Our departure day (Friday, February 26th) from Yei started with the kids worship again. ‘Jesus is the winner man and the devil is the loser man.’ If only we as adults could remember that.
About every government interaction in Africa is an adventure and in South Sudan it is even more so. We went by the immigration office in Yei and picked up an agent and gave him a ride to the airstrip. He stamped us both out and I thought we were good. Well, another agent wanted to check our bags. Really? Some of them were already on the plane and had to be walked back into the little office. We had to open them all up. He found nothing and finally we were able to load.
We had a short hop to Arua, Uganda, where we had to land and do immigration into Uganda. Arua is also the home base of AIM Air, who we were flying with. We taxied in and got out. We walked over to a tent near the runway where an official was waiting. We paid our fee, gave him our paperwork, and he stamped our passports. Done! No baggage check, no nothing. Easiest entry I’ve ever had!
After getting topped off with fuel, we loaded up and headed on. We had about a 45 minute flight to our destination at Kinyara Sugar Plantation. It is pronounced Chinyara….all K’s are pronounced that way in Uganda. The change in the scenery as we entered Uganda was noticeable. More developed, more pavement, better houses. Also more green. We also flew over a huge lake……hmmmm….don’t remember the safety briefing on the life vests when we started out. Were there any life vests? Don’t know, didn’t ask. We could see the sugar cane in the fields as we approached Kinyara. It was very pretty scenery.
We landed and found our driver waiting. My original contact had taken ill, so we had another driver in his place. His name was also Brian, though. There were 2 Ugandan officials there and we had to sign in with them. But that was it. We then had about an hour drive to make it to our accommodations in Kigumba, also pronounced, Chigumba. We could not get over the good condition of the roads. It was a welcomed change from South Sudan.
We checked into the Hotel Jesse in Kigumba. Relatively new, but no air conditioning. Oh boy. We dropped our bags and headed on out to Kiryandongo refugee camp. Also pronounced Chiryandongo. Our driver straightened me out on the pronunciation…..I had never heard the names spoken.
The camp was about 30 minutes north of Kigumba. I think we arrived around 1pm. Pastor Sosthen is the Mobile Messenger from With Open Eyes who we met last year in Lui, South Sudan.
He had to flee the Lui area because of the fighting. They came to Kiryandongo last July and the area around Lui is still unstable. He does not have plans to return home anytime soon as he does not want to expose his children to war. He has lived through it and wants better for them. The Kiruandongo camp was formerly used by Kenyan refugees. The area that Sosthen is in was uninhabited when he got there.
Sosthen started this church when he arrived. They have built a structure and already had to double the size. We had around 200 there for Sunday worship. He has a network of pastors in place at Kiryandongo to help him with the ministry. They will be able to use the irrigation kits to better feed their families and also provide some extra produce to sell.
Joseph is a neighbor to Sosthen and a former Kenyan refugee. For now, he is staying put also. He has bought some land from the Ugandan government and is farming. He was eager to tell me that he uses herbicides and some fertilizer and has seen great results. He was very interested in the training we were doing. He could not attend Friday as he was returning from his father’s funeral in Kenya.
We started setting up the projection equipment and nothing wanted to work right. We were using a small generator and a solar panel to run the computer and the projector. The projector I had was drawing too much amperage. Thankfully, Sosthen had another one that we were able to use. We were in Sosthen’s church. It is a long mud walled building with a tin roof and a dirt floor. At least it provided some shade from the hot sun. We probably had 50 people in the meeting.
I got through about half of the classroom material and then found out that the group had not eaten lunch. It was nearly 4 by this time. We took a break and had lunch. Goat stew? Beans and eggplant that might be best described as stewed. No utensils, save for a thin bread type thing to sop it all up with. To begin, someone holds a pan and pours water for you to wash your hands. And the guests always have to go first. Somehow, Jon missed the goat. Definite shot of apple cider vinegar for the night!
On Friday afternoon, after lunch, Jon did a devotion with the group. And yes, he was barking like a dog again! He had the congregation rolling. They really enjoy hearing about family and what goes on back in the States. It also started trying to rain. Rain on a tin roof is great for sleeping but not so much for public speaking. Jon was able to wrap up and we headed back to the hotel.
We cleaned up and ate supper at the hotel. The total for three huge plates of rice with a piece of fried chicken was $30,000 shillings…..about $10 USD. Our driver was staying just down the road in another guest house and he walked down there after eating with us. The electricity is not dependable in Uganda, so the hotel has a generator. They cut it on about 7pm.
About 12:30am, we had a loud thunderstorm. About that time the generator also cut off. No more fan. Did I mention no air conditioning?? So it got kinda warm, but we got a fairly decent night’s sleep. We had breakfast at the hotel…..some REALLY good pineapple. I also had an egg and a bread thingy.
We were back out at the refugee camp by about 9, after stocking up on bottled water and a couple Cokes. We did a little prep work on setting up the stands for the water buckets while waiting on everyone to arrive. The group then had chai (tea) and doughnuts. The tea was the hottest thing I think I’ve ever tried to drink. It would have definitely nixed any stomach bugs if you had been able to drink it without burning your mouth!
We went through the remaining training videos and then went out to the garden to put in some of the irrigation. Man, was it hot! The people were quick to pick up the details of installing the drip line. We got the lines laid out and they were able to see some of them in operation with the water. Pastor Sosthen had gotten a 1000 liter tank and run a hose from the water point. This tank will be used to fill the buckets when needed.
We then had lunch. More eggplant, cabbage, beans, the bread thing, and boiled chicken! And lo and behold! A bottled Mountain Dew!! I hadn’t had one in a week and a half! Nectar of the gods!
A few of our folks wanted to review the irrigation video now that they had seen it in the field. So we did that and then went back out to the field later to plant the beds we had prepared.
We planted some okra seed and then finished off the beds with mulch from some straw they had collected. I was impressed with how it all looked.
As we were winding down, one of the ladies came up and stood beside me and was giggling. She wanted a picture with the farmer. So I obliged. It appears Kristin has some competition!
It rained a little more that afternoon and thankfully cooled things off a bit. We got a reasonable night’s sleep aside from being awakened at 5 am with the Muslim call to prayer. We went back out to the camp to worship with Pastor Sosthen at this church.
The man on the left above WALKED over an hour and a half to get to church on Sunday morning. That also meant and hour and a half back home. He is in his eighties and lives in the next village. So tell me again your excuse for missing church??
Jon preached a great sermon on God’s plan for us to work. After shaking every hand in the building, we went into Sosthen’s house and had lunch.
After talking for a while, we bid our hosts adieu and returned to Kigumba.