Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Skip's Photos of Kampala and Soroti

 By Anthony: 

Skip VandenBerg was able to get a lot of great photos during his and Mary's visit to us in August. I would like to share these photos with you so that you can get a sense of what Uganda is like, and what our town Soroti is like. It's a vibrant place full of activity, people hard at work, friendly smiles, and beautiful sights, yet there is also poverty, trash, and traffic chaos. All of that together makes life interesting every day.

Here are some photos from driving around in Kampala:

A couple photos from the highways on long journeys through the country. This guy is pouring water on the chickens to keep them alive on top of this taxi.

These next two photos are from Jinja where Sara and I often stop on long journeys for a bathroom break. Here is Uwepo plant nursery in Jinja where Sara is buying tree seedlings, and where we can buy some vegetables not found in Soroti.

Here is Soroti, the small city where we live, yet it is a bustling city each day with people who come in for business from the whole region.

I'd like to know what the bicyclist on the bicycle taxi was thinking:

Where we usually get our photocopying done and making of training manuals:

Some of Soroti's roads have become narrow:

Sharpening a panga (machete) using an old bicycle:

Outside the new main market which is a really fancy big building and so much nicer and cleaner than the old market:

Inside the market:

We found Grace from our church at her shop within the market building and prayed for her business:

With Rose, one of the market ladies that Sara has gotten to know and regularly talks to:

Children sledding down Soroti Rock:

Sara and Mary picking out fabric:

These next pictures are near our home. We like to walk next to the people who are baking bricks.

Check out this lady's skills:

Skip also took some animal pictures. This one is a common reed frog. Despite its appearance, it is not poisonous.

Everyone Loves Chaya

By Sara:

Here are just a few pictures of people who are excited to plant and eat chaya:

There is also a special way Ugandans manage to slice greens very finely: line up the leaves nicely into little stacks, then hold one stack in your hand while slicing it:

Innovations in Kaberamaido

By Sara:

Anthony and I got to sit in on the World Renew East Africa team meeting back in September as representatives of Resonate.  It was exciting that the meeting took place in Soroti for the first time ever!  One of the days was a field visit to see some of the work being done in this region, so I got to go to Kaberamaido and see some of the people I worked with in 2014 and 2015.  The organization there used to be called KMDP, but it is now called West Teso SDS.  I love the way they do their work and I always admire the changes in the communities who work with them.

We visited one farmer who has dug around 6 fish ponds.  He has a lot of fish!

The most innovative thing he has done, though, is planting papaya trees all around and between the fish ponds.  Then, he can sell papayas for additional income and throw some of the fruits into the ponds to feed the fish.

Since his land is wet, he also planted taro, which replants itself and is a profitable crop to grow:

Another farmer had tried out jackbean as a cover crop and he showed us how the portion of his garden where jackbean was last year is much more fertile and productive than the part where it was not.  As a result, he planted it again, in this new area, intercropped with his maize:

Another story was from a community (represented by the man in the blue t-shirt) which was was empowered by West Teso SDS to petition the government to refurbish their local borehole so it would be protected from animals and be able to provide enough safe, clean water for everyone around:

As a last stop, we visited a church where some of the community members did some dramas portraying what they have been learning from West Teso SDS.  They acted out how savings groups work, how they learned to advocate for land rights with the local government, how they built peace in their community, and how to do conservation agriculture (that is the clip below):

Finally, some beautiful music from the acting group:

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Rwanda TLT Introduction

By Anthony:

In October, Stephen and I traveled to Rwanda to introduce Timothy Leadership Training to church leaders in Kigali. Before I get more into that, let me share this photo. Uganda sometimes seems like a small country when you go the airport and unexpectedly run into your Resonate colleague! This is Anastaze with Stephen. Not only did Stephen spot him in the airport, but then it turned out that Anastaze was on the same plane to Kigali, and even the same row. I was very encouraged and inspired when Anastaze spent the whole flight talking to his fellow passenger, a Jewish lady with no faith. She was not pressured to talk but was interested in the conversation. He was able to share much with her about the Jewish people in the Bible and the persecution they have gone through, and about Christ and the good news of the Gospel. It made an impact on me, because I'm usually way too absorbed in a book to take advantage of such opportunities...

My first impressions of Rwanda lived up to the hype. It is a very beautiful country with a lot of hills, and at least in Kigali, it has been kept very clean from trash. I saw a little plastic litter in farmer's fields, but only on out of the way dirt roads. Generally it was very clean. I learned that the whole country has one day every month set aside where the shops are closed and everyone engages in cleaning their areas. You don't want to be caught bringing in plastic bags to the country! They are banned in Rwanda.

What impressed me most was the rule of law, especially in comparison to Uganda. In Uganda, there are really good laws and rules on the books; they are just not enforced, except for when the police feel like it. Both countries have laws that motorcyclists and passengers have to wear helmets. In Kigali, I failed to find a single person on a motorcycle not wearing a helmet. Every motorcycle taxi has a helmet for the passenger as well. Apparently there is some hat or scarf that passengers bring from home for hygiene in order to wear under the helmet.

The police also have webcams on their vests so that they cannot take a bribe without being seen, so corruption is very low in Rwanda. There are also speed towers that can digitally give people tickets for speeding.

Rwanda is almost directly south of Uganda but is in a different time zone. So it was surprising to have the sun rising around 5:30am. 

We stayed at Rabagirana Ministries' training center. It was a beautiful and quiet place to stay. Rabagirana is a ministry partner of Resonate Global Mission. For years they have worked with Resonate using a curriculum called "Healing Hearts Transforming Nations." It originated out of Rwanda, but is now used all over the world. It helps people recover from trauma and wounds through Christ, and helps people to reconcile with others. It has brought tremendous healing in Rwanda since the genocide. 

Rabagirana invited Resonate to start a TLT group in Kigali. Rabagirana staff and many different churches from various denominations will be involved in this first TLT group. The first training of manual one was in November, led by Stephen Omoko and other Ugandan facilitators that we partner with. On our trip, we had a 1 day introduction to TLT with around 40 church leaders as you can see below.

It takes a good amount of time to tell people about a new program, especially since TLT is really unique compared to other curricula or Bible college programs. There are always questions on logistics, venue, costs, who should be involved, how long will it take, etc. 

We limited the first group to 50 participants even though there is very wide interest. These 50 will be able to work together to start new TLT groups in various areas of the country after they graduate in 2 years. Since most of the denominations have only a few people in this group of 50, they will also teach their own church leaders after they graduate. The future groups will not be dependent on Resonate for funding or facilitators, but we will continue to work with them as facilitators, coaching them and encouraging them.

Part of the introduction was Stephen leading a sample lesson. The lesson was about work and rest. It became a very passionate discussion. We realized that even 50 people is probably too large of a number. When 2/3 of the people want to talk on a given point, and then debate, it is very hard to give everyone a chance to speak. Stephen seriously challenged them about the importance of having rest as pastors. Most don't take any day off.

Stephen and I had the opportunity to visit the Genocide Memorial. I knew quite a lot about the Rwandan genocide before this trip. But what I learned was that a lot of the trauma from the genocide was a bit buried by people as they had to keep moving forward in survival mode. Today, for example in the Healing Hearts Transforming Nations workshops, deep wounds still get revealed and people are still seeking for healing. It doesn't matter that it was almost 30 years ago. Many of the wounds are still fresh. And the genocide is something that is still talked about a lot even by the youth who were not alive then. Here is another CRC leader's reflections on these workshops.

One of the other things I learned was that Hutus and Tutsis are not actual tribes. (though there is some debate about this). Rwandans were one people group, with one language and culture. But during the colonial period, the administrators wanted to have a way to divide people and classify them, so they used economic status. If you had less than a certain amount of cows you were Hutu and over a certain amount of cows you were Tutsi. It was completely arbitrary, and yet later you would call yourself a Hutu or Tutsi based on your parents' identification. At some point the colonial powers tried to classify Hutus and Tutsis by racial features as well, but from what our tour guide said, it was nonsensical and didn't work. That is why during the genocide and today, Rwandans cannot tell who is Hutu and Tutsi by appearance because there are no distinguishing features. 

You would think this would make it easy to move on as one Rwandan people and completely stop using the Hutu/Tutsi categories since they were made up. In one sense, Rwandans have moved on and are enjoying a peaceful country together. But our tour guide said that in the privacy of people's homes, they still talk as a family about how they are Hutu or Tutsi, especially as they reflect on their family's stories and experiences. There are Rwandans who feel shame knowing that their family was Hutu, or Rwandans who have trauma from being classified as Tutsi. 

Here are some of the mass graves. It was quite the reflective and heavy experience.