Geelong to Uganda

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

My Last Week in Nabilatuk, Karamoja!

26th November - 2nd December

At the beginning of our week, Summer prayed that God would bless this week for me and make it a week to remember; that all of our programs for the busy week ahead would go smoothly and be beneficial to the community and that by God's grace He would sort out all the loose ends and that we would have fun.

Man, did God answer her prayer! What a week :) Tuesday and Wednesday were big training days. Thursday was my goodbye party with KACHEP members and some people from our community and Saturday we were doing the last of the vaccinations for our chickens and debeaking them as well.

On Tuesday we had another goat distribution (when I first arrived in Nabilatuk in March this was the first thing we did, and now it is one of the last things I'll do as well!), Seven goats to seven women in the community. A goat can give hope to a woman who is struggling with no income and no family. The women are selected from within the Nabilatuk community by a criteria of 'vulnerability' (it sounded weird to me when I first heard it too but it makes sense now), women who are widows, orphans, impoverished, etc. The goats were ear-tagged, given an antibiotic and dewormer to see them off, vaccinated for Clostridium/Tetanus and then tick sprayed.
For impartiality, the women picked a number out of a hat and were given a goat accordingly, which was a strange concept for them to understand initially haha, there was a lot of talk over this! It was a really wonderful day. Summer told the story of Jesus' birth, linking it back to Genesis and our need for a saviour because of our sins and then fast-forwarding to Jesus' final work on the cross which accomplished that need. One of my favourite parts was seeing each woman walk to their homes from the office with a goat and a smile planted on their faces.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unpolluted by the world." James 1:27

Wednesday - It is so hard for me to explain how cool it is to see Karamajong warriors putting up their hands like they are in school to answer questions on animal health and about their cows. They get sooooo excited about learning new information that will help them keep their cattle healthier. On Wednesday we had what we called a 'Keeping Healthy Animals Awareness Day' and we went to a village that is too far for the people to come and receive health care for their animals in town regularly. Our aim was to empower them with knowledge of how to diagnose common diseases (what specific symptoms to look out for in particular) and what medicines they can buy to treat them with. Also, importantly, how to dose correctly so that their animals do improve from their illnesses and don't just get better for the short term but suffer in the long run because of bacterial resistances caused by underdosing.

'Keeping Healthy Animals Awareness Day'
Something that I've learnt this year that I'll really take away with me is how to couple my faith with deeds that are an expression of that faith. For the people here, they are in poverty and live off the land. What is important to them? Cattle. It is their status in the community, their currency (or bank, they call them), symbolism of God's blessing, bride-price, identity. How can I serve them in the name of Jesus? Help them with what is important to them and do the greatest service of love, tell them about Jesus and the salvation and hope that comes through him.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." James 2:14-26
On Saturday, Karamoja farewelled me good and proper with a stomach bug, eghhh. Typical. We left Sunday morning and said many, many goodbyes. Closure has its place, but it'd be easier if we never had to say goodbyes. It's been a year of ups and downs and I've learnt so much. I am praying I can come back again one day but for now, Vet school. Goodbye Uganda, Keep it real!


Thanksgiving Celebration in Karamoja

 24th November 2012

As an Australian, I didn't grow up celebrating Thanksgiving as a holiday. After experiencing it with 27 American friends, here in Karamoja though, I am a fan of it! Historically, I am told, the day came about when the Pilgrims (those who fled England because they were being persecuted for their faith) came to America for the first time (If you want to know the year, google it). Many of them did not survive their first year, but the Indians/Native Americans taught them how to cultivate the land for corn, pumpkin and other crops. Those who survived, celebrated by having a meal together with the Native Americans. Thanksgiving was born as they shared all the things they were thankful to God for.

Today, of course ,the old tradition means different things to different people but I love the idea of a day dedicated to praising God for all He does. Plus there is great food involved!

Summer and I had bought a pig for the festivities which was quite an ordeal. We put him (Boris) in the back of our 4wd and travelled the 45 minutes home. When we got back we were preparing his 'sleeping quarters' and he jumped out the window of the truck, and galloped through the thorn fence to our neighbours. As he was escaping one of our cats Mojo, who may have been feeling a bit threatened by this new member, leapt on his back screeching with her claws dug into him. He was squealing, she was growling, needless to say it was truly horrid. We ran over to our neighbours, caught Borisand brought him back, realising that out here, something that we'd tried to keep a bit on the “down-low” (that we had a pig) could never have been kept a secret. Small towns hey...
So we had spent all week debating how to 'do away with him' for the party. We finally decided to fob the responsibility off in the name of animal rights and opted for a bullet in the head. Quick, easy and finished, we thought. Well, all we had to do then, was find a gun.
Early Saturday morning Summer and I walked over to the army barracks to sweet talk our way into getting someone to help us. What we got in reply to "We were wondering if you could please come and shoot our pig for us?" was laughter and a "No". There was a 'but' however, which was that they sent with us 3 men who, we were assured, were "expert pig killers", don't ask me how someone gets that title, but there you go.
Jennifer and me preparing Boris
So, in the end we had a whole pigs worth of meat and I got a good revision session in on my swine anatomy too! There were also other strange and wonderful foods brought by our American guests; sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top, green beans smothered in creamy sweetcorn soup, pumpkin pie, deep fried onion rings, and more.

I am thankful for the year I have had here in Karamoja, for the friends I've made and the lessons God has taught me. How great is it that God can bring people from all corners of the world together for his work, redeeming the world back to Himself. I am thankful, so thankful, for John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

I am thankful that God looked at the world, his creation that rejected him, and was not content to leave us dead in our sins, estranged from him. I am thankful for the gift of life through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.A holiday of being grateful :)

"Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
Some of our visitors for Thanksgiving

John Chapter 3

Tuesday 20th November 

Today we had our last village bible studies with 2 villages they call Okutoot and Napana. Okutoot have had a relationship with KACHEP for about 2 years now but with Napana we have only just started visiting and getting to know them since the beginning of October this year. One of their biggest struggles is the distance they are from a church. They are about 20 km give or take from the closest two towns which is quite a long way to walk every Sunday! So one day when they saw us driving from Okutoot and asked us what we were doing, they asked us if we could come lead a Bible study in their village so they could have church every week too. At the beginning of our time with them, we found that there was only three strong Christians in Napana, but the majority of the people had no idea what Jesus was all about, especially the men. After the first couple of weeks as we told Bible stories, the men sadly stopped coming. A large group of women, teenagers and children kept coming however.

We took them through what is called chronological Bible storying, telling Bible stories from Creation and the Fall in Genesis, to the birth of Jesus and the gospel message of life through faith in Jesus' death and resurrection. This spans most of the Bible, leaving them with a good understanding of what Christians believe and the Good news that we are not, nor were we ever, alone here. 

So this week, our last week, I told the story of a man called Nicodemus and his interaction with Jesus, back around 30 AD, found in John Chapter 3. By God's grace, after the story and some discussion about the story and talking through what being a Christian means, 20 plus people gave their lives to Christ today. I was so grateful for Joshua, our translator and his heart for evangelism and wanting his people to understand the truth of Jesus. He translated, but interactively, making sure everyone understood what we were saying to them.

In this story it talks of 'the Kingdom of God' which is another way of saying Heaven, the place where we will be with God and where there is only his love. All sorrow and pain are wiped away. According to the Son of God, there is only one way to enter this kingdom, to be 'born again', through believing in Him and what He has done for the whole world on the cross. To Nicodemus, this was as confusing as it is to the next person when they hear such a concept for the first time. "How can we be born again? Can we jump back into our Mother's womb?" Nicodemus asks. Jesus means that to be his followers, there has to be a life change, we cannot keep living the way we are naturally inclined to and we cannot worship the things we did before. It has to be like we are literally starting over, hence the 'born again'. Anyone can say they will follow Jesus yet continue to live their life as if they don't. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, "If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new." We are to turn our back on things like selfishness, greed & anger, and strive for those of love, kindness, generosity, etc. For the human race, you and I, this is easier said than done, and it takes a daily commitment and re-commitment as we live our lives, born again as new creations.

Mercy triumphs over judgement = "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He (Jesus Christ) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his Word is not in us. I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world."         1 John 1:8-2:1-2

The people of Napana decided to make this informed choice today after meeting with them for 7 weeks now. They were told that it is a relationship, not an obligatory religion and something to fall out of because it is too hard. It is grace. We will do wrong things, Jesus knows that, that is why He, and not us,  had to pay the price for our sins, and he forgives us when we truly want to change.

Pray for them that they would continue on this narrow road of salvation, confessing where they stumble, rejoicing in the knowledge that they are forgiven, submitting their actions and decisions to Christ and trusting in him for everything.

Praise God for his awesomeness!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fun in Karamoja

Children love to climb

Me too!!

Our trip to Kaabong in Northern Karamoja


A land of potential, beauty and wonder. Vast plains of scrub and bush with mountains and rocks scattered all around. Kaabong should have been called the 'place of many rocks' in Ngakaramojong, like Gumly Gumly in Aboriginal, that small Australian town next to Wagga Wagga. Surely there are more rocks here than there.

Kaabong was actually named after an important man named Aabong, I feel sorry the man was born with such an unfortunate name. 

I do love the meaning of the town names in Karamoja though, they are so very descriptive. Lolachat for example, near where we live in Nabilatuk, means the "place where the river is so strong that it will rip your clothes off". Although if you're only wearing a blanket, as the men here do, then it doesn't have to be a very strong current I suppose.

It has been interesting to discuss with the people here the cultural differences between our tribal group in Nabilatuk (the Piyan) and these people here in Kaabong, the Dodoth. When the current president, Museveni, came into office there was a mass disarmament and North Karamoja was the first to have their guns taken away, by force. Since then they have been a source of attack from other Karamajong tribes, primarily the Jie (pronounced gee-ey) tribe that are next door. Vulnerable, their cows were stolen, along with their pride and sense of autonomy. Without cattle here, a person loses wealth and status & standing in the community, and, culturally - God's blessing. That is a universally acknowledged truth for the Karamajong people.

 The Dodoth also have some very slight differences in language to the Piyan tribe.

 The only downfall for this place is that the mountains and the wind make it so cold! Ok, so probably only 15 to 20 degrees but that's cold to me. Summer laughs at me as I pull on my thermals to leave the house, but hello, I have only been three places in my life; Australia, Asia and Africa. Do you see a pattern?? At least I know my mission field can be no colder than Africa ;) and to think I was originally going to spend the year in Mongolia!!

 Lotim near Kaabong is the place where it had been planned that the team I came to join would move their ministry of Vet and Bible storying/church planting to part way through this year. As we drive out there on Monday morning, I think to myself how incredible and amazing nature is. If God created this, how much more awesome must the Creator be? All around me it is just so perfectly designed, and stunningly beautiful. I see a mountain of rocks reaching up to the sky with one smooth round boulder perched precariously atop it all. Of course it only looks precarious, but no storm has moved it yet. It has been perfectly undisturbed.
There are 11 of us in the Land Cruiser as we bump and rattle down the dirt road to Lotim, about 45 minutes from Kaabong. There are 5 Taliaferros; Susan and Jeremy and 3 children- Victory (4 yrs), Memphis (2yrs) and Ember (1yr), plus Summer and I, and 4 K'jong guys helping us with translation and any land issues that need to be sorted.
Along the road there are sunflower fields on either side, their yellow faces looking our direction, with mountain ranges stretching out into the distance. We drive closer and closer to them and finally get to our destination. The road was rough, noticed particularly when you are holding on your lap a two year old with a tornado in his pants, but the view was outstanding. As I do a 360, I count 7 mountain ranges, not including the one we stop at. We got to Lotim and even the men said, wow, as they looked around.

The plan for the day is to set the ground work for missionary training to be done late January for 3 months, on K'jong culture, language & lifestyle, plus Bible storying & church planting appropriate to this oral learning, semi-nomadic people group. The 'business', that was expected to take two days, took only a few hours and went so smoothly. We met with the elders when we first arrived and by the grace of God were welcomed unconditionally, with open hearts, by the people there.

After the pleasantries, introductions and the like, we climbed up the hill to where the site is. There are 4 huts already in place, just waiting to be mudded, but the place is currently overgrown, thorny and a snake haven. A lot of work needs to be done but Jeremy is ready & excited for the task. From there we can see at least 6 manyatas (Karamajong villages) that look like the alien landings off that movie Signs. As yet there is no church in this whole region.

 The training is going to be awesome; cultural immersion, pushing the boundaries of those attending. As Jeremy says, balancing the fine line of being culturally appropriate and 'going native', breaking down the barriers people make in their minds for fear of stepping out in faith and just going for it, and learning how to live and survive in such a different place from our background. Feeling some of the pain of how the people here live, e.g. lugging 20L jerry cans full of water up a mountain, every day. How to be stretched, yet still find yourself drawing closer to God through it all.

There will be 4 families plus, including some Karamajong leaders too, who want to learn how to plant local churches who worship in Spirit and in truth, to see their land be a nation of men and women who seek and love God with all they have.

Not for the first time, I find myself wishing I could be here for next year too. At the same time though, I'm pulled back home with my desire to finish what I started at Uni. Like I said, this month is going to be an emotional rollercoaster.  

We go to Kampala on Wednesday and try to find new parts for out truck that is broken and sad at the moment. Hope to return to Karamoja soon!

Love Mel

Sunday, 11 November 2012

More car trouble

So the story of the last few days: Get invited to a village, they slaughter a goat for us, car breaks down in village, walk 10 km to nearest town to get help, friendly missionaries tow us back to their place to fix truck. Thursday we realise truck has serious issues. 
Friday we drive in convoy down to Mbale to get parts and fix engine. Get stuck in mud and rear axle falls off said vehicle. Front light gets smashed. Have to drive the rest of the 7 hrs in 2WD. Get properly bogged 10 more times. Get pulled out 10 more times by Jesse VanGorkom (so grateful). Arrive in Mbale. Just. Saturday 9am hitch a ride with rock n roll lovin, rodeo junky Texan missionaries back up to north Karamoja (Kaabong)... Awesome fun.
10 hrs later arrive in one of the most beautiful places, body is sore but God is gracious. Saturday arvo hear that Bob Wright and the OPC team have fixed our engine and are getting the axle fixed now now. Amazing how things work out right?
Dangerous Predicament crossing the river

Bogged in a rut caused by big trucks

Our truck 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Team Update - car trouble

8th November 2012

Hey everyone, I am just writing to give you a bit of an up date since the last post. This week we had a car problem! Unhelpfully, Summer and I know as much about cars as we do about astrophysics and when you are out in Karamoja, that is not always a good thing. Don't worry yet though, it has a happy-ish ending but I am considering trying to squeeze in a mechanics course to go with my vet degree!
So, on Tuesday this week we headed out to the village of Naboru's husband. Nabor is a KACHEP employee with the chicken project as well as a neighbour and friend.  Her husband, Akol Paul had invited us there to thank us for helping Nabor when she and her newborn baby were diagnosed with tuberculosis about a month ago. We helped with some medicines and food for her while she was sick.
 When we finally arrived at his village, through the torrential downpour of rain that was happening as we drove through the mud, he brought us a large and handsom he-goat and wanted our approval of it. He was going to give us one of the biggest of K'jong honours, to slaughter a goat for us! The men made a fire out of wet thorn bushes and roasted the goat on top, resulting in a delicious smokey flavour. So we had smoked goat, danced with the women and then had a Karamajong slumber party in a mud hut, sleeping on cow skins. Paul, not a Christian, has 5 wives all of whom have different huts but we slept in the 1st wife's hut.
 In the morning, we headed out to the vehicle as we were going back to Nabilatuk to plan for Thursday's program.
On Thursday we had planned a 'Keeping Healthy Animals' day at a village we hadn't had much contact with before. The theory behind the day was that the men of the village live too far from Nabilatuk township and so don't bring their sick animals to us, they just buy antibiotics from town and carry them back to their villages. The problem is though that the people here are mostly all illiterate and so unfortunately can't read the directions on the back of the medicines and don't really know how much meds to give. So very commonly they are under-dosing their animals, leading to bacterial resistance and they end up having to bring their cattle to see us anyway. Our aim was to spend the day teaching on the basics of doing a physical exam, estimating weight, common diseases and available treatments, just to give them a bit more of a knowledge base in their strive to keep healthy animals!
 As we all piled into the truck to go back to Nabilatuk, Summer tried to start the car and it gave a few pathetic whines but never sparked to life. She tried again, with the same results, so we popped the hood and saw that one of the wires coming from the battery was smoking. So, imagine if you will, us, two whites and four K'jong, in a broken down car, in Africa's version of whoop whoop. Thankfully we were able to contact OPC, our neighbourly mission friends who live an hour away. They drove to a semi-central point that we both knew, we walked 10 km to meet them and then directed them through the bush to the village and our car. Thank you God for mobile phones and friends. We were towed to their compound and made the executive decision to postpone our 'Keeping Healthy Animals' day for another day, hopefully in two weeks time.
Jesse, an engineer, and son of my mission leader from CVM, worked on our car for the rest of Wednesday and some of Thursday and worked out that it was a short in the positive circuit of the battery and when we turn the car off, the short drains the battery. So by disconnecting the battery every time we turn the car off and then reconnecting it again we can use the vehicle, but it's not great. We are driving down on Saturday to a mechanic to get it properly fixed (praying!).
 By around Thurs lunchtime when we had realised all of this we headed back to Nabilatuk to pack some more clothes because all we had with us were what we had from our village stay and we smelt. Badly.
When we arrived, it was to find that our neighbour had died and a funeral was going to take place that afternoon. We were worried that the afternoon rains would catch us on our drive back to OPC, but it was all fine in the end. We attended the burial, giving the family a sheet to wrap the old man's body in. It was so sad in particular because the daughter had drunk her sorrows away and was wailing at an excruciating volume. You know when you're in a situation where one person is doing something a bit out of the ordinary, and everyone knows it. I was a bit like that and it made me feel sick to see her sorrow so on display. Not that it was wrong for her to show her anguish, of course, just that I had never seen someone in so much obvious emotional pain, people usually do a good job of hiding their true feelings.
So although we are fine, it hasn't been the week we'd planned.
We know 100% that God is looking out for us and protecting us through these things but it is still a bit disappointing to be out of ministry action for a while, while the truck gets fixed.
We hope, however, that we can use the time to go up north to Kaabong and Lotim, where the team was originally meant to move to and still might. Summer has some business to sort out there before next year and I've never been and am a travel monkey so I'm along for the ride!
 - Pray for safe travels on the road on Friday and that the truck would get easily sorted out.

 - Praise that God had help and provision for us in our time of need and that we now know of this problem before we were really out of reach.

 - Pray for the villages we won't be able to get to for our Bible studies next week that they would continue on without us.

 - Pray for our trip up north, again for safety on these crazy crazy roads and for a good, efficient time of business and for a bit of fun as well.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

Proverbs 16:9


Visiting a Peace Village

29th October 2012

On the weekend we had a bit of a Christian Veterinarians Mission party! There was Dr Val and Waffle, plus another CVM couple, Dr Daniel and Rachel Graham, as well as Julie, Summer and I. On the Sunday we all headed to Nabwal and Nakayot peace villages along the slip and slide they call Karamoja roads.
These villages bring 11,000 people or more together from two huge tribes, the Piyan (the people group we work with in Nabilatuk) and the Bokora (the people Dr Val works with in Moroto), from 4 different locations to live together in one main location. This location is pivotal to the peace village as it is in the raiding corridor between these two tribes. This peace village, set up 3 years ago, has been able to try and stop potential raiders moving between the tribes to steal cattle.
Check out 'Karamoja Peace Villages - YouTube' to get more of an idea of what I'm talking about.
 When we visited this weekend we met with the village elders, hearing their struggles and victories. Many people are sick and even passed away, animals too. The main problem is the road. It is so bad, that if it ever rains, no one can get to them. They have a clinic but without a way to get there, the nurse and medical supplies can't make it to them. During the meeting, I felt super awkward at just how ferocious the warriors were when they were talking. The Karamajong are very strong people in many ways and their manner of speaking to each other is no exception. The purpose of the meeting was to persuade the members of the peace village on the importance of improving the road and by the end of the meeting 400 men had volunteered to get their shovels and hoes out and work on it. Dr Val volunteered the idea of a 'food for work' project, she would make sure they had food for the time they were working so that they could finish the road. Everyone agreed on that.
One of the more troubling moments for me as I was sitting in the meeting was when one of the warriors was talking about how much they need this road because so people are dying from illnesses. He said things like "Our animals are all dying and we're all dying! If you don't believe me, I'll show you their graves" and he reiterated the same sentiments over and over again. I thought that although yes, this is a serious issue of sickness, he was going a bit over the top. I now understand that he was doing that to get everyone on board for the larger vision of persuading people that the road needs to be better to improve their access to supplies. If the people aren't pushed to see the need and a way they can fix it, then it may not get done for a while. At the time, however, I didn't know this! I almost cried at this angry man's intimidating yet moving words (which is not a wrong reaction but I have it in a better light of understanding now). So they are making a step forward in the right direction on this which is an awesome blessing for the community! It was a really amazing time and a privilege to be a part of such a meeting. Just being in this spot, the raiding corridor, they are helping Karamoja be one step closer to seeing each other not as enemies but neighbours.

Psalm 37:2-7 says,

"Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him."
As Dr Daniel said as we were leaving, "If they build it, we will come."

A wonderful suprise

Wednesday 24th October

Summer and I had a surprising visitor this week, Dr. Julie from Vermont, USA. She has been in Uganda working with Dr. Val (a vet also working with CVM, see other posts) for almost a month. I had met Julie when I was in Soroti with the CVM team there (see 'Surgeries' post).

 I got a call from Val, Monday afternoon as we were leaving our Bible study in Kasiapus village. We didn't have a translator that day and I was, at that moment, so happy because I had just managed to lead the study predominantly in Ngakaramajong (the local language here), God is good. Anyway Val calls me and tells me that her fiance, Waffle (yes, he goes by Waffle, don't judge)  had just arrived in Uganda to see her and had been in a car accident coming up to Karamoja! But amazingly, Bob Wright and Jesse Van Gorkom, missionaries with Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Namalu, a town an hour from where we live in Nabilatuk, happened to be in the city and came across the accident, recognised Waffle from a Facebook picture he once saw, and stopped to help!

 Val then asked if Julie could come and visit Summer and I for a few days while Waffle recovered and Val cared for him. Without asking Summer, I yell "Yes, yes of course we'd love to have her!", knowing that my team-mate is always up for visitors! So come Tuesday, the exchange had taken place, Bob had Julie from Val, and Val had her Waffle. Summer and I picked up Dr Julie from OPC and spent the rest of the week having great fun. Waffle had broken a few ribs in the accident but is a very brave man, barely complaining, just happy to be here.

On Wednesday, we all went to Okutoot village for a Spray Day. Okutoot is another village where we have started a Bible study with a few people, as a spin-off from the Bible storying; a more in depth look at God's Word together.

So we sprayed the animals for ticks and got to do many, many treatments for sick cattle, goats and sheep. One of these days I'm hoping to get a donkey case!

It was a particularly productive day, spraying 564 cows and goats and treating around 70 animals. Scarily, all of those animals really needed treating, many with fevers of over 41 degrees Celsius! We saw a number of East Coast Fever calves, wormy cows, cows with trypanosomiasis, contageous bovine pleural pneumonia and anaplasmosis - so it's a good thing we tick sprayed so many of them as many of those diseases are tick-borne.

It was great to have a vet with me, even if only for a short time.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Only Two Months Remaining

Thursday week ago we arrived back in Nabilatuk at 8:30 pm after driving 6 hours (for me) from Soroti and a total of 11 hours for Summer, from Jinja. The roads were rough but now that it is dry season, it's the pot holes causing the pain, not the mud that slides you any which way that you pray the truck won't flip over.

So glad to be back and with us came 100 chicks (tiny-tiny - "They're so fluffy I'm gunna die!" - 'Despicable Me' quote) that had hatched Wednesday evening. Thus they've only just entered this crazy world to be brought up to Karamoja so they can get used to the harsh climate, necessary basically from birth. The first three weeks with them, (most of October) are the most crucial. They need to be taught to drink and feed and they must be kept warm at all times (between 30-35 degrees Celsius). So the first week we will sleep in the chicken hut with them, wake every two hours to encourage them to eat and drink by tapping on their feeders and making chicken noises, bababababeraaaa! - I kid you not.  Then from there we will check on them at 9pm, 12 am, 3am and 6am (Summer and I rotating times).
The fire in the pot keeps them warm
 Valentina, a local woman employed by KACHEP, who was there for the last chicken project knows what you have to do to make this a success, and she is the real mother hen of the three of us. I really like looking after them too, I want them to succeed very badly! The plan is that 5 pre-chosen 'vulnerable' community members will each receive 10 chickens (They will be given out in February when they're already laying and have had all their vaccinations) and KACHEP will have 50 chickens for income generating to help cover the cost of the feed- which is very expensive because there is really only one company in Uganda actually selling quality feed, so the demand is there.

Every week the chicks  will get a vaccination (every Thursday), continuing for four weeks. The first is starting from day 7 (age 7 days) which is for Newcastle Disease, then day 14 and day 21 for Infectious Bursa Disease (Gumburo) and day 28 for Infectious Bronchitis. A month later they will be vaccinated for Typhoid and then they are pretty much done except for boosters for Newcastle Disease and a vaccine for Fowl Pox early January.

Last week Summer and I did the first 'Bible Club' at the local primary school as an afterschool program and it was probably the highlight of the week! We had the whole school to start with and Summer told the story of David and Goliath and did 1 Samuel 16:7 as the memory verse. Then Summer took the grade 3s and did some English teaching and I took the grade 6s and did soccer sports with them! Drills then a game, and jump rope for the girls who weren't into soccer.
I am so happy that the village Bible studies are going again and now it's our goal in the next 6 weeks to turn them over completely to the women who host them. So they will be the ones to tell the group the story and ask the questions, not us. Pray for that :)

Only 2 months left here for me. October and November, then at the beginning of December I will pack my bags, leaving a lot of my clothes for women here, go down to Jinja, spend a week with friends there, then head to Kenya to meet my sponsor child. On the 14th I start my journey home, flying first to Singapore to spend a week with my good buddy Sonja Graml who is a ministry worker there and then fly back to Melbourne, arriving 2 days before Christmas. It's going to be a hectic three months before I return to the land of Aus. Let's see what God has in store for me!

 Things you can be praying for:

 - Pray I don't check out too early and that I can continue to make the most of every opportunity while I am here.

 - Pray for the success of the chicken project: that it can be a blessing to the Nabilatuk community

 - Praise point that a German couple, Simon (Bible storier) and Carina (veterinarian) are coming out here next year to join Summer as the start of a new team but continue to pray for workers for this harvest.

 - Pray for our ministry activities still on-going; Bible studies and storying, vet treatments and trainings, 'Bible club' at the local primary school with a bible talk & memory verse, and soccer & skipping games with me and English learning for the kids with Summer. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ride for Refuge

Dennis' Story

 "It was dark when they came in to my village and set it on fire. It was 1993, West Uganda and I don't remember much of that night, I don't remember how they killed my mum and my dad, only of hearing it afterward, I just remember being taken. Kony and his men kidnapped us small ones and made us walk for days and days with no food or water. We were all tied together as we marched along and beat us if we were slow. One boy tied with us died in those few days of marching, but they wouldn't untie him, they made us drag him along with us. We reached a river that was higher than we were tall. All I remember was fear as we crossed, still all tied together as a group.

Once I escaped from the LRA and I just ran. I had no plan, I just ran and ran until I could go no further. I thought I was free but they caught up with me and beat me as they brought me back to do their work of terrorising. That's all we seemed to ever do.

Quite a few years later the Ugandan police found us and arrested us. It was in prison that I found peace. A Christian group was advocating for the education of ex-child soldiers so that on release we could have some skills to get employment. I learnt how to lay cement & bricks, build structures like houses and walls and I learnt about Jesus. I could not forgive myself before this for all that I had done and I could not forgive those who had made me do it either. It was only through having Jesus in my life and knowing that he takes all that sin and pain away by his work on the cross that I could let it all go and be who I am today.

When I was released from prison I tried to return to my village. I am a Cholie by tribe and I went back to see if any of my people were there, but no one would accept me home. Too many of my tribe were fearful of what we had done in our past and wouldn't let us come home. That is why I came here to Soroti, but now I feel happy to be able to minister to boys who have been put through what I was put through. Together, with the help of our mighty God, we can strive to let go of the past and make decisions to change our future, knowing that God alone will come again to judge the living and the dead, to bring justice, and that I am covered and protected by the blood of Jesus Christ."  

This is the testimony of one of the members that I heard on Saturday's bike ride "Ride for refuge" to raise awareness for ex-child soldiers. We rode 25km to the Obalinga mass grave site, where 360 people are buried. They are all people who died in the LRA insurgence on the 16th June 2003. When we got there the site was all over grown with weeds and so we had to hoe and slash the whole area (hard work in the African sun!). We then had a memorial ceremony and cycled back to our base to have lunch together.

 Many of the men who cycled have similar stories as Dennis, but many have not been able to adjust to normal life again like he has. Many are in severe inner turmoil, suffering greatly over their sense of identity (as rejection from family members and tribe members is very common), over guilt and over anger. Many are angry with God, not believing that he was suffering along with them as he watched every evil and wicked deed they were a part of, not knowing that he is the opposite to all of that, he is love. Many don't know what to do with themselves and see Jesus as their only hope but don't know where to go from there.

So much prayer and wisdom is needed for them and for the patient souls who are working with them, walking with them each step of the way, hearing their stories, and letting God heal them and bring them back to Him, for His purposes. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Small animal surgery at Dr Val's


Wednesday 26/9/12

 Today Dr Liz from Oregan in the US, and I did 8 surgeries (2 neuters and 6 spays) and yes, I got my birthday wish, I completed a whole spay and neuter, solo. Most of the others I did half of, and Liz did the other half, as I am not very efficient at it yet.
For the vets interested out there, here is some info on doing surgery on an office desk :) We did it all 'clean' as opposed to aseptic. It was 'field work' so we did the surgeries on the only space available, on someone's desk in the CLIDE* office! We gave the dogs Acepromazine first to chill them out a little, then a mix of ketamine and Valium (50% of each in the required dose, IV) and then gave half of that dose again once the dog was prepped for surgery and we were beginning and then as needed, we topped up with Propofol.
 On the field, as they say, you use whatever you have and these all worked really well! The animals went down and woke up really smoothly. Antibiotics were given afterwards because the surgery was 'clean' not aseptic and because they will most likely be rolling around in bacteria-ridden dirt before too long.

The cats were given what is called 'kitty magic' - I think the drug companies came up with that one- which is 0.1ml each of Torbugesic, Ketamine and Dexdomitor for every 5kg. Ooh and I learnt a new trick it's called the 'clove-hitch knot' and I've used it with tying up horses and boats before but never seen it in a surgery, so that was cool to learn. Hopefully we'll get to do some more next week as well and when we go to Karamoja on Wed next week, there as well :)

 *CLIDE stands for Community Livestock-Integrated Development (consultancy), it has four offices, two in Karamoja, one here in Soroti and one in Kampala. It is another Christian Veterinarian Mission outlet here in Uganda.



Friday, 28 September 2012

Veterinary Symposium in Kampala

17-23rd September Oliotya!

 Heya, from Kampala, Uganda at Mackerere University, where I have spent this last week, listening to lectures, meeting other veterinary students and doing surgery practicals in the afternoons. The program has been run by the Ugandan Christian Veterinary Mission and has been fantastic fun; learning, laughing and loving each other (as my new US friends say). Five Americans flew over for the time (some are staying a bit longer as well) on a mission trip, they're mostly small animal veterinary surgeons who have been doing the lectures & surgeries (they brought all the vet materials we're using over with them!).

The week has also been a great opportunity to hear of the faith of the students and to fellowship with them. The lectures have been on many different topics, ranging from 'client communication' to complex surgeries to common skin diseases. In most of the lectures we've looked at the theoretical side of certain surgeries; cystotomy, gastrotomy, enterotomy, intestinal anastamoses, speys, neuters, opthamological surgeries, even fluid therapy for post operation, etc.

The students seemed really excited that I was a student too (as all the other mzungus we're real docs haha) and very interested to hear what vet work in Karamoja is like! Many of the students still hold to their culture of segregation of the Karamajong even subconsciously looking down on them as lesser than they are, which comes out when I speak to them about my work. Back home we have such a culture of being politically correct and even if you secretly think badly of someone you would never show it or say it. Of course, ignorance in what the K'jong are really like (these students and most of the Ugandans living outside of Karamoja have never been or met a traditional K'jong, they just know what they've been told of them) will always breed distance and even disdain or fear. That seems to be a fact of culture clashes throughout history and throughout the world today, even a funny example of this is the way the Karamajong harshly judge a woman for wearing pants. To the women down here at the bottom of Uganda in Kampala, wearing pants is a sign of an educated woman. To the Karamajong, wearing pants is saying that you are basically a prostitute (no joke, from their mouths not mine), showing the shape of your legs is very provocative. A simple thing like that means two very different things to two different people of the same country.
Getting to know the yanks and also the two new couples joining CLIDE (one couple are from the US, the other from England) has also been a real highlight of the week. They are a really jovial group of people & we get along like houses-a-fire :) Usually we have the dining room to ourselves at meal times because our group is so loud laughing and joking around with each other! Plus there is 11 or more of us at any one time together too which is fun after being used to 2 plus (Summer & I plus our local friends) in Nabilatuk.

Outreach.... So on Thursday afternoon we drove about 5 hours to a village called Namaingo (pronounced Namai-yingo) for large animal treatments (cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, etc.) and outreach (talking to anyone interested about Jesus). This village is classified as a 'hard to reach' area in Christian circles which just means an area of a high Muslim population and possibly hostile to hearing about Jesus, which we saw in reality a few times.

Our purpose was simply to show the love of Jesus by serving them in a way that means a LOT to them, i.e. treating their animals, and if anyone was interested, talking about Jesus too! The first morning, I almost got heatstroke because we were treating from 9am to 1pm in direct sun (there were no trees around) and I hadn't brought my akubra down with me. But we treated heaps of animals, saw a lot of Trypanosomyasis, East Coast Fever, Anaplasmosis, lumpy skin disease, mites (mange/scabies), ticks, lice, ringworm, etc. Also an aborting cow, which we narrowed down the diagnosis to leptospirosis or brucellosis. A cow with a dislocated hip; we looked so funny, about 10 of us trying to rotate & push the hip to pop the femur back in, but sadly we couldn't get it  in :( But the small animal vets assure me that it is hard enough to do in a dog, let alone a 200kg cow.  We tick sprayed and dewormed everything (until we ran out of medicine) and just had a great time. I was able to teach the students a lot too which was awesome from my work with all these diseases all year and they also didn't have very safe animal handling skills, so we talked about where to stand when you are injecting in the flank muscles, etc. They were so much fun, every morning and evening we'd have a worship singing and praise time and I can't help thinking that when I go home worship won't be the same, Africans are so passionate :)

So, in the afternoon of the first day (Friday) we were going to two villages (our group was split up) but at the first location, there were no animals! Then we heard that there was a rumour being spread around by the villagers that we were going to kill their animals if we treated them. So we went to the second location and we got the same story and some of the students said, maybe we should just go back to town but Dr Val disagreed and said, "let's see why God has brought us here". So we sat down with the town chief/mayor and some local council members (and the whole village in addition crowded around us) and introduced ourselves and what we were there to do. It transpired that the story originated from the fact that there was a veterinary group that came to them a few years ago distributing vaccinations to their animals. The vaccines however were no good/seriously dodgy (probably well expired or poorly made) and they made the injection site necrotic (dead) and the animals got a systemic infection and died!
So, wow that's really bad and we had to do some damage control and assure them that we were not going to bring them bad medicines. But eep! I couldn't believe such a thing had happened!
That day I didn't do much treating of animals but I spoke to the people who had gathered there and got to know them and they wanted to know why we had come, where I was from, and a few of them wanted to become Christians! (they call it being 'born again' here - based on the fact that when you become a Christian your life changes and you put off your old self and put on your new self, like being born again..because so many people here call themselves Christians when they really aren't) so we prayed with them and it was so amazing to see the smiles on their faces! We talked with them about getting a group of new elievers together to pray regularly and fellowship together. Christianity is not a solo sport haha.

All in all it was a fantastic fantastic week! I joked with another full time missionary there how much I loved gate crashing other people's short term missions 'cause they are just so much fun! A few of the visiting vets are flying back to America tonight and I'm really gunna miss them! One of them was Paris Hilton's vet (not the reason I am going to miss her however haha). This afternoon we drive to Soroti to do some more vet work with the remainder of the mission group and we'll then continue on to Moroto/Kangole in Karamoja for a bit more. You may remember this is the place I spent some time with Dr Val and CLIDE and also did the brucellosis testing. For my birthday I secretly hoping for a solo surgery here in Africa. I have already done half a spay and half a neuter, so hopes are high! 6 days to go :)


Extra Ordinary Women of Uganda

Extra Ordinary - Significant Women of Uganda.
"I love to catch the sunrise. I love the multifaceted aspect of being feminine. I love God. He inspires me to see the best in life, people, myself and my work." Jennifer Mypisi. Designer/Architect

"If I could speak to my younger self, I'd say; "Baby girl you can be all that and then some. Give life time. Give yourself time." Dr Paula Mundari. Physician.

"While in exile I had to carry my child on my back and walk to the market. I'd learnt that the high status I'd enjoyed before was - an addition to me and not who I truly am." Florence Nakyoni. Human Rights Activist.

"My day of courage dawned when I met President Amin. I didn't know whether I would come back alive or dead. I know who I am because of the commitments I have made in my life." Juliana Bezuidenhout. Girl Guide/Presidential Advisor.

"Every day is unique and when it is gone, it is gone forever." Maria Kiwanuka. Entrepreneur.

"I come from a strong line of women. I look at my grandmother, my aunts and my mum, and I know that I too can make it. I am emotional and intuitive." Gloria Wavumono. Fashion Designer.

"God comes first. Fear Him and have integrity." Leticia Kikonyogo. Deputy Chief Justice.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Karamoja Wedding

Back in August Summer and I went to an interesting cultural experience, a Catholic Karamajong wedding. The women in the animal skins are relatives of the bride's mother, who danced for most of the ceremony in the traditional Karamojong way, moving their whole bodies from side to side swinging the skins too. The place was packed, the whole town wanting to be part of the celebration. including us! A very fun day.