Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ugandan Village Visit

Bobby drove us out to a village about 1 1/2 hours from Jinja today - one of the poorest areas of the Basoga people. It was a village that is partnering with Kibo Group through the Water Source, Mvule Project and the Women's Empowerment Program. Ronald, Abraham and Ida - directors for each respective project joined us.

We first visited the water well that was provided to the community last year. There was obvious joy and thankfulness from the people around for the access to clean water. Hundreds of families are able to get clean water that was unavailable to them before. We pumped some water into cans for some women. Brett and I then carried over 40 pounds of clean water for Justine, a woman at the well, to her house. I was afraid she may live up to 2 miles away but fortunately her house was only about 1/4 mile away so we managed. We greeted her family and visited with them for a few minutes. They shared their appreciation and described how the clean water has improved their lives and the health of all of their family members. That alone made my trip and reminded me of why Kibo Group's work is worth our while.

Next we joined the meeting for the Mvule Project that was meeting under a church member's mango tree. For over two hours we listened to them discuss in Lusoga (translated for us) the value of planting mvule trees and working together as a community to improve their lives. On this visit, the Mvule Project provided 1/2 kilo of sugar for each tree planted by various community members. They were very appreciative and ensured that no drop of sugar was wasted as they separated the 1/2 kilo bags weighed in front of the group meeting. They prayed for the drought to end and the rains to begin to aid their tree planting and crops of food. When the project concludes their plan is to have a piggery project that will multiply and in the future benefit children through providing meals for them at school.

Ida was given a chance to speak to the group and as usual had everyone on the edge of their seats. She wove Bible stories into the discussion of serving each other in their every day lives. Ida is expecting a baby in the next two weeks.

Tonight we had dinner at the local chinese restaurant, the Ling Ling, which is interestingly joined to the Shell gas station. The Ling Ling has been around for years and it was fun to see the owner we have known for a long time now.

After dinner we joined Ben and Kym Langford for coffee and dessert at their house. They just returned from the States and are refreshed and ready to get back to their work here. It was good to catch up with them and hear their excitement for continuing their service in this place. They encourage me.

It has been a full and a very good day!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Safari, Back to Jinja

We stopped over at Queen Elizabeth National Game Park on our way back to Jinja. It was a good break and always fun to see lions, elephants, warthogs, hippos, crocs and more birds than you can even imagine. Hadley and Brett especially enjoyed it.

Reading during down times has been Same Kind of Different as Me, a story of how a homeless man and a wealthy man come to understand each other through a meaningful relationship. It reminded me quite a bit of how Africans have taught me through their own way of life and how I've been privileged to interact in their lives over the years.

I also picked up From Poverty to Power by Duncan Green, a new book published by Oxfam International. Here's a quote that I like from the introduction...

"The reverse of 'multi-dimensional' poverty is not simply wealth (although income is important), but a wider notion of well-being, springing from health, physical safety, meaningful work, connection to community, and other non-monetary factors. That is why good development practices build on the skills, strengths, and ideas of people living in poverty - on their assets - rather than treating them as empty receptacles of charity."

We'll continue to work on that very thing the rest of this week in Jinja. Two more hours of a crazy drive and we'll be there. Our group is a little travel weary and ready to settle in for a few days.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rwanda leading in African development

Rwanda is considered by many to be leading the way for African development.  After the last 2 days I can see why.  Every time I come to this place I meet amazing people.  And for every person I meet and learn from there is another person I hear about that I also want to learn from.  NGOs and development organizations are coming from far and wide to make Rwanda their home base in East Africa.  The government is open and transparent and welcomes those who want to work hard in empowering the Rwandan people.
Yesterday we met with a few leading business development folks and then toured the Millenium Village.  We ate some great Rwandan food for lunch - matooke (plantains), rice and beans, cassava, sweet bananas and pineapple.  We learned  a lot and I am still processing everything I saw.  
Today we met with a leading micro-finance bank, Urwego Opportunity Bank, who is intentional about not just providing loans but also transforming whole lives of their customers.
Tonight I met a Rwandan who is providing mentorship to genocide orphans.  Helping them understand that entering adulthood is hard work and when they work hard they open up educational and vocational opportunities.  
I know we'll be able to take some of these things we've learned and implement them in our own Kibo projects.  There are many folks asking when Kibo will be coming to Rwanda.   We'll continue to watch and pray for the right opportunities.  
Evening times are great for sitting at meals and getting to know others.  Last night we sat at a restaurant for about 2 hours just visiting.  Eating is an experience not just a time to grab fast food and go to the next activity.  We realized how small of a world it is when we found a big screen tv in the restaurant bar that was airing international ESPN which means March Madness.  We watched Oklahoma State squeak by Tennessee.  

Briley got on a plane tonight for her long journey back home.  She will sleep in Uganda tonight, London tomorrow night before she arrives home Monday evening.  Please pray for her safe travels.  We absolutely loved being in Africa together again.

I have one more week to show a good friend, Brett Biggs and his daughter, Hadley, more development projects in life in Uganda.  We travel back to Uganda first thing in the morning.  Please pray for our safe travels.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


We made it to Kigali, Rwanda this afternoon.  We should be in bed but have spent the last hour laughing with David and Lori Kimbrow remembering fun times from Fayetteville and Jinja.  We are glad to be able to stay with and catch up with them. 

The drive from Uganda took longer than ever due to increasingly worse road conditions.  We stayed in Mbarara, Uganda last night with the Scott and Emily Glisson family.  We enjoyed spending some time with them and Theron and Sarah Hutton as well.  The best part of the trip was just talking with Bobby and Candice.  We are more impressed with them each day we spend with them.

Sam Shewmaker, a fellow Kibo climber in 1998, welcomed us into Kigali today.  A good friend Brett Biggs and his daughter flew into Kigali tonight.  We have a full day scheduled for tomorrow meeting various business development contacts here in Rwanda and touring the Millenium Village.  

We have been reminded of the sensory overload of Africa which tends to wear anyone out by the end of the day.  Long drives on terrible roads dodging pedestrians, bikes, cows, and a whole lot more. 

Just talked with the kids who are doing great.  We are proud of them and their Papa for having such a great time during our long trip.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Impressive Ugandans, Great coffee

Yesterday I had a chance to meet with the project managers for the Mvule Project, Water Source project, The Source Cafe, and the Basoga Women's empowerment project. Each gave a report of their respective projects and I reported on the State side activities of the Kibo Group. It was a valuable meeting of sharing information, calling on each other to work hard, honestly, and with transparency for the greater good of the Basoga communities and Jinja. These Ugandan men and women continue to inspire me to work even harder for development efforts in this place. They are faithful, passionate, serving people.

I have also been reminded of just how difficult effective development can be here in Uganda. American and Ugandan world views are drastically different. We sorted through many issues in a productive way. We live in an increasing interconnected world and I believe Kibo Group is on the cusp to lead the way in small but highly effective development strategies.

The Source Cafe is one prime example. They continue to provide valuable services to the Jinja community. They operate profitably while enabling multiple development and church ministries to operate without the burden of major overhead expenses like rent, utilities, property taxes, etc. I believe they will be able to continue on this successful path (being profitable while enabling ministry) for many years to come.

In the evening Briley and I had a chance to visit one of our favorite spots on the Nile River. We enjoyed a bottled Coke, the best kind of Coke you can get anywhere in the world, and watched the sun set over the Nile River and exotic trees and plants.

Later we ate pizza at Mark and Lori Manry's house and talked until late, sharing Jinja stories from past years and hearing their current stories. After dark in Jinja (7ish) there is not much to do except sit around and talk with good friends and family or read a good book. We miss that kind of down time in the evenings.

Today we hung out at The Source Cafe visiting more with Ugandan friends and drinking more than my fair share of great Ugandan coffee. We also drove around Jinja taking lots of pictures.

This afternoon Nyanga Grace took us to his home in the village, Lwanda, where we visited the graves of his wife, Gorreti, and 3 year old son, Emmanuel. They passed away in a traffic accident about six weeks ago. Goretti was a good friend and I hurt for Grace who is mourning his loss.

We are tired. We miss our kids terribly. But we are so thankful to be here.

Tomorrow we are off to Rwanda. We will stay with friends in Mbarara Wed. night and drive into Kigali on Thursday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bittersweet reunion

Briley and I have experienced a lot of mixed emotions since we safely arrived Jinja Friday afternoon. We went to tour the Source Cafe and Opportunity Center first. A lot of great things continue to take place there. We saw the reorganized library that Candice Garner and several others have done a great job on. We saw the new Kibo Group / Mvule Project office. The Source Cafe and coffee shop continues to do well. Lazarus Wagoli and Ronald Mugulisi are providing great leadership and wise management for the facility and its operations. Numerous ministries and positive programs take place at this facility thanks to the profits of this missional business.

At the same time there was a noticeable missing piece in this experience for us. The late Moses Kimeze was not there. We met Irene, Moses' widow, face to face for the first time since Moses and Adam Langford were tragically killed in a vehicle accident. The Kimeze's 3 year old son, Zach, became instant buddies with me as we toured the facility. He insisted I share his cheerios and snacks with him so I did just that. He is energetic and has a great little personality, much like his father he will never know. Briley and I grieved at the thought of Zach and his siblings not having the ability to enjoy Moses as a loving father.

I also gave a long hug to my friend Nyanga Grace, who tragically lost his wife, Goretti, and his young son, Emmanuel very recently in another vehicle accident. I had the privilege of marrying Grace and Goretti during our time here and am deeply saddened by this loss.

Hazardous roads continue to take the lives of gifted people living in Uganda. Everyone here is a little weary of it yet remain faithful that God is present and that He is working through these difficult situations.

In these first few days we have also.....

  • Had joyful reunions and laughs with many other Ugandan friends.
  • Visited our former home and remembered some great times our family had living here.
  • Enjoyed time with Bobby and Candice, the Bogles and the Manrys.
  • Had a wonderful dinner with Richard and Ida Bazonoona and their family. We had great conversation and prayer and then slept in their house Saturday night but didn't get much sleep due to some powerful thunderstorms all night. Ida is expecting a baby very soon and despite being uncomfortable was a joyful and wonderful host for us.
  • Had a great reunion and worship time with the Jinja Church Sunday morning. I had a chance to preach Christ to them once again.
  • Visited the home of Irene and her children and wept at the grave of the late Moses Kimeze this evening.
  • Eaten lots of great fruit like sweet bananas and pineapple and I have enjoyed several cups of fresh Ugandan coffee.
Tomorrow we will continue to reunite with more Ugandan friends and attend meetings where we will learn the latest about how the various Kibo Group projects are offering development opportunities and creating better lives for Ugandans.

We hope to see the Ben and Kym Langford family briefly as they fly in Tuesday.

The Garners and us will begin our journey to Rwanda on Wednesday.

Thanks for all your prayers.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Back to Africa

Briley and I are busy packing up for another trip to Africa. This will be my first in over two years and it will be Briley's first return trip since we moved home six years ago. We can't wait to get there.

We hope to accomplish several things while we're there for about 2 weeks.

  1. Reconnect and renew relationships with Ugandan friends / Christians / churches in Uganda and Rwanda.
  2. Reconnect and renew relationships with missionary friends in Uganda and Rwanda.
  3. Enjoy and see first hand the great work Bobby and Candice Garner are doing for Kibo Group.
  4. Observe the various Kibo Group projects and encourage the Africans who are working hard to serve others.
  5. Observe and learn from other successful development initiatives like the Millenium Villages in Uganda and Rwanda.
  6. Explore potential future development projects in Uganda and Rwanda.

We'll have to hit the ground running to accomplish all we want to. Please pray for easy travel, safety, and good health. Please pray for our children and Briley's Dad who will be spending some good Papa - grandchildren time while we're away. A huge thanks to him for allowing Briley and I to make this trip together!