Posts tagged ‘Uganda’

November 15, 2018

Week Before the Wedding


My family crammed into a photobooth while at the mall buying last items for the trip

On October 12th Othy and his friend helped me move my things into an Airbnb that I found for my family in Namulundu, Bwebajja and to go shopping to get some food basics. Then later that evening we went to the airport to meet my family who were finally arriving! It felt somewhat like a dream or a collision of worlds. There was my family in the flesh. In Uganda! We brought them back to the Airbnb and got settled before turning in. The next day we slept in considerably, went to the Forex and grocery store in Lubowa to exchange money and buy more groceries, and then went to the market in Kajjansi for fresh fruit and vegetables. It was fun to see things anew through my family’s eyes. That evening we cooked a bean stew with rice and played a game of Wizard that took fooorever because we kept being sidetracked by conversation!

The following day my parents went with Othy and I to the Baptist Central Church of Africa (BCCA) which is a sister church to Othy’s church in Beni and is primarily made up of Congolese people. We went to the Swahili service because Othy’s family was going to be there. It turned out to be a special children’s sunday. It was fun to see the kids direct the service, but unfortunately it went very long and was not over until 3pm! I was impatient because we were late for a meeting with the wedding planner and photographer at the wedding location. We finally made it there by early evening and didn’t leave until after the sun set! It was a long day!

Monday was the day of the traditional wedding when Othy’s family came by and met my family and presented the symbolic dowry which is an important part of Congolese culture. My family were real troopers because they spent all morning preparing a meal while Othy and I went to the Congolese embassy for a pre-marital consultation (it turned out to be a waste of time because we were supposed to bring our witnesses with us). My family prepared a tasty beef stew along with an appetizer of homemade tortilla chips with mango salsa and guacamoli. Yum! Othy’s family arrived at around 4pm. They came with about ten people who represented the wider family: Othy’s mom and uncle, his oldest brother and sister, an aunt, a cousin, and two friends. With a few people translating we had some conversation about the things we each do for a living and some aspects of Canadian and Congolese culture. Then they presented the symbolic dowry in the form of several gifts that included two goats, two woven baskets, a carved foldable wood table, two carved wood plaques, and some money for the value of 8 more goats (because in Nande culture ten goats are usually given). My family had also prepared some small gifts for Othy’s parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles. After eating we took some photos in the garden and then had some tea and chocolate before they headed out. Over all it was a positive experience and I was proud of my family for the openness in engaging in such a different tradition. They were not too pleased however about the goats because they didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully Reuben, the caretaker at the Airbnb, was able to help feed them and bring them in and out everyday. Later on in the week Al jokingly asked dad what we should name the goats. Dad said, “Well one is black and one is white, so why not Othy and Lise?” I’m glad that we at least got a few good laughs from the experience. Eventually Reuben and Dad were able to find buyers for them.

On Tuesday we slept in again and I took my family to visit the craft market and a cafe near downtown while I went to a meeting with the wedding planner in Kololo. We took a matatu to the downtown and from there we took bodas to Watoto church which is near the Buganda market. We should have walked instead because the traffic was so bad that the ride was stop and go and not enjoyable at all, especially for my family’s first ever boda ride in Kampala! We lost each other in the traffic and I was thankful that we found each other again. I pointed the fam in the direction of the craft market and cafe, and an hour or so later came and found them. From there we took an Uber to the seamstress to try on the outfits that had been started and to give her some new outfits to make. Finally after the third try, my wedding dress was good to go and the bridesmaid dresses were looking good too. Mom also liked the dress that I had made for her that was a mix of Congolese and my own design ideas.

On Wednesday Al and Dad left early to go white water rafting on the nile near Jinja. The joke was that they were going to go down the Nile in a basket like baby Moses! While they were away I proposed to bring Mom and Jen to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens to explore for two hours while Othy and I had a meeting with Rev. Dr. David Kasali who would be officiating our wedding. I wish that I could have been in two places at once! After we picked them up again, I learned of some of the cool things that they saw like leaves that feel like sandpaper, tree roots that grow above ground, and some other majestic trees and plants. That evening Othy and I went to pick up Vikkie and Jeff from the airport. It was wonderful to be joined by these two good friends!

The following day I took everyone on a visit to EMI for lunch. To get there we took bodas from the main road and it was a much more enjoyable experience this time because it is a more rural area! Afterwards we went to the grocery store and market again, and then later in the evening we went to the Kasali’s place in Lubowa for a potluck dinner with other Congo Initiative staff who are in Kampala. In the evening I had planned to go and meet Ron and Ingrid at the airport, but Mom and Al offered to go instead because they could see how tired I was!


The day before the wedding was a mix of emotions (as were other moments this week). I had done a lot of the planning for the wedding, and last minute changes kept coming which were out of my control and difficult for me to handle because I am a designer and perfectionist. One big change was that the religious wedding was moved to the BCCA church. The reason for this was because the church does not perform marriages outside of their building but informed us of this very last minute. My family took the morning slow and me and my sisters had some snuggle time. Later on we brought out the table cards that Jen had designed and mostly finished that just needed to be assembled together. They looked so beautiful! Othy and I then went back to the Congolese embassy for our second attempt at a pre-marital consultation and this time we brought our witnesses who were two of Othy’s friends and Vikkie and Jeff. We then discovered that our witnesses were supposed to be couples, but fortunately they let us put their names down and promise to have them there the next day! We also learned that the civil wedding would start an hour later. This brought me to tears because there was so much to fit in one day and it meant we would be lucky to arrive at Bwerenga just a bit before sunset. It was time to let the little details go and to focus on the fact that I was soon going to marry my best friend and mpenzi wangu (beloved). The day was finally here after A LOT of waiting! Vikkie treated Mom, Jen and I to a facial and then I went to bed early in an attempt at some beauty sleep after an emotional day!

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October 14, 2018

Wedding Venue Tourism

In mid September I spent several days searching for a wedding venue around Kampala. To make it more fun I treated myself like a tourist who was going around to discover beautiful places around Kampala. I found some really nice spots! On a Wednesday on the way to the grocery store I visited Lindsay Cottage in Lubowa. The place felt a bit tired, but the garden and pool held potential with the right decor and lighting. I liked that it was private and snug.

The following Saturday I made a day out of visiting as many places as I could. In the morning I met a contact of someone who works at EMI who took me to a property on lake Victoria that is owned by a landscape design firm. It was beautiful though the place was remote, unfinished, and had no experience hosting big events.


I took a matatu to the bypass and hired a boda to take me to a place called Speke Resort. This place is a wedding venue machine hosting around 200 weddings each year! It has several lawns to choose from and a few lake-front wedding areas. It was fun to be there on a Saturday because several weddings were getting set up as I was walking around. The generic lawns didn’t really interest me very much and unfortunately the lake front areas were already booked up. There was however one lake front garden that was rarely used because it was too far away from the washrooms and therefore required portable toilets for events. I thought it was beautiful and also liked that it was a bit out of the way and so felt less commercial.

Next I took a matatu to downtown and a boda to Emerald Hotel. It is a three star hotel with one interior banquet hall and two gardens. This was the most affordable venue I had seen yet but unlike the other places does not offer complete escape from the hustle and bustle of Kampala.

Last of the day I went up to Makerere University to visit St. Francis Chapel. I tried calling ahead to see if I could meet with someone to talk about venue availability and prices, but nobody answered. I still wanted to see the campus and so decided to walk around on my own. St. Francis Chapel is a beautiful church though would feel too big for a wedding of only 100 people. I thought that the lawn beside the church held a lot of potential because it was nicely framed by the church and another nice building and offered a view over the city. A wedding had just finished at the church and I noticed that the party was headed to a nearby student centre. It is a round building with a lot of windows. I managed to get a peak at the reception inside and it was a nice space! I also enjoyed seeing a few other nicely designed buildings on campus. I came across a beautiful courtyard that I thought could be a nice spot for wedding photos. I met a student on campus called Papa Tom who offered to help me inquire after the venue. He let me know later that the place was all booked up.

Although I had more places on my list to visit, they were too far away and the day was almost over. The search could really be endless and so it would be better to make a decision from the few venues that I had seen. There was one more venue that I had arranged to see the following Monday. It was a lead I had received from a girl who I met on Saturday morning while stopping in to visit Jess and the interns before heading out to the lake-front property. Ironically this venue was another lakefront property but the difference was that the venue incorporated the services of a wedding planner. The venue is called Estate E’Bwerenga and is a beautiful and peaceful property on Lake Victoria with a nicely designed four-bedroom house. Although it was the most expensive option, I liked that it had areas that would serve well for the religious ceremony and the reception, and that it was a package deal where the planner is familiar with the site and can bring together all of the necessary vendors.

In the end we chose to go with the last venue. Even though it was a lot of traveling around and inquiring, I enjoyed the process of seeing some beautiful destinations in and around Kampala.

September 8, 2018

Nomad in Uganda 2.0 – Kajjansi

After two weeks in Kinshasa Othy and I returned to Uganda. We parted ways immediately after arriving because I had plans to visit EMI before joining the other CI international staff, and Othy had plans to return to Beni to take up his work responsibilities. It is frustrating that he could go back and I couldn’t, that I somehow got released from a level of my work obligations (I am doing what I can remotely), but he is not. This time in Uganda feels like a bit of ironic deja vu despite the fact that it is a completely different experience this time around. I was a nomad in Uganda for two months in 2014 when Othy and I were just getting to know each other, and now here we are, less than two months away from getting married, and once again I am a nomad in Uganda. I am thankful for this country. It is a place I have gotten quite comfortable and familiar with from my travels through and extended visits over the years. I have been to Uganda every two years since my internship with EMI in 2012. This time I feel more like a “nomad” rather than in a group of “nomads” because this time I am on my own instead of in a big family of international staff. Because we arrived quite late, I stayed the first night at a hostel called ViaVia that had been recommended by a friend. It is a nice spot. I arrived in the dark but the reception was a warm space and burning lanterns along the path guided me from my dorm to an open air restaurant with a nice atmosphere. I ordered ugali and beans and then caught up on some work before turning in.


The following morning I took a boda with my biiig bag to Entebbe road, took a matatu (taxi bus) to Kajjansi (I paid for two seats because my bag was so big), and then another moto to the EMI office. Every time I visit EMI there are fewer and fewer people that I know from my internship in 2012, and yet I easily become acquainted with the new people because the office has such an open and welcoming culture. They allowed me to move around and work at the desks of people who were temporarily away from the office for the coming days. I stayed for the next week in Kijjansi at the EMI intern house while I started asking around about a longer term affordable place to stay. The interns are a very fun bunch and I enjoyed getting to know them. We had nice evenings of conversation (often over lemon grass tea), and on the Friday we attempted to make banana bread and then watched a movie. Our original plan was to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, but then because of my upcoming wedding we got on the topic of cross-cultural relationships and then Benji said he had a movie called “Qu’est-ce on a fait au Bon Dieu?”. It was a cute french comedy about a traditional french couple who’s three daughters all marry men from different cultures. On Saturday we made pancakes and then a few of us went for a nice run/walk to the nearby quarry. On the Sunday I went with the interns to their church called KIC Lubowa (Kampala International Church). The church meets at a place called Mildmay that has a beautiful view of the surrounding area. On the Sunday night, Larry, one of the staff from EMI, picked me up from the intern compound and helped me move into the home of an EMI couple who were away on home leave and willing to let me live in their apartment. Their generosity astounds me and I was glad to know that I could stay in the same place for the next three weeks until they returned!


The EMI office is such a beautiful place to work. This is the view from one of the offices I worked at when I took the “boss’s” desk for a few days!


The EMI intern compound had a pair of adorable baby goats! The photos on the right are from when I went with the interns to KIC at Mildmay.

November 24, 2016

Past Halfway

The next day we headed back to Uganda and were thankful for a smooth journey. When we were at the border we had to take bodas to get the other side because our driver did not have a permit to bring us across (it’s actually where the name “boda” comes from: “boda-boda” or “border border”). When we approached the Uganda side two guys started running up beside the boda and tried to get a hold of the bag I was carrying. I shouted at them and kept an iron grip! The boda driver slowed down and I got off. They were saying “But I am a nice guy!” We later discovered that they were Uganda boda drivers who just wanted us to choose them to bring us the rest of the way. We did go with them in the end, but when the guy said “See? I am a nice guy.”, I responded with, “How am I supposed to know if you are a nice guy if you run up beside me and try to take my bag without asking?” After passing through the Uganda checkpoints we hired a driver to take us to Kampala. We stopped to pick up some grilled meat kabobs and chipatis to eat for dinner during the ride. We didn’t arrive in Kampala until late and so we directed the driver to Bushpigs Backpackers where I was planning to stay for the next two nights. Othy left me at the gate and headed back to his friend’s place. Bushpigs was a cheap and clean international hostel. I went straight to bed but woke up in the early morning by the sound of pounding rain. Because it wouldn’t stop raining, I ended up hanging around for most of the morning in a small little lounge at the hostel. I met an american and a dutch guy and girl and we shared about our various travels. Finally the rain stopped and I headed out to meet Othy. We hung around again for most of the day and I met Sudi who is a friend of Othy’s.

The next day Othy and I took a taxi to downtown and then caught another one to Jinja. I had promised Othy a long time ago that I would take him to Jinja because I had so many fond memories from there and he had never been. It was fun to fulfill my promise and introduce him to a few of my favourite places! We walked down the main street and looked into some of the craft shops. I took him to a restaurant called Ozzie’s where four years ago I had eaten the best burger in my life! The burger wasn’t as good as I remembered (it was missing cilantro which I am convinced was the secret ingredient that made the first one so good!). Still the food was delicious and we had a good time! Then we hired a driver to take us to an island up the river called The Hairy Lemon. This was another place that I went to my first time in Uganda and loved it. It is way off the beaten track and I had to chuckle as we went down another dirt road that became narrower and narrower. A staff opened the gate for us and Othy gawked as we got into the big canoe that would take us through some fast moving water to get us to the island! Othy was pretty excited by this point! When we arrived we discovered that there was only one other person staying on the Island! We would have the place almost to ourselves! We had tea while we waited for the rain to stop, and then went to go and explore the island. After walking around the perimeter of the Island, admiring their method of pumping water (a big wheel that rotates through the water to create pressure), we chilled for the rest of the evening in a wonderful gazebo full of pillows listening to the sound of rushing water and monkeys jumping around in the trees. The next day we visited the farm that is on the mainland, and on the way there and back one of the staff taught Othy how to pilot the canoe! The rest of the morning we waded in the water, played badminton, and another one of the staff offered to take us to a place called The Jacuzzi (I think we really benefited from the place being so quiet). We found out that you actually have to walk through a small tributary of the river to get to this place. At first we tried to go in the kayak with the staff pulling us, but it was too tippy and so we decided to get our shoes wet and walk (it was impossible in bare feet because of the rocks). We trudged to this area of rocks where the water falls into it and stirs around in a spot before falling out again. We climbed in and and hung out there for a bit. Our guide said that if I swam swiftly I could go to the other side, but I underestimated the power of the water and it started to pull me away! I managed to grab a rock and climb out but was tired out after that! We headed back to the beach and Othy tried out the kayak close to shore. Even though our stay at the Hairy Lemon was short, I was thankful that it felt long because of how peaceful it was and how many activities we did. There is also no power outlet or cell reception which can be a good thing now and then!



We left the island right after lunch and the trip back to Kampala was loooong. We didn’t arrive until almost 7pm because of crazy traffic. I had plans to have dinner that night with my friends Matt and Ashley who live in Ggaba, so as soon as we arrived in the city Othy arranged for one of his boda driver friends to come and meet us to take me there. I had some crazy instructions to follow to get there and it got dark which made it hard to look out for signs, but after turning around a few times we made it! I know Matt from Grace Toronto church and he grew up in the church my cousins go to. He did the EMI internship a year or so after me and then became a long term volunteer at EMI. He got involved in the Doors Ministry where he met Ashley. It is so awesome sometimes how are all connected! I enjoyed catching up with them and met the two boys who recently began living with them. After dinner Matt drove me to Mallory’s place where I would spend my last two nights in Uganda. It was wonderful to see Mallory again and I was introduced to her three housemates. It was already late and so we chatted for a bit and then turned in. The next morning I walked with Mallory to visit Monica, a good friend from my time as an intern at EMI. She used to work at EMI, but similar to Matt became involved in the community of Doors and now works for them as a farm manager. I met Othy in town at around noon and we went spent the day running errands until the early evening when we went together to Doors for their worship night. Once again I got an unusual set of instructions and my phone was out of battery. We got lost on the way because I didn’t know where the turnoff was to a specific resort (after which we were supposed to look out for three palm trees… typical Kampala instructions!). Othy let me charge my phone a bit with his computer and we figured it out in the end (and I don’t think I will forget again)! The Doors school was as packed full with people as I had ever seen it. It is amazing how God has grown this ministry over the years! To see how they are bringing God’s kingdom to Kampala, check out their ministry website and blog.



Finally came the day for me to leave! Othy and I went to Watoto church, and then hired a driver in the early afternoon to take us to the airport in Entebbe. We had some time to spare and so I took Othy to Anna’s Corner, the place Jon and Lauren took me to before flying out on my last visit. We learned that Sunday nights are salsa nights when a couple turned on some music and began dancing nearby! Othy’s brother who studies in Entebbe later came to join us. Then it was time for me to go and catch my flight! My time in Uganda and Congo had felt so long and short at the same time. When people asked me after returning home how the trip went, my most common response was that the trip was wonderfully full of good people and experiences. I don’t think I had ever packed in so much before! I am thankful to God for directing my path and keeping me safe. Next stop…. the Netherlands!

November 2, 2016

Uganda Congo Trip 3.0

From mid September until mid October I took a three week trip to Uganda and Congo. The main purpose of my journey was to visit my boyfriend Othy but I also decided to pair it with consulting on the mapping projects that I helped to launch two years ago with the IRI at UCBC. It also felt like a big deal because I took one month leave from my job to do it! But after communicating over long distance with Othy for so long, the time had come to go there! I was thankful that the process of obtaining a visa for Congo went smoothly. I went on the trip with the knowledge that I might not even get to go there despite getting the visa because of insecurity in the region in recent months. Our back up plan was that if I could not travel to Congo, we would spend the entire time in Uganda.

Upon arriving in Entebbe very late on Sunday night I had my first funny moment when my friend Steve from EMI who had offered to host me forgot to pick me up at the airport! Luckily Othy had just arrived in Kampala and I called him with the phone of a taxi driver! I took a taxi into Kampala, met Othy, and we found a hotel for me for that first night. The first few days in Uganda were spent hanging around the apartment of the friend where Othy was staying, or else going on errands or visiting people in and around the city. It felt good to be reunited with Othy and to spend time together! On Wednesday I took Othy to visit and have lunch at the new EMI office in Kajjansi. It was so great to reconnect with the few people I still know there (Phil in particular!) and also see their wonderful new facilities. I saw Steve and he insisted to pay the cost of my first night at the hotel because he felt so bad about forgetting to pick me up! Phil gave us a tour of the office and Othy and I were both impressed by the construction and feel of the space. I left the office a big bag of M&Ms because I know from my time living in Kampala that chocolate is scarce!




EMI office

After that first night at the hotel I was couch-surfing with a Ugandan family in Ggaba for five nights. I had decided to couch-surf already before leaving on the trip and was pleasantly surprised to find a large number of hosts in Uganda. I chose to stay with a Ugandan guy named Paul who is married and has two little girls. He was fun to surf with because he is down to earth, is an entrepreneur who is full of ideas, and has hosted people from around the world for many years already. I enjoyed talking with him and his wife and interacting with their kids. On my final day in Ggaba I walked the short fifteen minutes down to Lake Victoria to see the market and the view of the lake and also to buy fresh fish fillets. I picked out a tilapia fish and then they filleted it in front of me! We ate the fish with rice that night.


Couch-surfing hosts


Lake Victoria

Similar to my last trip to Congo, there was some good timing because of overlap with the travel plans of some friends and colleagues. It so happened that my friend Jessica was in Kampala to run some errands and so on Thursday Othy and I met up with her at Acacia mall for lunch. She informed us that Mary was also arriving in Entebbe and that they were planning to travel to Congo together on the Sunday and that we could join them. Othy decided that he needed to go to Beni early to help out a friend, and so we agreed that I would join Mary and Jessica.  My final night of my first week in Uganda I spent at the EMI intern house in Kajjansi. I hired a driver to bring me down from Kampala because I still had a lot of bags. I had brought very few personal belongings on the trip, but was on a mission to deliver two bags full of gifts to the families of two friends I know from Toronto! At the intern house I got to reconnect with Maggie who is the office grandma and who I knew from my time as an intern. I also gave Brittany, my former EMI mentor, a call, and we went out for dinner with the two current interns. We went to the restaurant at a place called Malakai Eco Lodge. It was typical Ugandan in that it was located in what felt like the middle of nowhere down a bumpy dirt road, but then upon entering you discover a mini paradise. Brittany described it to me as coming straight out of “Alice in Wonderland” and she was totally right! The place had an other worldly, mad hatter feel with gigantic orange chairs, ornate rugs, hedges, island pavilions, and yes…. a giant glowing mushroom.


The next morning I was up at 5am to pull my things together for the next leg of the journey: It was time to head back to Beni! That about sums up the first week of my trip that was spent in Uganda!

January 6, 2015

Layover Jaunt to Amsterdam

On my way home to Canada before Christmas, I had an eight hour layover at the Schipol airport in Amsterdam and so decided to go for a quick jaunt into the city. Even if I could only be there for an hour or two because of the time in transit, it would still be better than sitting for hours in the airport. My only pair of shoes were left in Beni so I sported socks and sandals with my winter running jacket. The thing I didn’t really count on was how late the sun rises and how late the old town wakes up. At first I thought I had the time wrong because it was seven thirty and the city was dark and deserted. I walked into the old town in search of a cafe only to discover that most cafes don’t open until 10. It was strange to be surrounded by dense infrastructure again! Right when I was at the point of deciding to give up and go back to the station, I finally came across a cafe that was open. The place had a great atmosphere. One architectural detail I was very pleased about was a foot rest at the bar that was also a radiator pipe. I warmed my feet while munching a fresh croissant and sipping a cappuccino. I hung around for an hour and then already had to head back. At nine I was already waiting for the train to go back and finally saw the sun rise! It was a wonderful jaunt that reminded me of the many times I have enjoyed travelling alone in Europe.

Deserted Streets


Proof that I made it as far as the Torensluis

Proof that I made it as far as the Torensluis

Sunrise over Amsterdam

January 4, 2015

I’m gonna miss these guys…

I had the “baaaaaaddest” time with these guys when they were in Kampala. Even though it was two weeks of intensive training, we still found some time to just hang out. One treat was going out to see the Hobbit in 3D!Archip

At the movies

Posing on the Roof

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January 3, 2015

10,000 Reasons

It’s funny how memories are often tied to songs. My time in Uganda and DRC had the theme song 10,000 Reasons. I kept hearing it again and again while I was there like an anthem, and how appropriate it was for the circumstances. It was six year old Graham’s favourite song and he would often sing it.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes


You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find


And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name


Matt Redman, Kingsway Music




“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!”

– Psalm 103

January 3, 2015

Prayer of Serenity

I’ve been putting off this post because frankly it’s easier to write about the fun things I did in Uganda than about the hard times. I want to share the challenges though because they are an important part of the story and grew me in many ways. I’ve been slowly adding to this post over the course of two months, and now I’m finally publishing it even though I am already home in Canada. It’s probably one of the most difficult posts I’ve written.

These past weeks/months have been quite an emotional roller-coaster. I have felt great joy and great sadness; great hope and great discouragement. This journey began when I decided last year that I would pursue thesis research in the DR Congo. Even though I could do a simple architectural project, I decided that if I was going to spend this time to do a thesis, then I would take it as a chance to learn something new and do something with physical impact. My interest in the DRC came from when I was there two years ago and began pondering on the question of what design could offer that community. My preliminary research lead me to mapping as a key design and communication tool to impact positive change in a community. I saw God working in many of the logistics that followed. I reached out to see if UCBC would be interested in partnering in the research and it fit well with their own schedule and ambitions. Finances were working out because I was given a scholarship from Waterloo and my tax return covered my plane ticket. All of the doors were opening to make this research happen.

Then two weeks before I was supposed to leave the doors began closing. My university informed me last minute that they could not support travel to a region with a level four travel advisory. My heart was breaking because I had already invested a year in the research and this trip was the crux of it. I decided that I would pursue the research whether or not it could be counted as work for Waterloo. I got on the plane uncertain of what direction the research would take and whether or not I would have to withdraw from the program. I held so much resentment inside because I had never felt so rejected before and so powerless to do anything. All I could do was submit a lengthy grievance and hope that this mammoth institution would even take a second glance at it. In the meantime I lost my OSAP funding and the scholarship that I was supposed to receive for the international experience; I would be riding out limited funds for the next four months.

Arriving in Kampala and then in Beni felt a bit like coming home. I settled in very quickly and already on the second day I jumped into some field research that a team of students were already doing in Beni. I could once again see a purpose to being in this place. The following weeks were an incredible blessing. The students were very interested in the project, I received a small sum of funding from one of the research institute’s grants to cover logistical costs for the mapping (because I was no longer receiving funds from Waterloo), and even the mayor of Beni was on board. In mid-October we devoted four days to completing the greater part of the data collection for the base-map. In rainy season it normally rains every day in Beni, but miraculously we had four days with no rain so that we could maximize the time in the field.

Then the next wave of challenges came. I was still pursuing my ethics application with Waterloo for the field research because I was expecting that my grievance challenge could be accepted and that I might still be permitted to continue with the research; however, Waterloo International tipped off the ethics board about my situation and they put up the red flag stating that it was high risk research and needed to be reviewed by a sub-committee. This was two months after I had submitted my original application and after I had gone to a personal consultation and gone through two rounds of reviews. The subcommittee reviewed my application and tore it to shreds. They wanted to find things wrong with it and so they jumped to many false conclusions in the attempt to justify their decision. It was another low move from the university and made me lose all hope for the institution.

Another challenge was a petrol strike that began in Beni the week we started work on the base-map. Moto fares were quickly rising even while we were doing data collection, and near the end we were paying double to get the volunteers around town. My patience was tried as electricity was off much more often, which caused our work to slow down. At about the same time the first attacks began several kilometers north of the city. I remember that on the day of the first attack a colleague told me that I should get home before five. The reason was because a wave of refugees were coming to the city for safety, and many of them were gathering at an intersection I had to pass through to get home. I was never in any danger from an attack; I lived in a secure compound and the violence was directed at vulnerable civilians in villages outside of the city. The bigger danger for international staff was in the resulting tension in town and the negative feelings towards the UN because of their perceived inaction. The international staff at UCBC had a few very difficult meetings to discuss whether or not to leave. We came to the decision that it was important to stick together and that it would be good to leave for a week even just to recuperate from the stress. I was one of the few who wanted to stay. I think deep down I knew that if we left we would not be coming back. Once again I felt like I was being tossed around by the waves with no choice but to let them carry me.

My intuition proved correct. What was originally considered an isolated set of incidences began to reveal itself as a pattern of events with deep political motives. One week turned into two, two turned into four, and four turned into eight weeks away in Uganda. The first weeks were mentally exhausting as we went through a cycle of preparing to go back and then being disappointed when something else happened and we were advised to stay away longer. It was difficult to hear bad news from Beni and be unable to be physically present to share the burden with our friends and colleagues there. Even though we are brothers and sisters in Christ, as north americans we were set apart because of liability issues. Another struggle was to have the desire to serve people there but feel an equal responsibility to friends and family back home. I went through a time of being mad at God. Since the moment I began contemplating doing work in this place I have prayed for peace there. God promises so many good things for his children; why can’t he make his glory known in this place? I’ve always been an initiator and someone who is not afraid to take action, but in this case I was helpless and there was nothing I could do. I’ve never felt as restless in my life as I did in those few weeks. I felt trapped and useless and it was discouraging to think of how much work it takes to build something up and then how easily it can be torn down.

There were small moments of blessing and joy in the midst of the discouragement. My time in Uganda was not wasted. I spent some of the days learning how to fly the quadrocopter drone that the research institute had purchased for GIS research so that I could later teach others how to use it. I also spent a significant amount of time developing the Beni Atlas website, something that I thought I wouldn’t do until I was back home. It was a blessing to live in community with the other UCBC international staff. I learned how to pray in community as we gathered and prayed for Beni every morning and evening.  I feel like everyone in the group had something to teach me: Mary taught me wisdom and facilitation; Jon taught me leadership and connectivity; Kate taught me love and servanthood; the kids taught me imagination and truthfulness; Jessica taught me devotion and encouragement; Lauren taught me sincerity and thoughtfulness. I learned what it meant to accept the things that I couldn’t change but to intentionally do the small (and yet significant) things that I could – like pray, or give a word of encouragement. I realized how selfish it was to have my own plans so central in my perspective when God’s plans are all encompassing.

Another blessing was to have Othy and Archip come join us in Kampala for intensive training when I reached the point of knowing that I would not be going back to Beni. I was teaching them but at the same time learned so much from them. These two guys taught me passion, joy, and hope. Despite growing up in challenging circumstances they persevered by God’s grace. I am excited for what the future holds for these two. If everyone in Congo had as much hope and initiative as these two, there would be peace tomorrow! Even though I didn’t accomplish all of the physical objectives I had originally set, I am content knowing that the most important objective was met, which was to equip people at UCBC and to develop a partnership that can continue past this point. I finally felt some peace about the changes to my thesis research and the situation with the university.

It felt like this project was quite literally attacked on all sides. One final blow came when I had already arrived home in Canada. When Othy and Archip were on the way back to Beni by bus, the backpack with all of the GIS equipment got stolen. The GIS computer, external hard-drive, Archip’s passport, and other money and valuables were lost. What was worse is that when they stopped at a checkpoint and Archip didn’t have his ID, the police arrested him. We found out later that he had been left out in the rain, put in prison,  and mistreated by the guards and other detainees. He received some physical injury, but God kept Archip safe and he was released and made it home safely the next day. Mary describes more about what happened in a post entitled “In all, we bless the Lord”. It is true that there is no way to understand what has happened, not just for this incident but this whole story, however we must continue to hold fast to God’s promises. That’s why I think it is important to tell the story: because through it we can bless others with our testimony. Archip and Othy are back in Beni and have not lost one bit of stamina. Their hope is in the Lord and they are continuing to persevere for His kingdom here and now in Congo.


Prayer of Serenity:

God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference



December 23, 2014

Unastahili Kuwabudiwa

Climbing the Water Tank


Unastahili kuwabudiwa

Unastahili ewe yesu

Unastahili kuwabudiwa

Unastahili e

You are worthy to be praised

Worthy O Jesus

You are worthy to be praised