Drive Uganda 3: Hitchhiking in Uganda

In Uganda, hitchhiking is common as the cold.  But don’t picture a hippie with a joint in the 60s.  Think of an old lady with creaky joints in her 60s.  A lady of this description flags me down one Sunday on a rural dirt road.  We greet each other through a cloud of rolling dust.

“How did you sleep?” I ask.

“Fine.  Take me to the church!” the old hitchhiker says.

“Which one?”

“The church up there.”

“Where?”

“There! UP THERE!” she points with her lips and hits every syllable hard.

“Huh? Wha? Wher–?  Ok, just get in and show me.” Continue reading

Drive Uganda 1: Countdown to 100,000 Miles

In the mid-90s my wife, children, and I lived in Jinja, Uganda and worked with a church planting team, what is now more identified in the United States as The Kibo Group. I often wrote about my adventures and misadventures in and around Jinja. Here I wrote about the fascinating sites and sounds along the roads in Uganda.

It was a big day.  I would be preaching in Buvulunguti, Uganda village where a church started recently.  And our ’92 Toyota pickup’s odometer would roll to 100,000 kilometers on the way to that village.

IMG_9874One-hundred-thousand is a vehicle’s rite of passage, and we males actually bond with the hunk of steel as the 99999 rolls over.  You scoff, ‘Kilometers!’  Mind you, there are more bone-rattling potholes and vehicle-crunching bumps in one African kilometer than in 100 miles on most U.S. roads.

The odometer reads 99938 as I begin, and I make a mental note to watch for the important event during the drive. Driving in Uganda is rarely boring or uneventful.  I zoom by a biker with a 20-pound Nile Perch from Lake Victoria laying across the back of his bicycle.  A goat, tied next to the road, strains for a blade of grass just out of its reach. Continue reading

Walk With Me Across a Rickety Bridge

On a visit to help a village learn the Water4.org method of water well drilling, we stayed with long-time friends James and Margaret Okumu, who live on a picturesque close to the border of Uganda and Kenya.

In the video below I’m following the group as we walk across a rickety bridge over the swamp. There are many of these bridges to navigate. The night before we walked over these bridges in the dark. James Okumu rides his motorcycle on these.

Because it is so difficult to pass here, it prevents commerce that could otherwise be done and allows for a lot of shady business between the borders. For many years this village area, called Budoola and Buwembe, heard politicians tell them they’d receive a new road over the swamp.

James told me shortly after we were there walking on this bridge, that the government came and build new culverts and a road through this swamp.

Much is made about going to build buildings in developing nations, schools, orphanages. This is good, but consider if you are an engineer or builder what can be done to build roads where people can simply use them to transport goods to market more easily. Much can be done by engineers and roads to help make people’s lives better.

Engineers and designers of the world chime in here. I want to hear from you.

Reading: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis with Beth Clark

CIA World Factbook map of the country of Uganda.

Image via Wikipedia

Katie Davis was 18 when she first made a mission trip to Jinja, Uganda–a place I called home for seven years with my family–and decided to return for a year that has now stretched into three years. She went to Uganda with no college degree or nursing certificate but with a heart of Christ.

What would cause an 18-year-old homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee to forgo college, lose her friends, and break up with the love of her life–all to move thousands of miles away from her family?

Her trip to Uganda turned her life inside out. She was so moved by the Ugandan people, particularly the children–that she gave up a comfortable life to fulfill her calling to care for the poor who cannot afford basic necessities and school fees for their children.

Katie is now 22 and has published a book that will be available in October 2011.

The following are some excerpts and observations about her book and her work.

My heart was on fire with a passion to say yes to God’s every request–to do more to help the people around me. Starting a ministry in Uganda wasn’t something I had in mind when I came here, but it seemed the only logical next step as people approached me needing help and I said yes to meeting their needs. As I prayed about what to do next and sought counsel from friends and family, I realized the only way to really be able to meet all the needs I wanted to meet in this community–to pay for children’s school, keep their bellies full, offer medical assistance, and most important teach them about Christ’s love for them–would be to start some kind of nonprofit organization.

This would be the first of many, many times we would invite disease-ridden people into our home (p 97)

People from my first home say I’m brave . . . They pat me on the back and say, “Way to go. Good job.” But the truth is, I am not really very brave; I am not really very strong; and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am simply doing what God has called me to do as a person who follows Him. He said to feed His sheep and He said to care for the “least of these,” so that’s what I’m doing, with the help of a lot of people who make it possible and in the company of those who make my life worth living.

Photo Essay 2: Boats

Ashley Taylor took this photo near Bugembe, Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria. We had gathered with a church for baptisms of six people, and Ashley took this beautiful photo of fishing boats on the edge of the lake.

Swamp

 

Busia, Uganda Swamp
James Okumu walks across a swamp near Busia, Uganda that separates his family from trading centers and neighbors. He’s been waiting for two decades for government to fulfill a promise to build a useful road across the swamp.

 

James Okumu near his home in Eastern Uganda

We walked across this swamp at night, passing over slime-covered logs over and over until we reached the home of James Okumu where we would sleep the night. We were a water well drilling team made up of Ugandans and me who had been working five days on a water well for a village called Buwembe. We were demonstrating a new hand-drilling method that allows a 6-inch bore hole to be drilled entirely without power tools. In addition to water, people like James Okumu also need roads through places like this swamp. People with road and bridge-building skills could coach this community through less-expensive ways to build bridges using mesh-rock methods and other levee methods employed here in the United States.

Oneka Charles: a man of God

Remembering Oneka Charles today. Oneka Charles died August 5 in his home area of Gulu, Uganda.

Oneka Charles was a beautiful human being, devoted to Christ and serving humanity, a tailor and friend to all.

Oneka was a friend of many of us who lived Uganda from mid-90s till now. He was a tailor and it was well-known that he could sew anything, including clothes for our children, couch covers, drapes . . . anything. He was good at what he did.

Oneka did not hide the fact that he was HIV-positive. He spoke guardedly about his past but confidently and faithfully about the future. He wanted God to change his test to HIV-negative, and he at times became discouraged with yet another positive test. We talked one day about how God has spared his life for a purpose–to glorify God in so many ways on this earth–and Charles fulfilled that purpose. God spared him for more than a decade, regardless of what tests said.

Brent Abney said, “I’ll never forget him . . . his amazing faith, his kindness, his guarded stories of his past, his enthusiastic worship leading and singing. He was a man of God.”

On our summer 2010 trip to Uganda, my family was honored to visit Oneka and enjoy moments of prayer and his leading two songs we always remembered him leading in “Jinja Church” years ago. When we visited him, he was living in a small room with rent paid by exchanging sewing work for an orphanage on the same property. Charles was always kind to our children, and wanted specially to have a photo of him with the children.

May he receive from God the blessing of reward for a faithful life and as Abney said, “I hope God hugged him.”

High Places: a novel set in 1920s Africa

High Places: a novel
How to order the book

Read Chapter 1

About High Places
If Tenwa could make it across the Nile River he might be saved, but he could never return to his home village.

The missionary told him burning his tribe’s religious shrine would please God. But now the tribal leaders–even his own father–want Tenwa dead. Following the missionaries brought this trouble–what good was saving his soul if it cost him his life?

As the Germans and British battle for the continent, British missionaries William and Jessica Bell struggle to survive in 1920s East Africa. Could the ones they came to redeem be their salvation?

Two cultures collide and embrace in this love story and coming of age struggle for life’s high places.

How to order the book

Water4Uganda Video

Can water wells be dug by hand? Yes, that have for centuries. Can a 6 inch diameter bore hole be drilled by hand and hit water? Until now, most people would say no, you need a drilling rig.

Enter Water4, Dick Greenley, Chris Cotner, and Steve Stewart. Two years ago, my friend Chris King introduced me to these guys and a new project called Water4, a not-for-profit based out of Pumps of Oklahoma in OKC, OK. I’ve been around water projects and lived in Uganda for seven years, but I’d never seen anything like these tools: hand augers, balers, rock breakers, and an innovative and powerful yet affordable pump.

As one Ugandan said, “This changes everything.” Will it happen fast? It could but that’s up to people joining hands, working hard, and giving countries around the world their own chance to dig their own wells.

Water4 provides tools, designs that are public domain, expertise, and people like you and me travel and take tools and help train local people and leave projects in their hands to develop as each country and churches and communities see fit.

Watch this video and write me if you want to know more.

Dropping pump into the well

Here my good friend Steven Katurebe joins us from Mbarara for last 2 days of well work to help case the well and here sink the pump that is attached to 1 1/2 inch pipe with 3/4 in pipe inside. The innovation of this pump and pipe system from Water4.org is that the rod is also the pipe that delivers the water.

Ida and the Roller Coaster

Quick break from water wells to hear the legendary story of “Ida and the Roller Coaster.”

Two years ago, Deron and Becca Smith took Ida Bozonoona and her husband Richard to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., and they enjoyed it very much, except Ida nearly “died for a second” when she went upside down. She said never again will she ride that roller coaster that turns upside down. “It will be my child (who rides it),” Ida said.

We’ve really enjoyed staying the night and eating several meals with Richard and Ida. Visiting their place is a highlight of our trip, and they do a great job of giving our children lots of Ugandan experiences such as making chapatis, roast corn and chicken, peeling matooke, and walking through the village smelling coffee blossoms and seeing all the crops including sugar cane, yams, bananas, coffee, and corn.

Here is the video classic telling of “Ida and the Roller Coaster.”

Richard loved riding the roller coaster as much as he enjoyed listening to his wife’s story in this video. Notice Ida’s holding Rubel on her back with a wrap, and Ruben is holding corn and wearing some cute little slippers.