On to Arua and the Rhino Refugee Camp

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It wasn’t until morning that I found this gash in the screen.  The screen where the lizard had been hanging out!  Glad I didn’t wake up to new bed-mate!  Below are a couple of scenes from our journey on to Arua.  We stopped at a roadside stand to get some mangoes which are now ready.  Several ladies were selling shea oil in reused water and soda bottles.  In the second picture, there is a carcass of some description under the leaf covering.  We did not partake of that!

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We made it to Arua around lunchtime on Tuesday.  The road getting there was paved and in good condition.  Arua is a larger town northeastern Uganda, near the border with South Sudan.  Our hotel was very well appointed and had air conditioning!  It worked well until the power went out on the first night.  But the room had already cooled down and we were able to sleep well anyway.  Electricity is fairly dependable in Uganda, but you can run into random outages every once in a while.

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We decided to go on out to the Rhino Camp that afternoon.  We got several differing estimates as to the amount of time it would take us to get there.  It ended up being a 2 hour excursion on an unpaved and bumpy road.  I believe the distance was about 60 km (37 miles).  We were surprised at the size of the camp.  Once we passed the entrance, it took us another hour to get to the first church we wanted to visit.  These are a couple shots from the road to Rhino.

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I have already published this on Facebook, but let me state it here also:  Let it be known, now and forever more, that Pastor Simon Kariuki was the first member of our With Open Eyes team to set foot in the Rhino Camp on the 25th day of April in year of our Lord, 2017.  If you can’t tell by the picture, our team had a lot of fun together!

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Below is our welcoming committee when we arrived.  The ladies even sang for us.  Tom and I had the honor of being the first white men to visit the church.  It was started in October of 2015.

Pastor Simon (#2) is in the middle of the above left picture in the dark blue shirt and on the left in the below left picture.  Pastor Sunday is on the right in the below left picture.  They are refugees and Mobile Messengers living in the Rhino camp.  This church is the one that Pastor Sunday works with and is an interdenominational one.  You can see the exterior in the below right picture.  Pastor Sunday’s son is on the left in the below left picture.  What a handsome boy!

We did not know that the church was going to have a formal program for us.  They had been waiting for us to arrive since around lunchtime.  We got to hear about each area of the church and their specific needs:  youth, Sunday School, worship, women.  The people are hungry for Bibles.  Many of them had to leave South Sudan in such a hurry, they left with nothing but the clothes on their back.  They want musical instruments to help in worship.  They are using drums now which are mostly handmade.  And they sounded great, by the way!  They see music and worship as a means of attracting new people to the church.  Many of the women do not have cooking utensils.  The pastors would like to get some Bible training.  Many of these people have experienced trauma in their flight from South Sudan.  Trauma counseling and social counseling are needed to help reconcile victims and those responsible.  So, so many needs.

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Above is the With Open Eyes bunch:  Pastor Tom Burger, Pastor Simon Kariuki, and Pastor Sosthen Lahti.  Sosthen is translating for Tom.  Note the bullhorn behind Tom that is used as a pa system.

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I also got a chance to speak to the church briefly about the agricultural training we are doing and the drip irrigation kits.  Pastor Sunday is translating.  We had planned on returning on Wednesday, but God had other plans for us, which I will detail a little later.

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This is inside Pastor Sunday’s house.  It is a tukul and has dirt walls and a thatch roof.  We were not aware that they had prepared a meal for us until we finished the meeting and where trying to go to the next church.  I cannot tell you how humbling it is receive food from people in a situation like this.  To know that many times over the past year or so they have probably been hungry and now they are giving food to you is just incredible.  So, we sat and we ate.

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This is Pastor Simon #2’s church.  This is a shelter that the UN provided, nothing more than a pipe structure and a tarp covering.  A really strong wind had just come through the area while were at the first camp and I was a little surprised the tarp was still holding on.   We were able to say a brief hello and then get on the road back to Arua.

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It is difficult to fully describe the spirit of these people.  They love God.  They seek to learn more about Him and to worship Him.  They are so very thankful for the things they have, even when we would say it is very little.  They recognize that everything comes from God.  Their hearts overflow with joy when they worship.  They are faithful givers, even out of their impoverished situation.  And they are active in spreading the Love of God to their fellow man.  This was my fourth trip to Africa and each time I have been touched in a different way.

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The duffle bag in the above picture has 50 kids t-shirts from Shandon Baptist Church.  We also brought 20 drip irrigation kits that were supplied by GAiN USA.  I am so thankful for their US staff and the help of Marvin Bozard in getting these kits for us.  This is truly a team effort!

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In the background you can see the water point near Pastor Sunday’s church.  You can see a light pole on the left with solar panels on top.  This water point is connected to a central well at another location.  They have the same problem as the camp at Kiryandongo with there not always being water available.  Below is another water point we saw as we were driving into Pastor Sunday’s church.  You can see all of the water jugs lined up.

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We were also told that food distribution has also been spotty.  The UN is struggling to keep up with the demands of so many refugees, with over 50,000 at Rhino camp alone.

The needs are staggering and can easily be overwhelming.  It is our belief that God has brought the people of South Sudan to this point for a reason.  After being in South Sudan in 2015, you could have never convinced me then that the country would be where it is now.  We see this as an incredible opportunity to reach many people in a somewhat confined space.  Once they go back home, the logistics of ministering to them become so much more onerous.  When you are doing metalwork, you put the iron in the fire and get it red hot and you must bend it into the shape you want while it is hot.  Strike while the iron is hot, the saying goes.  We believe that God has brought the South Sudanese to this place to make them more open and receptive to His Word.  We are redoubling our efforts of teaching and support to do as much as we can as soon as we can.

We finally were able to get back on the road to Arua.  Brian, our driver, had wanted to get us off the road before dark.  There were some very dark clouds also building in around us.  About half way back, the heavens opened up.  It was the kind of rain that would drown a frog.  And remember we are driving on a dirt road.  At one bad spot, our 4 wheel drive van got stuck and started sliding into the ditch.  The ditch that had a river of water running in it.   We got out in the pouring rain to try to help push.  That didn’t really help that much, but finally with us out of the van, Brian was able to maneuver the van back up on the road.  But we were soaked!  Wish I had taken a picture, but I was just ready to get in out of the rain!

We continued up the road and finally hit the paved road on the outskirts of Arua.  I think I could ring water out of my pants when I got to the hotel!  Because of the condition of the road, we had to make the hard decision to not go back to the Rhino camp on Wednesday.  But, God had plans for us to see something else, which I will detail in another post.

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Above is a shot of us eating dinner once we were back and cleaned up at the hotel.  Going from left to right, it is me, Simon, Brian, Sosthen, and Andrew, a Bible translator who is a friend of a friend of Tom’s from Charlotte.  I think Tom might be a little camera shy, so that’s him taking the picture!  But his food looks good, doesn’t it??  Thanks for reading!

 

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