Just a quick update on events since my return.
When I left Washington in August to return to Uganda, I traveled via Detroit and New York City. I had never visited the East Coast and had decided to take this opportunity to do so, since I had established some contacts there. Stopping overnight in Detroit availed me opportunity to visit an Iraqi Muslim family that I had known in Everett. They had heard I was in Africa and were very curious about why I was there and what I was doing.
In New York I met Vicki and Dennis Porter. Vicki is a medical editor for Medscape, a medical website, where I had published an article I wrote in 2001 about working with an underserved population. Since then we've been working together on what may someday become a book. They showed me a wonderful time in New York City, enjoying watching this first-timer seeing a place they'd both grown up in.
When I returned to Uganda, I had plans to start a Community Health Worker training project about 200 miles north of me, in a part of Uganda known as the West Nile. A tribe called the Madi has been requesting I come there for 3 years now, both to train them medically, and to teach them spiritually as well. I had received approval to start the work, but this year has seen a dramatic increase of an ongoing 16 year civil strife in northern Uganda. The rebel groups tormenting the people had been known to have crossed the Nile into the western region with prisoners, so the area had become too unstable for me to work there.
Instead, when I came back to Uganda, I found myself faced with an increasingly unpleasant living arrangement. For the 3 1/2 years I'd lived here, I had shared a staff housing unit with about 10-12 staff members and boarding grade school students, which was 4 tiny 2-room apartments. Now I found that 20 students had been moved in, increasing the population to about 30 of us. It also increased the cockroach population by about 3 million, and added bedbugs, flocks of mosquitoes, and other blood sucking critters I never did identify. My being white is always a source of fascination to Ugandans, and children in particular are unabashed about staring, peeping in my windows, and monitoring my every activity. This was increased 20-fold as well.
Through my increasing discomfort, God spoke to my heart about building my long-delayed house. I had received all the clearances I needed to start it, but due to my planned furlough, I had not acted upon it earlier in the year. So plans were made to start to construction with the intent of completing 2 rooms initially that I will live in while the remainder of the house is completed.
Everything is built from scratch, so to speak. There is no Home Depot to provide for your every housing need. The bricks are made from mud, then fired. The carpenter builds the doors and then makes them fit the doorways. Ditches are dug by hand. Cement is mixed on the ground, with water hauled from the well by bicycle, and carried in a wheelbarrow. Workers must take care of their home needs before traveling by foot or bike to work on the house, so each day's work rarely starts before 10:00 AM. They will work until dark, but if it rains the work may stop. If someone dies, everyone must go to the funeral. So at best, work on the house is off and on. You just have to be patient.
In Sept the work on the house started. A man, Ronald Lubowa, is an exceptional builder, and I've been blessed by him and his work. He's a pastor and was one of my students. So a cool thing is that he prays for the project along with the rest of us. You can spot his work just about anywhere because it's so nice. The guy putting the roof on was an artist! He reminded me of a tailor putting together a dress.
As soon as the building started, my finances took a real hit. I was seeking God about it, because on other occasions, like when I need God to supply for plane tickets for going home, or such, my monthly income always drops. Was this from spiritual opposition? Was I getting my eyes off God for provision and onto people? I wasn't sure what was happening, but it was putting a real crimp in things.
Then just last week, I awoke early one morning, just before dawn, because someone walked past my window with a lighted lamp. This was unusual because it was a full moon, and usually people don't need lights. They are used to walking in the dark. Soon I began to smell an acrid smell, reminding me of creosote. I thought maybe a neighbor lady had started her cooking fire extra early for some reason, and maybe she had found some creosoted wood she was burning. However, when I got up and looked out my window, there was no neighbor and no cooking fire going, but the bitter smell was wafting in my window.
Later on in the afternoon, I was outside and I smelled this strong smell again. Neighbors were all around and cooking fires were burning, just the usual tree branches. I commented on the smell, but strangely, no one but me could smell this very strong odor! One friend looked at me and said, "You are smelling the demons." The next day, I talked with a local pastor who told me that when someone is using witchcraft, they burn something that smells much like creosote, to call the demons.
After that, I had a feeling I needed to go pray around my house project. I did so, praying against any witchcraft and against anything that was hindering my finances. I was filled with a sense of joy after praying this way, and felt God had done something. In the week that followed, I received 3 separate emails from people telling me they were sending amounts of money for this and for that. Hallelujah!
We went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. Not the traditional meal, but one that serves crocodile and other exotic meats. If you visit me, I can take you there, if you're interested!
On January 28th I moved into my two rooms. The next phase will be to put the rest of the walls up and roof them. then we can work on the house room by room. (Click here to see pictures of Margaret's new home under construction).
Anything Christians do in Uganda is usually a battle. Witchcraft is rampant. In the darkness, many are turning to the Light, including witchdoctors. But the ones remaining in darkness constantly fight the Light and those of us who live in it. So continue to pray for all the missionaries abroad as they carry on the banner of the Lord.
Please pray about the needed repairs on my pickup truck. The 4-wheel drive has quit working and will be expensive to fix. I cannot go out into many of the villages in the rainy season without 4WD. I'll let you know later for sure what happens with it.
Things are pretty good here basically. No one sick, although Sarah Adams broke her foot. That's been hard on her because she loves to walk. We need ongoing prayer to cover the 2006 presidential elections, when President Museveni will be replaced after 20 yrs of governing the country. In the 2001 election, the political opposition was pretty scary. There is a constant battle against a spirit of destruction over Uganda, and we will do battle again when the government has to change ~ always turbulent in African nations.
Luweero, the town near where I live, and District center, is a name that means Place of Destruction. That name was given to the area 100 yrs ago when the Baganda tribe fought and defeated the Banyoro tribe, pushing them back 100 miles north. Since then Luweero has suffered much destruction, the most well known during the reign of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in the mid 1980s, when an estimated 50% of the population was slaughtered. Today it is still a violent area. Police are corrupt and crime reigns. Churches are weak and troubled. The current mayor and other government officials did animal sacrifice for power to win their elections. Demonic forces rule. But I believe God is doing a work in Luweero that will cause it to eventually become a Place of Blessing instead of destruction!
Please pray for us, as I have malaria and Fishers (our East Africa directors) have been sick with a bad parasite. Greg is ok now, but Margaret is sick with what is either strep throat or the parasite. Tests aren't totally conclusive yet.
Also pray for God's intervention in northern Uganda to bring peace to a a terribly troubled area (for 16 yrs now). A rebel group there is causing incredible suffering, in the name of politics, but it's actually a cult group and pacts were made with Satan (human sacrifice, etc). God is working, but it needs resolution, especially with upcoming presidential change in 2006!