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!!!!!!!