Archive for April, 2012

April 28, 2012

Pasaka Nzuri

A few more great photos from our gathering on Easter morning.

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Photo by Janel Breitenstein

April 17, 2012

You think you stand on solid ground…

The whole weekend started on a positive note. We had the day off because it was Good Friday and had decided to go to the craft market in the afternoon. David and I only had two weeks left and the two of us in particular were interested in picking up a few souvenirs. The craft market was beautiful! I particularly liked the woven baskets and the paper beads; the women sat among their work under makeshift tents and were making them right there. We decided to head on foot to a nearby grocery store before taking a ‘matatu’ home, and while I was walking and doing perhaps too much talking and looking around, I stepped right into a hole in the road. Down I fell with my right leg, and my other leg twisted to the side, catching me at the waist. I sustained a knee injury that currently seems to be on the mend, but I will forever be more cautious walking down the street in Kampala.

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Besides my typical absentmindedness, this is an example of how life in Africa differs from that of North America. Yes, we have the money to live comfortably here in Kampala, – we have access to electricity and can filter our drinking water, if we spend the extra few dollars we can even cook or buy fairly international meals – but what is different is that these provisions aren’t dependable. Every other day the power goes out; the city water occasionally gets turned off days at a time; sometimes there is earth beneath your feet and sometimes there is not. These factors are often beyond our control and all we can do is be cautious and make back-up plans. We have a stock of candles and flashlights and cook with gas; we store large jugs of water in our kitchen; we look at the ground (or should be looking at the ground) when we are walking down the street. Even in business and daily life Ugandans live one day at a time because it is very difficult to plan for a future that is so uncertain and often unattainable.

I have been going to church at Calvary Chapel in downtown Kampala, and one Sunday I heard a sermon that really struck a chord with me on this same comparison. In North America we learn to be independent. We control our environments to such an extent that we can so easily feel as if we have no need for God. In a way we even become our own gods. In Uganda this is not the case at all. Because of the great uncertainties and the poverty that exist here, people have a genuine and much stronger faith in God. They depend on him almost for necessity because He is the only thing that is certain and unchanging in His promises.

I am an outgoing person and I love traveling and experiencing new and exciting things; however, I have discovered that I like to be in control, especially in situations under pressure. I rarely get homesick, but when I do it is usually because I am either injured or sick. Likely this occurs because I’ve lost control of the current situation, can’t do what I would normally physically do, and therefore want to go back to a familiar place. Going back to the story of the weekend, the interns had made plans a few days back already with our friends from the other ministry to go on Saturday and visit Ssezibwa falls, a small waterfall about an hour away between Kampala and Jinja. Even though I had been injured the day prior, I decided to go along because there wasn’t a lot of necessary walking involved and it was the only opportunity I would have to see the falls. Our whole group got a special hire to get there as it would be a lot less arduous than trying to take public transportation. It was only about two-and-a-half hours into our journey however, that we discovered that our driver did not know where he was going, or more likely that he was taking us to a different place than we thought we had specified. At this point I was in a pretty sad state with my fatigue and throbbing knee that was only made worse as our driver took on a few extra passengers along the way. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Africa and that I had to let go of the reigns and just ride things out, maybe even enjoy the detour. That’s exactly what happened and four hours later we arrived at the destination it only should have taken an hour to get to! It was still worth it however because the falls were beautiful. While everybody went up and hiked to the top of the falls, I sat contentedly and painted the scene. It was actually nice to be forced to slow down a bit. I certainly believe that God has wanted me to learn about slowing down and surrendering control to him. I’m the kind of person who is always running a mile a minute and I certainly don’t take as much time as I should to talk to God and reflect on His word. Ironically enough I just recently received a care-package from my parents (who know me all too well) with a card that said, “If God expected us to get everything done today… He wouldn’t have made tomorrow!” and quoted Psalm 84:9,10, “O God…Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Photo by Erland Mowinckel

As my time here in Uganda comes to a close, anxiety for the future is beginning to build up. In only a few weeks I will be returning to school to finish my last term of my undergraduate studies. I have no idea what God has in mind for me next, but I know that He is first asking me to slow down and give up these troubles to Him. He wants me to remember that it’s not what I do, do, do, do, but it is what He did that matters. On the previous Thursday, the day before I injured my leg, I led morning devotion on the story from the book of Luke when Jesus heals a paralytic.  I would actually prefer the subtitle to be different, because Jesus does not address the physical calamity first; rather, he addresses the real issue: the necessity for the man’s sins to be forgiven (Luke 5:17-26).  This is what he did for this man and what He came to do for the whole world.  On Easter Sunday many of the staff from eMi along with their families came to a sunrise service to celebrate and commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul writes,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

And because of God’s great gift, we do have something that remains constant and unmoving if we but trust and follow the words of God:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  -Matthew 7:24,25

Photo by Katherine McCourt

April 9, 2012

Weekend in Kampala

It is about time that I write in more detail about this amazing city that I have been living in for the past two-and-a-half months.  After all the time I have spent here, it feels like I have only skimmed across the surface of this full and active place.  To describe this city is difficult.  It is almost easier to describe a few specific details about it that when pieced together might paint a loose picture.  This past weekend was a particular full and eventful weekend that gives an idea about what it is like to live here.

On Saturday morning fellow intern Katherine and I had arranged to go fabric shopping in the downtown with some other women from eMi.  Katherine and I decided to go early however, because Katherine was looking for sports shorts and I was looking to purchase a Uganda Cranes football jersey.  The first step of our journey is to walk to the main road until we can catch a ‘matatu’, a fifteen seater ‘taxi’ or bus, heading towards downtown.  The traffic is always crazy because there are no street lights or strict road laws.  It is a common occurrence to be in a complete stop and for the driver to turn of the motor for five or ten minutes until traffic gets going again.  ‘Bodas’ or taxi motorcycles boldly weave their way in and out of traffic as if they are invincible.  The trip takes only a half hour if the traffic is good, but can be much longer on a bad day.  The taxi finally arrives in downtown at what everyone calls ‘Taxi Park’ where there are literally hundreds of these vans all over the place headed for different neighborhoods in Kampala.

From ‘Taxi Park’ we wound our way by foot through the many streets to find an intersection where we knew there were many sports shops.  We almost lost our way as very few streets are named and the shops and buildings begin to look alike.  The terrain is quite hilly and the roads are often torn up.   Walking the streets of Kampala sometimes feels like a video game.  There are so many scents and smells, and things to dodge, and people grabbing your hand or calling out “mzungu” to get your attention.  Shopping is very interesting here.  There are a few shops that are more ‘official’ and organized like stores at home, but most of the shops are more thrown together and often sell used items or fake copies.  Unfortunately our search was not very successful; we discovered that they only sell kids shorts (which I suppose makes sense because adults rarely wear shorts here) and I couldn’t find my size Crane’s shirt in the colour I wanted.

We got a call from the other ladies saying that they had arrived to downtown, and so we headed out and began the trek back towards the Taxi Park and the nearby fabric district.  On our way back we noticed that crowds were beginning to form in the street, and that people were standing, waiting, and watching, as if they were waiting for something to happen.  Even balconies of the buildings above had people leaning on the railings and looking down to the street below.  Katherine and I began to be worried because we had heard reports that there had recently been occasional riots in the downtown.  We walked a bit faster, but had to dodge around a lot of people.  As we approached the Taxi Park we decided to take a detour and approach our destination by a back route to avoid the commotion.  We asked a woman what was going on and she said that the police were making several arrests in relation to a riot that at happened a few days earlier.

When we finally found the other ladies, we told them what was happening and they said that we would be fine as long as we didn’t approach that area.  We began fabric shopping and I found some nice African fabric.  At one point in our shopping, Carey made a comment about how many ‘mzungus’ were on a particular sign in one of the many hallways of fabric shops.  Then Brittany exclaimed; “That’s me!  That’s me on that sign!”  Lo and behold, it was her on the sign; it was a picture of her as an intern two years ago with two other female interns wearing traditional Ugandan dress for a wedding.  The shop must have found the picture online from someone’s blog.  Other people in the area were beginning to respond to the commotion and notice that she did indeed resemble the person on the sign.  The people in the shop didn’t really respond and seemed almost embarrassed.  Then at that very moment we were approached by a familiar face that didn’t belong.  It was Bethany, one of the international volunteers with the Congo Initiative at the UCBC in Beni.  We couldn’t believe that we had crossed paths!  She was in Kampala only a few days doing some shopping in preparation for her wedding the following week.  This was certainly a day full of extraordinary events.

Carey, Heather, and I stayed in downtown for lunch.  We went to a Ugandan restaurant where for the equivalent of two dollars each we had our fill of rice, beans, chipatis, and sodas.  On the way home Heather and I stopped at a local seamstress to check on the status of the dresses we had commissioned them to make.  The dress turned out quite well and only needed some taking in.  That evening we gathered at Sara and Carey’s house for games and a movie.  We ordered pizza, played some Dutch Blitz, and watched the movie ‘Clue’.  That evening we welcomed back intern Aaron who had been gone for a month working with a ministry in Ethiopia.

The following morning we woke up bright and early because we had plans to join some friends we had made from another ministry to go and teach Sunday school at a kids church located right outside of a slum.  It was an unforgettable experience.  Imagine entering a school room filled to the brim with children sitting shoulder to shoulder on rows of tightly spaced benches and there being next to no adults present.  We began with worship while kids were still coming in; the kids were full of an amazing energy as they sang praises to God, no instruments required.  There were children of all ages, with the older ones often carrying very young ones.  Eventually the room got too full and so worship moved outside.  Next there came the introductions as one by one we were asked to tell the group about ourselves.  Finally the large group of about 350 some children split up into three age groups and went back inside a few school rooms for Sunday school.  I was in the youngest age group and we taught them about the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’.  It was obviously a bit over their heads (love, joy, peace, big word, big word, big word…), but they enjoyed colouring their favourite fruit on a piece of paper and then sticking it onto the tree we had drawn on the chalkboard.  For lunch the kids each got a hard-boiled egg and a plastic mug of posho porridge before they headed back home.  It was really interesting to talk with the kids afterwards.  Their enthusiasm to come to church was inspiring and so was the fruit of the spirit that they so fully embodied despite their circumstances:  Joy.  Most of the kids come up on their own from the slums to go to church, some of them walking quite a distance to do so.  I was reminded how pure and unclouded the faith of a child is.

On our way back we decided to stop for a Sunday treat.  Our friends had told us about a gas station that had a hotdog and ice-cream stand and we were instantly enthralled with the idea of stopping there.  All I can say is that it was delicious and probably the closest thing I’ve had to hotdogs and ice-cream from back home.  Yum yum!  Already the day had been full but the adventures weren’t over yet.  eMi architect Robert offered to give me a boda lessons that afternoon.  After a bit of a bumpy start I managed to bring the boda around the parking lot a few times.  It’s a good thing I had gotten the run-down on manual drive before I came!  In Kampala ‘bodas’ seem to be the ideal form of transportation for a single person or a couple; not only are they very affordable here, but they can easily thwart traffic and the weather is almost always good.

What a weekend and what a city!



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

-Galatians 5:22-26


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

-Mark 10:14-15

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April 9, 2012


Soccer, or football as they call it here, is probably the favourite Ugandan sport.  If you want a good conversation starter, all you have to do is mention the Premier league.  eMi encourages the interns to get involved in the community and spend a few work hours of our week volunteering somewhere; I filled in a position needed at a nearby school for an assistant soccer coach.

It was the first time I have ever coached soccer even though I played for many years.  I coached the under-seven co-ed team and it was a lot of fun introducing most of them to the sport!  They were a great group of kids.  Although we didn’t win many games, the kids always had a blast and got a really good grasp on the sport.