Our Brother, Pastor David Mporampora

Tomorrow we will have been home for exactly 5 weeks since our last trip.  So it’s been that long since my last blog post.  I’m slipping…..but here’s me, getting back on the wagon.  It seems I am the most consistent writing when we are traveling – mostly when I’m at an airport or on a plane.  Which I haven’t been, well, for 5 weeks. Thankfully I did manage to get our December ministry update written so there’s that. If you’re interested, you can find that here: December 2019

I still plan to blog about our time in India, and I did attempt to upload those photos, but our doggone internet frustrates me into quitting.  I know, a lame excuse.  But another hindrance has been some very sad events, which I really want to write about before anything else. But writing about sad things isn’t my favorite, so….

The first stop on the trip I referred to above was Uganda.  It was such an amazing time that I wrote 3 posts about it, the first one being on November 2. ‘Niger to Uganda’ You may remember that we went there to spend time in ministry and fun with our long time friend, Pastor David Mporampora.  And when I say long time, I mean he’s been friends with this family since the 1970’s.  He was choir director at Church of God Mission when Neal lived in Nigeria.  He considered Neal’s parents his own.  He sang at our wedding over 30 years ago.  And finally, he visited us in Niger in April last year, and then he invited us to visit him and we began planning right away.

Fast forward to November 1st, 2019, our first time to visit Uganda.  While in Niger, Pastor Dave had been bragging about what a beautiful country it was, as we laughed about the contrast between Uganda and Niger (aka desert).  We were in Northern Italy early last year and I’d decided then that it was the most beautiful country I’d seen.  But after visiting Uganda, I’ve decided Uganda and Italy tie for first place.  Just my opinion.

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We had an incredible 9 days with Pastor Dave, including a fantastic mix of ministry and fun.  (Seriously though, we consider ministry pretty fun).  Lots of details and pics in my Uganda posts.  We continued to stay connected while in Kenya, and Dave asked us to begin preparing for our ministry trip there in 2020.  Next, we were in India.  While in India, on November 26th, Pastor Dave sent us a message letting us know he was praying for our ministry in India, and asking for prayer as he was sick.  Checked in with him the next day and said he was doing a little better.  Checked in on the 30th and got no reply.  On December 1st, we got a message from Uganda, saying that Pastor Dave needed serious prayer.  He had been rushed to the hospital when he was found unconscious in his home.  We communicated daily from that point, even as we were traveling home to Niger.  We were able to see him and pray for him on a video call from Niger on December 5th. Thursday.  More communication, keep praying, things are getting better, he’s not doing well, more tests being done, etc etc.  Monday afternoon we were decorating our Christmas tree and at 2:39 we got a phone call.  Pastor Dave had just passed. (For those wondering, his death was a result of diabetes and complications).

On November 9th, we stood circled in front of the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, Dave praying a looooong prayer to send us on our journey.  None of us having any idea that he would take his final journey to his well-deserved reward 1 month later.  December 9th, 2019.

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I’m not an overly emotional person.  I don’t think I’d even be described as emotional much at all.  Neal cries during a movie much more than me.  But man, this has been such a shock.  Honestly, it’s hard to put this in words right now because it’s still so new, and because for some reason the words on my screen are blurring….

When I think about all we experienced during out time in Uganda – all thanks to Dave, I feel sad.  But I’m writing about this to encourage myself.  Not to be sad, but to be thankful.  Thankful that after so many years, we reconnected with him.  He opened the door to Uganda for us.  Thankful that we saw firsthand the impact he had on so many people.  Not just a few people around him, not just hundred’s of people in his city, but thousands of people in his nation and around the world. On our last day there, he took us to the market to buy us gifts. The same man that changed the course of thousands of lives, insisted that he buy my mom and dad a gift.  No, he didn’t know them, but as he said, ‘you’re my sister so I really want to get something for your mom and dad to appreciate them for having you.’

I could go on, but I’m going to leave it at that.  I can’t see anymore.

Pastor Dave, we love you, we honor your life, we are grateful to call you brother and we rejoice (sadly) with you in your new home. And FYI, when I get to heaven, I want to stand next to you in the choir.

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Getting Home

Well, here I am again. Sitting in an airport. We keep meeting like this. We left for the airport from our Chennai hotel at 5:30 this evening. The airport is only 8 miles away, but it took an hour to get there. Our flight to Mumbai was about 2 hours, which is where we currently are. It’s 2:15am – why in the world am I trying to write now? I don’t think I’m going to get very far though….

I was right. That’s all the further I got. Just couldn’t do it. So now I’m at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We have another 4 hour layover here, then the 5 ½ hour flight to home sweet home! The airport in Mumbai is waaaaaaaay nicer than this one in Addis.

Mumbai:

Addis Ababa:

But the landing in Addis was pretty nice – sunrise.

We actually had a seat between us on that flight, so that was a huge help. But flying in the REM hours of the night. It’s just ugly. What is it about falling asleep when you’re sitting up that makes everything ache. Everything. You’ve heard of the ugly cry? What about the ugly sleep? I kept waking up suddenly and realizing my mouth was hanging wide open. Talk about a pie hole.

And de-planing. Not fun either, after all the drool and creaking body pains. You have to walk down a large stairway, carrying your carry-on only to get on a bus and try to keep your balance for the ride to the terminal. The good thing is the fresh air slaps you awake. As does the very long walk up and down and up to get to security. Yep, you get directly off the plane and through security. Again.

Here’s the staircase

As I said we had a 4 hour layover here in Addis. There are restaurants here. Sort of. If you don’t mind fending for yourself. After a turbulent flight, I was looking for sparkling water to settle my tummy. It makes me burp and for some reason that helps. Two thumbs up for this ‘restaurant’ because they had it. The other plus (and I’m searching hard to find those plus’s) in this airport, is that they have decent wifi.

The gates going to and coming from Niger are down there. See the farthest gate with all the people? Thats where we’re going

Standing room only

Boarding here is just another word for ‘chaos’. Even though there is a boarding order, it’s really first come (aka push), first serve. It sort of reminds me of driving in Niamey. You’re minding your lane and cars behind you don’t think they should have to wait so they drive around (into oncoming traffic) to move to the front, pushing you back. That’s what this is like.

Then….we get outside to get on the bus (cause we’re not actually boarding yet – we have to be hearded to the plane first) and there is someone there snatching carry-ons. We’ve been on this plane multiple times and we know our carry ons are NOT too big. I’m carrying a backpack, and can put more in it then Neal’s small roller. Which is where we keep personal stuff and valuables we don’t want to check. We’re all about obeying the ‘law’, but what we’ve learned from experience is that they don’t take everyone’s bags. We asked nicely (at first) to let us take our bag. The man in uniform was pulling it from Neal. So Neal told him he would have to let him take everything out first. Fine. Mr. Uniform goes to retrieve a cloth bag.

While waiting and opening the roller, another differently uniformed man saw Neal opening his bag and said, “No, that one is ok to go on the plane”. Neal closes it up and Mr. Uniform returns with the cloth bags, instructing Neal to empty the contents. Neal tells him Mr. Other Uniform said it was ok. Mr. Uniform (aka Mr. Power Trip) indicated that Mr. Other Uniform had no authority to say so. He handed Neal the bags. After that, there may have been a slight altercation. Please keep in mind however, that we are coming off a 5 week trip and missing an entire night of sleep. :/

Here we are walking to the plane, and here are the cloth bags holding the contents of the apparently massive carry-on. I don’t have a picture of that, on account of the fact that it’s been snatched away. Hopefully it actually shows up at baggage claim in Niamey. But if it doesn’t, no worries. It’s empty. =)

I am finishing this post on our final flight. We took off an hour late. Maybe because of the altercation. Just kidding! Everyone was all cozy on the plane in plenty of time for an on time take-off, but apparently they were loading the plane with cargo going to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Thankfully the plane stops first in Niamey, however it’s possible the carry-on could deplane in Ouaga. And do you know what was really annoying? All the roller carry-on’s in the overheads above and all around us. Grrrrr!!!

If you haven’t guessed by now, Ethiopian Airlines is not our favorite airline, nor is their airport in Addis Ababa. They’ve messed with us several times. The worst being the time they took off 3 hours earlier than scheduled from Niamey without informing us. And there were no more flights to where we were going for 3 more days. It started a series of unfortunate events in a trip that had been planned for months. How did they handle it you ask? They said, ‘Oh, we’re sorry. We tried to call you’. No refund, no upgrade, only passing the buck. I could go on, but I don’t want to go down that road. Because I really am grateful for the places we get to travel and minister – no matter what it take to get there.

After all that you might wonder why we still use them. Glad you asked. Sometimes they are the only option out of Niger to where we’re going. Or the only reasonable option. Which is probably why they can behave the way they do. But believe me, when planning a trip I always try and look for other alternatives. They’re a last resort.

I started this post intending to write about our time in India, the 3rd country of our missionary journey. But I obviously took a left turn. Our time in India was amazing and needs its own post(s). – probably next time.

For now, I’m about 36,000 feet in the air over Sudan, and dreaming about being home. Not just my bed, but HOME. I think you know what I mean. (Though I am going to have to adjust all over again not having Tobi there…)

And now I’m home sweet home…in Niger.

Kenya – from beginning to end

So, my last post was about our final days in Uganda, but written in the air after we left Kenya. This post is being written in India, but will cover some or all of our time in Kenya. Just depends on how much writing I can get done in the time I have.

We love Kenya. We were in Kenya for Christmas last year. It’s an amazing place. The weather is heavenly. Here’s our new saying: Niger is a call; Kenya is a temptation.

A big draw is family. Sarah & Scott (Sarah is Neal’s sister) live there with our 2 nieces, Grace and Claire. Luke was there at Christmas, but like Tobi, he started University this Fall so is in the US.

We love when we can combine our ministry trips with family visits and we also try to see local sites since we’re already there. I’m all about multi-tasking!

So this time, we had a full week of ministry, but we’re able to stay at Scott and Sarah’s house and come and go as needed. They also let us have first dibs on their regular taxi/Uber man, Nicolas.

We arrived Friday night so we got to watch Claire play in a basketball tournament on Saturday. Grace was in swimming competition but we didn’t end up getting to see her swim. That was a free day.

We also all went out to have burgers. Shocker – but I got no pictures of our food!

Sunday was a pretty full day – 2 services at a PEFA Gikomba Church. The fam joined us for first service, then Neal and I stayed on for the 2nd service. The first service was English, the 2nd, Swahili. No – Neal does not speak Swahili… =). We’re used to using interpreters.

This is a happening church and they were starting their VBS the next day. They asked if I would speak to their VBS/children’s workers after lunch. Of course I said yes. Always ready to teach about children’s ministry!

We were then taken back to Scott and Sarah’s house by our trusty and faithful Uber/taxi man, Nicolas.

Monday was a free day and though the girls had to go to school, both Scott & Sarah took off work to hang with us. Pretty sweet, right? They took us to Nairobi Game Park. Pretty incredible, really. A real game park right on the outskirts of Nairobi. So while looking at the giraffe, you can see the city skyline.

The train also runs right through the game park.  As do the ostriches.

A few more pics from our ‘game drive’. It’s pretty cool. Scott was quite serious about arriving when the park opened, which meant departing from the house at 5:30 – am. We were ready and left on time. It’s only a 30 minute drive, but we arrived a few minutes late (after opening). The cause our our tardiness may or may not have been due to a wrong turn – for which blame will not be laid…..

After our 4 hour drive, we had a nice lunch together in a forest restaurant. Didn’t get any pics of that either, other than Sarah and I when were leaving. I’m really slipping up on the food pics!

Saturday afternoon we had a pretty cool experience. Trae, our son, called Scott and Sarah a few months back to let him know that one of his close friend’s Dad was the new American Ambassador to Kenya and they should reach out. Sarah ended up at a bday party that His Excellency and wife were at so she introduced herself as Trae Childs’ aunt. They exchanged numbers. Since we were coming, Sarah reached out again to see if we could meet. They were incredibly gracious and accepted her invitation to come to their home. We know they’re normal people, but we were still a bit nervous. Do we have a meal? Snacks? Coffee? Tea? Coke? Do we sit inside or outside? What do we call them? What do we talk about?

Ambassador Kyle and Victoria McCarter were wonderfully down to earth and friendly. Even though they come with a couple vehicles of protection, it just seemed normal. We later found out that the protection had driven to the house the night before to make sure all was safe.

They are solid believers and aren’t afraid to show it. It was downright awesome to have been able to spend a couple of hours hanging out together. Inside, with tea and coffee, veggies, samoussas, chips, bean hummus, talked about Jesus and politics and family – in case you were wondering. They ate very little – as I’m sure they ‘have’ to eat wherever we go. Before they left we got to pray together. Did I say awesome?

If you think of it, pray for them…

Tuesday through Friday were a blur. But a good blur. We were back at PEFA Gikomba Church each day. PEFA is a denomination that has it’s roots in Elim Fellowship – Lima, New York. Elim is where Neal’s parent’s went to Bible School before heading to Nigeria in 1977. The thing that was really cool about this particular church is that Oral Roberts dedicated it back in 1967, Archbishop Benson Idahosa has preached there, as well as TL Osborn. There’s a lot of history and many connections to people that impacted our lives. So it was quite an honor to be asked to spend a week ministering in many areas of the church.

The church has what they call ‘lunch hour’ every Tuesday – Friday from about 1-2. The church is located in the middle of a market so many of those attending are working nearby and come for mid-day encouragement. Neal and I shared those teaching times, alternating days.

The church also has evening services – normally on Tuesday and Friday. But they added Wednesday and Thursday this week for our visit. Pastor Alfred asked that our evening messages have a missions emphasis. Well, yes, we will be happy to do that!

VBS was going on all week as well, so we were able to visit the classes, and I was asked to speak to the youth (teens) for a couple of hours.

Because Nairobi traffic is so ridiculous, it didn’t make sense for us to leave between the 2 meetings each day. They fed us really great meals, and on a couple of the days we went out on the town – in a manner of speaking.

As I said, the church is in the middle of a market. The church was there first, the market built up around it. We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the area and visiting church members who lived and worked there. We prayed for an elderly lady who had been in bed for 3 weeks and she got out of bed to see us out. Also prayed for a new baby. And the produce was incredible. The papaya is bigger than my head!

 

This is one of the pastor’s homes – on the 7th floor. And yes, we walked up.

On one of the afternoons, Bishop Alfred also took us to visit Bishop Samuel in his church – PEFA South B. While there, he invited Neal to preach in his services that coming Sunday. We excitedly agreed, even though our flight to India from Nairobi was that evening.

In our ‘down time’, we had several opportunities to encourage individuals and pray. We’re so grateful for our new friends, Bishop Alfred and Mary and believe this really was a match made in heaven. Their church is impressive and the way they pastor their people even more impressive. Thankful to be asked to come back. Always better then to be asked to leave! =)

Saturday we had the day off. Sarah and I went with the girls for a pedicure. Failed to get a picture of that too….then Neal met us for lunch. Since we had the vehicle, he walked to Java House. Here he is….took this picture from Java.

We did a bit of shopping, and then we had to pack because we knew Sunday would be a full day. Also got a quick game in with the fam before bed.

Here are our digs at the Lout mansion. I spent as much time outside in that front yard as I could. As I said, the weather is heavenly.

Sunday dawned early and our trusty Nicolas was right on time to take us to PEFA South B. Again there were 2 services. The first, English and the 2nd, Swahili. You might take note that we’re some of the few dressed ‘African’.

This is another happening church in Nairobi and they just have fun. But we had to be on our way- our flight was calling. Bishop Samuel however, would have none of it though, until we had our lunch. So eat lunch we did. And it was a great final meal in Kenya. But alas, no photo. =(. I was in too much of a rush to get moving. Nicolas, our personal taximan was not only there on time, he decided to come to the 2nd service. He usually attends a catholic church. He was able to get us home before 4, so we could finish packing and shower to leave at 5:30 for our overnight flight to India. Scott was also traveling to the US around the same time, so we all hoofed it to the airport together. No – we didn’t hoof it. Nicolas brought us.

It’s so awesome to be on a ministry trip and stay with family. Every morning Sarah made me one of her protein smoothies and had it waiting for me in the fridge. Every evening when we came home, she had food ready for us – even when it was late. Love and appreciate you so much fam! Let’s do this again! =)

We had an amazing time in Kenya working together with incredible men and women of God and teaching hungry believers.  Pretty sure this is only the beginning and  we’re trusting God that He will grow the seeds that were planted in good soil, and a harvest will be produced.  After all, that is what it’s all about!

Off to India we go – which as I said is where I’m writing this post from. It’s taken me several days to complete it, but I’m ready to click ‘publish’.  We’ve already had a full week of ministry here, with a couple more to go. Not sure where I’lll write that post from….

So honored that God has called us to #reachunreachednations !

Uganda Finale’

So where was I?

Right. Our lovely dinner, lovely room, and lovely friend Dave. At Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.

Our lovely dinner.

The view from our lovely room….

The view into our room.

Our lovely friend, Dave.

But before our dinner, we went out on a game drive. The vehicle was a boat. We’ve been to game parks before, but we’ve never done it from a 2-story boat. It was pretty awesome.

What follows is a bunch of pics of what we saw. We’ve seen hippos before, (they live in the river a few hundred yards from our house) but we’ve never so many in one place. Lots of cool elephants too. The angle from the boat was pretty unique.

Gosh, reliving that was pretty fun. Amazing animals. It was after the boat ride that we had the lovely dinner and a great night of sleep. Here are a few shots of Mweya Lodge…in case you’d like to go.

After a good night sleep, we got up at 5:45 for one last game drive – on the road this time – before returning back to Fort Portal.

We saw some more hippos and elephant – and the elephant were quite talkative. There were muddy water buffalo and a beautiful sunrise too.

And this is one scary find…

Before we leave Mweya Lodge, I should also include some photos of a nearby salt business/community. It’s quite fascinating. We stopped to see it – just before entering the park. I don’t even remember all the details of how it happens, but it was cool to see… All the stacks of slate looking things are salt.

So I’ve been writing this post over several days, having started at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda. I’m now trying to finish it at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya, where we’re waiting for our flight to India for the 3rd leg of this ministry trip. Let’s see how far I get before the call to board…

We left Mweya Lodge (I should add here that though this originated as a ministry trip, we’ve clearly gotten to add in some other cool things too) and started our journey back to Fort Portal. It was long and dusty and bumpy. And beautiful. Always beautiful.

We quickly changed clothes when we got there and headed out to see the parts of the ministry that Dave started – ChristAid. It’s an amazing organization that focuses on children and Gramas. Have you ever heard of that combination? They sponsor children to go to school, and follow them through til they are employed. Many of those that now work in the ministry are children who were ‘raised’ by ChristAid. The grama’s that they take care of are widows that have no place to live. ChristAid builds homes for them, and helps them with medical needs.

Dave, the former director, with Grace, the current director.

My favorite thing was visiting the school – including the drive up the mountain.

I got to speak to some very attentive children- in English!

And check out that view! Did you ever go to school with that view out your window?

I spoke with their school director and we are making a plan for him to connect with our school director in Niger. I challenged the students to be praying for the students in Niger and they were quite excited about it. I’m looking forward to setting up a connection between our schools. These Christian kids praying for their Muslim friends.

This is Richard their director, a pre-school and a primary school classroom.

And check out this sweet Grama and the home that was provided for her.

After a short night, we made the 6 hour drive from Fort Portal to Entebbe. If you read about the ‘getting there’ part of this journey, you may remember the chicken-on-a-stick and Rolex stop. It was pouring rain and part of me was also pouring, if you know what I mean. Thank the Lord I got over that quickly. We stopped at the same place on our return and everything was much sunnier. Especially me. =). The final product, a Rolex, is a fresh made omelette rolled into a fresh made chapati. SO good.

We couldn’t be in Uganda without seeing Kampala, so we took the long route around and stopped there to have some tea. But the tea somehow turned into a smoothie….

Downtown Kampala with Dave and our new friend Olive (she’s one of Christaid’s success stories).

We slowly snaked through traffic and made it to Entebbe just before dark. Our 6 hour trip turned out to be a bit longer than expected. Which is expected. =) We checked into our hotel, then walked across the street to have some fish on the now very dark shores of Lake Victoria.

The next morning we went on a very cool and very wet boat ride on Lake Victoria to Ngamba Island to see chimpanzees. These chimps have been saved from poachers and are protected.

I couldn’t get pictures of the boat ride after the one above because about halfway into the 50 minute journey, a storm came up. They passed out rain coats but Neal and I were in the front so…. It was wet, cold, and bumpy. I’ve been on countless bad roads and the boat felt like we were taking the ‘potholes’ fast. Really fast. But it was pretty fun. We crossed the equator, in a rainstorm, on a bumpy boat on Lake Victoria — a lake with a bunch of crocks and the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world (2nd only to Lake Superior, in my home State of Minnesota) on our way to an island to see a bunch of monkeys. How many people get to say that?

We saw 50 Chimps and learned a lot of pretty interesting stuff about them. Do NOT mess with them when they’re eating. Actually, just do not mess with them.

After a less eventful but also fun boat ride back to Entebbe, we were hungry! Dave and Olive were waiting for us and took us to a mall for lunch. Our last meal together before heading to the airport for our flight to Nairobi.

We also went souvenir shopping because Neal was looking for a hat, and Dave wanted to send us with gifts. Very sweet, but that kind of shopping is never quick, so it turns out that we didn’t end up changing clothes as expected. We boarded our plane wearing the same clothes we wore through the rainstorm and on chimp island. Clothes that had been drenched and then dried while still wearing them. But no worries, it was a short flight, and everything (including a hot shower) was ready for us on arrival.

I didn’t quite finish this post before boarding call, so I am finishing it from the air, over the Indian Ocean. We’re on our way to Mumbai, followed by a 2 hour flight to Bangalore, then another road trip from there to Kolar Gold Fields where we will spend the next week. We’ll arrive sometime tomorrow. It’s currently after mid-night (my time, whatever that means), so I’m going to try and get some sleep. I’m a bit distracted though by the guys I’m sitting next to on this flight- they’re making me laugh and roll my eyes all at the same time. They’re what I’d call high maintenance passengers. They are keeping the flight attendants hopping. IE. “Sir, would you like lamb, fish or veg?” Their reply: “I want chicken” =). Wonder if they’ve ever had chicken-on-a-stick, somewhere in Uganda…

….We’ve landed in India, completed our road trip, are settled into our room and are barely keeping our eyes open til bed. We may not win that battle. There is wifi here so I’m finally uploading this post.

Next up….Kenya!

Uganda cont….

I am currently seated in Crane Cafeteria, waiting to board our flight from Entebbe, Uganda, to Nairobi, Kenya. I can’t say if that’s where this post will be completed though….

We have had a wonderful week here. It’s been a full week of ministry with lots of fun and touristy things mixed in.

My last post was about our journey getting here – we arrived Friday evening. Saturday, we did 2 radio programs on a station that we’re told has 100’s of 1000’s of listeners. Our topic was church planting so we started with generational thinking. It was live, so there were some call ins with questions. The feedback was that we were very well received and left people asking for more. So much better then people asking you to go home! =).

We then walked around Fort Portal for a bit, to get a feel for the town.

Sunday we got to minister at Golden Vessel Church and we loved it! We felt like we gained an instant family. They were SO receptive and we found out after the service that most of them had been there 2 hours before we arrived and had already had a service complete with worship and preaching!

After a wonderful meal with our new church family and a walk through their newly purchased land, we were quickly taken to a ‘park’ where a huge soccer tournament was underway.

Today’s championship game was a culmination of lots of matches between 8 teams. Our friend and host, David Mporampora, has recently started a ministry called ‘Jesus Squad’. This was his first big event, and we were asked to be the speakers at the ‘preaching part’ of the event. After the game there was lots of music and before the trophy’s were awarded, we were given the stage to preach the Gospel.

Two days before this event, the Lord gave me a message for these youth. It came to me in the middle of the night complete with 3 points. Large crowds aren’t really my thing, but I felt pretty strongly about speaking out what God gave me. It was a simple message, but one I knew could apply to both saved and unsaved youth. Neal was all about me doing it, so that’s what I did. It was brief, then Neal came and pulled in the net. Praying that those who heard and responded to the Gospel will find a place to worship and be discipled.

Trophies for winning teams and bananas and chickens as gifts for host and guest speakers.

Monday was another big day. Neal and I both taught at a pastors conference. Pastors from lots of different churches/ministries were there, some with their wives. This is really our passion. Teaching pastors. Because when we teach them effectively, we know that they in turn will teach their people – so the impact can be multiplied.

We were happy to hear lots of good feedback and invitations to come back.

Tuesday was a fun day too. We drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The drive was long and the road was rough, but it was worth it. When we arrived we checked into our really cool room, had some quick fish and then went on a game ‘drive’. We’ve been on drives before, but never from the water. So this was pretty awesome.

Getting there was beautiful.

On the way, we crossed from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. That was pretty awesome. A young man was there to show us an experiment to prove it was actually true. Neal even insisted on trying it for himself to make sure there was no ‘trickery’.

One foot in each hemisphere.

We’ve been fortunate to see some pretty amazing animals, but one thing we haven’t seen before is so many hippos and water buffalo in one place. And from the smooth ride of a boat. A tall boat. Are boats tall?

We had a lovely dinner and then retired to our lovely room, provided by our friend Dave. Our lovely friend.

INTERRUPTION

Since I started this at the airport in Uganda and I’ve now been in Kenya for a couple of days, I’m just going to click ‘publish’ and finish the rest of the story later. I’m clearly not going to get it all memorialized in one sitting – or 3 or 4. But it’ll happen eventually….

Niger to Uganda

Check out this contrast…

We had a full 2 weeks while home sweet home in Niger. In fact if you’d like details of all going on there, you could check out our October newsletter, which can be found on our website here.

We are clearly not in Niger….

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at 3am on Friday morning. This is our first time here and we came to visit our friend, Pastor David Mporampora, and to do some ministry with him. The above picture is the view we woke up to a few hours after arriving. I know, amazing. That’s Lake Victoria.

Here we are with Pastor Dave.

After a few hours of sleep, we began the 6 hour journey to Fort Portal on the western side of the country (Entebbe is on the eastern side). We’ve been on lots of road trip in developing nations, and they are always remarkable.

Because I love a good cup of tea, these beautiful tea fields were near and dear to my heart, and I took tons of photos of them. They were everywhere.

I told Dave I was really looking forward to seeing green, and Uganda did not disappoint.

I found this sign funny – but I’m not exactly sure of its meaning. But I do know that it rained, stopped raining and rained at least 6 times during our 6 our drive. Gosh, here the road is looking quite nice…

Loads of banana trees.

Lunch time was upon us. I seriously love a good roadside lunch stop. This one did not disappoint.

Roasted chicken on a stick, roasted plantain, hoppers (fried grasshoppers) and a rollex (an omelette rolled into a chapati).

The place was packed with people making all of the above. It’s a popular ‘ truck stop’. This is just part of it.

I barely had time to snap some pics of the food – it was consumed quickly. The only thing I got of the ‘rollex’ was the young man beginning to make the omelette.

What you are not seeing in the pics is what is going on in my belly. Neal and I have traveled a lot internationally and we no joke love and appreciate the food wherever we go. And we never have tummy trouble. We consider ourselves pretty blessed. Well, I’m going to chalk it up to travel, missed sleep, busy schedule etc, but Mantazouma showed up. While we were standing there enjoying the culture all around us, I suddenly knew that I was going to have to respond to what was going in in the depths of my belly. I informed Neal and Dave with some urgency that I needed to find a place, while pointing to my midsection. I said I could go across the street and use whatever might be available at the gas station. I didn’t care that it was pouring rain. I’m very aware that the facilities may be less then likeable, but I was is no shape to care. But Dave, who knows the place well had a different option. If you scroll back to where the chicken is being made, you can see a building in the back. Dave recruited a young lady to take me there. At this point I was doing some serious concentrating, if you know what I mean. Did I mention it’s raining? My guide had an umbrella so that was pretty wonderful. We weaved our way through all the chicken roasters, smiling and nodding and me being pretty aware that they all knew where I was going. We turned the corner and she pointed and said it’s there – but you pay here. Pay? I was happy to pay, however, not now. You know when you gotta go and your goal is in site? I had no time to waste. I mumbled something and rushed past the money collectors as they stared at me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a squatty potty in my life. There was no water in there, but I had tp in my pocket. I would figure out the rest ‘after’. How do you spell relief? A squatty potty with a door – even though it didn’t lock. All is now well, but now what to do. As I came out I discovered that in fact there was a tiny sink. With soap! But you are in fact paying for it. Lovely. I didn’t want to leave what I had done behind – as I was the only one at the time using the facilities – so I investigated further. And I found a big drum of water with buckets in it. Oh happy day! With many eyes on me, I boldly filled the bucket with water and went and washed away the evidence. When I went around the corner, my guide assured me that I was ‘paid up’. I’m pretty sure they felt sorry for me.

Back through the chicken I went and believe it or not, I was ready to eat some of that chicken. We were back on the road and I enjoyed a bit of everything (well, minus the hoppers). And my gut felt happy. Until about 2 hours later as we were entering into Fort Portal, our final destination. Things were churning again so I asked Dave how far to our hotel. Oh – about 10 minutes or so. I can do this, I tell myself. So the concentration begins. I don’t remember much of the drive through the beautiful city, my eyes were on the goal. When we reached the hotel gate, they wanted us to register the vehicle. Seriously? Dave graciously explained my situation and the security man quickly opened the gate. We’d register later. I got to my goal just in the nick of time. And this one was quite lovely. It was an actual throne.

I’m happy to say that that was the end of it. My God is so good. And I know people are praying for us. I’ve been enjoying Ugandan food freely since. Well, even ‘during’ I was enjoying the food. =).

Next time I’ll show some actual pictures of this beautiful place.

Blog or Diary?

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I’m determined to ‘stay on the wagon’ and write a blog post at least once a week.  It’s been a week since my last post. Which was about missing Tobi.  I’m still missing him…

The original purpose of this blog was for me to express myself and be as wordy as I please.  Editorialize if you will.  After all it is called Diary From the Desert.  I’ve been a missionary in the southern part of the Sahara Desert for more than 21 years and sometimes (often) interesting things happen – things that I want to remember and document.  My blog is different then our monthly ministry updates.  Which I know also tend to be quite wordy, but those are to give information to our partners so I try not to tell stories when writing those updates.  That’s what my blog is for.

Right or wrong, my goal for this blog never was to get followers or readers.  I just wanted a convenient way to express my thoughts.  In fact this was originally a journal until many years ago my friend and fellow blogger told me I should create a blog.  (The same friend who outlined my treatment plan for my NTTMIP diagnosis and got me writing again). I didn’t even know what a blog was.  Turns out it was a pretty convenient way to write.  Since then, I’ve had multiple people tell me that ‘diary’ should be a book.  But, I reasoned, why would anyone want/need this to be in book form if all they needed to do (if in fact they did want to read my diary from the desert) was to go to dchilds.wordpress.com?  It sounds like a whole lot of work and I guess I’m not sure what purpose that would serve…

I’m rambling here, well, because I can.  I’m not trying to be concise or follow any rules so that people follow this blog.  Because though I appreciate those who do, It’s not my purpose for writing.

So, back to Tobi.  I still miss him.  We’ve texted a few times this week, so that’s been nice.  I still look in his room when I walk down the hall and imagine him at his desk doing his homework.  Then I figure out the time change and imagine what he’s probably doing.  Then I pray for him.  So, thinking about him often is actually beneficial.  Lots of prayer going up.

Then Tanika sends me a video of my little burrito saying hi to Grama.  Could he be any sweeter?  Then, there’s the other 3 perfect little people that I get to call grandkids.  I’ve looked over my pictures with them multiple times and have decided that the more time I get to spend with them, the more I get to know them — the more I miss them.  And I realize how fortunate I am, as a missionary, to have been able to spend as much time as I have with each of them.  Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but I think the opposite is also true.  The more time I spend with them, the fonder my heart grows.

I could have used this week’s post to write about all that’s been happening here since we arrived back in Niger a week ago.  We, as they say, hit the ground running.  I could have written about readjusting to the heat (who am I kidding, no one adjusts to this heat), or about the power outages or the still lingering jet lag.  But, this is MY blog, and I didn’t feel like writing about those things.  I felt like rambling….  ;).