The Flight Home

After saying goodbye, all that remained was a return flight to London Heathrow. I was a little under the weather at this point, which was a shame. I have never had to work so hard to eat half a slice of banana bread in my life (yes, I only made it half way). Arthur kindly drove me to the airport, thankfully it didn’t take the four hour it took him when he first came to pick me up!

I arrived several hours before my flight was due to leave, which gave me ample time to make use of the free Wi-Fi in the airport to give people at home an update (my mummy’s worry you see). I ordered some hot water in the restaurant (which took a few attempts, as ‘hot water’ is something people drink out here…) but it was required for my ‘powered by Lemslip’ mode that was needed for the journey home!

One of the staff approach me around 15 minutes before the flight was due to board, and enquired as to which flight I was on. After telling her I was going to Delhi, she informed me it was boarding in 15 minutes and then stood there. I thanked her, and returned to my book (I wasn’t in a rush, I had 15 minutes!) She then came over again and asked me why I wasn’t moving! After trying to explain that 15 minutes means 15 minutes, I gave up and agreed to head over to the gate (which was 30 seconds away, and involved a second security check).

On the first plane I was delighted to see it was more modern than the aircraft that had brought me (I didn’t really care about the air craft, it was the entertainment system that needed to be modern!) The plane that brought me had a CRT style of entertainment system, complete with black and white fuzzy lines on some channels (that some of you will be too young to remember). This one was the up-to-date digital system we had had on my initial flight to Delhi – victory! Alongside that, I had a seat spare next to me, so I had a bit of wiggle room (very important) and no one disturbing me during the flight (except the lovely stewardess to give me food, but she got no complaints from me).

After a 3 and half hour layover in Dubai, a McDonalds Cheeseburger (I was getting my appetite back) and some broken sleep I boarded the plane to London Heathrow and found out I’d received a special offer. Buy one seat on the place, get three free! I was second row from the back on the plane and after take off, readjusted the pillows, helped myself to three blankets and was able to lie down flat across the four seats and get some proper sleep – God is good.

It’s good to be back in England – surprisingly it wasn’t raining when I arrived back, but it was as green and cold as I remember. It’s good to be home.

Saying Goodbye

Well, the “end is nigh”, all good things must come to an end, and my time in Uganda is no exception. I have to say goodbye. Although it has been an excellent experience, challenging me in many ways and allowing me to explore some family history, I’m also looking forward to returning home.

During my time here I met so many wonderful people. I’ve inherited a new mummy, who will forever look after me (when I visit Uganda anyway). I was by so many people who live such fulfilling lives. I’ve been part of a proposal, designed a leadership training program, learnt and taught a new bible study method, written, directed and edited a million dollar video and advised in different areas of an NGO. Action packed.

In Uganda they enjoy life and are also more grateful for life itself, than I feel we are in the west. I will certainly miss the positivity here.

At church on Sunday they took some time out of the service to thank me for the work I had been doing during my time here, they also presented me with a wonderfully large card and a custom-made shirt to take back with me (one of the men in the congregation makes custom designed shirts).

When I return to the UK I have a short break before I start with IBM, as a Business Consultant. I’m really looking forward to being home (those who know me well, know how much I like England), and for the new challenge that’s ahead of me

The True Cost of Taking a Taxi

I wanted to write a post on some practicalities of navigating around Uganda and other African nations. The private taxi system is the cheapest way of getting around (not to be confused with private hire cars) and probably the safest way of getting around (on condition you don’t walk around with all your bling on and get into an empty one).

Taxi from redpepper.co.ug
Taxi from redpepper.co.ug

The taxis travel to certain locations, so when I was living in Seeta, I got a taxi on the main road going to Kampala. I would then alight when I arrived at Bweyogere or Kireka. The taxis have designated “stages” (stops), that you can get on or off at, and when you’re approaching the stage you wish to get off at you simple say “stage” to the conductor and hand him the money. Alongside that, once your more familiar with where you are you can use the word “parking” and get dropped at the side of the road, rather than having to wait for the next location.

Cost wise as a rule of thumb it seems to be around 500 shilling per stage, but the further the distance you travel the cheaper it is. To travel from Seeta to Bweyogere or Kireka (10km, 20-30 minutes) was 1000 shillings, travelling all the way to Kampala was usually around 2000 (20km, 50-60 minutes).

It’s worth asking a local how much it should be to where your going, as the stages have people who will help you get on the right taxi, but if you ask them or the conductor how much it should cost, if your white, you sometimes got a different price. Whereas when you just pay (either the right change, or above), they assume you know the right price, so charge you accordingly.

Now the exchange rate while I was there was about £1.70 for 10,000 shillings, which makes a trip very inexpensive (17p to get to work), but I damaged a nice pair of trousers and a nice pair of shorts getting in/out of a taxi (there are lots of sharp edges, everywhere!) so those journeys cost 17p + £20 = £20.17 (they were English clothes, not Ugandan).

Soroti – Part Two

PDN’s training focuses around six core competencies. The first three are covered in the conference I am attending and the second three are covered the following year. Day one focuses on theology, where Dr David will be covering a basic overview of what theology is and some basic doctrinal points.

Most of these pastors have had little to no theological training, yet many have been preaching to their congregations for ten, twenty or even thirty years. Pastor Luke then introduced them to the inductive bible study method (Observation, Interpretation, Application). This is one of the most important tools we gave the pastors. Growing up in the west, we have at least a basic understanding on interpreting scripture (although the amount of rubbished that gets preached you wouldn’t think so), but most of these pastors have no idea how to process the text that they are reading.

But knowledge isn’t everything, they have to be able to apply the technique in order for it to be useful, so the end of the day I led them through an inductive study of Romans chapter 7, helping them identify the key themes, find the context of the passage and identify how it applies to them and their congregations.

Over the following two days we covered Preaching and Family & Counselling, and I spoke with a number of pastors who were so grateful for the opportunity to train and learn more about the word of God and the ministry they had been called too. I had one pastor tell me he loved me, and that he was praying God would “add many years to my life” (maybe I looked unwell, I don’t know…)

We connected with 110 pastors over those three days, with an average congregation of 70, that’s just short of 8000 people who will be impacted, in just three days work. These pastors can’t afford training, so all the funding to provide this training comes from the west. For more information on how you can get involved check out PDN’s website: PDNAfrica.org.

Soroti – Part One

My final week here in Uganda has been spent in the East of Uganda, my first trip outside the central region of Uganda in a place called Soroti. Another popular destination for missionaries as we met a group from a church in Durham who were working with disabled children and then later on in my return trip I met a group flying back to Texas, who had also been in Soroti helping a local church run a crusade.

I was there as part of the PDN (Pastors Discipleship Network) team, helping with the day-to-day running and administration of the conference. I also had the opportunity to help train the pastors in the inductive bible study method (Precept Ministries), which I will talk about more later on.

pdn-van

Soroti takes about 7 hours to reach from Kampala so Monday was spent on the road in the team mini van – Audible is always a good travel companion. I’m enjoying Brandon Sanders ‘The Way of Kings’ at the moment. It was late by the time we arrived, so after checking into the hotel we had our pre-conference briefing over dinner. Our guest speaker for the week was Dr David Fugoyo, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Africa Renewal University (africarenewaluniversity.org).

David Fugoyo is a Langham Scholar receiving his PhD in Old Testament Studies from Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya in 2014. David’s dissertation was on “Lapses in Leadership from the Book of Judges.”

David served on staff at ARU in 2014 as the Department Head of Theology. In 2015 he was promoted to the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance in Administration. In 2016 we will be sending him to South Sudan to plant a Bible College in Juba.

Pastor Luke (from PDN) would be leading the other half of the sessions and then myself, Barbara and another visiting pastor will each be leading a session.

pdn-soroti-team

Ndere Cultural Center, Kampala

This place is amazing. I will be the first to admit it wasn’t top of my priorities to do ‘touristy’ things while I’m here in Uganda. Especially on my own, I wanted to focus on the work I was sent here to do (with isn’t a bad thing, in this season). Gerald wanted to take to me to a Ndere Cultural Center, where they have a show filled with all the different tribal dances from across Uganda. The troupe was setup to show the positive side of cultural dances. Allot of cultural and tribal dances have links with the occult and witchcraft, but some of it doesn’t, and we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water!
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The show was three hours long, but time disappeared and I hardly felt I had been there an hour. Fantastic dances by some very talented performers from the different tribes across Uganda and surrounding areas woven together by an incredible funny old man, whose claim to fame lies in his appearance as the health minister, in the film “The Last King of Scotland”. The dances were breathtaking, and included coming of age ceremonies, dances to express love and musical instruments expertly played from all over East Africa. The final route in was with drums the size of large sheep, balanced atop the heads of the young men (incredible impressive).
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The presenter wove everything together so well bringing a refreshing comedic angle to join each dance together, drawing the audience in with funny stories anecdotes and interactions. He had a story for every nationality, and did an excellent job of humour-rising some of the Ugandan traits, which Gerald, Teddy, Jeremy and Joan all found hilarious. The words Heart, Hut, Hat and Hurt are all pronounced the same with the Ugandan accent!

It costs just 30,000 UGS for internationals (about £6, $10), drinks are a little pricy compared to the rest of Uganda, but for a show equal to anything you would see in the West End, you can’t miss it. More information: Ndere.com

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.
image

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).

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