Saturday, May 15, 2010

We're alive!

*WARNING! This post is gonna be long due to the fact that we have not had internet and have not been able to post since we got into Jinja.*

Wednesday: We left Kampala early in the morning so that we could drive to Jinja. The drive is about 2 ½ hours and is absolutely gorgeous. Part of the trip is through an incredible rainforest with massive trees. Other parts go through sugar cane and tea plantations. The way things grow here is astounding.

Once we arrived in the much-smaller-than-Kampala town called Jinja, we quickly settled into our new guest house and went downtown to get some Rolexes (chappati with scrambled egg wrapped in the middle) for lunch. While waiting for our food we saw some boys on the street and started giving them some whirrly-gigs (a big hit over here--way to go Bill!) and a few hacky sacks. They hung out with us for awhile and soon enough we found out that one of them - David - lost both his parents and is now living on the street alone. He thinks he is 12 years old. (this information was confirmed by our awesome driver Farouq who lives in Jinja and basically knows everything J)

David is a skinny little boy who has a big heart and no where to go. As a group we gathered around him and laid hands on him and prayed that God would continue to protect him and that he would accept Jesus as his savior. There was about 5 other boys hanging out with him, and although they have homes no one looks out for them during the day. So we sat the boys down and gave each of them a rolex. It seems small but in that moment it was a huge blessing to them and to us.

Also while in downtown we found an art store. I just have to say “WOW!” Angelo, the man who does all the paintings, is an INCREDIBLE artist. He can truly capture the beauty and devastation that is Africa.

The rest of the day included: stopping by Welcome Home (an orphanage with 70 kids), worshipping while Ron played the guitar and going to Kingfisher Resort.

At Kingfisher Resort we took a boat trip in Lake Victoria to the head of the Nile River. Did you know that the Nile River is the only river that starts in a lake? Or that 30% of the water comes from an underground spring that we got to see? It is quite incredible actually. We stood at the source of the Nile River. HOW COOL!

Thursday: WOOHOO!!! Not only did we see the source of the Nile, we all nearly drowned in the Nile - just kidding (kind of)! On Thursday morning we all loaded up into the back of a big truck, towing two big yellow rafts behind it, and headed back to the big river. (Justin’s friends who live here set us up to go white water rafting Wednesday night. It was opportunity to SEE one of God’s coolest creations and experience a little bit of His power. We couldn’t pass this one up.)

It wasn’t long before we were in the river and going over all the safety “stuff” and commands we would need to know. Kevin was shaking in his skin from the beginning and took all the rules and guidelines very seriously. As for everyone else (minus Ron and Renee who did not join us and instead went and SERVED at Welcome Home) we were ready to rock and roll.

Throughout the trip we went down 12 rapids ranging from class 3 to class 5 (class 5 is about as good as it gets without being suicidal). Our guide, who has literally traveled the world and gone rafting in some of the best rivers said the Nile is one of his favorite (because of how big it is and power that it possess. Sadly, the part we went down will no longer exist the way it does now, due to the dam they are putting in L) Fortunately, we were able to experience God’s intricate artwork before man decides to take it into his own hands.

The whole trip was great. But the best part, by far, was going down Silverback. One of the best rafting rapids in the world. It is monstrous.

On approaching the rapid our guide warned us that there was a possibility that our raft would flip. He quickly reminded us of what to do in case we did flip. Thankfully he did. Because about half way through the rapid we hit a big wave and our raft went right over on top of us.
Everyone was thrown out. Except for Kevin. He followed the directions just like he was told - when all was said and done Kevin still had ahold of the rope on the side of the boat and the “t-handle” to his paddle. Kevin always does what mommy tells him. This time it worked out well for him.

Most of us spent more time under the water than we bargained for. And we all “got” (had ) to swim in the Nile for quite some time as we gathered paddles (apparently paddles are more important for people. “We can find more customers, but we can‘t find more paddles [in Uganda]”, as put by our loving and compassionate rafting guide)…and then the team.

We got everyone gathered up and of course shared our individual near-death-experience stories as we enjoyed a nice lunch on the river. Some of us even swam the rest of the way back to shore. It was incredible. And now you can just call us Moses - yep we floated down the same river baby Moses did. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since we had done a half day trip we then went with some of the staff from Welcome Home Orphanage out to some sugar cane villages for a ministry that they do weekly. We had no idea what to expect. They had us split up into two groups so we could experience two villages. What we did see is how 80% of Uganda lives. In huts, living with pigs, goats, chickens and ducks living in and among them. There was more flies than we had seen anywhere else on the faces and especially the cuts of the people living there. Most of the children in these villages were literally dressed in rags, dresses held together by zippers, pants filled with holes, and sweaters that are barely held together by string. But the villages offered two different experiences.

The first village we came across was “small” with 500 people living there. The Welcome Home staff gathered the children to sing songs and do a Bible Study while a pastor spoke with the adults. The music was good, but as they taught our hearts were broken by the “works gospel” being preached. Telling the children that they would go to hell if they did not obey their parents, stole, or lied. When we were asked to share Justin spoke about how our hearts get broken by sin and other people, but Jesus has the power and grace to forgive these things and make our hearts whole again. Kevin was also able to share about God protecting him when he was in a motorcycle accident last year. When it came time to pass out the gifts we had brought we were praying for fishes and loaves. That God would multiply the snack bars we brought to feed every kid… And He did! Not that I’m really that surprised, but it was still amazing to see how we had enough. Kathy was with us and was able to give some Tylenol and de-worming medicine as well as clean some of the cuts of people there.

The second village was MUCH bigger, (but we didn’t know that when we split up our team 50/50), with over 1,000 children. The native language there was Swahili so Lashae was able to sing a song to a children that a friend had taught her. The message in that village was the story of Paul and Silas in jail, but did not have any “works gospel”, so that was encouraging. When they were passing out gifts it was basically a mob scene. Children pushing over each other trying to get a piece of candy or a little car. And to think we all grew up with a toy chest full of toys…

We tried to put a post up that night from an internet café, but as soon as it was almost finished they closed and shut the wireless adaptor off. Oops.

Friday was… just wow. Our first stop was at a whole sale shop to buy soap and salt to hand out the three island villages that we were going to with a pastor to preach the gospel and provide some medical care. There was 16 of us, 450 pounds of soap, 450 pounds of salt, and 200 pounds of donations in 30 foot, leaky wooden boat, with a 25 horse power motor. On the 45 minute drive to the first village the edge of our boat was seriously 10” off the water.

We were greeted with smiles at all 3 villages. Kathy, Elicia, and Mark set up inside the “community center” or under a tree and tried to see as many sick children in the most orderly and effective way possible. The rest of the team sang with the villagers, Justin shared the story of the heart, and Ron shared a message, (the story of Jonah in the first village and of Jesus walking on water in the other 2). When it came time to hand out the soap, the inside of the 12’x 24’ stick, mud and grass-thatched church turned into a mob scene. Mom’s were pushing little kids out of the way and stretching out their hands as far as they could while crowding in around us, just to get half a bar of blue laundry soap and a package of salt. They would do just about anything to get a small amount of soap (they use it for everything: bathing, washing clothes, washing dishes, etc.), many consider it a gift from God (because it is). The second village was better because it was smaller and happened to have another hole in the wall for people to exit after receiving their new treasure. But men, women and children worked hard to get inside and piled in one after another. They were desperate. They were also forever thankful, they would kneel down and say “God bless you. ’sank you.” grinning from ear to ear. Then would gather with their friends and celebrate with laughs and excitement. ALL FOR SOAP!

To truly describe what it was like in any of the villages… You would just have to see it, smell it, live it. Pictures will help, but the words just won’t even begin to do it justice.

Although we were all emotionally exhausted when we got back, we had donations to bring to Welcome Home and Our Own Home, an orphanage for only HIV positive kids. Even though we were only there for about ten minutes Our Own Home had a profound impact on many of us. These kids. Who will all develop AIDS began singing for us: “I will praise Him all the rest of my days”. These kids KNOW they are dying. And it’s not their fault. But they choose to praise the Lord with all of their hearts. It was truly awe inspiring and as we were leaving many of us were brought to tears.

Back at our guest house we shared laughter and tears as we reminisced and asked the question weighing heavily on all of our minds as we prepare to head home: Now what? We have all this knowledge now and have met all these beautiful people and seen the devastation in which they live. So now, how do we help from home? How do we continue to make a difference? How can we paint a true picture when we go home and share our stories with all of you our friends and family? How can we use this experience in Uganda to change and shape the rest of our lives? Although we have no perfect answer we have begun a conversation and hope to reach a solution to the portion we have been given.

*This blog has been brought to you by Lashae and Elicia. Can you tell who blogged where?*


  1. What a cool white water adventure! I've been a few times and loved the experience. I was washing my cars this morning, thinking of you & the people you would meet (and have been with). I thought of how we raise money for all sorts of things, but little for the least of you say, the "desperate", and wondering how we could capture the imaginations of our church families. How can we get it into our hearts, the concept of people living in desperation as we meet up with our daily lives? You may be feeling overwhelmed by what is around you, but most of us are "underwhelmed." I was praying and thinking, "What would it cost to build a simple home to house widows or orphans?" "What would $10,000 do?" "Who would go for us to do it if we could raise the money?" (i.e. I'm no construction guy :)) I had this impression from God that several of us should join together sponsor the orphanage for $750 per month, and also have money to reach out to the poor the way you have. It feels like a project many of us could knit our hearts together with - in prayer, in service, in financial support. Perhaps those who want to adopt we can help sponsor and be the family of God to each other. The needs may be gargantuan, but each life touched is one more that we can say, "I saw the face of Jesus in them, and showed love and mercy." Praise God for blessing us with the knowledge of the world in need. May we respond with tender hearts...not with guilt, but compassion.

  2. Loved the post and loved even more the comment..Mr. Hervieux....lets take this experience from this team, and bind together and DO something. Let's not let it end here when they get home, but let's make this beginning of the Holy Spirit leading us into action, and us obediently following and not grow weary in doing good. Love all you guys...God had a purpose and a plan in each and every team member and the people in their lives here at home and the people they would meet in Africa...let's just go crazy for Jesus and Love Him and the least of these with EVERYTHING in us!!!

  3. Awesome post and I have no idea who is who because you two are so much alike!

    Glenn and Jenay - yes, yes! After talking to Justin this morning I think he has a pretty clear route on that very thing. I don't want to speak for him but he was just saying that he has clarity of where to pour into.

    Glen I LOVED your saying that we are "underwhelmed" - NO JOKE!

    Lord lead the way!

  4. Wow...that's so inadequate but all I can say. Just wow. After talking to Tom today I'm moving from underwhelmed to overwhelmed, through his stories of each and every day my heart is breaking for these precious people...for these precious children.

    I can't wait to see where the Lord leads...may I be a faithful follower.

  5. Beautiful post girls! Looking forward to seeing where this will lead not only you that have gone but those of here at home. Praying for your safe return.