Monday, March 2, 2015

Monthly Update March 2015

Without Television

I am a product of my generation. Television is my friend. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s television was the reward for doing homework. In my family we watched Cosby and A-Team before bedtime. In my mind the achievement of adulthood was staying up late. My family teases that I stayed up so late watching TV that the TV would end up watching me. My children looked forward to Sunday nights to watch the Amazing Race and imagine if they could survive in a foreign country. Now we are in a foreign country and the TV that was my constant companion since childhood has been left behind. We have a variety of digital media that we watch from a hard drive and DVDs. Somebody sent us the entire I Love Lucy series which we enjoy regularly. We have also discovered the show Parenthood, which we watch after the children go to bed. The show’s opening credits include photos of the principle cast as children, encouraging you to believe that these people have grown up together. Even though we know these actors had no prior relationship before they were cast, for the sake of the show we believe they all belong to the Braverman family. Almost in the same way Family Ties made me believe Meredith Baxter-Birney raised Alex, Mallory and Jennifer Keaton. Sometimes Parenthood presents such a strong case for family strength I want to be a part of their family as well. As a child I wanted to be a part of the family with a mother who was a lawyer and a father who was a doctor (and former stand-up comedian) with their five children, even if I would’ve been their only white child (and thirty years ago every Thursday night for 22 minutes I kind of was). Television is a powerful medium for showing us something beyond ourselves whether it is a race around the world or how a family could live with and love each other, no matter what. Here in Uganda we are nearing the end of the long dry season and preparing for the rains to come. On the property we are still focusing on soil restoration. This means planting in some spaces that haven’t been used for a while so we can let the overworked areas lie fallow. Crop rotation is not a traditional farming method here which reduces the soil’s ability to grow healthy crops. One of these places is a forgotten sweet potato field that may or may not produce this season because the soil has no life in it. Normally we don’t do this much digging (see above photo) but to clear the weeds and get some order back to this plot we had to bust up the abandoned potato mounds. The children have been helpful in getting this space ready and developing our sunflower garden. We have a number of seedlings growing and as soon as the rain starts we’ll start transplanting. When asked why I chose agriculture the answer is easy, I like to eat. When asked why Africa? I go back to my TV families, I like to belong. Last week I got to share my testimony with the whole base. I told them the story of our son Wilson and how his death crushed us and could have ended our hope. Instead, we put our trust in God, steadied ourselves with those around us, and took the next step. God gave us grace and our family grew. Along the way God brought others to us who wanted to belong. For better or worse Ugandans didn’t have exposure to the Huxtables or the Bradys or the Taylors (if you go all the way back to Mayberry) to give them an example of what family could be. They have family. Their clan or tribe is valued above their nation, but they are approaching a crisis where the children out number the adults. When this generation is gone, leadership will be left to children who have no model to follow. Our mission here as a family is to do that. Be a family. In a small way we model the idea that there is another way besides the way it has always been done. We strive to represent that in farming and in family. Thank you for supporting us to bring hope to the people of Uganda. Photos, top from left, The Family busting up the soil chunks in an obviously posed shot, a better posed group shot, Jax watering sunflowers. Bottom row, Jeri and Zoe singing with the worship team, our mandazi version of french toast, Sean sharing at weekly devotion.

Over a year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.

Monthly Update February 2015

Six Months

January marked our six-month anniversary in Uganda. If we were dating, people would mock our commemorating such a brief duration of commitment. But like an adolescent romance they wouldn’t understand how much we love this country. We ride on the backs of motorcycles or in crowded taxis and get a new vista of landscape around every turn. We are greeted daily by locals who praise our efforts and impart to us well being. And our children are protected and adored by the very people we have come to serve. Showing our affection for this nation was getting the girls’ hair braided in the local fashion. The procedure, management, and duration of the plaits had unique benefits and drawbacks that as a bald man I could not appreciate. Obviously much time was required in a chair both to apply and remove the braids. Apparently once the hair was done scratching the scalp is prohibited which also had the benefit of not having to wash it as frequently. All the attention it garnered was fun and the Ugandans genuinely seem pleased when westerners embrace their culture. The girls are receptive to getting the braids in the future but for the time being like to be able to turn their heads without getting smacked in the face.

Another Shipment of Love

Poverty is broken relationship. Poverty is insufficiency of options. People die from poverty. Poverty is not running out of Skittles. Yet every time a care package has come from the States and we exhaust the treats and consumables within we are confronted with our western sense of poverty. We are not making light of the true suffering that exists in this world but expressing the great homesickness that comes when our supply of familiar comforts runs out. It is not so debilitating that we are not able to go without. We do seem to be building up our endurance in between shipments. As sad as it sounds the exuberance that comes when we open the zipper on a duffle or cut the tape on a box is above and beyond what you can imagine. Folks have been so generous in sending these bundles of hope and love. It may seem an exaggeration but believe us when we tell you receiving that package with mechanical pencils and duct tape and Kraft macaroni and cheese in it is like breaking the surface and gasping air when you’ve been held under water just 30 seconds too long. The effort and expense that y’all have extended to us is nothing short of divine providence and we can’t possibly thank you enough. We know it must seem silly all this rejoicing over material items, but truly it reminds us that we are not forgotten. It reminds us that you are out there, thinking of us, and you are willing to go the extra mile to send a box of Little Debbies and Starbucks Via packets. If you’ve had a notion to send something across and save a drowning bunch of white people we will be more than grateful.

Building a Future

Even in America we are a larger than average family, more numerous (and taller), especially than they are used to accommodating here in Uganda. As we shared last month we are living in a former guest house, which is nice, but we really need a place to call our own. There is an office bungalow that with little effort could be converted into a suitable dwelling. We felt this was a better option than building a new structure for cost effectiveness and speed of occupancy. Our initial projected budget of $15,000 doesn’t seem like much to build a home for a family of seven but with lower material cost, donated labor, and our tax return we are sure God will provide for whatever needs arise. If you are interested in seeing what building a home looks like in Uganda we invite you to join us. If you can’t come and help us here, a special gift would go a long way. If God has placed a burden on your heart for the future of Africa, this is the beginning of our ministry in a new era. Hopeland is positioning itself to raise a generation of young people to lead the nation. As Uganda moves forward–Africa follows. Your investment here will affect the entire continent. Click here if you would like to give. A year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.

Monthly Update January 2015

Our First Chicken in Uganda

We purchased two live chickens from a local farmer and named them Supper and Dinner. Our local friend Marion came out to instruct us in the proper way to process a Ugandan chicken. Turns out it is just like it is done in the States. For about seven dollars you can have a fresh chicken dinner, if you are willing to do the messy work of killin' and plucking. There may be other tastier homeschool lessons but most other anatomy lessons don't allow you to finish with dinner. We ate "Dinner" that night and sent "Supper" home with Marion to surprise her family. Buying local will have to be a special treat until we can get our own flock going. One of our goals for 2015 is to raise our own chickens for eggs and meat production. We have some coop building to do before that (if you'd like to contribute towards our first African chicken coop let us know). The local breed, called a kroiler, is for eggs and eating and is supposed to be quite delicious, we'll keep you updated.

The Mzungu Midwife Gets Busy

Jeri and Dora found the pregnant people! If the Ugandans who live far out in the villages want to have babies in the town hospital, they often have to travel out of the jungle sometimes on the back of bicycles to the crossroads where they get a taxi. They have to travel on a road that has more potholes and obstructions than pavement which is not fun for a laboring mother. Good Samaritan Birth Center was raised up out of a need for these women to get care in a more obtainable location. Really just a spare room in her home, Christine has delivered up to ten babies in one night! Her story began when she inadvertently delivered a baby during a routine taxi stop where the driver wouldn't let the mother on because he was afraid they wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. Christine, a young Ugandan woman had just finishing her midwife training so she got off and delivered the baby. She later learned this was the hub for mothers heading to town and decided to come back after her residency was completed and established her clinic there. A widowed mother of three children she usually works alone but has accepted the assistance of Jeri and Dora with great happiness. These mothers would not get any prenatal care without Christine's services, exactly what God told Jeri she would be doing in Uganda—helping Ugandan women have safe and healthy births. There may even be opportunity to bring in western midwife students to further their birthing experience. This is a growth opportunity for development and life saving assistance. If you have any burden for mothers getting better care during pregnancy, don't hesitate to reach out to Jeri. She has a lot of ideas to support Christine and her calling and would love some prayer and financial partners. Christine gets very little money to run her birth center and Jeri has lots of ideas of ways to improve their care. Dora has also written about her experience at the birth center. You can read her post at 

The Clarks Take an African Holiday

Our oldest daughter turned 16 in Africa. Unable to give her a sweet sixteen party or buy her a car (a common gift at this age according to MTV) we opted for a safari trip at one of the many wildlife parks here in Uganda. The Queen Elizabeth Park in the southern corner of the country has elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, hippos, lions and 90 other species of animalia. We saw our share. In one section of the park we watched as another party drove off the beaten path to a outcrop of bushes that our guide told us was a known place for lions. We couldn't follow because that party had paid extra for "special experience." We continued to come across antelope, wart hog and buffalo until our guide came across a park employee who gave us some privileged information. He jumped back into the van and off we went into the savanna. A couple of twists and turns and we also found some lions. Being mid-morning they were halfway to settling in for their daily siesta, but they were right there. We've been closer to the king of beasts in several zoos but to see them free was a "special experience." Later in the day when we saw the hippo, buffalo, and elephant all associating by the river's edge with no guardian watching out to make sure they were behaving, it gave us pause to realize how powerful and awesome God's creation is. What an honor to enjoy some of the richness this country has to offer. Of course because Zoe's birthday is also Christmas day the expedition needed to be a special day for all. Thankfully the trip above and beyond compensated for being away from all the usual holiday traditions and fellowship that we missed not being in the States... mostly (we miss all of you dearly). The only tradition we were able to observe was our annual picture with Santa. We sought out African Father Christmas on a hunch and he didn't disappoint. I doubt he had any clue about why we were so excited to find him but he was enthusiastic nonetheless. His inclusion made a fine addition to our 15 year ritual (to see the collection check my Photo Albums). A year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.