Hello again from eastern Uganda! I hope that all is well with you! I see that it is nearly three months since my last newsletter but there has been plenty happening here and it is only now that I find that I have had some time to sit down and reflect on what God has been doing over the last few months.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->I continue to be much involved in the poorest part of the Namatala slum. As you know, until now I have mostly been working with the women and the children rather than the men. There are many good developmental reasons for this but, perhaps unsurprisingly; a recent event suggests that God has bigger and better plans. A month or so ago, we had some visitors from Bex’s church in the UK. Whilst they were praying for me, one of them felt very strongly that God was going to use me in connection with the men in Namatala. Afterwards, whilst praying about this, I felt that God was showing me the face of one man in particular. Although I have met this man on a couple of occasions over the last year or so, I really knew nothing about him, other than the fact that he lived in Namatala and was the father of one of the children that we are supporting to go to primary school.
Based on what I felt that God was showing me, I decided to track this man down. When I met with him a few days later, and explained that I felt that God had told me to come and find him, he was rather shocked and I could see that he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. He explained that things at home over the last year had been extremely tough and had deteriorated to such a point where he had seriously considered taking what was going to be a very bad course of action. However, although he was not a Christian, he was God-fearing and he knew that such a thing would be very wrong. Therefore, he had instead got down on his knees and prayed and begged God to help him. Now, here I was telling him that God had sent me to him! Isn’t God amazing?
Anyway, as a result, we had a long talk, prayed together and are now continuing to meet up on a regular basis. I have also been able to help him with a loan to restart his business so that he can financially support his family. I think that God has big plans for this man. Over the last couple of months, God has also brought me into very close contact with another two Karamojong men and it is going to be interesting to see exactly what God is starting to do here with these men.
The income generating project in Namatala continues to expand and flourish. Out of the latest group of ten parents, eight of them have started very well, one of the men, who is selling bed sheets, is finding it a bit tough and, sadly, one of the ladies has become very sick. Although it is still very early days, the eight successful businesses have already, within just the first three months, generated total profits that are over twice the amount that we gave out in grants to them. This is very encouraging and a further ten parents have already been identified as the next new group that we will help.
It is worth emphasising that these people are not just starting out with nothing but are really mired deep in absolute poverty. However, it is very exciting that some of the ladies whose businesses have been established for about a year are now asking to borrow additional monies in order to expand their businesses. Now that these ladies are on the first rung of the ladder, we are able to provide them with a loan, with a fair rate of interest, which will both help them to continue to prosper and enable us to effectively recover the initial grants that we originally provided to them. Hopefully, in the future, we can then use this money again to start off other parents with businesses.
The work on building the new school has also been going on well and we have now reached ceiling level on the ground floor. However, I have now halted the building work for a bit as the concrete slab, which will support the next floor of the school, needs to be built all in one go and we have not yet quite got enough funds at the moment to do so. The children themselves are doing very well and the behaviour of the very youngest children that we took on at the beginning of the year has improved dramatically. The children that have gone on to primary school are continuing to do very well academically and it is also exciting to see the spiritual growth in these children.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->To give you an idea of what God is doing with these children, there is one boy, called Egesa, who is about eight years old. On one occasion, the local Pastor noticed that he had refused food that was offered to him. For a child to refuse food in the slum is not something that happens too often and so the Pastor asked what was the problem. Egesa told him that there was no problem but that he was fasting to strengthen his prayers. The Pastor wondered what need was so desperate to the boy that he was praying so seriously. Egesa responded that he was praying for the Lord Jesus to come again so that he could put right all the wrong things that were happening in Namatala!
On another occasion, we had been waiting for some weeks for a particular person to visit the school. Egesa came and found me and told me that he had been asking God when the visitor would come and that he had just heard an audible voice from the sky tell him that the visitor would be coming today. Sure enough, the visitor turned up at the school later that very day.
One of the biggest challenges recently has been the prevalence of malaria. Due to the recent heavy rains, there have been pools of water everywhere in Namatala and, over the last month or so; it seems that almost everyone has gone down with malaria at one time or another. Although our children each sleep under a mosquito net, they also have not been immune and, at any one time, about ten per cent of the children have been off school sick and quite a few have had to be admitted to hospital for serious treatment. We thank God that each and every child has recovered although we are aware that there are a number of other children in the slum that have tragically not fared so well.
We recently had a couple of medical students visit us from Canada and, in the circumstances, decided that it would be good to have a health promotion week in the slum. We therefore hosted and arranged a number of well-attended community meetings to educate and discuss a number of health related matters. Seminars were held on topics such as personal hygiene, disease prevention, malaria, HIV-AIDS and family planning. We also constructed a further three pit latrines in the slum and distributed fifty basins and a hundred packets containing several bars of soap to very needy families. Finally, we held a medical outreach for two days, at which over nine hundred people received free treatment for anything from malaria to high blood pressure and colds and flu to being de-wormed.
May God bless you,