JO IN UGANDA MAY 2011 Dear Friends, I find myself in an unfamiliar, reflective and yet expectant season as I fast approach my departure from JENGA, Mbale and Uganda on Sunday 26th June! I have a few weeks left working in the office, finishing off and handing over my official duties before my final days relaxing with close friends and packing my bags! This is certainly one of those occasions where I need to particularly keep my eyes fixed on what I believe; that God is faithful and has good plans for my future despite the fact that for now I am really stepping into the unknown. Leaving JENGA and returning to the UK creates a mixture of emotions; the past 5 years living in Uganda has been a highly significant and fulfilling season in my life and the friendships I have made will last forever. I leave JENGA with much sadness but also much gratitude and a positive sense of having been called to something great and having contributed to something extraordinary and I pray having left a substantial legacy. At the same time I return to the UK feeling ready for a new adventure and sensing that a great new challenge awaits me as I seek to continue serving people in need. It would be good to know what that is but I’m sure God will lead me more clearly as the weeks pass ? The Purle family visit to Mbale My personal highlight of the past month, and one of the best moments of my 5 years in Uganda was the visit of my brother, his wife and their 3 children. It was a dream come true to welcome my family at Entebbe International Airport; in fact I could hardly contain my excitement as they arrived and I had the privilege of introducing them to my wonderful Ugandan friends and JENGA team and to show them some of the ways in which I have contributed to the ministry in Mbale. It was a whistle stop tour of the key communities where JENGA base their development projects involving a diverse range of cross cultural activities and new experiences. Their visit was truly wonderful and it could not have been better ?. My family thoroughly loved everything they experienced and they all engaged with the life and culture here with gusto. The children did very well as they encountered so much that is so different from their lives at home and yet embraced it with such open minds and positive attitudes. We had so many adventures as the photos show. Ruth & children learn how to make trumpets from banana leaves Dave finding new friends in Namatala slum We spent alot of time with my Ugandan friends and they took my family into their hearts and vice versa. We visited Bethel church twice and enjoyed the Easter Sunday service. Obviously there were lots of challenges along the way too with plenty of chance to reflect upon the privileges of the Western world and the struggles of the impoverished and needy. All in all a trip that touched the heart and I’m sure will never be forgotten by any of us! All the family have said they’d love to return in the future; testimony to the warm welcome, fascinating culture and beautiful country of Uganda. Eleanor, my sponsored girl starts her new boarding school Eleanor is an orphan who comes from Namatala slum; the poorest, most disadvantaged and most vulnerable part of Mbale. She lives with Digida her grandmother who tries her best to care and provide for her but the reality is life is simply too hard for her, for numerous reasons, and she just cannot cope well. I’ve been involved with this family for 5 years and have developed a deep compassion for them as I’ve tried to journey a little with them and stand with them, supporting them as best I can whilst trying not to make matters worse by creating a dependency upon me. The very best way I have found in working alongside ‘the poor’ is to help them help themselves rather than simply throw cash or resources alone in their direction. Poverty and its trappings is so complex and multi facetted. The longer I’ve lived in Uganda, the more I have realised this! There is no simple answer but that does not mean we do nothing! One thing I have learnt is the truth of Scripture that says our faith must motivate us to action because ‘faith without deeds is dead’. Jesus was compelled by compassion; everything He did was driven by his tender heart of mercy and love and I long to have that same heart that is moved by compassion and a desire for justice as I see any need before me. It’s been a heartache and a joy to stand with this family and try to support them in a caring, practical and respectful way. This has led me to sponsor Eleanor to go to boarding school. After many discussions with my trusted Ugandan friends and Eleanor’s family it was felt that this was the best way I could offer long term support to her; for her to live away from the squalor of the slum where her well being is so vulnerable and she lives daily with great risk. On the JENGA balcony with Vinnie and Grace, JENGA leaders Ellie learning to balance a 10lt jerry can of water Joe making buddies at Busimba Primary School Sam enjoying his first 'picky' ride This will enable her to focus on her education and live in a secure ‘home’ where her needs will be met and she can be nurtured and cared for in a safe environment. It was exciting and moving to take Eleanor to Fairway Primary School this week and settle her into her new home. She was extremely happy and delighted to be boarding and I pray it is a life changing event in her young life, and that she will grow and mature with new choices and opportunities now open before her. Our new Guard Dog, Korah Korah is our latest addition and as you can see is a ferocious guard dog!! She is a pure German Shepherd and shows great protective potential already based on her tendencies to nip people’s ankles, jump up at legs and chew trouser legs whenever possible. She’s even been known to trip visitors over by persistently running in between feet. I’m sure she’ll be a wonderful companion and a great guard dog; once her voice breaks ? I adore our dogs and will really miss them! I’ve always loved dogs but never been able to have my own as my full time work in the UK and hectic lifestyle has just not permitted it. However, living here in Uganda has been so great in that our dogs live outside and our gardener/day guard and night guard look after them and our compound is big enough for them to have plenty of exercise without being taken for walks (which would not be possible here in Mbale anyway). So, I’ve loved all the benefits of owning dogs and enjoying them whilst still having a busy work and social life ? Eleanor with her boarding requirements; Fairway School, Mbale Michael, JENGA's Education Officer unpacking Eleanor's case And for my next trick...... I’m beginning to realise that my skill at carrying heavy loads on my head, as the Ugandan locals do, remains extremely limited despite my 5 years of living here! In fact, I’m fairly pathetic at it although Pastor Vinnie was greatly impressed by Ruth, my sister in law who apparently is a natural ? However, trying to balance banana trunks on our heads and other such items, and carrying cans of water provides hours of fun at least! Not sure we’d make a living out if it though. My ‘next trick’, as in my next step for the future is still unknown to me but my memories of life in Uganda will last a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the few weeks after I finish off in the JENGA office and before I fly back to the UK where I will have more time, peace and quiet to reflect on all that God has done in and through me over this special season. I plan to leave well ? I shall also be reflecting with appreciation on the countless ways many of you have stood with me, cared for me and joined in God’s vision for JENGA by your generous support. You really have played your part as well. Thank you again for all your kindness; what a difference a friend makes! Please keep me posted on your news too and I look forward to catching up with many of you soon! As you know, this newsletter is my personal news. Please check out our soon to be updated website for details of how you can join JENGA’s official mailing list if you would like to. Much love, Jo (