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Matthew 19:26

Archive for September 2010

“You will have a story to tell”

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In my last post I wrote that adjusting to living in Uganda was easier than I thought.  This does not mean that it has been completely uneventful.  There have been some ups and downs.  As Elijah tells us frequently “you will have a story to tell.”  Well, here are some of those stories.

We are living in Pastor Elijah’s house.  It is under construction still and we do not have running water, but we do have a toilet over the hole in the ground we go to the bathroom in.  The hole is called a pit latrine.  I have not had the experience of using one with out a toilet over it so I can’t tell you what that is like.  Frankie described a technique based on his experience so you may be able to ask him.

With no running water there is obviously not a shower.  What we do is fill a bucket up with water and splash water on ourselves to bath.  None of this is nearly as bad as it sounds and we have acclimated just fine.  Vera and I have been comfortable and the trip has been great.

A highlight for me on every trip is the best meal I have.  Vera and my first morning in Uganda we were introduced to our alarm clock.  Ruth (Pastor Elijah’s wife) has a chicken, a few chicks, and a rooster.  Watching the chicken followed by her chicks is cute and quiet.  The roosters are neither.

One morning the rooster was sitting right outside my window crowing constantly.  At that moment I prayed that the rooster would not crow anymore.  The prayer worked.  That evening one of Pastor Elijah’s sons stepped on the roosters legs and cut its head off.  Ten minutes later the rooster was plucked, gutted and put in a pot.  Our dear friend was on the table to be eaten within a couple hours.  That was by far one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was prepared by Ruth, whose food never disappoints, and it was followed by many nights of good rest.

With the exception of the rooster, the food we have eaten here has been pretty normal.  It usually consists of chicken, pork or beef and nearly always includes rice, beans, plantains, and potatoes.  I have rarely seen anything eaten that is out of the ordinary.  Everything may be cooked slightly differently but it is cooked with familiar ingredients.  My thinking that I was familiar with Ugandan food was proved wrong when Vera was helping Pastor Elijah’s youngest son with his homework.

Little David Williams was working on the food pyramid for homework.  Vera found it weird and pointed out to me that bugs were listed under the protein part of the pyramid.  I had a good laugh and left it at that.  Later on that day David was playing with Joshua (a three year-old staying in Elijah’s house) and he yelled and pointed at a small cockroach.  Joshua ran over and picked it up and rinsed it under the rainwater tap.  Right before he could put it into his mouth Vera shouted at him to stop.  David ran over and grabbed the roach out of Joshua’s hand.  As Vera was giving him praise for keeping Joshua from eating the bug David tossed it in his mouth and ate it himself.

So it turns out that bugs are not just on the food pyramid for show.  They are actually eaten and I assume that they are a good source of protein.  I don’t think I will be trying them any time soon, but David Williams said he likes them a lot.  Despite what you must be thinking at this point in the post we have been doing more than eating and studying food.

In the last week we traveled for the third time to the orphanage out in Namadhi.  The orphanage is a four hour drive from Elijah’s house and we were going to need to be there for two days so we stayed the night in a hotel.  We got there on Monday and the kids welcomed us by rushing the van and chanting welcome.  It was great to finally be there to work with the children not just tour the school.

Our goal for the two days was to enter as many kids’ names into the organization’s new database and take photos of the kids to match with the names.  In two days we finished every single child at the orphanage.  We thought it was going to take two weeks to complete all 420 kids.  Everything went by incredibly quickly and smoothly.

It was great to be finished with this first part of data entry and to finally start putting faces with names.  On Thursday we did the same thing at the Kiteezi orphanage located about a mile from where we are staying.  In one day we almost finished the entire orphanage.  Now the database has 619 children with matched photos.  This was a miraculous amount of work to get done in a week.  Vera and I are now starting to enter in the stories of each child.  Getting to put a face with a name and a name with a story is connecting us to the children and really giving us a much better idea of the situation in Uganda.

One of the children joined the Kiteezi orphanage after being found breast feeding on his dead mother’s breast in the bush.  I am not sure how common this is but I do know this child was lucky to be found.  He is now alive and happy.  I am blessed to have been able to spend time with him.

Another child’s father was killed by being sacrificed and her mother died of aids.  This left the child abandoned and alone.  Yet another one’s parents were in an accident with him and both of them died.  This little one was left alone and frequently wakes up crying from night terrors about the accident.  There are millions of these stories in Uganda and Hands of Love has collected some of the children who have succumbed to this kind of trauma.

This organization has provided food, water, and shelter to these children but more importantly they have provided them with a future.  The future will come from the love and education the children now receive on a daily basis.  Seeing the desperate condition of the children as we are traveling to the orphanages and then seeing the hope in the smiling faces of the children at the orphanage is sad and yet incredible.  The transition in the physical and emotional condition that we have seen and the kids have experienced is truly amazing.

This is a video of me and Vera playing with baby Joshua:

Written by davidpaparelli

September 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Uganda

Mukama Yebazibwe

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Where do I begin?  The last three weeks have been challenging, eye opening, and exhausting.  From the time we got off the airplane until now, Vera and I have been to a Ugandan wedding, spoken at the Youth Ablaze conference, and visited both Hands of Love orphanages.  The first thing we had to do was adjust to the Ugandan lifestyle.

Adjusting was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  We did not know what to expect when we arrived in the Entebbe Airport.  Our plane landed, we got off, and we got into the line to get our visas.  The line did not look very long but it took forty five minutes for us to get to the window.  The man checking passports took our picture and hand wrote a receipt giving us permission to enter the country.  As unofficial as this process looked, we were allowed to enter Uganda and that’s what was important.  Vera and I picked up all of our bags without an issue and made our way to the exit.

We passed through the exit and we were greeted by Pastor Elijah and several members of his team.  They were holding signs welcoming us to their country.  One of the signs was the poster for the Youth Ablaze conference that was going to be starting in a few days.  It had me and Vera’s picture on it and I was listed as a speaker.  This is about the time I became painfully aware that in a few days I would be speaking to 1500 Africans about financial management.

I had no idea what I was going to say.  I was asked to give three thirty minute talks about finance three days before I left for Uganda and one week before I was supposed to speak.  The only things I knew about my audience was that they were between ten and forty and were African.  So I knew nothing about them.  Not knowing your audience makes preparing a speech incredibly difficult.  Thankfully, Elijah has eight kids that are the same age as the majority of the people that attended the conference.  I talked to a few of his kids and found my content.  Now I just had to prepare my speeches.

All my preparation took place at Elijah’s house while adjusting to his family’s way of living.  We drove from the airport to the Pastor’s house at around 11:30 pm and it took an hour and a half to get there.  Since it was dark we did not get to see much of Uganda.  All we got to see was how insane the drivers are here.  Motor bikes are constantly weaving in and out of traffic, bicyclists are doing the same, and all the while trucks and cars are slamming on their breaks and swerving out of the way.  This is the reason 17 people die a day from motor bike accidents in Kampala alone.  If you are ever a tourist in Uganda do not take a Motor Border/borda borda (Motor Bike ride) to your destination.  It may be cheap but you are likely to get injured.

Vera and I made it to the house unscathed and we were welcomed into the home we would be staying in for the next nine weeks.  The house was and still is under construction, but what had been built was really comfortable.  As I said before, it was much easier adjusting than we thought.  Ruth had prepared us a great Ugandan dinner of slow cooked meats, rice, and potatoes.  We were shown our rooms and the facilities.  Everything looked comfortable so we ate and then went to sleep.

We woke up to find out that we were going to be resting up all day and adjusting to the time change.  I started talking to one of Elijah’s sons about the speech and we were able to outline the entire thing.  I could finally start preparing!  It was too bad that there was no time.

The next day we headed to eastern Uganda for a wedding.  Elijah was marrying one of his pastors.  The drive was four hours long and on the way we picked up Frankie (a member of the team from Atlanta).  Frankie (the international evangelist) made it in the night before and was revved up and excited to start preaching.  The drive was bumpy and was our first glimpse of Uganda.

The overwhelming desperation of the people here is unbelievable.  People walk for miles looking for water, there were over thirty thousand wandering children in the district we were in, and people lucky enough to have a home lived in a mud hut.  The wedding was in one of the poorest districts in Uganda and people still dressed there best.  People who have absolutely nothing were wearing suits and ties.  The bride and groom were dressed in the same thing an American bride and groom would be dressed in.  I can’t draw too many comparisons to American weddings because I have never been to one.  This was actually the first weeding I was invited to.

It was a great experience.  I got to see Pastor Elijah in action for the first time.  He married the couple, spoke about the importance of marrying one woman and staying faithful, and the bride, groom, Pastor Elijah, and the witnesses signed the wedding contracts right in front of the congregation.  I filmed as much as I could because I wasn’t sure when I was going to get to go to another Ugandan wedding.  We got back to the house late and rested the next day.

Youth Ablaze 2010 was starting Sunday evening and I was supposed to make a speech on Monday.  It was already Sunday and I had to get my materials together so I could talk the rest of the week.  Thank God Bill Leonard gave me materials for my speech before I left for Uganda because I did not have internet access most of the week.  Most, if not all, the material for my speeches were found in the few books Mr. Leonard gave me.  By the time I went to bed that night I had my first speech ready to go.

Elijah told me that I would be the last speaker of the evening on Monday.  Monday, which was the first full day of the conference, was too much to handle and, for that matter, everyday after that was as well.  My speech was postponed because Frankie started healing people through the Holy Spirit.  I can’t go into too much description about this because I don’t understand it.  I don’t think anyone truly understands it.  What I will say is that night he focused on people with migraine headaches and several testimonies came out of it.

As a result of the extra time, I had another night to prepare my speech.  I was now put on the schedule for Tuesday morning.  Tuesday morning came quickly and my first speech went well.  Pastor Elijah told me I sounded a little bit nervous for the first five minutes but eventually came into my own.  I think the entire week went like that for me, Mike, Frankie, and Vera.  We all came into our own.

Mike was well prepared for all of his speeches and was truly amazing.  Pastor Elijah would tell him it was time to go up and speak and Mike would go.  Mike knew he would speak everyday but rarely knew the exact time he would speak until the day of.  On the last day He did not know he would be speaking twice.  Mike had sat down and was thinking he was finished for the week when Elijah asked him to give another forty-minute talk.  Without any hesitation Mike got up and took the stage.

Frankie continued to praise lord and truly set the people in the conference ablaze.  He refused to let people in Uganda out praise him and I have to say they never did.  Pastor Elijah gave him the new title of International Evangelist Frankie Vega and Frankie lived up to it.  The man showed great faith in the Lord and was able to show the power of God all week.  Everyone could not help but smile when the international evangelist took the stage.

I was just trying to keep up these two guys the whole week.  Everyone told me that I did a good job, but I will have see the tapes before I know for sure.  My talks ended up being about a biblically based form of budgeting, saving, and what to do with the money once it was saved.  Having talked to Elijah’s family and gotten a perspective on the Ugandan people helped me tremendously and all of the prayer helped even more.

After the conference everyone rested for two solid days before we continued on with our mission trip.  Our next item was to travel all the way back to eastern Uganda to see the Namadhi Orphanage.  We drove four hours out to the orphanage to see the work that was going on and the children being supported.

This was the first orphanage that Elijah and his wife Ruth built.  It is in an area with no electricity and some of the worst poverty in all of Uganda.  On the way to the orphanage we stopped and handed out soap to some of the locals.  This gave us the opportunity to see the conditions that some of the people live in.  70% of Ugandans are under 18 so most of the people we were serving were kids.  All of the people we saw in this community were in terrible condition.

Most, if not all, of them were malnourished, living in mud huts (if they were lucky), some were limping, some had what appeared to be tumors, and they were all happy to receive just a bar of soap.  If this did not put life in perspective enough, seeing the quality of life the orphans at the orphanage had in comparison was astounding.

The orphans welcomed us by rushing our van and chanting ‘welcome’.  They all looked healthy and happy with muscles on their arms and new clothes.  We met the principal of the school and some of the staff and then we sat down to hear the schools chorus sing.  They had added our names into songs, which made us truly feel most welcome.  All of them sang beautifully and danced their hearts out.  Elijah gave us a short tour of the orphanage before we had to jump into the car and rush back to Kampala so Frankie could catch his flight.

Frankie managed to make it on to his flight and back to the states safely.  Mike’s departure date was coming closer and he had yet to do the one thing he wanted to do while he was in Uganda.  He had not seen his little girl.  Mike and his family sponsor a girl in the organization’s other orphanage.  Elijah finally took us to see Joy.

The children welcomed us the same way they did at Namadhi.  Even though it was the same welcome Mike reacted much differently when he saw Joy there.  He gave her a hug and some gifts from the family.  I think he knew the impact he was having on this little girls life and yet, like everything else in Uganda, he could not believe it until he saw it.  The realization in both their eyes when they met each other was incredible.  Joy finally met her dad and Mike met his girl.

The entire time we were at the orphanage Mike was either holding Joy’s hand or holding her in his arms.  Anytime one of the other children tried to get Mike’s attention Joy pulled him away.  It was an amazing moment to witness and I know Mike wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I met my parents sponsored kids and got to know them a little bit, but I had to keep in mind that I would be back and this day was about Mike and Joy.  I will let you know more about my Ugandan brothers and sister when I get to spend more time with them.  With this entire week and the powerful images it had engraved in our minds it was time to get back to work.

Mike had one last thing to do before he got on the plane to go home.  He had to meet with me, Vera, and Pastor Elijah to try and get the rest of me and Vera’s trip situated.  We had a six-hour meeting with Elijah, which safely resolved many issues.  The Americans were now informed about the entire organization and we knew where to start working.

Written by davidpaparelli

September 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Uganda