Sunday, November 26th:
Hello to everyone in the USA! We are already nearing the end of our second full day and much has happened! We had a safe and smooth trip over, taking about 35 hours total. We traveled from the Lansing airport, leaving home at 5 am on Friday, Nov. 24 then flew to Detroit and then Dulles in Washington DC. At Dulles we had to collect all the luggage and go back through security during a seven hour layover. After that, it was Dulles to Amsterdam, a two hour layover, then about eight more hours of flying to Kigali, Rwanda. This was our first time flying in to Kigali. We found the airport and grounds to be beautiful! We had a delay there over a parking issue of almost one hour then about three 1/2 hours of driving to get to our hotel in Kabale, Uganda. Whew! We went to bed about 2 am, Uganda time, and both of us had only slept about three hours during the flights.
The next morning we met Christopher and Generous and went to a church about a half an hour away where the Bishop was making his annual visit. He was participating in a confimation service and the whole thing lasted four hours. It is very challenging to remain conscious during a long service when you don't understand a word that is being said! Especially with little sleep! However, we made it. Rev. Esau, our ACT Board Chair, sat next to me and tried to explain everything. He shared his prayer book and Bible and I was able to keep up with the words and even sang a little in the local language! After the service, we were invited to a lunch with many guests honoring the Bishop. It was a traditional African feast- very good. A man named Charles, who was a professor and businessman, invited us to his beautiful home and we went with the Bishop for a very short time. Charles told us the story of his life- he had been imprisoned for a year then exiled from Uganda by Idi Amin and invited to return by Museveni. Charles had a very beautiful property with a greenhouse, a fish farm, and two elegant homes, one for himself and one for his brother. His parents were buried on the property and the Bishop prayed over the gravesites.
After the visit we rushed over to the Bishop's office where some of his staff were going over about 72 applications for Muko High School jobs. Included in this group were Head Masters, Bursars (rather like a Treasurer/Secretary) and Teachers. We were excited that the Diocese office wanted to be involved! When we arrived they had narrowed the list down to four Head Teachers and three Bursars. Their process involved an eight point criteria which we thought was very good. We spent several hours discussing the high school and all our hopes and dreams. Rev. Esau led us in an exercise where we crossed our arms in front of our hearts and held hands. He told us this showed strength, unity and standing together. When our meeting ended it was time to go to the Bishop's for dinner so everyone walked to a nearby house where we spent the rest of the evening together. Before we actually ate, the Bishop talked with us for about an hour. He underlined the necessity for teaching the sciences as he felt that this knowledge would put the children to work. He asked us to convey issues, questions, and problems with his office before they become bigger problems. He told us the children are most important and we all agreed on everything. He emphasized the fact that a Head Master sets the tone for the High School and he advised us to find an excellent leader for this position. We asked him to please assign us a great chaplain and he agreed. The Bishop also said that the moment the August 2017 team met on the road between Kampala and Kabale it somehow spoke to him and it put him at ease with our agreement. We agreed to make a logo change to the MOU with the ACT logo on one side and the Church of Uganda logo on the other side, to be signed on Saturday, Dec 2nd. The Bishop gave us a lovely prayer and blessing at the end of our meeting. We were treated to another wonderful African feast. We left the Bishop's house feeling very connected and supported.
Monday, November 27th, 2017
Today we started out at 9 am, a little later since everyone was pretty tired. However, we were up at 4:30 am (jet lag) so we will try again for more sleep tonight! We headed out to the Muko Empowerment Centre where we joyfully greeted the whole staff. Howard had five violinists there who performed for us on the front step of the Centre.
Staff and visitors met together and went over the newest information about Muko High School plus some of the news from home. We discussed the itinerary for the week and dramatically revised it. Tito told the story of his home which was destroyed by fire on October 25th. Some Michigan ACT friends contributed some funds to help Tito and he invited us to visit his new place to see his recently purchased household belongings. He was very grateful and taught everyone how to clap their appreciation when it is being given and also being received. This led to the staff members expressing their appreciation- Josiah and Guma for the loans as they continue their university educations, Howard for the increase in his salary as he had moved into a full time position and others.
Karen went to work for a couple of hours with the violinists and one violist who had come in to rehearse together. We began a new piece which the students loved- we had fun practicing and the students learned to play with bouncing bow. Dave worked on retyping the itinerary and entering data into Quickbooks for Muko HS.
At 3 pm we went up to Muko HS with Generous, Josiah, and Guma to meet with the teachers. Rev. Oscar from the Church of Uganda met us there to talk together with them, show our unity, and hand over the basic responsibility from the Church to ACT. The meeting went very well. The teachers were pleased with the gift of 100 Bibles given to them by members of Holt First Presbyterian Church. The librarian and religious teacher were already planning how to stamp and secure them. The teachers had a few questions about how they would know if they would be returning or not, what to tell students, if student scholarships were still going to be honored, if it would be a tuition free school (no), and how to secure housing for them. It was a very good meeting and there were smiles all around as we left.
Our friends would be amazed at the number of grasshoppers at this time of year. I remember seeing grasshoppers like this when I was young and yet, not as many at present- our environment must have changed in some way. These grasshoppers are very prolific. In fact, we noticed a place where the people had shined big lights up into the sky and the grasshoppers flew around like confetti on a game show while men with giant nets captured them by the pounds. For those of you who have traveled and stayed at the Jopfan Hotel, I temporarily backed out of the women's rest room on the first floor when I saw four grasshoppers residing in there! They are bright green and about 3-4 inches long! (Let's close the windows, Dave!)
Our friends at the Jopfan have welcomed us warmly, as always. It is cool here and the fuzzy blankets feel cozy at night. In general, let me say that we are comfortable and doing very well.
Sending our love to you all! Thank you for your prayers. We feel that God has carefully arranged this partnership and we are honored to be involved.