Mzungu Memoirs

Archive for September, 2011

Seeds for Uganda’s Future

Kevin Kalibbala grew up in a typical Ugandan family with three siblings in a family struggling to provide food, educate children and keep everyone healthy.  At the age of six, Kevin’s mother died from a preventable disease because the family could not afford the bribe to the clinic guard to get in to see an actual nurse or doctor, let alone the treatment once they were inside.  About a year later, at the age of seven, Kevin’s father died in the same manner.  $20 USD would have treated either one of his parents.

Completely orphaned, the siblings were passed around to varying extended family and often mistreated.  Kevin ended up being taken care of by an aunt who felt called to pay his school fees through secondary school.  Finding it difficult to cope with the loss of both parents due to a lack of access to simple medical treatment, Kevin found solace in physical running.

Kevin was good at running…and I mean really good.  Coaches realized in secondary school he had a gift for running.  He never lost a 100M race and was the Uganda 100M national champion.  Kevin was offered several track scholarships to universities in the United States, including Florida State University.  He decided to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, a Christian university.

After college, he stepped (or ran) into the world running arena, competing with names such as the Jamaican Usain Bolt.  Kevin was training and scheduled to represent Uganda in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  Unfortunately, he tore his ACL just months before the Olympics.

During his short running career, he had also been adopting Ugandan orphans in partnership with his brother, using the house left by his late father.  Using his own personal savings and revenues from competitions and advertisements from his running fame, he felt called to care for Ugandan orphans, having experienced it first-hand.  Kevin thus started the Greenhouse Project.  He and his brother are currently caring for 64 Ugandan orphans.

Taken from their website: “The overall purpose of the Greenhouse Project is to provide a Christian home for orphans in Uganda, Africa, where they can grow in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  We came upon the name of this project from an analogy of an actual greenhouse. During the winter season, a greenhouse provides a safe, nourishing place for plants to grow.  While most vegetation may be dead outside, the plants within the greenhouse are warm and healthy.  And after the cold has passed, the mature plants can then be planted back into their natural environment—growing and reproducing.  Our goal at the Greenhouse Orphanage is to take these children out of their parentless environments and place them in a type of “greenhouse”—an orphanage conducive to growth.  Being rooted in Christ, we plan to raise these children to be the future of Uganda, giving them hope and a chance for salvation.”

My task in serving this ministry was to assist the site survey, meet with Kevin to discuss ministry vision/architectural program and develop a site master plan.  As designed, the site will provide housing for 100 orphans, a primary school for 400, an open multipurpose assembly space, kitchen, guest house for 50 and housing for house mothers and cooks.  The master plan will maintain the existing residence where Greenhouse Orphanage is currently operating.  Unfortunately, the small site will not allow for other dreams of a vocational school, clinic, agricultural farm and animal husbandry.

A large majority of my work here in Uganda has been serving ministries with these small master plan packages.  These documents help potential supporters see the God-given vision, possible project phasing and rough cost estimates.  Some 3-D images offer even more visualization of the possibilities.

Thanks to all of our prayer, emotional and financial supporters for empowering us to follow our calling to come serve Uganda in such a unique way with the talents God gave us.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

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Restful Adventure

I don’t think anyone can argue with the importance of taking time to rest and rejuvenate for life ahead.  Even God took time rest on the seventh after creating the world.  It is especially important here in Africa.  Life is just harder here.  And it can especially wear on those of us who have not lived here all our lives and are not accustomed to the difficulties.  So, Robert and I decided to rest for a couple of days this last week.  We left Caleb at home with friends to give our marriage a little R&R too.  As we were heading off on our little “adventure,” we realized that we could not remember being away from home without Caleb since he was two years old.  He is now six.

We started our little getaway in downtown Kampala with brunch.  I know, not much of a getaway, but it does get better.  After all, we did journey from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere and back again, even if it was only 40 miles away.

After brunch we walked across downtown to catch a matatu heading to Entebbe.  This entailed navigating Old Taxi Park, an adventure unto itself.  After asking for directions from two different people (Robert calls it the triangulation method of getting directions), we found the correct matatu just in time to join the crowd of people trying to get on it.  Fortunately, we did get seats and we were off.

When boarding the matatu, we told the conductor we needed to go to the ferry landing in Entebbe.  Unfortunately, after nearly an hour ride, it did not take us all the way to the landing as we had hoped, so we had to ride boda-bodas for the last little bit.

We arrived at the landing and purchased our tickets (14,000 UGX or just over $5.00 per person for first class).  With some time before boarding, we stopped by the little restaurant at the landing for a quick bite for lunch.  Apparently, it is a frequent concern when a mzungu walks into a local restaurant because we were told twice that they only had “local food.”  We were actually hoping for some local food.

Boarding began at 1:30, half an hour before sailing time, and it seemed a little bit like getting on a plane.  We actually had to go through “security” before we could board, and Robert had his pocket knife confiscated, at least for the duration of the ferry trip.  It was interesting that there were two lines, one for men and one for women.  The men were getting pat downs (by male security guards), while the women were mostly just getting their bags looked through (by female security guards).

Once through security, we boarded the ferry.  After maneuvering through the vehicle deck, we walked through Second Class to the back of the ferry to “First Class.”  Despite minimal differences between first and second class, I was glad we paid the extra 4000 shillings for first class as the benches were actually padded.  I can’t imagine how long the 3½ hour trip would have felt without them.

We were the only mzungus on the ferry which held about 80 passengers, not counting crew and security.  Fortunately, we were pretty much left to ourselves, not suffering too much from the fishbowl effect that we so often experience here.  I will admit that we have a tendency to stand out.

While a TV was provided in first class, I don’t know that it was much of a perk.  It was difficult to hear and the shows were … inconsistent.  We started with a Hispanic soap opera with English dubbing, but it did not finish due to cloud cover interfering with the satellite signal.  Then a Korean movie with English subtitles was played, but there must have been something wrong with the DVD because it did not finish either.  Finally, an English movie called “The Red Baron” was played, but we could not hear anything and the ferry landed before the movie finished anyway.

Once the ferry landed, we wandered back through Second Class and across the vehicle deck.  Before stepping off the boat, we had to present the receipt for our “tickets” which I guess was our ticket as it was the only thing we had been given.  It seems a common practice here to present payment or proof of payment when getting off a mode of transportation rather than when getting on.

We retrieved Robert’s pocket knife, found our ride to the resort and began our very restful, peaceful stay in the Ssese Islands.  The shuttle bus dropped us off right at the door to the building our room was in, and we pretty much never left until we were ready to head back down to the ferry.  Our meals were brought to us (the building had a common sitting/dining area for the five rooms it housed), and we spent the day truly resting.  And it really was a wonderful setting in which to rest.  We listened to flocks of swallowtails, saw several vervet monkeys just outside our room and met a resident African gray parrot named Diane.  The views were amazing, and it was almost too quiet compared to our noisy city life.

The resort was not full, with very few people with whom to visit.  But I think God knew what we needed better than we did (He always does), and He allowed us time to truly just be ourselves and revel in our mzunguness.

Of course, all too soon our vacation was over and it was time to head home.  The shuttle bus came to pick us up and take us back to the ferry.  Robert’s knife was confiscated again, but we were not too concerned this time as we knew we would be able to get it back upon disembarking.  We sat right in front of the TV in hopes of being able to hear it better, to no avail.  We were able to hear the first few shows which were short little cultural clips about Uganda and really quite interesting.  But then, when the movie came on, we couldn’t hear it very well which was a shame because it was the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie and I think I really would have enjoyed watching it.  Oh, well.

We did have a nice visit with a fellow Ugandan passenger who was quite interested in the cross-stitch piece I was working on.  I don’t think he quite understood the concept that I was working on it as a gift rather than a way to make money.

Once back on land, we caught a couple of bodas back to central Entebbe.  It was a bit of a wild ride, and I was a little concerned whether the boda drivers actually knew where they were going, but we finally found a matatu bound for Kampala.  Then it was back to real life, but after such a refreshing few days, I think we are ready to face what comes our way.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:31-32

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Signs of the Times

I have often thought about the nature and personality of God.  Some of this is sparked by the apparent irony of a gracious, yet just God.  Other times, I wonder about human personalities in the context of all of us being created in His image.  One thing I have often considered is that God has a sense of humor.  After all, He did create the platypus, the otter and the penguin.  Some scripture offers a glimpse of that humorous character…“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” – Proverbs 21:9.  Of course, a Godly sense of humor would not be cruel, demeaning or judgmental as the humor of us humans can be at times.  Rather, it would be uplifting and joyful. “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.” – Proverbs 15:30

For many years, I have found humor in signs.  For this week’s blog, I would like to share some of the signs I have captured that have made me laugh.  I also want to share these as a glimpse into some of the culture here in Uganda.  Pictures can often express more than needless verbosity.  Enjoy!

Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. – Psalm 126:2-3







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Full House

This week we welcomed six new members into the eMiEA family: five new interns and one new Long Term Volunteer.  On Wednesday, they arrived weary but excited for the adventure that lay ahead.  Incredibly, they arrived with their luggage intact.  Landing in Uganda on a morning flight, most of the office was there to welcome their entrance in a very packed matatu.

In the days after their arrival, the office has been a flurry of training and orientation activities.  Since we arrived a week after the interns last term, we missed all this excitement, so we are taking advantage of some of it this time around including cultural discussions and a Lugandan language lesson.  My favorite part, though, about these first few days with the new interns has been hearing their testimonies and how God has worked in their lives.

As part of the resident eMiEA family (strange to think of ourselves that way, but we have been here six months now), we were asked to host the interns for a meal and take some time to share our testimonies with them.  We had no problem accepting this assignment as we love to open our home and provide hospitality to others.  Robert has often said this is one of my gifts, and I like to at least try to live up to his praises.

So, Thursday evening, we had twelve people packed into our little Living Room.  Literally every chair type surface we have in the house had a butt in it, including two stools that also double as night stands.  There were the three of us, of course, as well as our co-hostess, Brittany, a full-time staff member and adopted aunt to Caleb.  Then there were the 5 interns: Aaron, Jake, Erland, Kevin and Katie, our lone female intern.  And Rose, our new structural long term volunteer, who has been taking advantage of the intern orientation.  We had also invited Gary and Erin Hightower, the long term volunteer and his wife who arrived a couple of weeks ago as we had not ever specifically shared our testimonies with them.

Needless to say, we had a very full house.  But it isn’t just our house that is full.  The eMiEA office has gotten quite full as well.  The interns will all pack into one room as their office space.  The long term volunteers are in another room, with the rest of the staff scattered throughout the rest of the offices.  We even have another full-time staff member coming in another couple of weeks.  We are literally bursting at the seams, and we are anticipating additional staff and long term volunteers coming in January in addition to the six new interns that will replace the current five.  I really don’t know where we are going to put everyone.

But it is a good problem to have.  The more hands available, the greater the need that can be served.  I love being part of the eMiEA family.

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’ Luke 14:23

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