only be getting into the wrong side of the car just once a day. (Likely this stop sign was erected years before the round-about was installed.  No one stops at it.  And even if you were supposed to stop, no big deal...the police don't really care.  They are really here for riot control...not anything we've had to worry about.)


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 30

the Church's General Conference this weekend!  Wow!  We were able to see the first session yesterday on our computer. The branches here don't have satellites so it will be a 3-4 weeks before they will be able to watch through dvds.  President Thomas A. Monson, o said there are now over 15 million members and over 80,000 missionaries serving throughout the world.  We are one of the fastest growing Christian churches in the world. Why, when the majority are declining significantly each year?  Because this isn't a church created by man; Christ restored His church during these latter days upon a foundation of prophets and apostles as was His primitive Church.  Other answers were given in the conference addresses.  If you want to learn more, general conference continues today at 10 am and 2pm MTN daylight time and can be watched by going to on your computer or electronic device.
Pam on Animals
One of the pleasant things about this area are the farm animals all around us.  Even at one of the high schools where we were serving, there were cows walking around the campus -- on the sidewalks right outside the classrooms!  It's nothing to see someone driving the longhorns or a bunch of goats down the street or on a nearby path. I love seeing and hearing them, as well as the friendly dogs.  The cats here are pretty skiddish but they are my greatest animal passion.   As a toddler my mom said I couldn't keep my hands off them and would bury my face in their fur every chance that availed.  In the 41 years we've been married, we have always had at least one cat (and a dog) up until the time we left for our mission.  I'm ALMOST as passionate about cats as Brooks is about Alabama football.  (Brooks: Except Alabama football has a purpose.)
About three months ago a skinny cat showed up meowing on our doorstep.  Of course I felt compelled to feed it.  In a few days this Mama allowed me to "meet" her four kittens she had hidden in the bushes around our house. What a delight to see these cute little babies, everyone of them solid black like their mama.  I left milk for them which they quickly learned to drink. While Mama continued to nurse them, they always seemed to be starving for more, so I also bought the tiny fishes in the market to add to their diet. They were in cat heaven.
 It didn't take long, however, to realize how I was disrupting the natural order of things here in Uganda.  Ugandans hardly have enough food for themselves let alone any animals,  While they may have a dog or cat,  animals are generally expected to find their own food or are given minimal scraps of grains.  Cats are kept to control the mice around or in their homes, not as pets. I certainly couldn't keep all five cats, so what would happen when they had to go to new homes?
As the kittens continued to grow and were constantly meowing for more and more food, I became more and more troubled that my attempt to "do good" for them would ultimately backfire and they would not know how to take care of themselves.  Like the people here, doing too much for them would prevent them from taking care of themselves. 
We have no mice in our apartment but most around us do, so a concerted effort was made by friends to catch mice for "my babies" and to start weaning them from their bounteous diet of fish and milk.  One day the Elders were able to catch four live mice in a trap.  We brought them to the kittens.  Three of them just looked at the mice, but one of the girls, pounced on them, growling at the other kittens to stay away from her catch and proceeded to play with, then eat all of them. This was quite a site.  I decided she would be their mentor so for about a week all the kittens were placed in one of the apartments with the their mentor sister "Beatrice" to learn from her example.  We don't know how successful this venture was since there's never any evidence, but whenever they would hear my voice, they would still come running, meowing - even standing on their hind legs - begging for more food.  So cute now, but this would obviously be a problem when their current "NGO" (me) dried up like what usually happens to the people here. 
I was really distressed that my babies would not have the skills to survive after leaving our home.  I tearfully prayed for help that somehow they would be adopted into homes where they would be given a little extra attention until they became more self-reliant.  The next day four individuals I knew well expressed a desire to take a kitten.  Each person had a little more resources than most people in this area.  The kittens have now been in their new homes about a week, and the reports are that they are thriving and have bonded to their new owners.  While I know animals are  much more resilient and able to adapt to their environment quicker than humans, I feel this was a direct answer to my prayers and for the tender mercies the Lord grants even to the little creatures of the earth.  In spite of all the suffering we see, I know He is mindful of each individual and in His due time, things will be made aright for those who trust in Him.  
I was at the open market today...Wednesday, pulling out into the street.  One boda coming from my from my right.  I watched as the southbound boda driver stopped and assessed how he was going to manuever across a small rain caused gulley in the street. 
The northbound female boda driver wasn't worried about any 12" gulley in the road....she just took off right through it.  No sooner than she got to it, she bounced off the ground and ran slap-dab into the southbound boda.  They hit front tire to front tire...he bounced off his boda to his left and she did the same to her left.  No one injured and they both got up smiling/laughing...thank goodness.  What a site, however.  We have a dear senior couple in Masaka...south of Kampala that have been hit 4 times now by bodas.  They rarely venture more than a few miles from their home.  Occasionally, they have to drive a couple of hours to Kampala for a mandatory meeting and they are white knuckled the whole way...I don't blame them.

At Lacor Hospital for the Tippy Tap service project, I took a pic of what looks like a Boy Scout Campout without the scouts.  This is where folks who are looking after friends or family cook their own food and food for the patients. They are also camped out on the lawn areas around the buildings.   They provide all the food, water, some bedding, toilet paper and other necessities for the patients.  They sleep here as well.  This is a good hospital by Uganda standards but there are just no funds for things generally considered essential.  They have relied largely on donations from foreign entities but donations in recent years have been cut way back.  We visit our friend Martin about 3 times a week who is in the surgery ward with many of the amputees as well as those with very serious infections where part of the bone has had to be removed  Because of the lack of hospital funds, we observe that the wounds, some as big as 4" by 10" - to the bone -  are simply cleaned with cotton soaked in hydrogen peroxide and then re-bandaged. In some instances the wounds are packed with honey.  Most of the patients are silently writhing in pain during the cleansing of their wounds while family or friends hold them to provide comfort during this process.  For many of the patients, the infections are recurring, often from problems that began 3-4 years earlier.  They may seem okay, then get a prick or some minor wound and infection quickly spreads to the weak parts of their body. Medical people from the U.S. who volunteer their time and services for a couple weeks each year are amazed at the threshold of pain these people can bear. 

We miss a lot of what is happening in America, but just saw this headline below. Not that I'm into shutting down the government but if this is what it takes to bring spending under control, probably a worthy idea. I don't remember any serious repercussions from sequestration a few months back. Has anyone? If so, educate me please.  Are there any entrepreneurs on the blog that haven't already cut expenses to the bone?  If not, you likely won't be around for long.

I notice the headline below says this shutdown has resulted in the suspension of all but essential services. Why do my hard earned tax dollars go towards something other than what is essential? Towards something that is non-essential?  Maybe this includes the end of the free "Obamaphones". Ah, but wait!  We will be back in the states in a year and will need phones. Maybe free phones from the government should be considered an essential. 

"NATION PLUNGES INTO SHUTDOWN mode after lawmakers miss midnight deadline to fund the government, triggering the suspension of all but essential services for the first time in 17 years, as Senate Democrats vow to refuse to consider any attempts by House Republicans to attach changes to ObamaCare to the budget bill."

Fourth clutch put in the truck in 40,000 miles...told you about that ...seems to working properly.  Will see how long it lasts.  Unfortunately, after installing a new clutch the mechanic forgot to properly replace the boot that sits over the stick shift control.  Looking good...I am.  Our fleet manager tells me not to mention it to him a second time...most of the fleet looks like this.  No complaints here so long as I the clutch works, the tires aren't flat and the a/c works.
 Pam displaying a new corsage
Ole Crock in the Nile just above Chobe Lodge where we took our 8 full-time missionaries a couple of weeks ago.  There they are below.

Family Home Evening for our young single adults...finger football playoff.  This one getting ready to kick a field-goal...remember this when growing up?  Still a fun game.
 On the road again in our city of Gulu ...not unusual to come across this scene after a recent rainfall.
Was in for flat tire fix.  This 9 passenger van pulled in for some tire air.  Took 10 minutes or so in the hot sun.  I counted 15 people in air conditioning.  Not a soul climbed out of the van during the wait.
This is how you fix a flat here.  Find the nail, pull it out and stick this screwdriver looking devise in the hole to keep the air from leaking out.
 Poke a plug into the tire.
Once the plug is inserted., cut it or bite it off so it doesn't appear unsightly.  Life is a challenge in Uganda.  Not only on the people but our Church fleet as well.  In the 6 months I've been here I've had 6 flat or leaking tires repaired.  Installed two radiators, a set of shocks and 2 clutches on my truck.  The clutch was replaced a few months prior to our arrival.  Counting the original clutch when the Church purchased it, that's 4 clutches.  There is constant shifting here, and  slowing down to avoid the large potholes.  We see there are attempts to fill the potholes, but the rains wash all the fill out.  This latest clutch is feeling real good and might last some time.
Our other branch installing Tippy Taps in two neighborhoods not far from their chapel.

 Having lunch here today.  Nice little restaurant that specializes in pizza but usually serves Pam anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before serving me.  Actually, they are getting better at this but you have to remind them we want to eat at the same time.  It's a novel idea to cook so both dishes are ready to eat at the same time.  They will cook one meal and then let it sit getting cold while they prepare the other.  NOTICE this amusing sign right outside the restaurant, the sign doesn't say "Sankofa" 10 or 5 or 1 kilometers, rather this sign says "1 sec"!

This is for Robert and Nola Woods from Weiser, Idaho who we replaced in Gulu last March.  They showed us where to buy fresh eggs...Christ Alone Poultry...about 3-4 miles down a dirty, muddy, pothole filled road.  We've been buying all our eggs there also to assure they are fresh.  Guess what, Nola, they just opened up a store right next to your favorite supermarket.  This is about 5 blocks from our home.
Here is proof.  And notice, plastic egg crates!  Cost you 3000 shillings but worth it.  30 eggs with the crate is 13,000 shillings but the crate is reusable.
Now, here is the challenge, you have to cross this sewage filled creek to get to the Christ Alone booth.  No high heels and don't dare fall off into the creek...or crick as they say out west.
Big day coming up in a couple of weeks.  Gulu Independence Day celebrating Uganda's Independence.   Lot's of entertainment and who knows what else.  Some of the top talent in Africa, we are told.  Hopefully, we won't be so busy we can't make it.  Will keep you posted.  We're curious what their carnivals are like.

Well, I did something recently I've never done before...had all my pants altered as I've lost 33-35 pounds.  Waist measurement has gone from 36 to 27.  I eat good. [Pam says that's debatable]  but we don't always have time to stop for lunch.  We eat a lot of rice and beans...a staple here.  Good stuff too.  I've asked her to cook up a bunch of it all at once and I can dig into it anytime I want to.  Also not finding any McDonald hamburgers or Mc fries here or ice cream, cake, etc.  Lots of soda available, but I've been avoiding that sugary monster too. (Coke has a corner on the market here also, but there are some really tasty pear and pineapple sodas - much better than anything we've tasted in the states.)   Most locals eat one, maybe two meals a day..when in Rome....Rice, beans, g-nuts (peanuts), maze, casava, pineapple, banana, passion fruit, cabbage, peas, and lots of other fruit.  Whatever they can pick from a tree or grow in the ground.  When I get back to the states I promise to let you know when I'm back up to 36'.  So all you who have trying for years to lose some weight, here you go...a short 18 month mission to Uganda.  Don't tell me that won't motivate some of you.


One of the weaknesses Pam and I have been working is to eliminate contention or disagreements so that we may a greater spirit of unity.  It hasn't been easy, but it was one of the first commandments the Savior gave the Nephites when he appeared to them after his resurrection.  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that contention is purposely fostered by Satan to serve his own evil purposes: “The sins of corruption, dishonesty, strife, contention, and other evils in this world are not here by chance. They are evidences of the relentless campaign of Satan and those who follow him. He uses every tool and device available to him to deceive, confuse, and mislead” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 100; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 76). 
(Elder Wirthlin graduated from the University of Utah in business administration. He was an Eagle Scout. He was active in athletics in high school and played football at the University of Utah. Before his call as a General Authority, he was a prominent business leader in Salt Lake City. He was also president of a trade association in Utah. Elder Wirthlin served a mission in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in the late 1930s.)