Awesome! So Julius and I with my singing entourage walk up to Congo. The Congo border was about a mile from where the village is, Africa is a beautiful country, the grasses are green, the mountains just breathtaking. But when I saw the soldiers I was reminded how fragile human life is, war this cursed war, God you are the only one that can deliver us from our selfishness. We sit on a hill just look down on beautiful Congo. I saw an abandon building, it was taken over by tall grasses, vines and it looks creepy, but the building itself look as if it was once a beautiful place. I asked one of the preacher what the story about that building, he said there are lots of building and pretty houses like that but it has been bombed and the owners either died or ran away. I wonder why there are no more buildings like that around, I guess grass hut is easy and cheap just in case they get attack. These people they’re whole life is war, ready to run, ready to fight. One thing in their mind as long as family together they are happy. We sit and eat more mangos I don’t want to leave that hill but we must. Another joyful walk down the mountain with children running, yelling and singing all this joy with no shoes and proper clothing on their body but no one cares. This is what Jesus meant with faith like a child we will see God. The trust, the carefree, the joy and the incredible heart of thankfulness in every situation. God make me like them I pray. By the time we get back to the village it was supper time the women served us stew dried fish with cassava posho. It was hard to swallow and with all the kids around me I know I can’t fake it. They laugh but who cares they love me. That night the youth are singing again I got to play the home made drum, it made out of cow skin and teak wood that have been carved and shaped it like a drum. It was fantastic they are praising God under the star, I want to stay long with them but I was just too tired. Again another hot bath. I went in to the hut and as soon after my prayer the stupid goat at it again. I am going to lose my mind. I keep reminding myself one more night, one more night, I imagine my nice, warm, foam bed wrap in my thick sleeping bag from home. What I want is my bed in my parents’ house but to think of home right now is torture so the sleeping bag is the closest thing I have from home. It always remind me of our Christmas as a family where dad try to keep our fire under control in the basement. To be home again, but that stupid goat paint my memories of home as one big headache. My back hurts and my legs cramp I have been in the fetal position last night and tonight, I was afraid to stretch because my head and my legs will touch the mosquito net and I don’t want those little vampire mosquitos to bite me. As I was having my pity party and telling God I deserve better because I was willing to come to this country then the rooster crow. The rooster remind me that this is such a petty excuse for not willing to pick up the cross. I don’t deserve anything from God and this people they deserve life. I am here just for short time and I have given God an earful of my complaints since I got here. Forgive me God. To think one minute I praise God for His beauty and the next I am complaining about things that doesn’t go my way. We are wretched beings, we deserve hell but because of the cross we are free to come to the Father. We have been justified and adopted by the King. He can choose who He wants and loves anyone He pleases. He can even wipe us out and start all over again. But He love us. Now that’s freedom! To be in His family means freedom. I am free to be me, I am free to complain to my Father knowing no matter what I said I am His. So with the sun rises so is my spirit. I am ready to forgive the people, the ground, the rooster and the goat! I get myself up and pray that God will give me strength to get through the day and keep me sane for a little bit longer. I am excited that tonight I got to see the base, Dianna, my bed and yes Nate!!
I feel my body is taking the beating now, it’s getting darker and I wonder what is happening next. Then I saw a young lady come and whisper something to Julius and she left. Julius whisper to me that my bath water is ready! YAY. I get to get up and have a bath. They took me to a man-made shelter, the water was warm I didn’t care the basin was small I squeeze in the bucket so I can sit in the water ahh it feels so good on my bum. I sit in it for a while watching the stars and thank God I am there and alive. After my nice warm bath I change to my long pants and a wrap, the ladies showed me where I was sleeping and give me a candle to put on the ground, I went in to the new grass hut I can’t barely stand inside, the whole time I was ducking the grass, how in the world this tall people made such a short hut, I am short and I am barely standing in it, the floor was an even ground, there was stump everywhere oh well, on the floor was a papyrus mat and my back pack. This is going to be an interesting night but who cares I am beat. I would like to sleep, I hang my mesquite net and crash. I heard the youth not far from where I was sleeping they were singing with their drum, at first I thought it’s nice to hear music but then the drum and the singing continues long into the night as I was about to fall asleep I hear something rustling outside my hut and with no mistake I know that sound anywhere. Someone tied a goat next to my hut. The night was cold all I have was long pants and my t-shirt I wish I brought my big, thick, insulated sleeping bag my sister gave me for Christmas. But no I already made a cozy little cave back at the base with it, next time it will be with me no matter what. I’ll sit on it and I’ll fight anyone dare to say there’s no room for it! I miss it already. The ground was giving me a hard time to lay on I stumped couple of times on the dirt to make an even ground, the choir not five feet away from me is still chanting and now I have bleating goat that won’t shut up! Oh Lord I am going to die! I pray that either morning come fast or someone needs to get rid of that goat. I looked at my watch and it was five in the morning. Great I haven’t sleep the whole night I pray I won’t fall asleep on one of those benches. The sun come up and I get ready. I clean up as quickly as I can and walk outside I looked around at the goat he is sitting there eating my roof! Argh, I hope they get rid of the goat soon or I will. The ladies brought us tea and bread. It was nice, I need the tea and lots of it. After that we went to the church, the children ran after me and take my hand, I love kids they are innocent, they are loveable and they don’t care who you are as long you love them back. We all walked hand in hand into the church they picked the seat and we all sit together. The church was filled in like thirty minutes. Wow we sing, dance, jumped and laugh. I feel like God have given me a new strength. To be among this people that is so thirsty for the word of God just bring new light into my life. I want to be here forever. And it was time for me to give testimony/preaching. I speak on prayer and faith. God’s love and why we should love one another. I told Julius before that he have to take over once I am done. Because he have to use all that time to fill in. I can’t speak for four hours straight. And so he did. We sing and dance until it was time for lunch. We eat mangos, biscuits and tea for lunch and it was fine by me. Julius came by and said the children and other pastors in the church wants to take me to see Congo.
The road become rockier I was bouncing everywhere, I know my liver, spleen, and everything else in my body that was in place now is out of order, I can’t feel my tail bone anymore. My thought was is this worth it? While I was having my pity party I didn’t realize we are slowing down and I heard the screeching welcome and drums, banners and singing shouting in the air, Oh God I am dead!. And I saw ladies, children and men running toward us with huge smiles, they are dancing!!!Jumping. I have never seen such a welcome for little old me. I was so overwhelmed, I made myself get off the seat before they all come crowding because I can feel my body have this permanent sitting position, despite the throbbing and sore from head to my backside, I was so happy to be able to get off this roller coaster bike and feel the ground beneath me is not caving in. I started to greet them, Deng and Julius get off and jump with them with greetings and songs. Wow what a welcome, yes this is all worth it. The children just cling to me with their bright smiles, we walked with lots of commotion and laughter. We enter some clearing and came to a church building like all the village churches it have grass roof and poles to hold the roof, log seats, dirt floor and no wall. Love it! Before we enter the pastor hold everyone up and pray for us. They brought us chairs, we had tea and bread. The women serve us almost crawling and they didn’t even look at our face. I feel very uncomfortable but Julius said this is honoring. I catch one of the girl who serve and she smile and I smile wishing we could talk. The men sitting around the circle talking loudly I was the only girl around the circle. The women were busy in the back somewhere but I can hear them talking happily. I wish I could join them. But Julius told me to stay put until supper time. Not long after that the women brought water for us to wash, and they brought food for us, it was chicken and white posho, I was hungry! Ignoring my legs that is throbbing and my aching back I feel this is home. Everything taste so good. I looked up the women and children are sitting not far off from us just watching us, I asked Julius why aren’t they eating? Julius said “the men and visitors goes first and what’s left over the women and children will eat” oh crap!! What kind of people is this? Now I can’t swallow. I eat fast and hoping this men can be done too so the women and children can eat. I saw Julius finishing it up but other men really taking their sweet time, talking and talking. Ugh I feel my blood boil but I can’t do anything except pray. I guess this is one side of home that needs to be talked about. Finally one of the men signal and the women came up and wash our hands again and take everything to the back and I didn’t see the women for a while. I could scream but it’s their tradition I can’t change overnight or even for years to come. I sit there talking to myself and observe my surrounding we are sitting in the middle of a jungle. The ground just been clear, the tree stump is still fresh and there are couple of fresh grass huts that just been put up, there was no pole to support it was just grass put together. We are surrounded by yellow tall grasses, I saw some smoke in the distance I figure that’s where the women and children are, and I wish I could speak their language.
As usual every morning at eight our sister base in Arua contacted us and see how we are doing, this time Augustine one of the base leader called and said there is a ministry in a village called Lasu it’s 28 miles from the base near Congo border, they asked if one of us can go and do a seminar there. We sat down and talked about who is going and who is staying for other ministry that have been planned. Julius and I will be going as others have already ministry plan for them. So in couple of days Julius and I will be going. The next day a tall man with a big smile rode into our base with a bicycle. Everyone greet him with a big hug. He was a former student when the base run their first Discipleship Training School (DTS). He greet me with hand shake almost dancing with excitement. His name is Deng, he is the one that arrange this seminar in Lasu. He came today to pick up Julius and me to Lasu the next day. We had a good night, Deng was really excited about the seminar and the village have not seen any foreigner so I will be the first “white girl” they have ever seen. They said we will be leaving at 7 in the morning right after breakfast. I pack my back pack that night and Dianna wish she could come with me. I wish that to but she is in charge of the kitchen and hospitality around the base. The next morning Dianna woke me up and give us breakfast, Julius came to me and said “you might want to wear pants instead of skirt our transportation will be rough, we’ll be riding bikes! And we will go through jungle” I went and change to my comfy pants and wrap up with one of the sarong Dianna gave me, tied my sneakers and I am ready to go. When Julius said rough he wasn’t kidding. I cannot explain to you in details the journey I took to Lasu. You have to experience it yourself but I will try. Imagine being in a rollercoaster with no seatbelt, no cushion seat and the driver is Speedy Gonzales. Deng have two things in mind, the seminar, and get these Khawaja there before dark. I spent most of my journey there inspecting the inside of my eyelids. Praying and cursing in two different languages. I don’t know if God was testing me or this is how my life will end in the middle of the jungle of Africa. Every time I open my eyes ahead of us was a sliver of Death Bridge meaning sliver of bridge with falling to my death kind of bridge. On the bottom was Calm River it looks like one of those drawings coming out from Thomas Kinkaid paintings but with sharp rocks as the crescendo. The bridges we passed, some of them was just big enough for bicycle others was so bad we need to get off and walk. I was afraid if I breathe it will be the end of me. But all of these obstacles did not seems to bother Deng and Julius. One point we were going so fast Deng think we can make it on one of the bridges without getting off the bike. I can feel the weight of the bicycle bend the bridge. We made it, we get off and look back that this journey we can only make it with God on our side. We walked through tall grasses for a while, and meet up on a path again and get on the bike once again for our last run Deng said five more miles and we will be there. I brace myself.
The day of reckoning is here. Our cook Sundi leave us, she went back to her village to get married. We made a duty roaster to take turn to cook in the kitchen until we can find another cook. Believe it or not I got breakfast duty it means getting up at ungodly hour in the morning to make tea and set out bread or whatever Dianna bought for breakfast. Dianna will be the one who go to the market and buy stuff, the men doing the planting and ministry Dianna and I basically handle the kitchen for time being until Julius can find a cook. I think God is trying to convert me to a morning person. I set my alarm clock I better get up early since this is my first try to be in the kitchen. The alarm went off I drag my feet out of bed. Stumble in the darkness praying asking God to help me to get through the day. I walked into the kitchen and in the corner of my eye I saw my enemy! The hen, she was sleeping. I know the bible said love your enemy but those verse did not apply to chicken. I got her now so with a loud voice I said BOOOO!!!! I saw her jump out from the stove with a hysteric clucking and out came an egg from her behind! I feel so bad, but what else can I do? I guess we all live. The excitement is over. Now I had to tackle breakfast. Sundi and Dianna made it look easy to light the fire so this should be easy. I pile up the charcoals pull out some dry grass from the roof get some matches light it up, the fire catches the dry grass and then it died. I tried a little more grass, light it up and it catches the grass but not a single coal catch the fire. This time I pulled more from the roof, light it up by now I have pile of burnt grass but nothing happen. I took me an hour to light the charcoal and I was pretty sure half of the roof is gone. I was frustrated, I went to the storage room looking for empty boxes or something to start the fire than the grass. I saw a gasoline container where we use the gasoline for our lamp. Ha victory!! I poured out on the charcoal I threw the matches and voila a bon fire, it was big I was afraid the roof will catch on fire but it didn’t God was watching over me for sure, as soon as the fire die down the charcoals were red and I put the big kettle on. After the hot water I put it in the thermos and it’s time to cook the porridge from corn flour. It was a disaster but no one said anything at breakfast. The garden looks nice, we tend it as much as we can, one night I heard gunshot I woke up and ran out side with Dianna turn out our guard shot up in the air because there were monkeys trying pull out our plants. Emma our guard said it’s going to be more when corn and ground nuts started to budding. Nice. God bless us with lots of rain. We have lots of water to wash and bathe instead of lugging them from the well. I learn the concept of time, I learn to shower under the star and if I am not quick the mosquitoes will get me. And my evening spending with Nate talking about everything and nothing at all is valuable. We argue about everything under the sun and even if he is right I like to argue anyway.
The next few days was hard, Lokuta said that Dianna is doing better and her family has taken her back to their house and she will be back with us soon. Dianna come back to the base the next day. I hug her and said I am sorry, she brush me off with a smile and said she understand and told me she didn’t stay long in the hospital once her family came she left the hospital with them. Obviously malaria for her is like another time of the month to just ride out and get it over with. Ministries around the base and town continued, but my honeymoon phase with the base is dwindling, not the people or the villagers but with the livestock around here. I can’t stand the constant obnoxious clucking of the chickens at five in the morning, and an old goat who eats everything!! The soap keeps going missing because he eats it! I swear I think that goat have our soap for desert when he is done with whatever he had for lunch. We have to put it up high so he can’t reach it but of course sometime it slide and if we did not pay attention it’s gone by supper time, the constant washing of the rack where we dry our plates, tables and chairs because the chickens think our table and chairs are out house for them. That cursed two way radio that buzz all hour of the day. Since there is no phone line, that prehistoric radio is the only way we can communicate with the outside world in case of emergency or news from our sister base in Uganda. I think most of all is the chickens that bugs me, I can put up with the stinky latrines and buzzing of the flies in the afternoon, in fact I took Nate’s advice since the beginning if I want to avoid flies go either early morning or evening. To avoid bats hitting your butt while you squat don’t go at night. So I kind of train my bowel movements to avoid going in the afternoon. But chickens I have no patience with them. For some reason our chickens all of them have a mind of their own. Some are just plain dumb, for example one hen she is laying her egg on the roof! Yes it’s made out of grass so she scratch it and try to lay but every time she did that the egg either roll on to the ground or watch out whoever walk under it got egged on. The rooster was overachiever he wants to crow on the roof but he can’t because every time he climb he pull down the grass and he just keep scratching and if he can’t he will go on top of the rack and crow and poop there. Other hen can’t protect their young the hawk pluck the young one by one and leave only one or none at all. Another hen had a brain she actually fight the hawk to protect the chicks. We can’t make cage for them because some of the chickens belong to the neighbors. And there is no money to feed them so they are on their own to find food. They said they made a cage before for them but it’s an easy target for fox and snake. One in particular hen she is the most stubborn among all of them, it’s like her goal in life is to annoy me. Every morning without fail at five in the morning she came around the girls corridor and cluck mercilessly, and If the door to our dorm open she will jump on my bed and cluck endlessly. Nate on the other hand enjoy the show I put out every morning. He said he knew I was awake when the hen flew out the door with my slipper behind it. Yeah lucky for him he doesn’t have obnoxious two legged bird who after him at five in the morning. I told him one of these days I will give that hen a lesson.
For the next few days we are busy with more visiting the churches, schools and neighbors around us. Sometimes we got a ride from different NGO into town or hitch a ride coming back on the back of a truck, they called it a Lorry. This week we had prayer and fasting at the base. We decided to meet in the morning to pray for our neighbors. In the middle of praying Dianna collapse. All of us panic she was stiff as a board. Nate carried her and took her to our dorm while Lokuta ran frantically looking for transportation nearby to carry Dianna to hospital. She was breathing but she was so stiff I have no idea what the heck is going on. They had prayer and fasting before and this never happen they said. After couple of hours Lokuta come back with one of the nearby NGO’s vehicle. We took her to the hospital. If it wasn’t for Dianna I will be running away from that hospital. The state of that hospital make my skin curl. We are in the sitting room with many sick people, we waited, and waited and finally I got impatient I went in the room and the nurse is sitting there looking at something. She looked up and smile “oh kawaja”, meaning white girl. Don’t ask me why they think I am white, because Pacific Islander is far from white. I told her about Dianna and she right away took her in and put IV on her. The nurse said this is the case of Malaria. She injected something and we took her to one of the room. There was no bed with wheel or wheel chair so I hold up the IV and followed the nurse. Nate carried Dianna. We went into one of the wards and oh my I feel like someone have snitch my lungs. The air we breathe was cover with the smell of antibiotics and blood, I feel like I was in one of the war movies where children and adults in one room with bandages on their arms, heads, legs, stomach and faces, IV hanging, and malnourished children everywhere, but this is not a movie where you can come out of the theatre and sigh because it’s a happy ending story. This is real, this is not a movie and there is no happy ending to this story. Every bed is taken, lots of groans, screaming, bleeding through their wraps and crying. Moms trying to feed their babies with IVs on the baby’s head, an old man is trying to put clothes on through tubes. My legs were shaken but I have to keep up with the nurse. I feel all eyes are on me. We finally got an empty bed, Nate lay Dianna on the bed and the nurse said she will wake up soon. I stared at Dianna, hold her hand and wish I can do something for her. Lokuta have gone and inform her family in town. The nurse said we can leave her and come back tomorrow. I walked out of there so fast, once we were outside the ward I looked down and what I saw was just heart breaking. Dirty bandages, dirty needles everywhere some of them are so old and rusted. Flies swarming on the bandages, it looks like human feces here and there and the smell of the outhouse is unbearable. Oh God help it’s all I can say. Nate took my hand and led me out. The way home was quite. That evening after supper, Nate and I talked around the campfire, he asked me if I am alright. He said Dianna will be ok, for people who have malaria many time they formed an antibody so it’s like having a flu and if you get them fast they will recover quickly. It’s more dangerous with babies and children and old people. He told me the story when he got his first malaria, he can actually smell death coming out from his body. It was a miracle from God that he is still alive. The nurse was amaze that he got through almost two weeks untreated. The base in Uganda thought he will die but God got him through it and here he was sitting and talking to me. Wow, but I feel like a coward, I don’t want to go back to that hospital again. I don’t want to see what I saw today. We pray for Dianna that night and I went to bed alone feeling depress. I can’t sleep I want to do something, I want to help, I want to be here, so much need, so much need. I want to be with my family, I miss home.
Since the base did not have transportation we walk everywhere. Today is Sunday, all of us walked to the church together. I am tired, I almost dozed off and fall off from the chair. Julius is translating but of course I did not hear a word he was saying. After church we walked home the road seems longer, the day was hot and muggy. One of those days where everything just stick to your body, having a period doesn’t help either. Dianna and I walked ahead talking about everything under this cursed earth and I want to be at the base as soon as possible wanting to get out of this dress and have a cool bath. While we are walking and talking I hear myself scream and froze. Right in the middle of the road some crazy person decided to put a huge snake that was as big as my leg and stretch it across the road. It was bloody because the head have been cut off. The men heard my blood curling scream and ran up. Nate took me aside and told me to sit on the grass, I panicked and said No! Dianna took me aside and the men investigate the snake. Meanwhile the villagers start to come out to look, some of them laughing and some are just watching me. I guess this kind of thing happen every day. Nate took my hand so I can walk around it. Apparently one of the village man caught the snake and took the poison out. It’s a common practice around here especially for witch doctor. They catch a cobra and take the poison out for whatever suit they’re need. From then on our conversation was around snake and witches. The common belief around here is that let’s try everything. If someone sick they will call on a pastor to pray and if the pastor can’t heal they call on bishop and if he can’t help they call the witch and their last resort will be the hospital. I remember on my way to Arua there was a sign on a tree saying “I can heal anything, malaria, typhus, tetanus, Aids and everything” I bet this guy is the number one doctor around here. The witch also can be hire to kill the person they don’t like. My thoughts goes to the verse that saying my “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. For the rest of our walk home we more or less talked about witches and the beliefs around the village. They inform me how Josephine encounter with a lot of those guys when the base started. Well it seems their little gods are powerless compared to our God because the base is still standing and many people around us is bless with the base.
We ate beans and white lump of something, they called it posho. After lunch we started our walk. We walked, talked and laugh the seven miles walk done lots of stories of the village and the war. We got to the small church made out of mud and grass roofing, and the floor have been packed with mud. We sat there for a while waiting for other people to come. Two hours later the service start. There is no hurry in Africa so when they said the meeting will start at two, it will not happen until four. No wonder, everyone take their time in walking. In my head wow these guys really enjoy walking and take their time. But once we got there we are the first people to arrive. I have so much to learn about this country. We sat on a wooden plank, one of the church member came and asked us to come to sit in the front where chairs for honor guests but we refused for all of us to sit in the front, but since it was an honor thing and we did not want them to feel bad of our refusal we have Julius and Nate to sit there but Nate give up his chair to an elderly man who came after us. The service start at four we sing songs in their language. After singing they asked Julius to pray for the preacher, the man come up and start preaching in Arabic because that’s the main language. Lokuta is translating. The seminar was over at six and we walked home with lots to talk about so for the next four days this is what we are doing. Seven mile into town and seven miles back. The first couple of days we had fun walking then after that yeah it wore out. We got to meet people in the church. My feet hurt, my butt have cramps but we are almost at the end of the week. The last day of seminar Lokuta said they are preparing a meal for us. Yay local food! As we were sitting and talking about the seminar I smell a very unpleasant smell, I thought the wind just blow the smell from the latrine not too far from the meeting house into our direction so I ignore it but it’s getting stronger around us. Then Nate said “food is here” now that’s a brown mountain. I guess Nate saw my expression so he said” that is cassava posho.” It’s made out of cassava, it’s been dried and fermented so it will last longer. I asked him “can I skip and just have the dried fish?” He said “you are a missionary you should eat whatever the local serve you because this is what they have and to refuse is disrespect them also its show them you are one of them and not too picky.” I picked up my plate I came close to the lady who serve she gave me a big smile and slap a huge brown glob on my plate it weight like a small boat, I want to say put some back but it was too late. I was looking for forks or spoons but I didn’t find any. I went back to our seat and look around everyone is eating with their hand. Ok. Let’s dig in. Nate come around and sit down. He looked at me and say “eat.” I touch the brown posho and it was hot and slimy oh yuck! But I keep my mouth shut. I looked up and Lokuta said “if you can’t finish it you can give some to me,” I said “oh yes, please take some.” I took a bite it taste like eating glue mix with sand. I keep chewing, and Nate whisper to me “it helps when you just let it slide down.” I tried but it won’t go down. I ate the fish instead. I don’t want to be rude so I swallow everything with lots of water. On our way back Nate said “so you survive cassava posho.” I said “yup.” Lokuta and Dianna said I did good for a first timer.
Supper time was amazing, I am here with friends whom I love and I know my stay will be great. We had team meeting welcoming back and Julius and Nate as the team leader lay out the plan for the week. Wow the base sounds pretty busy. There are lots of ministries that need attention and invitations for doing seminars and some churches need speakers in these seminars. For months to come it seems we will be busy and it’s planting season in the base, so in the morning we work in the garden planting G-Nuts or ground nuts they called it, corn, cabbages and cassava. And after lunch we get ready for different ministries around the base and in town I loved it! This week we have a seminar to attend in town. We are partner with the church so we are going to attend it to show support and also to be ready when they asked us to speak. I got my bunk bed back. Catch up with Dianna I told her tomorrow in the morning I need to do some laundry and she said “oh good you should do it in the morning and let it hang all day, but don’t hang your underwear outside” we said good night and I am praying this week will be great. I woke up with the sounds of chickens outside the door. I looked at my clock it was six in the morning. My thoughts oh yes I am in Sudan. Dianna already up and getting dress. My thoughts why? Breakfast will not server until 7. So I went back to sleep but the chickens won’t let me. Oh well. I love village life waking up with the chickens and watching Sundi chase a goat from eating the kitchen roof. This is going to be a nice day. The other guys and Nate was up they all already went to the bore hole to fetch water for shower after breakfast. Nate said they are going to the garden cut some grass, he was carrying a stick that made out of metal and it looks like a golf club but at the end was flat and it looked sharp. How are you going to cut the grass? He said with this he showed me how basically you swing back and forth into the grass and cut with it. Hmm, it seems what we need is a huge lawn mower, but I can’t think American right now because it’s not possible. So I watched the men swing the stick effortlessly and the grass are flying everywhere and after that they dig the ground with a hoe. Wow the curse of Adam is so evident in this part of the world. Americans have perfected with machines to make it bearable but not here. I left them since Dianna said our turn will be later, planting and weeding. That sounds good. I took my clothes to the borehole, I am not going to carry the water up the hill. It was busy morning many ladies and children so I pick a corner under one of the mango trees to wash my clothes. I am determine to get to know the ladies and want to learn their language and that’s what I did. “Subari kay” is good morning, “taal” means come and “ita” is you. Ok. Good I have no idea how to spell it but there it is. I took my clothes up and hang behind our dorm. Dianna come up to me and said, “By the way you need to bring in your clothes before we leave for the village” why?” “Because we will be back in the evening and you don’t want mango flies to lay eggs on your clothes” “And what if I forget?” then you need to iron all of the clothes you just wash.” Oh yeah I remember the clothes iron it’s an old time iron where you put hot coals in it and pray you won’t burn yourself or your clothes while using it I thought it’s been eradicated oh well. I saw Lokuta used it all the time and impress how he did that so well. “Why?” “You’ll get mango worms in your skin” “what?” I guess someone forget to let me in this little detail.
My two weeks back in Uganda was swift. I got to know the staffs there and explore more of Arua. I help John with paperwork in the morning and in the evening Dianna and I went for a walk. One point we visited the Sudanese refugee camp near the base and talked with the women. Many heart wrenching stories and hurts among the women. There is anger but also there is hope for better future. My ears never hear so much frustration and confusion. Oh God this kind of life never have been your plan since the beginning. To sit among them, hear their stories make me cry. There are no laws to protect the women. The men can do whatever they want. Marriage is not sacred, it seems war from the outside is not the only thing they fight. The women in this part of the world have their own war. Their survival, their self-worth and no one have pick up the fight on their behalf. God designed men to protect and right now they are failing miserably!! They have left that responsibility and boy they better have a good answer when they meet their maker one day. Please pray for the women in Africa, pray that God heal their hearts and raise up more men who will love them and treat them as their own body. Pray for all the women in the world in that matter. And for all the good men around the world keep up the good work!!! Ok on to Sudan. I can’t believe it’s almost time for me to go back to Sudan. Dianna already went on ahead of me. Julius came up to take me back to Sudan. He and I will be travelling with public transportation to Sudan. This should be interesting. Julius and I went to the bus station at 6 in the morning. I followed him through the maze of busses to find the right bus that will take us to YEI Sudan. I have a back pack and Julius carried my duffle bag. Anyone who think that this mess of busses are organized is beyond me. After walking around Julius said this is it, to me this buss is not different than the other but who cares we are here. Julius gave my duffle bag to the conductor, he went in and sit by the window, and I choose to sit next to him. My thought this should be comfy and the inside was a little bit dirty, but what do you expect? The bus should leave at 6 but I see the driver and his partner seem in no hurry they chat and chat. I asked Julius “aren’t we suppose be going now?” Julius said “not yet, see the bus have to be full in order to move” the next few minutes the bus filled up, the driver and his helper putting luggage on top of the bus I heard bleating and I turned around there was a goat and chickens on top of the roof!. I guess they missed the Bo peep bus. A large woman sit next to me. When I think the bus is full they stuff more people and children in it on the side door a worn out sign said max sixteen passengers but I don’t think the rule applies here. One women carrying a black noisy chicken oh wow this ride is going to be fun. And we are off. I wish the road is better we could be there in couple of hours or so but what can you do. Nate told me his first trip to Sudan it took him five days to get to the base and the distance was only 150 miles. I don’t care if we arrive in the evening as long as I don’t have to spend the night on the road like he did. Did I mention that we are in a rainy season? I never seen pot holes so big that it actually like a canyon. Some part of the road the men had to come out and push the bus going up the hill. The border crossing was no problem. We got to Sudan side and the road was even worse. The driver drove the bus like a mini roller coaster. I was almost asleep when I heard a baby was crying and screaming mingle with obnoxious animal cries. I woke up feeling pressured from both sides. The bus is on its side. I was pinched between Julius and a large woman. Julius was struggling to push himself, the large woman was asleep!! The whole bus is in a panic, the conductor and couple of people who sit in the front have climbed out from the window and they are outside trying to pry open the door while others are trying to kick the door open from the inside. I thought I can’t breathe but the large lady finally awake and sees me struggle she tried to get up but she couldn’t. I feel something between my legs I looked from the corner of my eyes a black chicken is struggling to get himself out. And he is pooping all over the place! He is pecking at my feet! As if the situation not get any worse I saw through the window we are sinking into the mud. Finally the door busted open, people are getting out, and the large woman in order for her to get out she had to lean on me to get out. Julius and I pushed her with all of our might so she can get out. I breathe again Thank You Jesus!! I was at the door and the conductor swoop me so fast I have no idea what happen, he was standing on mud that was up to his thigh. I got to the dry ground and assess what just happen. Our bus is on its side and suddenly I heard a scream, lots of shouting a man ran back to the bus and come out with a baby in his arms. Wow, the men get to work they did, push using whatever they could find around to tip the bus, meanwhile the goat on top of the bus is bleating and watch everything, I don’t know if I should laugh at the situation or pray. It took couple of hours, I sat with the women waiting, I hear them talking among themselves, I feel left out because I can’t speak in their language. I smile at them and gesture if I can hold the baby the mom smile and let me hold her, she was asleep. The bus looked beat up but its running. We get on again. Julius was asleep after he told me it happen all the time when it’s rainy season, mud slide everywhere. I wish he told me before I sit in the middle again. I don’t want to go to sleep. I pray we will get there soon. We did it, we made it! We got to YEI around 4 in the afternoon. I felt like I just step off from a rollercoaster ride and see my body still in one piece. We did not have to wait long the base driver came and pick us up. We got to the base it was quite, I was somewhat disappointed Nate was not around to greet me. Our cook greeted us with tea and bread she said Nate and the others are out in the village and will be back around supper time.
We had a good night. We eat around the campfire. Nate led a devotion for the night he talked about the sacrifice God gave us. The cross, and the amazing grace. For me God’s story is unbelievable it’s like a fairy tale story, a hero came and rescued a damsel in distress, take her to his kingdom and live happily ever after. And the best part of this fairy tale it’s real. I always love Cinderella story, and the story of God send his son Jesus to save me from the wicked world is just like that but more masculine and heroic, he died to save me so when I die I don’t spend eternity in hell. He was tortured, pierced and hang. But He blasted death’s door with thunder and power. If this is not love I don’t know what is. That is why I love Him and nothing can separate that love I have for Him. God could have wipe us out but He loves us so much, He lay down His life so we can be with Him. Looking up at the bright stars, the huge moon hanging like a lantern I feel so close to my savior. Some people don’t believe God exist but to see the world around us you wonder things don’t just happen. When you hold a new life in your arms and they smile back at you, they just don’t just happen. What about consciences those little voices inside us that telling us “don’t eat the donut or you’ll look like a Pillsbury dough boy” and the other said “yes! go for it you can use the sugar to clean up the attic” or when we hear the siren we pull over out of respect because someone is in need, or the EMTs just use it to go get their morning latte, or stop all the traffic to let a Chihuahua cross the street. Or the biggie, the fight for human rights, the right to live, the right for freedom. We do not like to see suffering on TV or around us that is why there’s U.N, there’s school for illiterates, organization of all sorts to save human life from slavery of all kinds. We like to watch movies where good always win, or the nerd get the girl and live happily ever after, the heroes go through fire to save the ones they love. The point is we have that goodness side of us to be loving, considerate, to hold our tongue when our friends really deserve to hear it and to have hope for better future for friends, family and our kids, just to value life that separate us from animal. There is a higher being, there is a God and His name is Jesus, Emmanuel, the savior of the world and he is in control. He gave us the freedom to choose life. Our God is such a gentleman. He waited for us to choose Him. He is the best author on love story, because He is Love! This world is full of wickedness but we don’t have to die in it, there’s heaven there’s hope in Jesus where we can live forever with no tears, pain, taxes, bills and suffering. When we choose Him, the world can deceive us, and yes we will go through many sufferings and law of this world because we are still living in it until the good Lord call us home to heaven, but this suffering is temporary and it will be exchange at the golden gate with our happy ever after. Now that’s a love story that I know is true and I believe it. Like the old saying, good things come to those who wait. To have good things we have to work, and put our sweat in it and sometime it cost us our lives. To have us it cost God his only begotten Son Jesus. We need to be willing to suffer this temporary thorn in our flesh. We need to be willing to obey His word, prizes without sacrifice is mean nothing, Love without sacrifice is meaningless. The fire was starting to die down, John said tomorrow we all going to church and Monday we (John, Dianna and Me) will be going back to Uganda.
As we get closer to town there are more soldiers, and venders selling wood, cold drinks and clothes. By the time we get to the market I can feel my feet were throbbing but its ok, the people, the chaos and the yelling in the market was more fascinating than my feet. There were women selling beans, cabbages, onions, potatoes, lots of dried fish oh it was crazy. Many of them mostly looking at me well if you love attention come to the YEI market! Others trying to sell me stuff. I have never seen so many cabbages on the ground. I watched Dianna doing barter with people in the market. It was so fascinating I did not realize that someone is following us. The women were talking really loud and I thought they were talking to me. I turned around and there was a mad man who’s been following us. His hair have dried grass on them and he only wear loin cloth and he had wild eyes. Dianna was shaking and I was thinking I am going to have accident there, people keep yelling at us and Dianna finally found her voice, she said, give him money and he will leave us alone. I don’t know what I was thinking either I am the crazy one or the man. I told Dianna No! I don’t know where my courage come from I took Dianna’s hand and drag her through the market. My thought was if I give him money he will keep coming back whenever he sees me. A lady came around and speak to the mad man and he left us alone. We went to the lady and buy her cabbages. I feel so grateful I was about to buy all of her cabbages. I think she understand, because she just laugh.
We have no idea why in the world we think going shopping with the bicycle was fun. We loaded everything on to the bike. The walk back is going to be rough, we had to push all of this crap up the hill on the bad road. The people who passed were laughing at us, but it’s ok. It was fun, we took our time sitting under a mango tree and chat. We saw Nate on a bicycle he have some errand in town, riding like he own the road. What a show off! He asked if we need some help but I said no, I should have said yes but my pride take over, ugh what a dodo! Well two hours later we are back at the base, tired, sore but ok. We went down to the borehole to pump water and it looks like the borehole is the bustling social gathering in the village. Children, and women are there to pump, talked, meet, and washing. Dianna talked with the ladies in their languages, introduce me to the ladies, I was happy I got to meet the villagers. Their clothes was poor, but their kindness was humbling. The children with no shoes, patch clothes, half dress but their bright smiles was contagious they play and care free. War for them was like a story of the past. No fear, only laughter and happiness around them. Some of them I can see can use a good meal, but I don’t think it bother them. They used the pump as a jumping jack, who can pump the fastest and the highest while filling up all the water cans and buckets. The kids all just smile, laugh, and some are shy hiding behind their mother’s skirt. The children wants to fill my bucket but I said No, let me try to pump it looks fun. Umm no, it was hard! My flimsy arms are not used to this sort of work out I think I stop the flow of water, the ladies just laugh. One of the kids, she looked like she was six years old, came and started to pump again so the water will flow better. Well I guess she showed me! The women and children carried their water on their head, they used their heads to carry everything, except their babies that looks like permanently attached to their back. The babies don’t mind the juggling of water, the movement here and there, they seems content. Well, I wonder if I should try to carry the water up the hill on my head. Dianna did it with no fuss, here I go, first try I lost most of my water, go back for second I was wet from head to toe, third try I feel my neck and my spine was about to go out of joint. Oh bother, I should just take a shower here, I need a lot of practice for this kind of maneuver, as for now I will carry my bucket like an American by hand. By the time we are at our shower I have lost half of my water, I have switched hands, stop to breathe and all of this trying to look graceful but it doesn’t work. My skirt was muddy and I was wet through and through. All this work just for a bath! Good thing it was hot. Back in the state I can turn knobs and the glorious water come from above. How I miss it. Dianna said if I want warm water to bathe I should get water in the morning and sit it in the sun for a while. Hmm I should do that next time.
I slept hard. It was morning! I got up too fast I hit my head on the board of the bed, I forgot that I was sleeping on the bottom bunk! Yikes! I looked at Dianna’s bed it was empty as usual. Ugh!! This waking up at ungodly hours of the morning have to change. Now that it was morning I got to see my room. The dorm was not that big but we have four bunk beds and only three of the beds have mattress. The bunk bed was not that high, no wonder. The floor was rough cement and the roof was grass, I can see spider webs on the beams. The sun went through the roof and the small window made out of wire. I change quickly, I open the door and I came out to a small corridor where in the corner there was a black looking contraption with wire I wonder if that’s the radio they were talking about. I walked outside, I stood there and take a good look at the base it was beautiful but what in the world was a 50 foot metal container doing in the middle of the bush? There were teak trees, and ahead of me a tukul or grass hut there was smoke coming out, I am guessing it’s the kitchen. To my left was a patch of grass and a path way to what it look like another dorm. I am guessing it’s the boys’ dorm. The whole base was surrounded by bamboo fences, and mango trees everywhere. Oh yumm, I love mangos!! It was homey somehow. And on there are rows of three more grass huts. I walked down the path and go in to the kitchen. Sundi was busy over something. I said good morning and she turned around with big smile. In front of her was a handmade stove out of clay and charcoals on it. There were three and stoves. Behind the wall was a storage room. It was a roomy kitchen and there was a table near a big open wire windows, there was spices lining the windows and a table where you prepared stuff. The wall was made out of mud and cement so was the floor. The roof was all black because of the smoke. She said it’s time for breakfast. We went to the common room and have tea and bread with everyone. Dianna said we are going to the market today John and the others have things to discuss and meet. Dianna and I walked down to the gate and not far from the gate is a bore hole, where villagers come and pump water for washing and drinking. Beyond the bore hole...Jungle! The grass was taller than me, I can’t imagine what lurking behind those grasses. So this is how we get our water, pump and carried up the hill to our shower. We passed the guard’s house and he was brushing his teeth with a stick. We smile greet each other, I thought there were two but Dianna said one is a night guard and the other is the day guard so the other guy went home last night. And on our way to the market! Oh this is going to be fun.
Oh it was fun alright. Dianna said we are going to town with a bicycle she will carried me. So the bicycle did not have cushion only metal seat for me to sit. And the road, oh the cursed road! Rocks and more rocks with deep holes in between. She was peddling and I was groaning. We did not go far before we both give up. We both finally just walked while she pushed the bike. The town is called YEI and its seven miles from the base. The road was full of pot holes and it was narrow. By the road side there were lots of mango trees and teak trees and some just plain bushes. There were little huts here and there but not many. Some trucks made their own way through the bushes because the road just too narrow. We smile at people passing by, some just stared, probably thinking “why in the world you guys walked when you have a perfectly good bike and you are not using it” well, my thought was just put it this way, because this road sucks! And I really don’t want to be in pain on my first day here. Dianna pointed out the town hospital, she said the hospital is so bad, people die waiting to be seen. Oh God, so much need in this side of hell. I can hear babies crying, old people just sit there waiting, just waiting either to be seen or death to take them. Dianna bend down and pick up bullet shells on the ground I picked it up and looked down on the ground, it was everywhere. The war is still so fresh here. We walked down some more and she pointed out the UN camp site. God I don’t know much about them but I know they are there to help. Thank God for them either for good or bad these people need relief.
What can I offer to this people? I can’t offer them a country where they are free to raise their kids without fear, I don’t have money, I am still living with my parents, (how pathetic is that!) What am I doing here? I have nothing but my heart speaks so clearly “You have Jesus!” Yes, the savior of the world, when we have Jesus nothing else matter. My doubts still hanging, my anger still there, All I can do is trust. Trust the one who hold everything in His hand. I am thankful that I am not God because the world would be even darker but one thing for sure I would have milk chocolate tree growing out whenever I want. I saw Nate, he was asleep. How can you sleep on this road? But he did. Then John said we are in the town of YEI. He said the base is twelve miles out of town. So we keep driving, we will explore later. Then I saw bamboo fence and John said we are here, the big bamboo gate open and we turn into the base and I heard AIIIIIIYYYY...That will be our welcome committee. Children running, and some adult wave branches and singing. Wow. It was cool! The car stopped we all come out and the ladies still dancing and singing. Wow what a welcome. They give us hugs and a new hand shake it’s jumping while we shake hands. I saw them do this at the conference but I thought they were part of the dancing. They lead us to the dining room it was a big grass thatch hut with big wire windows, the floor was cement with cracks on them and patches of rough cements on different holes. We sit around big long table. Excitement was in the air everyone was glad we are there. The base have two arm guards with AK-47 on their shoulder, the dim light make them looked tough but then they start talked to John about the base and their faces light up with smiles and laughter. The one guard had some missing teeth but he looked sharp. Phew!! That was a relief. I met the cook her name was Sundi she was sweet lady I think she was in her thirties. She brought us food, it was rice and beef stew. After we eat Dianna took me to our dorm. Everything was pitch black I had to feel everything. Dianna said the electricity did not reach the girls dorm. Only for the dining room, common room and guests huts. The base used generator so if there is no money to buy fuel we are living with candles or kerosene lamps. (As it turns out we have many nights like that). Then I saw big fire not far from the kitchen. And people are putting chair around the fire, oh this is nice. We went and join them. We talked under the prettiest sky. The sky was so bright, the moon was perfect. I feel so close to the heavens and I can feel God in the midst of us. We sing around the fire, we laugh and talked about the journey and the conference. After an hour we all say goodnight and the guards said they are going to their post. Somehow my heart was at peace. I believe this is where God wants me to be.
For the next few days we as a team got to know each other, Lokuta was funny, Julius is the preacher, and Dianna and I like to observe but when we are alone we can talk until the cows come home. Nate, I don’t know what to think. He was quite, but when he open his mouth it was like open a flood gate of words. He brought laughter and common sense. Yup this is great, fun group we are going to rock the Sudanese with our personalities. We walked to town a lot, checking emails and walked around Arua. But we cannot take picture in town. Shucks! At night we have family night, we sing and pray after we eat. Today John took me to the office and debrief me for Sudan. Ok. So here we go; Rule number 1: No picture taken anywhere in town. 2: When you hear planes, hit the bunker. 3. Don’t wear pants, always skirts. 4. The base do not have cell phone coverage in the bush the only contact with outside world will be through radio. Anything else? Nope. Everything is peachy. Did I sign up for this? I guess so. We will be leaving for Sudan tomorrow to take the rest of the staff just for couple of days there and then back again in Arua. The Arua base is in need of someone to help to organize some paper work so John is asking me to help for few days before I go to Sudan for the next four months. I guess it’s for me to see if I want to stay for the next four months there. The road to Sudan was rough we were bouncing everywhere in the land cruiser but I am excited. We got to the border between Uganda and Sudan. It was an eye opener, soldiers everywhere, grass huts, and people selling sodas and other package of crackers. We get out with John in a place called Oraba. We get in to a grass thatch hut and have César, yup that’s what he calls himself. A big black man sitting on a chair stamp our passport saying we are leaving Uganda. And then we get in to the car and drive down the hill, cross a bridge, and then up the hill to a town called Kaya on the South Sudan side. We get out of the car and wait in line for many people are trying to get into Sudan. There was small busses, NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) Big trucks that was stuck in the ditch. The heat did not help the smell of body odor plus the latrines that was not far it was just intoxicating and the building was four feet by four feet square with iron sheet roof. I feel like chicken bake in there, but John and everyone else is used to this I am the amateur that looks like I was about to roll over and die. After waiting for seems like eternity we are done. We show our paper to the guard and they lift up the gate that looks like a wooden pole to let us through. Once we are ways in to Sudan, I see the beautiful hill and country that lays down the valley, it was lush with green tall grasses, homes made out of grass roof, corn fields, wow, for few minutes everything so peaceful. No wonder the north Sudan wants this country. South Sudan lay there like small haven, yet this country have been in tug of war for 50 years. War! What a waste of human lives. Leaving children orphan, wife become widows and nightmares as companions. I guess when we let Satan have his way he will burn us. His war was not against us, he uses us against God. We are God’s precious creation the heart of God and satan knows where to hurt God. And since Satan is a coward and can’t take on God he uses us as his pawn. And we let him. Suddenly I feel so angry when I looked at the faces on the road, no shoes, shirts, pants and dirty faces. The women carried such a heavy burden on their head and a baby on their back. You question God why He allow so much sufferings? But it’s so easy to blame God for all the wrong in the world. Question is, have we look inside of us? Have we ever think what we do right here and now will this affected our children? What goes around comes around. God give us free will and it’s our choice to choose life or ourselves. The same choice God gave to Adam and Eve. They chose to disobey and look what men have to do to earn a living. Women have to go through pain to bring life. Through their disobedience enter sin and death. God so loved the world He send His only Son Jesus to save us to redeem us so we can be free from this living death. When we choose self-center life what kind of life we teach our children? That they don’t matter. Things comes first, my fun comes first and I will take it even if I have to kill to get it. Our children learn to get things through force, through disobedient. War doesn’t come in a form of a country. War comes from an individual who feel they have been wrong and think they have the right to take it in every way they can. So they call the others to join them to march into their war. When we teach our kids right, our kids can say no and see for a better solution than war. When war started who get caught in the middle? Women, children and the old ones who cannot defend themselves. War is an ugly thing. And its shows plain in the faces of these children. We put them through this when we as an adult choose self-center life. The bible says our war is not against flesh and blood but against principalities. Against the lies, greed, pride, lust, hatred and many other things we as human so easily tempt. With God we can fight this. My thoughts run away with me and I feel useless.
Alas like everything else in this world all good things must end until Jesus come again. I have enjoyed, love, and feel very encouraged by the conference. We all got up around 6 in the morning pack the land cruiser, I was in the cruiser with John, Vicky, Aiden, Julius and Dianna. The other cruiser Lokuta, Nate, Sharron, pastor Sam and his wife Agnes. Vicky said the trip back will be longer because we will be going straight to Arua so we will bypass Kampala all together, and we are going to go through the park, the safari park. Oh Sweet! And she said the main road is quicker but since we never know when Koni’s rebel will ambush, we are taking the long way around through the safari park. What? Who’s Koni? What ambush? Is there something I am missing here? Suddenly I feel like someone had popped my bubbles. And Nate pipe in “yeah, that’s a safe way to go” when I was on my way up the bus in front of me got attacked and we saw the remnant of the bus on the road” Ok, hold the phone! Someone needs to explain! Nate said who the guy was. Basically he is a bad guy who is trying to take over Ugandan leader and terrorize the innocents. Ha!! The same plot every bad guys use, since they are too cowardly to fight people their own size they pick on the one who cannot fight back. Nate said Koni have caused many people lose their land and abducted kids and make them soldiers. Now for a man to use kids to be his soldiers he was just plain sick. When are these bad people going to realize that God have them on a leash? Oh I hope God shorten the rope. So off we go like a herd of turtles, two land cruisers with every available space have taken up with luggage and goodies to take back. I sat in the middle between Vicky and John. Aiden, Julius and Dianna in the middle row, and all our bags in the back, we put everything in the back there in case of rain and since it will be dusty road we do not want our stuff to be collecting few pounds of dust. We went through beautiful land, fields, and after a while we got in the park. Wow it was amazing! I got to see elephants, different birds, wild pigs with horn just like Pumba, and baboons. And this is the best part we cross the Nile River with a ferry. Yeah, it was cool. The dumb thing was I enjoyed so much I forgot that my camera was there. I didn’t remember to take it until it was too late, or we are far away from the object of entertainment. Ahhh! But Nate and Sharron got out to see the elephants and one of the elephant starting to charge on them, meanwhile Dianna is screaming and yelling telling them to get in the car. OH what fun!. Well the journey went on, we got separated, we were ahead and one of our tire blow out. Nice, well the men went on to work right away, since we are in the park we really don’t want to be the main meal of what’s out there. Yeah it was intense. By the time the other cruiser came we are done and on our way again. We arrived in Arua around six in the evening. The base was a big house with living room and dining room connected so it was big area and there are 4 bedroom and two bathroom. We can’t shower in it, we can only use it for emergency. The shower is in the back of the house and so is the latrine. The boys’ dorm is not far from the big building and the kitchen was outside in the open. John and Vicky’s house next to the building. The wall was brick but the roof was grass thatch. Dianna and I share a room in the big building. So is Pastor Sam and his wife. The cook already make us supper, it was rice, chicken and some greens slimy looking spinach. Everyone wants shower of course after that long, dusty journey. So Dianna and I let everyone shower we will take one later. After unpacking and brushing, we carried our water in the bucket. Our shower was behind banana trees, there was sort of shelter in the dark, it was nice and the stars were beautiful.
It was opening night for the 3 days conference. I put on my pretty skirt and nice shirt thanks to my mom and sister. Dianna and I get in late the building is packed, there were flags of different nations hanging on the wall. The room was full of people wearing bright colors dress, and traditional dress to identify where they come from or where they have been serve as a missionary. Everyone looked beautiful. Then the drums roll and in came men dressed in brilliant color wraps with spear, painted faces, and loud yell. Aiiiiii...Yayyyyyyy. Dianna said they are Tanzanian. They all jumped and start dancing with the beat of the drum. After that high spirit dancing, another drum roll in come The Tongans oh my! It was fantastic the baton thrower, the spinning, whoa it was just too much. Oooo AAA…Pua. Can’t really say what they were spouting out. But I kick myself for forgetting my camera back in the room. After that we all start to sing and praise God for our differences all of us are children of God. Can’t imagine what heaven must be like. One day, One day all nations, and tribes will stand in the front of the throne of God and worship our one true God. Jesus the King! and He will restore the years the locusts has eaten What a day it would be. With that kind of night who wants to go to bed? Morning time we all meet at different places, listen to different speakers. Break for lunch and free time after that. I met with Dianna we walked around the garden again. We met a girl whom Dianna knew. She was in Sudan for couple of months. So we sit down on the veranda talking about the conference and how we all enjoy it. She talked, Dianna and I listen to her telling us about her time in Sudan. She is couple of years older than me. Every time she talked about Sudan. She mention Nate several time, basically she was smitten with Nate. Hmm no competition there, she can have him. After that both of us went back to our dorm and take a nap. That night we have another celebration. This time the Congolese and Kenyans take over the night in worship. These missionaries around here sure know how to throw wild parties. The next day is our last day for the conference. I was standing in line for our lunch, and Tania was behind me we were talking about how much we both enjoy the conference and getting to know many different people and it helps our faith to grow in serving God. Somehow our conversation took a turn in a direction of having godly man for a husband.( I guess that’s the kind of conversation we single people do when we have nothing else to talk about) Tania asked me what is it that I am looking for in a husband and like every Christian women my answer was, he must love God, can lead the family and strong in his walk with God no matter what happen, he loves me, none alcoholic, not a wife beater, taller than me, basically Mr. Darcy in disguise. It’s ok if he is not rich as long as he loves God (Boy, I should had said rich, or at least own Pemberley.) I said all of these in half joking and half hope of course. Suddenly Tania took my hand and said Let me take you to your future husband.” What?” She pointed at Nate who was standing there talking with a very pretty girl. I turn around and said “Tania, we lost our spot, now we have to stand in the back of the line for lunch” She smile and I tried to forget the whole conversations. Another celebration for our final night in Jinja tomorrow we all have to leave early in the morning to a place called Arua. Tonight our worship leader lead us into many different dancing for God, she called out different tribes to come in the front and dance for Jesus, Some of the tribe name I can’t hear because it was so much yelling like aaiiiii…yaiiiii, and other languages shout out in the air. Everyone dance unashamed because of Jesus. It was amazing! Nate walked in with Dianna, Lokuta, Augustine and Julius out of breath, they just finished jumping and dance when the leader called for the Sudanese people to praise God, so the Sudanese base staff went up and dance, they sit next to me, Nate asked me if I enjoy the conference and I said yes, it’s been fun.
As I sit in the building listening to the testimonies of how God works in His miraculous way to reach the unbeliever I am amazed. We in the west didn’t see this often. But miracles are happening all around us, God is moving and He is fighting. As I see the battle scars from all the saints around me, they have been through hell and back. Why do they want to go back to stubborn, pig headed people who beat, steal, and take away everything from them? I will never know until I see the passion to want to take this heathen back to the cross. They have the heart of Christ to save others. It’s like friends don’t let friends drink and driving kind of thing. This is like friends don’t let friends go to hell. It’s more serious than smoking pot or killing. One lady from Rwanda told the story of how the tension and hatred was still going on after the massacre of her family. She forgives and still forgiving. Every day she have to tell herself that and keep her eyes on the cross. Everyone in this building have story to tell, have pain and losses. But to see their joyful faces. You can’t tell. This world is nothing to them. All that matters is Jesus and the cross, the blood of Christ is not cheap, they are building a kingdom that the world cannot see. I want to be part of these kingdom works. We have a break, I walked to the garden and sit on one of the metal bench waiting for this guy who’s been sitting on the swing for the longest time. I want my turn to sit on it, but I have no patient. How I want to be like those missionaries who have amazing stories and experience God in their walk, but I fall so short from it. I want God to transform me right there and now. Make me more patient, sensitive, forgiving and selfless. Ok. 1, 2, 3. Go! Nothing happen, I am still me. So frustrating. Dianna came out looking for me. It’s time for lunch. After lunch we all split into different places, others go to find rest, others went and listen to teachings that was offer. I want to take a nap, I think my jet leg hangover is catching up, but I took a wrong turn (FYI direction is not my strong point among other things) to my dorm I passed an empty building and I smelled something really yummy. I looked in the open window and there it was a whole pig and nothing but the pig! Roasting, the pig was hanging on a spit and there were red charcoals on the floor. What? Who are these people? A tall, good looking man came and stand next to me and said want some? Of course I want some. Turn out he was Tongan. He said the islanders in the base kind of tired of eating chicken and fish so they decided to roast a pig today. He took me to meet the others and I made friends with one of the Tongan girls her name was Tania, she is older than me, I think she was my sister’s age. We have lots in common, as I was from one of the island in Indonesia. We were loud and love pigs! We had a good time, and the pig was mouthwatering. She told me the men are going to be dancing traditional dance tonight. Well, I sure don’t want to miss that!
The next day was Sunday. We were eating breakfast and Nate come in with his plate and asked me if I want to go to church with him in town and check email. The email that gets me. I need to tell my family I am here and see if they write me. He said meet him at the gate in an hour. After we eat I went and change. At the gate Nate and Julius one of the staff is waiting for me. The wild guy actually looks nice clean up. Button up shirt and jeans. We walked a little ways. Nate said, we have to catch boda-boda out there. Those obnoxious thing? Oh I am doomed. We got to the big road and Nate called them. I was about to sit sideways and Nate shook his head No. So I sit facing the driver I put my bag between him and me. I am not about to give a stranger a hug, hint the bag. Nate and Julius was in front of me, and we have no helmets. I guess I have given my life up when I walked off that plane in Entebbe. What’s another road rage tension? I don’t need my head anyway. And off we go, yeah it was insane that’s all I can say, we got to the church, my hair of course was tangled like nobody business, my skirt looked like it just got out of ringer (silly me thinking going to church means look nice), but we are at the church. The building was small and the congregation was few, I got to see the first African church, the roof was tin, and the walls was made out of bricks, the floor was dirt that had been freshly packed, and the seats was two tree stumps at each end and plank on the top. I have to be careful when I sit because it was wobbly, and I could fall backward. I love it! The people are so nice, and welcoming. We sing songs, they sing songs in their language, and I was fascinated to the sound of their strong voices. The whole service was nice. I enjoyed it very much. After church we walked to the internet place. The town of Jinja was not that busy. I followed Nate and Julius. We got to the place that looked like someone’s house, there are computers lining in the front and some chairs. But the internet was down the man said. So to make the trip worthwhile Nate got me a Pepsi. It was cold and refreshing. We took the boda-boda back, the driver took us up to the front gate of the base. It was nice we don’t have to walk a mile into the base. And I survived. Thank You Jesus. Without you my life will be very dull. The conference started today. The base seems to be full of people, the dining room was even fuller. I have been up since 8 this morning. Dianna and I already have breakfast. We met people from Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Europe, Asia and Islanders. And other places in the world I have never heard of, let alone pronounce it. There is excitement in the air and joy so abundantly I don’t know what to think. One thing come to mind though. We all have one thing in common: To serve God and make Him known. He uses us through talents, through words, through music, and through our testimony to reach the unreachable. Our creative, loving God have all this plan out for His kingdom.
The sun brightly shone in our room as I lay there trying to figure out where I was. Africa! I looked at Dianna’s bed and it was empty, the clock on the wall point at 9 am. I get dressed and quickly run to the main building. I met Pastor Sam and Augustine. They said I better hurry or breakfast will be put away. I get in and Dianna has save me some bread and tea. She said she tried to wake me up but I won’t budge. (Figures! It took my mom 4 or 5 times to wake me up for school. With Dianna soft voice she didn’t have any chance). After breakfast Dianna and I went for a walk. We meet some of the staff in Jinja and many of them are missionary from Tonga. We walked in the garden and talked about the Sudan base. Dianna is single and she is praying that God will bring a Godly man her way. I am in no hurry, whatever God wants. Besides, before I came to Africa I broke a friend’s heart I don’t think I can handle another relationship right now. Walking and seeing the beauty surround me it was a reminder that God is still in control. We meet more people and not one person has a frown. We feel the love and the blessing God sends our way. If this is what heaven is going to be like I am loving every minute of it. We had a great day and tomorrow the conference will start. The bell ring and it was almost supper time. Dianna and I went to find our people in the dining room. So happy that I am part of the team now. While we were getting our food I over hear a conversation between a Ugandan and an American lady. I heard the name Natalia, and I thought that’s a nice name. I sat down with my plate and heard Dianna and Lokuta are talking about a missing girl that was supposed to be at the conference by now and tomorrow the Leaders are going to call the police to file for the missing Khawaja (white girl in Sudanese.) I asked Dianna, what is the girl’s name and she said Natalia from the states supposedly joining the Sudan base. I took off to the office almost running into Nate’s plate. He have this bewildered look, but really I don’t have time to explain. I got to the office out of breath and I said “I am here, I am Natalia my friends call me Lia for short. What can I do?” The room was quiet. I assumed they were leaders. One of the guy got up and asked “Are you Natalia Coleman?” And I said” Yes!” “From Nashville TN” he hug me I can hear the huge sigh from people around me. The man said “You have no idea how worry we were, Your leader in the state have been contacting us and tell us about you for the past few months and two days ago he called and asked if you are here and we have no idea where you are! And he called again today, I was so worried thinking what will I tell Robert when he calls again, we have misplaced his student! We just finished praying and here you are.” Then an older lady talked with an English accent “We were going to call the police tomorrow to go look for you, so who picked you up?” and I said “John Wright.” “Oh yes, John said he picked you up but he said it was Lia. We have so many people come for this conference we lost track of who comes and goes” She stood up with a smile, and said “you are most welcome Lia” After straighten things out they let me go back to my supper. I walked in the dining room everyone clap their hands, I can feel my face was on fire from neck up. But what would you expect of the life of a celebrity.
I was speechless. I never seen a guy so wild and bold at the same time. I shook his hand and swallowed whatever I was eating and hoping I don’t have to see the doctor later. We have many different saying in YWAM (Youth with a Mission). The name have been interpreted in many different meaning like. Yes We Arrange Marriages, Youth without Any Money or this one Young Women after Men. Well it’s safe to say I was not the later one. If all missionary men looked like this guy I can write to my parents stating I will be home without any man. Nate took a seat in the front of me and started to asked lots of questions about my trip, and what is new with America while he shovel food in his mouth. I can’t stop looking at this wild man in front of me and really can’t think any intelligent words to say. I was glad to look around and find that everyone else is enjoying their food without looking at me. (But then again everyone is talking with food in their mouth) Finally we are done eating and he took off. Dianna took me to our dorm. We stay in the same room and I was very happy because we become the best of friends. I finally took a shower, brush my teeth for the first time since forever. I am clean! I slept near the window looking out to the beautiful Lake Victoria. And thank God for my awesome mom who packed a bed sheet in to my bag and now I am sleeping on it. Soft and it smells like home, laying there thinking what is my family doing right now? I hope they miss me and start sending letters soon. Being adopted I want to feel that assurance that my family still loves me. Which I know in my heart that they do, but a letter from them will seal it that they can’t live without me. The breeze feel nice and I miss them so much, I hope my brother didn’t get in to my Christmas chocolate in the freezer. If he does, he have to get me back tenfold when I get home. Looking back at my journey I am bless and very much loved by my Father in heaven and my family, they are my biggest fans when they hear I want to come to Africa, my dad was worried, I guess like every dad who is about to send their daughter to the unknown he have reasons to worry, but he was strong. He help me with support raising and talk to friends and people at church about me. My mom and my sweet sister been running around town looking for skirts, clothes appropriate for Africa, there is no shop in town they haven’t raided. Where there’s bargain my mom and my sister is there. Just look at my suitcases. I have tons of underwear, bras and skirts that will fit a village. Thanks to them I don’t have to do laundry until I come home. I miss my strong brother he was always there when I need him. Either to fight me over dessert or the unfriendly eyes around the hall in school. It dawn on me that my family is not just a few stairs up they are a million miles away! Suddenly I feel alone. Oh Lord, help me. Such a beautiful place and I want to go home. But this journey God have orchestrated it so beautifully I am humbled by it all. With His protective hands He brought me here among His children. God you are amazing!
Ha! the journey was not at all what I expected. I met Sharon an Australian Lady and Pastor Sam an elderly Ugandan. Sharon drove us to Jinja. They said it only took 3 hours to get there. But with Sharon driving will be there in one in a half hour. Yikes!. We were on the road and yes it was country alright. I cannot see much of anything along the road side. All I can see was dust. We get to a bridge and under it was a river. Pastor Sam said it was the Nile river. What? Grr. Sharon read my mind so she said I will have plenty of time to take pictures on our way back. I hope so because Moses took his time when he let the Israelite passed. Turn to Jinja road and the road was red clay and bumpy, but that doesn't stop Sharon. We were flying! Finally we arrived, Safely! few misplaced innards and crazy hair but we are here. I got out of the car and thought someone had plant an upside down tree in front of me. Jinja base was beautiful, Everyone smiling, welcome us, the place have trees and green bushes. It was wonderful. Pastor Sam introduce me to his wife Agnes. She looked like a cheeky grandmother, I can see where her grand kids will run to if their mommy says no. She preferred I call her Toto means mama in their language. I fell in love with her at once. She took me by the hand inform me about the conference, the schedules, and took me to one of the big building there where the conference will take place, another building where we all going to eat and the office. She pointed out the staff houses and where the missionary doctor lives just in case I feel like I wanna throw up. Good to know. And where the visitors and the speakers are staying. It was almost evening and my shoes were no longer the original color and my skirt have changed to red instead of grey. But I really do not care. too much excitement and there are lots to take in. I heard a bell and she perk up and said "supper time". Boy am I hungry. She took me to the dinning room, The room was full with people, I love it. She took me to a table where I meet the Sudan staff. Lokuta Eluzai, tall and skinny with bright white teeth smile. Dianna she was as tall as me with shy personality and Augustine the base leader. Short, stout Sudanese with a humble heart. I sat and talked with them for a while and they said they have an American staff who have been there for a year. He is somewhere around here. Speaking of an American in come a white, skinny guy with scruffy hair, paint all over his clothes and rip pants. I have found the missing link!. Tarzan in disguise. He flop on the chair and said "Hi I am Nate, welcome to Africa!"
There are no words to describe the word chaos in Kampala. Cars, Land Cruisers, small buses they call Matatus, obnoxious motorcycles they call Boda-Bodas. People and lots of people from small to big, from the shortest to the tallest. Everyone and everything were trying to get into the same road we are in. Busy,busy! there are honks from every direction, yelling, selling and bargain on the street. Women with their goodies on their head trying to pushed their way into the road. It was a fascinating and terrifying experience. Everyone is fighting for the right of way. You either get out of the way or get run over. I didn't realize I have been holding pretty tight on my seat belt and John keep putting on breaks. Then I heard Aiden say "Daddy, let's sing Old McDonald" and they started to sing! My thoughts were I am going to meet my maker with angels singing Old McDonald had a farm!! and cows mooing me in. Finally we parked. John said we are here to change his dollars and my dollars to shillings. The place looked like some sort of underground mafia store (at least that's how I see) John said this guys always give him good rate. Alright as long as we do it fast and get out. We walked in and there were two Indian men sitting counting money. John greeted them and they talked like old friends, I started to relax and smile at the Indian guys. I gave them my bills and they gave me bundles of shillings in return. It was so much I thought my purse was about to burst (I wish this could be in dollars). We shook hands and we left. John said that was the best rate he have ever seen. I was just glad it was over and I really want to wash my hands. John took me to the hotel where I met his lovely wife Vicky. She is pregnant with their second baby. It was so nice to just sit and talk with her. We share news from fashion to food and what she missed. But other than that she love Africa. She told me we will be traveling today to a place called Jinja couple of hours away from Kampala, that's where the conference will take place. We will be driving there. Oh I hope we don't get through the chaos again. I don't think my body can handle the tension. She assured me we will be taking country road. Ok. I think I can handle that.
I was about to lay down and I heard several gun shots. I sat straight up, listening. Nothing..I tossed and turn, keep looking at the door and the window praying that God will miraculously bring the noon day sun up at 2 in the morning my thought was if God can stop the sun for Joshua I believe He can rotate one sun up for me. Well it didn't happen. Instead I fell asleep and next thing I know someone knocking at the door and the room was brightly shine with the sun. It was morning!. I went to the door pulled my bags of security and the table. I open the door and the lady from last night said. "There is someone here for you" I went out and I meet a white man with a little boy. He introduce himself as John Wright and the two year old is his son Aiden. I was about to sing, because I know that name. My leader had told me who he is. He was one of the YWAM leaders in Uganda. I ran back to my room to get all my stuff and I was ready to leave. First day in Uganda. The sun was bright and my heart was singing. I am here in Uganda, after so much prayer and fundraising God have come through and I am here. I am suddenly become brave. I looked around the hotel it was a nice hotel it just looked scary at night. I get in the jeep and John buckled Aiden. John asked how was my flight and my first night in Uganda. I said it was interesting. I did not tell him that I was about to swim home last night. I told him that I heard gun shots last night, and he laugh he said sometimes when soldiers get drunk they fire some rounds into the air. Nice, note to self don't go near the soldiers when they are drunk! John inform me that I am just in time for the YWAM East Africa Conference. I will be meeting YWAMers from all Africa and the world. WOW! John took me to see Josephine. I was so excited we have been praying for this lady for almost four months. Meeting Josephine was an honor. She was one amazing lady, She started the Sudan base when the war was still going between the north and the south Sudan. She had been threatened, shot, and beaten for the sake of Christ and now I find she is supporting bunch of family member who were orphans through school. She is basically a legend! Someone should write a book about her. Josephine served us lunch it was boiled fish and rice, it was delicious, I didn't realize I was so hungry I scarfed it down. Josephine talked about the work in South Sudan and I can't wait to get there. Since we have to get into Kampala to do some errands it was a short meeting. We will see her again at the conference in a couple of days. It was so good to finally meet Josephine. I pray that God will give me the same courage he gave Josephine.
The next morning I am on the plane heading to Kenya. It was raining and cloudy. I missed home even more. I would like to be home with cup of tea in my hand and watching the rain. But as the plane goes higher I feel closer to God and now I see blue sky and sunshine. It was glorious. My thoughts wonder how we often missed God's blessings, we can only see the grey clouds but if we let God raise us up, we can see God's glory. I feel like I can touch the clouds through this window. My prayer was that God will send my hugs to my family and let them know I love them and missed them. 8 pm the plane landed in Kenya. I ran to my gate with couple of hours to spare. After an hour the plane for Uganda is ready. It was a shock after nice, big and roomy planes I was in a small plane, the seat just fit me. And then I heard the plane started to make noises and the light in the plane started to flickers. All my excitement went out the window as the door shut and so is my eyes. Finally we arrived in Entebbe airport and it was 12:30 am. I went through customs, get my luggage and went out the door. As I step out I was greeted by taxi drivers. My instruction was going to Flight Motel. It was chaotic I have no idea what to do next I was scared and I just stood there waiting for the sky to open up and a voice thunder from the sky saying "this way, and I will fly you home". But it didn't happen. The crowds thin out. Then a woman came with a sign and has my name on it. She said "Lia?" I heard my self saying Flight Motel and the Lady said ok. I will take you there. My feet walked on it's own accord into the darkness followed a strange woman in front of me. She took my bag, put it into the trunk. I sat in the back of the car. We stopped at a small building and out came a big black man with a gun on his shoulder. He talked to the woman and I feel my body shrinking into the seat. And we are off. I didn't realize how long my eyes was closed because she stopped in front of a gate and she said "we are here." She opened the door for me and standing in front of me were two big black men with guns. The driver took me inside and a woman register my name and she said follow me. My feet moved voluntarily but my body fight it. It was dark and the lights keep going in and out. She handed me the key to my room. I turned around and lock the door, put my bags as and extra weight and I pulled the bedside table on top of it just for a good measure. Yup feel secured now. I went to the window trying to latch it through the bars but it doesn't worked. Argh!! oh heck, I was tired. I closed the curtain and wanting to go shower or wash my face at least. Well I found a bucket of water with bugs in them. Hmm, guess I don't need to clean up tonight. The lights went out, I jumped into the bed, forget that the lady said it happen often around here that is why they have candles on the bedside table. I closed the mosquito net tucked it really good all around me, and hoping it will protect me from the bad guys.
March 2014, I am in the plane heading to Amsterdam. Scared, exited and miss my family terribly. I will not be seeing them for 6 months. What was I thinking when I said yes to God? I am in the plane and it's moving!! Every movement took me away from my family. It's too late to bargain with God.
The ride from Nashville to Amsterdam was uneventful. I slept and got up with a pain on my back. Finally we landed. I need to go to the bathroom. I get to exited and went to men's bathroom instead. Geez, how do I know? cause all the seats were up! I ran out fast. I find the women's and looked at my self in the mirror. I looked like a turtle. Oh well. Amsterdam was a beautiful country, flowers everywhere, my spirit was high. I smile to everyone I met and so far none of them smile back (probably thinking what's a turtle doing in the airport) but no matter. The airport was nice I would love to walk around but with my heavy backpack I rather find my gate and sit there. Well what do you know, my gate is on the other side of the airport and at one point I had to drag my backpack through the airport. My shoulders hurt by the time I got there. I slept there and watched the plane goes in and out it was nice.