Greetings from Nairobi!

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Well, it has been an eventful trip so far.  I was late in doing the booking for this trip, so I had to take what was available and relatively affordable.  That meant going through Paris.  Hope I don’t have to do that again!  What a hot mess!  But my checked bags liked it so much they decided to stay an extra few days!  I was assured they will make it to Nairobi tonight.  The only problem is I am flying to Kisumu tomorrow and won’t be able to retrieve them until I return.

Sunday was spent with Stephen Dinkins, who is Stephen Lincoln’s college roommate.  Stephen D. is now with the International Mission Board in Nairobi.  Stephen L. and Andrew Carr are in Nairobi to spend some time with Stephen D. and talk about how Shandon Baptist might support the work he is doing here.

Monday was spent securing irrigation supplies and talking with a new potential supplier.  I also met with Ibrahim Omondi to talk about ag development for a little while.  It actually took all day to do those three meetings.  Traffic in Nairobi is just horrible.  And today wasn’t really a bad day, traffic-wise.

I am staying with Mac and Ashley Magruder, who I met through With Open Eyes a couple years ago.  They graciously invited me to stay with them while in Nairobi.  Mac is now with the Center for Mission Mobilization.

I fly to Kisumu early tomorrow to go to the Neema Children’s home.  EDEN is looking to help install a drip irrigation system and possibly help with the drilling of a deep water well.  We will also talk about setting up a sewing center at the school.

I will try to do better on the pictures!  The one above was taken at the irrigation company I was at this morning.

 

Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp

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From David Taylor, Missions Pastor at Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia, SC:
On Friday, we went to the largest refugee camp in the world, Bidi Bidi, located in Northern Uganda. It has only been open for one year, yet it has over 300,000 refugees who have recently fled South Sudan because of the ongoing killing between tribes.  As Jon, Mark, our new friends, and I drove into the camp, stirring thick clouds of dust from two Land Rovers, we noticed tent structures, makeshift housing, and designated play areas provided by UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, and others.  I was glad to see signs of help, yet I wrestled that this crisis was too much to handle for government and non-goverment organizations.  How could they, much less our two small carloads, cause warring tribes from a war-torn country to be at peace with each other?  Like the dust we stirred on the road, I felt our impact would likely settle back to the ground within a few minutes of our passing through.  Although certain we three Americans would not have sustained impact; my hope in God and His church swelled in the next several minutes as we made our way to one of Empower One’s refugee Bible colleges.  I’m grateful for what He allowed me to see.
Through the dust, we arrived to a rather well-groomed plot of structures, considering the conditions of a refugee camp.  We were in the middle of a Bible college set up by Empower One to train young church planters.  The well-planned plot contained a small dorm, an outhouse, a kitchen hut, a shaded area for fellowship, and a chapel.  As we got out of the car, five South Sudanese men warmly welcomed us.  They were the teachers.  It was good to learn their names and chat with them in the shade for a few minutes.  I was eager to preach the message I had been invited to share.
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Since the dorm looked small and the area was quiet, I assumed I would be teaching about 20 church planters.  To my surprise, there were more like 85.  They had been quiet because they had been patiently and eagerly waiting to hear God’s Word.  Stepping into the crowded chapel, I stepped into a room of hope that proved God was stirring something which would not quickly settle.
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In this same room, men from various warring tribes, even the Dinka tribe, were gathered in one accord with their Bibles open.  We stood to sing, and I won’t forget what God said to me through their strong, loud, jubilant unison:  “Our God is able; Our God is able; Our God is able; We shall Sing Hallelujah! Amen!”
Yes, God is able!  Jesus is the answer to this crisis.  These church planters with Empower One are preparing to take the gospel to various tribes. In a land with unstable government, among tribes at war, God will bring a new and eternally stable Kingdom.  Empower One has a bold vision to reach over a million people with the gospel by 2020 by planting hundrends of church-planting churches in Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Uganda, Kenya, Congo, and Ethiopia.
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I have been praying for some time now that God would bring healing among tribes in South Sudan through a massive movement of God.  He was at work before I even knew to pray, and He will do more than any of us know.  I am so grateful for this glimpse of what God is doing and that Mark, Jon, and I had the opportunity to connect with yet another solid mission organization on our trip this week.   I look forward to exploring how we can work with our new friends: Lona, Patricia, Favor, and Pastor David Kaya.

A note from Jim:

Jon and Mark should be in Entebbe by now, in the middle of a few last meetings.  They will get dinner, probably on the shore of Lake Victoria, before heading to the airport.  They fly out late tonight (about 4:30pm US time) and be back in Columbia Sunday afternoon.
David is traveling back to Kiryandongo with Brian and Pastor Sosthen.  He will attend worship at Emmanuel Baptist Church tomorrow and then head home.  He will get back to Columbia on Monday afternoon.
Prayers for safe travel are appreciated!  If sounds like it has been a great week of ministry and I can’t wait to get all the details!
Team

Marathon Day in the Rhino Refugee Camp

 

Pastor SundayPastor Sunday and Mark Fisher at Wanyanga Church, Rhino Camp

 We had two days planned for training on the drip irrigation system and Luopads in the Rhino camp.  Today began with a thirty mile ride that took two and half hours to get to our destination.  This ride from Arua  to the camp is all dirt road with serious pot holes and several large mud swells.  We made it to the camp around noon.

 Training

Jon did a great job of doing the classroom training with the no till farming methods and the assembly of the drip irrigation kit.  During our late lunch break, several of the men from the class completed the installation of the irrigation system in the raised beds they prepared before our arrival.

 Drip Kit

Since we were concerned about not making the drive tomorrow if it rained tonight, Jon did a brief explanation of the Luopad kits and we left all of material with the church leaders.  Pastor Sosthen gave explicit instructions that for a family to receive a drip kit they first had to show some ownership by preparing their raised beds in advance.  Overall the training was very productive and there were several men in the group who were very motivated to get started.

 Citadel Boys

The adventure began on our way home.  We left at 4:30pm in anticipation of a several hour ride back to our hotel.   We finally arrived at the Golden Courts hotel at 8:30pm.  Our “short” ride turned into four hours.  Basically we got in the middle of a convey of large trucks that got stuck in a huge mud hole on the road headed out of the camp.  Thankfully we were able to get our van out of the mud, dodged some large trucks, and slowly made our way out of the camp.  Brian Arimpa, our tour operator did a great job in getting us back safely.

Since the road is to bad to return to Rhino tomorrow, we will be traveling with our new friends from Empower-One to the Bidi Bidi camp north of Arua.  They promised a shorter ride!  Bidi Bidi is one of the largest South Sudanese refugee camps in Uganda.  It is not far from the South Sudan border and is one of the entry points for new refugees entering Uganda.

Our experience today in the camp and ride back to the hotel was just another reminder of how difficult life is for the South Sudanese.  It is a humbling experience to be able to serve them this week.

Mark

Breakfast with the Hippos, Lunch with Old Friends and Land Surveying, and Dinner with New Friends

Hippo Breakfast

Before our northward journey to the town of Arua today, we had an early morning boat ride on the Nile and had breakfast with the hippos.  The ride was beautiful as you could still see the moon over the river before the sun finally rose.  Our thirty minute boat ride to the hippos gave us a real life view of African life on the river.   The men were in canoes or large “row” boats fishing with nets while the women and children gathered water and bathed along the river-side.

Our driver knew exactly where to go for breakfast with the hippos.  We ate about thirty feet from a group of about 15 hippos.   For those of you who know Mark and Jon, you can only imagine all the “hippo” jokes.   Not to mention being the “hippo” bait.  It is a good thing David Taylor joined  the team or we would’ve been renamed the “White Hippos!” The view and animal life on the river banks were amazing.

After our short trip on the Nile, we were back on task trying to accomplish all of ‘Uncle Jimmie’s’ plans for the trip.   Brian, our tour operator, has been receiving lessons on American time-management.   He has learned to qualify the estimated time for a drive  by saying this is “African” time or ‘US’ time.  He nailed it this morning.  A thirty minute African drive was in reality a two and a half hour trip.

Lunch

Upon our arrival in Arua, we gathered at the home of Pastor Penina Samuel of the Moru Christian church.  Pastor Penina,  other Moru church leaders, and several pastors from the Rhino camp joined us for lunch.   It was fun to see Pastor Sunday and Pastor Simon both of whom we met in 2015 in Mundri, South Sudan.  They  had to flee their homes and are leading church plants in the Rhino camp.

Garden

The Moru church is in the process of obtaining 15 acres of land about 45 minutes outside of Arua.    Our group, Pastor Penina, and two of her church leaders drove to this site (in the bush) to determine if it was suitable for growing in the dry season.   The plan is to use water from a stream on the property and the drip irrigation system to maximize growing crops in the dry season. This would provide food for the church members and contribute to its financial needs.   Access to a water source is critical in the winter (dry) months.  The property definitely looks suitable for their needs.   Mark observed, while traversing the tall grass, small streams, and fields, the property also looked like a good fit for snakes!  Thankfully Michael, one the church leaders, assured us there were no snakes to be found.

Water

Since the beginning of EDEN, God has enabled us to meet some great partners with wonderful hearts and the ability to reach the lost in East Africa.   God again connected us with another ministry called Empower-One.   This happened through some friends at Ben Lippen school and Shandon Baptist in Columbia, to Austin, TX, to Arua Uganda.

 Two wonderful ladies representing Empower-One joined us for dinner at our hotel tonight.   They shared how the vision of Empower-One is to reach millions for Christ in Africa.  Their organization is focused on church-planting and discipleship.  They have a strong track record of planting churches and using creative means for hard to reach people groups.   They recently acquired 200 acres of farm land not far from the Kiryandongo refugee camp.  Their goal is to use the proceeds of this farm to help fund their ministry.  They will have several of their members join us for training tomorrow in the Rhino camp.

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Another great day in Uganda is in the books.  Thank you for your prayers and journeying with us on this trip.

Mark

Elephants…..Oh my!!

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Tuesday morning, we returned to Emmanuel Baptist Church to for a full morning of training, hands-on review, and Q and A. On our way into the camp, we saw James, a South Sudanese farmer and member of Emmanuel Church on the path near his home. James is also a representative from this sector of the camp. He was on his way to inform the Camp Commander’s office that a young, seven year old boy had gotten lost at approximately 8:00 pm the night before and was still missing in the bush. This camp is located in dense Ugandan bush country. The child’s parents searched for the child all night, with no success. When we arrived at Emmanuel, Sosthen confirmed that the family attended Emmanuel and the family lived about half a kilometer from the church. Before opening our training session, we started with a period of prayer for the missing child.

We started our training with heavy hearts, but were soon interrupted by the entrance of several church members and the mother carrying her lost boy. He had told his mother that he had been running and hiding from people “chasing” him all night. He was exhausted and likely dehydrated. But, he was safe in his mother’s arms. We gathered around the boy and mother and listened as this church sang praises and gave thanks to God.

After training and tea, Sosthen threw his bag in our 4WD Toyota Superwagon.  We met David Taylor on the highway in Kiryandongo and made the almost three hour drive to Pakwach. The drive through north central Uganda and the Murchison Falls National Reserve was spectacular. We arrived at the African Safari Lodge, in the park and on the banks of the White Nile River, at 5:00 pm. At 5:45, a herd of elephants wandered by our hotel. They were large, close, and magnificent.

Elephant

After a fish dinner in the outdoor dinning room, we turned into our thatched-roof huts for the evening. Tomorrow, we will be on to Arua and the Rhino Refugee Camp.

Jon Ozmint

The Start of a Great Week

Jon Ozmint and Mark Fisher had a great Sunday sharing with the folks in the refugee camp at Kiryandongo.  David Taylor shared a little about the trip in the worship services at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia before heading out for Africa.

Emmanuel Baptist Church - Jon PreachingAbove, Jon is preaching at Emmanuel Baptist Church, which is Pastor Sosthen’s church that he started 2 years ago.  Pastor Sosthen is interpreting for Jon.

Satellite Church - Mark PreachingHere, Mark is preaching at one of the church plants that Emmanuel Baptist has started at the Kiryandongo camp.  A little less than a year ago, these folks were meeting under a mango tree.  With Open Eyes and other donors helped them build this church building.  Pastor Sosthen helps shepherd over 1000 members in 3 churches in the camp.

Satellite ChurchIsn’t it encouraging to see all these young people hungry to learn about God?  Take a look at the concrete benches that are the pews.  The guys had a great day sharing and fellowshipping with these believers.

The following is from Jon:

We had a full day of refresher training and demonstration at Emmanuel Church in Kiryandongo on Monday. We started with a tour of the new school, where over 300 happy children pack three classrooms in a school staffed with three teachers and a principal. There are no complaints about class size or ratios, as the tiny refuges seem to realize the significance of having the opportunity to go to school and to learn to speak English. Their smiling faces are beautiful, beyond description.

School

We moved to the Church, where we started our refresher with an overview of Jim’s PowerPoint presentation on conservation farming, including the advantages of minimum till/ strip-till practices. We then reviewed how to build raised planting beds before breaking for tea. After the morning break we reviewed good composting and mulching practices.

Bucket KitBucket kit in operation.

Our final classroom session focused on getting started with these new practices slowly, not becoming discouraged and overwhelmed by attempting to transition to these new practices all at once. Adding one irrigated raised planting bed before the start of the dry season in January was the goal for most of the group. We all agreed that working on the project a little each morning between now and then would ensure that they were ready to put these new practices to the test, against their current practices. Pastor Sosthen offered a first-hand testimony as to the benefits and increased yield of ‘Uncle Jimmy’s’ methods.

TrainingHere is the professor, hard at work!

After another lunch prepared by Ms. Veronica, (never knew goat could be so delicious) we walked to James’ farm. There we prepared a raised planting bed and installed a drip irrigation kit. We were able to test the kit successfully, but the rains came before we could get the okra and collard greens into the ground and properly mulched.  We distributed seeds and bucket drip kits to 40 church families.  We are also supplying a half-acre drip system for the church, but it has not arrived yet.

Training2Prepping the bucket.

The two highlights of the day came when we realized that we had neglected to bring an old t-shirt to cover the bucket and filter the mineral-rich water. Our group erupted into laughter as the big, hairy white guy removed his shirt and undershirt, so that the latter could be used as a cover and filter for the test of the system. We then experienced what the rainy season means in East Africa: as the irrigation system began to work, rain and lighting blew in – almost instantly. Some local villagers laughed and cheered us on from the dry confines of their huts, but I imagine that U.N. and Ugandan officials are still receiving reports of two large white guys (kawajas) running cross-country in the general direction of Emmanuel Church.

For those of you who don’t know, Mark and I once ran marathons together. The little rain-inspired run today was a painful reminder that those days are many years and many pounds in our past. The largest African in the group beat us handily.

Tomorrow, we will return to Emmanuel Church for training on crop storage, and a few measurements for a potential rainwater harvesting and cistern system, before meeting David Taylor for our trip to Arua and the Rhino Refugee Camp.

And a few last words from ‘Uncle Jimmy’:

EDEN is in the process of supplying a corn shelling machine for the church.  This will allow the members to shell their corn, or maize.  At present, they are having to hire someone to do it for them.  They will also be able to shell for other people and have an income stream.  Unfortunately army worms attacked the first maize crop and they did not have a good harvest.  They will do some more spraying  on the second crop and hopefully keep the worms at bay.

Grist MillThis is a grist mill that is in operation at the camp.  This machine grinds the shelled corn and makes meal and flour.  You can see the white corn kernels in front of the gentleman running the mill.  This machine is different from the machine that EDEN will be supplying.

The Road InAs Jon talked about, it is still the rainy season in Uganda, so the roads are a little wet as evidenced in the picture above.  Four wheel drive and a great driver are both blessings for sure!

EntranceI was beginning to worry about Mark as I had not seen a picture of him since Saturday!  But here he is with Jon at the entrance to the camp!

ShandonShandon on Mission!  #GoServe.  #LiveSent.

David has now left London and is on his way to Africa.  He will catch up with the team tomorrow at Kiryandongo and they will begin the journey to Arua.  Prayers are appreciated for travel mercies as well as the remaining logistics.

Underway!

Two of the travelers have made it to Uganda!  After a wedding tonight, David Taylor will be heading out tomorrow to join them! We are still working through some logistical hurdles with supplies, but are confident it will be an awesome trip for these guys!

My phone rang just a little bit ago and it was Jon Ozmint!  He, Mark, and their guide, Brian, had made it to the Jesse Hotel in Kigumba, about 30 minutes south of Kiryandongo.  Pastor Sosthen is coming to have dinner with them and they will discuss the schedule for the next few days at Kiryandongo.  Here is a view off the patio at the Jesse:

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Mark’s only question was what was the score of the Carolina game?  Had to explain that the players weren’t even up yet!  Must be that Citadel math!  🙂  Jon said everything went well with their flights and getting in through customs.  Jon and Mark had 100 bucket drip kit parts bags packed along with 80 Luopad packs.  David will be taking another 58 Luopad packs with him.

The guys were able to meet with Tommy Hopson, who works with the International Mission Board, this morning as they were leaving Kampala.  The IMB is the missions arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.  They left a drip kit with him so that Tommy can have a demonstration of the kit in his garden.  He hosts many missionaries throughout the year and it will be a good opportunity for them to see the technology.

The team then traveled up to Kigumba, which is about a 4 hour drive.  They arrived safely and are getting ready for dinner…..remember, Uganda is 7 hours ahead of us time-wise.

Speaking of the Luopads, those 138 packs will bless 138 African women in a very special way.  In those 138 kits are a total of 828 pads, each individually sewn by women at Shandon Baptist Church and other area churches.  With those pads are over 3300 pieces of material that are hand cut from towels or flannel material.  We have an octogenarian, Mrs. Maxine Patterson, who spends hours each week cutting material for these pads.  She is the mother of several long time Shandon members.  What a blessing she is!

Kristin Mixson also met with the Women’s Missionary Union members of several churches in Ehrhardt, SC.  A teacher friend, Jana Chassereau called her to set it up.  The ladies had heard about the pad project and wanted to be involved.  Kristin will be going back to Ehrhardt in October for another sewing day there.

There will be a sewing night on Septemeber 12 from 4 til 7pm at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.  Many hands make light the work!  You don’t have to knew how to sew…..you can help cut material or pack the kits.  The joy that these African women have upon receiving these pads is hard to describe.  Your donation of a few hours of your time will be an incredible blessing to these women!

Please be in prayer for our Uganda team!  David Taylor leaves on Sunday to join them and they will be working throughout next week.  If you would like to make a donation to help our efforts in East Africa, you can make your check payable to EDEN.  Our mailing address is 1110 Blakely Court, West Columbia, SC  29170.  All donations are tax deductible.  Thanks so much!