Akuyam Bible Study

Friday, 27 March 2015 | 06:04

Last Thursday (the 19th), I had the opportunity to head out to one of the local villages, Akuyam, for the weekly Bible study there. Akuyam is about a half an hour walk north of Nakaale and is one of the more spread-out villages.

The studies are prepared by the pastors, translated to ŋaKarimojoŋ, and then presented by teachers. There’s a significant advantage to having local teachers present the lessons - language familiarity. For this study, Lokeris was leading. Typically, one of the pastors attends, but on this particular day both were engaged in other church business, so Pastor Al gave me a copy in both English and ŋaKarimojoŋ so that I could follow along a bit more easily.

Akuyam, being rather spread out, actually has two studies in the afternoon, back to back in different locations, both held in the shade of trees. For those who can read, a copy of the lesson is provided and attendees are occasionally asked to read a particular paragraph. At the end of the passage, there is the “lesson” portion, where the discussion really happens, followed by a memory verse.

The first lesson was primarily attended by men, whereas the second was primarily attended by children and mothers. Even though I couldn’t understand the bulk of the lesson, except where I could follow along in my copy, I could still tell where Lokeris was interacting differently with the two groups, just as you’d expect. Overall, I like the format and how well it integrates with the mission work as a whole. This week covered Saul and Barnabas and the lesson included an explanation of how the missionaries on the field in Karamoja are following in their footsteps.

On the way out and back, I had the chance to get a better sense of the area, as well. The route crosses a river, which now at the very end of the dry season is completely dry. But in the rainy season, I learned that it is chest-high and full of moving debris like logs, making it impassible from the bank I stood on taking this photo to the far bank (the trees with the green grass around them end up in the middle of the river). So, instead of a half-hour walk, it’s a much longer walk around via the road, which has a bridge. Such are the challenges of “footing it”.

River+Crossing.jpg

It was nice to get out and see more of the mission work, particularly the teaching aspects. I’d been spending pretty much all my time within the compound, since that’s where my work was.

Communications

Friday, 20 March 2015 | 11:47

In an e-mail a while back, I noted that communications are difficult. Even in English, it’s not as easy as you’d think. I quickly noticed that the missionaries use “Ugandan English” when speaking with Ugandans. Surprisingly, it actually makes the communications go more smoothly. I wish I could describe it, but such powers are beyond me.

Yesterday, on my walk out to the village study and back, I found that I had started doing the same. I’m sure it’s an atrocious version, but it just kind of happens. The funny part was that when Pastor Al, one of the missionaries, was taking me to the clinic, I found I was still doing it. Oh, well.

I think I understand the basic Karamojong greeting now, so here’s a primer.

Person 1: Ejoka? [Are you fine?]
Person 2: Ejok. Ejoka? [I am fine. Are you fine?]
Person 1: Ejok. [I am fine].

Sounds pretty simple, right? But then I got confused when somebody would respond with “Ejok a nooi” run together basically into one word. It turns out that “nooi” (the two “oo” letters together indicate an “o” sound held for a longer time, not a different sound) essentially means “very good”, and the “a” is added because of the two consonants being back to back, creating a response meaning “I am very fine”. Of course, the other person may continue with something else, which I can’t understand, but at least I can greet and respond!

The other words in my ŋaKarimojoŋ vocabulary:

  • Mam [no, pronounced like “mom”]
  • Emun [snake, said with emphasis if you want somebody to come and kill it, thankfully not necessary yet, but handy should I need it]

Hydration

Friday, 20 March 2015 | 10:59

Staying adequately hydrated seems to be a challenge, no matter where I live. I knew that even working in an office, I don’t drink enough, but here I need far more. The challenge comes when I don’t realize I’m dehydrated, particularly when I’m working outside. The constant wind during the day really helps to ease the heat, but that’s only because I’m sweating. Which means I’m losing water. A lot of it.

Typically, I’ve been drinking between 3 and 5 liters of water per day before dinner. Which generally seems to work fairly well, but I can tell that I’m still dehydrated.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to tag along with one of the teachers to a village Bible study (there will be another post on that). The walk was about half an hour each way and very enjoyable. Nearing home, I started to feel lousy, but figured it was just the sun getting to me. So, I came inside to rest and drank a quart of diluted gatorade. I expected to recover fairly quickly, but instead felt worse and worse (cramping, fatigue, chills, poor circulation in my feet and arms, dizziness). Two hours later, it was off to the clinic to get tested for malaria. Tests came back negative, so it wasn’t that. So, back to the house and the wonderful regimen of ORS began. The main challenge is that when really dehydrated, the body doesn’t want to drink, since being nauseated is one of the symptoms. So you basically have to force yourself to drink, and the flavor isn’t exactly delicious.

After lying down for an hour to try to get my cramping to go away, with very limited success, one of the missionary associates brought me some crackers and conversation. It turns out that both are what I needed - the crackers for energy and conversation to get me to drink (believe it or not, it’s true, I drink more water when talking) and to lift my spirits. By a little after 2200, I was feeling well enough to head off to bed.

Today, I’m still drinking ORS instead of water, but the homemade version, which I find to be far more palatable (especially with the excellent cane sugar here, which has a better taste than the sugar back home). And, to give my body a chance to recover (I’m still not feeling back to normal), I’m taking the day off from work and staying in the shade.

So, here’s to hydration. Sometimes, you just can’t drink enough and need to get out of the heat.

Church in Nakaale

Sunday, 15 March 2015 | 16:59

Today marked my third Sunday here, so also my third church service.

In many ways, things are the same as at home. God’s people gather to hear the Word preached, sing the songs of the kingdom, and share the Lord’s Supper. Sure, the entire service is conducted in two languages through a translator, but many back home would find the liturgy entirely customary. Pastor David is currently preaching on Jesus’ sermon on the mount.

Some things are different, though. For example, the church is open-air - we have a corrugated steel roof and concrete floor and benches (plus some chairs in the back). This means the breeze has full opportunity to blow through, which is nice since it’s been quite warm here (typically in the 100s, from what I’ve heard). The lack of walls also means there is a different sort of view. Many churches have stained glass windows representing pastoral scenes, but here we have the pastoral landscape itself. Sometimes, this even includes the animals. This week, cattle had to be blocked from walking up to the pulpit prior to the service. Goats have wandered past two of the three weeks. So, unlike at home, they aren’t confined to the church basement.

We have song books, and thankfully the language is phonetic, but today was the first week where I finally felt like I was able to pronounce some words with a touch of confidence. :) Certain words/sounds are easier than others.

In the evening, the missionaries gather for evening worship, alternating between the main house and the clinic. Pastor David is currently teaching from Romans; we started chapter seven this week.

The View from Work

Sunday, 15 March 2015 | 16:33

Unfortunately, my photos from my hike last weekend are inaccessible, due to a cracked solder joint on my camera card reader. So, until I find an appropriate soldering iron (if I can, it’s sort of a delicate electronics repair), we’ll have to be content with photos from my compact camera.

Here’s a glimpse of Mount Kadam, the nearest mountain, as seen from where I’m working on the trucks. It’s not exactly a representative depiction of the region, considering Karamoja is a large plain, but it’ll have to do for now. If you click on the image, you can view a larger version.

Mt__Kadam.jpg

Differentials

Sunday, 15 March 2015 | 16:20

No, not the calculus kind. The kind that make trucks go. Or should. Unless they look like this.

Canter_Differential_Ring_Gear.jpg

See those missing teeth? That’s what we call a bad thing. So, the agenda for this week includes swapping in a replacement axle, since those teeth aren’t the only problem.

The theme of the last couple of weeks really is front axles, the other one being on a Land Cruiser pickup. It’s now rebuilt and installed, but something appears to be wrong with the transfer case, so I’ll be dropping that out for inspection on Monday. Hopefully we won’t see results like above.

And, yes, I’m loving this sort of work. It’s like getting to do my hobbies every day! It’s hard to believe I’m already past the half way point of my visit here. If only I could stay longer; a month seems so short.

Jet Lag Solution

Sunday, 8 March 2015 | 21:40

Well, I accidentally discovered a solution to jet lag. No guarantees that I’d be able to reproduce it, but it worked! Here’s how:

  1. Only sleep three hours during the night before the trip. This way, you start out sleep deprived.
  2. Stay awake all night on the overnight flight over the Atlantic. Weird Al can help with this.
  3. On the afternoon/evening flight take two Benadryl to deal with the perfume in the cabin and then forget that you took Benadryl and order wine with your dinner. It doesn’t have to be good wine, even the stuff that approximates vinegar will do the job here. Sleep like a rock for five of the eight hours even though it’s the most crowded flight so far, which is good, because you have negative legroom. An extra bonus: when the flight attendant asks if you want ice cream a few hours later, you’ll barely be coherent, but just enough to manage to say “yes”.
  4. Get picked up from the airport and go straight to bed at the motel and sleep until you wake up.

Hey, it worked and I appear to have zero jet-lag effects! Of course, getting up at 0600 instead of 0430 helps… But don’t argue with success. I’ll gladly accept my blessings when they come along like this.

Entebbe

Friday, 27 February 2015 | 11:45

After uneventful flights and transfers (although long indeed), I’ve made it to Entebbe. Finally got a good night’s rest last night and woke up refreshed. Took what I expect was my last hot shower for a month. Should be leaving mid-day to drive to Mbale for the night, then on to Nakaale on Saturday.

After being in northern climates and air conditioned airplanes, it was quite different walking off the plane into 75F and humidity in the 70% range. Definitely not the 20s (F) and low humidity like home! It’s also startling, in a good way, to see so much green, and not conifers.

Leaving on a Jet Plane…

Tuesday, 24 February 2015 | 23:47

All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go! As usual, finishing with a late-night packing spree. I normally pack light for my travels, so it’s a bit unusual for me to have two checked bags, but it’s not like I can just pop over to the store and get things I forgot! But, the checklist says I’m good to go.

I board tomorrow morning in Salt Lake City for an exciting 25 hours of travel to Entebbe.

And to answer a question I’ve been getting for weeks now: Am I nervous? No. Excited? Yes!

The next update will likely not be until I’m all the way to Karamoja, and even then it may be a couple of days. I expect to arrive in Nakaale (Karamoja) on Saturday evening.

Preparations

Thursday, 12 February 2015 | 23:18

As those who have been around me for the last eight years know, God has tugged me towards missions. Specifically, using my engineering background to be a missionary. Until 2006, I didn’t even know it was a combination that existed. The 2006 Urbana student missions conference changed that perception, and by 2009, when I went for the second time, I knew that missions was to what I was called. It’s even why I ended up choosing industrial engineering as my major, believe it or not.

Fast forward to 2015. I finally have the opportunity to put my plan into action: use my vacation time for short-term work work as I figure out where I can best fit in as a missionary before transitioning to full-time missionary. In less than two weeks, I’ll be headed to Uganda with my denomination (the OPC) for a month, working with the missionaries in the Karamoja region. To say that I’m looking forward to it is an understatement. :)

There remains much packing and gathering/finishing a few things (amazing how deadlines can push deferred projects to the front, like sewing a couple of pairs of pants and shorts) as the time draws near. For a while, it seemed a ways off, but then, all of a sudden in January, it switched to “oh, wow, that’s soon!”. Always something to keep me out of trouble, right?

I’ll use this blog to keep y’all apprised of my progress. You’re welcome to follow along! Also, if you want to receive e-mails with specific prayer requests, use the contact form and I’ll add you to my list.