Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 36


The Big Event

The young single adults have been planning a large scale activity.  We have a newly formed Institute Council comprised of 5 of our young single adults ages 18-30 who represent the other 25 now attending. Held my second meeting with the Institute council on 15 Nov.  The first one a week or so prior.  They had decided to hold an activity at the Gulu Recreational Center but had no budget, no theme, and had left themselves no time to plan it.  I talked them into postponing it for a couple of weeks.
We met again last night after two of them, Patrick and Stephen, visited the site, saw what there was to see; a zoo, boat ride, free kiddie rides, 10,000 per person pork plate-- planning for maybe 50 people (500,000 shillings), soda, etc.
Their original proposed budget was 250,000 but after deciding to invite less active and turn this into a “rescue” activity, I knew the costs would rise as the number of attendees would rise but it will be hard to get a handle on that.  As we sat down to discuss their latest plans, they proposed a budget of 1,000,000 shilllings.   I almost fell out of my chair but didn’t react too strongly so as to not discourage their efforts.  I listened and then told them that wasn’t going to fly but tell me what they learned about the recreational center:
You can enter the park for free.  There is a see-saw, merry-go round, a concession stand, a boat to paddle in and a zoo.  The boat leaks water and the lake is about 3 feet deep and may runs 50 yards long.  Holds 10 people at a cost of 1500 shillings per person.  The zoo is a set of concrete statutes of animals…zebras, rhinos, giraffe, elephants, etc.  It too cost 1500 shilling per person.  The good news is that FOR ANY OF OUR FRIENDS PLANNING TO COME TO GULU TO VISIT…WE NOW HAVE A SAFARI ZOO WE CAN TAKE YOU ON.  You are guaranteed to always to see the beasts in their natural habitat!  sort of.  (Actually most Ugandans never have a chance to go to an animal reserve, thus the concrete zoo - kind of like us visiting a museum of natural history showing what dinosaurs looked like.) 

The kids also wanted to rent a PA system to play music, 70,000….scratched!
Well, we worked the budget over a few times and got it down to 400,000, something one of the branch presidents said he’d be happy to split the cost on. (Haven’t heard from the other)
They wanted to get out of town a little ways and hold an activity in a new venue so I approved and they plan on buying some sodas at the park, taking some snacks themselves, playing games and having a testimony meeting.  I hoping all goes well for them and they are all drawn closer together, particularly those who are not currently attending meetings who are invited by our active young singles, ages 18-30. (I don't think any of them will be going to the zoo...see one concrete elephant and you've seen it all.)  Sad thing is there just ain't much to do in Gulu.  This isn't Kampala on Lake Victoria or Jinja on the Nile.

When we lived in SLC I managed the commercial underwriting department which covered UT, AZ and ID for what used to be a pretty good company; USF&G Insurance.  Like a lot of “pretty good” companies, it is long  gone; first purchased by The St Paul who was later purchased by Travelers.  Being "pretty good" doesn't cut it in the real world today.  Avoiding unnecessary debt is the only sure fire way to  stay strong in a teetering economy...personally or business-wise.  Borrow at the peril of your business or personal lifestyle.  Modern day prophets have warnd the Saints, "Get out of debt and stay out of debt."
I was fortunate enough to have a good enough relationship with the Church that for the years I was in SLC we wrote the property coverage on the Church’s commercial property; apartment complexes, malls, tenant occupied office buildings.  Most all the other Church owned property was self-insured…I know the chapels were.  Don't recall about our large temples.

I don’t recall who wrote the Church’s auto fleet, though I knew the fleet manager.  I think I know why I never pursued that line of coverage now that I’ve been on my mission.  I imagine the physical damage on the fleet is currently self-insured.  But there is still the liability line that poses a large portion of the Church’s assets to loss.  Can you imagine the underwriter who has this account?  I’m guessing over 90% of the fleet is driven by carefree teenagers (young men just out of high school and now on their mission who hardly knowhow to drive) or a bunch of old fogies (senior missionary couples like Pam and me who are now falling back into that same category) coupled with driving UK style on the wrong side of the road!  
 Pam and I just a few years down the road....maybe on our 4th or 5th mission for the Church

This week I began teaching English to some of our Acholi members.  There are two free English courses the Church makes available to it's members.  I will be teaching the basic course while a new convert to the Church, Walter Nyeko, a police detective, will be teaching the more advanced class.  (He is a former English teacher. ) Each class held twice a week.  Right now on Sunday during Sunday School and on Saturday morning.  They are great courses and really important in a nation where English is the official language of the country.  There are dozens and dozens of tribes and languages spoken here.  Those in the "village", the country, have never learned English.  They move into town and there is no hope of a job, the economy is bad enough as it is, but if you can't read or write English, there is no way out of poverty.  It's back to a basic tenant of the Gospel..."self-reliance".

Par for the course...I had one student show up and she belonged in Walter's advanced class.  Walter was absent due to a death in his family.  Just as we were hour later, the other advanced student showed up.  No one for my basic class showed up.  I am out of town Sunday, so it will be next Saturday before I try again.  People have to make up their minds if they want to be helped or not.  We cannot force our ourselves on them.  But it was a delight teaching them and seeing what little progress we made in one hour and the confidence each student seemed to exude.  You could tell they were proud of themselves.
Ran into these Alabama Football Fan Rednecks in Kampala recently.  My kind of people!  Not really...this is an Auburn fan!  Not really, haven't seen this guy anywhere over here.
but he looks like he'd make a great Bama fan...he and his sweetheart behind him.

Our compound guard chomping away on some sugar cane...bringing back childhood memories of Camilla, GA where Grandma Brooks lived...the only place I remember getting this stuff from.  It is grown all over Uganda.
 Some flower pedals some of young Church girls picked after Chruch
And then rolled up the pedals to make this case, a "heart" with the word "I"and "Jesus" spelled out in the center.
 Here they are, hard at work.

Thought you'd like this one, maybe not..kinda gross actually.  We have a 3 filter water filter system.  We change filter 1 monthly.  The second filter every other month and then once a quarter all 3 filters.  The above pic shows the difference in what a new filter #1 on the left  looks like before it is inserted into place and what a filter #1 looks like about 30 days later on the right..  This first filter obviously is capturing the large impurites...what I call plain and simple dirt from the city water system. The other two filters catch the smaller stuff...the stuff that might get into your digestive system and wreak havoc for a while...if you know what I mean.  Pretty obvious why we don't drink the water here...unless it is filtered.

Pam found another beetle...a really big one, of course.  Probably close to 2 1/2 to 3 inches long.  Pam loves all the creatures, no matter how strange they may be.  I guess that's why she married me.
 A small...10x10 brick building.  Didn't go inside...was in a hurry.  But not too much of a hurry to stop and talk to a lady and an unrelated fellow who wanted to know who I was, what I was doing in Gulu, why I was taking the picture, etc.   They were very interested in the Church.  I left them some reading material, invited them to Church the next day and both came...each to one of the separate branches we have here.  Andrew is late 20's and Susan in mid-50's.  The members did a good job of fellowshipping them...I ran into both of them because I was running back and forth between the two branches conducting business..  Susan wanted to know when she was going to be baptized.  I told her she must first be taught by the missionries.  She then asked me when that was going to happen.  Took me all of 30 seconds to find the missionaries, introduce them and have them set a teaching appointment.  She came to Church the following Sunday too to watch the Church's Worldwide Broadcast of General Conference via DVD's and brought two friends with her.  A couple of days later I received an email from Andrew wanting to maintain contact.   Get a phone call every other day or so from him.

On our way to Kampala two weeks ago...a scene we drive upon too often. This one looked bad.
Front and rear view. Our previous mission president owns a number of Peterbuilt Truck dealerships in the west. Knows his trucks. He says these local trucks flip so frequently because, for same strange reason, the trailer or tanker is built high off the center of gravity, making them top heavy and very unstable. They hit one of our highway shoulders and go right over. Sometimes don't see one of these on a trip. Sometimes see 2 or 3 badly wrecked vehicles. The two lane asphalt can become one lane very quickly here as the asphalt on the sides of the road has crumbled or washed away in the rains. A truck may try to avoid an oncoming vehicle or a large pothole and catch the edge of the road.


You'll want to double click this pic.  Pam stumbled across this scene just down the street as she was out jogging on Ugandan Independence Day.  Someone had just slaughtered a cow and was selling the meat to eat.  And when I say meat, I mean all of it.  People were buying anything that could be chewed.  They offered Pam the head but she wasn't sure if that was because they didn't want it or because they thought she wanted to buy it.  She was told, "people eat it all."  Like Independence Day in the USA, people cookout and eat here...except they "eat it all".  We're thinking the head was offered to Pam to buy and eat.  Nothing thrown out to the dogs.
His presence looms over Title-Town (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the uneducated) 30 years after his passing. 
One of the real hard parts of our mission for me has been missing some of the Bama football games.  This is something I haven't done since I was 11 years old when we won our first title under the Bear.
Saturday is such a long day here.  At 8:00 PM I want to check on a few scores around the country only to realize that none of them have even kicked-off yet.  And some of the games are still going when I awake Sunday morning...makes for a very long day, believe me.
"Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature.  There seems to be an unending supply of challeges for one and all.  Our problem is that we often expect instantaneeous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virture of patience is required."
President Thomas S Monson, President of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints.
Patience, a heavenly virture we should pursue
"...but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearets by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."  Romans 8:3-5
Patience is defined as "the capacity to endure delay, trouble, oppostion, or suffering witout becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.  It is the ability to to do God's will and accept His timing.  When you are patient, you hold up under pressure and are able to face adversity calmly and hopefully.  Patience is related to hope and faith-you must wait for the Lord's promised blessing to be fulfilled.  You need patience in your everyday experiences and relationships, especially with your companion.  You must be patient with all people, youself included, as you work to overcome faults and weaknesses"  (Preach My Gospel, p. 120)


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