Friday, July 31, 2009

Divine Connections

2009-07-31 23:00 Kampala Time, 16:00 Roanoke Time.

Today has been productive. The Word says that the steps of a righteous man are ordered of God, and we wholeheartedly agree with that!

Step One...This morning at breakfast Debbie began talking with a missions group from Brooklyn Tabernacle. They just finished up a medical clinic here in Kampala, and most of the group will return home Saturday. One family, however, (Roger & Olga and their son David) will be continuing on through Massai Country holding additional medical clinics. Apparently BT sends out medical teams on a very regular basis.

Olga, a Physician's Assistant, had the responsibility of organizing and overseeing the entire Medical Clinic project. She shared with us some of what she'd done and allowed us to view some of the photographs. Somehow the topic turned to nebulizer (breathing treatment) machines. We'd brought machines and circuits with us, but had been unable to bring any albuterol (a breathing medication) with us. We'd hoped to buy it here, but we've been told that it's difficult to obtain in Uganda. Olga generously offered to give our team a box of the medication for our Free Clinic days. Praise God! What a blessing!

Another Step...I had been told of a man who dehydrates food on an island in Lake Victoria. Since the Solar Drying project is my "pet project", I was very interested in meeting someone locally who had already done what we are wanting to do.

By Pastor Solomon's request, our project has a two-fold purpose. It has both socio- and economic purposes. By socio- I'm referring to the aspect that will help the individual families preserve their own food, extend the use of the foods from their growing seasons, and provide a community activity that can be an actual "communal" activity. By economic I'm referring to the income potential that is opened up by the marketing and distribution of the dried food product being produced.

This afternoon I had a 1-1/2 hour meeting with Mr. Ephraim Muwanga, the Project Coordinator for the jali ORGANIC Development Project. I won't go into great detail about what that is, except to say that it is a 14-year, 5-Component project, with it's initial focus being the Agro-Development Project. The Project is being conducted on the island of Busi in Lake Victoria. There is no electricity or modern conveniences on Busi. Many of the people still use lake water for drinking purposes. :-{

The end purpose of the jali Project is that the residents of that area will be self-sufficient through sales from their organic food dehydration plant. The plant provides jobs to the local residents and will provide money for health and education services and for providing clean water. All without having to beg for help from outside sources.

I wanted to meet with Mr. Muwanga because he originally started with solar drying, before switching to a commercial bio-mass-powered dryer for efficiency. He had done months worth of research across Uganda observing other organizations' dehydration methods, which products were best suited, etc. I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel if it's already been invented, so I wanted to pick his brain.

Admittedly, much of what he shared was not applicable to our project at this time due to differences in financial backing...he had investors...we had a challenge raising money just to get here. (It seems to me there has to be SOMEONE out there who'd like to help an impoverished community in a third world country become empowered to not only feed themselves better, but to be able to provide financial support for themselves as well.)

Anyway, I gained some tremendous insight into not only Mr. Mugawa's project, but into how to help Pastor Solomon develop a realistic plan for the Bulenga community to establish a similar project, albeit most likely on a smaller scale. We're thinking in the right direction at least.
This afternoon we went to the mall (yes, a real mall) and bought a couple cell phones and a few other items. we finished the day with the traditional Namirembe Guesthouse Friday Night BarBQue: All you can eat Goat, Pork, and Chicken...and various veggies, desert, and a soft drink. It was delicious. Just like we remembered it from last trip. And only $7.50 USD.

Last night there were no mosquitoes, but tonight I think I was on THEIR menu. I've been bit by more in the last hour than I saw in my whole last trip...I guess I use the mosquito net tonight...yay... :-(

Gonna close. Good night to everyone!

Thoughts From Debbie...

I am very happy to be in Uganda again. There are many things that I had forgotten about being outside a major city, mainly the pollution. Everyone has to dispose of their own garbage and most burn it. It causes a nasty sinus response. God sent a nice breeze today to take it away so that we were able to breathe easier and see the beauty of the city more clearly from the guest house. We have seen more of Kampala this trip that all of the last trip. The people dress differently in the city, especially the women. There were many who were dressed much like the women in the US. We have also seen far more international travelers. I think it might be the high tourist season.

Plans are coming along well for the projects and we have made contacts with some wonderful people. The schedule for the health projects is set. Ms Doreen is such a wonderful woman of God, she knew what she wanted and how it would work with the school schedule. I think it will be a success.

I must say that Joshua has been instrumental in the success of the trip thus far. He met us at the airport with his nieces bringing us roses. I felt like a rock star. Then revived us with dinner and conversation. I really appreciate all he has done for us and with us.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Safe Arrival and Hitting the Ground Running

2009-07-30 It's 9:17 pm Kampala time. (2:17 Roanoke time) I'm sitting in the open-air tiki hut coffee bar at Namirembe Guesthouse, looking out over the city of Kampala. (NOT a Starbucks-type coffee bar. Just plain coffee and bottled sodas.) It's been a great day today. Very productive. But let me backtrack just a bit.

Our two 8-hour long flights were both good. KLM takes good care of their passengers. The only mishap was that something went wrong with the system that runs the toilets on one whole half of the plane, so they were out of order for over half the flight. My only prayer was that the OTHER half of the toilets would stay working! With over 200 passengers and over 4 hours left to our destination it would have been a BIT of a problem if they were ALL out of order. We were still a good 3+ hours from Europe, so there was nowhere to do an emergency landing to change out planes.

As we got closer to Uganda it hit me again how that even if it comes in bits and pieces at times, God DOES still give us the desires of our heart. I felt like I did 2-1/2 years ago when we FIRST came to Uganda...For 25-years it's been a burning passion of mine to go full-time into missions. That door has to open soon...hope deferred makes the heart faint.

We landed at around 8pm last night. Immigration registration took much less time that it might have. All of our luggage showed up, and Joshua was there to pick us up, accompanied by his twin nieces, Ruth & Naomi, bearing bouquets of long-stem roses. Our baggage wouldn't have fit in Joshua's car, so he'd called the guesthouse to send their van for us. The driver arrived in normal "Uganda time" fashion (5min = "oh, maybe an hour or whenever the traffic clears or I decide to get there") and we made our way the hour long ride to Namirembe. Well, we did stop to grab a bite to eat...a Chinese restaurant that Joshua knew of...yummy!

Today Rocky went to scout out availability of supplies for the solar dryer. He's waiting on a call back from a local contact, so we still don't have anything definite there. While Rocky was on a mission to find supplies, Debbie and I were with Pastors Solomon and Doreen Mwesige.
We stopped at a local pharmacy that caters to travelers, and I went "malaria medicine shopping". I hadn't taken anything prophylactically (sp?) due to no insurance and the expensive nature of the medication back home, but here it is cheap (but good quality - mine was Swiss-made), readily available, and requires no prescription. You just walk in and tell them what you want; they show you your available options, and you pay them. I got two-months worth of mefloquine for 39,000 UgSh ($19.50 USD).

After that we headed to the hospital to do the scheduling for each of our particular projects and to meet with the medical staff to determine what types of patients we will be treating next week. "Missions medicine" is a LOT different than practicing medicine in the States. What that means for us is that we as nurses and a respiratory therapist will actually be diagnosing and treating particular diseases like malaria under the guidelines set out by their doctor. We will also be teaching their staff about nutritional factors in healthcare, wound care management, and certain other areas of expertise in which they have not had training.

As we got closer to the hospital, I hardly recognized the area around Life Link Medical Centre due to the growth the area has experienced. The hospital has electricity now, a big improvement from our last mission there. There is still no running water, however. Water must be purchased every day in big Jerry cans. There is a fenced area around the front of the building now for security. They've made some changes in the rooms and now there are actual privacy curtains between the ward beds, a private injection room, and a LOCKED pharmacy room. It was so exciting to see the changes that had been made!

Then we went to the school, which I didn't recognize at first either. The house for which we sent money to purchase to provide additional classroom space (Our 2008 Project) is just a few feet from the back of the long brick building that was already in place on the last visit. It's really big and has allowed the school to expand and add a large number of children.

Next door to King Solomon's Academy and Good News Church, on the left, there is now a High School in what used to be a small row of huts. On the other side of the High School is the huge structure that is being built to house the school, much of which is currently in thatch or open-board walled structures with dirt floors and termite eaten support posts. The new building is approx 160-feet long, 40-ish feet wide, and will eventually be four-stories high. Once completed, the new facility will include flush toilets for the boys and girls on each story and a separate kitchen building. (I'm uploading pictures of the completed first story.)

The top of the completed first story is where we decided that we will build the prototype of the solar dryer and where I'll teach the people how to dehydrate their foods to preserve them for later consumption.

Before we left the compound we got to spend time with some of the school kids. They are great! You can't help but fall in love with them. They get great pleasure gathering around, rubbing our very light-toned arms, chanting "Muzungu! Muzungu!", and giggling loudly. Lol! (For those who don't know Luganda, the language of the area, "muzungu" means "white man".)

We made a stop at the Pastors' house to meet their youngest daughter, Shanna, and were treated to an endless glass of fresh squeezed passion fruit juice. The Mwesige's are a wonderful couple who have such a heart to serve the people to whom they've been sent. They have been given a tremendous vision for the ministries over which they preside (Good News Church, Life Link Medical Centre, and King Solomon's Academy.)

During our recent 2009 FCCI International Ministers/Missions Conference in Roanoke, one of the speakers challenged us to, instead of looking at what we DON'T have, to look at what we do have in our hands to work with and begin thanking God for working with us with what we have. As we are faithful with that, God will begin to bless it and cause it to prosper and grow into what He has called us to eventually step into. Pastors Solomon and Doreen are great examples of that. They started with pretty much nothing, but began to use what they did have and thank God for it. It has grown into a work that touches multiple thousands of people on a regular basis.

When God has someone with a willing heart and an obedient spirit who is not willing to accept failure as an end result, He can change the world!

Well, gotta go for now. More tomorrow...

Happy Anniversary, Pastors Eddie and Debbie Crabtree! We love you!

And Happy 25th Birthday to my Baby Girl, Zipporah! I love you! Thanks for willingly sacrificing "Mom Time" so that I can be here sharing the love of God with the people here. That's good seed in good ground and every seed produces a harvest!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Our Way...Sort Of!

Well, the lead (consisting of me, Chris, and Rocky) are on our least sort of. We're sitting on an Airbus A330-200, ready to make the first of two 8-hour flights that will carry us to Uganda. We started to taxi a while ago, then the plane stopped. We're parked here right now. Apparently there is a weather front somewhere off the coast...approx an hour out if I understood correctly. We're all just waiting until the "coast is clear" so we can take off.

I heard a few people grumbling about the delay. It brought to mind those who tragically passed away earlier this year off the South American coast in a storm. I'm sure that if they could give us advice right now, they'd tell us the delay is so much better than a possible alternative...

Anyway, once we get started we're expecting a great flight... We're leaving!!! Yay!