Monday, January 18, 2010

An Update from Bonnie in Uganda

Bonnie, Leah, Pastor Ruth, Kathy

My friend Bonnie is in Uganda for three months and is teaching the women English! Here is her first report:
Notes from Uganda

After a journey that started 8:30 Monday morning, Jan. 11, we arrived at our destination on Wednesday, 2:00 p.m. January 13. Needless to say we were exhausted. "We" is Leah, a 26 year old nurse from Minnesota, Kathy, a 66 year old nurse from Arizona and me.

We were met in Entebbe at the airport by Pastor Peter, the leader of Kingdom Preparation Ministries. He is a friend whom I first met in 2004 - a beautiful, strong compassionate Christian.

We have rented a 3 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms. That sounds luxurious, and by Ugandan standards, it is, BUT one of the showers doesn't work, the floors are unpainted cement, one of the sinks is hanging off the wall, etc. Although the lease says fully furnished, there is one bath towel per person, no table knives in the kitchen and the kitchen is almost like camping out. There is running water which we must purify and a 2 burner butane "stove". There is a refrigerator which is half freezer which takes the greater part of the "juice' so that the refrigerator part is barely cool - a problem. Also the kitchen is poorly supplied - BUT the mattresses are comfortable. We spent Wednesday afternoon and part of Thursday unpacking and shopping for food stuffs and supplies.

Shopping: Half of the stores contain used articles - the stores with new things are all very poor quality but they do carry some packaged food stuffs. There is an interior central market with little stalls and fresh produce. They have quite a variety of fresh food, but most Ugandans cannot afford it.

Thursday afternoon we went to Smile Africa to meet with Pastor Ruth to discuss what she had in mind for us to do. Then to my surprise, I was scheduled to meet my first class at 2:00 p.m. the next day, Friday.

In the evening, our Ugandan friends, Andrew, his wife Frida and their new baby Rache, along with Andrew's brother, Timothy came over. We served them chapati (a flat bread similar to tortillas which I purchased from a street vendor) and jackfruit which they taught us how to prepare, to serve with water and tea. The Ugandans are great tea drinkers.

Friday morning Leah and Kathy left for Smile Africa at 9:00. I cooked beans I had put to soak the night before. We must purify all the water we use for cooking and rinsing dishes by boiling or with purification tablets. It is a hassle. We clean all the vegetables with a veggie wash. It is obviously time-consuming. I went to Smile Africa at 11:00 - in time to "pick" rice (picking the pebbles and dirt out of the rice) and help to dish up the food (it was given by Feed My Starving Children) for the 400 hundred children fed daily at Smile Africa.

After lunch, I met with Janet, an assistant to Pastor Ruth, to discuss the coming students, class and agenda for this initial meeting. The women, (18) finally all arrived around 3:00 - typical African time. We prayed, we shared our personal stories and as the Ugandans come from an oral history tradition, their "sharing a little bit about themselves" can take 20 to 30 minutes. Thus the stories lasted so ong, we couldn't get to the rest of the agenda but this was okay because it gave each woman some encouragement and gave me an opportunity to see them as individuals and not a class. Some of their stories were heartbreaking. The mothers of 2 of the woemn tried to kill them as children, all of them are either widows or have been abandoned by their husbands. Half of them had very little schooling, some none at all. Some of them, before coming to Smile Africa, felt so desparate they wanted to kill themselves and their children. One woman lived under a tree and one rescued her sons from being poisoned by her husband's family. Pastor Ruth has helped all of these women to now beome self-supporting via micro-loans to set up small businessed. Widows in Uganda are subject to the whims of their dead husband's families. Their land, home and children can all be taken from them. What these women struggle with daily to accomplish care of self and children shows their strength and courage. (Wendy, Janet is teaching the "Mission Principles" material to these same women following my classes.) After this initial meeting we determined to split the women into non-English speakers to concentrate on learning English, and for those who do speak English, we will work on enhancing reading, writing and math skills.

I am very excited about this challenge and I ask for the prayers of all of you who read this that God will lead and guide me in these efforts.

Today, Leah was managing the clinic by herself, while Kathy went out to a village with Pastor Ruth to take some pictures of a child in desparate need of surgery.

Love to all - Bonnie