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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Final Update from Uganda--August 31, 2013

Dear Friends and Family.....

We apologize that we have not been able to send updates on a more regular basis. It seems that the days when we have the time we lack electricity and/or internet  connection. On the nights when we have those, we have had a very long day of traveling and get in too late to sit down and type.

We have just returned from Karamoja and had a wonderful time with the people of Kokorio and Kayapas.  We arrived via Mission Aviation Fellowship plane and were able to walk through the main market area of Matany to Pastor Phillip’s home where we were greeted by mothers of some of our sponsored children. They sang and danced a welcome and thank you song for us. We were then able to meet with a few of the children.

Due to very bad road conditions from all the rain AND a breakdown, part of our team...the Ugandan members, were not able to arrive until later that night and without the vehicle. Boda Boda's (small motorcycles) picked them up and brought them to Matany. Due to the vehicle not making it to Matany we did not have group transport to and from the two villages and were unable to visit as a team. While this was disappointing, we know that God has a reason.

The men were able to travel by boda boda to work on the pit latrines and the ladies had an absolutely wonderful day of teaching health and hygiene to 40 women in the morning and sewing to a group of about 25 in the afternoon. While only a couple of the women could speak English and the majority of them do not read or write (I saw a lady teaching another lady how to make letters to write her name on a picture she drew for us), we were able to communicate beautifully through pictures, and role play. We had the ladies draw pictures for us of a person getting water from a water source as we had discussed clean vs dirty water.....the ladies had never used crayons before and only a couple had ever even had the opportunity to draw a picture. They enjoyed it so much we gave them extra time for the experience and left the crayons for them to do more drawing later.

We were also introduced to a lovely 13 year old girl named Lucy. Her older brother is one of our sponsored children. He was the one who had been in the boda boda accident and nearly died. Because Lucy is the last child at home, her mother could not afford to keep her in school and was planning to exchange her daughter for a cow so she would have a way to provide for herself. Basically selling Lucy for a way to provide food for herself. Needless to say, this did not set well with the team and we are working on getting Lucy's mother to allow goats to be purchased for her in exchange for being given an education. Barb Gray, on the team has convinced her husband that this is a child they need to add to their list of sponsored children. Please pray for Lucy and her mother.

The men had a wonderful day of working alongside the men in working on the pit latrines and building relationships with these men. Mark and Doug are a wonderful pair of guys to work with the Ugandans because they don't try to push for things to be done the American way but allow themselves to learn from the Ugandans as well as teaching them some new ways of doing things in a way that builds positive relationships. What a wonderful thing to see how God is working in this village since the drilling of the well. The people are more open to the gospel and to Msungu's coming into their village. They see that we are not there to give and do for, rather to teach and assist them as they learn to provide for themselves. Some of the seeds we gave for their garden on past trips are producing vegetables and we saw one of the girls selling some of the greens in the market. We were also able to show the Passion of the Christ the last night in Karamoja.  It was so beautiful to hear sweet voices say Jesu, Jesu...and to hear them cheer when Satan lost the battle at Christ's resurrection. To see a village open to the gospel and open to people coming into both their villages and their lives is extremely humbling and encouraging.

Yesterday we drove to Jinja to visit David and Lisa Fish (the daughter and son-in-law of our dear friends Dave and Susan Franklin) and their children.  They are working with a ministry called Good Shepherd's Fold and teach missionary children. It took about 2 hours to get there and four hours to get back because of the traffic issues coming back into Kampala. Needless to say, this caused us to be over 2 hours late or the Jesus Film. The wonderful and patient people in Kajjansi waited as a very tired and worn out group drove up. There were at least 200 people still there, 2 hours after the show was to start. Laura had a few minutes to talk to the group and we gave the movie to the pastor in charge.  We then left it with them because it was so late and they proceeded to watch the movie. This will kick off a series of evangelistic outreach meetings in the area and we look forward to hearing the updates.

Today, our last day in Uganda, will be spent driving back to Mercy Uganda's land to assess progress and plan the next steps in the construction. We will also take a walker to a sweet elderly man that the medical team had worked with in the past and had arranged for hip surgery for him. He had gone a year with a broken hip when the medical team met him.  We also hope to meet the mother of our new child Lobowa James, whom we met at the ferry in February. She is dying of AIDs and is a Christian. We are convinced she has been praying for James and God led us to him in February.....he is a wonderful testimony to God's work through the sponsorship program and we can't wait to show you pictures, and share how God is taking what was once seemingly hopeless and giving hope and a future.

We have so much to tell you and lots of wonderful pictures. This trip has been a blessing to us as we have sought to be a blessing and to be used by the Lord in the lives of the people of Uganda. Thank you for being a part of this work. Your support and prayers allowed us to have an impact here and we are grateful to you.

Love in Christ,
The August Team: Mark and Laura, Doug and Kristin, and Barb
Ladies at the health and hygiene class

Mark and Doug heading to the latrine work site in Kokorio village

The team with the Fish family

Lucy, the girl whose mother was going to trade her for livestock
Doug, Mark, and Gabriel working on the pit latrines

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013 Update

Dear Friends and Family.....

The past few days have been fruitful and rewarding. We continue to build wonderful relationships with men and women in Uganda and are thankful for the opportunities to stand along side them as we seek to serve the Lord.

The men have had several good days of construction work on Mercy Uganda's land, and will complete the walls for the storage building/living quarters for caretaker of the land.  They will also do the concrete work on the piggery tomorrow.  It has been amazing to see how much can get accomplished with a team of American and Ugandan men even with language barriers. Doug and Mark show a love and humility that speaks volumes without words. The men see these two Christian men and we see the bonds that are growing. Praise the Lord!

The ladies continue to hold the sewing classes every morning, and the Ugandan ladies have really shown a willingness and desire to learn the art of sewing. The church ladies even want to start a sewing group to help ladies continue to learn and build upon their skills so they can help provide can income for their families. Many of these women's husbands work making bricks in the brick business near the church, making very low wages. Our prayer is to raise funds to help provide several good quality sewing machines for this group to encourage them in this hope. The sewing classes have allowed us to build friendships with ladies from the church and surrounding villages, and is creating opportunities for the Ugandan ladies to build new friendships as well.

The sewing classes are a great bridge to our afternoon bible studies, and the women all seem excited to stay, often from 10 in the morning until nearly 5:00. Our study is about some of the women of the bible, and how, like them, we have stories as daughters of Christ. Two key things being taught: 1) Nothing is impossible with God and 2) I am loved. This seems to resonate with the women and we see smiles and hear amens. The ladies hear stories of forgiveness and healing, hope and a future. They hear that there is nothing in their lives too big for God and He is faithful in all things. 

We have also had the privilege of singing with them and teaching new songs. We closed today with teaching the Doxology.....they had never heard it before, but loved being in a large 30 something lady group holding hands and singing that song. 

Thank you for praying for us as we seek God's guidance and plan for us here. Pray that He will show us what He wants us to do, and that we will be obedient and willing servants to these absolutely precious men, women, boys and girls in Uganda.

Love in Christ,
The August Team: Mark and Laura, Doug and Kristin, and Barb

P.S. The construction pictures show the slab and beginning of the storage/caretaker building and the beginning of the foundation for the piggery. The pictures of the ladies are some of the Ugandans modeling the blouses they made.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Team Update--Monday, August 19th

We apologize for the lack of updates and pictures. It seems it has been one technical difficulty after another including power outages. However, we think we are working out some kinks and can send this with great pictures too!

We made it safely Wednesday evening, and were totally beat by the nearly 28 hours of flight time and layovers. We had a great night’s sleep and were ready to get busy on Thursday morning.
Thursday morning was our first opportunity as a team to go and look at the new land that God has graciously provided Mercy Uganda through many generous donors. We planned where buildings would go and what structures would be first. The men then spent a few minutes pounding limbs in the ground to mark where the footers would go for our first structure. We spent the evening planning and discussing details for the upcoming week.

Friday morning the men were taken to the land in a public transportation van/taxi that was hired out as our means of transportation. Once the men were dropped off the ladies were picked up and taken to Calvary Chapel Church in Kajjansi, where we started our ladies Bible study. We had a wonderful group of about 30 ladies and look forward to 7 more days of fellowship with them.
Saturday started out with plans similar to Friday’s, however, we had a minor emergency when Mark had a racing heart Friday night and into the morning on Saturday. This was caused by overheating (we think) on Friday. So Henry Mello, our country director made arrangements for us to take Mark to Namulanda Clinic where he was seen by the main doctor/owner of the hospital. He was checked out and in good shape……cause of attack believed to be lack of sleep, overheating, and too much caffeine. So, decaf, light duty for a couple of days, and valium to help him catch up on the sleep. He is doing MUCH better now and the entire medical event only cost 20,000 Ugandan shillings=less than $10.00.

We also visited our friend Veronica who runs the Comforter Pregnancy Center in Kampala. This is always a blessing and this was a first visit for all but Laura and we all enjoyed seeing the ministry Veronica has and purchasing paper bead necklaces made by the women at the center. This afternoon we had day two of the Bible study and the men were our technical support today.

Sunday was a wonderful day of worship at Calvary Chapel, a time of scripture reading, hymn singing, and hearing the His Grace Revival Choir (Henry’s choir) sing several amazing arrangements. Then Henry’s preacher delivered a wonderful sermon. We also got to see and spend time with 2 of our Mercy Uganda sponsored children, and what an amazing thing to see the change in their lives since being sponsored! God is so good!! Three and a half hours later, we were leaving the church. We had a plan to bake a home made birthday cake and have Henry and Gabriel (our 2 Ugandan ministry team members) and their families over for a birthday party for them (the ones we give are the only ones they have ever had). The power went off before the cake got done, we all ate dinner by candle light and sang happy birthday with candles stuck in one of the potatoes from dinner…..the power came on less than 5 minutes after the guests left to go home so they got carry out cake today.
Today, Monday August 19th was a wonderful day of ministry work, both in construction and in the sewing and the bible study groups. The men were able to get a lot of the concrete slab poured today, and have some stories to tell about that when we get home. Kristin led the sewing class today and we had 31 ladies show up and two foot pedal control sewing machines. We spent about 4 hours with Kristin and her assistants (Laura and Barb) helping the ladies learn to pin and cut their patterns. It took at least an hour to measure all of the ladies to figure out sizes and then the cutting began. We hope to start the actual sewing tomorrow. After the sewing class, Mercy Uganda is providing lunch for all of the ladies every day this week. After lunch (around 3 o’clock) we begin our daily bible study time. It is an amazing bible study that focuses God’s love for his daughters. We learn about and discuss the stories of different women each day. Laura has been leading this bible study with help and interaction from Kristin and Barb. Barb will be sharing her testimony tomorrow during the class.
We look forward to giving more updates soon. We appreciate all of your prayers and thank you for your support for the work being done here. We came to be a blessing and are receiving such a blessing in the process.
Love in Christ,

Mark and Laura Knetzer, Doug and Kristin DeVries, and Barb Gray
Ladies Bible Study Group

Preparing for the sewing class
Mark laying the first brick of the first building on the Mercy Uganda land
The footing for the first building on the Mercy Uganda land