Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekly Update 19: A New Day Dawns


We got a house. Nicest one on the property. So nice it was previously where Hopeland welcomed special guests. I guess that's us now, except we're no longer visiting, we live here. We have permission from the government to be here through next year (then we reapply) and vison for the land and community to keep us busy till our children become adults (Zoe is getting close, she turns 16 on Christmas day). This is the fulfillment of a journey that we began eight years ago. Let's get started!

Welcome to the first Monday of our new life. We got accepted on staff here at Hopeland last Wednesday, graduated from the Ag Training School Thursday, and moved into a four bedroom staff house Friday. Quite a whirlwind of a weekend. It all happened so fast if I don't stop to write some of it down we will get settled and not give God the praise for moving on our behalf. During our "acceptance to staff" meeting it was expressed to us that housing us would be a challenge. Two days later we were in the best house on base. God moved on our behalf. The prayers of those that sent us continues to carry us through to the next step.

Most of the time we seem to be waiting for God to move. We pray and we wait. Many times we get tired of waiting and just do it ourselves (and maybe that was God's intention for that situation). When it comes to possibilities for our future we may feel like we're always in a holding pattern. But when God seems to move all of a sudden one can feel overwhelmed quite quickly. I don't know why I say, "all of the sudden," we've been praying for this day for the past eleven months. And when I say we, of course I am including all of you who have been praying with us.

I did the final sweep on our student dorm this morning. We moved out over the weekend but I finally got to finish it after base intercession today. I'm handing back the keys at our first staff meeting after lunch. It is a transition that we have been planning for and we are ready to hit the ground running. I am going to start assessing the local community farming efforts and determine what value I and Hopeland can bring to not only their farming techniques but also their worldview and ultimately higher yields in their food supply.

The transition also means I'm moving from something new happening every week to the slow waiting for the crops to grow. We'll still send out updates but they may not be weekly. Of course if you want to know what's going on always check clarks2africa.blogspot.com. Thank you for carrying us through to the next step in our serving in Africa. Blessings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekly Update 18: Loose Ends



This week's update is collection of many events. Jeri contracted malaria. In her absence the children and I went to an African wedding anniversary event. We discovered living worms in our water supply. The boys and I finally tried food prepared on the side of the highway. And I begin my last week of class time in appropriate technology for developing rural Africa. 

The biggest challenge this week has been Jeri's malaria. When we came to Africa we were told you don't prevent malaria you manage it. We daily take our anti-malaria pills and it seems the prevailing thought is not if you get malaria it's when. Jeri in her infinite kindness sacrificed her well being to go first. The World Health Organization estimates just over half a million people died in 2012 year from possible malaria related infection. But don't be afraid folks this ain't Ebola. Malaria is preventable and treatable and the mortality rate drops every year. Jeri took the local remedy, Artemesia tea (which tastes awful), and the pharmaceutical remedy which is a three day antibiotic. Five days later she's fine.  During the recovery she missed the big event of the season, the Mukasa's 25th wedding anniversary. 

A joyous event in any culture but our local YWAM Family, the Mukasas, have been especially blessed and chose their to share their special day with 40 other married couples. In addition to celebrating with our hosts these other couples were the center of attention. They had a processional, matching outfits, and gift exchanges. Food and cake was served to a packed hall of well over 300 people. We were just interested bystanders enjoying all of the festivities understanding none of the proceedings. This much spectacle was above and beyond even by Uganda standards and it reminded me that even in this "poor" nation poverty is a mindset not a lifetime sentence.

What is appropriate technology? Basically it's using what is available and affordable for the location you are in. As much as I wish there a Home Depot here to furnish all my construction needs the reality is I need to be able to do as much as I can and advance the local innovation with materials they can get. That sump pump would be a great resource to have but if we're in a village and they don't have the electricity to run it then it won't be of much use if I have to empty a water tank. We are working on a Rus Hand Pump, which only requires some pvc pipe and a couple of wooden blocks (Google it). When we get it running I'll post a video.

We are coming to the end of our course and nearing the next step of joining Staff and using what we've learned to bring up the community. It is a big step and we are glad we have you to pray us through it. If you have thought about an extra gift to send for the holidays now would be the time, anything sent after November 28 won't get to us until the end of December. Why the pics of Liesel in the header? She got her hair done by the local gal and was cuter than any other photos we had. Blessings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekly Update 17: 100 Days


Are you a creature of habit? When you go to your favorite restaurant do you order the same thing every time? Do you have alternative driving routes that you insist on taking even if it frustrates your passengers? Do you have a specific way you fill the dishwasher? Hang your clothes? Do you have a routine that if interrupted requires you to start over from the beginning? Even in Africa, as disruptive an environment as you could imagine, we have found ourselves settling into our routines.

On the occasion of our residence in Uganda rounding out one hundred days our class was invited to visit a local resort on the Nile River. The class and the family spent a day swimming and fellowshipping together about 35 miles north of the Equator. Needless to say four of the children, who do not have red hair, got their summer sunburn seven months early. The children had a great time because it broke up their normal routine of daily chores and homeschool. The sun comes up at 6:30--every day. In Texas we had a weekly routine for breakfast: eggs, Monday; oatmeal, Tuesday; French toast, Wednesday; etc. Here, toast and a banana is the routine, adding eggs and bacon is a rare treat. 

We even have built routines around things we could never have imagined would be the norm. Zoe points out taking motorcycle rides with random black men has become an unexpected norm. Sharing public transportation with livestock and taking cold showers also have lost their initial fascination. Walking through the village and having children shout, "mzungu how are you?" is still  fun especially when they join us for the walk. 

Enjoy your routines. We have started building routines for contingencies. When the power goes out we have routines for the distribution of headlamps and a couple of solar powered lanterns. When the water gets interrupted we gather buckets and trek up the well to collect reserves for washing and filtering. We've also collected rainwater when a storm has been the cause of the water pump failing. Routines are nice, routines are helpful, and routines can help you keep your sanity.

Even after one hundred days there are still some things I'd like a routine for. These hot Africa afternoons, there just isn't an escape, even with cold showers the heat is so pervasive. Relying on public transportation to get shopping done. Even though the availability of bodas and taxis are frequent it is always a challenge of timing to catch a ride. How to keep the red clay from getting everywhere. Avoiding mosquito bites without drowning daily in bug spray. And always the final challenge how to move forward in a nation without an In-N-Out Burger location.

One hundred days has freed us of a lot of the unproductive routines we had in the States but it has also separated us from you. As this course draws to a close, and we prepare for the work to become the full-time endeavor instead of the part-time application, losing our classmates threatens to further emphasize our distance from those we love. We will make new relationships and hopefully ministry partners to affect greater change but please pray for us as we seek new routines.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekly Update 16: God Makes Time


What are you waiting for?

I have this inane little game on my iPad. It's a management game so it requires no skill, timing, or ability to see similarly colored gems with potential alignment. You just assign your little characters a task and then wait for them to finish. Progress increases upon their accomplishments and the purchase of more characters. There isn't even a world building aspect and because I refuse to spend actual dollars on "in-app offers" my advancement in the game is almost glacial in its speed. And yet, I cannot stop playing it.

One character finishes his tasks in less than a minute, the returns are minuscule but he requires resending upon each return. This gives me something to do while waiting for my higher grade characters to accomplish their goals and get bigger returns. Every time they do their thing I get to tap the screen a bunch of times as virtual gold coins go bouncing around and accumulate in my "bank." And the process starts again. 

The game developers have mimicked reality in that greater returns require greater patience. The quick fix provides little reward. Sustainable farming not only requires patience, it almost creates it. Why Jesus made so many connections between agriculture, our lives, and Kingdom living has made so much sense since joining this school. The quick fix in our gardening, our investments, and our lives will often cause more damage than benefits. We tell the children using chemicals to solve problems in their lives is the same as using chemicals to solve problems in their soil. Taking vicodin for an injury is a suitable immediate solution but might not be the best option for long term management. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers have also demonstrated their long term detriment on our American soil. 

We have since the beginning of this school been rebuilding the Ugandan soil in our garden beds with compost, manure, and extensive mulching. Last week we also learned natural ways to rebuild our bodies. Anamed is an international organization that promotes natural and indigenous plant based medicines. Christopher, the Uganda National Director, led our instruction for the week. The organization focuses on 60 different tropical plants and fruits that treat maladies but are also helpful for our well being. As you see in the pictures, Dora, our mini-midwife in training, not only got to sit in but helped in many of the practical applications.

Moringa, the miracle tree, is a plant with many uses. We were shown one of benefits of its seeds in water purification. The pitcher Dora is stirring in the lower left photo is dirty water getting mixed with the moringa seed solution. The next day that water was clear! Now, it still needed boiling to kill all the stuff you can't see but the sediment was bound to the solution at the bottom of the pitcher. Dora enjoyed making ointments, soap, and tinctures from all these natural products and learned an important principle of how God's provision will sustain but isn't always as rapid as we demand. We have already started growing some of the plants that will be useful in keeping us free of malaria and adding nutrition to our diets.

What has God put in place for wellness in your life that would be much easier if you just did it yourself? Is it relationships, nutrition, career, finances, child raising or all of the above? Is waiting the worst part or is it the fear of there not being enough time? Every time we come up to the deadline of something, worrying every step of the way, we find once the "thing" is done it worked out just the way it should have, as though God had a plan all along. Funny how the timing seems to work out when the one who created time is in control.

Weekly Update 14


Tusanyuse Okukulaba
(We are happy to see you)

I broke the house last night. Melted a breaker. In the process of trading out a faulty light switch, unfamiliar with its design and working by headlamp, I wired it wrong, threw the switch, and burned it out. We spent the rest of the evening in darkness. My family has gotten used to these inconvenient errors in my judgement and lapses in diligence, I melted through a hot water pot last month. If the children make mistakes the rug gets a stain, we are delayed in leaving somewhere, sunglasses get left on a taxi, etc. If I make mistake we go without water (a month and a half ago I turned off the wrong valve). It is very humbling to constantly be apologizing to the wife and children. It definitely softens my critical nature in judging the children and making their every slip up a federal offense. He forgives much whom has been forgiven much.

It is in the midst of this humility that we we are taking language lessons. It goes without saying the children are picking up Lugandan quickly. Me? Not so much. I don't anticipate I will ever be able to give a sermon in the language of the people—without a miracle from God. As a homeschooling father who is supposed to be the guiding hand in my children's education this is a new experience. I have no expertise in this subject and on top of that not the most adept student. Lugandan has just as many exceptions and particulars as any other language—I'm just not getting it as fast as the children. Not that I expected to. We are relying on them to learn this quicker than us, this isn't about raising children as much as it is about mentoring partners. I hope that doesn't comes off impersonal or a hands-off approach to parenting (they by no means call us by our first names). The five of them get all the love and affection we can give but the olders are getting used to having more expectations put upon them. One of the priorities is being being able to communicate with the folks around us. Liesel is our secret weapon. Even with just the few words of greeting she knows the Ugandans go crazy when they hear her speak their language.

I can't compete with that and I don't want to. To live through the lives of our children is something we aspire to. We have no ability to offer a return on the investment people have made in us other than serve others and nurture amazing children that will continue beyond our achievements. Much of our calling is to assist in the discovery of their callings. Like any investment strategy the earlier we start the better. Africa is integral to finding and developing each of the children's calling, whether they choose to continue in Africa or not. Serving with them gives them confidence, authority, ministry networking experience, the list could go on and on. Serving with them gives us more hands to do the work we've been sent to do and hope that someone will learn from our mistakes. Maybe Jax will seek a calling as an electrician.

House Building and Seed Bed Planning


(This post missed publishing on our blog page back in August)

Writing this by headlamp tonight because the power is out. Blackouts are not unique to Uganda of course, but sometimes because we are so rural, it feels like maybe nobody is really working to solve the problem? So we ate dinner by headlamps and are sending the children off to bed early. Which is appropriate after taking the trip to town this morning for church, lunching in Jinja, and coming back via taxi bus just in time for dinner. Whoever said Sunday was the day of rest didn't try to get to church by public transportation. Country living has it's perks but getting anywhere in a hurry ain't one of them.

No power also means no internet. I'm writing this Sunday, we'll see what Monday brings. (Monday, power came back on at 5pm)

This week in the village, outside of the Mabira Forest Centre, we started teaching them about seed beds. Since the project is based behind a primary school, I brought the boys. This being our third week in the village I didn't worry too much about upsetting any balance but how well could I stay focused with Xander and Jax there? Of course one of the reasons we are in Africa is to do family missions, so off we went. 

The boys did great! We have often said our children validate our very existence in ministry and bringing them fulfilled that expectation. They were especially helpful when we used the parable of a wise man building his house upon a rock to teach about planning our seed beds. The African children appreciated acting out the wise man while the mzungu children portrayed the foolish man. Thanks for taking one for the team Xander.

After class and some time in the garden we journeyed out of the village and into the bush to visit one of our student's farm. It was a long and gorgeous walk. God truly has blessed the nation of Uganda. I know outside of the cities there are slums, garbage dump communities, and places of much suffering. I know there is still much poverty and injustice for farmers. However, when you can walk through the countryside and see so much growth and so many happy children you know there is hope for Uganda. Country living has its perks. 

Our new friend Ibrahim brought us to one of his properties, where he lives and grows sugarcane and papaya. We prayed for him and graciously received  samples of his crops. We have much we could learn from him, but even in the short time we have been here we have learned techniques and management that will increase his yield. If he can sustain these practices he could be a leader in his community which is why we spend more time teaching Kingdom principles that we spend teaching how deep to plant seeds. Any NGO or manual can teach proper crop rotation, we are here to share relationship, teach farming according to God's design, and feed people. You are part of all of this and more because you sent us. Thank you for your support.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Clark Children Parody a Parody

Tacky by Weird Al, as performed by the Clark Children. Enjoy!

We're Gonna Get Tacky
A music video of thanksgiving

We put out our music video cover of Weird Al's Tacky last week. It is a silly thing with no hidden spiritual relevance just a fun song the children like to sing. It took the better part of a Saturday to assemble the costumes, spackle on make-up and sort the locations for shooting. After we finished and looked at the footage we came up with so many more ideas, but isn't that always the way of things? When these things are done professionally super humorous  people plan and script out each detail—we just started with a couple of ideas and went from there. Luckily my wife and the children are pretty creative and we caught some funny bits. They are comical but not long suffering. Although we made Dora drop out that tree several times most scenes we had to get it in one take. This isn't their first parody. When Zoe was eight the three olders lip-synched Weird Al's White and Nerdy for my birthday. Jeri and our adopted daughter Sarah even came up with choreography.

Sarah was also the inspiration for this video. If you have admired the wardrobe choices in our family photos, then you have admired her influence on our family. She has contributed so much more but her fashion guidance made the selection of Tacky as a tribute uniquely appropriate. Our gratitude to Sarah, her husband Aaron, and their three boys represents our thankfulness to God and all y'all who have contributed to our transition into this country.

Two duffle bags of reminders and resources from home arrived this week. As we look toward November we prepare for our annual season of thankfulness. Yes, it is easier to be thankful when you get two duffles of new stuff but we wouldn't be here if we hadn't been thankful in the times of lack as well.

The Africans are fascinated that we have a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. We have explained the historical and traditional significance of the event, but among the nations we are unique in our intentions. I know, Canadians have Thanksgiving too and as combined North Americans we have much to be thankful for.

A few years ago we volunteered at the Tyler, Texas Salvation Army Thanksgiving  Service. Not out of a great sense of sacrifice or volunteerism but because we had no where better to go. After we finished our assigned task we joined the feasting folks who also had no where else to go. We were served a fine meal and we were grateful. Subsequent Thanksgivings when we had the resources and relationships to host our own feast we were abundantly thankful.

In about a month we plan to share our American feast of thanksgiving with our African friends. We thank God for the resources and funds you have sent and will send to supply this feast and even possibly import some American delicacies like canned cranberry jelly, ha! Still not sure if we can find marshmallows for candied yams, maybe another trip to Kampala. We encourage you to also look ahead and start planning now for your own feast day of thanksgiving. Whether you join or host enjoy the season of thankfulness. And if you want to join our feast here, come on out—we'll keep the light on for you! Just remember to bring the marshmallows.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Country Mice Visit the Nation's Capitol


There are cities that you can walk and get to most of the places you'd like to go. Washington, D.C. can be like that and we spent a lovely day in Boston once just wandering around. Growing up in Los Angeles with communities like Manhattan Beach and Pasadena walking around could be enjoyable but most of LA is for driving. Oh sure once you got to the shopping mall you walk around but then you get back in your car and drive away. Here in Uganda, Jinja (our local town) is a good place for a walk, Kampala however requires a vehicle.
We showed up on a holiday weekend (Ugandan Independence Day) at the national stadium (home of the Uganda Cranes Soccer Team) to meet our friend who was going to show us around. Of course when we made the plans we had no idea about any celebration or that the Cranes were playing Togo's national team that day. Needless to say traffic was a mess. So much so that the taxi bringing us into the city took a preemptive detour up into the dirt roads of the outlying villages to avoid the gridlock. Skip ahead to the end of the day, getting out of the city equally put LA traffic to shame. Several times en route the driver would frustratingly turn off the engine while we waited for traffic to progress. When we drove through from the airport two months ago at 2 am the drive took an hour; Saturday's challenge took four.
While in the city our friend took us to an authentic Mexican restaurant near the American Embassy. The taste of home was definitely a check in the win column for us. To complete our adventure in the big city we went to a bookstore for homeschool supplies, a fresh bakery for treats for the children, a grocery store for hard to get items, and the KFC franchise in Uganda for take-away dinner. Each of these destinations required driving to individual shopping centers. Our friend was very generous to taxi us around the city. We spent a lot of time negotiating crosstown traffic. You need a car in Kampala just to get around but mostly you're sitting in your car waiting to go. Like living in Los Angeles without the near-sighted boda-boda drivers banging into your car every time traffic stalls.
We were gone 12 hours, classmates looked out for the children, and accomplished very little. But it is important for assessment to know all available resources. That is a standard in community development and in raising a family. Without knowing what is available to you will limit your ability to expect a higher standard. If we didn't think our children had the capacity to do hard things we would never have come to Africa. But we all read and were challenged by a book that said not only are hard things possible but that we should seek them out. We challenge you, maybe it's enough to just do the next thing or maybe there is a bigger next thing that you need to seek out. Keep moving forward. Don't turn your engine off and sit until life starts up again.
Thank you for making it possible for us to do the hard things. If you've missed any of our previous posts check our site at clarks2africa.blogspot.com.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Other Car is a 24 Passenger Mini-Van


That's the record so far, which is I'm sure far less than Guinness would even acknowledge. Maybe if we also counted the live chickens they would consider the transport of that many living souls in the predecessor of the Toyota Sienna some kind of accomplishment. As it stands we just call it getting to church on Sunday. We found a church we could all get to with minimal vehicle transfers and still less expensive than hiring a private car. How remarkable is it that transportation plays such an integral part in selecting the congregation with which you choose to worship God every Sunday?

We start each Sunday testing the weather, however even if it is raining monkeys and cows at eight it could be clear skies by 9:30 when we leave (though we will have to negotiate the path of least muddiness to the main road). The past few weeks we have negotiated the taxi to take us straight to the church after all the other passengers have disembarked. There are four kinds of churches in Uganda: For Ugandans in Ugandan, Ugandan with English translation, English with Ugandan translation, and English without translation. As you can imagine most of the English only churches attract mostly English speaking folks. We managed to find one of the few churches in English with mostly Africans and only a few white faces, which is why we came to Uganda. Not only that but the sermons have been driven by scripture and not about God blessing us with more money if we give, which can be a very popular thing here. And although the sermons are in English the worship is definitely African. There is lots of dancing and jumping and maybe three songs will fill up half an hour. It was a selling point over straight mzungu worship.

Through the course of travel and ministry we have visited many churches but in my entire life of continuous church attendance I have been a member of only four fellowships, that's an average of ten years per church. We've worshipped and served in churches with over 10,000 members and loved it. The congregation that sent us to Africa had maybe 300 max. This church—though  part of a bigger network—probably only has enough chairs for 150 and in a temporary space. We anticipate being at this church for a while. How much we'll be able to participate in church activities outside of worship services is difficult to foresee, we are connected with a couple of the homeschooling families that attend so that may be enough to tie us to community because church without community is rather pointless. 

I hope you have a church community surrounding you. We strongly debated not  going to any church and we could have justified our abstaining without much effort. YWAM could have easily been our community, and in many ways it is, but there is just something about church that makes it different. We always go back to the folks that surrounded us after Wilson's death and how we would've been lost without our church. And obviously without our church back in Texas we wouldn't be in Africa today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekly Update 11


As you have seen over the past two months we have done what we are able to transform our living space to accommodate a family of seven. We take up two ground level rooms; the children in one and Jeri and I in the other. Our room is also the kitchenette, living room, dining room, bedroom, homeschool room, etc. Both rooms have bathrooms with showers which is above and beyond the norm on the base and the living standard of most Africans, we are blessed. The Hospitality Department also went above and beyond getting us a large table and five available chairs. The remaining two children ate on stools or boxes. We ordered some wood from the local carpenter and I set to work building a bench. 

With a borrowed plane to smooth out the edges I set to work on my design. As I've mentioned in the past this locally available African wood is hard on my tools. I brought a hand saw, for the "just in case" necessity, but it has turned out to be my most used tool. All this to say we worked diligently on this project just to have the nature of Africa undo our efforts. Rather than collecting commercially treated lumber from Lowes that has been cured, pressed, and treated for maximum flatness we built with lumber that was still green. Without knowing the source of my stock this wood could have still been a tree a week before I got it. Which meant it was still finding its way when I started hammering and glueing it together. If you can make out in the photo the seat of the bench takes a twist. Does it make sitting on it uncomfortable? At first because one leg always popped up and made the whole bench rock.

So I added a post. As soon as I did it it reminded me of all the little additions my grandfather used to construct around their home to repair or accommodate things that were broken. His shop was a living example of reusing every single item that could have dual purpose. We would say he was from another era, a time when there wasn't a Walmart where if something broke you could just pop out and replace it. It involved a phrase we don't use much, "You just have to make do."

We are blessed above most here but we still don't have a Walmart. So we've learned to make do. The Western practices that are not Kingdom principles conveniently get twisted really quickly when we try to force them on African culture or unprocessed lumber. We are learning sometimes poverty just means not having the liberty to make your own choices. Of course with any foreign relocation the missing of home comforts is to be expected. If an In-N-Out Burger gets as far east as Tyler, Texas we will have a talk with God about how long this Clarks in Africa journey will last. Please keep posting your own culinary accomplishments or when that new dine-in movie theater opens but please remember to offer thanks and say a short prayer for the Clarks. We need those reminders of home to offset how much work there is here to share with the people of Uganda to seek the liberty that comes in restored relationship with God.

Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

First Quarter Report


We are the Clark family. We started in full-time ministry over a decade ago. Since then we have served in Mongolia, Mauritania, several cities across the States and now in Uganda, Africa. As our family has grown so has our range of ministry. We are currently focusing on community development. Jeri, a licensed midwife in Texas, is preparing to join the midwife community here in Uganda. Sean is currently training in sustainable agriculture and is already in the Niggembe community demonstrating more effective ways of growing crops; both boys, Xander and Jax, go with him. The two older girls, Zoe and Dora, are learning the language and developing friendships with a family from a neighboring village. Dora is also going in to the local town, Jinja, with Jeri once a week to serve at a crisis pregnancy center. All the girls, including Liesel, have joined a fellowship here at YWAM Hopeland that ministers to women who are HIV positive.


When we started off 2014 we were broke and without many options. We had started and stalled on serving in Africa for over eight years. We prayed daily for a direction to proceed. After the first of the year we felt God release us to go. Not go on a short-term trip but to just go. So we kept praying. Sometimes affirmation would come in the prayers the children would pray, sometimes random people would give us large sums of money, and our hope began to build. When Sean's parents were forced to sell the house we were living in the timing was perfect. Then things began to snowball and ideas began to come forth. We got featured on our local news broadcast, we had a variety show fundraiser where fantastic performers donated their talent, our church hosted a yard sale where most of our household got sold, we got invited to share at another church, people bought t-shirts, and the list goes on. After every event we would sit in shock and awe of the blessings God poured out. After every dollar someone gave us we would repeat, "We're really doing this." Two months into being on this continent we are still pinching ourselves, "We're really doing this."


We list our ministry projects, one, so people who made real sacrifices financially to get us here know their gift is doing Kingdom work; and two, because we are living examples that God can use anybody. Sure we'll brag on our children and say they have been pretty exceptional (giving up friends, beloved pets, ministry, most of their possessions, and hot showers) and we couldn't do this without them. But other than that we're still just Sean and Jeri. We only do what we ought to do. Please take our journey as an encouragement to do what you ought to do, no matter how hard or impossible it may seem. God is doing so much good in this world, you are a part of it and if willing you can do more.


Our vision and mission statement has been for some time, being family for those who need family. In Texas that took the form of hospitality for those who needed a place to live. That may not be an option here in Uganda till we get a bigger place, so the children want to start a guest house ministry. Right now we just want to focus on the things in front of us, but who are we to tell them that's not in God's plan. A year ago none of this was possible. Believe in God. We did and now we're in Africa!


None of this happens without the prayers and generosity of those who sent us. We are your representatives in Uganda. We have been obedient to our call to go and you have been obedient to your call to send. This partnership means our successes are counted towards you. We are truly humbled by your faithfulness and love for our family. We pray God blesses you above and beyond how much you bless us. We step out in faith, sustained by the prayers of our supporters. Thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Children Start a Blog



These days, "just Google it," is more common than, "go ask your father." This has its pros and cons. My general knowledge of the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything isn't challenged daily but I also don't get to sow into my children's lives my vast wisdom and lifetime experience. I'll let you decide which is the pro which is the con and for who, me or the children. I'm sure somebody somewhere has made a study of how our brains are losing cognitive recall or memory storage capacity because we don't keep information at the forefront of our minds (if you don't believe me just Google it). How many phone numbers can you rattle off? Can you even remember your own? If sales tax wasn't so close to 10% could you calculate a tip without a calculator? Baking from scratch without a recipe? When is the last time anybody did that? Too much information around us necessitates us relying on technology to help us process, record, and remember. For better or for worse this is reality. 

Despite the demise of our cranial capacity the ability to keep a running post of our lives is a plus. My Facebook and blog posts are forever in the "cloud" allowing me to reflect on a moments notice what I did, when I did it, and whether or not other people "Liked" it. This recall gets to be very important not only for TV shows like the Newlywed game (YouTube it) but when children want accounts of every decision and choice you've made from favorite breakfast cereal to where were you on 9/11. As I get older I am glad to have this resource available. I'd only wished I had started sooner. Well the children have.

They don't want any of these new experiences to go unrecorded not only for posterity but with so many families are coming to Uganda if the children's experience can help someone else make the transition, it will have been worth the effort. 

They have started with simple intro bios and will over the subsequent weeks add all of their challenges, accomplishments, frustrations, Christmas lists, etc. This will also fulfill the constant request from the grandparents for more updates about the children, yeah Pop I'm talking about you. ;-) 

We've had so many encouraging comments about the older girls' posts but we also want the youngers to get involved so look for short videos, drawings, photo diaries, small scale sculpture, flash mob choreography and safari excursions. Xander would make a fantastic safari guide all he needs is a financial backer to send him to North Uganda for training. 

Pray for Jeri. Almost as soon as she got here two of the long-term gals took her under their wing and showed her the way to get things done. They have been an invaluable help and resource in getting settled and they have been good friends. As one would expect in this business both are leaving the country for a spell and Jeri is at a loss. Pray she finds new friends to share this experience with. She is already serving in two separate women's ministries, joining a homeschooling collective, and will be starting her Ugandan midwife certification this winter but a friend would be  a blessing.

Thank you for your prayers. If you've missed any of our previous posts check our site at clarks2africa.blogspot.com. And visit their site at clark-kids-in-africa.blogspot.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekly Update 7: Nine Down Thirty Million More to Go


Fathers and sons should have many bonding moments. If possible they should involve some kind of messiness, disassembly/construction, and in the best of situations a wee bit of killin'. Both boys helped in the field planting technique we learned this week (more about that in the next post). They came with our Community Development Team again this week. And they visited a local farm with our class. All of these activities checked appropriate boxes in father son development and shared moments. Heck, if they are paying attention (most of the time they are—I quiz them frequently) they might grow up to be farmers without having to take a class. 

That third component, knowing my short list isn't comprehensive, needs to be visited often and with great revelry. Now a wee bit of killin' can be the equivalent busting something big down to tiny little bitses. In fact if the something big is technology based and has been a great source of frustration it might even be more satisfying to beat it till the plastic returns to granular form. Which if you've seen the above pics brings us to Xander and my work duty Friday morning.

As mentioned in previous posts the spiders here are exactly as you would expect jungle spiders to be: large, black, and terrifying. We haven't photographed them up to this point because we didn't bring enough smelling salts to revive Zoe from the fainting she would succumb to in sheer fear of their appearance. I'm not sure if you can make out the traffic safety stripe across the back of specimen on the upper left. That stripe is required by the state as it is on all vehicles over two metric tons. I don't have fancy back stories for all the spiders we encountered cause me and the boy were too busy just killin'em. 

Did we create unbalance in the ecosystem? Did we needlessly eliminate God's natural mosquito exterminator? Could we have relocated each of those nine reason-for-sleeping-with-the-lights-on to another hospitable environment? (One  more) Did we explore all the options possible to live in harmony with the spiders, like distributing hazmat suits? And of course Zoe's solution, "so what if we burn down the dining hall? Dining by starlight sounds delightful." 

Armed with a brush nailed to a pole, I knocked them down and Xander stomped on them. Nine, we got nine. That's 72 legs, 72 eyes, mandibles, thoraxes, abdomens, etc. I have to tell you it was satisfying the first few times but as we knocked them down from their perch they proved to be less than formidable foes. Superior acrobats in their own webs but less than pedestrian on the ground, all back end and no scurry. In fact the final kill in the last pic on the bottom right practically fell off and lied still till Xander ended it. We collected lots of webs and scraped off more egg sacks than we could count and for a few minutes before breakfast a new day dawned in our open air dining hall.

As for all the unanswerable questions, unnecessary. By Saturday just as many new spiders filled in where the previous ones were vacated. Like teeth on a shark or workers from a temp agency as soon as a space is available there'll be another to fill in. We keep killing them, but I have a feeling Zoe's solution will prevail someday, hopefully after the rainy season ends.

Thank you for your prayers. If you'd like to get weekly updates by email please contact us at clarks2africa@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

If God Farmed Today



Systems. Systems. Systems. I love systems! Measuring and building and layouts, yeah. It's like graphic design for the garden. Farming God's Way is not only an ideal for a agricultural principle it is also a resource for maximum yield in farming your crops. In a nutshell you create reusable planting stations that you nourish and return to every season. It is a minimal till, heavy mulch, and limited compost strategy that is very effective in Sub-Saharan Africa. We were introduced to the technique in a seminar fashion (very quick overview) and spent a day of practical demonstration creating a small plot, pictured above.

Much of the time spent in the classroom was devoted to the Biblical principles behind changing a culture to make lasting development possible. When we take this farming practice into our community we are purposeful to build upon scripture because establishing Farming God's Way is hard. Without the conviction of God's Word most farmers couldn't follow through with the high standards required to make this system successful. For me the scripture was gravy on top of a systematic strategy for crop management. 

Our instructor/trainer was a Canadian fellow who married a Ugandan and has spent the last decade or so traversing the subcontinent teaching conservation farming. The consequence of his pan-global experience has modified his speech patterns to what I'm going to refer to as a mimic-dialect. When I fall victim to it my wife calls it, "Stop trying to sound African."

The stereotypes of this speech pattern are characterized by Anglo speakers who holler when confronted by a non-English speaker (as though they were hard of hearing) or adding a foreign affectation to their words ("Do you speakee Eenglish?"). Our instructor was much more subtle, he only tended to drift into a more African sound when he was translating terms from Swahili or reflecting on the traditional farming practices of the locals. I on the other hand am much more broad in my mimicry. "Hello my brother, how are you today?" Is my family's impression of how I sound.

Granted, I do this with any accent. If I am watching too much Doctor Who, I'll walk around for days sounding "like" a Brit. When we stopped in France en route to Mauritania, my "French" was merely speaking English with my lips puckered up. I still answer the phone with "Allo?" Because I worked for a Palestinian guy and that's how he answered the phone. Some people chew their nails, I put on fake accents. 

I've asked my African friends if they can tell the difference when white people talk to each other and when they address Africans. They say they can but don't bother pointing it out. I'm not sure if there is an equivalent in 'Murica. We are such a land of mixed up dialects. Texans were always remarking how they knew, "I weren't from there" but I don't know if that was a commentary on our accents or that we never quite conjugated "y'all" correctly.

The boys did very well Farming God's Way. This Friday we're planning on making a few planting stations ourself. We'll let you know how it goes. If you are interested in the resource find them on the web. The information is all available and they have directions for kitchen gardens too. Thank you for supporting us so we can go and support others.

This is Weekly Update 8. If you think you've missed any check the blog at clarks2africa.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Transported Teen Writes: Trying My Hand at Sugarcane

 


Marian is one of my first friends here. We both enjoy crafts, drawing and "shoetags" (their word for nail polish). As we talk, we have cultural exchanges. Sometimes I forget most people in rural areas have no connection outside of Uganda. In America the internet gives us a widow to other places, like the post you're reading right now. Watching Africa on YouTube is rather lacking. It doesn't give you the feel of Africa, the excitement of their worship, the racket of rain pounding a tin roof through the night or the chatter of exotic birds in the morning. The window only works one-way. Marian and I have created a bridge, I share something American and she teaches me about Uganda. I get to explain hamburgers and she shares Ugandan expressions. She was shocked that we live down the road from an enormous plantation but never eaten sugarcane. So she brought some over.


Like a fancy chef from Benihana, she skinned, chopped and sliced the bamboo stalk in a matter of seconds. Swoop, chop, ka-chunk, perfect. Then the pivotal moment of failure comes as she hands me the knife. Let's just say, my obviously superb knife skills are unrefined for African cuisine. Swoop, slice, oops, ow. The knife attacked my thumb. It's fine, a mere flesh wound, but it proves the fact that even though we've been here for almost a month, we are not yet experts.


Dora and I got invited to her house Tuesday. We met her mother, older sister, younger sister and baby brother. Her simple brick house had no windows so it was very dark. The living room was already very small, no bigger than an average bathroom, but it was also the kitchen sink storage and dining room. Apparently it's a thing here, when you have visitors to show them your family photo albums. After meeting the family, we discovered more cultural exchanges by watching the Avengers movie translated to Lugandan. Later language lessons with her mother included phrases like, Wasuze otya, good morning. We removed dried corn off the cob for grounding into posho powder. They were kind enough to feed us lunch. It was a very traditional Ugandan menu: potatoes, cabbage and posho. As much as we are indifferent about posho, theirs was much better then what we're used to on the base. We also snacked on popcorn, more sugarcane and blacked corn kernels which tasted like little salty rocks yet were surprisingly good. Then it was time for Dora and I to leave, next time I'll bring my camera. It was fun to hang out with my friend and her natural teaching spirit is what I need most, just don't ask me to cut the cane.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Update 5

Welcome to YWAM Hopeland’s kitchen. In this open concrete building over one hundred staff and students are fed daily. The children and I prepared the after church meal in Texas for roughly about the same amount of folks at the Tyler base each Sunday last year. When people asked if I was a good cook I would correct them and say, “No, I’m just good at warming food up,” (mostly what we cooked was boxed or frozen). How else could one person make chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and roasted cauliflower for a hundred people? In Africa I’ve worked a couple of dinner preps and it is just the opposite. 


Everything is raw and sometimes out of their own garden, which means dirty. So you sit on a bench and you peel it or take it to the sink and wash it. Greens and cabbage get shredded. Onions and tomatoes get diced. Fruit gets chopped. Then the fires get built. The kitchen has four wood burning stoves, the picture to the right shows beans in a pressure cooker. They start with long logs and keep pushing them in till the food is cooked. All the pots have a thick layer of soot on the outside which remains beyond clean-up because there isn’t enough soap in Uganda to clean them at this point. If you have worked in an open kitchen before you know resources have a tendency to walk away so the knives and cutting boards are an assortment of cast-offs that nobody cared to “borrow.” I’m sure they use the repaired bottoms of the pots for identification. “Bring me the three patch pot. No, the one with the rivets, not the welds.” Despite all these challenges the food can be filling if you can eat enough.


The components repeat daily so if you come to Africa let me give you the breakdown of what to expect. The first pot will be rice or posho. The second pot could be small russet potatoes, pasta, or white sweet potato. The third pot might be beans, collard greens, or stewed cabbage. Some days a tomato cucumber salad, pineapple, watermelon, or avocado makes it to the service which helps to break up the plate of off-white food. To accommodate everybody portions are strictly doled out. Special meals will include the local chapati flatbread, a beef soup, or sliced sausage added to the cabbage, these are especially limited. Basic foods and plenty of them, well at least plenty of posho.

Needless to say, every food related post we see on Facebook fills us with longing and fond memories of life back in the States. We have hope to increase the food variety and availability of vegetables at Hopeland through our Sustainable Agriculture Course. This will benefit the locals in healthier ways to eat and give our foodie friends a reason to visit us here in Uganda. Thank you for your support.

The Clarks Visit the Local Village



Dora Clark, the Mini Midwife writes about her first trip off the YWAM base.

I walked along side of my family, up the short hill to the entrance of the Youth With A Mission base where we currently live. We were headed for the first time to the nearby village called Kakira. I started thinking what will Kakira look like? Will it be poor? How poor?

The road is long and winding, made of red dirt. Corn is all we see, and mountains. I am tired and hot, this elevation takes it out of you. I look to the right and see that we’re higher than I thought. No wonder I am tired. There are big orange colored puddles on the ground. I try to dodge them, but the recent rains have made everything slippery. Boda- Boda’s (otherwise known as motorcycles) rush around us. There are no traffic laws here really and the “right of way” does not exist for people walking. Sometimes the Bodas almost take Liesel with them or nearly run into her as she dodges out of the way. 

We stop to take a family photo, how strange we must look to the black people who are slowly walking past, staring at us. You know, we are just some white people just standing on the side of the road taking pictures with a very expensive camera. We have to take this quick because cars drive by and again we are big white targets. After pictures, (this takes a little while) we continue walking. Corn, corn, corn, and guess what? CORN! 

After what seems like one hour we start seeing houses, but that means there is ten more minutes until we get to town. Children are playing outside when we start hearing them shout, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” Mzungu means white person in Luganda. We smile and wave, smile and wave, like royalty. They pour out everywhere, in all various stages of dress (or undress, as it were) The place smells, don’t breath through your nose, I have to tell myself. Everywhere there are colorful buildings and no white people besides us for miles around it seems. I long to play with the children; it looks like they are playing with sticks and make-believe. I should keep with my family because those who know me will know that I will just keep playing with children and never come home. 

I hold out my hand for one of the children to grab. A boy with a red ripped shirt comes to my side. His smile spreads from ear to ear; it looks like he is gloating as he looks back to his friends. Not long after children begin to follow us, chattering away in a language I do not have any hope of understanding. People look at us with strange expressions; but when I smile they smile back. People are also selling things outside, no food though, just dirty, used clothing. We walk to a small shop to buy a soda for our lunch. We definitely can’t fit in this shack so we stand outside. There are two boys behind the counter. They look to be about 10 or 12 with no adult in sight. 

After buying our glass bottles of soda pop, we walk through the mud into a very small, crowded, passage way filled with shack-like looking shops. They look more like lemonade stands than shops. There is an awning with MEAT hanging from the tin roof of the wooden shop. On the dirty wooden shelf, there is various cuts of meat just lying there, baking in the African sun. Behind the shelf, there is a man with a large knife hacking away at some beef on a very dirty stump. We squeeze past him and the flies buzz around. On the concrete next to him is a man cooking something on a large metal drum that smells delicious. Is this where we’re going to get lunch? Apparently we are eating a kind of breakfast burrito called a “Rollex”. It is made with chapatti, an Indian flatbread and vegetables and eggs cooked inside.

We wait patiently for our rollexs amidst the stares of the locals. My Dad asks my Mom to go find some laundry soap in the “shops” nearby. I bounce up and down, volunteering my services to escort her. We squeeze past the meat man and his hanging merchandise. We walk past more brightly colored stores. I look at people who do not look very friendly. We get many stares and not many smiles. We dodge the muddy places, puddles, and people. 

We walk through an open gate where there are lots more people. We begin to ask where there might be laundry soap. They don’t understand the word laundry. No wonder they keep shaking their heads! So we ask for clothes soap, pantomiming washing clothes by hand. At this point, they gesture towards a shop where women are standing. We ask them for clothes soap they shake their heads no. We are very confused because this is the shop that we were shown. We walk around the shop where there are bars on the window. We ask for clothes soap again even though this seems like the same shop we were in just the other side of it. This time a nice man says to the person in the shop “Omo” and the store man hands him some laundry soap! The man hands it to us. We give the store man money, “Thank you! Thank you!” we tell him. It seems as if there is very few places that you can walk in and get what you want in Uganda. Most places you have to ask for the product by name.

We head back to our lunch, again dodging chickens, mud and staring people. As we’re nearing the breakfast burrito place we walk past another meat man, his meat is a gray color. It does not look good at all. We find our family sitting on the concrete and eating. I take a bite of my Rollex; I think I am tasting heaven. YUM! This is delicious! 

Normally, every meal we have had in Uganda is posho, which tastes like a flavorless sponge, some thin spaghetti noodles with no sauce, and beans. That’s it, so this was a big treat. For once, I am stuffed afterwards. 

Then it’s time to go home, so we decide to get a taxi. The taxis are long buses that are always packed full of people before they will leave. It took a while for people to load in it, so Zoe took that opportunity to take photos of the village. Finally the bus seems full, but we didn’t move. Then, two more people squeeze in- a mother and little girl. The mother squeezed in the second row and the little girl on my mother’s lap. Things sure get cozy here in Africa. 

We left KaKira, with full stomachs, crammed into hot dirty vans and a whole new way of life to ponder.

Monday, August 4, 2014


The Transported Teen Writes:
How I Became a Mzungu Manicurist and My First Impressions of Uganda

“So I said to my girlfriend, ‘My stars, I bet people sure are interesting. I’m sure you get to meet lots of interesting people.’ Now let’s dip our mani’s in the water”
-Bugs Bunny impersonating a manicurist

The scenery is not what I expected. I thought it would be more jungle, like Belize, where Dora and I visited two years ago. It’s actually a bit like home, minus the mountains, there’s tall weeds, tall trees but every now and then you’ll find the occasional exotic plant, random cow or bird who does monkey impressions. It seems pretty normal on base but once you get high enough, the view is incredible! If you’ve seen The Lion King, you’ll remember the part when Simba and Timon and Pumba meet. They show Simba the view from a tremendous mountain and all the jungle is laid out around them like a tropical paradise. The similarities are striking. The only difference is how Lake Victoria dominates the territory, blue as the sky and almost as big. The sight reminds you of God’s magnificence, taller than the mountains, deeper than the lakes.

Our house is quite comfortable considering the circumstances. It resembles a large storage shed, completely concrete and with two broken, wood frame windows, and with furniture in it. Our bathrooms have actual toilets! One who has not used a squatty-potty could not possibly understand the joy this gives me. So far, I have not had to use one and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible though I know that dream may be short-lived. The kid’s room has animals and food painted around the top of the walls like crown molding. Maybe the artist only had a vague impression of what food looks like because the bananas are similar to bird feet and the pineapple could be mistaken for a very fat carrot.

Mom describes the afternoon heat as wearing clothes fresh from the dryer on a spring day. It’s warm but not swelteringly uncomfortable. The weather is almost always the same with the exception of an occasional rain. I think I’ve learned the true meaning of torrents. The rain falls in waves, just a little, then a lot, little, lot, little, lot, etc. We’ve only had a few nights of showers but the rainy season is on its way. It gets dark very fast! The sun starts setting at 6’o’clock so it’s black outside by 7 and it will stay that way all year long since we are directly on the equator. 
We went to the small village of Kakira on Sunday for lunch. Needless to say, I was shocked. The image I had produced in my brain and reality were extremely contrary. When Dad said we were going there for rollexs, I knew there wasn’t going to be anything fancy, maybe a rinky-dink little vendor? In all actuality, it was in the back roads of the back alleyways, smokey and muddy, outside. While we ate our lunch on the cement stoop we had a perfect view of the “meat shop” (which was nothing more than a stand with racks of hanging meat shrouded in flies and a man hacking away on a dirty stump) right next door. The smell that radiated from our chapatti and egg lunch made it worth it. Either that or I was very hungry. Probably both.

I did expect the staring but not the magnitude of it. Many of the looks were distasteful, like we smelt rancid. We did get the occasional smile out of an adult here and there; but the children, oh the children, they loved us. Running out of their homes, calling to one another and us, either bashful or ridiculous at the point of my camera lens. Some grabbed Dora’s outstretched hands and followed us everywhere. They even sat on a tire and watched us eat, occasionally teasing one another or hitting their friends with sticks. The smile on Dora’s face radiated and I knew her heart was home.

I’ve met many Ugandans but so far I’ve only talked with three my age. Almost every Ugandan we’ve talked to has said, “You are welcome here.” On Thursday, a local girl, Maria came over to greet us. Maria sells homemade earrings in the market. She likes drawing, singing and dancing. We found that cards are the easiest games to play because they don’t require a lot of communication. I showed her my favorite game, called Snap, and she really liked it! But we really started to relate when she asked about my painted toenails. After her toes were a lovely shade of neon green, Viola came over, and I did her nails (blue with sparkles) and we played more Snap. We laughed a lot and I’m glad we found something we could all do. On Friday, Viola came back and brought Sarah, asking for her nails done too (pink and lavender, she’s on the right). Viola also needed a touch-up but then she decided for a completely different color (green, teal and pink, she’s on the left). And then we played Snap again; Viola is very good at it. I wouldn’t call us “fast friends”, and there’s no way they could replace my besties back in America. We still have lots of differences to overcome, language for example (they call nail polish “shoetags”. I don’t know how it’s spelled but that’s how it’s pronounced). Right now, all that’s connecting us is hot pink, teal and glitter. But for right now, that’s good enough for me.


The Mini Midwife, Dora, writes,

I woke up Monday morning at 5:15 to take my last hot shower. As my mom braided my hair like we do whenever we go on a trip, I realized that I was going to Uganda today! I feel like there’s a deep deep never-ending hole and I am falling through it. No, no, no…  It’s not happening, it’s just a normal day right? The Bunches haven’t arrived yet. The anticipation is horrible, like I am in a show but my family hasn’t arrived yet and it’s two minutes till it starts. Finally Sarah arrives to take us to the airport.  Are we really leaving her? She has been with us as long as I can remember- taken trips with us across the country and for the last three years has only lived a few steps away.
We’re leaving a sister behind; and I’m not so sure I can stand that.
Now we’re all gathered on the porch, our van is loaded. But there’s another problem, our beloved dog, Nana. We can’t take her with us, so we have to say goodbye.   Our family dog, our guard dog, our peanut butter eater. The boys say a quick goodbye after some pictures with Nana, and load up in our van. The girls say a longer goodbye all petting and cuddling her. I didn’t think I was going to cry, after all she has really been Zoe’s dog. But, I did. Why did we have to leave so many people behind? How will this turn out for the better with everyone being separated?

Zoe rides in the back of the van on the way to Dallas- her head on her knees weeping.  It is hard to see my family hurting, but we all know that God has a plan for us and sometimes that plan means we have to sacrifice some things.

We arrive at the Dallas airport. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Sarah and her clan. This is it-- our sister, and my brother-in-law, Aaron and my nephews, Levi, Joel, and Seth.  I start to cry, really it is more like wailing. It feels like someone ripped my heart into tiny pieces and stepped on them.  As we wander into security they watch us leave, we are all trying to dry our tears but we keep sobbing at random times. At one point the security guard asks my Mom if she is okay.  She smiles bleakly and explains that we are saying goodbye.
There is loads of anxiety and excitement mixed up inside of me as we board the plane.  The plane is two stories high! It’s close to dinner, and while I wait for it to arrive I decide to watch a movie, that you’re allowed to watch for free! Our flight attendant has a bit of a British accent, and so does everyone else. We’re after all on British Airlines. Every time they speak I start talking in a British accent. At some point the lights dim and it is time to sleep; I toss and turn in my uncomfortable seat. There’s noise and lights go on and off as our seat neighbors attempt to get comfortable.  It’s obviously late, maybe I got some sleep in? I look over and notice Xander is sleeping, so is Jax. In the seats in front of us, Zoe, Mommy, and Liesel all appear to be sleeping. Now I am frustrated. I am a big boiling volcano; if one more thing sets me off I will explode. I ask Zoe to help me fall asleep. She instructs me to curl up. So I try but one leg keeps slipping! Rah!!!!!  I try and try, every time getting more and more frustrated. It seems hours before I fall asleep. I wake up…. Groggy….  We’re still in the plane.

When we get off the plane in London we have to carry our backpacks, it’s a big weight on my shoulders, and it’s hard to breathe. Now everyone has a British accent. I love listening to them, crisp and wonderful!  We wander throughout the airport, looking for security. The security lady talks to us like we’re two year olds! We scramble to get all the items checked through the checkpoint and we get away from her as quick as possible.

On the plane, everyone is really nice and polite. I rotate between movie, coloring book, and kindle.
After 8 hours, Xander and I begin to count down the minutes until we get to see our father. Only 59 minutes left! I am so excited!! What will Uganda look like? Will the people there like me? I will have to wait and see.
Then my mother tells me there is a big storm. The airplane icon on our animated map begins to turn another way. So we are delayed… What? NO! Now there’s another hour until we get to see our father…  I feel like all my hopes and dreams have been shattered.  So I wait, and wait, and wait….

Finally we are landing! I can barely see through the velvet darkness outside our plane window, but I know we’re almost there! My excitement is even bigger and better than it was before! It’s almost like when you have to build a tower but then it falls down, but you pick it back up and learn from your mistakes. We land. I am very close now; I feel like dancing. We all jump up as soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off. Why can’t these people move faster? Can’t they see I want to see my Daddy? And this thing is heavy. I feel like tapping my foot impatiently…. The line begins to move. I get closer and closer to the front of the airplane.

We walk out of the plane into the airport, I am here… In AFRICA!!!!! I feel so different, like a tourist, and the employee behind the counter looks at me like I am… After checking through to customs, we scramble for our luggage, it takes a while because we have 15 pieces of luggage to find… I want to see my Father! For a moment it looks as if we have lost one piece of luggage but soon we find it. Yes! I feel like a mission accomplished! We race to see Daddy! We race through the white door… There he stands smiling and beaming, arms open wide---Liesel runs to him. If I wasn’t holding luggage I would have done the same.

We’re finally here. What is the new plan? The new goal? I don’t know. I am just relieved to finally be home.  I will have to trust God for today and let Him guide us towards His plan for us in the future.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oh, and Don't Forget the Tennis Ball



Today was my first lesson in Ugandan construction. Measure twice cut once. Our local carpenter was familiar with this phrase, he'd learned it from a missionary team from Mexico. It served him well. Despite the rounded concrete wall, the slightly unlevel floor, and the mysterious obstruction behind the wall he did a bang up job. He even let me help. There are many limitations he has overcome. Hand saws, I've seen roadside tablesaws at furniture shops but it's a bit out of his price range for now. Wood glue, either he didn't have any or the country doesn't have any, not sure which. That reminds me, note to my wife: please bring my wood glue, should be the brownish bottle with the gorilla hand on it. While I'm at it:

-Bubble level, both if the boy can find them
-Drill bits (orange case)
-Needle nose pliers
-Concrete screws, sorry you'll have to go to Lowes for them but they will do loads of good.

All of that is probably way too heavy to just add to someone's luggage. Maybe just go out to the shed and have the boy photograph…

Sorry, maybe this would be better for a private email. But I do want it in the public record all of the things we thought were necessary. We learned much of the things we did prepare for by reading other's experiences over here. And of course when I say we, I mean my wife. She read about a nasty fly called the putzi that defiles your clothes while they are hanging out to dry and give you worms. So now I have to buy an iron with which to steam kill them. Trust me I'll have the most crisp boxer shorts possible to prevent… (perhaps I better put that in the email)

There is a couple of dogs on the property but no tennis balls so they've given to playing catch with rocks. They'll play with anyone so perhaps the boy can teach them with a ball. Honey, see if you can find some tennis balls, they can go in his carry on.

The next step to our kitchenette renovation will be some electricity. If you look closely in the corner you'll see the shadow of a wall socket that once was. Which means there might be a line up in the attic just waiting to be dropped down. Of course what else might occupy that attic is probably the stuff of nightmares and might not want to be disturbed. Maybe I'll wait till I can find a bigger flashlight and a flamethrower.

Enough silliness. We visited a model farm this week and started compiling our own profiles of what to pursue in our farming goals. We turned the compost a couple of times, ideally in thirteen more days it will be humus. In the classroom we got training on going beyond a community's farming practice and getting to understand their worldview and not only how it influences their farming successes and/or shortcomings but their culture as well. Next week we get into several villages to begin sharing sustainable farming practices.

Oh and did I mention the family joins me Tuesday?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Final Moment



Today is laundry day. What that means in a land of no coin-op laundromats is hand washing. More about that in a moment. The above picture is a luxury. Add to the fact that it is in my room and I don't have to trek across the lawn and use the community showers is a blessing beyond imagination. The only drawback is that it's cold. I have learned to offset the temp by showering in the afternoon. Nevertheless approaching a cold shower is a bit like gameshows on TV where people eat live scorpions. First is the reveal, shock. Then the dance, a little bounce step and shudder. Then the build up, psyching themselves up with a exhale and shaking out the fingers. Execution, just get in there. And finally the retreat, exhilaration with a huge, "I did it!" rush. I would like to think I am saving water because I don't have to wait for the hot tap to warm up, but I am convinced I'm wasting more watching the water as I try and trick myself to get in. These are my alternating techniques: building myself up, that I can take it or dumbing myself down that it won't be that bad. Live scorpions would be easier. 

So in the midst of all this I dip into the conservation delusion and try to wash some laundry simultaneously. I had washed a few shirts earlier and had splashed myself soggy so I figured I was already wet so I might as well finish up my socks and shorts. As I am bending and sloshing and wringing and hanging I catch a slick tile with my left heal and start to slip. Luckily, I catch myself. Before I am able to take a breath and reconsider what I hoped to accomplish naked in the shower, my final moment crossed my mind. They would find me, perhaps after I missed dinner or maybe not until the next day, nekked as the day I was born lying in the shower amongst six days worth of soggy socks and boxer shorts. The message that would be communicated back to my grieving wife would be, "Don't bother coming, your husband killed himself whilst doing laundry." I can't wait much longer for my family to arrive.

Come back to the site this weekend as I report on getting my haircut in Africa.