Walking in Wakisi

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 9 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 17, 2012 – It is our last day in Uganda. We are going to the Mashah Village one more time and this time, taking a walk through Wakisi. Jill and I want to meet more of the people that live outside the protection of the Elevare umbrella. We want to see where they live and how they live. Everyone in Wakisi has benefitted from the presence of Elevare – the well, the road, the investment in money and time and love – but most of the people in Wakisi still live the hard village life.

Before we leave from Surgio’s for the village, some in our group suggest we solicit Christopher, the village headman, to walk with us. He can protect us. When we get to Mashah, Pastor Joseph takes three others from our group into Wakisi and says for anyone who wants to come to follow along. Jill and I linger a few minutes with the children and then follow through the gate. The others are already out of sight so we start off down the road alone. We don’t hurry to catch up. There is nothing threatening about this place. Neither of us has ever felt unsafe, no matter where we’ve been this week. Not walking home alone from shopping in Jinja or among the stalls at the market. Maybe in the crush of traffic in Kampala, but that was cars, not people. And certainly not walking in Wakisi.

Safe, however, would probably not be the feeling if we were walking alone in the streets of the poorest neighborhoods in Detroit or Chicago or even Houston. There’s a reason for that. In Wakisi they are poor, but they are content. They don’t want to be poor. They strive to make their village a better place. They do whatever they can to make their lives better. But they are happy in their struggle, and they appreciate help when it is given. That is not the way it is in our cities. We have substituted entitlement for appreciation. And when anyone feels entitled to what someone else has, they will never be content until they have it, and “it” is not an attainable thing.

Am I thinking about all that when we are walking through Wakisi on our last day there? Probably not. I am thinking about the children who come rushing out from their home shouting, “Sweetie! Sweetie!” as we come to the first bend in the road. No we don’t have any sweeties we tell them and that’s okay. They still swarm around us, eight or ten of them from two to twelve years old. They want hugs and kisses and love. They want me to take their picture with my camera and show them what they look like. I don’t know if they’ve ever seen what they look like before. Perhaps as a reflection in the river. As we are playing with them their mother comes to us and touches my arm.

“My husband is sick,” she says. “You pray, please.”

She invites us into her home, through the front door made with sticks and tied together with rough twine, into their living room that is smaller than the closet where we keep our coats at home. Her children follow us in, all eight of them. The last two have to stand outside in the doorway because there is no more room.

Father pulls back a torn sheet that separates the living room from their bedroom and joins us. He is a tall man. I put my hand on his shoulder and ask, “Are you sick?”

“Yes,” he says. “My chest. Can’t breath.”

I ask him what his name is, and “Gusulwani” is what it sounds like he says. I repeat the name back to him and he nods, and that’s the name I use when I pray for him. It is a short prayer that calls for God’s Spirit to wrap its arms around him and his family and protect them. But it is not the prayer that matters, it is the moment. It is the spirit that rushes in through the door with the breeze, the smiles and the thank yous from Gusulwani and his wife, and the faces of the children staring up at me in wonder as we leave the house. It is the invitation to “Come back. Come to our home, please,” as we wave to them and continue our walk into Wakisi.

We see many families and their mud or clay brick homes as we walk down the red dirt road. We see mothers and their daughters carrying water up from the river. We see babies sitting by the fire playing in the dirt as their mother cooks. As we get down to the river we see young men spreading the silver fish from their nets on the ground with a hand made sweeper. And all along the way the children rush out to meet us and want us to take their picture. Some even follow along with us after we’ve passed their homes.

It is a great way to end our trip here, and we continue to wave and talk to the children we saw on the way as we return to Mashah. When we get to the last bend in the road, Gusulwani’s eight children come rushing up to Jill. They don’t ask for sweeties this time. They know we don’t have them. This time they just want the hugs and love.

What Does It All Mean?

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Final Entry ]

HOUSTON, TX – MARCH 20, 2012 – My final note on our trip to Uganda is going to be a reflection on what I learned about myself and what I learned about the world God has given us to live in.

Let’s start with the least important. That would be me.

I am a very emotional person who forms a deep bond with people and places, but that emotion is not manifest in my demeanor. Outwardly I am an observer. When my father died – wow, almost eight years ago now – I was the one they called to make all the arrangements for his services in Arkansas where he lived. I rubbed my head and paced the floor and did all the things I needed to do. Inside, however, I was filled with loss, with the feeling I had never done enough for the man, that I had disappointed him too often. When we got to Hot Springs and I saw Dad, I hoped he knew how much I loved him. That’s kind of the way it was with the orphans at Mashah. I wanted to grab every one of them as they ran by and put them on my knee and kiss them and love them, but I sat on the steps of one of their houses and watched them. Instead they ran into the arms of those that reached out for them and giggled at their caresses. But when they did come to me, curious, as all children are, and I held them in my arms, I hoped they felt the love that had been there for them all along.

I am also a pretty organized person, but not a rigid one. I like things to be the way I like them to be. But when they’re not, that’s okay, too. I kind of let things slide when they don’t happen the way they were supposed to happen. I may grouse about it, but in the end the way things are at any given moment are just the way they are. So, I’m always reorganizing my plan based on the ever-changing circumstances. I think this was an essential attitude in Uganda, from losing our bags to deciding and then changing what we did every day. It was essential because we were on African time. African time means if a school said they were bringing kids to play at 10 a.m., it really meant they would start getting the kids ready to come at ten and they would be there sometime around eleven, maybe later. If we were going to work on the playground at 7:30, we’d get there sometime before ten. It is just a rhythm of the place, a rhythm I actually like quite a lot. It says, “Today we will do what we can do today, and tomorrow we will begin again.”

Now let’s talk about the world God gave us, and what we’ve done with it.

We’ve perverted it. I think that’s the simplest way to put it. We have given precedence to what we can get over what our souls can give. We have made self-worth a monetary term. And we have forgotten that happiness is never found in something we can hold with our hands. What I saw last week was happiness abounding. Was it a happiness of ignorance because they did not know of all the great things they might could have? When they learned other people had cars and electricity and fresh water and they didn’t, would they never be happy again? No, happiness does not come from such things. And that’s the perversion; we think it does. Happiness is the peace that passes understanding whatever the circumstance may be. Just read Philippians 4, and then read it again. Read it in the King James. Read it in the NIV. Read it in the New American Standard. Let it be a light unto your soul. Because happiness is what we all have sought since the first man put pen to paper, and it can only be found in one place.

What it all means is this. I am convinced that our lives are wasted when we pursue our selves and not the good of others. Please God, do not allow me to waste mine any more.

Moving Day

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 8 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 16, 2012 – In golf they call Saturday “Moving Day”. For us, moving day was Thursday. Jill and I spent our first night in Uganda in one of the outer bungalows, a giant round room with a king size bed in the middle. Sweet. They next day we were quickly moved to one of the regular cottages. Still sweet. We stayed in that room three nights. In the meantime, The Haven rented out our rooms, which Loren had booked for the entire week, to a group on photo safari for Thursday and Friday. Not so sweet.

We had a choice, we could sleep in tents for those two nights in a field out by the bungalows and move back into our rooms on Friday or we could go elsewhere. Luckily Jill’s bags finally arrived Wednesday afternoon while we were in the village and the group decided to move into town to Surgio’s Pizzeria and Guest House. Loren had stayed there before and on the way into the market on Wednesday, the guys checked it out. They had room for all of us and the place looked great. The stone-fired pizza was even better. It was just past the dam where the Nile begins to flow out of Lake Victoria in Jinja, the largest city in eastern Uganda. It was a little farther away from Wakisi, but it was all on paved roads (or what passes for paved roads here), no dirt paths.

That meant, even though we had just gotten Jill’s luggage, there was no unpacking Wednesday night. Jill just went through her bag to get the stuff she needed. The rest stayed right where it was.

[Okay, this is an aside about Jill. So Jill if you’re reading, skip this paragraph. After a few panicky moments when we realized the bags weren’t there and the next morning when we still didn’t know if they had found our bags or if they were coming at all, Jill was remarkable. She had one extra pair of pants and one extra t-shirt in her carry-on bag. Every morning she would wash what she wore the day before in the sink with a packet of Tide she got from Beth, and wear the other change of clothes. Thursday morning was the first day she could wear something new.]

As Jill went through the bag she realized there wasn’t much there she really needed after all. But there was a week’s worth of clothes in there that were going to waste. Maybe we should just stay another week. Just kidding Grandma and PopPop, and Mimi.

Thursday was moving day at the village, too, finishing the playground and bringing in the first kids to play there. It was a long, luscious, hard, satisfying day. And at the end of it, the entire group’s bags were on a flatbed truck headed for Jinja to Surgio’s. We followed them in the van and I can’t be sure, but I think Jill watched closely to make sure her new bright orange bags (bright orange so we would be sure to see them at baggage claim) didn’t come flying out. They didn’t. We all arrived safely at Surgio’s, people and bags.

The next day we were back at the village for the second day of the Grand Opening of the Mashah Community Playground. We had over 150 students from two different schools, but it was a much more orderly day. That doesn’t mean there were any fewer smiles or hugs or squeals of delight on the swings. It just means we had learned from our mistakes from the day before. We got back to Jinja in the early afternoon; the Smiths had to get ready for their flights back to Houston.

Jill and I spent the last few hours of the day being tourists, shopping for souvenirs. We got Grace a…and Troy some…Nope, we want it to be a surprise. Pastor Mathias even took us on a little sight seeing tour. We saw the Port of Jinja (a boat dock), the charcoal distribution center (dozens of people putting charcoal in hundreds of huge bags to be sold as fuel for cooking fires and the like), and Jinja’s only golf course. It was right on Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile.

There were no golfers, and storks were making themselves at home on the fairways, but the yellow flag on the final green was rustling in the wind. Must be moving day.

Not a Dull Boy

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 7 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 15, 2012 – The first half of the day was all work. The second half, all play. Jack is not a dull boy.

We got to the village early to finish the playground. We still had a lot of work to do, and the children were coming at two. Everyone was working hard right through the morning and into the early afternoon. I didn’t see how we were going to finish in time. The older children from Peter’s Primary School were scheduled to come at two o’clock. As two rolled around, the sand arrived and the Bobcat leveled the playground area. The kids were late, but it gave us time to finish. African time, we’ve learned, is approximate and the children came walking up the path in their school uniforms just before three.

We had lots of activities planned for them – games, crafts, snacks, and, of course, the playground. Jill and I were in charge of the snacks, fresh, bottled water and cookies. We greeted the kids with hugs and love, told them what we had planned for them, and separated them into groups for each activity. After we had served our first group of kids their snack, which they received with a bow or a curtsey and a thank you, a second wave of children arrived on a bus from the school. It was that second wave that made our well ordered plan more of a guideline. The games became an impromptu soccer match, the lines for the temporary tattoos and friendship bracelets became burgeoning groups trying to be next, and the snack bar was inundated with thirsty children. There was never not a line for another cup of water. Most of them wanted more cookies, too, but the crumbs at the corners of their mouths told us they had already had their snack.

But everyone was having fun, even the overtaxed Elevare crew, and the smiles on the children’s faces as they ran through the playground to climb the rock wall or swing or attempt the monkey bars made it all a joyous time. We asked the kids before the festivities started if they had ever been on a swing set before. None of them had. So, they lined up to take their turns in the swings, their eyes wide with wonder. They all had the kind of smiles only children have. And the squeals of exhilaration as they flew into the air and back again lifted up through the village.

I finally got a chance to escape the snack stand (sorry Jill, but they asked me to go over there) and watch the children play. When I got there one of the boys was standing off from the others. I went up to him and asked if he wanted to swing. He nodded that he did, so I held his hand and led him over to one the lines for the swings.

“You can go next, after this girl,” I told him. He nodded quietly, but he was nervous.

Before his turn, he pulled on my arm and I bent down to listen to him whisper, “I don’t know how to do it.”

“That’s okay,” I whispered back, “I’ll help you.”

I gave him a little push and in the seconds it took for his legs to reach up to the sky and tuck back under him as he cam back down, he was an expert. And I could tell he thought he was flying from the shear look of amazement on his face.

Work Day

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 6 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 14, 2012 – Today was a work day, trying to get the playground finished so the kids can come play tomorrow afternoon. It is a massive structure built of solid mahogany wood. Loren found a local source for the wood. He had to supervise as they custom cut the lumber we needed. And it was cheaper than getting soft pine shipped in from somewhere else. So we are using the dense solid lumber. It makes the labor a little more intensive with all the added weight and difficulty drilling, sawing and nailing the playground together. But in the early afternoon a rain shower passed over. It cooled everything off, and as the water washed over us it revealed the beautiful, rich color of the mahogany. It is really quite a fantastic piece of building.

There are five guys – Pastor Dan, Micky, Bill, Gus, and Brian – who are in charge of the construction. They are from all over the United States and they form the nucleus of a ministry that builds playgrounds like this one all over the world, in places like Haiti, South America, the Ukraine, and now Africa. It is their mission to allow kids to be kids in places where that is sometimes very hard and to revel in the joy that being a child of God brings.

There is still work to be done and the rest of us are pitching in, along with the help of some local Ugandan workers. Some of the swings still haven’t made it here. They were in two other lost bags we hope will arrive tomorrow. But half of the swings and the jungle gym and the rope ladders and the rock climbing wall will all be ready for tomorrow afternoon. At two o’clock, the Headmaster of the local elementary school will bring a group of over 100 third, fourth and fifth graders to christen the new playground. Friday the younger kids from the school will come and Friday afternoon kids from Wakisi who aren’t in school (and there are more of them than you can imagine, hundreds) will get their turn. For every group we will have face painting and games and other activities in addition to their time on the swings and the monkey bars. This will be the first time most of these kids have ever played on a playground like this, if you can believe that. Then, at the end, we will gather each group together and let them know the joy they are feeling is the joy that Jesus can bring into their lives every day.

Isn’t it how we should all feel? Like we are swinging on a swing for the first time, the wind rushing over our faces as our toes reach higher and higher into the air. Isn’t that the joy we should feel every day because we have turned over our lives to a Father who loves us with his whole heart.

Odds and Ends

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 5 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 13, 2012 – Just time for some quick observations today. We were on the go all day, helping with the playground, visiting the kids at the village and going into the Jinja market for some supplies.

I’ve noticed a couple of things I think are worth a quick mention. First, about the place. There is really no way to describe it. I mean, how can you describe something you’ve never really see before. No photograph does it justice, but this is a remarkable, beautiful place. The water everywhere, the lush green land where anything will grow and does. But that’s not it, really. The greens are greener, the blues are bluer, the sounds are sharper, the stars explode out of the night sky. It is almost dawn of the earth natural beauty, and it is a wonder to see it.

Next, it’s the people. Everyone I’ve seen has a ready smile that is always willing to turn into a laugh. They are expectant of goodness, and thankful for help. Everyone waves as you pass by and the children run from their homes to wave as the car passes. One fellow stopped us just outside the gate of the village as we were walking over to the orphanage. They fish there every day and there is always a group of young men and children, and occasionally women, cleaning the fish or preparing the fish

“Are you going? Or are you coming back?” the man asked.

“I don’t know,” Loren said. “Depends on how long we stay with the children. We’ll probably come back, though.”

“Come back, come back,” the man said. “Then we can thank you again for everything you do for us here. God bless you.”

In our world they are people with nothing. I think, perhaps, our definition of nothing is wrong.

That’s just about all, except for one weird little thing about the place. Everywhere we go we are walking or riding with the windows open, and you can smell the place around you. And everywhere there is the smell of something burning. A fire for a light or for cooking, or the more acrid smoke of cars burning oil. But everywhere the smell of burning, like in the fall at home when folks burn their leaves. This is different though, and it is always there and it is filling the hot, thick air of the equator, not a crisp fall morning.

Okay, that’s it. I’ll try to upload some more images later. There are so many and it’s hard to choose which ones to upload and tonight I do not have time.

Lost and Found

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 4 ]

JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 12, 2012 – We have arrived. The flight went as smoothly as a flight can when it involves three planes and three continents. We ended up about half an hour late arriving in Entebbe, and Customs was a breeze, probably because we had the fifty bucks apiece to get into the country. All that was left was the baggage carousel. Guess you know what’s coming. That’s right, our bags didn’t make the same smooth flight we did. Most of our clothes, especially underclothes, shoes, and all the t-shirts, candy and other stuff we’d brought for the kids in the village were somewhere between Dallas, Texas and Entebbe, Uganda. That’s okay though, they’ll be on the next flight, right? Only the next flight isn’t for two days, and the folks at the lost baggage station sit at desks amongst a sea of unclaimed bags and half a dozen people are crowded around the desks in the same boat we’re in. Finally, it’s our turn and the bags aren’t in the system. Don’t know where they are. Call tomorrow and we’ll see if we can find them. This is not what Jill needed to hear, but the guys at the desks aren’t in the business of worrying about what people need to hear.

But that’s just the way it is, and we leave baggage claim to find our ride. I’d gone out earlier when we were waiting to find out about the bags, and no one holding a sign that said WOMACK was there. This time, though, when we went out to the airport entrance, Stephen was there with his hand printed WOMACK sign. It was almost midnight and he’d been there over an hour waiting for us. Stephen is not from a taxi service. He works at the Jinja church that partners here with Elevare International. He is doing this on his own time. Still, he’s all smiles and we follow him to the SUV that will be our ride through Entebbe, the southern part of Kampala, and across country to Jinja in eastern Uganda, about two and a half hours away. That’s bad enough, but little did we know that Stephen would get in on the wrong side of the car and drive on the wrong side of the road, British style, all the way there on narrow two lane “highways” that were more pothole than asphalt and where he would pass anything moving slower than us no matter what was coming the other way. For good measure, the streets were teaming with people milling about the roadside businesses and clubs that lined the way almost two thirds of the way to Jinja, and motor bikes whizzed by on either side with two or three people on them.

Jill kept a close eye on the proceedings, but I tried to rest between the bumps and honking horns. Over two hours later we were at The Haven, where we are staying for the week. Well, almost there. We pulled off the “road” onto a dirt path with a sign that said The Haven. And down the path we went and went and went. Kind of like the Energizer bunny going and going. Every couple of miles there was another sign pointing us to The Haven down an even narrower dirt path. Along the path were dozens of little one room brick or mud buildings. They all looked deserted, but they were filled with the people of the local village. We saw them all the next day smiling and waving and the kids running after the van.

At last there were no more turns or dirt path to follow, and Loren was at the gates of The Haven to let us in. He led us by flashlight to the one room, concrete, thatched roof bungalow where we were staying. The painted concrete floors were stained and shiny. There were stone shelves built into the walls. And a giant queen size bed took over the room with its white gauze mosquito net. It was really very picturesque, but it took a back seat to the shower and sleep that Jill and I both needed.

The next morning Sid and Beth and their college age children, Mike and Rachel, were the only ones still there when Jill and I came to the main building for breakfast. Loren and the others were at the village site building the playground. The Smiths were going jet boating on the Nile rapids just outside our rooms. Jill and I tried to see if there was any news about our bags. There wasn’t, so we walked around the property to see what was what. What was, was a beautiful place filled with flowers and birds and people and water everywhere.

As the day meandered on, Stephen came to get lunch for Loren and the crew building the playground. The Smiths came back from their white water experience soaked and smiling. And still no one could tell us about our bags. Loren came back in the middle of the afternoon to take us and the Smiths to the village. We tried the baggage folks at the Entebbe airport one last time before we left. And wouldn’t you know it, they had found the luggage. It still wouldn’t be here for two days, but it wasn’t lost anymore. So our hearts were lighter as we left for Washah Village.

I wasn’t expecting the paradise I saw. The green manicured lawn and sculptured landscaping, all on a raised peninsula poking itself into a bend in the Nile. It is simply a paradise. It is a safe refuge, with a serene community center that overlooks the river already being built and the playground coming out of the ground in the valley at the bottom of a gentle slope. And with paradise there are angels, and that’s what we found at the homes Elevare has built for the orphans. Most of these children are four or five years old with personalities already their own. They smile and they giggle and they want you to hold them on your knee and tell them that you love them. Beth gave them bubbles to play with and they chased them and caught them and everyone there was smiling at the wonder in their eyes.

Jill and I found there, in the shank of the day, why we had come in the first place, and the lost bags didn’t seem to matter so much any more.

Flyings Days

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 3 ]

LONDON – MARCH 11, 2012 – Getting to Uganda is two days of flying and waiting. I don’t mind the flying part. I can sit at the window and try to tell what things are from 30,000 feet. The green patchwork quilt of the countryside. The crooked switchbacks of the rivers. The little dark pockmarks of man made watering holes, and the larger blue and brown irregular shapes of natural lakes. The towns, like nuclei of nerve cells, tentacles of road stretching out connecting them to the larger cells of cities. Looking down on those clusters of our creation from so many miles above, there is nothing to distinguish affluence from urban blight. Only closer to the ground do things start to separate. Only on the ground does it make a difference at all. From above even New York and London and Kampala are just blemishes on the immensity of the landscape.

The waiting part happens in the alternate reality of airports. Each one is an enclosed cosmos of restaurant chains and shops and waiting areas. And we make our way from one to the next without ever going outside. The hours between flights are filled up with waiting in line. It all starts with the line for check-in. Then there is the line at security where you take off your shoes and empty your pockets and take your turn getting scanned. Each flight has a line for boarding. At the end of it all, there is the Customs line. And for every line, there is the general line and the first class, priority access, get out of jail free line. I prefer the general line (what a lier I am). After all what would we do with all that extra time if we whizzed through all the lines like the first class lot?

But in the end, it is hours in an airplane seat, trying to get some sleep and thinking about what stayed behind and what lies ahead.

Leaving Home

[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal – Entry 2 ]

MABANK, TX – MARCH 9, 2012 – The day has come, almost. After a few hours of fitful sleep, Jill and I will be headed for Uganda. Now we won’t be there for two days, but we will be on the way. Jill says she has been really nervous, especially about being away from the kids for over a week. That’s not all she’s been nervous about. All the preparations, making sure every detail is taken care of, has made her a ball of nervous energy. And that’s why everything has happened so smoothly, for me at least. She also says I’m probably not nervous at all (but she’s wrong), and that I’m more adventurous than her. I don’t know about that either. After all we’re both going. But I do know this does feel like an adventure for me. More because this is a door God has opened for us that wasn’t anywhere in the far reaches of my mind as something possible. That I would never even have thought of on my own.

So, we’re leaving tomorrow to see what God has in store for us. We’re doing a lot of leaving. We left the dogs in Houston with my mom. We left our children with their grandparents at the lake. We’re leaving our home, our state, our country. We’re leaving what we know, what we do every day, and we are a page without writing. I can’t wait to see what God writes on that page. That’s the adventure for me. That’s also what makes the nerves set in – the not in charge, not in control of what’s going to happen next, nerves.

Okay, take a deep breath. It is the day, and what God wants to do with it is better than anything I thought I wanted. That’s the way it should work. It should be easy to let God be in charge. After all, He’s God. He should know what’s best for us. But we are always getting in the way.

This time, though, I’ll just take what comes, and leave what I want behind.

Oh, the Places We’ll Go

[ This is the first of the series of posts made during a recent mission trip to Uganda, Africa. I am posting these in the Personal Commentary section so they will have a permanent home. The other posts will be added over the next several days. It was a remarkable trip for Jill and me and we wanted to maintain a record of what we did and saw. If you did not follow along with us as we were on the trip, I hope you will enjoy our journey with us now. ]

HOUSTON, TX – MARCH 9, 2012 – This first bit is going to be a little hectic. We’re taking the kids out of school on Friday to go to the lake, Cedar Creek Lake. My wife’s parents have a house there. It’s about 60 miles southeast of Dallas, and that’s where the kids will stay while we’re gone. They love it there. And what’s not to love – the lake, boats, golf carts, grandparents. Grandma and Pop Pop will probably even take them into Dallas for a couple of days to go shopping (Grandma loves to go shopping) and to the aquarium and wherever else they think of to go. You know, general good fun.

Jill and I, on the other hand, will be getting up before six on Saturday morning to leave by seven to get to the airport for the first leg of our flight that begins at 11:30 on Saturday morning and won’t end until 10:10 Sunday night in Entebbe, Uganda. We fly from Dallas to New Jersey, from New Jersey to London, and from London to Entebbe. We hope our bags make the same journey. There is supposed to be a van waiting to take us to The Haven, the hotel north of Jinja, Uganda about two and a half hours away. That puts us at our destination about 1 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning. The hotel is on the Nile river, just upstream from it’s source at Lake Victoria. It is close to Mashah Village, the 40 acre property Elevare International has developed near the village of Wakisi. We will spend most of our time there, doing whatever God wants us to do for the people and the children there. Specifically, we will help with the building and opening of an extensive playground in the village for the orphans who live in Mashah Village and for all the children of the area.

And that is where the journey really lies.

Not that the preparations haven’t been a journey of their own. We were invited to go on the trip less than a month ago. Okay, we’re going. Now what? Who is going to take care of the kids? Who’s going to take care of the dogs? We have to get plane tickets, shots – and that’s no little thing. Immunizations for Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis, Menengitis, Polio, Tetnus, all brought in on a tray in their separate syringes and administered at one time. Oh, and the Malaria pills we will have to take every day we’re there and for a week after we get home. Then the packing. Getting the proper bags, adaptors so we can use our electronic devices, all the little accessories to keep the iPad running and making sure we can upload the photographs we take to this site.

It has been a little hectic, but it has gone smoothly, really. Perhaps it is just the first steps on a longer journey God has planned for us. So, we continue to pray that we will be cognizant of the plan God lays out before us and that He will reveal Himself to us and those we meet on this journey we are now beginning.

Find out more about what Elevare International is doing in Africa and around the world at