Then in September, a family visited our church and Keith took them for an all day boat ride while Lisa and I were at a ladies camp retreat. The boating conversation turned to missions and Keith was introduced to New Hope Uganda, a place his newfound friend had visited three times. That's a pretty serious commitment. The information was intriguing, orphan care with children living in family groups instead of dormitories, bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless. We wanted to learn more. Fast forward 10 weeks and Keith had communicated with the ministry via email, in person, and we had become sponsors. We were able to have a personal connection with the students and family parents, exchanging letters and receiving school reports. After Keith's in person meeting they finally answered his relentless flow of questions with, "You just have to come and see it for yourself." It made sense to Keith to combine it with the trip to Norway to cut out one of the legs of travel and to minimize the jet lag (Norway and Uganda are only an hour different).
So, here I am with a video slide production on our unexpected trip to Uganda. The contrasts between the two countries could hardly have been more stark. Uganda--land locked, impoverished, and still struggling to rise up from a Civil War, the brutal devastation of the Joseph Kony era, and the ravages of the AIDs epidemic. We didn't have to look hard to see evidence of the hopelessness that inevitably comes from any one of those situations, let alone all three in the last 4 decades. Norway--mountainous, seafaring, and people living in what sociologists call one of the happiest, wealthiest, most stable countries in the world. We enjoyed the irony of the weather however, travelling all the way from Wisconsin (N 46 degree latitude) and Norway (we were as far north as 63 degrees latitude) to the equator to cool off! The temperatures in Uganda were milder, day and night.
We began our Uganda trip in Kobwin, a new location that invites a peek at what the original work at Kasana (near Kiwoko) looked like in its infancy 30 years ago. Kobwin has one family group, Kasana has 7. Kobwin has a primary school, a one room guesthouse, and a one room medical clinic. Kasana has a primary and secondary school, a clinic building, an institute for gospel training (all staff attend the 20 weeks course that focuses heavily on personal spiritual understand and cross cultural ministry; but it's also open to others), a pastor training institute, and guest housing that held over 40 for a few of the days we were there (different teams overlapped one another and stayed for varying lengths of time). We had the opportunity to tour all of these places as well as the local hospital and the New Hope run radio station.
We loved seeing how caring for the children did not end at food, clothing, and shelter, or at education. The goal is to mentor them as any father does his child, to lead them and guide them in the paths of the Lord as they press on with life. We met staff members who grew up as "sons and daughters" and are now committed to giving back in the same way they received so much. We met a child who is adopted into a family, but started life in a public latrine, dumped there with the umbilical cord still attached. Now this child is treasured. Not all of the children served at New Hope live in the family homes. If a child has a safe place with a family member but needs assistance they are brought in for school and access to medical care. The pastoral staff visits the family in the village and seeks to care for the child where they are, which includes loving their family (whether it is a single mom, grandparents, or aunt or uncle).
I begin the video with text explanations, but once again the text operation quit working and would not let me add text. Some things and people you will see without explanation are Murchison Falls, Mulu and Lucy (house parents who came with us on the safari--it was their first trip away for three days in their 13 years of marriage and they care for 23 children), Junior (a boy who advanced from the special needs program to the regular classroom), hanging bird nests, a Civil War memorial where skulls that were once piled on the roadsides are buried, tomato harvesting, the Secondary school chemistry lab and kitchen, Lucy's Ugandan meals she made for us, and our final airport stop and customs photos.
What I did not get many photos of (except for the group picture with Keith) were the staff members. We spent hours and hours with the Ugandan staff as well as the foreign missionaries from the US and the UK. We were welcomed by generous, caring, people who love the Lord, love children, and serve with very full hearts. We were so busy enjoying their company that we just didn't think to take pictures! Thank you to the McFarlands, the Sinklers, the Dendys, the Brittons, the Mulus, Susan, Brenda, Joanna, Tony, Fred, Simon, and more I'm sure. Lastly, thank you to Uncle Jonnes and Auntie Gertude Bakimi (I copied a photo from FB) who are co-founders along with Jay and Vicki Dangers (who we missed by 2 days). We are enjoying spreading the good news about what God is doing at New Hope!