Our trip to Fort Portal in western Uganda was long, one of many long days of bus rides as we wound our way all the way from Kenya to Uganda, almost to the border with the Congo. But we had one very exciting stop to make before we settled in for the night. We went to our new He Intends Victory offices in Ft. Portal, where Mama Lovey Kisembo is our local director. Mama Lovey and her husband Benezeri are Anglicans and Benezeri is the retired bishop of their district, Ruwenzori.
We unloaded blankets, water barrels, mosquito nets and other donations and stored them in the He Intends Victory office.
While there, we had the honor of giving away the goats that had been donated by people in the USA. The goats are a major source of financial and physical sustenance for people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s always fun hearing all the goats bleating and seeing them running around. We had a record number of goats this year, all together I believe it was around 40 or 50.
When we were in the bus on our way to Fort Portal, all I kept hearing about from my fellow travelers was how excited they were to be going to the Ruwenzori View Guest House. They had stayed there before and were very impressed. But when we arrived at the Guest House anticipating a nice meal, a shower and some rest, well, this was not to be. Somehow there was a mistake in the booking and we couldn’t stay there. Instead, we went to a poorly managed hotel where it took over 2 hours to get an unappetizing dinner. My roommate and I never got a toilet seat for the two days we were there. But we “offer it up” to the Lord and go on. This is Africa.
The next day took us on outreaches to several very rural villages in the hills of the Ruwenzori region. It is an area of unspoiled nature with villages hidden amidst the trees. There we visited Mama Lovey and Bishop Benezeri in their home and toured their new chicken coop and met their chickens. Mama Lovey will be teaching our support group members how to take care of chickens and use them for breeding instead of eating them right away. They will then be able to start businesses selling eggs.
We also toured the new Leon Holmstrom School for young children, from pre-school age to early elementary school. It is a cute log cabin school built by donations from a memorial fund for Leon Holmstrom, whose widow and son were there for the inauguration ceremony to launch the school. Marge Holmstrom is the mother of Jennifer Veary, one of our associates who is HIV positive, and the family is very supportive of AIDS causes. There were many tears as she and her son, Murry, toured the lovely little school for about 50 to 60 children that had been made possible by her husband’s memorial fund. They were thrilled to see the beautiful learning environment that these children had.
Next door to the school is an Anglican church called St. Paul’s. We were able to meet the pastor and go inside. It is a very, very humble room (see picture at right), with wooden benches, a small wooden altar table, a mud floor and tin roof. As you can see in the picture, their musical instruments were two African drums. This little church was a reminder that we can worship God anywhere and that He comes to meet us whenever and wherever we seek Him. I hope that we at Holy Spirit Anglican might decide to become a sister church with St. Paul’s in the future and maybe provide some resources for special projects and needs.
After that we completed our last outreaches of the trip where we were received with much joy.
We then went for two days of rest and recuperation and stayed at the Mweya Lodge overlooking Lake Edward in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. We were spoiled with good food, swimming, rest, some noisy “Phase 10” games and much wonderful fellowship. We had grown to be a close team and the thought of separating in just a couple of days was bittersweet.
A drive in the National Park is a great experience and we saw elephants, warthogs, African crowned cranes, a lion, eagles, and many types of deer and antelopes. It was a real feast of God’s creation. We also were able to go on a boat ride in the Kazinga Channel where we saw hippos, Cape buffalo, crocodiles, more elephants and countless varieties of water fowl. I kept marveling at the amazing creation of God.
After two days of flying, we arrived at LAX. We went through customs and after that, many ran to catch their planes or meet their loved ones. All of a sudden, we were back in the mix and everybody was scattered! What a shock! I wasn’t able to say good bye to everybody because they went in so many directions, and I hated to leave my comrades of two and a half weeks.
I called Galen the minute our plane landed and when he answered, I excitedly said, “I’m here!” He said, “What?, today?, I thought you were coming tomorrow, I’m in San Diego.” The wind went out of my sails as I realized that I wouldn’t see him when I got out of the airport. I was so anxious to see him after 17 days away. He had gotten the wrong date because he had looked at an incorrect version of our itinerary and he thought I would be gone one more day. Sigh?! So, fortunately some of our group members were taking a shuttle to OC and I was finally reunited with Galen there. It was great to be home!
I thank God for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people all over Uganda and Kenya, and for the many He Intends Victory workers and volunteers who make such a difference in people’s lives as they share the hope of Jesus. I am grateful for my church family at Holy Spirit for all their support and prayers.