Uganda we miss you…

Disclaimer: This blog post was written by Joe our last day in Uganda, but the delay in posting was due to travels!

Today is our final day here in Uganda.

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The wells were completed and fresh water flowed. Both communities had ceremonies with local, tribal, and government officials present.

Cutting the ribbon on #TeamAmy`s well
Cutting the ribbon on #TeamAmy`s well
Getting presented with our well certificate!
Getting presented with our  clean water well certificate!

Now my thoughts are slowing turning to the life I left behind for two weeks. Here in Uganda, the pace of life is much slower, everything runs on Africa Time meaning, nothing is urgent. I now see where CP TIME (Colored People Time) originally started from. LOL….

Here in Uganda, you hear birds chirping, you see wild animals walking across your hotel lawn, knowing that you are there but aren’t afraid of you… At night, you can see the stars light up the Uganda night….. it’s absolutely beautiful.

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There`s a Water Buffalo 30ft away!

Also, here in Uganda, there’s a silence that’s so deafening at times. For a few days, I couldn’t go to sleep because it was simply too quiet. I’m use to hearing police and ambulatory sirens, gun shots, people having loud disagreements, cars on the road, trucks back firing and dogs barking, loud music blaring from someone’s vehicle, and very loud neighbors. Ah! There’s nothing like city living. LOL…..

The flight home from Dubai was delayed about twenty minutes due to wrong luggage being placed on our flight home. But its all good, after our 13 hour flight home we landed safely at Dulles right on schedule.

We went through customs, picked up our luggage and headed towards the exit for our ride home.

We hugged everyone and said our goodbyes… But you could tell within our team that thoughts about our everyday life here in america were slowly creeping back into our thoughts.

Uganda we miss you……

-Joe

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Uganda we miss you…

Building Foundations

Disclaimer: The delay in this post is due to our lack of Internet and power. Enjoy!

On Wednesday, both teams celebrated as we said goodbye to our wells, #85 and #86, built through our partnership with Mission 4 Water. In the morning, the village communities hosted a commissioning ceremony for each well that included speeches from the community leaders and Mission 4 Water’s executive director, a promise from the newly-formed water committees to protect and maintain the wells after which a shiny blue ribbon was cut for each well symbolizing its inauguration. We cheered loudly with ear-to-ear smiles, while celebratory water was pumped from the bright-blue well and we prayed that these wells would bring life to these communities and anyone who used them.

Mission accomplished.

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Yet, there is so much more to these wells and this mission than a mere plastic pump that outputs clean water while sitting on top of a concrete slab. The previous ten days had been filled with hard work, love, dedication, joy and laughter, which we left behind in the foundation of each of these wells. Instrumental to turning our efforts into a working well are the co-founders of Mission 4 Water (Sue and Sunday) and the dynamic duo that have led this team (Amy and Krista). The unsung heroes are the six drillers who we have had the sincerest honor and privilege of working alongside in the construction of these wells.

Lovingly referred to as the “driller boys”, Emma (Emmanuel), John, Laban, Peter, Richard and Albert work with grace and integrity, never complaining when a challenge occurs or frustrated as they watch us struggle and sweat, knowing they could do any part of the well-digging process with greater efficiency since they have built ~90-95% of the wells on their own, without partnering with a group of volunteers. Everyday, these men were always there to gracefully step in when we inevitably got confused, stuck or were doing the wrong thing. Each of their attitudes, sense of humor and kindness made our workdays a refreshing, joyful adventure and a testimony to teamwork and community irregardless of culture and language. It was a reminder to find peace and laughter in the midst of any circumstance. To honor and share a meal with our six friends, we invited them to dinner on our last night in Rukungiri. With matoke (a local favorite of savory mashed bananas), laugher and a dance circle, we celebrated the work accomplished and the relationships we created and fortified over the last ten days.

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Our interactions with the driller boys mirrors how much our team has poured into each other over the last two weeks. What I love about this particular mission trip and the relationship we are building with Mission 4 Water is the unintentional impact that happens as a side effect to the tangible work, but is equally important. While providing clean water is our top priority/objective and is the description line for this trip, our mission is not just about traveling once a year to Uganda to dig two wells. We are invested and committed to this cause of clean water, but our cause is multiplied by the love and support shown towards each other, the people in the villages and the staff and drillers of Mission 4 Water. It allows each person on this team to explore a new culture, challenge and deepen his/her faith, strengthen our understanding of humanity, learn about other amazing organizations on the ground in Uganda doing God’s work. All of these things work together to glorify God first and foremost.

Dinner was less of a “last supper” and more of a “see-you-next-year-but-before-we-go-lets-laugh-one-more-time” supper. We continue to pour into these relationships and into our team to build a deeper and stronger foundation for the growth of God’s kingdom. We’d be foolish not to recognize that people, experiences, the process and laughter create the platform for God’s glory, on which He can use as a jumping point to further His good works through us, both in Uganda and in DC. So for now, as we pack our bags to head back to the chaotic reality of home, we leave with joy, laughter, memories, friendships, two wells and a piece of our hearts that has been broken for Uganda … until next year!

Sally

Building Foundations

Seven Months to Tomorrow

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Seven months ago ten people committed to go on a mission trip to build two wells in Uganda. We all chose the trip because we had a desire to leave a tangible thing behind when we left the country. But, at the time the goal was an abstract. Today that abstract goal became a reality.

Over the past week we have worked alongside the drillers of Mission4Water digging down over 20ft with a hand auger into the Ugandan soil, baling dirty water and silt, mixing African concrete (no easy task), cutting PVC pipe with hacksaws, assembling a pump with pipe wrenches, and then lastly pumping and pumping and pumping until water finally ran clear.

Each member of our team took turns pumping water as the metal pipe handles of the well grew cold with the water coming up from beneath the surface of the earth. And with each downward motion water spilled onto the concrete we poured and ran off into the pyrite laden, sweet potato filled, Ugandan soil. The sense of accomplishment in achieving the purpose of our trip filled us each with joy.

Our team is diverse.

We come from different backgrounds, we cover a gamut of ages, and we each have a different story of how God has brought us to this point in our lives. However, we each share the common emotion of experiencing God working through us. God shaped the hands we each have used to construct the two wells that will bring life giving water to the villagers of Rukungiri District, Uganda. God also shaped the hearts that answered the calling to come to a foreign land and express the love of God to a foreign people.

Tomorrow, we will pray God’s blessings over the wells and over the villagers that will use the wells.IMG_7153

Tomorrow, we will witness on the faces of those villagers, the confirmation and fulfillment of God’s purpose and calling that brought each of us here to Uganda.

– Rachel

Seven Months to Tomorrow

Rest

July 31, 2016

It’s fascinating that God built rest into the Ten Commandments. These were the rules the Israelites were going to need to leave slavery behind and live well for generations to come and it included a day off. When Jesus walked the Earth many, many years later He promised rest to anyone in need. After a week of drilling and bailing and climbing hills and navigating down tricky slopes, with all of our aches and pains rest is exactly what the whole team needed. Because it was Sunday, we took the day off from work to go to church and participate in a culture dance.

Upon arriving at church, the church’s women’s group invited us to chai tea, g-nuts, bananas and biscuits prior to service at a small home adjacent to the church building. In total there was probably 17 of us sitting around the cozy living room. We occupied all available space. In Uganda it is common for a living room to have a many couches, because of the hospitable nature of the Ugandan culture. As we sat and ate, enjoying the richness of the chai and the coolness of the morning it began to rain. Church it seemed would have to wait. Many people in Uganda do not go outside if it is raining. So instead of starting the service with full knowledge that many would not attend, the service instead would be delayed for the rain; kinda like in baseball. The raindrops hit the tin roof one by one. We sat and listened. At first I think I laughed at the concept of delaying the service, but it made perfect sense. Our guide this week Sue said of Sunday, that it was “God’s day” anyhow, so whatever time He wanted the service to start it would. Nonetheless the rain created a wonderful chorus as a backdrop to the tea and company. There is nowhere to go and nothing else to do but enjoy our time and wait. It was in this moment it struck the team what rest really is.

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At home in the US a “day of rest” usually means a day to do all the things you did not have time to do during the week. For me it often looks like meal prepping, or laundry and a trip to home depot. But it is never this kind of rest. I cannot remember the last time my day of rest included a nice cup of warm tea with a friend or even a full day quietly reflecting in God’s presence. According to Strong’s Bible dictionary, one Greek word used for rest is “anapauo.” Which means, “to give intermission from labor, to give rest, to refresh.” Which for me means, “ quit working (and worrying), relax and rejuvenate. That definition was so appropriate for us on the mission, but also appropriate for life. At my old church in NY, I could only imagine what kind of chaos would unleash if church were delayed an hour for any reason, let alone for rain. Here in Uganda, we were aching and a little sore but anxious to get back to drilling. We knew we only had a few days of work remaining. I bet if we were asked to work through Sunday, we would have without hesitation. We were ready to keep going. What we missed and often miss is that it is the rest that allows us to keep going. God built it into His fabric of ideal living because He knew we need it for idea living.

Sunday morning, we listened to the rain, admired the mountainside, chatted with new friends and experienced the peace that happens when you allow yourself to truly rest. The rain lasted over an hour. At that evening reflections, many described being restored in those moments in the cozy living room.

It is difficult, if not impossible to find rest running around with a to-do list. Oftentimes our lists and schedules leave us thirsty instead of revived. There is never enough time in the day to get it all done. I may be speaking for myself here, but there is hardly a moment when I feel that every single demand has been met perfectly. What I am learning here in Rukingiri is a local phrase which is “it is fine.” Sometimes you just have to let the rain fall and wait, it is fine. Sometimes life does not go according to plan, it is fine. Take time to enjoy life. God may be speaking to you in an unexpected delay of a rain shower. Learn to say, it is fine.

~ Althea

Rest

Reflections

Uganda, Day 9 

Notes from the field: Morale is high. Food stores are holding out well (the harvest on Sunday was exceptionally abundant). Power and water are intermittent… Progress continues on the wells. Completion is in sight…

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The food we bought at the Church auction!

Onto reflections:

In all seriousness our time in Uganda has been enjoyable. While many people may not see digging wells half way across the globe as a vacation, or as something that would be refreshing, I think that many of us are finding this to be true while we are here. – I think that this is due to 4 distinct factors, all of which are working together to make our time here like no other.

  1. The pace of life here is so different from what we experience in DC. Pretty much the entire time here, we haven’t really felt rushed. While there have been times that it was time to get back so that lunch wouldn’t grow cold, it just doesn’t feel like the end of the world if we get there when we get there. Things here just seem to happen when they happen. For example, there have been nights when dinner wasn’t ready until after 8pm, while other times it was ready at 7pm on the dot. In the States, if we had dinner reservations for a particular time, we would be pretty upset if we had to wait another hour for our food (been there, done that, got the t-shirt), but here in Uganda, it really was not a big deal that it took a bit longer for dinner to be ready. While we have a start to the morning each day (7:30 for group prayer), it is late enough in the morning that we can all get up pretty much when we want to. For myself, it has been an amazing to experience to watch the sunrise on the rooftop each morning. There is something particularly powerful about seeing a sunrise from a high place. It is like seeing God speak in a fresh way for the first time that day.
    Regardless of how we spend each morning, the point is that our mornings generally are not hurried. While I’m certain that this is not the case for some Ugandans, I think that for many, the pace of life is a bit slower. I guess that because even basic things can take longer to do here (household chores, purchasing goods, etc.), it is just a part of life that things go more slowly here.
  2. Along the same lines, life here in Uganda is more flexible. Schedules are subject to change, and they do regularly in ways that normally make Westerners like us uncomfortable. For example, our daily schedule has been pretty dramatically altered on the fly each day for the past 3 days. Church yesterday took significantly longer than anticipated (wrapping up the food auction took a long time!). We ran over so late that we had to reschedule our visit to see a group of Ugandan dancers, and even then, we arrived after they had started. While this may have stressed out our leadership, it hasn’t bothered me in the least. It just seems natural here to go with the flow. I’ve noticed that most Ugandans that we have met are much more comfortable with ambiguity than we are in the West. We often hear phrases like, “On my way, coming” when someone asks them on the phone where they are at. This phrase can mean 3 completely different things, and there are no context clues that give an indication as to which one it is: It can mean that the person has not yet left their home, or it can mean that they are actually on their way to their destination, or it can mean they are somewhere else completely different. The answer is ambiguous, but many of the Ugandans are comfortable with that. Our Engineer, Sunday, often says goodbye by saying “See you when you see me.” Rather than a more explicit good-bye like “See you later”, this phrase exemplifies a comfort with not knowing what the future holds. All these examples point to a flexibility in time, purpose, and planning that is refreshingly alien to my western mindset.
  3. This trip would not be the same if it were not for the amazing group of people that compose this team, composed of Americans and Ugandans. A trip to dig wells in Uganda could honestly be miserable with the wrong mix of people, personalities, or attitudes. But that is definitely not the case here. The people on this team exhibit a multitude of diversities (ethnic, education, family background, Christian walks, outlooks, and spirits) that all somehow compliment one another. I chalk that coincidence up to a) God’s provenance, and b) our unity of spirit. Still, I’m amazed that for each weakness that one member has, another has strength in that same place. Where there is a gap in knowledge for one, another has wisdom and insight into the matter. And where someone needs guidance or an answer to a prayer, someone else has a word that provides the encouragement that they needed. We really are blessed with an amazing team that, 99% of the time, is truly operating as a unit. Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” I can say with all sincerity that we have been living that out during out time here.
    We talked about it early in the week, but our time on this short term mission trip really is the closest thing we can get to living like the early church did in Acts. (Specifically Acts 2: 42-47). Our modern lives don’t often give us these kinds of opportunities, because how we live day to day is so different now. But in the mission field, we have that chance to live fully in community, living close to one another, gathering together daily to share meals, to share with one another as is needed, to give back to the community, and to bring glory to God. All these would not be possible if we were not on the same page. So just to reiterate, our team here is amazing, and that makes all the difference.
  1. Finally, all of these other factors lead to a greater ability to spend time with God each day. While we all make an effort to do so at home, even the best of us can be hit or miss with our personal time with Jesus. Out here, because the pace of life is different, because life is a bit more flexible, and because we are spurring one another on, we are all likely getting more time with God than we normally would. And it is amazing! I think one thing that is surprising is how much God has to say when you are on a short-term mission trip. But in reality, God is trying to get our attention all the time. Jesus said specifically that He would send the Holy Spirit, and be with us until the end of the age. So we know that He never left us. What is different out here is that we are doing a better job of listening. Through our daily devotionals, through our own personal quiet times, and through the sharing of testimonies with one another, we have all heard God speak to us in ways that are uplifting, life affirming, and encouraging. Getting time with God each day hasn’t meant that each day was perfect. But it has meant that we learned more, were more open to new experiences, and grew more than we otherwise would have. Being in God’s presence each day not only opens your eyes to the problems that others experience here each day, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to the joy that they have despite their circumstances!

For these reasons, I think we can all say that our time in Uganda so far has been refreshing. It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been challenging, or at times hard work. Rather, what it means is that it has been fulfilling, it has been affirming, and that it has been worth it. Even when one of us is having a sub-par day, I don’t believe anyone regrets their decision to spend their vacation days coming to Uganda to dig a well. Our time here has been an enjoyable adventure, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

– Thomas

Reflections