JO IN UGANDA
Greetings to you from Mbale, Uganda. I’ve been back in Africa 2 months and I’m much more settled now into the routine of life here once more, the culture and the work of JENGA after my long sabbatical. It is always such a joy to spend time with such a wonderful team of dedicated people and I’ve loved catching up with our JENGA staff. Life is meaningless without trusted friends and close companions to share the journey with and I’ve certainly been blessed with many here in Mbale ? I’ve been welcomed back so warmly into my Ugandan family and I’m savouring many of the things I’ve missed here.
It is still very warm although the height of the dry season heat has diminished. The rainy season was due to start early March but we’re yet to see significant rainfall. This is pretty catastrophic for local people dependent on rains to sow their seed and prepare for the next harvest. Due to the extreme heat and extended dry season, there is a serious food shortage resulting in prices rocketing. For example, maize flour which is part of the staple diet has doubled in price recently significantly impacting poorer families who struggle to survive even in normal circumstances!
Life has been pretty disturbed throughout February/March with our local and national elections but thankfully all went ahead fairly peacefully. Museveni, our President of 25 years has resumed his position as head of this nation. Let’s pray he leads with integrity, honesty and wisdom.
I’ve become quite busy again getting involved in numerous JENGA projects. Our Women’s Programme which targets widows has been focussing on a new Savings and Loans initiative whereby small groups collaborate together and save a small but regular sum of money which can earn interest. This capital can then be used for loans for small business set up costs. The loan can be obtained with 10% interest charged on payback once the business starts to make profit. We’re excited and confident that this will prove to be a really beneficial initiative for our JENGA women.
Community Health Promoter’s (CHP’s) Training
JENGA have trained over 180 CHP’s in our 4 key communities. This involves a full time programme being taught the basics of Community Health such as water and sanitation, personal hygiene, family planning, reproductive health, nutrition and common diseases such as malaria, HIV, intestinal conditions such as worms, typhoid, tuberculosis and diarrheal disorders. This educates local people on the causes and treatments of many simple ailments and empowers them with the tools to identify such conditions and the knowledge to improve the health of their communities.
March saw further training for JENGA’s Community Health Promoter’s based in rural areas. One topic was appropriate emergency responses to women in childbirth. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for women and babies to die in labour because of avoidable and treatable conditions. This is often because the woman fails to receive proper assessment or reach the medical facility in sufficient time. Scenarios that rarely occur in the Western world! The students were really encouraged to learn about the importance of correct procedures and vital measures which may literally make the difference between life and death. This is true empowerment as we educate and skill individuals to be better equipped. It is so unfair that health services and resources are so inadequate here, whereas in the UK we can access some of the best health provision in the world and for free. Many take this for granted but I for one am so appreciative of our wonderful NHS!
I’m thrilled to report that Bethel Church in Mooni has continued to grow whilst I’ve been away on my sabbatical. Upon returning to Uganda I’ve found a 2nd church plant; a new church set up in a new area as an off shoot of the main Bethel Church. That’s 3 churches in 3 years! Mooni is an extremely poor Muslim community where JENGA targets much of its efforts. As with everywhere JENGA works, our ministry to people here is based on their need, not on their religion and yet we’ve found such a hunger amongst people for the truth of the Love of God and very open hearts to the Gospel. The church is growing and getting stronger and stronger in this community. I’m having regular opportunities to preach in our partner churches; encouraging people to place their hope in Christ as the One who loves them and is able to redeem and transform their lives.
On 12th March I attended the wedding of a couple from Bethel Church. It was a 4 hour service with much joyful celebration, exuberant singing and African dancing. What amused me the most, as it always has over the years, was the range of gifts presented to the bride and groom at the reception! Spot the large bunch of bananas, turkey, chicken and goat in this photo. I find Ugandan culture both fascinating and wonderful. What a joy to live here ?
My Guard Animals
I couldn’t resist including these photos of the lovely animals in my life. I love Daisy, Tala and Bailey my guard dogs (who are all so soppy) and Phoebe my cat (who is so crazy)! They all bring a lot of joy to me and add much comedy value to my life at home here in Mbale.
Finally, a time to say farewell
I’ve been thinking more seriously about my future during my sabbatical. I arrived in Mbale in 2005 planning to stay for 1 year and it is now 2011 ? I’ve been considering that my season in Uganda for now is drawing to a close. For various reasons I feel it is time to leave and will depart May/June this year. It is with a great mix of emotions that I have come to this conclusion! It is immensely hard leaving something that’s going really well and something you fundamentally believe in and so it is with much sadness that I prepare to say goodbye, but there is a time and season to everything. I honestly feel I have played my part in the formation of JENGA at a highly critical time and feel really proud of what I’ve contributed. Upon my recent return it’s been great to see how the organisation has continued to develop really well in my absence. All of the key ministries and departments I’ve been involved with over the years are being run by our Ugandan staff really professionally and proficiently. I’ve worked myself out of a job; true sustainability!
I have thrown myself into the life and culture of Uganda and I’ve loved it. I thoroughly believe in the vision of JENGA and feel privileged that God chose me to be part of the leadership team; to help develop JENGA from its very early days. It’s been such an adventure with God! I have made lifelong friends in Mbale and will always consider myself part of the JENGA family and plan to fly the JENGA flag still in the UK. I’m sure I will return to Uganda with JENGA again at some point but for the immediate future I sense God has a new purpose and new season for me back home.
I request your prayers please as I sense God calling me to leave Uganda to return home yet I have no real vision or calling for the future at present. I don’t know exactly where I will live or what job I will do. I function best when I have a strong sense of conviction about what I am doing and I’m thinking about pursuing some kind of community development job, working with the vulnerable using my experiences in Uganda but as I have no specific direction yet maybe God will surprise me with something completely different! I face the future with some apprehension not knowing what it will look like but trusting that I am in God’s Hands and He will lead me to new and good pastures. I’d like to thank you again for your support whilst I’ve been a missionary; you have been such faithful, loving, encouraging and generous supporters in countless ways.
Much love, Jo (www.jengauganda.org)