Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reflecting Back on the Trip

I guess it's about time that I stop procrastinating and write about my time in Africa.

I (along with 12 other people from South Reno Baptist Church) took a 2 week trip to Jinja, Uganda. Going into the trip I had no idea what to expect of the culture or the situations that I would encounter. I was told that I would be working with two nurses teaching public health. Vanessa and Melba are the amazing women that I was paired up with for the week and we spent the majority of our time at schools and orphanages explaining why cleanliness and hygiene are so important. It was very humbling to speak with gracious adults about what a germ is and how diseases spread. The information that we take for granted in America is inaccessible to the villages of Africa. We took a first aid kit with us to each site and taught the adults how to diagnose and treat malaria, disinfect and dress wounds, and use Tylenol to break a fever…ect.

Fount of Mercy is the organization that we connected with once we were in Uganda. They linked us with 4 non-governmental organizations that they had researched and chose to offer aid to. Through Fount of Mercy these organizations were given information about public health, teaching skills (such as classroom management), pastoral workshops, grant-writing assistance, and Vacation Bible School for the children. The 4 ladies that run Fount of Mercy are tangibly giving their lives to God’s work, and even though it’s only been established for about 3 years, He has blessed every bit of the process.

Some of my favorite moments during my two week stay in Africa were hanging out with the people. I fell in love with the culture and I’m convinced that Africa has some of the most beautiful people in the world. We stayed at Ebeneezer Guest House, which was a large house, owned by a family. Lawrence and Prossy were the parents and they had 7 children with ages ranging from 11 months to 23 years. I really enjoyed the times when I was able to help out the family with their chores and discuss life in Africa. They were absolutely amazing and I’ve kept in touch with their oldest son Richard since I’ve been back in America.

At the end of the trip Pastor Joe asked us to put in 10 words what the trip meant to each of us. After being exposed to such poverty and desperation I have no choice but to believe that God is going to use me in the future amongst the villages in Africa. I am excited and willing to go back whenever he calls me. My ten words are “God loves all people equally and passionately and desires to rescue his children”.

I truly had the time of my life!

Aspen Holloway

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some of the Most Happiest Moments

Posted by Katie
(Katie joined South Reno Baptist Church in volunteering with Fount this summer)

I am back from Africa! I loved being there! Before the trip, I was excited and looking forward to teaching teachers, seeing Africa, and anything God would want to open my eyes to about the world through this trip. What I didn't expect was to have as much fun as I had, to laugh as much as I did, to feel so alive as I taught, and to develop such incredible friendships as I had opportunity to develop while I was there.

Pastor Joe, the leader of our team, asked us each to put into 10 words or less what the trip meant for each of us. My 10-word phrase turned into 12 words, but I think it still works:) The perspective I gained through this trip is, "Christ's restoration of the world must be tangibly lived out through our lives." For me this means that if I call myself a follower of Christ, and I believe He offers true restoration, then in order to live out His teachings, I must then live my life out in such a way that I, too, bring about restoration where I can.

I had the time of my life getting to teach teachers quality teaching strategies. Tammy and Lauren, my two teaching team partners, and I worked so very well together. We did a total of five workshops at four different locations with teachers from nursery school (3-6 yr olds), primary school (1-7th grades), and secondary schools. We came with our lessons perfectly prepared and learned quickly to adjust. Some days we taught exactly what was prepared, and other days we taught things we never prepared for. Our original goal was to teach literacy and classroom management. We discovered that teachers most often asked about how we dealt with misbehavior in our classrooms. We also taught on learning styles, P.E., and theme-based instruction. None of which we came prepared for. Needless to say, some of the happiest moments of my entire trip and really, my entire teaching career thus far, have been teaching in Uganda...sitting with local Uganda teachers on wooden benches under trees teaching about literacy and classroom management.

I was amazed at the way Fount of Mercy works. Fount of Mercy is the organization our team connected with once we arrived in Uganda. Fount of Mercy connects groups like ours with established local NGO's (non-governmental organizations) in order to offer assistance to those NGO's. Seeing how Fount of Mercy works gave me hope in seeing how the Kingdom of God is meant to work on this earth. The ladies who run Fount of Mercy are incredible women who are giving of themselves to make a difference in this world. These ladies are tangibly living out the teachings of Christ. I am so thrilled to stay connected to this organization in the future.

To close, some of the fun highlights of my trip included zip-lining across the Nile, teaching Sunday school with an interpreter (that was really cool!), trying to take a shower with what resembles a kitchen spray hose (that was more funny than fun), riding in a Mtatoo (that's an old Toyota box-style van that is turned into a 16-18 passenger bus), and spending time just eating and talking and laughing with the people on my team.

I truly had the time of my life!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Happy Kids

The team from Archer City, Texas arrived on the 10th of July and we left for safari on the 11th. It was a crazy six-seven hour drive up to Murchison Falls. The road had a gazillion pot holes in it, and by "pot holes" I mean caverns. You can almost get lost in those things. They have to swerve all the way across the road and back to miss them...which means that you often come face to face with huge trucks and see your life flash before your eyes just nano-seconds before you miss hitting them by centimeters. Then about half way there the roads become all dirt. But the dirt roads are a million times better than the "paved" road with ditches.
The safari was amazing. We saw scads of giraffe, elephants, cape buffalo, weird little deer like things with squirly horns, amazing birds....and best of all...a LEOPARD!!! The guides said that there have been only four sightings of a leopard in the last 20 years!! Kathleen saw something move in a tree and it turned out to be a leopard tail. We stopped our safari land rover and watched it for quite a while. We have amazing pictures and video of it. Can't wait to get some printed out. After the land safari we went by boat on the Nile. Tons of crocodiles, hippos...and you could see ginormous wart hogs and elephants on the shore. Way cool. Then we spent the night in tents with hippos and wart hogs roaming the camp throughout the night. Be careful on your way to the bathroom!!
The next morning we hiked up to the top of Murchison Falls. There is a constant rainbow where the spray of the water bursts into the air. It's pretty incredible.
After arriving back in Kampala, we went to a remote village called Buganga. It means "the smell of gun smoke" because there was so much fighting there during the war. Now it's mostly old people and orphans. Ed played his soprano sax for them and then improvised with them as they sang and played their big drums. It was awesome to see the little old ladies gettin' down!!! Then Roger conducted his pastoral training workshop. The people and pastors who had come from far away remote villages just to be with us were constantly saying how blessed they were by it. It was all translated, of course. Then we brought in the gigantic sacks of food we had brought as gifts. It took two men to carry each sack into the wood-slatted-tin-roofed church building with dirt floors. As soon as the people saw the food they started clapping and doing their tribal "calls." It's a sound of celebration and great joy. Then we divided it up into small sacks for each person. We spent about $150 USD and literally fed a village...for about four days! It was one of my favorite experiences in Uganda so far!
Yesterday we went to the Orphan Rescue Minstries for the first time since last year. It was sooooo good to Bishop Yusto, again (the leader of the organization). He has had to move the organization’s location twice since we saw him last year. He has now found a good landlord who actually cares about the children and is doing so much to renovate the facility so that they have a good place to live. Today and for the next two days we are building a kitchen for them. The guys are out buying supplies and timber and tin and all that stuff right now so that we can get started. Kathleen, my mom, and I are about to head out with all our day camp stuff for the kids. The children of the Orphan Rescue Ministries were so different than they were last year. Last year, they looked sad, and malnourished, and sang songs of death and dying and hopelessness. Yesterday, they were happy, and healthy and sang songs of their desperate situation, yet how happy they were because they can "take the Spirit with you anywhere." They are now in a much better facility, getting matoke (like mashed potatoes, but it's from plantains), rice and sweet potatoe every day and meat on the weekends. Half of them are going to school. When the other two rooms are built, they will have sewing classes (with the two new sewing machines we brought them), shoe making and carpentry, plus one more vocational class that is yet to be decided. They are finishing the toilets (squatty potties) and we are about to build the kitchen. I almost cried when we drove up and they were all out front waiting for us and greeted us with huge smiles and hugs as they swarmed the car. Their English is so much better than last year. It was so amazing to get to sit and talk and play with the kids that just one year ago couldn't communicate with me and were reluctant to play. And to think that it's because my church from Archer City, TX is supporting them! What an honor and a blessing!! I love my life. I really, really, really love my life!!
Okay, there's a ton more, but I have to go see the kids now. Everything is working out so amazingly well!

Posted by Vanessa

Friday, August 3, 2007

Reflecting on an Amazing Trip

For the last two weeks a group of 13 adults and 1 teenager from South Reno Baptist Church has been working in Jinja providing technical support for Message of Hope Ministries, Aim for Restoration of Hope and The AIDS Orphan Support Trust.

The team taught education workshops for teachers, conducted public health seminars, lead proposal writing workshops, held pastoral trainings and organized and lead day camps for orphans. Here are some of their thoughts on their trip:

"This trip exceeded my expectations so much!"

"It opened my eyes to other ways of living."

"It was a great experience. I was blessed. The people here love their children. I have learned a lot from them."

"The leaders of these organizations have vision. In spite of all the hardships and poverty they have hope."

"I totally fell in love with Uganda, especially the children, the orphans and all the people associated with the orphanages and the schools. They need all our help and encouragement. I believe they are doing the best they can with what they have, hopefully they will do better with the teaching and advise we helped them with."

"Fount of Mercy is an answer to prayer! During my time in Uganda with Fount of Mercy, I saw a tangible expression of restoration."

"I was overwhelmed with the amount of devastation but then realized I was not here to change the country I was here to change a life."

"The most life changing experience of my life! I will be back here very soon."

"My experience in Uganda was very eye-opening. I am leaving here changed and intending on making trips back to help more."

"The total experience was very rewarding. Without the aid of the Fount of Mercy staff it would have been very difficult to accomplish as much as we were able to do."

"My experience in Uganda has been amazing! I was unsure of what to think initially but am very satisfied with how things went."