Category Archives: Trains / Planes / Emotoka

Getting from A to B

The roads of Uganda. They are nothing like that of Kenya, Tanzania or Rwanda’s roads. Uganda is known, throughout all Africa, for its horrible roadways. To maintain these roads is not an easy task. Uganda has two reliable rainy seasons every year. The first year we were in Zzana and they documented that in the month of April it had rained over 200 inches in 30 days. That is some serious water. So, if the road is not paved or paved correctly, after a single rainy season it can become unusable. When we first came to Uganda in 2013, the first couple months of driving and riding my bike were adventurous and even fun. But experience and wisdom soon revealed to me that it is flat out dangerous. Many ‘missionaries’ I’ve met in Uganda have chosen to stay clear of riding their own motorcycle, due to some bad experience they had in the first year of living here. God has no doubt kept me safe as He continues to reveal bits of Uganda road knowledge to me.  Many Ugandan drivers have very little driving experience and tend to jump behind the wheel with no drivers permit or testing.  I noticed this inexperience the first day on the roads.

a driver tried to make a U-turn in front of us and, driving a stick shift, said they thought they were in reverse but were in 5th gear.
a driver tried to make a U-turn in front of us and, driving a stick shift, said they thought they were in reverse but were in 5th gear.

Now that we are near the Nile River, we have partnered up with a village called Kirugu. Our number one goal with the people of Kirugu is to equip them well with the Word of God.

Luganda Bibles. Currently the biggest need in our ministry. Each Bible is 32,000 Uganda Schillings - that's $10. If you ever feel called to give for Bible Outreach, we gladly except donations to make this one happen.
Luganda Bibles. Currently the biggest need in our ministry. Each Bible is 32,000 Uganda Schillings – that’s $10. If you ever feel called to give for Bible Outreach, we gladly except donations to make this one happen.

I am currently meeting with a group of men in the evenings to go over our relationships, and what the Bible says about them. ‘Men and their wives’ – ‘Men and God’ – ‘Men and work’ – ‘Men and the world’….the discussions are epic. I should actually be recording some of the topics to document some of the problems they face – nothing like the western world.

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Discussing having multiple wives at once, and what the bible says concerning that topic.

My family and I attend Sunday church service out in Kirugu at New Hope Christian Church. To get the family there, we drive an awesome 1998 Toyota Hiace Van (Big Bertha, as my kids have named it). She has taken us all over East Africa.  Big Bertha has been the ideal vehicle for our family. With some help from a Ugandan welder I fabricated a trailer for her to pull around Uganda. We also had to design and fabricate a tow package for the van, as it didn’t come with one. For you trailer pullers in the states this is no big deal. I remember strapping a trailer to my first car when I was 15, a Chevy Cavalier Station Wagon – some good memories. But to pull a trailer here is unheard of. I had to get a special Ugandan License. And I have only ever seen one other trailer being pulled here in all of Uganda. So, I’m pretty proud of it.

This awesome trailer has hauled my bike, pigs, pigs food, timber, camping gear, bins...
This awesome trailer hauled my bike, pigs, pigs food, timber, camping gear, bins…

Unfortunately it seems Uganda and I have been pushing her to her limits. I keep forgetting she was built for Tokyo Japan and not the depths of Uganda. On a dry day, I have little concern about driving the van but I’m quickly reminded on the way out to the village that she goes through a lot.

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I travel out to the village between 3-6 days a week. Some trips are so horrible that I arrive hours late, others I simply have to cancel due to the weather or a riot. This was a great day for a ride…

My wife has grown accustom to the Ugandan roads, and drives them very well. She relies on the van for many things; which means she relies on me to fix the van when it has a problem so she can get her many things done. Like the kids and their schooling. The benefit to homeschooling is she gets to take them on field trip adventures to learn about what they’ve been studying, and they attend a Home school Co-Op on Fridays with several other missionary families.

Michelle teaching at Homeschool CoOp
Michelle teaching at Homeschool CoOp

Big Bertha is now currently in the shop. She needs a new gear box, which had to be ordered from Nairobi, Kenya. She also has a long list of shock, frame and electrical problems that will be tackled throughout the next few weeks. We are praying through whether we will continue with Bertha or replace her with something that can handle my daily commute to the village.

The Van -Big Bertha at the local mechanic
The Van -Big Bertha at the local mechanic

We currently have a couple 125cc motorcycles. Both the same make an model, but one has been modified to 200cc. They have been great for transportation, and when we have guests its been great to be able to hop on the bikes to get the job done. We’ve accomplished a lot with these little bikes. But when the rains come, or the when sun falls, riding a bike in Uganda may not be the wisest move.  Constantly thanking God for His hand of protection.

Bringing home some sweet bananas given to me as a gift from a farmer in Kirugu
Bringing home some sweet bananas given to me as a gift from a farmer in Kirugu
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Uganda -DOWN but not OUT

The country of Uganda has voted (somewhat).  The president has been elected. All social media is back up and running. Shops, banks, and airtime stands should all be open up for business throughout this week. That means Uganda  has no choice but to get back to normal. Normal – what is normal? As an American stuck between two worlds, I’m not sure I know what normal looks like anymore. But normal to Uganda is – survival. If they have the opportunity to get back to the “daily grind”, they’re going to be ok. Because surviving is what Ugandans do best. 

 

Vision Group Photo
 

There is some bitterness lingering. Tensions did get high. Shots were fired. Tear gas was thrown. People did die. Died for what? For change? Change of what? A President? 

Change, as you know, can go two ways. Positive and Negative. I’m not sure the younger generation of Ugandans even care which way the change goes – as long as there is change. Many African nations have experienced change and once they did they had wished it never took place. Donald Trump was just quoted saying “Ugandans are cowards. Museveni belongs in a prison not the state house.”  Am not a Trump guy, but often he speaks what many Americans are thinking. Which I believe is why he has such a following.  I’m writing this message from Kenya, so I’ve seen the difference between people groups in East Africa. Ugandans are different. They are not confrontational. Not like some tribes here in Kenya or in Burundi. Are they cowards? Is Museveni good for this country? I’m not about to go all political on this blog, it’s not why I’m in Africa. Ugandans are simple caring people. Socialy, among the villages, this is a very bonding trait. But it could also be the perfect tool for a dictator to use against his own people. Beisyge (the presidents opponent) was not ellected. Some of Ugandas popullse is upset over this. I believe the answer is simple. Besiege was not Gods chosen leader. Romans 13:1 says -“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Does God appoint evildoers? No. God does not work with, nor is His plan for evil. His plan is bigger than our anger, pain and even our death. Often we can not see past these overwhelming emotions. We just see pain. For now, Gods plan includes Museveni. I don’t agree with Ugandas electoral process, and surely I do not agree with the police and military action against its own people. But in the end, I agree and submit unto God. The vast majority of Ugandans understand this, and believe they will grow stronger because of it. 

 

near Katwe Uganda
 
We are monitoring Ugandas democracy, or lack thereof from Malindi Kenya. We will be leaving as soon as we fix some of the problems we have discovered with our van. 

Since arriving in Kenya we have had plenty of time to unwind, focus and eat lots of ice cream.  The town we are in is interesting. The Italians came here over thirty years ago and decided not to leave. So, the Kenyans in this area have been transformed. You’ll find a Kenyan with long Rastafarian dreads wearing three gold rings on his right hand, a gold chain around his neck speaking Italian and eating spaghetti for lunch. You won’t find this anywhere else in Africa. The Italians have a way of highly influencing those around them. And these are not American-Italians, these Italians are born and raised in Sicily and have no americanisms about them. So it’s been difficult to communicate with them because they speak no English and my Italian ranges from ciao to grazie. But the Italian restraurants are totally worth it. I’ll have to grab a variety of noodles from the Italian supermarket before heading back to UG. This morning I read and meditated on Psalm 20. With different people groups on my mind I kept going back to verse 6. It’s says God will save His annointed people. I thought of the many Israelites I’ve meet, then the Italians, Kenyans, Ugandans  and Americans came to mind.  I don’t believe this anointing is a Jew nor Gentile phrase. I believe, like in 1John 2, that it’s referring to ‘those who have ears’.  Not everyone has a desire to follow after God’s heart, to resist evil, to love those around them. So all these different people groups have the same opportunity as you or me. They have the opportunity to choose for themselves -good or evil. And you can see the outcome of their descion making imprinted on their lives. In a place like Kenya where the cost of living is low, the Italians are living the high life. But you can still sense they are searching for something in their lives. So, you’ll find them at the casino they fabricated or in the all-inclusive resorts they’ve created; because they have a desire to fill.  I’m reminded, we ALL need God. 

 The beaches here are beautiful but finding privacy from the Kenyan lottering can get frustrating. ‘Beach Boys’ is what they’re called. They will hound you in Italian until they realize you’re American and then they’ll use the little English they speak to try to sell you something….or even nothing.  We’ve managed to get away from the tourists and find where the locals do their fishing and diving.  It really is a hidden paradise. 
 

123 yr old tortoise
  
falconry Kenya
  
puffer fish
  
Indian Ocean snorkel time
  
elephant in Tsavo
  
Zebra and many crazy birds
  
Tsavo East, Kenya
  
crocs…everywhere
  

But we are ready to get back home. We’ve decided to take a different route home to divert away from all the road construction and many semis hauling goods on Mombasa Road. We will be taking a “shortcut” threw Tsavo East and bypass Niarobi to the south. We will be taking our time as we travel west. This will give us more time to evaluate Ugandas progress. We should be back home by early next week. Continue to pray for our travels and the country of Uganda. 

Indian Ocean spear fishing – octopus
  
sailing…indian ocean
  
Impala
  
Hippos crossing river
  
Baboons
  
so many giraffe
  
the dry season
    
 

Since writing the above journal entry, we made it back home in UG. It took us three days to get home. And just before leaving I received a phone call from a Ugandan Police Detective. He said “you need to come home right away. Your home has been thefted.” It was 1am when I received this call so it took me a few seconds to understand his broken English.  Once it settled in I knew It was going to be a long trip home. My mind raced with different scenarios and circumstances as I drove for three very full days. The trip was pleasant as we saw many different animals and visited with many Kenyans. We got home Monday night. I dropped off Michelle and the kids at a nearby guesthouse while I went to our house to assess the damage. When I arrived I found four of our Ugandan friends in the sitting room with very solemn faces. The man (Nelson) who was watching over our house immediately broke down and cried telling me he was sorry. He then told me the story. He came home late 10:30. As he entered the yard he saw our bedroom light on. A bit puzzled he made his way through the dark yard. Then he was hit in the back of the head with a stick and beat. He got up and ran for the front gate which was now locked, so he climbed over its top to reach the other side. He ran and shouted for the neighbors. At that time the intruders fled leaving much of what they were attempting to steal behind in the yard. The police came and apparently took fingerprints and Nelson went to the hospital. As he told me the story I knew he was seriously affected by this event, both emotionly and physically. He needed to know it wasn’t his fault. I hugged him and thanked him for his presence at our house. Many things were stolen but if it wasn’t for him, everything would be gone. It wasnt til the next day when I had a good chance to assess the house. They went through everything. Looking for schillings, I’m sure. They had a plan to load bags and suitcases full of anything and everything. But when Nelson came they left a lot of those bags behind in the yard. Fact is, as I had three days of driving to rack my brain over what I was about to succumb, it wasn’t that bad. My friends and I a spent yesterday cleaning and repairing. I also paid the local police department a visit. Things will change a bit around the house, but life will go on. Because we don’t just survive – we thrive. We may have been down, but like Uganda, we’re not out. 

Today I loved someone new. 

As I got ready for the morning I decided I would wear a pair of black dress shoes. I was invited to teach at an old friends church that was about a one hour motorcycle ride to the north of Kampala. I found some dress socks in my closet and as I put them on I realized it had been the first time I had wore socks in about four months. Uganda’s weather has kept me comfortably wearing my Teva and Choco sandals without complaint, but today it was a bit cooler. In the upper 60s at 8am I threw a rain coat in my pack just in case, kissed the wife and kids and jumped on my bike. My bike is different. A month ago a friend of mine was borrowing it and he came back to the house with a large ding in the fuel tank. As I began repairing the bike by knocking the ding out, one fix led to another and I found myself manipulating the bike in its entirety. Redesigning the frame, replacing the tires, changing out the exhaust, replacing the carburetor, exchanging the carbon bolts for steel, and of course fixing the fuel tank which included a new paint job. My bike is different.

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To my benefit it is now very loud. Traffic and pedestrians can hear this bike coming from half a kilometer away. So I headed north on Entebee Road this morning, weaving in between traffic and praying for Gods protection. I came to the first round-about and it was chaos as usual. Now, when riding a bike here in Kampala your throttle can save you or kill you. When you need to squeeze through traffic, and you have mere seconds to do it, the throttle can punch you through to safety on the other side. So as I was punching my way through the round-about my bike would get very loud as I intended to let people know I was coming through.

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Halfway through I noticed an elderly woman (very old) trying to cross the round-about. This was no place for any pedestrian, especially her. The sound of my bike caused her to freeze in the middle of traffic. Everyone starting honking and shouting, not knowing exactly what was causing the flow to come to a halt. I saw the fear in the woman’s eyes and knew I needed to help. So I flipped a quick u-turn and parked my bike on the grass of the round-abouts island. Throwing up my hands to stopped traffic I ran up to the woman, grabbed her hand and give it a slight pull….she wouldn’t budge. I pulled harder….nothing. At this point I literally had to slam the palm of my hand down on the hood of a car to get the drivers attention, letting him know we weren’t moving. I asked her “Jaja, Oli Bulungi?” (Momma are you ok?). She looked up as if puzzled noticing through my helmet that I was a Muzungu (white guy) and speaking her native langauge. Still no response….nor time. “Nyabo, Jangu wa fe”! (Mam come with me). Nothing. We had to go and she wasn’t very big, so I bent down and swooped her up as if carrying a large baby and walked her to the island. Setting her down I noticed her breathing was heavy. I took my helmet off and looked around to assess my surroundings. A couple traffic cops were at the mouth of the round-about waving people around, as if the traffic didn’t know which way to go. I waved them both over pointing at the women, who was now sitting in the grass. The men meandered through traffic towards us. I explained to them the women didn’t seem well. They asked her a few questions and forced her to her feet. We successfully stopped traffic completely in order to get the woman to the other end of the round-about. I turned to go back and jumped on my bike, but before I could one of the officers grabbed me by the arm.

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He said something in jumbled Luganda that I didn’t understand. “Excuse me?”, I said. “You can feed me,” the man said. He was telling me to pay him for helping with the woman.  Tired and late I shook his arm off me and took off on my bike.  

With so many people in Uganda, loving someone can be easy and difficult. The opportunity for compassion is every where, but when you’ve been birthed and raised in society where some men have up to ten wives; which in turn ripples into forty children,  the sea of people can at times feel like a tsunami that your trying to flee from. That’s when people get lost; like this woman. She was someone’s mother, sister, daughter, friend – and in that moment to those around her she seemed invisible. It’s time we start loving the unloved.

Round Two

We’re back in Africa, which means we have to find time for blogging.  We’ve created a new blog as our current host is revamping their website.

It’s been refreshing to be back in Africa.  The Ugandans as always are very welcoming. The location of our home in Zzana is a very peaceful. We quickly grew accustom to the call of prayer from a nearby mosque. Now that we’re back to something we’ve already started, we are ready to push forward. In the past three weeks I’ve traveled all over Uganda to conduct different projects. There is no denying the need is great in Uganda.  The question for us is where is God calling us to plant His Word deep? Our whole family had the opportunity  to visit an area east of Kampala called Kayunga. This area has a real need for ministry. You can watch this video to find out more about the region.

I was excited to find an airstrip only twenty minutes from this piece of land.
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Yet another puzzle peice God added to my mission in Africa. A pilots license. Why? How? Where will God have me travel to? Who does He want to add to His kingdom? I think its the not knowing that excites me the most. To think of how far God has brought me and my family, and what He has allowed us to go through….at times it’s overwhelming. Well, next week I’m taking a license conversation test to get my Ugandan pilot’s license.

My family and I are diving into the language of Luganda. With classes four times a week. The tribal language is becoming a fluid hymm to our ears. The best part is when you know what a Ugandan is saying (about yourself typically) and they have no clue that you can understand. Just attempting to be more like the people your called to serve earns you a lot of respect here in Uganda. To help them feel important, to validate their culture and traditions. Once they realize you’re not here to change them, doors begin to open.

My vision for a long-term mission in Uganda is to disciple those who are truly called to follow Him. Once we are established in a village I have a hope to start a school of ministry for young adults, and a retreat center for church leaders throughout Uganda. We will continue to keep the body posted as God continues to weave us into His people.
-Jason