Sunday, November 10, 2019

Nakaale, Karamoja

We arrived in Nakaale yesterday afternoon in good order after only about three and a half hours of driving. This was much better than only a couple of days earlier when the missionary who was picking us up came down to Mbale and the direct road was too muddy and the longer detour took him almost six hours.

The peace and quite here is lovely, especially after the bustle of Kampala. Birds and insects form the primary sound backdrop with everything so green compared to last I was here. It’s now the tail end of wet season, so the grass is high and the trees are in full leaf. When I was last here, it was March, which is the tail end of dry season, and that year was unusual because there had been no September-November wet season. I don’t think the temperature is that much different than Kampala, but it feels so much cooler with the lower humidity. I’ll take some pictures as I’m out and about for work the next couple of days.

Today has been a restful Sunday, with church this morning and dinner with the pastor, his family, and a number of others. We’ll have evening service, then cook our own supper.

Tomorrow, our work starts with me taking care of some maintenance work at the clinic and Taryn helping with the preschool, Karamoja Education Outreach (KEO).


Friday, November 8, 2019


We finished out our time in Kampala well and came up to Mbale on Wednesday. It’s been a nice couple of days here visiting with friends and purchasing groceries to get us through the next few weeks.

Tomorrow, we head up to Karamoja. The roads have been pretty bad, so we may have to take the long way around to get to Nakaale. Thankfully, one of the missionaries will be driving us from Mbale, so we’re in good hands.

Prayer requests:

  • My sore throat is over, but I still have a lingering cough that makes it difficult to have a conversation, since whenever I talk much, I start coughing.
  • Margaret has been having trouble getting solid sleep. Hopefully the quiet in Karamoja will help with that.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

First Week

We arrived without problems (both we and our baggage) on Tuesday night and got enough sleep to avoid jet lag, which was nice. That’s not to say that we aren’t dealing with sleep deprivation, but that’s technically something else. ;-)

Wednesday, we were able to go grocery shopping and get cell phone SIM cards and transfer up to the EMI apartment. Our apartment here is normally used by EMI interns, so it’s only set up with twin beds and the mosquito nets won’t work with the two beds squished together. Turns out that two people actually can sleep on a twin bed…

It’s been a busy few days of getting to know EMI and the Kampala area. I’ll post a better summary of EMI once we finish the rounds of talking with everybody, but I will say that it’s been very encouraging. Margaret has also been doing particularly well, which has made things easier.

We attended church today at New City Church and it was refreshing to feel like we were (almost) at our home church.

This week we’ll be with EMI for a couple of more days and then travelling up to Mbale to see friends for a day or two, then up to Karamoja at the end of the week. We still need to work out the details for all of that.

Please pray for:

  • Knowing the right questions to ask so that we may get an accurate sense of the work and life here.
  • Relief from my sore throat that I think I picked up on the flights.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Back to Uganda!

Four years after we left Uganda as individuals, we’re headed back as a family!

We’re leaving in only three short weeks, on October 28th, and returning a month later, on November 29th. We are excited to have two ministries to work with. For our first week, we will be working in the capital city, Kampala, with Engineering Ministries International, focusing on their research and development operations, which aligns with Stuart’s professional background. For the last three weeks, we will work in the rural northeastern region, Karamoja, with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; there we will be assisting with facility maintenance and educational outreach, all of which supports church planting there. You may remember that this is where we met back in 2015, so it holds a special place in our hearts. In both places, we will be meeting our potential teammates and learning what work the Lord might have for us there long term, especially as we approach this as a family, rather than the individuals we once were.

As we prepare to go on this new adventure, we hope and pray you will support us however you are able. God works through the prayers of his people, and we covet yours. In order to keep you informed of our activities and prayer requests, we will keep this blog up to date. If you’d like e-mail updates, send me a request and I’ll add you to our list.

We are also looking for partners to join in sending us to do this work. We will be on the field for a month, and our cost will be $5800. We are 48% of the way there, so as of today we still need $3000. Progress to our goal is shown in the upper right of the page. And yes, my programming skills are completely rusty, so it’s just text!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Few Final Photos

For descriptiveness’s sake, here are a few final photos.

Since the entry on the Nakaale church didn’t have a photo, here’s one to give you a better idea of what I was writing. Notice the awesome church bell made from a plow disk hanging from the tree at the right. Ingenuity at work!


This tree on the main compound was blooming the entire time I was there and it seemed to get prettier each day.


My room was on the main compound. Pretty simple, but that was fine by me. The building with the toilet and shower are just barely visible to the left. The wardrobe shelves look bare because I forgot to take photos until I had already begun packing. OK, so there were a lot of things that didn’t come to mind until I was almost gone…



Finally, here’s a group photo after my last Wednesday night Bible study.


Sunday Hike

Finally, with a repaired flash card reader, I present photos from the Sunday, 08 March, hike!

Jim, Joshua, and I took an afternoon hike up one of the rocky points near the clinic between Sunday church services. From this point, we could see four districts, each with their own mountain, although Mt. Moroto was only barely visible through the haze and required some imagination to see the outline (which is why I have no photo of it here).

Here’s a few photos to get the idea (as usual, all can be expanded by clicking on them). The full album is available here.




Around Here

On Wednesday afternoon, Christopher, Taryn, and I went to Namalu for the weekly market day. I hadn’t yet made time to go, and so the day just before leaving the country was my last option. Great planning, huh? ;) I did manage to find a couple of blankets that I liked, as well as a good example of the local footwear - tire sandals. Good items for show and tell. :) The market pretty much lines the street in the center of town. The photos here also show a bit of the more permanent set-ups.



On the way down country to Entebbe on Thursday, we encountered a herd of cows in the road. Not your everyday event at home, right? You pretty much drive really slowly through the herd, it seems.


Also on the way down, I was reminded of one of my observations from the first day in-country: how direct the advertising is. A perfect example is this beer billboard by the side of the road. Instead of implying that the beer is a good value, which is what I’m accustomed to, they come right out and tell you that it is.


On the flight over the Atlantic, the flight attendants had us close our window shades after crossing over the northern British Isles, I suppose so people could sleep if they wanted. Thankfully I looked up at the flight tracker in time to realize we were crossing over the southern tip of Greenland. I’m glad I did. It’s kind of crazy to think that I went from seeing banana trees to the Arctic in less than 24 hours.




Let’s say you’re working on a vehicle and you discover you need a special tool to complete the job properly. What to do? Well, in the States you go to the store and buy it. Or, if it’s a really special tool, you buy it online and get it that week. However, that’s not an option in Karamoja. That nearest store might be in the States. Or, if you order it online, it’s going to take weeks and a hefty shipping charge to arrive to a town hours away.

So, here’s what I did: I made my own. I’d never done shielded metal arc welding (colloquially known as “stick welding”) before. Four years ago I made of few beads on a plate using a wire feed arc welder, but that’s it. So, I took a morning and taught myself enough to get the job done, with help from an online photo tutorial. Not pretty, but functional, and the welds got better (read “not as many burn-throughs”) as I continued needing to make things. It beats the local mechanics who would be wailing on it with hammers. There’s a phrase for that: Jua Kali, literally meaning “fierce sun”, but would be akin to our “shade tree mechanic”, with the strong implication of a short-term solution done poorly, often creating more problems in the process. It pays to be your own mechanic! So, in case you find yourself in a similar situation, here are the details.

[Read more…]

If Home Is Where the Heart Is

AKA: The Entry I Didn’t Think I’d Be Writing

How can it be possible that I’ve only been here for a month? Or how did the month go so quickly? Yes, it’s a strange mixture. Bear with me if you can; things are connected.

On the one hand, I just got here, but it feels like it’s been ages since leaving the States. The routine definitely contributes to that. It’s a five and a half day work week, punctuated by the Sabbath on Sunday. The strong missionary community also contributes to it. If you want to be a loner, this isn’t the place. When your close community is composed of five families and four singles and you interact with them every day, not once a week, you build relationships more quickly. Yes, of course I long for those back home. I miss those relationships dearly and I’ve treasured the simple conversations held by e-mail. But to have what has felt a second home - that I never anticipated.

On the other hand, I just got here and it feels like I’m leaving so soon. Which is very true. It really only has been a month. And a month wasn’t nearly long enough.

Which brings me to the title of the post. I never anticipated that I’d fall in love with Karamoja this much. Whenever I’ve moved, the new location pretty quickly comes to be home. Home isn’t where I grew up or where I used to live. Home is where I live. I’ve never before had the experience of visiting a place and thinking of it as home, especially a place to which I had never been and about which I knew very little. But so it is.

There’s the aspect of the basic functions of life here, too. There’s so much uncertainty amidst the known. Sure, I may have plans for the day, but far more often than I’m accustomed, those plans fall apart. I really have no option but to place my reliance upon God and His promises. It’s something that should be no different based on the location, but here you must. So much is out of my comfort zone, but His grace abounds. He has granted confidence to me like I’ve never experienced before, yet I didn’t realize it until my departure began looming. To not be confident in His plans as better than my own would result in frustration. And that’s hard for this engineer who likes to plan things in detail. It’s something that both worries me and serves as hope for my return - that I would continue to put my plans in perspective. I know God uses trials to form us, but in this case it feels like He’s using a gift to do so. A gift He intends me to carry home with me.

Going, my expectations were few; I wanted to start figuring out how I could use my background/skills as a missionary. He did more than that. It’s hard to describe the joy I’ve felt, but after eight years of feeling that particular missionary call, and then to actually be doing it is simply wonderful. It’s that feeling of “this is what I was made for”.

There’s a vulnerability in going somewhere completely unfamiliar. Typically, I close up when overwhelmed by the unfamiliar. But that didn’t happen. Rather the opposite, actually, and that caught me off guard. What might have been overwhelming became comfortable, and it wasn’t a conscious effort on my part. It’s like He set me up to show that He provides in ways far exceeding what I would ever imagine. And He provided more than confidence, more than joy in the work, and more than being open to the unfamiliar. And this is the part of the entry that was never even a possibility in my mind. Why should it have been? Who in their right mind expects to travel two continents away, for only a month, and find someone with whom he shares so much? Especially me, the guy who is quite particular. And for the feeling to be reciprocated. I couldn’t imagine such things a month ago, yet here I find Taryn and me deciding to date. So, there, it’s public. I can be as dense as a brick at times, and this is no exception; apparently everybody else at the mission saw it before I really realized it myself. We’re going to have to figure out how this long-distance relationship is going to work, but knowing that we have so much support is a blessing and reassurance. If this is meant to be, as we believe it is, those challenges become what I like to call “just details”. Even to hear myself say that reminds me of the work God has wrought in me over the last month - forming me to trust in Him. So if home is where the heart is, that makes two homes here on earth for this one heart.

Note: While this entry was technically written after I had already left Uganda (on the flights), the topic has been heavy on my mind for the last few days, so that’s why it’s written as if I haven’t yet left. Indeed, a big part of my heart hasn’t left.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Going to School

In another chapter of “finding out what else the mission does”, I took my last day, Wednesday, to attend with Taryn Dieckmann both the Nakaale primary school and the preschool. Both works are part of the Karamoja Education Outreach (KEO). By the end of Tuesday I was able to wrap up my normal work, so it was a nice conclusion.

Primary School

The Nakaale Primary School is one of the government-run schools. For a couple of hours in the morning, KEO teachers help teach lessons and train the teachers. Classes may not be quite what you are accustomed to - light is provided by what comes through the windows, the buildings are brick/concrete and topped with corrugated steel, and the chalkboards are smooth, dark concrete embedded in the wall. Well, smooth assuming they aren’t damaged and full of pock marks. Class sizes vary widely, with P5 having about 15 students and P1 having more than I could count. The P5 lesson that I observed involved using Bible stories to build literacy, particularly vocabulary. The lessons involve both English, as the official language of Uganda, and ŋaKarimojoŋ, the local language.

For reference, here’s a couple of photos of the school (thanks to Taryn, since I totally forgot to take photos while I was there, even though I had my camera).




KEO also runs a preschool next to the clinic. When I think of preschools, I think of very young children, but that’s not always the case. You’ll find that where someone is at in the school system really depends on at what age they started. If a child is kept at home to help take care of siblings, they may be starting school later than others, so students studying the same subjects may be of different age ranges but similar capabilities.

Since I went to the primary school first, it was getting towards the end of the preschool day, which is only held in the morning, by the time we arrived. I got to observe the last bit of the teaching rotation, especially the “top class” which was practicing their writing. Then we broke into “free time”, when the teachers get out picture books and discuss them with the students. Here’s a photo of me holding a book on oceans. It turned out be be a bit complicated, so we switched to a book of African wildlife as we discussed the names for local animals and the differences between a few of them. Yeah, that’s about the limit of my teaching capability in this context. Thanks to Erika for taking the photo without my knowledge. :)


We closed the day with singing and dismissal. I didn’t know the words, so I just hummed the tunes and clapped as I picked them up. :)

I’ve always had mixed feelings about preschool. But here it definitely has a place. Consider the difference between maybe eight students per teacher, in a very nurturing environment, at the preschool and the dozens of students in the P1 level (the entry class) at the primary school. The interaction and attention levels are vastly different. So too are the students’ interest. For example, during free time at the preschool, some of the students wanted to continue to practice their writing on the chalkboards. And that’s an option. How you could I not smile at that request? Sometimes joy is found in the little things. These students will enter P1 far more prepared than their counterparts who did not have that preschool preparation.

Oh, and I have to admit, it was fun spending a morning with a whole bunch of excited kids. :)