Geelong to Uganda

Geelong to Uganda
Google image of trip from Geelong (my home) in Australia to Karamoja, Uganda!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

All the Karamoja holds

Uganda 28th Jan - 9th February 2014 
Our trip to Uganda: Half a week in the South (Lake Mburo, Kampala, Jinja, Mbale to Soroti), three weeks in Karamoja; the first at the Peace villages in Nakayot, the second and third week in Nabilatuk (45 minutes drive from Nakayot) where Summer lives and where Melissa stayed in 2012 to do Vet and Bible storying ministries. Another half week (the last) in the South again meeting up with Summer's team mates, Simon & Carina Grubber who have just returned from Germany where they spent the last 4 weeks to visit church & family. 

Nabilatuk, Karamoja. Weeks 2 and 3. 
For the past two weeks, we've been joining Summer in her ministry work in Nabilatuk and surrounding villages. It was cool to be a part of what she does here, if only for a short time. Summer has been doing adult literacy classes for the last 6 months in the hope of addressing some of the problems that come with a mostly illiterate community not being able to read the Bible for themselves. The result is that they are reliant on what they hear from any random person about God and cannot check its accuracy for themselves like we can.

We can see even in Australia the problems that happen in churches when they stray from the truth of the Bible! Imagine not even being able to read the Bible for yourself. This is also why the mp3 players were given out at the peace villages to help people access the word of God for themselves. So on Monday and Friday we joined in on the adult literacy classes with key members from different villages, combined with a Bible story and memory verse that they learn off by heart (and they are amazing at it!). 
It has been so awesome for Melissa to see everyone again, the joy of seeing old friends again cannot be understated. It's been 2 weeks of so much fun, joining in with life here again as if no time has passed.

We went to a village called Kasiapus (which you may remember from previous posts in 2012) and had church with them there under a tree. Church here in the village consists of singing songs to and about God, praying, listening to a Bible story (as this is done every week they are going through key stories from the Bible in order from creation, the fall, to Jesus and the first church), having discussion about the story we just heard and then more prayer and singing. The people here love to sing. The stories from the Bible are not paraphrased but are memorised by the storyteller from the Bible word for word. This helps the Karamajong people to understand the story better through the details in the story. The discussion at the end is really awesome, to see people really getting what God is saying through the story and teaching them about His character, about us, and how we can and should change to worship and glorify Him. 

On the first week Emmy (a local Karamojong guy who works for KACHEP with the animal health work and evangelism) storied the parable of the sower (Luke 8, Mark 4 & Matt 13) here and at another village on Friday. He had great discussion with them about what kind of 'soil' we should be, the fruit we want to bear and what that looks like for them in Karamoja. What it means to be obedient to Jesus our King. The second week here and at Napongai Summer storied two stories; from Matt 15:10-20 & the second from John 3:1-21 about Nicodemus and being born again, born of the Spirit. 

On every other Wednesday there is a cattle spraying event they run and men from the surrounding villages bring their cattle, sheep and goats to get sprayed for ticks as they are the largest cause of disease in the livestock here. Our first Wednesday here was the spraying event in Nabilatuk and Brenton had the opportunity to story. He told the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man from Luke 16:19-31. Brenton found it really encouraging to see the men being willing to enter into discussion about the story. It was amazing to share God’s word with these men and to look at what it really means when you say you are a Christian. Living as a Christian doesn't mean simply saying that you believe in God and saying things like Hallelujah and thank you Jesus; it's about being willing to let God change your heart and humbling yourself, being willing to serve others and repenting of selfishness. It was really cool when on Friday we ran into 3 young men whilst walking along the road and one of them had come to the spraying and heard the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Now he and his friends were going out to another village to share the story and to share what they had learnt! 

That afternoon we went for a nice long walk to a place called Mt Hyena. We climbed up the top of the mountain with a guitar strapped to our back and spent some time together with Summer singing songs of worship to our awesome God, whilst looking out at God's beautiful creation! We sat together and watched as the sun started to set and it was truly an amazing sight to behold. God was really using that paintbrush of His! The sun went down soooo fast you could literally see it descending! This led to a quick descent from up top and we returned home safe just as it was starting to get dark. Praise to God for bringing us home safely and for providing such an amazing creation for us to behold and reflect upon His majesty and power! 

We have devotions with all the staff members of KACHEP the veterinary NGO we work with. The first Thursday, Melissa lead the devotions on John 13:18-38 and on the second Thursday Brenton lead it on John 14:1-14. 
The devotions are a really cool part of the week because the method has been set for everyone so that all the staff are able to lead at some point. Even those who have never been to school before have been studying their passage for the week, learning it off by heart and God is teaching through them.

Other parts of the week include allocated time to 'greet' people. This is an important part to the ministry here, going to people's houses and sitting with them and chatting to them. Sometimes 4 hours can go by and we've only visited 2 families but it is a great time of loving them and hearing what is going on with them and in their area. Culturally it is seen as very rude to not visit people in the community and as Christ's ambassadors it is an opportunity to love as He has loved us. 

On Wednesday and Thursday Melissa ran animal health training with KACHEP’s two main animal workers, Emmy and Christine. Carina Grubber asked her to teach them about eye diseases and intestinal parasites as these two topics she hadn't covered with them last year. It was really great to see how much they remember and how far they've come in the last year as well. Mukisa, KACHEP’s manager also asked Brenton if he had any time, to teach Emmy & Christine some basics in computer skills which he did on these days as well.

 On the weekends we've done different things. The first weekend we went down to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) mission to visit and have fellowship. They live an hour away and do ministry in yet another way in Karamoja.

It was cool for Brenton to see in week 1 the ministry at the Peace villages, week 2 Bible storying in villages around Nabilatuk and on the weekend see the OPC ministry that has set up a church in Karamoja that is Presbyterian in style and run by an American pastor, with the services translated in Ngakarimojong. That was a really fun time and in a really beautiful spot surrounded by mountains. It was great to spend some time sitting down with the pastor and his wife to discuss some of the things they have learnt about ministry in Karamoja and the culture here. We also got to greet an old Karamojong friend of Melissa & Summer in the town nearby on the Saturday as well. 

On the second weekend we went to the Lolachat market. Lolachat is a little town south of Nabilatuk but which is central to many villages and so has a huge market. People are everywhere as you drive up and they all turn to see the three white people in the sea of Karamojong. It is a bit intimidating at first to be such a huge centre of attention, but you sort of get used to being a circus attraction after a while. We bought a few things there, particularly of interest our dinner - donkey meat and sweet potato to make chips from.

Then we drove on to a village that's about an hour away (deep in the bush) called Okutoot to visit the people there and spend some fellowship time with them. Brenton storied Lazarus and the Rich Man here again with the people in Okutoot. It was really nice to visit them, Summer had not been in this village since her time with Melissa so it was a big reunion. It was great that they were willing to sit down and spend time together with us in worship of God and to learn from His word. We also got to see the agro forestry project that KACHEP is running here in this village, providing them with neem, mango, guava and orange. 

Summer's pet baby ostrich is going really well too. Growing fast and still so cute. Many a morning's entertainment has been had over breakfast watching Tangles run around, spin and fall over when he gets confused, or watching his interactions with the other animals! 

It's been such a privilege to spend this time with Summer and to serve in the ministry here. It is such a blessing to be able to witness the fruits of the hard work being done in these villages and to see how the Holy Spirit has been working in these people! The ministry being done out here is so vital and precious; enabling people to have access to and to learn from God's word.  Working together in partnership with the Holy Spirit to reveal to the people of Karamoja who our awesome God is and the amazing grace He has offered them! What a blessing it is that God allows us to be involved in the spreading of the Gospel of grace!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Ministry in Peace Villages

Sunday 19th - Monday 27th January 2014

Sorry it's been a while since our last post. We have experienced so much over this last week! We are currently sitting on the floor of Summer's house in Nabilatuk, Karamoja, babysitting the newest member of the team. The new member is named "Tangles" and is a 3 day old ostrich! Possibly the cutest thing in the world.

On Saturday the 18th we met up with Summer in Kampala and spent an evening out being encouraged by her and Jean and Roger Tripp (who are a British couple that act as the country coordinators for Pioneers International in Uganda - the mission organisation that Summer is with).
The next morning we gathered up our packs, threw them into Summer's newly tuned up 4wd and headed off to Jinja to visit Sarah and her daughter Naomi and the 13 foster children who stay there! After a brilliant day of relaxing, chatting, volleyball and general hanging with the kids we headed off to town to stay the night at Calvary Chapel with Bev and Jesse Rich (friends of Melissa's and the church Summer has her visa here with). Brenton found it cool how, if he had still been in Australia, he would probably have been doing the exact same thing at 3pm in the afternoon whilst on holidays - playing volleyball in the lake up in Forster with lots of people!
After a great evening and morning of fellowship we once again jumped into the 4wd and headed off to Soroti to meet up with Daniel and Rachel Graham from the NGO CLIDE (Community Livestock Integration and Development) and to meet the E3 (Equip, Evangelise, Establish) mission team from America with whom we were linking up for the next week in Karamoja. By the way, organisations over here really like acronymns!

E3 Mission Team - photo by

It was so awesome to meet the team from America. It's amazing how God calls people from all over the world together to serve in His mission. We had a brief orientation as to what the plan was for the week, had some dinner together, spent some time in getting to know one another and headed off to Nakayot the next morning (we made sure to throw in some true blue Aussie phrases to entertain). We all worked together setting up camp and were quite suprised by the sudden rain storm which came flying in to rain cats and dogs upon us. It was a great team building time.
Nakayot is the central village of the Peace Villages that were established by Dr Val and some key Karamojong elders in the middle of the 'raiding corridor'. This is a strip of valley between two mountains (very beautiful) that men from one tribe wishing to steal cattle from another, pass through. By placing the Peace Villages in this corridor, the men are discouraged from coming through and are sometimes even stopped and told about Jesus! Pretty cool.
We all gathered together with Dr Val and Waffle (married couple whose main ministry this area is) and went through some methods of presenting the gospel in Karamoja for the culture (e.g. tribalism is obviously massive so this can be used in explaining the gospel, e.g. God invites us into his tribe!) as well as looking at what we were all hoping to achieve over the week.
Brenton found it really interesting to learn about the different culture here and how that would alter the way the gospel could best be presented. The plan for the week was to meet with the churches in the surrounding villages and spend time with them encouraging them in their walk with God and to present them with tools to help them gain access to God's word as the communities are mostly illiterate. We were blessed to be given the opportunity to serve the village 'Alakas'.
Each morning we would be up by 6:30am and have a morning devotion surrounded by a lot of worship songs, most of which were in Ngakaramajong. The Karamojong people sing their songs so enthusiastically with lots of clapping and jumping. Their songs are sung with call and reply; the song leader will sing a verse for you to repeat after they sing a section. Devotions were followed by a breakfast of porridge made from corn flour with tea (sometimes coffee!) and a banana.
After breakfast we headed out with our team of 13 on foot to Alakas along rocky paths, up and over a hill, a bit steep in parts, and just over 5km for a round trip. The church in Alakas is led by a young man named Micky who can read and understand both english and ngakaramojong! What a blessing. We split up for our time at Alakas with Brenton teaching with the men and Melissa teaching with the women.
The tools we had at our disposal were mp3 players with the Bible on them in ngakaramojong and some other languages that they could play through and listen to, booklets with study questions that go along with each Bible story on the mp3 player, a cloth with about 30 pictures on it that depicted each Bible story so they could see a picture and be reminded of the Bible story, ngakaramajong Bibles for anyone who could read (these were first printed in 2011 so are recently translated which is cool) and evangelism cubes if people wanted to use them as well. None of the women could read but a few of the men could which was neat so Brenton could give out and use a lot of the resources.
Melissa and the other people in the women's group went through a Bible story (the stories are chronologically in order), using the cloth as an aid and asked 4 questions that could be reproduced for every story to learn, as they couldn't read the study booklet. These were; what was the story about/retell the story, what did we learn/hear about God, what did we learn/hear about people (in the story) and how will we change/be different, after hearing this story. Over the four days of meeting up, we did this again and again as we progressed through the stories (with prayer and a lot of singing accompanying each session as well of course) so that by the 3rd and 4th day, the women were leading the group and using the mp3 player without us as we sat back and enjoyed.
The men's group, Micky included, spent the first day learning about why it is important for christians to be looking at God's word. They spent some time sharing testimonies with each other and Brenton was amazed and greatly encouraged by what was shared by the men; it is a big thing to be willing to share your testimony within a group and be open and vulnerable. The mens group then all listened to the first story on the mp3 player; the creation account. It was awesome to see the men all listening intently to the story of creation; how exciting that those who were iliterate were now able to have access to God's word. Brenton was able to spend time showing Micky and the men in the group how to ask questions of the story using the study book and was very encouraged by the responses of the men in the group to the questions. It was amazing to see these warriors sitting together and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to attack or ridicule from the others as they gave their responses. All throughout the week the people involved with the men's group were encouraged by the willingness of the men to respond to the studies. It was particularly encouraging to be able to help Micky learn how to help the men to learn truths from God's word without having to preach to them.
The E3 group had a 'pass the baton' philosophy for the week; start the week off walking with the Karamojong church in your village and gradually pass the baton off running besides them until they take the baton to finish the race. The long term missionaries and local pastors will keep visiting the village churches to encourage and for accountability.
We both loved the entire week, it was an exercise in faith to leave the men and women at the end in the arms of God and trust the Holy Spirit to complete the work in the hearts of the people. It is God who teaches us and changes us, so prayer is so important for these new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ we have come to love over this last week.

"So what is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Points for Prayer:

Ø That the people in the villages we ministered to over this week would remain faithful to God.

Ø That they would be using the tools and resources that E3 provided them with to learn more about the awesome God who created them, loves them and seeks a relationship with them.

Ø For the long term missionaries serving these villages; that God would hold them in His hands and give them the strength needed to keep carrying out His mission and desire for all peoples to know Him.

Ø Praise God for such an amazing opportunity to be able to serve with the team from E3 and to be able to serve the Karamojong people.

Ø Praise God for all the members of the teams who went out to the villages and through the sharing of the gospel over 100 people were saved; including a Commander of the warriors in a village who had killed 25 people. He is a changed man and is actively sharing the gospel with those he meets! What a great victory for the gospel!

Ø Safety as the E3 team returns to America and that this time in Karamoja will stay with them and give them courage to share their faith and the good news of Jesus there as well.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lake Mburo National Park!

Thursday Jan 16th 2014 - Saturday 18th Jan: Day 2 - 4 in Uganda
Waking up to the African sunrise, the Ankole cattle and chirping Ugandan birds has got to be one of the best ways to awaken. It is so similar to back home with all the sounds of nature surrounding you as you lie in bed, yet as you listen you slowly realise that this is a different place and the sounds all around you are that little bit different. The birds singing aren't the magpies, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets or cockatoos you grew up hearing. The frogs sound so foreign, almost like the shattering of glass. The insects you can hear buzzing and calling out are still grasshoppers but have that slightly different pitch. Yet the familiar steadfast call of the cicadas (pronouned: cic-ar-das or circ-a-das) knits all these new sounds together and serves as an auditory interface between home and here. I walked out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise and saw a big grey monkey in the tree closest just chilling having breakfast (not mine thankfully).

Upon awakening and visiting my bathroom, which has large windows of flyscreen so you can look out, I was quite suprised to look up and see an Impala standing on top of a rock right outside the window staring me down! Goodmorning Africa! Today we did a lot of relaxing, went for a few walks to see some wildlife, swam in the pool that overlooks the animal's water hole and did a night game drive.

At this park around Lake Mburo in the west of Uganda we saw a lot of beautiful, graceful zebra, adorable warthog, flighty impala, fast topi, hippo near the water that have come out for the night, shy eland, the bush buck, water buck, buffalo (buffalo baby calves are THE cutest!), predator genet cat and the little mongoose! Sadly the lion, hyena and leopards didn't come out to pose but we heard the hyenas when we went for a walk in the early morning of day 3 (Friday). It was so amazing to just walk out and see so many animals that usually you only see on National Geographic or in books!!
I (Mel - although I am sure Brenton is too) am constantly amazed at the creative genius of God to have made so many animals (including us) so very different and in such a clever ways. The Topi for example has longer front legs than hind legs so that they can run very fast. The warthog's tail stands completely upright when it runs so that its offspring can follow it when it runs. The eland is a very shy animal that have fat humps on its back like camels and zebu cattle so it can go for a long time without water. The waterbuck however gets its name because it is always found near water and are quite good swimmers. The hippo have very small ears in proportion to its head but they still have a good sense of smell. They are in water all the day to keep them cool as they have no sweat glands. All the animals are also very instinctive in searching out rock near the water hole that is salty so they can replace their electrolytes as they drink.

It was really cool to see the animals at night, I (Mel) loved seeing the buffalo and watching their body language. They would put their noses high in the air smelling us and some would come forward and then drop back as if deciding amongst themselves who will attack first and keeping the youngster calves in the centre of the mob away from us. The most adorable thing was a month old buffalo calf clinging to the side of its mother. It was so small and round!
What a blessing to experience such a place and how awesome to get to know the people who live and work here and hear stories of the animlals they love from their perspective too. Our ranger guide, Azaria, said his favourite animal is the zebra. Although many like the lion, he said, he thought them to be wasteful killers that will take a zebra for dinner and not finish the meal. It is not good, he said, if you are going to kill your zebra, you eat your zebra!

It has been so amazing to be here and begin our trip here in such a way. On day 3 (Friday) we went on an early morning walk while the grass was still wet and the hyena were still gathering themselves to find a den to sleep the day away. This was a highlight for me (Mel) to see the animals in the early hours. At 11am we left the lodge and did a boat trip around Lake Mburo. We saw a lot of really cool birds; Pide Kingfisher, Fish eagle, Water Thickenee, Golias Heron, African Finfoot, etc. I (Brenton) loved to see the amazing capabilities of the fish eagle as it dived out of sky like a jet with wings folded and snatched what would have been a rather surprised fish out of the water! It's awesome to think of Job 38:39-39:30 where we see how God cares and provides for his creation! It's also amazing to think that this is happening everywhere in creation; whether we see it or not God is providing for His amazing creation and the abilities of His creation are amazing!
We saw a lot of hippos that just poked their heads above the water to see who was coming. Did you know they can hold their breath under water for 6 minutes? We also (much to Brenton's delight) saw one big crocodile and three baby ones! Although the Nile crocodiles aren't nearly as pretty (Brenton's words) as our salties back home! We then drove the 5 hours back to Kampala (capital city of Uganda) and are here now (day 4 - Saturday) til we meet up with Summer my old teammate from Karamoja around lunchtime. Our driver for the past few days was a guy called Nasser, he was really nice and did a great job. One of the great things about Africa is everyone's openness to speak about God. He is a Muslim and when we told him we were Christians we had a great chat about that and what it means to be Christian and the importance of the Bible in our faith, how we can talk to God anytime, not just in church and that with the Bible we know God's exact words to us! Pretty cool.

Also it is so cool how a lot of the cars and trucks along the way have signs on them saying things such as "God is Good" "God is there" "Jesus is Lord" "God bless u" "Jesus is the way to heaven" spirituality is such an integral part of life as a Ugandan, very different to back home.
We'd love you to pray for us over the next few days, here are some points:
 - Pray that God would give us the words to speak into the hearts of the people we meet here. That we would make the most of every opportunity to share our faith.
 - Praise to Him for those we met in Lake Mburo, particularly Azaria, Nasser and the Lodge manager Clemmi and prayer that God would be revealing himself to them.
 - Praise to Him for those we've met in Kampala, particularly Rainer who is staying at the Guest house we are at in Kampala and has been involved in mission in Uganda for some time.
 - Praise and gratitude for keeping us safe so far in our travels and expeditions and for safety as we continue to travel over the next few days.
 - For nerves here that God would give us peace and know His absolute control over all things in all places.
 - For good fellowship as we re-unite with old friends (for me) and new friends (for Brenton).
*From here we drive north to Soroti and Karamoja with Summer, meeting up with friends on the way which will be really fun but also as we enter Karamoja the internet connection is definately less reliable so although we'll try to post something new for you to read, don't worry if you haven't heard anything for a few days.
God bless, Mel & Brenton.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Arriving in Uganda

Wednesday 15th Jan 2014 - Day 1 in Uganda
Having travelled 11,000ish km over 36 hours and getting little sleep during that time, there was more than one reason it felt good to finally walk on Ugandan soil when we arrived at 12:40pm Wed 15th Jan. All of our flights and airport adventures went smoothly, getting to each gate on time while still having being able to to explore the different wonders of Singapore and Dubai airports. We are so grateful for safe travels, everything is in God's hands and wherever we are, he is keeping us. We had the blessing to meet up with Sonja Graml in Singapore, a friend from Australia who is doing ministry work in Singapore for the church and AFES uni student group there. She is so encouraging, it was awesome to hear of her work for God and to get excited together for what we will be doing in Uganda for God as well.
As I walked out of the airport in Entebbe, Uganda and began remembering this place from 2 years ago when I first came, it felt amazing to be back. We were picked up by a friendly Ugandan man named Nasser and we drove straight to Lake Mburo National Park, stopping only twice, once for petrol and twice to get photos crossing over the equator :) It took 5 hours to drive, Brenton got to see a lot of Uganda for the first time. I tried to see too but I confess I was so tired I slept a bit! When we got to the park however everyone was wide awake as we drove through herds of beautiful Impala, water buck, warthogs, zebra and Ugandan cattle (Ankole - see photos) with their amazingly massive horns!
When we got to our Lodge we were shown around by the host and taken to our rooms which are spectacular. Both our rooms are made out of the original rock and have views of the entire park from the balconies. We were warned a few times and very emphatically to lock our doors as the monkeys are "very cute but very naughty" and will come in search of food and find it wherever it is! No food in the rooms then!
After a delicious dinner we both went to our rooms and crashed.
Looking forward to the next few days, greetings from here, Mel.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Returning to Karamoja 2014

Hey everyone, it's been a year since I have used this blog but I am pleased to write that in just over 3 days I'll be beginning a new journey to Karamoja! I'll be returning to Uganda for four weeks with Brenton Kilby (see photo below) to visit KACHEP, CLIDE, old friends, meeting new friends and laying some ground work for potential future ministry parterships.
Watch this spot for updates on what we are getting up to, what we are learning (which will be LOTS) and what you can be praying for as we strive to glorify God and worship him, as we seek to encourage and support those serving God in Uganda and helping people to understand the gospel & the good news that is!
Love, Melissa & Brenton.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I arrived safely back in Australia on the eve of Christmas Eve, along with seven other planes arriving into Melbourne. I had a great warm Christmas with family, spent some time adjusting back to life here, spent some time on a boat, some time on a horse and a lot of time in conversations.

This year, 2013, I will return to uni, as I still have 2.5 years of my vet degree to finish. I was so encouraged by my year serving through veterinary work in Uganda and learnt a lot about God' love, faithfulness and sharing the gospel which crosses cultures with ease and has no limitations on it's impact for God who bears the Good News through his Son Jesus Christ, is love and loves all.
Please be praying for me as I finish my degree that our Lord and Saviour would be continuing to grow me and work in my heart. I desire to return to the mission-field some time after graduating in 2015 and continue showing the love of Christ through veterinary work and walking through the doors God opens for the gospel, as I do so.
I cannot thank those of you who supported me last year enough for your prayers, love and financial support. It meant so much to me, to know I had an army of faithful people lifting me and the team up in prayer to our Lord who is generous and hears it all.