It is the last day of June. The Stockies are thrilled that we will be spending the entire month of July in Uganda! Even better Janice, Jasmine and I have been here, in Uganda, for the 12 days already.
So, what have we been up to on the Sabbatical of a lifetime. Well, this week we were up in Arua, 310 miles north of Kampala. This is where our Church Fitzroy in Belfast, partner with a school, Onialkeu Primary and Nursery School. We are now back in Kampala to rest and get ready for a team coming in from Fitzroy this week. We will head back up to Arua for another 10 days.
It was great this week to be in Arua before the team arrives. It was less mad than when 24 muzungus (white people) will set off a frenzy-like Festival. This week, I was able to walk round the school, as normal as it is possible for a muzungu to do. Every lunch time I dandered over to sit with the teachers, just to chat and have a laugh. The children treated us a little more shyly than they will next week, though choruses of “Ya Ya, Ya Ya, Ya Ya Toure” that they sing to me filled the air… or… shouts of “10:10”, after my favourite verse from John.
Janice was the centre of the community this week. She was running what could only be described as a Knitting Camp. Every day from 9am until 5pm, and indeed afterwards, there were 30 widows in the Church building, beside the school, feverishly learning to knit. With her very very limited Lugbara and their very limited English, the most amazing week of learning went on. The warmth and laughter was palpable.
When Janice has been teaching knitting at the school over the last three years Mama Agnes, the late Bishop Isaac’s wife, has asked her to do something with the widows. Being there for an extra week was the opportunity for it to happen. I am not sure Janice thought it would last for eight hours a day but she was in her space. Her deepest gladness was meeting this deep need in Arua. She even preached the word on Friday afternoon. Skilfully, and with resourceful Bible knowledge, she led us through some of the female difference makers in Scripture.
Me, well as you know I am here to help write Trevor Stevenson, founder of Fields Of Life’s, memoir. So, I had the privilege of sitting with Pastor’s Joel and David in their office, typing away. I found it particularly helpful to be shaping Trevor’s chapter about starting Dara High School and Truth Primary School, in Lira, during the time of Joseph Kony. To be in the north, thinking about the north… My office in Fitzroy is called the Onialeku Room and so I got to sit in what Pastor David calls The Fitzroy Room for a week. Wow!
I also, of course, had a few opportunities to preach. Every morning with the widows. Widows can be thrown out of the house and family when their husband dies. They are very marginalised and can suffer severe poverty as a result. It was wonderful to share the Good News of how precious they are, created, loved and redeemed by God.
There was also School Chapel. The School has a service every Thursday at 12. They sing, like only they can sing, and I got to preach to a cram packed Church. I also then shared in the Staff devotions on Friday afternoon.
While we did all of this, our daughter Jasmine ran a ad hoc Nursery for the little children, hanging around their mothers and grandmothers. She also face painted half of the nursery children, though the queue was long and a little unruly!
Again, the most wonderful part was being blending into the everyday, getting involved in the conversations, meeting people, settling into the hotel that the team will stay in next week, buying a few supplies. So, as you can tell, it was a busy week but in every way, refreshing, encouraging and inspirational.
We will now rest for two days and make final plans in the Fields of Life office for the team arriving on Tuesday. At Christmas we raised enough money in the craft sale to buy ten sewing machines for the school. Six have arrived and are ready to go with us on Wednesday morning! Back up that road for more wonder and fun. We are excited… but tomorrow will really be a day of rest.