Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 56...Karuma Falls

I warned you we'd be cutting back to one blog post every two weeks or so for certainly the work would begin to not slow down but become routine enough that it would not be necessary to repeat to you current events....well, it hasn't happened yet.  Each new week brings newness.

"Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done this unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
One of our blog readers wrote in part: “In your blogs, you have done an excellent job in describing the culture … medical facilities and living conditions the Ugandan people … endure…. What roll does the church play in helping these people?...”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always followed the admonition of the Savior to care for the poor and the needy.  Under current world conditions, the needs far exceed resources, but there is a tremendous amount that is being done through church avenues.

One of these is through member donations to fast offerings, a practice that began in Old Testament times (i.e., Isaiah 58) and continues today  At least once a month, faithful members voluntarily abstain from food and drink for a specific amount of time, then donate the equivalent or more as an offering to assist the poor.  If needs are minor locally, the moneys are used in other parts of the world and are distributed through a local LDS bishop or branch president.  Where possible, the recipient renders some kind of service in return, thus preserving his/her dignity while receiving welfare assistance. Nearly EVERYONE here is in need, so sacred fast offering funds are discerningly disbursed, generally used for medical or hospital expenses.  Though food here may appear scanty – sometimes one meal a day – most everyone has access to food from plots of land in their village.  Clothes are purchased second-hand, often the bundles of clothes the church sends, but they are disbursed through the government to local vendors. 

Another way the people are assisted is through LDS Charities.  In the last decade alone, LDS Charities has provided 100s of millions of dollars in goods and services to people in 179 countries, without any regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality and is based on the core principles of personal responsibility, community support, self-reliance and sustainability.  Some of the ways the church has helped here in Uganda are:

·                   Food production and processing
·                   Donating used clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, household goods;
·                   Dental, vision and medical care; neo-natal training; immunizations
                Business, marketing, budgeting and self-reliance training
·                   Equipment and supplies for schools, hospitals and clinics
·                  Wheelchair distributions
·                  Atmit for malnourished/starving children                       
           Clean water and well projects

The church has also set up excellent agricultural projects.  The following link is to a fascinating short (4 min.)video about cassava farming.  Cassava is a staple in Northern Uganda, as well as in neighboring DR Congo.  The Church has produced a new variety that generates much more food, is disease resistant and can be harvested in 10-12 months, rather than the typical 18-24 months. You’ll enjoy seeing true African living from this little clip.

Additionally, the church helps qualified adults seeking educational/vocational training through the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). 

100% of donations to LDS Charities and PEF go directly to projects or needs.  All overhead expenses are paid by the church itself from separate funds.

Most importantly, the Church teaches the people the Lord’s way of leaving poverty and becoming self-reliant, which includes paying a full tithing, or 10% of their income.  While the wisdom of the world scoffs that such a practice could provide temporal as well as spiritual blessings, the Old Testament prophet Malachi, in speaking for the Lord, taught:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me know herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

The Lord blesses those who follow His counsel – even when the amount paid is extremely small – far greater blessings than any sacrifice made to help build up the kingdom of God.  

Just this Friday, Prossy, one of our young single moms who had come to me a few months ago broken-hearted about her financial situation, was now excitedly sharing her own testimony of how she and her two young boys had been blessed since she started paying tithing on the bananas and avocados she sells in a market.  Nothing is as heartwarming as seeing the glow in the faces of beautiful Africans like Prossy, who are exercising faith, trusting in the Lord, and who are now feeling the peace, happiness and temporal blessings that come from putting the Lord first. 

Beautiful Prossy

We add our testimony that paying tithing is a privilege which we could never afford NOT to pay!

Karuma Falls

Every time we cross the Nile we look eastward and see some magnificent rapids.  They are called Karuma Falls but to me they look more like rapids.  They are just a little over an hour south of us on the way to Kampala.  We generally see a hundreds of baboons and monkeys on the road waiting for handouts.  They have learned it’s easier to wait for handouts than it is to work…sound familiar? 

Awesome, roaring water, even in the low rainy season we are in.  (Rainy season is just cranking up.)  As a matter of fact, we got caught in our first heavy rain of the year on the way home…some phenomenal looking clouds having developed just before the downpour.

This week we took the missionaries to the falls, having learned from a neighbor that one can actually hike to them…just about 15 minutes off the highway.  The elders cooked hamburgers and Pam prepared the condiments, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans, watermelon and chocolate cake so we could have a real picnic at the falls.  The African elders had never seen anything like this before.  They were so excited to be there.  There are pictures below. 

The trees are called “climbing trees”.  Just what you would imagine Tarzan using to swing from tree to tree in.  The vines, to me, are not really vines but branches that come off the trees and get narrower the further away from the trunk they grow.  Maybe that is exactly what a vine is.  We all did some swinging.

I spotted two Monitor Lizards about 3 ½-4 feet long…one just 10 yards away from me scampering away and the other on a rock in the still water.  Tough to see him/her in the picture.  As I moved closer, it slithered into the water.

One can stay overnight in a tent for 30,000 shillings…$12.  There are hippos that meander around the tents at night but don’t seem to bother anyone.  Also crocodiles a good distance away in the water.

At the base of the falls.

The Monitor Lizard sunning on a rock.
This is merely an extension of a branch that has fallen to the ground due to its weight but still growing round and round and up another tree.
 Water weeds or reeds simply circling around in an eddy.  You can see the violent current of water at the top of the weeds.  Simply amazing to me how item(s) can be so close to rushing water and not get sucked in.
 This sole bloom on a rock in the river.
 Pam getting ready to climb onto a "vine" and swing.

 And she's off!

 Photo's don't do this justice.  Storm clouds gathering...awe inspiring.

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