Monday, July 26, 2010

Fort Portal Weekend Fun

Johnson Property Management Specialists

The one aspect of missional life that I did not anticipate is our new role as a Property Management Specialists.

Last week, the kids and I sat in the car on the side of the road, watching the Colobus monkeys swing overhead. As we were heading to Fort Portal for some much needed rest and connection time with the team, Travis said, “Oh by the way, I told a man I would stop and see him about a property.” A what? Property? Apparently, when the first pioneers of WHM came to this area, they stopped and set up their temporary homes, tents, in this man’s land as they explored possible sites for ministry. He then sold that land to WHM for more permanent homes to be built. And then took them further on the Bwamba Road into Bundibugyo to the current sites of WHM, the place in which I am now sitting typing. So, that first piece of land continued to be owned by WHM though no one lived on it. Fast forward a bit to 1996 when a “certain man” (a phrase used commonly here) from Zaire (now Congo) needed assistance and was given a letter which allowed him to farm that land for the very specific dates of one year. The letter details that this year of farming should allow him to earn enough money from which he can buy his own land and support himself. Well, 13 years later, we met this “certain man” who is still farming a thriving cocoa crop on this land and receiving the compensation from the government for the land used when the electric lines went through it. we are, Travis now has a deed to the land, 7 community members all witnessing the meeting, the farming man, the original seller of the land (who now is interested in buying back the land for 1/5 of the price sold), slashers who clear a path in which to walk, and us in the car wondering what is going surprised that this is now a significant part of our life, managing property.

Later in Fort Portal, another “oh, by the way” visit to another WHM property, the former home of a missionary family who is transitioning to ministry in Kenya for better educational opportunities for their kids. As we walked around the land, garden, house, church, pastor’s house, we learned the nuances of the water system, locks, electricity and various ways in which a house in Africa is made and held together by missionaries who make do and rig things so that they work just a little bit longer. So, now we are in charge of the maintenance of this property, a lovely site, but 3 hours away from Bundibugyo.

And then there are the slashers, men who cut grass with a machete that is bent at the end. They are employed to keep the grass short around the community center, houses, on the paths, and such. However, not much slashing has been going on lately. Gotta get on that one but I am not sure who they actually are!

And then the houses that are empty but are to be maintained for future teammates, the current school that has a ginormous yard with grass taller than my kids’ heads, the goat pens, the chicken coops, the bats in the community center (Scott is either laughing as he reads this or sighing in relief that he has passed that metaphorical hat on!).

And then our own home. This week as I was putting a toy away in the kids’ room, I felt something wet on my hand. That is always unsettling as we have a number of “indoor pets” like lizards, spider, ants, and rats. But as I looked up, I located that our ceiling was indeed leaking. The tank that holds water for the sun to heat it for showers was leaking. So, that tank is now drained and we are enjoying glacier-cold Ngite waterfall fed showers until we have the time to crawl in the ceiling and try to fix it (via duct tape?).

And then there are the water lines. As Travis was driving teammates and visitors back from a hike to Ngite, they saw that the water line that brings the water from the waterfall to the town had been hacked at so that the water that was intended for the whole community was being used by someone to make bricks at his house.

And then there is the girls’ finicky refrigerator.

And the cows.

And our solar power whose batteries are shot.

And the internet which goes out when there is no grid power.

And maintenance of Christ School Bundibugyo.


But it is more than just managing property because in this relational culture to interact about something is just a means in which one builds relationship, creates “the web” of community (as Jennifer is always explaining). The more interaction, the more one is tied to another, the more there is a reliance, expectation of helping each other.

Last week, I spent the mornings with two precious women as we cleaned and prepared the Myhres house to be used by visitors and for a prayer retreat home for our team. As we sorted, swept, scrubbed, and dusted, the three of us (four when Susan was there!) laughed and sang. Ok, I sang the only song I know in Lebwisi is “Tulimarora” but they sang with a cheerful heart as they made order from chaos. I started to see what Jennifer meant by “the web” as my heart was inexplicably tied to these ladies, my new friends.

So, for now, this is where God has called us. A long time ago, we told him that we were available to go wherever and do whatever He want us to go and do. I had no idea that it would mean in the middle of Africa, just trying to keep things together so our small band of saints could continue in love and ministry to our Ugandan neighbors. But here we are. And we will continue to do that faithfully...and when I update my resume, I may add “property management specialist” to it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fabulous Anna

In addition to the Semiliki Presbytery Celebration, yesterday we celebrated the 22nd birthday of our summer intern Anna. When we received her application, we knew that we were in for a special treat when her response to question "how is your health?" was answered with FABULOUS!

And she is fabulous.

Thus far in Anna's one month in Africa, she has: held her own traveling with three intern guys, spent two nights in Kampala by herself, hopped on a motorcycle to visit remote villages, worked in the nutrition program, learned to cook from scratch, aided in killing rats, ran in the early hours of the morning and in a skirt, cheered for the World Cup teams, babysat the Johnson kids, crafted her own handmade pizza, taken an interest in how dairy goats have helped decrease malnutrition, bridged hellos and goodbyes, traveled over the mountains, hung out in a sauna (for 3 minutes until we all thought we were going to catch on fire), played football with CSB students and Jack and Julia, led a Bible study with students, persevered through a 7 hour church service, served in the health center, aided in teaching at the mission school, won a three legged race, climbed the Ngite waterfall, and shared her heart with us all. Being the fourth of eleven kids, Anna has a wonderful ability to relate to all types and ages of people. Her fun-loving nature and encouraging words make her a joy to be around. We are so grateful for her cheerful spirit and willingness to serve wherever there is a need.

If all summer interns are like her, we will take them in all seasons! Truly, Anna is fabulous!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stomping in the Semiliki

Today, church started at 10:30 am and ended at 5:30 pm.

As we celebrated the creation of the Semiliki Presbytery, the day was full of singing choirs (three women's and a child's), special musical presentations (including a rap), speaking, praying, more speaking, more praying, more singing, more teaching, and the culmination of a huge meal of rice, goat meat and sauce, beans, matooke, cabbage, and samba (greens).

Lilli, Patton, and Aidan did a great job sitting on a small wooden bench for the first two hours. But that is the most I can expect from little ones who cannot understand what is being said nor see what is going on in front of the church. So, we headed home for afternoon naps.

But, Travis was called upon to speak. First, he asked all of the children to stomp their feet. There was a great response. Then, he asked the women to stomp their feet. There were giggles and great stomping. Then he asked the men to stomp their feet. There was a strong sound. Then he asked everyone to stomp their feet. There was a deafening response! He then shared the verse in Isaiah 52:7 that reads "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!" Reflecting upon the fact that 20 years ago, there were very few feet in Bundibugyo bringing the good news of Jesus, the demonstration of all of these stomping feet is a great testimony to God's work in this area! And that is the job for all of us, to bring the good news of God's grace throughout these mountains. We are grateful for the missionaries that pioneered this area. We are mindful of their vision, their love for their neighbors, and the years spent in leadership and Bible training. We are now encouraged to see that these churches are led by Ugandans who are reaching out to their brothers and sisters in God's grace.

It was truly a day to celebrate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

obeying psalms 50:14

Joys from the day:

6:30 am prayer time with teammates (which included chasing a man out of the house at 7am who just wandered in off the street while we were singing!)

8 am phone call from my sister (who was up in the wee hours of the morning in America working on her dissertation)

Hearing the testimony of God's faithfulness from visiting friend from Charleston Susan G

Praying with our pastor in the kitubi

Lunchtime conversation that Simon at health center is, indeed, alive and healing from severe necrotizing fasciitis

Seeing Lilli skip off to Christ School Bundibugyo with Travis for the student chapel

Hearing laughter as Aidan (in his walker) chased Patton back and forth in the house

My first time to successfully make lasagna in Africa (after I brushed off the little bugs that like to eat the uncooked pasta)

That we no longer have to light our kerosene refrigerator now that we have an electric refrigerator (no ants in this one so far!) and it even has a light in it that lights up when you open the door.

Sharing a meal with new friends Eric and Joy who are interning as the chaplain at CSB this summer

Packing in anticipation of two days away in Fort Portal to connect with team and rest a bit

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To quote Annie

I love musicals. One of my favorite lines from the musical, "Annie" comes after Annie has been lied to, kidnapped, chased up a perilously tall crane, and finally, rescued and reunited with her loved ones. Once back in the safe arms of her new father, she and Daddy Warbucks sing:
"Yesterday was plain awful."
"You can say that again."
"Yesterday was plain awful."
"But not. Not now. That's that. That's then."

Our yesterday was plain awful. We awoke to a text that several bombs had gone off in Kampala. Our incoming visitor could not come by bus as Kampala was closed down. Our car battery was dead. We all sadly said goodbyes as the Myhre family flew out. Trusted friends of the Myhres lied to us about taking things from their house. The satellite internet was still not working, but rather in pieces in our office and backyard. Lilli and Patton's school was broken into and the play money (amidst other things) was stolen. The padlock on the Myhres's house was smashed off. It just seemed that bad things just kept happening one after another. We started to wonder: if this is our first day as team leaders without the umbrella of Myhre shelter, what were our next days, weeks, years going to look like?

But that was yesterday. God's mercy is new every morning. Things have quieted down a bit. The internet is now working at our house so the whole team is now connected to the outside world. Students were back in classes at CSB after a midterm break. Teachers were teaching. The health center was busy. RMS was back in session (the play money and a few other things were even recovered). The cows are still being milked. Life is going on.

However, it was sobering to think of all that happened in one day. Rarely is Travis an alarmist. He is the one you want to have in an crisis as he can put on his "Emergency Room Face" and calmly asses and react to situations. Yet, this morning, he had an intense look on his face as he told me, "Amy, the enemy does not want us here. He does not want the message of God's grace for the Babwisi and Bakanja to continue to go forth. Before, I knew that prayer was important. Now I know it is essential for survival."

And I agree.

So, please continue to pray that the light of Jesus would shine brightly into the darkness here. Please pray that all of our hearts would turn away from whatever we feel we need to have or do to protect ourselves, whether it is stealing out of desperation or accumulating more out of greed. Pray that our hearts would trust in a heavenly Father who delights to meet the needs of His children. And pray that soon we can sing a happier song, one that sings of repentant hearts and dramatic rescues.