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Mo-te-geeks

I still have found memories of laughing at my brothers pronunciation of motorbike as a child. Granted I was too young to remember it myself, but the memories of my mother are enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Here in Uganda we have a great many motorbike riders here, having driven a motorbike myself in the UK, and been a passenger countless times he in Uganda it’s given me a greater appreciation for each day that I continue to live. Motorbike drivers here do not see roads as normal people see roads, with cars and other vehicles. But a road, with lots of holes in, is I

Simple a race track, with hundreds of moving obstacles that must be overtaken in the shortest time possible. When your on the back of these, you often fear for your life and thank God every time you arrive at your destination with all your belongings and limbs still attached.

They also think they are ninjas. Fitting through gaps that don’t really exists and believing that real world objects will pass right through them if they drive in front of them. I’ve seen a number of accidents while I’ve been here, although not as many as I would of expected. I’ve seen articulated lorries sticking out of trees at the side of the road, motorised trikes full of empty coke bottles upside down, and motorbikes parked underneath taxis. I’m not aware of any major industries in either case though, which I suppose is the positive we can draw from it.

This does make the hazard perception test in the UK feel inadequate. In the test you click the mouse when you see a potential hazard emerging (sounds pretty simple). I expect the test is slightly different here. If you were to record a video of driving laming the main road here, you could quite happily click at a constant rate all the way through it and still fail to identify all the hazards that emerged in that short time!

Driving in Uganda

So since I arrived I have been asked if I wished to drive in Uganda (my British licence allows me, or so I’m under the impression of, to drive abroad). The advantage here in Uganda is we colonised them properly and they drive on the right side of the road (we didn’t do such a good job in America…) so adjusting should have been relatively simple. Here you also insure the car, rather than the person, so anyone can drive – which makes things a little easier than in the UK.
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Unfortunately life is simple, so nor would driving in Uganda be. The first hurdle to overcome as I sat behind the wheel was working out how to drive an automatic. Manuel cars are very rare here, and also very expensive, so most people drive automatics. It reminded me of a time I was test driving a car a few years ago. It had one of those gear boxes where you have to push down to get the car in reverse (this was news to me). After fifteen minutes of not being able to move this car (the salesman had just given me the keys and pointed me in the right direction), I called a friend, who managed to explain how it worked.

In an automatic to put it into drive, you need to press the break (that didn’t seem logical to me, but maybe that’s why I don’t design cars). After getting it into drive Gerald kindly reminded me I wished to reverse out out the drive, rather than drive into the house, so I quickly switch to reverse.

The second hurdle to overcome is the roads. Now we taught them to drive on the right Sid elf the road, but sadly we didn’t teach them to build roads. They have gone with a more impressionist approach than the traditional straight and flat that the Romans so kindly left us with. Roads here follow more of a wave pattern, so if you get sea-sick you probably want to avoid driving in Uganda.

The final hurdle to overcome was ‘hit and run’ (did you ever play the Simpsons game hit and run?) here in Uganda we didn’t teach them road manners. If you want to turn at a t-junction onto the main road in the UK you wait patiently for a non-BMW driver to allow you to come out in front of them (sorry). Here, you simple drive out in front of someone and expect them not to crash into you. Otherwise you don’t go anywhere, and can enjoy an afternoon of car-spotting, with a queue of angry Ugandan drivers behind you.

The motorbikes add another dynamic, but I shall discuss that in more detail in my next post.

A Cake to Remember

I’m coming close to the end of my time here in Uganda. Its funny how are the start of new seasons time seems to move slowly, but when the end comes into sight that perception of time changes, and suddenly you don’t know where it’s all gone. I’ve been here for just over two months and my last week will be spent in Soroti (North-East Uganda), about six hours drive from Kampala.
So this week I have started wrapping things up in the office, and saying goodbye. I’ve been working on various different tasks during my time here, so I wanted to make sure I had handed over everything that had been completed, so it could be put to good use.

On Thursday I had my final Go Fellowship meeting, which is with the young people. I led a discussion on humility, which is always an interesting topic after spending the afternoon at prayer mountain with Richmond. At the beginning of each month we have pizza from Nando’s (yes, Nando’s does pizza here), and at the end, if there are birthdays that month, we have cake. Last month there were no birthdays, so we had no cake (it was still a month away from my half birthday, so I couldn’t even get cake that way) – which I was highly disappointed by).

It was the start of the month, so I knew we were having pizza, but then at the end they produced a wonderful looking cake with my name on it. I felt so very loved, it reminded me of the last student life group we had in Portsmouth before I left.
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So again, a big thank you to all the youth that were part of that. It’s been fun teaching a learning with you these past two months, and most importantly, it’s been fun eating with you.

Prayer Mountain

My grandfathers grave sits in the shadow of Prayer Mountain. Above Uganda Christian University sits 72-acres of prime hotel real estate dedicated to prayer. Many years before a wealth pastor donated the land he owned and raised enough month to purchase the feast of the 72-acres before transferring it into the ownership of a non-profit organisation and dedicating it as a space of pray.
It’s a beautiful area, greenland all around, panoramic views, and monkeys swinging from the trees. Some people come here for days on end, camping within the grounds, withdrawing from the busyness of life and just spending time with God. I’m a big advocate of personal retreats and back in the UK I got away twice a year just to spend some time along with God, reviewing my life plan and looking at my goals.

Prayer has always been a struggle for me. In the UK we are more inclined towards silent prayer and meditation (which has been a big part of our church history), here in Uganda they are at the opposite end of the scale – loud and plenty of talking! Neither method is wrong, but I don’t think either is right either. In the west we spend too much time listen inning and not enough time praying, we also tend to be embraced about praying out loud. Here in Uganda we spend too much time talking and not enough time listening! There’s a healthy middle ground that we need to find, if we believe prayer is communication with God, not just talking at God or waiting for him to talk at you.
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Richmond had brought be along, and showed me the spot he liked to pray in – many of his big life and ministry decisions have been made in their space. We exchanged two prayer requests, and then focused our mind on God through worship. After opening in prayer we parted ways and I was feel to walk around exploring while chatting (out loud to God). In such a big space, you have the freedom to move, to shout, to cry, to laugh and to sing – without feeling self conscious, and after an hour I was amazed how quickly time had passed and how I’d been able to continue in prayer throughout.

We reconvened and shared what God had been saying to each of us, and spent some time just thanking Him for this place, and for the work He was doing in each of our lives.

Leaning towards the introvert side of the scale I love places like this to rebuild and refresh myself. In Reading I had a place by the lake I would go to help me pray and make difficult decisions. In Portsmouth it was by the sea, especially at night. It’s sad that we don’t have any prayer mountains in England. Areas of land dedicated to God for prayer – where stories of healing spread like wildfire. Richmond told me one story of a lady with HIV/AIDS who was healed during her retreat here. She now serves on the team here at Prayer Mountain and here testimony brings countless people here to the hills to seek Jehovah Rophi (God who heals).

Spiritual Needs

It’s important to note I’m not trying to describe doctrine in the following post, this is more food for thought, something to chew on!.

Those of you who walk in christian circles are sure to of heard of spiritual gifts. You may even be able to rattle off your “top three gifts”and tell me how your using then in service to God. Outside the church, there is a similar thing, they just don’t accredit the source to God, and have a few extra gifts on their list. Which ever camp your in I think it can be very helpful for us to understand our strengths and our gifting in our “pursuit of happiness”. Popular tools such as Gallop’s StrengthFinder, or the multitude of gift assignments such as Rick Warren’s S.H.A.P.E acronym can be used and I would recommend to everyone that they should take some time out to understand themselves better.

But what about the others ode of the coin. If we all have strengths or gifts, then it goes with out saying that we should all have areas of weakness or ‘need’ that we require external input in order to succeed. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the church as the body of Christ. We all have a different role to play and a different area of strength, gifting or focus, that we have been assigned too.

But on top of this you can take the metaphor one step further and say that no part of the body is independent of the other. They all rely on something else to function properly. Each part of the body has “needs”’that it must depend on other parts to provide. Muscles cannot get oxygen themselves, they rely solely on the blood to developer it too them. But the blood also can’t get oxygen itself, the blood relies on the lungs to take in the oxygen, which the blood then transfers to the muscles who need it (I did listen, at least a little bit, in Biology).

When I reflect on my life, I think we would all say there are areas we struggle in. As Christians, we should be looking to God as the source of those needs. But on top of that, we know that God likes to work through people, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that God would use people to meet those needs.

Let’s look at me for example. I think I have a need to be mothered. Which might sound a little strange, but I seem to inherit mothers wherever I go. I have my mummy at home, my mummy in Portsmouth and now my mummy in Uganda. Three lovely mummy’s (I think later in life I should gather them all together and see how many I’ve ended up with!)

Now this need hasn’t arisen because of a deficiency, I think I had a gather good upbringing, but more a change of location and the process of growing up. It would be unhealthy for me to take my mother with me to university or to Uganda, but for to have someone playing that role in my life is still valuable. Now it’s not the same role as my mother played during the early years of my life – her role has developed and matured as I’ve grown up. And my additional mummies play a similar as she does now.

What needs can you identify in your life, that people seem to fall into meeting as you’ve progressed through life? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Model of Service

Okay, so Jesus is our ultimate model of service, but I think it’s helpful to have example of what this looks like in as a flawed human being and I think Ugandan women model service to a level I have never seen before. Teddy, for example get up at 5:30am every morning to make sure everything’s ready for Gerald and Jeremy (whose only 7, yet leaves the house at 7am with his father, and doesn’t go to bed till 22:00 like me – I don’t know how he stays awake!). Then she sets up breakfast so it’s ready for me at 7:15.

When I was in mummy’s house, Evelyn would be up at the crack of dawn sorting out the animals, putting them out to graze. Cleaning the house, washing clothes, making my breakfast (omelettes or eggy toast usually, yummy), preparing food for dinner, everything that needed to be done and this would carry in throughout the day/evening. Then both Evelyn and Teddy go to bed after me, so I’ve concluded either Ugandans must need less sleep than me, or I’m very lazy!

When we have bible study and youth fellowship at church a few of the girls spend most of the evening sorting tea (bread and milk or water tea). Now in the west this wouldn’t involve too much work – we serve Tea & Toast before our morning service at City Life (myclc.org.uk). But here, they aren’t using kettles to boil water (I’m not sure you can boil milk in a kettle anyway?) but they use charcoal. So it takes a very long time, and it’s certainly more work than flicking the switch on the industrial water boiler we have at church.

Let me give you an example. We sat down to a late dinner around 22:00 at night. Matoke, sweet potatoes and beef in a Ge-nut sauce (like peanuts). I can’t eat ge-nuts, so I respectfully declined (we think I’m allergic to them). I carry on with the rest of the food, content. Meanwhile, Teddy has disappear to the kitchen and begun defrosting some fish for me to eat. She communicates with Gerald and Joan (in Lugandan), and Joan tells me they are cooking me some fish. All within th espace of about 30 seconds, and I haven’t even noticed she left the table.

Another example, my shoes get very dirty from the dust, but as they are going to get dusty every time I leave th echo use I haven’t bothered to clean them (lazy I know). One morning I put my shoes on to leave and noticed they were damp. I assumed something had spilt on them in the night but when I felt inside, they were dry. It was then that I realised someone had cleaned the for me, I hadn’t asked, they had just seen they needed to be cleaned and got on and done it (or maybe they were asked by someone else who saw they were dirty I don’t know). I left the house feeling very loved that day.

So to all the women who have served me in anyway during my time here, thank you. Thank you for all your hard work and sacrifice, for not complaining and for doing my washing (thanks mum for the travel wash, but I haven’t needed it…)

Moving day

Up to this point in time, I have been staying with my lovely Ugandan mummy. But I was only meant to be here for the first four weeks (we are now on week 7). When I asked richmond a a few weeks back, when I should be leaving he said, “Yesterday. But mummy’s enjoying having you so much that she’s happy for you to stay!” So that has been very nice, and saved me lots of money.

At the start of my trip Elder Gerald invited me to stay with him and his family. I am keen to experience as much of the culture as I can, and that includes the different parts of the city, and the way different people live life. On Sunday afternoon I moved most of my stuff over to his house to join Joan (wife), Jeremy (son) and Teddy (sister). My bed has increased in size to a double bed, which is very comfortable, but I have lost my ensuite (which was a lit of a luxury anyway!) We eat dinner as a family, which is nice, rather than on my own or with mummy.
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This is a good example of how the culture has developed between generations. Gerald has a relatively young family, whereas mummy’s children are all quite grown up. You can see where men used to be served first, and eat alone (or with the other adult males in the house), now the family eats as a unit, and the children are only related to the floor when their isn’t enough seats!

We close the evening with prayer as a family, sharing our schedules for the week with each other. When you staying with people you always value feeling part of the family, and in both houses I’ve stayed at, I’ve very quickly felt at home!

The Proposal – Part Three

My final post dipicting an epic saga. The story of one man, winning his bride for himself (okay, maybe a little dramatic, but this is love, I’m aloud artistic licence).

We had a agreed the previous night to wake up early to see the sun rise – that way we retained the surprise for as long as possible. Becca was handed her first clue, while the rest of us stood around slightly awkwardly (me with camera in hand), so she very quickly knew something was happening. The first picture instructed her to follow the trail we hand walked last nice, as well as reminding her of their first date together. As she followed the trail she collected up the other five photos and arrived at the heart shaped blanket.

The sun was low in the sky, bathing the water of the Nile in early morning light. Arthur emerged from his hiding place, guitar in hand, singing the song he wrote and composed for her (telling her how wonderful she is I’m sure, but we were too far away to hear). After he’d finished the song, she had tears in her eyes, he got down on one knee and presented her her grandmothers ring.

imageShortly after they embraced, and we decided that we should give them some time to themselves, and snuck away. Now we knew she was going to say yes, because sensible couples tend to discuss these things before it happens – but we left not knowing what her answer was. Was it an “I’m so sorry” embrace, or was it a “I’m so happy” embrace? Only time would tell (she said yes by the way).

I’m glad I wasn’t too close by, or I might of cried as well! After a nice breakfast they went off for some edge net photos (I didn’t realise this was a thing, but they spend several hours taking them, so they much of been important). I was able to enjoy the view, with my book in hand – as I’m in the habit of doing here.

Later that evening we had a surprise celebration for them, with friends and family members – we even had a cake which was lovingly carried on the back of a motorbike by yours truly. A proposal should be something special, that will always remain with you, and I think Arthur did an excellent job – congratulations to you both, and may it be a day you don’t easily forget.
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The Proposal – Part Two

This is the second of three posts covering the very romantic proposal of too good friends here in Uganda, which I was able to be part of (just one of the many things that wasn’t on my schedule).

Stage three was the ring. Now Becca had wanted her grandmothers engagement ring, but sadly her parents hadn’t brought it over with them when they visited. Instead after they returned Arthur enlisted the help of a friend travelling from the U.S. The day before she was due to leave, Becca’s father sent the ring, special delivery and she she received it just before she left. Ring now in the right country (and Becca none the wiser), we were ready to move to stage four!)

On location, with the tents setup we enjoyed a nice dinner at the campsite restaurant. Later in the evening we transitioned to the fire pit to enjoy what any good camping trip has to contain (toasted marshmallows). They aren’t easy to find here in Uganda, but Becca managed to find some nice ones (I manage to find some not so nice ones), and we used them to make S’mores (biscuit, chocolate, toasted marshmallow, biscuit on top). Which were sickly sweet and extremely tasty.

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After a night time wonder (to the place where the proposal would take place), we retired to the tent. The girls went to sleep, and the boys started working (we had lots to do).

Arthur had brought five photos of him and Becca to use as as clues. I held the torch while he poured out his heart (awwwww), and wrote nice things and clues to follow on the back of the photos. Everything else had to wait till morning, so we retired to sleep (or lack of it). I’m not sure if it was due to excitement, or just the uncomfortableness of the floor in a thin sleeping bag!
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We went to sleep around 00:30am and after waking up at 03:00 we eventually got up at around 05:45 to set the wheels in motion. We had the pictures, we had some wool and we had a few nails (Arthur had picked the wool up on-route informing everyone his sister was in desperate need of it, and wasn’t able to get it for herself – sadly I believed him despite knowing what was going to happen the next day!)

We retraced our steps from the night before, tying wool around the trees to act as markers, and nailing the pictures in place for the clues. When we reached the final location, the sun was begging to rise. Arthur quickly setup the heart shaped blanket and tuned up his guitar. I left with the first clue in hand to wake the girls!

The Proposal – Part One

I have had to hold my tongue on this, for a while, as it was all a surprise. I would of loved to tell you all about it as it progressed, but you will have to make so with hearing it after the fact in the next three posts.

Oh, and no, it wasn’t me proposing – I just had the privilege of being part of it. Arthur had mentioned on my first day in the car he was planning to propose to Becca. Her parents were visiting in a few weeks time, and they were thinking about getting married the following March, when they were both in the U.S. So, there was lots to be done and being something you only do once, it’s worth doing it right!

Stage one was of course to get the fathers permission. Call me old fashioned (or I suppose Arthur in this case), but I think the father should still have an influence. If he has a good reason for saying no, then you should probably address that before getting married to avoid problems later down the line. Thankfully he said yes, while they were over visiting Becca for the week. I believe it was the first time they had met Arthur, so I’m sure it was a lot to take in in just one week.

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The second step was to get Becca to the location that Arthur wanted to propose, while still keeping it a surprise. For this, Arthur enlisted the help of two of her friends (Mihaela & Haleigh), who proceeded to invite her camping for the weekend in Jinja. She then invited Arthur to come along with her (how convenient) and to avoid being the only men I was invited along too. Stage two complete.

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