On the Road to Arua

These are some scenes from our road trip from Kiryandongo to Arua.  In total about a 5 hour drive.  We did 2 hours on Monday afternoon and then completed the trip on Tuesday.

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Somebody call Columbia Farms!!  They are hauling chickens the wrong way!!

A little monkey business.  I would not want to try to try to wrestle an ear of corn from that fellow!

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I wish that we had time to stop and take a lot more pictures of the beautiful African landscape.  Simply wonderous to look at.  Tried to get a decent picture of an elephant we saw, but it just didn’t turn out well.  You’ll have to take my word that we saw one!

This is the Heritage Safari Lodge we stayed at on Monday night.  It is right beside the Nile River.  Beautiful.

The guy on the right up there was trying to eat a few bugs, but he wasn’t making a dent in the population!  It wasn’t until the morning when I noticed a 4 inch gash in the screen he was on.  Hoping he didn’t stow away in my luggage!

Monday at Kiryandongo

On Monday morning, we headed back out to the Kiryandongo refugee camp.  With Open Eyes is sponsoring over 30 pastors to go through a pastor training program.  Tom Burger spoke to the class and encouraged them in their studies.

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Below is a very real experience all over Africa……trying to get fresh, clean water.  Pastor Sosthen’s group has three water points tied to the large well provided by the camp.  But they cannot always get water.  The water table has dropped with the drought and the authority only cuts their water on in the middle of the night some days.  If they want water, they have to get up and fill their containers at night.  In addition, the refugees have to pay the Ugandan government for the water!  We are looking into the possibility of putting in a well for the church to use to help alleviate these problems.

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These next photos are the future and the hope of South Sudan!  Pastor Sosthen started a nursery school last year.  They have 3 classes with almost 100 students in each class!  Sadly, almost one half of these children are orphans.

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Well, I lost power last night at this point!  Trying again this morning!  While we were talking in Sosthen’s office, we had someone try to come and put in her two cents!

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I did a little talk about the drip irrigation to reinforce what I taught last year.  The church really did well with their garden and were able to use the money they got out of the okra crop to buy 2 acres of land!

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We brought about 80 Luopad kits to give to the women,  They were absolutely thrilled to receive them and to know that others cared for and thought about them.  Great thanks to all the ladies that worked on and bought supplies for these pads!

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We then left the camp and started our journey north to the Rhino camp.  Oh, the stories I have to tell……..but that will have to be another post!

A Kiryandongo Sunday

IMG_2217This is Pastor Sosthen’s church at Kiryandongo.  They have added on to it twice since we were here in February of 2016.  There were people everywhere!  And lots of kids!   The church was full.

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And I had more than a few onlookers over my shoulder at the window!

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Many of the kids were excited to see the mzungu (white men).  Tom Burger preached and Pastor Sosthen interpreted.  Tom spoke about Jesus having compassion on suffering people.

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Many came forward during the altar call.

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When the service was over, we went to another church at the camp.  It was started about a year ago.  They have a thriving congregation that is full of the Spirit.

Two ladies who had received charms from a witch doctor brought them after our time of fellowship.  Pastor Simon broke the charms and we then burned them.  We also prayed for deliverance for the ladies.  This spiritual war is real.

We then went to a third church and met with the leaders.  We were able to pray with them and encourage them in their work.

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We finally got a chance to eat!  What a spread!  Chicken, rice, beans, cabbage, and some good ole cat head biscuits!  In case you aren’t from the southern portion of the US, cat head biscuits are just biscuits the size of a grown cat’s head!

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As we were talking after eating, a wonderful, refreshing rain started to fall.   It has been so terribly dry here.  Everyone is praying for better rains this growing season.

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This is the nursery school that Pastor Sosthen has started.  They have almost 300 children that attend.  He has plans to add a primary school as well.

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I’ll have some pictures of the cute kids in the next post!  If this laptop doesn’t end up in the Nile River!  WordPress and I are not getting along well!

A Quick Trip to Uganda

Tom Burger, the operations director for With Open Eyes, called me a few short weeks ago and asked about the possility of me accompanying him on a trip to two refugee camps in Uganda in April.  My thinking was that I would have all my corn planted and be at a little bit of a break in the process.  Ha ha!  I worked up until about an hour and a half before I was to be at the airport trying to get the rest of my irrigated corn planted.

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But here we are, safe in Kampala.  We brought 40 more drip irrigation kits with us.  The shipment I had been waiting on from GAiNUSA is also in place.  So we will have 140 kits to work with!  We also brought over 80 Luopad packs to share with the ladies in the camps.  (That’s almost 500 individually sewn pads, if you’re keeping score!)  We have 100 Shandon Baptist t shirts to give out to some of the kids.  And we have 500 Jesus bracelets for the kids too.  Pastor Sosthen has nearly 300 kids in his church and school alone!

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All of our luggage made it to us at Entebbe.  Tom said that was a first for him in Africa.  I guess I’ve been blessed so far in not having any problems.  The drip kits made it through customs without a hitch.  The only thing that didn’t make it was Pastor Simon!  He dropped his passport and couldn’t make his flight.  But he later found it and will be joining us in Kampala in the morning.  We will then drive the 3.5 hours to Kiryandongo.  The roads are good, so it should be a good day.

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We will be at the Kiryandongo camp Sunday and Monday.  Then on Tuesday, we will drive north to the Rhino camp.  Still waiting on final approval to get in there.  On Thursday, we will fly on a charter flight back to Entebbe and start the journey home.

This is a followup visit for me at Kiryandongo.  Jon Ozmint and I were here last year and did training on drip irrigation.  They really mastered it and did well with it.  They ran into a water sourcing problem (dry well) that we will be looking at for correction.   There will also be a meeting of Mobile Messengers on Monday and we will encourage those pastors.

At the Rhino camp, With Open Eyes is looking to start a congregation.  I will also be looking at ways to help them with ag training and supplies.

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The internet was down at the hotel this morning because it was raining!  So I am late in posting this.  We have stopped for lunch on our way to Kiryandongo.  That is Pastor Simon on the left, our driver Brian in the middle, and Tom on the right.

Women’s Luopad Project

For the better part of 2 years now, Kristin Mixson has been active in making Luopads for less fortunate women in developing areas.  What are Luopads?  They are a washable, reusable feminine hygiene pad.  GAiN USA got us started with them.  They are packaged in a kit and delivered to women all over the world.  Many women withdraw from society during their time of the month.  Schoolgirls don’t come to school and young women can’t do what they need to to care for their families.  These pads help restore dignity and are also used as an evangelistic tool in teaching women that God loves them.

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How are they made?  We use templates to cut out towels and flannel and then the pieces are sewn together.  Help is needed to cut and to sew.  Or if you’d like to purchase supplies we can provide a tax deductible receipt through EDEN.  Here is what is needed:

safety pins (we use 3 per bag)
underwear, size small (we use 2 per bag)
washcloths (1 per bag)
snaps (we use Size 20 Kam snaps–they can be purchased on-line)
flannel material (used is fine)
towels (used is fine)
Over the past 2 years, the ladies working on this have produced nearly 1500 pads.  Over half of those are already in the field, having blessed over 120 women.  If you’d like to be a part of the cutting/sewing, there are some dates coming up at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia:  February 21, March 14, April 18, May 16, late afternoon/early evening.
Below are some links to more information about the project.

 

Robert’s Notes on Empukani

We left Pastor Simon’s house in Namanga at the Kenya border around 3:30 Tuesday afternoon and arrived at Empukani around 6 PM. The last 2 hours of travel was on very rough dirt roads severely eroded during the rainy season and marred by dried mud holes. We crossed several bone dry creek beds, some of which were very deep and wide. It was very apparent that we would not be able to pass through these dry gulches during the rainy season that will begin in several weeks, so this trip to Empukani was very timely. There were  regular sightings and encounters in the road of herds of goats, cows, oxen, and/or donkeys, each accompanied by Maasai men. We could see huts along the road and in the distance, which were homes to these Maasai peoples. The countryside was thick with stressed vegetation in some areas and relatively open for miles in some areas, and mostly hilly, with mountains in the distance. We periodically had very brief sightings of wild African wildlife such as ostrich, impalas, gazelles, baboons, zebras, dik diks, and squido. About halfway to our destination we stopped to stretch our legs and the land cruiser filled up with DOZENS of very friendly flies. But thanks to the extended dry season, I did not see one mosquito!
As we approached the Empukani community we encountered several large groups of children that were extremely excited to see us. I learned the next day that they were walking from the schoolhouse in the community to go to their homes that were several kilometers away. When we arrived, we were greeted by Pastor Timothy and his wife, Agnes, and several other of the community members. After introductions, hand shakes and embracing each other in typical African fashion, we managed to pull away to identify the best area to pitch our tents, which we quickly completed as the sun set over the distant hills.
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After setting up camp, we mingled with some of the locals as we awaited dinner. We were approached by 4 children, who bowed their heads as they had been trained to do as they approached adults, requesting acceptance to join the group. Acknowledgement was provided by placing a hand on their head. One of the With Open Eyes men, Doug, quickly produced several head lights that he had brought and he delighted them by affixing one on each forehead. The next day we met one of the Maasai men named Paul and learned that these were 4 of his 6 children.
The women set about preparing a great meal for us and we sat around a fire to enjoy our meal, fellowship, and have a time of sharing and singing.
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I assure you that all of the meat was VERY fresh and had not been plucked or skinned but a few minutes before being placed in the cook pots. The fresh pineapples, bananas, mangoes, and watermelon were delightful.
Early the next morning, around daylight, before emerging from our tents, I heard voices and footsteps of the local people. From that time around 6:30AM until around 8 AM, groups of children arrived at the relatively new schoolhouse, where they attended school and played sports on the large playground that consisted of a soccer field and volleyball net. I estimated that there were at least 150 children in that field on Wednesday afternoon. They all left in time to get home before dark.
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Most of Wednesday was spent with about 30 Mobile Messengers that arrived on motorcycles from around the region. Many of these pastors shared the difficulties they were having with providing for their families because of the demands of ministering to their churches and the difficulties brought on by the dry season. Several of the With Open Eyes men spoke encouragement from scripture. After several hours of sharing and praying, we broke for lunch. After lunch, Jim spent an hour discussing conservation agriculture best practices after which I shared scripture regarding seeking God with an open heart through difficult times.
We enjoyed listening to some of the Maasai men, Paul and Daniel, talk about life as a Maasai. We were very intrigued by their stories of fighting lions that attacked their flocks, and Paul’s success of killing 5 lions with spear and sword that Maasai men carry at all times and are very skilled with. Several of us practiced throwing the spears, but offered no threat to the lion population.
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We spent our final night in our tents and rose early on Thursday morning to repack for the trip out of the remote community. After a good breakfast prepared by our gracious hosts, we prayed together, embraced our new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ and departed around 8:30 to travel back to Namanga. We took Pastor Simon’s wife Agnes and Daniel to her house and began the trek north to Nairobi.

God’s Handiwork

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I really don’t know where to start to try to relate the last few days.  We are in Nairobi now.  On Tuesday, we had to drive 2.5 hours off-road in a Land Cruiser, through dry riverbeds to get to our destination.  The destination was not Meto as we thought, but rather Empukani, which means a dry place.  That’s how things in Africa often go….you just have to be flexible and roll with it.

 

Eight of us, along with our most excellent driver, Thomas, and luggage and camping gear and food and water and stuff and things……..all packed in and on top of a Land Cruiser.  And speaking of things, I’ve eaten plenty of boxed chicken lunches in my time, but never had one like this!  These guys rode at my feet for the 3 hour trip from Namanga to Empukani.  Think – no refrigeratrion!

 

We went there with a team from With Open Eyes to meet with and encourage a group of their Mobile Messengers.  Tom Burger, the operations director for With Open Eyes, and Pastor Benson, the Biblical training director for With Open Eyes from Nairobi, along with Brian Adams and Doug Arvin from Charlotte were the guys we went with.  Pastor Simon’s wife Agnes also went with us to help feed the team and the Messengers.

We were greeted on the road by Pastor Timothy.  He pastors the church at Empukani along with his wife Agnes.  Yes, that makes 2 Agnes’.  About 30 Mobile Messengers met with us on Wednesday.  Once we got to the church, the rolling terrain leveled out onto a beautiful plateau.  When it wasn’t cloudy, you could see Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  The elevation was around 5100 feet.  Just breath-taking.  The Namanga Hills are clearly visible in the picture below.  Kilimanjaro is off to the right (not visible) and much further away.  Pastor Simon and Agnes #1’s house is on the other side of these hillls in Namanga.

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The church has started a health clinic with a full time doctor and a school with about 100 kids.   Brian used to play baseball at Clemson, and he brought along a bunch of equipment and taught the Mobile Messengers and the kids how to play baseball!  Agnes #1 hit a home run off the old Clemson Ace!  And we just had to introduce the kids to Clemson Tiger pride!  That’s Brian in between Robert and me.

Well, I hate to cut this short, but we’ve got an early morning tomorrow and I’m not even sure about how this internet is going to act about posting this, so I think I will stop here.

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But before I do, let me share with you something that Tom shared with the pastors.  He told them that the people they are preaching the Gospel to are already the Lord’s children – they just don’t know it yet.  They were made by God and placed where they are by Him.  The pastors just need to introduce them to Him.  When is the last time you really felt like a child of God?  Do you need to examine your relationship to your Baba (Swahili for Father)?  Do you know that you are a child of God?

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Words also cannot express how incredible the night sky is out in the bush.  This was the full moon on Tuesday night.  Too many stars to count.  Sorry the picture doesn’t do it justice!  Good night, Moon!