Sunday, October 19, 2008


We just arrived home on Friday night from our 7 day trip to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimajaro. We went with our friend Kristen who is here working on the home for former child prostitutes that Cornerstone is starting. Basically, the trip was amazing. We were freezing the whole time, but all three of us made it to the 19500 foot summit. We climb through all five nature regions and slept and walked through such beauty. It was truly a bonding experience although at some points we were quite miserable and we all cried at least once. On the summit night, we climbed from midnight to 645 am to reach the peak through whipping winds and freezing temperatures. Our water, hands, eyelashes, and toes froze. All in all, we feel a huge challenge complete and it was totally worth it.

Today, we are going to one of the boy's home Kibuli to start working on the medical records with Wilter. Pray that it all goes smoothly. Thanks for the prayers. Pray that we stay positive and really love the people around us this last three weeks of our time in Uganda.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

We are so excited!

Ellen and I have spent our Sunday afternoon cleaning out the office that our new Health Coordinator Wilter is going to use. We really got the Spring Cleaning fever and were cleaning ten year old dust off the shelves in the office that no one has been using. She is starting Monday morning, so keep our transition in your prayers.

Yesterday, we spent the day at two of the Youth Corps homes, the Ntinda girls home and the Kibuli boys home. We spent the first couple hours hanging out with the kids and then taught a first aid lesson. The first aid lesson turned out to teach us some interesting lessons about Ugandan medical culture. For example, the kids were convinced if you got a burn, you should first urinate on it and then cover it with a rabbit skin (specifically a rabbit too). Also, we learned that they think you should pour water on your head and lay on the ground to stop a nose bleed. It is interesting to teach in such a different culture of medicine. We are learning. We are excited for Wilter to start giving the health talks b.c perhaps it will be more convincing to learn from someone of your own culture. I have never taught another to use a bandaid before or to hold pressure on a cut, but when I think about it, I learned these things from my parents. Living alone in the world has left some of these kids without the basic knowledge we take so for granted.

One of the things I keep recognizing in Ugandans is there hospitality. They really live out the principle to give out of the abundance of your heart even if you have little. One of the mentors at Kibuli home, Dennis, is in university and works a part-time job at a canteen to help pay his tuition and spending money. Each time we come to the house, he provides us a spread of food including bread, bananas, tea, and casava (Ellen's favorite). Each time it makes me think about how much he loves to spend time with us and give to us to show his appreciation and I can really learn from him to open my table and my home to others. One boy at the home named Paul gave both Ellen and I pieces of candy that he had bought off the street. It is so sweet b.c he is the same boy who was telling me he is really hoping to acquire a second pair of pants so that he can wash his clothes in a rotation. Can you imagine if your closet included one pair of pants and you were buying small gifts for people you know have lots of money compared to you, it is a beautiful heart.

The kids and their stories have really blessed me. I see Jesus' hands and feet in the mentors who raise these abandoned orphans and street children and I see God's work abundantly in the beauty of transformed lives of the children. For the little Ellen and I have been able to serve them, our lives have been changed. I pray that my heart and actions will forever remember the beautiful, simple, hospitable people of Uganda.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kigali, Rwanda and Lake Bunyonyi

Leah and I just got back from our quick trip to Kigali, Rwanda. The main donors for all the Cornerstone Projects, the Temmis' and the Cameron's were in town and flew to Rwanda just for last Monday. We took the bus there early so we could tag along to their tour!

We havehad an amazing past few days, this will be a good time of reflection for me. We started on Sunday taking the 6am bus to Kigali, Rwanda.That was interesting in itself because we had assigned seats when webought the tickets, yet I have never seen anyone push so hard to geton a bus, much less adults! We picked up new people all along the wayso it filled up pretty quickly. We soon found out that everyone we know always takes the 3am bus because the 6am bus uses the wrongborder that is out of the way. It was a little over a 12 hourjourney. The border itself was just weird-we all got out of the bus,left our stuff on it...the bus drives away (meets us in the rwandaside) and we have to walk like 1/2 a mile to get to the rwanda side. Immediately,there were so many changes once we left Uganda. First of all, the roads in southern uganda can hardly be called roads--more like dirtand pot holes.

I cannot believe I was even able to concentrate on the page of my bookbecause we were swirving and pumping and accelorating and stopping. Somehow--I was rather at peace, just excited to have a day to read and listen to music and be by myself (or act like it).

Ok, so the roads in Rwanda were wonderful. They were paved withalmost-real asphalt, were smooth, and we were switched to drive on theright side of the road! Apparently that's what they do in france andbelgium. There were small mountains all around us, we were either on peaks or valleys for the next 3 hours. There is also an immediatechange in land-use. Rwanda does not have very much land compared tothe number of people in the country, so they farm a much pargerportion of teir land. A lof of the cow farmers (traditionalprofession in rwanda) moved to Uganda for a host of reasons, one of them being more land for graizing.

We were picked up at the bus station by David who works in the office here--he got there a day ahead to prepare for the Timmis visit. I cannot tell you how spoiled I felt getting driven around in acar...not having to call a taxi, or negotiate a deal for 10 minutes,or even figure out where we were going. It was one of those simplepleasures i took for granted everyday at home. Here, it was one of the sweetest gifts. The boda drivers there all had to wear helmetsand have helmet s for their passangers. They also had to wearreflective vests and their motorcycles all seemed a little newer thanin Uganda. The city was set amongst hills, and though kampala is seton 9 hills, they don't compare. The hills were bigger in Rwanda, andyou could see lots of trees on them wherever you were. Plastic bagsare illegal in the country, so there is much less trash on the roads.Also, street venders are illegal so there is no one trying to sell youstuff as you walk past (in Uganda, wherever you go you pass streetvendors with anything from candy to maize and peanuts to ties andsilverware). Thus, the whole experience seemed cleaner and healthier(they still have the exhaust problem but there is a lot less trafficand traffic jams). The Youth Corps. house there is for 8 maleuniversity students who Cornerstone somehow connected with. Theirhouse was wonderful, tile floor, a real bathroom with a toilet, ashower and our own bedroom! They were wonderful hosts, fixing us teaand dinner (rice, beans that were better than Ugandan beans, andfrench fries).

SO on the surface, Kigale doesn't even compare to Kampala. Thesurface is thin and fragile, and I could immediately tell there is adifference in the whole fear of the country. People obey road signsand traffic laws there (no one does in kampala, the law basically hasno authority at all on anything much less traffic) but people obeythem in Kigale because of fear. There is tension in the air thereunlike anywhere I have ever been. The level of trust is coming, but it is not fully realized.

We were able to go to the Cornerstone Leadership Academy there for a few hours. I could spend a year at that place. It is beautiful, ontop of a mountain looking down at a river. The sky seems bigger inRwanda, I haven't figured out why, but it was definately bigger at theschool. There was so much hope in these kids lives, so much sincerety. For a people having gone through so much--like must continue and they are doing the best they know how.

CLA is also the only school in the region taught in English. In order for Rwanda to assimilate into the East Africancountries, they have to speak English. This desire for English has just happened recently, so the government is in huge support of CLA.They also all scored highest in the region on their national exams.Most astonishing, the CLA has never had any fights. They are the onlyschool in their district that has never had tribal related fighting attheir school. Thus, many other schools in the area have asked thatthe CLA students come talk at their schools about the precepts theylearn at CLA--basically asking them to come talk about Jesus and thepeace and reconciliation he preaches. This astounds me. Theheadmaster is even broadcasting (he was asked to) once a week on aradio station there to talk about the precepts, and characerdevelopment. This was stunning to me. Jesus' work throughreconciliation was so real I could feel it at this school.

If anyone wants to support a school like this in Burundi, they aretrying to start one as soon as they get funding and Burundi has hadmostly the same conflict just a little more recent.

Our time there was unforgetable and life changing. To see Jesus' work of reconciliation in such an unabashed, bold and intense way cannot really be explained in words. He is real, His work is real, and the Kingdom of God truly at work in the world today.

We spent 2 days in Lake Bunyonyi right outside of Kibale, Uganda on the way back to Kampala. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have ever been. it reminded me a little of Cetner Hill lake with the hills around it, there were just lots of little island hills with farmers farming terraces on all of them. The first night, leah and I were the onlyguests on the island, it was a weird feeling but peaceful. We took a canoe out to the surrounding ilsands with little villages, swam in thewater and layed out on the dock. The canoe was carded out of an old tree, so it was nearly impossible for us to make it go straight, and Leah and I have done a lot of canoeing in our past! This trip was a perfect getaway from smog and city dust! We spent a lot of time alone, and probably walked around the island 15 times while we were there, seeing something new each time.

Thank you for your prayers and love and emails. We feel so blessed to have these experiences and to have all of your prayers and support. God is redeeming the world. Not just here, but everywhere. I encourage you to start looking for ways God is redeeming the world right around you. Sometimes this means stepping out of your comfort zone--but did God ever really call us to comfort?