Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saying good bye…

A large portion of this week has been saying good-bye to the people we have met here in Uganda. Early this week I said fare well to many of the people at the diocesan offices. These good-byes were not easy since I have not spent much time in offices in the last four weeks. So it was a bit of a surprise to some when I was saying good-bye.

Thursday night we were blessed to have Bishop Katoneene and his wife to our home for dinner. It was good to meet in a more informal setting and to spend some time with the Bishop when we both weren’t being pulled in many directions at once. We are truly going to miss wisdom and his sense of humour.

The last few days have been busy and emotionally draining. Our schedule became increasingly busy and we have said most of good byes in the last 48 hours. We spent yesterday morning saying good-bye to our friends in town. We’ve spent a lot of time during our stay here with a couple of women in the market and the town’s veterinary officer. They all wanted us to stay and visit for a while, but we were also on a tight schedule. So all our visits seemed far too short.

Part of the reason we needed to rush home was we needed to greet our friends from All Saints Ishaka who were coming to visit. They have truly blessed us with their hospitality. The parishioners from Ishaka went out of their way to greet us when we arrived. They were the first to invite us to their parish and have tried to maintain contact the entire time we have been here. They also made sure to send some people to send us off as well. We tried to return some of the hospitality we have received by treating them to so Canadian baking (spice cookies, mango/banana cookies and orange/cinnamon bread).

Today we also said good-bye to the people at Greater Bushenyi. Again we have been moved by their hospitality while we have been here. They have certainly tried to involve us in the life of the parish. Some of the parishioners stopped by throughout the afternoon and one even brought us a nice gift that we will be sharing with you when we get home.

The hardest good byes though have really been are friends here at the Mother’s Union Centre. We know once we walk through the Mother’s Union gate that we are at home. Lillian, Kellen, Carolyn, and Ellen have particularly blessed us during our time here. They are the people we have spent the most time with by far and we spend a fair bit of time talking with them most days. They have treated us more like friends than guests, which has been truly special for us. Many Ugandans treat us like Mazungu (see the earlier post of being a Mazungu for what I mean), but these women have treated us like equals and invited us into their lives and their homes. We are also going to miss Earnest, Ellen’s Son. We have spent many an evening kicking around a football (soccer ball) with him, much to his delight. We are going to miss his smiles and laughter, although we still can’t understand a word he says…

We have been struck on all fronts by the number of times we have been asked, “when are you coming back?” The question is always asked as if our return is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. People in the diocese and in the individual parishes are very keen to continue corresponding with us and would even like to write to some of the parishes back home. The people here are eager to hear more from the brothers and sisters in Christ, who live in Canada. It will be interesting to see what God has in store in future of all of our lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A cooking success!


Today we tested our solar cookers by cooking beans. Although this smaller solar cooker seems flimsy, and flew over in the wind until I tied it down, it cooked much better than the larger, sturdier cooker. The dry beans took about 5 hours to cook. Everyone kept stopping by to check on the progress of the food. I think we need to put the pots inside glass or plastic to retain the heat better and cook the food faster. Before I leave we are going to make some cardboard templates. Then they will practice cooking with the solar cooker, and, if it works well, they will teach the mother's union workers in the parishes about how to use the solar cooker. Its been a fun project.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Solar Power

Other than the church services described by Jeff, Easter weekend was relatively quiet. As at home, Easter is a time to travel home to the villages and visit family, so most of our friends are out of town or spending a quiet weekend with family. Even the town has been quiet all weekend.

So I spent the weekend building solar cookers. Apparently they are easy to make from aluminum foil and cardboard. So, after getting a box from Mother's Union (from the wheelchairs donated by Rotary International this year) and finding aluminum foil in town, I pulled out my measuring tape, made a protractor, and started to try some designs. (More information at solarcooking.org and solarcooking.wikia.com). The total cost per solar cooker was approximately $2 for foil (plus the cost of the glue and duct tape that I brought with me and the cardboard was free). I am still looking for heavy duty oven bags to help with heat retention, and you also need to have a black pot. The neat thing is that both solar cookers can fold up and can be easily stored when not in use.

Solar cookers can save on fuel costs (charcoal, wood, electric), prevent environmental degradation (wood), and decrease smoke inhalation. The down side is that it takes longer to cook (although you don't have to watch it closely because it won't burn). Also it doesn't work so well in the rain... (I am still trying to figure out how to waterproof the back of the cardboard to improve durability).

Unfortunately, I finished my solar cookers too late to try them out today. So Lillian, the Mother's Union worker, and I will have a cooking test tomorrow to see how they work! Here are the photos of the completed cookers. I am quite pleased with how they turned out.

Holy Week

Like Holy Week back home in Canada, Holy Week in Uganda is a busy time. We started at Greater Bushenyi Parish on Palm Sunday. The area’s Archdeacon is stationed at this parish and wanted to get us involved as much as possible. There certainly was a lot to do and experience this week. I appreciated all the opportunities that I had this week and I have learned a lot in the very short time I have been in the parish.

Things were very quiet at All Saints Bushenyi early on Palm Sunday. Although the service technically starts at 8am, it didn’t actually start until past 8:30. Time is a fluid thing here and many of the senior clergy find it difficult to convince people to “keep time” as they say. The quiet did not last long though. In a few minutes a large group of students arrived at the front door of the church with palm fronds in hand. I couldn’t resist taking the picture, which they all posed for. They cheered and waved their palms after the ‘snap’ was taken. Everyone is so enthusiastic about digital cameras here. Our camera has been a wonderful tool for crossing the language barrier. The music in the service was like all the other churches we’ve been to here—upbeat and lively, but the palms added a little extra umph. I wish we could take their enthusiasm and combine it with a procession through the community. That would be a sight to see.

I spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon with the vicar of the parish, Rev. Moses doing pastoral visits and handing out envelopes for Easter offerings. It was a unique experience. I’m used to prearranging a few pastoral visits in a day and taking a significant amount of time with each family I visit. In the course of these two afternoons, however, we managed to have unplanned visits with several families, sometimes for just a few minutes and at other times for half an hour or an hour. It was quite natural as we walked down the streets to greet people from the parish and talk about the parish news. Down the back roads people happily gathered their family together and invited us into their houses to chat for a few minutes. Some visits were longer and involved sodas. We even visited people in their shops. All the owners would take a break for a few minutes to talk and we’d pray for them right there inside the store.

Although many of the upper class Ugandans have complained to us about people here not keeping time, I think we have lost something back home in Canada when we focus on efficiency and packing our schedules full. There seems to be little space for these types of quick visits (pastoral or otherwise). When visits are unplanned they are more likely to be seen as intrusions rather than an opportunity to spend time with guests. I also wonder if we Canadians (not just clergy) need to spend more time just “checking in” with the people around us to see what is going on in our neighbours’ lives. Even if we don’t have time for long visits, a short visit at least maintains contact with those around us. It helps us build community because when we know what is going on in our neighbours’ lives we can rejoice with them in the good times and help them in the bad ones.

On Wednesday I attended a service at the Cathedral where all the priests in the diocese renewed their ordination vows. Unfortunately, it was all in Runyankole so I followed very little of it. From what I could understand it was an important time for the clergy of the diocese to rededicate themselves to the church and their work. I can only hope it was an encouragement to them all.

Thursday the churches here celebrated the last supper of Christ. The day began with a visit to another primary school, Pearl Academy, with the Archdeacon. The schools always make me smile - the children were very enthusiastic and worship was upbeat. We were treated to an excellent Easter play performed by the P3 class. I was amazed at how well they memorized their lines. I then preached on the last supper, which was another exercise in rapid sermon preparation. I am starting to get used to the impromptu public speaking here, but I still miss the sermon preparation time and commentaries I have back home.

After visiting the school, there was a church service at All Saints Church. Like Maundy Thursday services back home the service was not well attended, and we only filled the chancel (front part) of the church. It seemed like a normal Eucharist service with a preaching focus on the last supper. Despite the fact that the service followed a pattern that we are getting used to, this service was unsettling for me. The rhythm of Holy Week that had been ingrained in me from spending years in the church in Canada was disrupted. The upbeat music that is normal here felt out of place when we were talking about Christ preparing to die. The focus on Christ’s humility that we normally have at home was also absent, as there was no re-enacting of the washing of the disciples’ feet. There was also no sombre stripping of the altar nor the leaving in silence at the end of the service. I found it very hard to hold onto the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice, without the sombre tone of the liturgy back home. It reminded me how the Church both in Canada and in Uganda has forgotten the importance of observing times of lament. Such times are important training for Christians, so that we can still worship with our wounds. Well meaning Christians often try to cover our problems with praise when we really need someone to walk with us in our pain and also let God walk with us in our suffering.

Without the lament of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (The Archdeacon told us to go home and rest on Friday and Saturday), the Easter Sunday service also felt strange. Unlike at home, singing and shouting alleluias has been common throughout Lent here. At home ‘fasting’ from using alleluias is a way to prepare for Easter. It helps us focus our attention on the cross and builds expectation for Easter Sunday when we break the ‘fast’. Since we used alleluias all through Lent they didn’t have same special meaning for me on Easter Sunday. I wasn’t able to savour them like I normally can after having gone without them for 40 days. Other things that are traditional at home also felt strangely absent. I longed to sing Jesus Christ is Risen Today, but no one knew the tune. I also had to teach the congregation that the response to “Christ is Risen” is “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” It amazed me, yet again, how much culture influences our sense of worship. I have felt at home in Ugandan churches for some time now, but these past few days I was reminded that I am not in my home culture.

The Archdeacon gave me opportunity to preach for the English speaking service on Easter Sunday, which was a blessing. Michelle commented afterwards that it was a very “Canadian sermon” in that it was very reflective, exegetical (followed the text closely), and deeply theological instead of focusing on concrete moral issues. However it was also very Ugandan in that it was far more passionate and proclamatory than what I usually preach at home. I hope it is a balance that I can keep when I return home.

Our Holy Week ended with a dinner event at the Mother’s Union. It was all very good food. They served us matooke, karo, rice, beef and chicken soup, cabbage salad, ghee, watermelon and pineapple. I’m really going to miss the ghee, which has the consistency of a heavy cream and tastes like liquid cheese. However, it was a bit weird not having a Canadian Easter dinner. It was a reminder that we will be leaving in less than a week. We will miss our friends here, but we are also looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On the road with Mother’s Union

We spent the day on Friday travelling to the rural areas outside of Kabwohe with the Mother’s Union workers. They recently set their program for the year and will visit many parishes over the next several months. Over the past several years they have been teaching in the rural areas about the eight millennium development goals:

End Poverty and Hunger
Universal Education
Gender Equality
Child Health
Maternal Health
Combat HIV/AIDS
Environmental Sustainability
Global Partnerships

In previous years, they have encouraged the women in rural communities to plant gardens to supplement their diets and have taught about the components of balanced meals to combat hunger. To improve child and maternal health, they have encouraged women to save money for childbirth and travel to the hospitals to reduce maternal and infant mortality. They have challenged each parish to plant small forests to help environmental sustainability. Each of these small changes adds up to make a difference in the lives of families.

This year, their focus was on human rights and marriage. The first order of business was to visit the local primary school and speak to the children and the teachers in the morning. The visit to the school was an eye opener. Uganda has universal primary education. In theory, the government gives 750 shillings per month (40 cents) per child to the school for resources and supplies. This is ‘in theory’, because the school we were visiting had not received funds since December 2008. The teachers are paid separately from this funding. So the schools have few funds and are struggling to find new ways to raise money. In the past, this funding was obtained through school fees. However, since the government does not allow school fee collection (children are not allowed to be sent home from school), the schools are not sure how to proceed. We encouraged the children to study and fulfil their goals of becoming doctors, teachers, priests, etc. I hope that the girls especially were motivated by my presence as a veterinary doctor.

In the afternoon we addressed a gathering of approximately 70 women. The Mother’s Union discussed two topics – marriage and raising children today. Just like in Canada, (and around the world, I’m sure!) we heard about ‘children today’ and that things aren’t like they used to be. Kellen, the Mother’s Union Worker reminded the women that things weren’t that much different in their generation. She encouraged them to remember their values of community and to support each other in raising children.

The seminar on marriages was also interesting, primarily because the focus was on the basic human rights in marriage – rights to shelter, food and clothing. This surprised me because I take these rights for granted, and to hear them taught reminds me that not everyone enjoys these basic human rights. Unfortunately, when women are dependent on the income of their husbands, it is often the women who lack some of these basic needs.

Mother’s Union was also strongly encouraging legalizing marriages in the church. It is common here for people to live together without being officially married. The most common reason for this seems to be that people want to give a big party when they are married and delay marriage until they can afford the party.

[As a side note, we attended a wedding reception last Saturday, at which there were at least 600 people, all of which were fed lunch. The weather was perfect, and it was outdoors under tents. Having planned a wedding for 100 people, I think it is quite a logistical feat to plan and cook and entertain that many people!]

Back to the Mother’s Union seminar: There are good theological behind Christians getting married by the church and before God. Interestingly, Mother’s Union was also emphasizing the practical reasons. Without a legal marriage, the spouse does not inherit the land if their husband or wife dies. So for Mother’s Union, marriage is not only a moral issue, but a human rights issue.

We did not discuss much about divorce because divorce is discouraged by the churches or society. Ugandan law also discourages divorce. In a civil or Christian marriage, a man may only divorce his wife on grounds of adultery. A woman may divorce her husband on the grounds of adultery and cruelty, adultery and bigamy, or adultery and abandonment (the husband having left for more than 2 years).

The women were very enthusiastic about the seminar and appreciated the time that the Mother’s Union spent with them. Jeff was able to share with the group and did an excellent job giving a short sermon which was translated into Runyankole. We hope to travel with Mother’s Union again next week. We look forward to either participating in more seminars, or sharing in the hospitals, depending on our schedules.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Videos from Kishanje

Ok so I spoke too soon... It's amazing how a 130Mb video can shrink to 3Mb by changing the resolution and cropping some of the content. :)


video

Mission to Kishanje

This past weekend we travelled with people from All Saints Church Ishaka and Juna Amagara Ministries (http://www.amagara.org/) for a mission to the Kishanje Parish near the city of Kabale. Getting there and back was half the adventure! We left in two minibuses - one from Ishaka and another from Mbarara. We joined the minibus from Ishaka. As we travelled to Kishanje, our minibus had its muffler repaired twice and then the engine overheated numerous times before finally stopping all together around 11pm on a small dirt road near Lake Bunyoni. As we sat in the dark in an unfamiliar place, we all were wondering what we had signed up for. But the choir with us sang beautiful songs of faith while we waited.

Thankfully, a family associated with Juna Amagara had already made it to Kishanje in their own car and travelled back to get Michelle, myself and few others. We arrived at Kishanje around 1:30am. The rest of our group wouldn’t arrive until 5am. The second van also had challenges, having received a flat tire and then having the tire fly off twice after being replaced. The damage to the wheel system also caused the rear brakes to fail. They didn’t arrive in Kishanje until the following day. Our trip home was almost as interesting after engine overheating several times we arrived back at the Mothers Union Centre around 1pm. We certainly were more than just a little tired when we got back.

Besides our travelling woes, the weekend was a great experience. I had never been on an evangelistic mission and I had very little idea on what to expect. I was simply told to be ready to preach and to give a testimony during the course of the weekend. Our day started with a service in the church, which consisted of lots of music, two preachers and two people (including myself) giving testimonies.

After this first service we were split into teams, each being sent to a different area of the village. Michelle and I were sent to a small, but very scenic, hill within the valley where the village is located. I have been to a few outdoor services in my life, but none with such an inspiring view. As I looked up into the hills I couldn’t help but feel that God’s love was far higher than them. I also had never been to a service in such a public location before. It was a unique experience for me to be able to preach in the open air, to a very receptive crowd. I doubt that the format would work well back home in Canada. For the people here, church is a large component of the majority of people’s lives. In some ways I felt like I was preaching to the converted. However there was a great deal of emphasis, throughout the weekend, placed on moving beyond just going to church and “dedicating yourself to Christ”. I’ve always felt just a bit uncomfortable with this type of evangelism, which most Canadians would find to be pushy. However, our hosts were pleased that nine children and two adults “dedicated themselves to Christ” that afternoon.

The finale for the weekend was the Sunday morning service. Again there were two preachers and two testimonies. The thing that struck me the most was the worship music. The place was full of people and the chancel (the raised area before the altar) was packed solid with children. When it came time to sing the church seemed more like the venue for the latest rock band than a rural parish. People young and old (some even in their 70s or 80s) were clapping, dancing and jumping. The best party that weekend was held at the church. When the music and dancing was done you could literally see the dust settling from all the excitement.

Two things really touched me during the weekend. First was the number of children involved. It was so encouraging to see so many children having fun in the church and the parents having fun along with them. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in doing the service liturgy right that we can only see children as a nuisance. We forget how important it is that children be allowed to worship with their parents in a way that they understand and in a way that they can see God. Michelle and I also had a wonderful moment Saturday afternoon swapping music with a small group of children. We played our instruments for them and they sang and danced for us. This was followed by some fun with the digital cameras. They love to see their pictures on the screen so much that it is actually hard to get them in front of the camera! They always want to see the screen. It was a wonderful gift to bring a smile to their faces.

The second thing that touched me this weekend was the level of partnership involved. Ishaka and Kishanje have a reciprocal relationship. They have helped each other run missions in each other’s parishes, by giving up the best talent they have for a weekend to make a special service for other parish. Instead of looking inward to their own issues and concerns these two parishes have tried to help each other, by offering events that neither could manage on their own. Even more than that, they have said that that their concern and love for their fellow Christians does not end in their parish or even their diocese. Several speakers emphasized the point that God loved the people of this parish so much that he sent them a team from all over the world—from Canada, Nigeria, Uganda and the U.S.A. It was quite the testimony to God’s love for this small parish in rural Uganda to have so many guests from outside their country and culture. I pray that as a church worldwide we can learn to have such partnerships more often, putting aside our different cultures, and customs to declare with a unified voice God’s love for the people of our world.

P.S. We have some fun videos of this event, but they are too big to post from here. We will share them with you all when we get home.