Friday, December 31, 2010

From our thankful list

After an afternoon spent walking around CSB, dreaming about improvements to make on the school and watching the kids ride bikes (Hooray for Lilli with no training wheels!), we headed home for a reheated pizza dinner. As we contemplated preparing a big meal in honor of New Year’s Eve, we decided to let this year go, much like eating leftovers, and start afresh with a grill-out on New Year’s Day. Honestly, this year has been the hardest year of my life. Hard is not always bad, but hard is always hard.

So, in an effort to remember the blessings of 2010, we each wrote down our “thankfuls” from the year 2010.

Lilli: Our house, because most people don’t even have a house. Our Christmas tree, that we got one. Bhootu and Ngite waterfall

Patton: Christmas, because of gifts and Baby Jesus. Aidani. Afternoons snuggling up to mom (we read books this afternoon...their memory span is a bit short).

Amy: That we survived and that a new year is beginning. For grace and forgiveness as we partnered through a move, a baby, goodbyes, chaotic start to African life, too many responsibilities too fast, for the trampoline (a gift to me as much as to the kids!), for a few funny books, for smiles from old ladies, for a few times of video skype, for emails from friends in the US, for restaurants in Kampala (especially ice cream at LeChateau, pasta at Cafe Roma), for Wednesday morning prayer, for Anna’s cheerful teaching of L and P, that Lilli is reading, for African fabrics, for fresh pineapple, mangoes, avocados, and bananas, that the lawsuit against dad was rightfully dropped and justice was evidented, that I have learned to really cook and be resourceful, for Patton’s deep love for his mama, for Lilli’s desire to be with me, for health of Aidan (and that we made it a year breastfeeding!), that our part of Uganda has been peaceful, that the team from Grace wants to visit here, that this is starting to become home.

Travis: Candlelight dinners. Bright African stars, Sunset view of mountains from back porch, Amy’s uncanny ability to make a home anywhere, chance to learn many new things, getting to know my wife in different and deeper ways, extra time around family, walking the kids to school, new friends, Tuesday night with teachers at CSB, teammates (both those that have left, those here, and those coming), for international trips, especially to the US for Thanksgiving, for TLC (The Land Cruiser), mountain bike rides, friends who support, pray and email us.

Webele 2010. Wesalo. Oliyo 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Farewell, Master Johnson

Tonight, we hosted a dinner in honor of a man who has been a faithful teacher at Christ School Bundibugyo for twelve years. After a delicious dinner of Pat’s pork appetizers, matooke, rice, plain spaghetti noodles, gnut sauce, cabbage, beef sauce, and chicken, we gathered around two kerosene lamps to hear stories of God’s faithfulness in the life of Busesiere Johnson. In his characteristically animated manner, he shared that after the first year of CSB, only he and Kevin Bartkovich remained. His friends called him “mad” for moving to Bundibugyo and said that they would keep a house for him in his hometown Kabale for when he comes back from this insanity. He laughed how his colleagues at CSB also thought him mad when he planted a stone in the ground. They wondered if he was practicing some sort of witchcraft or sorcery. No, he said, he was planting a stone of rememberance, an Ebeneezer, to the faithfulness of God. That stone in his compound at CSB would always serve to remind everyone that just as God brought the Israelites through difficulty, He also has protected CSB students and staff. He recalled that when the rebels came through Bundibugyo, students had already been sent home and that he even passed them on the road and they did not stop him. He shared his gratefulness for missionaries that served here, for the way that God’s love came alive to him in the Sonship course, for the way that God has blessed his wife and five children.

An especially moving moment was when he received the parting gift of “The Jesus Storybook Bible”. His eyes grew wide and he could not complete a sentence. When he finally found his voice, he said, “The Holy Spirit must have told you to give this to me. The one thing I wanted as a gift from CSB was a Bible but I never had time to talk with Deus about it. This is the most valuable gift I could ever receive.” It was a beautiful point in time to read the last lines of the Bible that remark that God’s story does not end, but, rather, it is “to be continued”. Indeed, we look forward to the day when we will sit together with God’s children from around the world and throughout time, feasting, sharing, and being together in the love we have as brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we walked the Johnson family out, we prayed with them for their journey ahead as they move to Kampala for further schooling. We echo their prayers for their children to be ambassadors for the gospel, sharing it with Uganda and the world.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

For Christmas Eve, we gathered as a team in our katubi with the village children to celebrate the Christ child. Pat brought out homemade costumes for Mary, Joseph, shepherds, the three kings, Herod, soldiers, and the angel. As each role was handed out, the story began to come alive for me.

Mary was played by Esta, a sweet girl who around 14 years of age. She is fatherless and lives with her mother and step father, our neighbor. She quietly helps our neighbor, watching their children, collecting firewood, washing, bring water from the tap, etc. She never complains and always has a peaceful smile. She rarely goes to school, but she has taught herself some English and some letters.

Joseph was chosen by Gonja, the eldest son of our neighbor who we see proudly going to market for his family to buy goods, wrestles with neighborhood kids, and is trying to figure out his place in this world. Gonja’s little brother Charity chose to be the angel. He wore banana leaves as wings. He is a little guy with a constant smirk on his face, is fun-loving, engaging and tough enough to strike fear in small shepherds.

Herod and the Three Kings were seen as the prize positions. Most the shops in Uganda have a photo of the President and of the tribal king. The kings are pictured sitting in a thrown with a crown and elegant robes. Kingship is something definitely known and to be desired. Since Herod was the king of the land, they all wanted to play this role. After he was chosen, the three other boys settled to be the wisemen.

The next coveted position was Herod’s soldiers. Just like the Herdman’s right? Since we are a border town, soldiers regularly patrol our streets. To these kids, being soldier means respect, power of the gun and a stable income. Those chosen for this roll quickly found sticks and made wooden AK-47s.

Lastly, we asked for volunteers to be shepherds. No one raised their hand. We told them that it is the shepherds who God tells the good news to first. Still, no one volunteered. Shepherds and cow herders here are leathery lonely characters, paid little, with few possessions, and no respect. It is better to be even a sustinance farmer.

And just like that, I realized the story of Christmas for the first time again. We live in a land of struggling young men, displaced young women, kings, soldiers, and shepherds. The people of Luke 2 are real and all around us. Kings and soldiers are good. The harshness of poverty and the life of shepherds are burdensome. Yet, in the Christmas story, everything is turned upside down. Herod and the soldiers are the bad guys. God goes to the shepherds. He loves the humble, He goes to the displaced, He gives hope to those who have none, He finds the lost and rejoices with those who are overlooked.

Thank you Jesus that you came to dwell with everyone of us.

Christmas Eve

Visiting friends, such as the family of Beligi and Asita, are a part of Christmas culture in Bundibugyo.

We prayed for a year that we would be able to video skype. We had enough internet to skype for 10 minutes each. Chrissy is all smiles after seeing her family during her first Christmas here in Africa.
Christmas H'orderves at the Johnson home included new Christmas "trousers" for the ladies.
Lilli, Aidan, and Patton are very excited to celebrate Christmas together!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Adam

Christmas Adam (what comes before Eve), we left very early in the morning to drive from Kampala to Bundibugyo. The road construction from Kampala to Fort Portal continues to be slow moving (aka stopped), but the road from Fort to Bundi seems to be moving along well.
We stopped in Bundibugyo Town for some market shopping, including a purchase of plastic flooring to cover the kids' concrete floor where too many stubbed toes have occurred.

As Christmas Eve is the day of slaughtering of cows for Christmas meal, we were delayed by at least five herds of cattle that had to be moved out of the way for us to pass. As Travis accidentally bumped one with the "cattle catcher" grill of our car, we remarked that this gives new meaning to the term "rump roast."
We were greeted by a beautiful tradition of a "Christmas White Dinner", a Norwegian meal of only white dishes that was always hosted by the Myhres. Talapia, mashed potatoes, hot artichoke dip, delicious white bread, beans, and sugar cookies were amazing.
The Johnsons in all white
Great to be with team after uncertainty if we would have to spend Christmas out of country!

Christmas Carols in Bundi

Oh the weather outside is delightful… 80 degrees, slight breeze and sunny!
I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas… we are in the rainforest
I’ll be home for Christmas… thanks to the miraculous visa extension
All I want for Christmas is two front teeth…one for Lilli and one for Patton
Palm Nuts roasting on an open fire, Jack fruit growing on our trees… year round actually
Oh Christmas, Oh Christmas tree, oh where can we find a Christmas tree… NC Frasier Firs don’t quite make it here
Oh Little Town of Bundibugyo… I am sure, the first Christmas was something similar to this.
Here we go a waffling… still learning how to be missionaries
Away in the manger… we actually have one, or at least a feeding trough for our cows!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, WHM gave to us...
12 teachers teaching
11 elders praying
10 pieces of property
9 goats a bleating
8 translators translating
7 slashers slashing
6 chickens laying
5 key rings (hundreds of keys)
4 barking dogs
3 milking cows
2 night guards
1 team to share it all with

Joy to the World… we are learning how far this reaches

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“That is how God does miracles!”

This is what my Chris Rock look-a-like friend said as we walked out of the immigration lawyer’s office. Our friend is an Ugandan who works with MAF and helps dozens of NGOs process papers. Two days ago, he is the one who said the only thing we could do to stay legally in Uganda was to go to the Kenyan border and obtain a visitor’s visa. Crossing over the rough Ugandan landscape over Christmas with three small children shortly after our disastrous trip 3 weeks ago did not sound much like an option to us. He said any other “back ways” to get around leaving may keep us from ever getting a work permit. The bottom line, we were being kicked out of the country.

After praying, we decided to go to the Immigration Office just to see what doors God could open. The first door was slammed back in our face and they said we needed to leave right then. After begging and appealing, (I was not above showing photos of our little ones) she sent us to another office. As we left, she said with a half smirk, “He will just send you back to me.” So I called Amy and said to start packing. Amy emailed a SOS-prayer alert first. As we sat waiting at the next office, my friend looked at me and said, “I have an idea.”

So we went to another office, where an immigration lawyer sat down with us and reviewed our case. He amazingly said that this should not be a problem and to return tomorrow with a letter- which he pretty much told me how to write. So, today I showed up with my friend, the letter, lots of prayer and the biggest smile I could muster. The man reviewed the document and wrote a short appeal on the letter. He then went for “a minute” to speak with the one who could authorize the special pass for us to stay. Both men returned. The one sat, signed the authorization and gave it back to us with a “Merry Christmas.”

My friend and I walked out of the office not believing such a door opened. He turned to me and said, “That is how God does miracles.”

Thanks for praying. Thanks to a Christmas miracle, we are least another day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sometimes you’re the windshield...Sometimes you’re the bug

This line from one of my favorite singers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, sums us up right now.

As we were driving 9 hours in TLC with the kiddos from Bundibugyo to Kampala (with a needed break in Fort Portal), we had a lot of windshield time. At times, we could see for miles as we were on top of the ridges of the Rwenzori Mountains. At times, we could not see a foot past our front as the road was incredibly dusty from the “road work”. I just closed my eyes in prayer that that cars were not coming on our side of the road.

Even though our windows were down (no air conditioning), our windshield served to protect us from most of the debris, dirt, dust, exhaust, and bugs from the road. And as team leaders for our brave little band of missionaries in Bundibugyo, we have worked hard to be a buffer from much of the debris that exists to make it difficult to serve in Uganda. Before we left for the WHM leadership meetings in November, we filed for work/dependent papers for three of our teammates. And, thankfully, they were all granted. But we neglected to file our own...

Splat. Today, we are the bug.

Presently, Travis is with a missionary immigration logistics man at the immigration office, pleading for an extension of our “special pass” which is a bridge between a tourist visa and a work visa (for which we are applying, but Travis’s papers are held up at the ministry of health to recognize him as a doctor, etc, etc). And we are lacking one important paper, a paper that was initiated a year and a half ago.

If they do not extend mercy, we will be driving to Kenya tonight. Not a short drive, especially for three little ones who just got out of the car last night.

Would you join us in praying for a miracle...that immigration would extend mercy? These two words are not usually synonymous, so it would, indeed, be a miracle!

Or if we end up on the road again, for grace in the drive, for the ability to see God as our Great Shield, and that we can do all of this in time to make it back to Bundibugyo for Christmas?

I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year of Thanks: 2010

Above is a short 3 minute video of our year. We have loved being here. Thanks for being a part of it with us. Thanks for journeying with us- story by story, day by day.

Yet, there is a great cost to be here. It costs relationships. We miss you: our family and friends.We have been misunderstood, witnessed witchcraft, and seen death and its impact on a daily basis. It costs time. We are up early working and go to bed late. There is no escape at home from knocks on the door and the needs of those around us. It costs money- our own and yours. Thank you for everyone that has and is supporting us. We could not be here advocating, praying for, or helping if it was not for you. Thank you for letting us be your eyes, ears and hands here.

We know it is the end of the year, so many of you are looking at ways to share how God has financially blessed you. Others of you just want a chance to be a part of what God is doing here. Please join us!

With the outgoing of the many missionaries who ran these programs, taking over as team leaders and with the incoming of new missionaries, our ministry costs for the coming year is going up- almost 20%. I know many of you are giving sacrificially. Thanks for partnering with us in such a way.

You can give through World Harvest Mission, which is tax deductible. You can give a one time gift or give monthly. Many give $25, $50, $100 or even $200 per month.

You can give by Electronic Funds Transfer (Easy and no financial fee to you or us!) at this website:

Thank you again and again. Many of you already give and many of you want to but cannot. Thank you for all the ways you support us! It is always hard to ask for financial help, but we do need it. We need it to be here. Beyond the practicality of money, it also means the world to us to have you partner by giving from your time and resources that it takes you to earn your paycheck. It makes the ocean seem somehow smaller. It lets us know we are not here alone.

We love you.

Have a Merry Christmas,

Travis and Amy

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shem and Grace: A reason to celebrate

Since we first arrived, our friend Shem (also called Samuel, Samueli, Shemmi) has been talking about the plans he was making for his “ringing”. Shem and Grace have been together since they met during the war and have four children. But for them to be publicly recognized as married only to each other, they wanted to have a proper church wedding. To raise money for his “budget” for the wedding (which includes giving goats to her family), he has been a CSB gate guard, painted houses, made 10,000 mud bricks, and has collected donations from friends and family. Orphaned at an early age, Shem has been raised by uncles, brothers, cousins, aunts, and sisters. His community of support is quite large! Grace is a petite, beautiful, soft-spoken woman who lovingly cares for her children and husband in their two room 12 foot by 8 foot house in Nyahuka.

This morning, we awoke to knocks on our door by young men requesting chairs to put in the front of the church for people of importance to sit. The knocks continued as 10 youth came to wash and decorate our car for Travis was today’s wedding chauffeur. As the time drew near for the pick-up to happen, the sky grew dark and a wet-season rain poured down. The rain delayed the wedding two hours, but spirits were still high! Travis arrived with the groom and his family. I laughed when he opened the door and more and more people kept climbing out of the least 10! Pat “Never A Dull Moment” Abbott was the bride’s driver and sent us a text with the plead to pray because her car full of the bride and brides’ party was stuck in the mud! The congregation continued singing and eventually, the bride’s car arrived.

The wedding included singing, welcoming, more singing, a choir performance, prayer, a homily about marriage, the calling of couple, the ringing, and an introduction to the community as a married couple. Elder and Bible translator Charles Musengusi read from Genesis 2 and challenged married men and women to be like one person. He called for all married men to raise their hands and then asked them if they created their wives. Did Shem go to the river and take mud to make the woman Grace? No! She is a gift from God! He challenged men to be honest with their wives, especially about financial matters. To truly be one in the Lord.

Shem, the exuberant extrovert couldn’t help but to hug his sweet wife in celebration! Grace, the quiet introvert, seemed as if she would faint at any minute. It was dear to see this husband and wife together, one in the Lord, proclaiming their unity in front of the whole community.

And then the party... well, all that we need to say is that Ugandans like to have a good time!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A season of journey

I am currently sitting behind the wheel of my stalled land cruiser stranded in mida-o-nowa, Uganda. Amy, Anna and the kids have caught a ride to Fort Portal and are safe. Having time to reflect over the past four days (really 5 weeks) of travel and painfully realizing that we will be adding one more before we arrive home and wanting to spiral down into self pity, Jesus gently whispered to me that Christmas is the season of journey.


As I pondered this thought, I realized everyone in the pageantry of Christmas was some sort of journey. Obviously, the wisemen came from afar. So did Joseph and Mary. Even the shephards- though not as far, left their sheep and hillside to travel to Bethlehem. For what? In different ways, God had called each of them to leave what they knew for something they did not. The wise-men were given a hint of the spectacular through the heavenlies. Mary and Joseph were just obeying q royal decree, not realizing that in doing so they were fulfilling prophecy. The shepherds, well it seems obvious, but I bet they were so stunned by the fantastic display that they could not imagine what may be laying in the manger. Yet, ultimately God had called him there for one purpose. To see His son and to worship. And they did. The wisemen were compelled to give away their treasures. The shepherds made quite a scene dancing and praising God down the streets and Mary cherished it all quietly in her heart.

The longest journey did not include any of these. The Child Himself left the very throne room of God to be with us for our good, the Father's glory and His joy. May this compel all of us to worship.

Interestingly, I find myself identifying with each of these stories. Like the wisemen, Amy and i want to give our best gifts to the Lord. This is how our journey started. Like Mary and Joseph, we are not sure how our journey fits into the bigger story. We do pray that through it we will be able to present the Christ, our savior, to those the Father brings to us. Like the shepherds, I do long to dance up and down the streets declaring the good tidings at the journeys end. Like Christ we do it for the Joy set before us. This joy is the privilege of walking with Him on an incredible journey in a way that allows us to see Him and worship Him in new and deeper ways.

Right now, however, I am wondering how often the wiseman caravan was waylaid in route to Jerusalem. I am also thankful for Atwooki, our friend and mechanic who is journeying 2 hours to come and fix my car.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our own Helen Rosevere Story

When we arrived to Bundibugyo on Saturday afternoon, Pat came by with a package that she had picked up from the Post Office. Mail can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to arrive here. When it comes to Kampala, they wait and gather enough to send it over the mountains. There is not a post office in Nyahuka, so about once a week someone drives to Bundibugyo Town to gather the mail. That is, if the post office is open. At times, I have had to walk around town to find the post mistress. So, needless to say, receiving mail is a highlight of life here.

I set the package on the dining table and told our eager kids that we would open it in the morning. As we arrived in the evening, there was no time to buy eggs or any produce for breakfast. So, on Sunday morning, I stood in the pantry looking for anything that might pass for breakfast. As I couldn’t think of what that may be, I sat down with the kids to open the package.

It was from a dear friend who really reached out to us in our one year in Boston. As Travis was a student at the Harvard School of Public Health, we lived in student housing, making it very rare for any children to be around. We craved friendships for our kids. When we first took our children to Sunday School at Christ the King Presbyterian in Cambridge, a cute little curly-haired blondie named Elizabeth looked at Lilli and asked her to sit beside her. And every Sunday afterwards, Elizabeth saved a seat for Lilli. The whole body at CTK really shepherded us through the process of shock that we were considering ministry in Uganda to the actual point in which our feet here are on African soil. They pray for us and support us. Being in such a transient student area, like us, many members of CTK are there for several years before they move on. One such family is the sender of the package, the Ashes who now live in Pittsburg.

When we saw that the package was from them, we were encouraged that many life transitions and many miles would still keep our hearts close. And when we opened the package, we laughed out loud at God’s goodness and perfect timing.

For in the box was breakfast cereals!

And not just any breakfast cereals, but the yummy, sugary ones that kids like, with even a box of Cheerios for Aidan!

And a precious book about Mothering, one that has encouraged contentment this week as I am doing a lot of the necessary, in-house, non-glorious jobs that must be done when one returns from 5 weeks away.

That package had been mailed 6 weeks earlier, but it arrived in perfect timing. God always knows what we need. And I am thankful that we have friends who listen to Him and love us well!

*If you want to know who Helen Rosevere is and what her story has to do with ours, see the podcast link on the side of the blog. About a 5 minute recording that is well worth your time!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Angel Candle

Though tonight was not the first Sunday of Advent, it was for our team here in Bundibugyo. As the CSB staff party overlapped with our planned advent celebration, we postponed it until tonight.

The event was hosted by Anna and Chrissy who procured a Charlie Brown acacia tree (not too many evergreens here) and decorated it with colorful lights. Their house was festive and we were all glad to be back together as a team after 4 weeks of separation. Led by Pat, we read about the prophesies of old that fortold of the birth of Jesus. After a discussion about fuzzy math, Pat explained that some of the prophesies were made 700 year before the birth of Jesus, 14 times the age of Aunt Pat. As the youngest (who can walk), Brian lit the Prophesy Candle.

The next youngest, Patton, lit the Angel Candle as Pat told about the announcements that were given to Zechariah and Elizabeth and then to Mary about miraculous births that would change the world. John read the scriptures and Pat quizzed us all. Even little Aidan was in the conversation as he said “Jesus” several times! John gathered the kiddos together and read a picture book about the birth of Jesus. After we sang all the carols that we could remember that centered around angelic proclamations, we enjoyed hot apple cider, molasses raisin cookies, and red popcorn (well, our fingers and lips were red at least as Pat experimented with red food dye melted into the butter!). It felt good to gather together, to hear the children’s understanding of Christ’s birth, and to remember why we are here.

New Students at RMS

Today, Lilli and Patton started back to Rwenzori Mission School. As we neared the gate to the school, a chorus of loud moos greeted us. While we were in America, some repairs to the cow pasture were done, so the three chocolate-themed-named cows DMC (for dairy milk chocolate), Truffle. and Oreo were moved to the beautiful gated yard of what is now housing RMS. A neighbor named Belige milks DMC every morning and evening to supply milk for the team. But as he is a lay pastor who preaches, Travis takes over the milking each Sunday evening. In the legacy of Scott and Julia, Lilli sits right next to Travis and helps with the milking. That is why this morning, when we were opening the gate and two very large cows and one calf were blocking our entrance, I was surprised that Lilli would not move. At her request, I quickly closed the gate. We talked it through and decided that we had to get to school. Lilli mandated that we must pray and led us in the sweetest, most sincere prayer to be brave to walk past the cows so she could go to school. I admit that I was nervous too, though I never would let on it to the kids. With Aidan in the sling on my shoulder and each kid holding onto my skirt, we opened the gate and proceeded. About 1/5 of the way in, the 2 year old cow Truffle (who has horns) started running towards us. But I let her know she was misbehaving and we were fine.

Once in school, Miss Anna was looking for something in the Craft Closet and a large rat jumped out at her. She yelled to Lilli who was writing on the chalkboard. Just as Lilli looked up, the rat ran across her foot. She just looked at Miss Anna and shrugged her shoulders. From a young age, girls here are made of strong stuff!

Three cows and a rat...not your usual roster of new students. But, then again, this is not a usual place. This is Bundibugyo!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Watches and Time

I have heard the phrase “Americans have watches and Africans have time.” Today was one of those days it was true.

Today was an adjustment day for the kids, remembering how to sit at church on wooden pews or the concrete floor, how to entertain themselves during the long prayers and readings and announcements in Lebwisi, and how to last longer than an hour. After encouraging them to “hang in there just a little longer”, we threw in the towel after an hour and a half.

We hurried them to take naps in time for the big CSB end of year staff party at 2:30pm. As Travis was heading out the door with his speech in hand (and us soon to follow), he received a text that it was postponed to 4pm. Arriving at 4pm, he waited around until at 5:30pm he returned home. Learning that it was estimated to be at 7pm, I knew our kids would not be able to endure a long night of speeches and then a meal. Lilli was very disappointed as she loves goat meat. However, Patton was relieved and said very emphatically, “I will not order the goat!” So, I stayed at home with the kiddos, making dinner from a precious box of Kraft mac and cheese that we brought back with us (thanks, Mom!) and reading “Mr Poppers Penguins” to some very tired children.

Travis, Chrissy, Anna, Pat with Kym and Lydia celebrated with the staff. Travis asked for staff to share surprise of good from the year. He relayed that his surprise was arriving to Uganda and becoming Chairman of the Board of Governors for CSB (director of the school)! He shared that working with the staff and studying the Bible with them on Tuesday nights has been a highlight of the year.

Other comments from the night include:

“Dear Chairman, we were all worried when they said you were coming. You are what they say is an “unknown quantity”. We did not know if you would be harsh or mean. We are pleasantly surprised. (Does that mean Travis is an old softie?!)

“Those S4s (a challenging group of students that graduated this year), I swore I would never want them to have my mobile number, but when they left, they asked me for it, and I even gave some of them it!”

“The surprise for me is the smiling faces you see here. At the end of last year, we left not smiling. We did not know what was going to happen. I am surprised to see all of us here smiling.”

Indeed, it has been a challenging year for CSB as it has undergone tremendous transition. In one year it went from a missionary being the headmaster/director to a Ugandan as a headmaster to now to Scott acting as the chairman and now Travis in the chairman position. But, somehow, the school has continued, and even done well! We are thankful that God has his hand on the students and teachers here and for the completion of another year.

We are are still praying that God would quickly bring someone with African educational experience (and a 6 year old little girl!) to assume leadership as Director of Educational Ministries.

I would ask for prayers for Travis this week during the following meetings:

Monday- Staff meeting regarding next year’s contracts

Tuesday- Board of Governors meeting

Wednesday- Parents meeting

Thursday- Meeting with Deus (headmaster) and Loy (accountant) regarding closing the financial books

Friday- End of year review with Deus

We have heard that one of the top qualities that missionaries must have is flexibility. Whether it is doing a job that we never anticipated or even when a meal will actually start, we are having plenty of opportunities to have this character built into us. Lord, keep us flexible and open to whatever you bring our way!

Further up, Further in...

After a good night’s sleep (finally! wahoo!), we all enjoyed the delicious breakfast at RwenZori View and interesting conversation with fellow travelers. Once TLC was back from Atwoki’s for its morning rebelting and tune-up, we hit the road. And what a road it was!

Uganda is known for its speed bumps. At one point in our travels, we counted over 100 speedbumps (or humps as they say) and then stopped counting. Patton was in the far back in what Anna called his “man cave”, snuggled between a huge duffle and his backpack. Aidan caught a much needed morning nap. As we passed the Chinese construction group that is building a new road to Bundibugyo, we used our very little Chinese to thank them (which totally surprised them!). It always amazes me to be so close to the huge earth movers that are carving into the mountain. Patton loves it; it is any boy’s dream to be so close to such monstrous equipment!

All was going well, everyone cheerful, looking for monkeys, enjoying the fresh air from opened windows (now that the air conditioning is gone), when we met a fellow 4wd truck and Travis asked, “did you pass from Bundibugyo?” “Yes” was the reply, so we forged ahead. Pat had told us that the water is right up to the road and any day it should just wash it away. Fortunately, today was not the day. But we did have to take turns with the oncoming traffic as only one vehicle could splash through the water that came up to the top of our tires. As the water sprayed our windows, Lilli exclaimed that our car needed a snorkel!

Just as we were debating if the grader had leveled the road lately, we came to an area where the rain had washed away the packed dirt, leaving large exposed and sharp rocks. After we bumped over the second group of rocks, we heard a thud and a loud hiss. Immediately, we all knew: flat tire! And so close to home! So, Travis dug around in the overly-crowded back of the car and found the overly-used jack set. Sad that it was a new, tubleless tire, but happy that we had two good spares, he set to work changing the tire. When the jack broke, we wondered what next?! As we were blocking half of the road (no shoulder available), he had to periodically stop his work to allow for a truck to drive by. The boda bodas (motorcycles) just sped by with no concern for how close they were. Near misses are the norm for driving in Africa.

As Travis finished putting the last lug nut on, he remarked, “The enemy must really not want us to be back in Bundibugyo.” But for all of the trouble that we experienced along the way, we made it here safely. Our tummies are full from a delicious meal that Pat and Chrissy made. The kids are asleep on their own beds. Bhootu has had a bath and is on guard on the back porch. And we are about to crawl into our mosquito net for what I hope is a good night’s sleep. Finally, home.

First time I ever hitchhiked…with kids! (Day 3 back in Africa)

So, I have had to thumb a ride several times over the course of my travels, but never with children in tow!

Today was a first. After a very late night of packing, repacking and rerepacking bags our vehicle to accommodate our ridiculous amount of stuff and 6 people (teacher Anna Linhart is with us), I finally went to bed around 2am and Travis at 4am (jetlag and too many things on the mind), waking up at 6:30am to get our crew going. We were all in great spirits as we turned off Entebbe Road to Masaka Road en route to Fort Portal (5-6 hours away) and then Bundibugyo (another 3+ hours). Aidan threw up three times, though he was cheerful and enjoyed sitting by his new best buddy Anna. As we were enjoying the cool air conditioning (the ONLY air conditioning in all of Bundibugyo Districs), Travis noticed that the speedometer no longer was working…nor was the rpm display working, nor the electric windows, nor the airconditioning…hmmm. Better pull over. And then black smoke started coming from the back of the car. Not good. So, Travis turned off the car. And we prayed. No longer did just the electric systems not work, but now the car would not even start!

And we prayed. And called the faithful mechanic Atwoki who was going to see his daughter in Bushenyi, but turned around and picked up two mechanics and more tools to come to our rescue.

Meanwhile, it was getting hot. On the side of the road, there was little shoulder so the kids could not really get out and play, but inside was even hotter as the windows would now not roll down. A small Corolla type car pulled over and the largest Ugandan man I have seen got out to try to jump start our car. No success. Then the Ugandan Wildlife Authority LandCruiser pulled over and jumped our car. Still no success. Next, Travis did what any good driver who is broken on the side of an African road should do- put branches in the road warning people that the lane is somewhat blocked. Another 4wd vehicle pulled over to offer assistance, but they were fairly full, but in true Ugandan style said they could crowd together to accommodate more. About that time, a man in a Toyota Patrol (4wd vehicle) pulled over and talked with Travis. The next thing I knew I was grabbing up kids, diapers, a bottle, my cell phone and some money to dash into his car to make the 2+ hour drive to Fort Portal with our new friend Tinka. Knowing that our moms pray regardless that it would be 4am in the US, we sent a text explaining the situation. Travis’s mom had been praying for a good Samaritan to come to our rescue. And God provided!

While we were in Fort, hanging out at our evening’s accommodation, Travis continued on the side of the road for a few more hours until he was greeted by Bob and Jennifer Chedester and their van full of kids. The Chedesters, now serving in Kenya, were “logistical” missionaries serving the Fort community and the team in Bundibugyo for many years. “Mr. Fix It” Bob tied a tow rope from his van to the much larger and heavier Land Cruiser (TLC as our friend John Mancini likes to call it) in hopes of towing it to the next town. It was a dance of trying not to crash the two cars, pull the van backwards, and pull the now non-functioning Land Cruiser. As they were pulling closer to Mebende, the tow rope snapped, once again stranding TLC on the side of the road. But just at that moment, the mechanic Atwoki and his two mechanics arrive to save the day!

Basically, the air conditioning compressor seal broke and burst across the engine. It jammed the belt and blew the ignition fuse. Atwoki said that if we had driven any further, it would have been the end of the engine.

He patched it together with a promise from Travis to return to his shop early in the morning. They proceeded to make the drive to Fort, Travis learning the amazing story of God’s faithfulness to Atwoki through the ministry and friendships of early World Harvest missionaries. What a blessing it was for Travis to spend time hearing insights about ministry among the Babwisi people!

Our kiddos cheered as Travis arrived around 9pm as they were not too keen being separated from him, especially in such a rushed and unusual way. I pray that we all sleep well tonight and that tomorrow we can make the drive to Bundibugyo safely, even if it is without air conditioning!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 1 Back in Africa

Landing in Entebbe after a flight we almost missed (think: family of 5 wakes up at 8:12am after a fitful night’s sleep to quickly throw things in bags, dress children and run to a 8:35am shuttle to run to the front of lines to get to our gate on the other side of the airport...) at 9pm, we filed a report for one missing trunk and met our taxi drivers who drove us to the Matoke Inn where we tried to enter quietly as the other missionary guests were sleeping (how quiet can a family of three young kids really be?!). At the breakfast table, a young photographer who was spending three months in East Africa reporting about missionary life asked if Aidan is our only child (L and P were still sleeping), “because if he is, from hearing him last night, he’s a doozy!” Hmmm, maybe time to move to a different mission guest house. After traveling through Kampala to a friend’s house to collect our left-behind belongings and our hopefully, fixed car, we drove to our evening’s accommodation at the MAF guesthouse. It is a little oasis of peace and space at the end of possibly the worst pot-holed road in all of Africa. However, our welcome here may be short-lived as our three kids took turns calling for us or crying because they could not fall asleep from 11pm nonstop to 1:30am. Ahhh, jet lag.

Observations made now that we are back:

`The scenes along the road in Kampala are less shockingly chaotic, but now a bit normal.

`I am used to women stopping their conversation or whatever they were doing to stand and stare at my three blondies, even making comments about them as if I was not there.

`Now I know how the Food Court at the one of two malls in Kampala works: I sit and am greeted by 8 different menu servers who patiently wait until I choose which type of food I want. I love it.

`Wheetabix for breakfast doesn’t taste like cardboard anymore.

`The all-night rave/revival doesn’t surprise me now; I even expect it wherever I am.

`My planning ahead means that I call my friend on the way to her house to tell her that I am coming for our things we stored with her and for the retrieval of our car. And I am not surprise that it is not there as the mechanic is driving it around.

`I may never get used to night time traffic convergence of pedestrians, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, huge lorry/trucks, and our own 4 wd vehicle all smushed together, creating and recreating lanes, bumping each other on the way.

`Praying for the long, bumpy trip to Bundibugyo. Curious about the state of the last part of the road as we heard that it is all but completely washed out and we may have to take the alternate mountain road. We have taken that road once before, when my mom was with us and a fish truck was stuck in the washout...starting to smell, being unloaded by all the people with baskets on their head full of looted fish, with locals assuring us that it was fine to cross (with a smile on their face and a plan to be paid to get us unstuck!). So, we'll see...

`We are all ready to be in Bundibugyo, to see our teammates, to hug our dog, to sleep in our own foam mattress beds. To know that our days of sleeping in 11 different beds in 4 weeks is done...for now. To be home.