shots and shots

29 01 2012

We are both aware of God shaking us loose from our time here –and at times the shaking seems to really hurt.  My work with the ladies has been ripped away and I find myself very hesitant to help in any other place around here.  I am struggling to get my attitude about serving and loving and helping right:  for some time I have been aware how absolutely amazing Jesus must be that He loved and gave Himself selflessly over and over again.  So often I hold back from giving my all because it feels like I will be taken advantage of … again.  Jesus just gave and gave, even though humanity seldom thanked Him, often rejected and despised Him. How far I am from that!  I tend to give with so many strings attached that I get myself caught up in it all.

Anyway.  We are both trusting God for the next step forward, which might entail following a personal dream just for fun for some months, but we will clarify when we have certainties.

We had planned for a wonderfully peaceful night away at Kingfisher Lodge on Friday night.  We are physically and emotionally tired and needed some time out.  Unfortunately this did not quite work out as planned: a loud group of travellers kept us awake until late and from early: we were not the happiest campers imaginable! We decided to leave earlier than first hoped and had some trouble getting ourselves, the driver and our vehicle united at the same time…  another frustration. 

We had a rather uneventful drive back to Mbale until about 20 km from home.  Just as we were entering Budaka we saw a bit of commotion ahead and I looked up quickly from my engrossing cell-phone game at the sound of loud bangs just ahead.  Deon told Jamal, our driver to stop immediately – he would have merrily driven into the fracas.  After about 30 seconds of sussing out the situation Deon told Jamal to turn quickly and drive back in the direction we had come.  We tried to see what was happening:  It seemed like a policeman was firing shots from and AK47 into the streets leading off the main road. We heard shots from a different gun too at one stage.  There were probably about 5 or 6 shots fired, and we had to travel this road to reach home.  We sat for a while and asked some girls from that direction what was happening – they seemed to think we were crazy to be worried.  Just another day in rural Uganda, for them!

We figured out it was safe to drive on after a short while and told Jamal to get ahead as quickly as possible.  People stood gathered by the hundreds on the opposite side of the road, and we saw a group of men loading an injured lady onto a boda-boda (motorbike used for transport).  Deon saw blood, but we did not stop to look too closely.

I read in today’s newspaper that there had been an incident with a boda-boda driver on Friday: he had been called to transport some people but had been killed by them. It seems that the tightly knit boda community went to seek justice from the police and it turned into a considerably violent outburst.  The newspaper said it had gone on for 3 hours, with teargas and live shots fired.  There was no mention made of injuries or other deaths.

This is not the first incident I have driven into with crazed boda-boda drivers.  They seek revenge for the death of one of their own, even if the driver himself may be to blame.  It seems like the way in which police deal with it is through riot prevention, in a forceful way. 

We were very relieved to reach home safely, knowing that yet again God had kept us safe.

So … some shots of violence and hatred.

We also took these shots ourselves of some very pretty sights on Lake Vic where we stayed on Friday night.  I far prefer our shots to the shots of police!

 

 





a dear love

25 01 2012

Cork wood.  Ricinodendron heudelotii.  African nut tree.

Various names for a lovely big tree.  The tree is not the most versatile in African forests:  It is not strong like the Mvule tree.  It can be used for Timber and posts as house support, or for charcoal.  It can be used medicinally to treat diarrhea and dysentery.  The tree gives rather good shade, and has beautifully shaped leaves.

These are more scientific descriptions taken from a book sitting open on my table.  But these words do not describe something peculiar about this tree.

Kampala 017

Soon after moving into our house I was woken a few times at night by something falling onto the tin roof of our garage/ servants rooms.  It would happen a few times a night.  It always takes me a while to settle and sleep well in a house where I have not slept before.  I had to find what was making this noise.

Mike and Titus, our garden helpers, gave me some help.  They showed me the rather large fruits of this tree – they are about 4-5 cm and have a hard shell, to cause a bit of noise falling on tin.

But as they told about the tree all thoughts of scientific data, usefulness as medicine or for its commercial value, and even its aesthetic value left.

See, the local name of this tree is ‘kabaka ajangala’.  The king loves me. 

I have not been able to track why the tree has this name.  But immediately when I heard the name the tree became special to me. 

Ugandan kings (kabaka) have not had the nicest reputations at times. Right now there is a scandal regarding the present kabaka as news has recently broken that he  he has an illegitimate child.King Mutesa, about a hundred years ago, killed hundred of people in savage ways just for coming into his presence.  African kings are not known for their sweet generosity to the masses.

 

But this tree spoke of a great honour. To have one planted in our garden, dropping reminders onto a tin roof at night, gave me a tangible reminder soon after moving into a strange house in a strange land. 

thursday 020

The King of all kings loves me.  When I am woken in the night, the noise reminds me of His wakefulness and guarding over me.  The tall stem, grey in the shade, cannot be shaken.  The King’s love cannot falter.  It is immovable, deeply rooted, powerful.

The leaves are in clusters of 5.  5 signifies God’s grace.  5 fresh green leaves of God’s unfailing grace.  The leaves turn a beautiful gold as they lie on the ground… gold, fit for a king, reminding of God’s royal love for me.

I love that the name is personal… and it is that way for each person. The King loves me.  How totally amazing.  He loves me.  (Can you hear the joyful echoes of the Beatles’ song in the background? Yeah, yeah, yeah…)

No matter what. In a world of hurt, fallen people, unkindness, nature turned wild, sickness: I hope that today you will hear the pod falling onto a tin roof in your soul.  That you would know.  Kabaka Ajangala. 

THE KING LOVES ME.

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splashes

22 01 2012

This has been a rather challenging week overall: root canal treatment (ouch), floods across precious parts of the world, Deon has had the usual daily challenges. One of the most difficult things for me is that I have parted ways with the group that I had been affiliated with for teaching knitting and discipleship. This means we have no venue for classes. Prayers for what to do next would be gratefully accepted!

 

In all of this we seek glimpses of grace; signs of God’s kindness despite a world in flux.

Amazing gifts of creation on our verandah: look at the intricate camoflage!

And the jacaranda trees are still carrying their purple presents of beauty.

We are totally enjoying the chance to swim regularly – it is hot and dry and the two hotels nearby have great swimming pools where we can pay a bit and go cool off.

 

Yesterday’s visit was accompanied by loud music as preparations were made for a wedding reception – see the marquees, flowers and paper shreds decorating the background?

What really grabbed me was a Dad who brought his little child along to swim.  This little one was rearing to go even before he was dressed in his swimming gear.  He bobbed and splashed, dipped and kicked: delightful.  His dad was totally involved in the experience with him, which was great to see – not all dads are so hands on! 

The great delight was to lean over and dunk his head into the water to see the splashes.

It was a tangible reminder: enjoy the splashes of joy in what is otherwise a cesspool of life… there is always joy to be shared in.

And this one is my favourite photo of a long time.  Ah! Delight!





the least and the greatest

19 01 2012

My mind has been overwhelmed with thoughts the last few days.  Right now as I sit here I realise that it truly is a case of needing to know God’s peace in the storms. 

 

The least of the title refers to this child.

Who caught my eye on Saturday was we were driving to the wedding reception.

He caught my eye because this was his environment:

His parents/ caregivers were sleeping, and he was sitting completely alone beside one of the busiest intersections in Kampala.  Really close to the road (danger of crawling in to the road, petrol fumes, abduction to be used for child sacrifices – not an impossibility in Uganda…)

A feeling of absolute helplessness overtook me.  We were on our way to a truly splendid occasion where bucket loads of money was being spent.

I regularly ask myself, and God, what to do about beggars in Africa.  In SA almost every intersection has its share.  Many are able-bodied and I have hardened my heart to beggars.  The fact there is that so many have been offered full time jobs, an income and they prefer to be on the roads because they earn more money that way.   That attitude does not engender any sympathy from me. There are also those who take food given to them and throw it in a rubbish bin.  Children are hired to beg and abused in the process. One cold winter night I drove past a girl of a bout 12 years in bare feet, begging.  I brought along warm clothes for her and friends the following week when I passed that way again.  The next week she was back in rags – cold feet engender more sympathy. It is also not uncommon to find people who hire children to use them as a way to enhance the feel-sorry-for-me factor.  In SA begging has become a great psychological ploy and my heart feels little sympathy towards thieves and the greedy.

 

Here in Uganda poverty is endemic.  There are many who beg, and again I feel that those who can do something to work should be doing just that. 

But this boy?  How does one START to fix all the problems?  Parents/ guardians who are not really caring for the child need training.  Where do they live? The wheel chair indicates some physical difficulties. Uganda is not built to handle disabilities with sensitivity. 

At the moment there are just far too many questions to begin to unravel.  I pray.  I ask for direction.  And believe that the thing to do is ask God on a case-by-case basis how to give and what to do.  Maybe prayers for THIS chap, from you as you read this, can bring release from the spiritual bonds that hold the entire society captive.

 

My other massive issue of helplessness involves a part of the world that is deeply special to me.  Just a few weeks ago we were in Hoedspruit to buy a house.  (See the blog entry of African bushveld winning our hearts.)

Beginning on Monday Tropical Cyclone Dando dumped the same amount of rain that would usually occur in the best part of a year over this area in 36 hours.  In the wider area between 300mm and 420mm of rain fell in this time.  The devastation is huge. Parts of Kruger Park had to be evacuated of visitors, people had to be rescued from trees by helicopters.  Numerous vehicles (as well as trees, furniture and other heavy objects) have been washed away down gushing torrents.  These torrents were either dry river beds or teeny streams when we were there 3 weeks ago.

 

We sit far away and pray. And wonder. And seek information as best we can, but in that area of our house specifically water, power and telephone connections are all down. 

Some websites I have been referring to often reveal terrifying pictures:

http://www.krugersightings.com/

http://sawdis1.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00%2B02:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00%2B02:00&max-results=50

http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=67&t=58914

There is so much unknown.  There are predictions of further rain. Will any more dams collapse under the stress, as some have done? How much more water will end up in Mozambique, with its immense population?

When it feels so awfully overwhelming, I know Who is not surprised and confused by these events. 

Jesus holds all the oceans in His hands, and a few floods are not beyond His control.  In the storms Jesus experienced with His disciples, although He had different reactions, He never abandoned the disciples in that terror. Once HE calmed the storm.  Another time He came walking on the stormy water.  But He was THERE. 

I pray that those who are in the real floods, in a place so dear to me, will know God’s peace that passes all understanding.  And maybe you are in a storm, or the floods of life are raging. Or perhaps you are sitting, small and alone, in a big big scary world.

All you need do is ask.  There is a merciful God who is waiting to reach out, and be with you. Maybe the storm will not stop immediately.  Perhaps there is still a while of sitting and waiting.  But HE cannot fail.  And His love abides. Always.  There is no force of nature sufficient to remove His grace. And that keeps Him the greatest, above all else.





you are lost?

17 01 2012

This is a totally fascinating phrase used by Ugandans when they have not seen you for a while.  I am not sure exactly what it means – as I am perfectly sure I know where I am and where I have been when I have been greeted this way – but it is another of those endearing/frustrating/perplexing phrases that makes a language personal.

It seems like some of you may ask “You are lost?” as I have been silent for longer than I would like. There is a whole spectrum of reasons.  One is that we are in a bit of a slump with where we are going.  A few things are uncertain and it is a challenge for me to say anything with certainty when my world is not perfectly set out before me.  (It never is this way… but I love to have some sense of how long we will be in a place and have a little clue as to what will be happening.  I am letting go of being in control and learning the constant lesson of holding God’s hands where He leads.  It is not easy but He has never let us down before. It frustrates me that I even think that things may just go absolutely horribly wrong when I know Who holds the future. )

Part of the fun of the last weekend was attending our first Ugandan wedding.  Denis and Patience are both from the cream of Ugandan society; they are educated, have good backgrounds and it was rather good for me that my limited knowledge of political figures in Uganda kept me from recognising ‘famous’ faces at the wedding.  Both of the newlyweds are humble, though, and the wedding was not one to draw people’s attention just for the sake of it. 

Surprisingly, the wedding began right on time. Africa Time is a well known phenomenon, but the wedding march was played, the bride entered grandly… and very few guests were present!   The church was about 1/6 full as the procession took place and crowded at the end.  We left off a few events on the programme… I soon saw that the next bride was sitting in the car outside the church door, waiting to enter!  Obviously this is a popular church and Saturdays are full of weddings!

It was not easy to get photos, unless one is willing to totally go paparazzi style and push others aside! (which is not in my nature, not really…)

But there was joyful singing

Gorgeous bridesmaids

Atmosphere from really hot lights

Proud display of marriage certificate

Totally jazzed up vehicles

And my fascination of the day: these outrageous bridesmaid shoes.

(How they made it through the day and night in those is WAAAAAY beyond me!)

 

Then there was the reception.  Several hours later, in the evening, back into the zooty clothes and off to an AMAZING spot on Lake Victoria, at the Serena hotel.

This was a splendid, tasteful occasion in a massive marquee.  The décor looked awesome and the dessert table attracted us all from the beginning!

There were several speeches, and then a number more.  It was clear that this couple is well loved, admired and they are wished several babies.

I loved one set of speeches:  Patience’s father passed away when she was young, and there are several matronly carers in her life.  In most of Africa a person does not just have one mother: all aunts become one’s mothers.  Although I could not understand what they were saying, these mothers obviously shared deeply.  The bride’s family is from the far west of Uganda and the clothing style is similar to that of Burundi, who wear garments similar to an Indian saree.  This has to be a circle of love!

Weddings are very special community events in Africa. To have been invited to share in this one will be a wonderful memory forever.





returning

6 01 2012

I am so sorry I have not posted in a while – we were rather busy the last few weeks and were often unable to get to the internet.  So this is a little bit of a catch up.

We are back in Mbale, Uganda, by God’s grace.  This trip back we were fully aware of what we are coming back to: the typical romanticism of the expat’s first few months having worn off and the glaring difficulties lying ahead.  It is also still a challenging time with Deon’s work, so we know that we are completely dependent on God’s grace. 

The last few weeks in SA were filled with family gatherings, a few shopping trips, good visits to restaurants and more family gatherings.

nadia bw

laughing

 

With Deon’s family, we tend to stay in mostly and eat good home made food, laugh a lot, and the girls tend to keep us all on our toes. 

I love these nieces or ours, N and T – so totally different in character and full of life. 

It is amazing to think how they have grown in the 4 years since I have known them!

 

 

Then with my family – many more faces coming in and out, but we got some great time with just us too.  My brother Andrew is visiting from Sweden too and we had our fist Christmas with all the kids in years – such fun!

We are blessed with nieces!  So it is girly frills, tinsil, crafting packs as gifts all round!  B is beginning Grade 1 this year – a momentous event in a child’s life in SA.  One of the huge moments is getting all dressed up in a school uniform for the first time.  School begins on 18 Jan; B was all ready to go on 3 Jan and spent most of the day in her uniform!

There is nothing like the sight of hundreds of 6 year olds, all in brand new leather shoes, in various states of letting go from mommas and poppas on the first day of school.  (and seeing those same moms and pops in tears too!)

 

The first day of school is a momentous time- normally grandparents will be along for photos, but I can’t be there for that event this year… so we had a sneak preview!

And all too soon we are back in Uganda!

Some changes:  it is FAR dryer here now than when we left!  The degrees have risen steadily and we are constantly interested in the next cool drink, the next swim, the next fruity treat.  The array of delicious fruit at the market is great!  (I can see a steady diet of fruit salad and smoothees dominating the next 3 months!)

What is the same: crazy boda-boda drivers, potholes in roads, persistent vendors at the markets, calls of “Mzungu"!” helpful workers around our home, bird calls and electricity outages.

Some other changes: the girls from the orphanage have moved! There was some disagreement and they were forced to leave – I will try to locate their new home to continue with knitting.  We miss their smiles, calls and laughter! 

Our first butternut is just about ready, and the oven is almost ready for use.

The hamerkop (bird) nest-in-progress near our bedroom is developing into a manor.  We see the constructors carting in more building material and wonder when they will stop!  We have also got a watering point up for the birds, as things are so dry.  We hope to attract lots of life to our yard! 

Wishes from both of us to all of you for 2012.  May you have a year dripping with evidence of God’s grace and kindness.