Partnering with Friends in Uganda
You know what it’s like to see a friend you haven’t seen in a year, don’t you? It’s a moment of great joy, when time stands still.
Stepping out of the airport in Entebbe – 7,000 miles away -- there stood our friend Musumba (Pastor) Fred Muyimbwa, welcoming us, as he always does.
This was our 16th journey to Uganda since 2006. Friends, our stereotypes of Africa have to be questioned. It’s a complex, multi-faceted place. Soaring buildings in the cities…grass huts in some rural villages. Folks with university degrees…people who can’t read. Black-topped roads…bumpy cow paths. Generous, compassionate people, and like anywhere, folks who are still developing these characteristics.
The work we’re called to do with partners like Fred and many others is in places where no other group seems to be helping, primarily in rural areas. And the work is holistic:We try to support sisters and brothers in the areas of clean drinking water, health care, economic opportunities, agriculture, education, and spiritual issues. (These correspond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals). We try to lift up, not enable.
For example, due to the efforts of East Randolph UMC, we were able to put a well in Kalagala, near Luwero. The people there are wonderful but it’s a place struggling with grinding poverty. There’s no safe clean drinking water anywhere nearby. The water people drank came from a hand dug pond. Our mukwano – friend – Fred was sickened for a month by drinking from it. But thanks to Peter, the manager of E+ Well Drillers, safe water is now flowing for hundreds of children, women and men.
In the same area, we distributed 400 mosquito nets to fight the scourge of malaria, which is endemic there.
In Katosi, Musumba Jimy Tendo needed a new wheelchair as his old one was narrow and worn out. Buying a wheelchair in Uganda is not an easy task – it had to be purchased and transported from Kampala to Katosi but the efforts were deeply worthwhile.
In Awkamor village, Pallisa District, surgery was arranged for a father named Simon. People there live in simple thatched roof homes. Doctors put in plates and screws to repair his leg. It had been broken for about a year, but Akwamor is a very community and the funds just weren’t there for his health care.
In the same area, we arranged for three days of an agricultural seminar for well over 100 local subsistence farmers. Over the past year, pests have been threatening to eat their crops so our group has helped with eradication efforts.
Pastors, in general, don’t draw a salary out in the countryside. In Kavule – where a well went in last year – Pastor Charles has about six pigs to help support his family. This summer the structure was doubled in size. Elsewhere, two women’s empowerment groups were given two sewing machines each, as well as materials and instructor supports to help women learn a trade and develop an income to supplement the food from their small farms.
On the education front, there’s a school in Katosi that continues to grow. A new office/admin building was constructed and the classrooms built last year have been equipped with doors and windows and 80 percent plastered! We hire local builders to do the work; Ugandans don’t need us to swing a hammer – there are plenty of builders looking for work. And at Katosi, Lindsey from Centerville UMC conducted teacher training. Forty five desks are being built. And many games of volleyball happened!
Similar to supporting the efforts of local well drillers and builders, people in Uganda don’t need Americans to come and preach – they’re effectively doing that on their own. We see our role as supportive; this summer we helped with church construction in Mukono and Namutumba (where next year’s well will be dug). In Mukono, the congregation made many bricks; we donated cement and the walls of an expanded church have gone up! In Namutumba, the fellowship had already bought a piece of land so we helped with construction of a simple temporary church.
There are many, many more stories from this summer. Funds for these activities were donated by big hearted people at Centerville UMC and individuals from many places, including Sardinia, Rushford and Friendship UMCs.
Working on various projects is fulfilling but the real joy is just being together with our friends. Sharing meals in Musumba Jimy Tendo’s house. He who contracted polio at the age of eight, worked as a blacksmith, and became a pastor. By the way, the word Tendo means “Praise” --Jimy’s Pastor Praise! A number of partners over the past two years have helped build him a modest house, adapted to his wheelchair. A favorite image of mine is Jimy’s living room, Ugandans and Americans sitting around, laughing, eating matoke and Irish and omucheri (plaintains, potatoes and rice)! Or celebrating head teacher Betty’s birthday. Relaxing. Safe. Peaceful. Blessed. Christ present.
These journeys are about friendship, about walking with one another over the long hau
Anything accomplished on these missions is due to the efforts of many people, including Muyimbwa Fred, his wife Robinnah, Kiviiri John, Ssuubi, Masembe Micheal, his wife Juliet, Foster, and many others. And, of course, thanks to the loving God who walks with all of us, all the time, whether we recognize it or not.
If you’d like a copy of the full report from this summer’s journey, contact me us and we’ll be glad to email you one! Mukama akaway omukisa – may God bless you!