October 5, 2010 § 3 Comments
Here is the update on our trip to Africa, written by my wonderful husband. My plan is to add a few of my 800+ pictures soon. Enjoy!
Laura and I recently finished our two weeks in Uganda and returned home to Seattle last Friday. While the trip is still fresh in our minds and in our hearts, we wanted to share our adventures with you.
We arrived separately in Entebbe, Uganda on Friday, September 10th between 7-8pm; I traveled from Lusaka, Zambia, and Laura traveled from Seattle, Washington. Needless to say, we were quite thrilled to see each other after an 18-day separation while I was in Kenya and Zambia doing some work for World Vision.
Upon our arrival in Uganda, we were picked up by Pastor Andrew, one of the staff members of the Seguku Worship Center (located near Kampala). Pastor Andrew dropped us off at the home of Scott and Brenda Volz, missionaries from the Seattle-area who have been working in Uganda for nearly the past decade. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal of matoke (similar to mashed potatoes), chapatis, and meat, and then we quickly retired for the night. We spent the next couple of days resting with Scott and Brenda and their 4 children (they also have 2 additional children who live in the US) before embarking on our safari adventure to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located about 5-6 hours drive west of Kampala. Most folks who safari there either buy a whole package which includes transport in a 4×4 SUV, or else they hire a 4×4 SUV, complete with driver, for the entire time period. However, this means an additional cost of several hundred dollars to make the trip from Kampala. Being an accountant, I naturally wanted to get the most value for our money, so I looked into other options. My cousin Brian recommended the public bus, and we agreed it was a good option as it only costs about $15 per person each way. Our missionary hosts raised their eyebrows at this plan, but they went along and drove us to the bus station.
We boarded the bus on Tuesday, September 14th in downtown Kampala at 6:45am. We were the only mzungus (white people) on the bus, and surprisingly the bus left promptly at 7am. The bus ride was quite the African experience. First of all, it is recommended that you pray and fast before the bus ride for two reasons. One, the bus ride has an element of risk involved in that buses tend to go fast and the roads aren’t perfect. Two, the bus ride is approximately 7 hours long with one bathroom break! And that bathroom break takes place on the side of the road when half the bus empties off to relieve themselves in the tall grass alongside the road. During the ride itself, a variety of vendors would get on and off the bus for several stops and would sell their wares; we had a pharmacist, a soft-drink purveyor, and other various Ugandan entrepreneurs who boarded the bus to try and sell to their captive audience. At many stops, meat-on-a-stick was available for sale, as well as other fine African delicacies. There were also a variety of animal species on board including chickens and cockroaches (although sadly, Laura killed the cockroach).
After seven hours, we reached our destination with the help of our fellow passengers. We were dropped off on the side of the road in a tiny village (Kichwamba) about ten minutes before entering Queen Elizabeth National Park. We called Katara Lodge and they sent a vehicle to pick us up; as they pulled up in a Land cruiser 4×4, they gave us cold towels to wipe our faces and hands. We were then escorted 2 km down the village road to our beautiful accommodations. The Lodge is quite spectacular; it is located on a hill overlooking the park and offers an 180 degree panoramic view of the African savannah. At the lodge, we had our own hut which was very nice, complete with optional canvas walls. For meals, we enjoyed delicious food and impeccable service from the friendly African staff. As far as the safari itself, we went on a boat cruise, a game drive, and a chimpanzee trek. Some of the highlights were seeing hippo fights, watching 10 sleepy lions in the savannah, and observing 21 chimps on our chimp trek. The chimps were perhaps the most impressive; we saw several mothers & babies, as well as the chimps eating a black and white Colobus monkey.
After 3 refreshing nights on safari, we returned to civilization and boarded another bus for Kampala on Friday, September 17th. We returned to our missionary’s house, and then we met up with the remainder of our team from Seattle. In total, we had 16 members of our team, including 5 nurses and one physician’s assistant. We spent Saturday and Sunday preparing for the medical mission, and then on Monday we began to serve the local people in Katwe, a slum in Kampala. We set up our operations in Saints’ Gate church and we began at 8am. On the first day of our mission, the Africans were a bit slow to come in (they are operating on African time, after all), but in the subsequent days we would find that many were waiting for us when we arrived. All in all, the nurses treated approximately 700 patients for a variety of ailments in the three days of our time at the church. In the late afternoon, we returned to the church to participate in men’s and women’s services being held. I ended up preaching three times to the men (approximately 100 attended each night) which was quite an honor and a thrill as I haven’t had an opportunity to preach before. I wasn’t expecting to do this, but the Lord helped me to encourage and challenge the men. It was exciting to develop this gift, and Laura was excited because she was a preacher’s wife for a couple of days.
On our last day (Thursday, September 23rd), we visited an orphanage run by Saints’ Gate church. This orphanage is located about an hour outside of Kampala, and has been open less than a decade. It is a home to nearly 1200 Ugandan orphans, all of whom are orphans or vulnerable children. It provides the children with food, shelter, schooling, and medical care. When we arrived, they were lined up in their yellow school uniforms and were singing worship songs. This was quite moving, but several minutes later, the Pastor of Saints’ Gate introduced 16 special children whom the missionary team from the prior year had helped to free from the nearby Ugandan Children’s Rehabilitation Center (see next paragraph for more info on this place). These children were formerly imprisoned and without any hope, but they now had been brought into a beautiful place with friends and caretakers at the orphanage. Nearly all of us cried when we saw this as we were overwhelmed with how these children’s lives had been impacted for the better. For me personally, it was a powerful illustration of the Gospel and how Christ ransoms believers from sin and death. We then toured the facilities, including the classrooms and the dormitories of the children. The house moms, each of whom stay with at least 30 children, were very proud to show off the dormitories as they are kept quite clean (even the boys’ dorms!).
We left the orphanage and then drove to the nearby Children’s Rehabilitation Center. This was a stark contrast to life at the orphanage. In the rehab center (also known as a children’s prison), children without parents are taken from the streets of Kampala and brought to the center. There, they receive one meal a day, and minimal schooling. The children in the rehab center did not smile much, and we were broken-hearted to see some of the wounds that the children have (many had wounds on their left ankle, which was somewhat troubling and suspicious) which are infected and not healed. The nurses did their best to treat these children, and the rest of the team had a brief service and then played games in the courtyard. Laura and I decided that we are going to sponsor a couple of kids to get out of the prison and transfer them to Destiny Orphanage. It costs $40 per month for the first year, and then $25 per month in subsequent years. This covers the children’s’ food, schooling, and clothing. We have already had others say they are interested, and if anyone wants more details, please let us know. Sponsoring one of these children is literally saving a life.
After the rehab center, we returned to the missionary base and finished preparing for our journey back to America. We were sad to leave the team early (they are staying on for a few more days) and we were sad to leave our newfound African friends, but we were excited to come home to see friends and family. Our journey home took 3 flights and 26 hours of transit time, but we made it home safely. The next morning, we experienced tremendous culture shock as we sat in the Seattle-area Starbucks; it is hard to fathom the difference in lifestyle between America and Africa. It is also an adjustment not seeing so many smiling mudagava (African) faces. In the future, we would like to live in Africa; who knows what the future holds?