Geelong to Uganda

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

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Then there were two…

Since taking Miriam back to Jinja for her flight home to Germany, Summer and I have been lone rangering it here in Nabilatuk. It has been good so far. We ran two days of Neem Oil production with ten local women, some of whom knew how to make the oil and some who didn’t. Neem is a local tree, originally from India, but is amazingly useful for livestock, plant and human health; treating skin diseases and wounds in animals, malaria in humans and is a fertiliser for agroforestry purposes. It is a very labour intensive process, so apart from just having fun with these women it was good to have a large team to make the oil over two days. Everything was done by hand; grinding the husks off with stones to extract the inner Neem seeds, then laying them out in the sun to dry more, then grinding those seeds to make an oily powder. This is then mixed with a little warm water to make something resembling a paste mix. The oil is then squeezed out of the “paste mix” with our fists.
Me & Neem

Day 1 Neem Oil Group
We had our first production day on the 17th of July but our second one was wasn’t until the 27th as we went to visit Dr Val again who had with her three Vet students from the US on a short term trip. We spent three days with the crew taking blood samples from the cattle and testing for Brucellosis in the area. So much fun!
I got heaps of practice taking blood from both the jugular and tail veins and had a lot of fun with the other students too! It’s crazy how similar Vet students are across the globe J.

Brucellosis testing cattle...amongst the flies
We went on Monday and came back on Thursday 26th for our KACHEP weekly bible study group.  I led it this week on the book of Jonah and we only did chapter one so everyone was left hanging as to what was going to happen to Jonah stuck in the belly of the whale! It was really great to discuss with the group what we can learn and obey from every bible story we hear. We can learn a lot from this story of how important it is to God that the world hears about him. Plus it’s a super exciting story of God’s power.

The following day was our second Neem oil production day and we finished up with two litres which was more than I thought we’d get. Yay!! I also took the opportunity to bible story at the beginning of the day with the story of Martha and Mary. The women in this culture identify so much with Martha. She’s a hard worker; preparing for her guests and her family, while her sister Mary is seen is a lazy character as refusing to help host is just shameful. So Jesus’ words come as a shock to the Karamajong women. Mary listening to Jesus talk is better than making his supper?! The women still understand, however, that it is better to go to church and listen to the word of God than to work, given the choice, but still it is hard for them to understand at first.
Neem Oil production
The end result!
Both Summer and I have been sick lately so please pray for us because it is so difficult to continue with any schedule when all you feel like doing is curling up in bed.  We also hope to do some more discipleship with the Neem women, so pray that they be interested in learning more about God.

Thank him for the blessing the KACHEP bible study has been and how good it’s going. Everyone is really opening up, sharing testimonies, the discussion comes easily and everyone is really learning a lot and having fun at the same time. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, God is keeping us safe and loved here in Nabilatuk. Love Mel

PS: I apologise if I haven’t replied to any emails, internet is not happening at the moment so thanks to mum for taking dictation over the phone and posting this blog!

Monday, 16 July 2012

More of Alyce's photos

Alyce's Photographic impressions of Karamoja

Accomodation: Summer & Melissa on the left.

The path from house to meeting room

Meeting room: cooking & eating

Bread making - rare treat
Preparing the stove

Washing up dishes

Washing Clothes
Visiting the market

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Prayer Points

15th July 2012 Prayer Points

Please be praying for Summer and I as we head back to Karamoja for:

            - safe passage and fair roads

             - solid learning as we visit the OPC missionaries again on Monday and spend the day learning the ins and outs of our wonderful 4WD vehicle from Bob the amazing handyman mechanic there.
            - me as I work with 10 women from the community next week to revive ethnoveterinary medicine in KACHEP starting with Neem oil production. Wisdom to make this project sustainable and something the community can take on themselves and benefit from with the eventual aim of not needing KACHEP to fund them in it.

            - opportunities to speak truth and light into our community and where God places us every step of the way, continued storying and bible study groups; that God would open the doors for us to spend more time in the manyatas/villages than we have been.

           - praise and glory to God for our Thursday Bible study with all the KACHEP members, that it is going really well and that as we read the Bible together in English and Karamajong, the Word is speaking into the lives of everyone who comes and is clearly growing them in their faith and knowledge of our great God and Saviour.

            - the growing friendships between us and the Karamojan people of Nabilatuk

             - Miriam, as she heads back to Germany and for wisdom and guidance and fun times with friends and family as she finishes her studies there.

             - Alyce and the blessing she was and the fun we had together (love you sis)

            - Tom and Jean in America

            - partnerships with new friends at OPC and CLIDE (Dr Val)

             - raising up new team members for the harvest of Karamoja

             - praise and immense gratitude for everyone here in Uganda supporting us and for everyone overseas supporting us; Calvary Chapel, esp. Bev and Jesse Rich, CVM, esp. Fred Van Gorkom, Pioneers International, Unichurch (Wagga Wagga), Waurn Ponds Community Church at home in Geelong, and all our friends and families.

Alyce in Karamoja

14 July 2012
Last week my sister Alyce came to visit us in Nabilatuk! I want to thank her for being an amazing help and blessing to me and to the team. She arrived to find Summer and Miriam malaria stricken and most of KACHEP out or sick too. It was such a crazy week with so many fun things that happened!

I had just spent the week with Dr Val and upon hearing that my beloved teammates were practically dying in Nabilatuk and so probably wouldn't make it to come get us, Val and I went and picked Alyce up (Mon 2nd) from the small airstrip in Moroto where she was flying into. So 2 hours from Nabilatuk and not sure how we're going to get back there, we hear that Miriam had driven up to a hospital near us to get tested for malaria and bruscellosis. So we spent the morning in Moroto, Alyce did some souvenir shopping and we had lunch while we waited to get another update of the situation. Miriam came to Moroto, picked us up and somehow we arrived safely in Nabilatuk later that afternoon.

Miriam's malaria count was 180. People have malaria at anything higher than zero. People feel sick and unable to get out of bed at a count of 4. Miriam had 180 and drove 240 km that day, she shouldn't have been walking or talking let alone driving. Hmm the things you discover after the fact.

The day after, Miriam was on an intravenous drip with malaria medication and fluids for extreme dehydration, rotated for three days. On the second night the IV line came out and when she went back to the clinic to get it put back in, the nurse had to jab her in about 10 different places because her main veins had mostly all collapsed. It was a scary time for all of us, especially Summer and I in fear for her, let's put it that way.

So Alyce came in perfect timing and we were still able to spend quality time together despite the crazy circumstances.

Alyce came bearing gifts. I've got a licorice allsort in my mouth.
(in case you were wondering)
 Wednesday was, for all who are American or who have ever watched an American TV show would know, 4th of July, aka Independence Day. Alyce and I tried to make the day as special as we could for Summer. We have of course never celebrated the day so didn't really know what to do but we still had fun. Together the three of us (between checking on Miriam) drew an American flag (50 stars & 13 stripes and all!), made garlic bread and pizza for dinner and cinnamon rolls and a peach pie for dessert (which took most of the afternoon to do as all we have in the way of a kitchen here is a small fire), had fun singing national anthems together, Summer sung hers very passionately and played cards (4 corners, which became a game Alyce loved to play but never won until the last day she was here :). 
Summer, Alyce and I making the American flag

Alyce's swishy skirt.
On Friday we started a project that we'd been wanting to do for a while but was catalysed by the fact that we wanted to share it with Alyce who would be leaving the following Wednesday and Miriam who would be leaving the following weekend. So we got together with our Karamojan girls (Nabor, Valentina and Christine) and we all sewed traditional K'jong skirts! See photos :) We bought 7 large cloths of blanket-like material all of different patterns to make 7 skirts for us all. Working together we cut the blanket in rectangle panels and sat down and made 7 skirts that had 14 panels in each, all completed in a day! It was sooooo much fun! We are officially Karamajong now with our swishy skirts :) The best part about it was seeing Valentina, Nabor and Christine really get into it as well. They were just as excited, if not more excited about the whole thing!

This is me choosing the best cuts of donkey meat for dinner.
On Saturday we went to a local market and bought donkey meat for dinner. We were planning to go out to a nearby mountain and have a picnic under the great expanse of K'jong stars but then Miriam (who was on the mend by this stage) got a message inviting us to another 4th of July celebration (only it was the 7th of July) with some missionaries from America with the Presbyterian church who live about an hour away. From now on I will refer to them as the OPC missionaries for convenience :)

Our cooking stove.
So change of plans! We took our donkey meat with us but they had prepared hotdogs, so there was plenty of food to go around :)
Sunday was another crazy fun out of the blue opportunity in which Summer, Alyce and I went to a prison in Namalu, about 1hr from Nabilatuk. I gave my testimony of how Jesus has changed my life and Summer spoke about Zacchaeus the tax collector and how, although he was a thief,  he was forgiven when he made the choice to change his life and give back what he had stolen, asking Jesus for forgiveness, (Luke 19:1-10) "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." I won't mention that we didn't get home til around 9:30pm because we put petrol in our diesel land cruiser and then had to empty and replace it all again. Fun times!!
On Tuesday the three of us went to a local primary school and we were warmly welcomed with a song from the students with bongo drums and impressive harmonies. Alyce is a primary school teacher at home and so had brought 200 pencils that the students from her school had donated to give to this Karamajong school. We spent some time with the whole school (around 200 students) in their assembly and then we went into a classroom that had 20 kids of equivalent grading to Alyce's Australian students.
 Alyce's students had all drawn pictures for these children and wrote a few sentences about themselves. Alyce had taken photos of each of her students and attached them to the drawings so the K'jong could see their Australian student counterparts. It was nice to see their faces devouring these photos of fair, blonde haired, blue eyed children and read about their families and pets and favourite sports. We got the kids to write messages back to the Aussies with things like, My name is..., I have... people in my family, In my garden is... (all the children will have family gardens they work in with maize or sorghum or beans in them, etc.), at home we have...animals, etc. Then they also drew drawings and we took photos of them with their pictures. It was really fun to have such a reciprocal activity and I can't wait to hear what Alyce's Australian students say when they see cute Karamojan children holding up the drawings they have drawn! It'll probably blow their minds to think of their drawings all the way in Africa!

Tuesday night we had a massive party together with the KACHEP members and the four of us singing and dancing.

 We were not really celebrating but commemorating Miriam for her time serving in Karamoja and also saying goodbye to Alyce as well, as she flew out the following morning. I'm not going to lie, I cried when she left; having family visit you in such a place as Karamoja gives you a teasing taste of home that is both wonderful and horribly sad when the time comes to an end.

For a short time we were four! Now as I write this I am down country in Jinja and when we return to Karamoja tomorrow (Sunday), we will be two.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Meeting new people and just having fun.

18 June to 02 July 2012

I spent this week in Kangole, (Payak District) Karamoja, two hours from Nabilatuk. I spent it with a Vet,  yay!!! It was an awesome opportunity to learn from another CVM missionary who has been around the traps (to say the least) and about what she does here.

Dr Val has seen Karamoja at it's worse, seen Uganda at it's scariest and saddest. Seen it at it's best and been here long enough to have made it her home and to be welcomed by the locals as if it is her home.

She has worked hard to bring peace between warring tribes, bringing a start to poverty alleviation in her community by joining with the people and joining with the church here to partner with what God is already doing.

They strive to equip and empower the cattle people and tribe leaders in effective animal health training and how they can combine improving the health of their livestock, with poverty alleviation for themselves and their communities.

Training select Karamajong to be trainers and train in this way; even passing on the knowledge to pass on knowledge.

In this way the ministry continues without her needing to be everywhere, all the time, so that it is sustainable and avoids creating dependency.

The animal health workers are in an extensive training program, with record keeping of their progress and to keep them accountable of their work as a business. They can treat the common diseases for their communities and when there is a difficult disease case she is there to advise and consult. They are encouraged and empowered to work for themselves without having to relying on NGOs or begging, to survive.

In her past 15 or so years here, Dr Val has learnt all she knows about the local medicines, from the elders of clans and tribes who have been using this traditional medicine all their lives. She had researched the medicinal properties of these plants and researched the research done on these medicines. Together with the local people, the organisation turns the 'crude' forms of the medicines used by the locals into the most effective products they can be. Again, the aim is to give this knowledge over to the local people to own and reap benefits from. It is not about her or the organisation. It is about helping make what is already being used to be the most beneficial for the people that were already using it to begin with. Also, protecting their ownership of it, the intellecual property of the K'jong and enabling the production and sale of the medicines even on an international scale.
So the animal health workers use this medicine as well as incorporating western medicines such as penicillin streptomycin, etc. to treat sick animals in their communities.

While I was with the group there I also learnt the importance of not doing things for people which they can do for themselves. It sounds obvious but there is the real temptation to come in and run the show or assume that it could be done in a better way. The goal should always be joining with the people, allowing them to be participants and also realising the amount that we can learn from them about their own lives, in communities that are in deep poverty.

Other things of the week included

            - making paper beads with HIV affected people in a church group. (microenterprise project)

            - agroforestry (working that hoe)

- visiting local kraals.

(cattle communities of 5000+ cows guarded by the Ugandan army)

- learning more of the history of Karamajong from new K'jong friends and how raiding began

            - black stone making (medicine for snake bites)

            - animal treatments (see photos)

            - Travelling to the community called Iriri, discussing an upcoming brucellosis and edepal research trial with the locals. Edepal or Prickly Pear increases milk production in animals and is also known to be a treatment for diabetes.

            - Learning about the peace communities between the piyan (the Nabilituk tribe) and bukora (the tribe here in Kangole, Payak).

            - Attending the local Anglican church service, very fun and vibrant :)

            - Climbing Mt Heart and battling through really painful burr grass sticking to my socks and scratching up my legs.

A fun week :)

My sister Alyce is coming to visit next week!!!

Back in Nabilatuk

18 June 2012

So we arrived back in Karamoja after our break and had a great week being welcomed warmly back by everyone and slowly getting into the swing of our lifestyle here again. Some of the highlights included:

            - Castrations of bulls over 4 years old with only a burdizzo at hand.

            - Abscess lancing on a goat and squeezing out soooo much pus that was inside.

            - Having tea with random people in the community, something everyone loves to do here and of more value to the people than most anything else you could do.

On Friday morning the local tailor (Peter) dropped by after sewing some curtains for our new stone house abode which Summer is making into a home away from home. Peter speaks relatively good English and is one of those old men who just love to tell stories about anything even when they have no relevance to the topic of discussion at the time, often leaving you confused. At one point we were talking about where we all originate from, discussing that America and Australia are on the other side of the world but Germany is only halfway on the other side of the world.
Peter got really excited when I said I was from Aus and said "You are the land of the kangaroos! Tell me, is the kangaroo more like a cow or a baboon?" Hmm... haha, how do you reply to that? I said well it doesn't stand on 4 legs like the cow but it doesn't walk like a baboon either, it hops, and unlike either, it carries it's young in a pouch on its front but like a cow it eats grass, etc, etc. haha :) So you can imagine how the conversation continued until I was told to go and get a picture of a kangaroo for him to see it instead of trying to explain. Probably the funniest question I have been asked here though!

            - Anaesthetic practice with Mojo: So our cat, Mojo, appeared to have broken her leg the other morning. As I am still the only 'vet' person here I figured I should probably try to do something about this. I spoke to Jean in America and she gave me some advice on sedatives to put her to sleep so that I could fix and set the bone, put a splint on the leg and she also suggested a reversal drug to bring her up out of sedation again. I got the medications that she suggested were good for cats (you have to be careful with cats more than dogs); a cocktail of ketamine, butorphanol and domitor with antisedan as the reversal. I weighed Mojo and did the calculations for the correct dosages and pretended to have confidence in what I was doing (more for the sake of mama Miriam than for anyone else) as I prepared everything for the surgery and administered the sedatives. Of the vet things I have done alone here so far, this was the coolest. That is until Mojo woke up again.
copyright M.Lejeune, 2012
So to begin with, within 2 minutes of injecting the sedatives, Mojo was fast asleep. I had Miriam listening to her heart and Summer helping me with the leg. In half an hour the splint was on her hindleg and it was all bandaged. Then she was moved to a quieter place and was given the 'wake up' injection (the technical term). Then within another 5 minutes she had her head up and was looking around the room from the floor where we'd put her on a towel. She seemed shocked at the turn of events that suddenly she had this bulky thing wrapped around her leg but to our suspense she remained still. It didn't take her long to get up and start staggering around the room. It also didn't take her long to bite into the splint and her leg furiously to try and get the splint off. A feat she soon achieved.
copyright M.Lejeune, 2012
 So we had an angry and confused cat on our hands, recently relieved of the weight of the splint, she suddenly turned into a bouncy ball. Man, I have never seen a cat in such a frenzy. It appeared the pain-killer effects of the sedative were still in use as she threw herself around the room trying to escape. If you've ever seen a youtube video of a cat leaping around the room even to the extent of jumping onto a ceiling fan you'll be able to picture the situation. She jumped a metre off the ground in her drowsy state, with her broken leg, onto the window sill, through the metal bars, between the glass louvers, trapping herself between the window and us. Not happy Jan. It took an hour and a half or holding her still, wrapped in a towel to calm her down. I now understand why vets put animals in cages after surgeries!

So in some ways, we are back to square one with poor Mojo. In another light it was not a complete waste of time. I learnt a lot about sedating a cat, about fixing a broken bone and about restraining a cat. But still... poor Mojo.

    - Village life
 On Wednesday evening we went to Kasiapus, a village about 20 minutes drive away that we often go to visit and tell Bible stories. They are very eager to have us pray for their village and we are very eager to oblige and disciple them to know more about our amazing God and for their lives to change from the heart outwards. When we arrived, we realised that we were not the only visitors there! Three Kenyan missionaries had come for a few days as one of them knew the village elder Olum (who works with KACHEP) from ages back. We had a lot of fun altogether chatting, I helped the elder’s wife Maria with milking the cows that had just come into manyata for the night.
  Miriam played dressups with an old woman who brought out her traditional Karamajong skirt-like heirloom that is worn on special occasions. The woman had worn it for her wedding ceremony so it was very old and unique. It isn't commonly worn anymore by the young women of this generation when they are wed. It was a soft leather wrap-around cloth, similar to the material of cowboy chaps with beautiful African beads all over it. After all of this quirkiness, we sat down and Summer told the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal from 1 Kings 18. We had been discussing with Mukisa over lunch the past couple of days the issue in Africa of 'witch doctors' and people calling on other spiritual forces in nasty rituals and practices. In our area it is not commonly talked about but it is there. The topic arose because one of the women who makes lunch for KACHEP, stole 70,000 Ugandan shillings from the office till. This is not the first time she has taken items from KACHEP but grace & warnings were issued and usually she brings things back. Olum, who is one of the local animal health workers for KACHEP said to Mukisa when he heard of the theft, that he could put his herbs around her manyata to curse her. Mukisa then sternly asked what he meant and that he didn't want any of that business here.

So through our discussions and some prayer, Summer came on this story which talks about people who were worshipping a man-made god they called Baal as well as pretending to worship our God, the God of the Israelites. LORD, Father, Son Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.

So Elijah puts the prophets of Baal to the test and basically says right, stop wavering between 2 opinions, if the LORD is God, follow him, but if Baal is God follow him. They say nothing. Elijah then suggests they get 2 bulls to sacrifice, one for the prophets of Baal and the other for Elijah, but not burn them straight away. They are to both prepare their sacrifices and then pray to their opposing Gods; Elijah for the LORD and the prophets for Baal, praying that their God would answer them and send fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice up. Whichever bull-offering is burnt, that is the true God of the world. The prophets of Baal spend all day praying to Baal to burn the offering they have made for him. At noon, Elijah even taunts them by saying "Shout louder! Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or travelling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened!" So it becomes evening and they've still received no answer.

Then Elijah says, ok, it's my turn. He restores the altar that had been torn down by the prophets of Baal. Putting 12 stones, for the 12 tribes of Israel, around it and digging a trench for the wood and bull-offering, Elijah then fills 4 jars of water and pours it over the bull and wood, he does this three times til the whole area and even the trench is soaked and filled with water.

Elijah then steps forward and prays to God "LORD God, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and I am your servant. Answer me so that these people will know you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then fire from God the LORD falls and burns up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and also the water in the trench. When all the people see this they fall to the ground and cry, "the LORD - he is God! the LORD - he is God".

This is a story about the impossibility of worshipping multiple gods. If you are worshipping something else in your life, as well as God, then you are not really worshipping God at all. You are either with God or against him. There are lessons to be learnt about God, humanity and ourselves from this story.

Next week I am visiting another Christian Veterinary Missionary who works 2 hours from where we live. She has just come back from furlough in America and I hope to learn heaps about how she mixes vet work and mission work :) She is currently organising to do a study on the number of animals affected by brucellosis in the area and also the effects of a local plant on milk production. She is working alongside the Karamajong to turn the knowledge that they have known and used for centuries into studied and published results to commercialise local plant products and have them seen as recognised effective medicine for humans and animals, protecting the intellectual property of the Karamajong people so it is they who reap the benefits of the work.