As the team arrived at Calgary Interbational and cleared customs there were many hugs and a few tears and many comments about returning  back to Africa. The team is tired but in good spirits. Thank you to all who supported this great team! 

God bless.

Tuesday was a special day for both I.N. Uganda and CrossRoads. It was a celebration of the CHAP program (Community HIV/AIDS Prevention), and a chance to look back at 8 years of partnership and celebrate the successes. The day was packed with speeches from those positively impacted by the program, and it even included cake, dinner, and a DJ.

A tent was setup in the garden outside the guesthouse, and guests began arriving around 1:00 pm. The CHAP staff (Collins, Kennedy, Joab, and Patrick) were busy coordinating the activities and also acted as the Master of Ceremonies (MC). Collins kept us entertained on the microphone and ensured the event stayed on time (to our surprise!). The meeting started with an opening prayer by Pastor Eli, and welcoming remarks from Collins.

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We then began hearing stories from CHAP beneficiaries and stakeholders. Two school aged children, Olive and Victor, told their stories of being HIV positive children, and being able to live fuller lives because of the support of CHAP. They have been provided with opportunities to attend school, receive proper nutrition (which is very important in order to stay healthy with HIV), and they have greater confidence in themselves because of CHAP’s work to de-stigmatize the illness. Bill remembers first meeting Ivan eight years ago and recalls that Ivan had little hope for the future. But, now he is pursuing his dreams and is living ‘positively’.

Following these two students, there was a presentation from the Headmaster of Buikwe Church of Uganda Primary School, two members of a local Villages Savings and Loans Association, and an I.N. Board member. Each person thanked God for what had been accomplished over the past eight years, and also deeply, and repeatedly, thanked CrossRoads Church for supporting the CHAP program and caring for the people of Buikwe. Their thanks was also reiterated by the Mayor of Buikwe, and a representative from the Buikwe District Council.

We had an intermission from the speeches while children from Buikwe Church of Uganda Primary School came forward to entertain us with songs and poems. They were all dressed in matching uniforms and shared songs about HIV/AIDS prevention. These songs were an important part of CHAP as it helped educated people, and also reduce the stigma surrounding the illness. It’s always a joy to hear the sound of singing kids in Africa, and this was a highlight of the afternoon.

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The remaining speeches were from Reverend Justus, Bill Shaw (on behalf of Pastor Dan Cochrane), and Adam Minke (on behalf of Pastor Tracy Minke). It was clear that both I.N. and CrossRoads has deeply valued the relationship forged over the past 8 years. We’ve all learned so much from each other, and we’ve been blessed to work together.  As Pastor Tracy wrote: “Over the years, as we have sent teams over to learn from, encourage and engage with the CHAP team, our passion has grown, as has our relationship with you.  As we have had opportunities to invite some of you into our church and community, a similar effect has been felt. Our church has been blessed by this partnership over the years and we feel honored to have been a part of it.” Bill Shaw wrapped up the speeches with heart-felt words about our love for the people of Uganda, and gratitude for what God is doing in this country.

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The event finished with gifts and many thanks for the CHAP team and their hard work and service over the years. There were also commemorative plaques exchanged between International Needs and CrossRoads Church. Then finally the cake and a delicious dinner!

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As I write this blog, we are only hours from leaving for the airport. Our team has found this experience to be unique and life changing, and we look forward to sharing our passion with friends and family. We are sad to be leaving, and somewhat apprehensive about returning to ‘normal’ life. Many of us are on ‘Africa time’ and will likely experience reverse cultural shock after stepping off the plane. Your prayers are again appreciated as we return home. We’ll see you soon!

-Adam and the Team

Sunday started off with a great breakfast again. Irene always has an abundance of local fruit for breakfast – Pineapple, watermelon, bananas, passion fruit and jack fruit to name a few. I think it’s fair to say we are all going to miss this wonderful lady. We then split into 2 groups and headed out to different villages for church. One group included Bill, Emily, Liberty and Sarah. Sheryl was unable to attend being a little under the weather but is fine now. They attended a church in Kiyindi where Bill gave the sermon. Our group consisted of Chantelle, Adam, Sharilyn, Barb and Kyle. The church we attended was called “Bridges of Hope”, in a little village called Najja. We were warmly greeted by Pastor Eli. The sermon that Pastor Eli put forward was about having a pure heart. It spoke to us all very deeply.  We were so blessed to hear Pastor Eli speak and for sure it was one of the highlights of our trip. As we arrived back home we were meet by Irene’s dear husband Martin and 3 beautiful children: Christal age 6 and twin boys Joshua and Caleb age 3 1/2.

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Irene Family

After our tummies were all happy again thanks to Irene we all headed out in our van driven by Jamil, the most talented driver in Uganda in our eyes, to Kampala for an evening of dining and entertainment at the Ndere Cultural Centre. This show was second to none with music and dancing from all the different regions of Uganda. The word I think would describe it best, and we would all agree with was spectacular.  At the end of show the whole audience was invited up to dance. It was quite amazing how God’s children from Uganda, Tanzania, Germany, Switzerland, China, Africa, US, and Canada, were all dancing under the stars of Uganda. The trip back home was a little quiet as some were digesting the day while others were napping ……. can’t wait for another day.

-Barb, Kyle, and the Team 

 

Today was a day off for the team. So we travelled to a nearby city called Jinja to do some touristy things. One of the main things to do in Jinja is see the source of the Nile River. It originates from Lake Victoria and travels 6,400 kilometers to Egypt. We all took a boat tour on the Nile River and observed the birds, monkeys, and lizards along the bank of the river. It was so fun to see the wide variety of birds and the cute monkeys – it felt like we were on a river safari.

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Another major attraction for our team of muzungu’s (white people) was the market! This was an opportunity to shop for unique crafts. We spent a couple hours wandering through small shops and bartering for paintings, clothes, jewelry, and handy crafts. Everyone clearly enjoyed themselves, and we’ll need extra suite cases to bring everything home!

We wrapped up the day with milkshakes at my favorite restaurant in East Africa… Java House. It was such a nice treat to have some comfort food that reminds us of home!

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Even though it was a day off, we arrived home late and are exhausted (hence the short blog). But, tomorrow promises to be a great day with an exciting African church service, and a trip to Kampala to see a cultural dance show. There will be more to come soon…

-Adam and the Team

We started the day with a delicious french toast breakfast prepared by our dear Irene accompanied by loads of fruit. Kyle, Barb, Sherilynn, Bill and I walked into Buikwe this morning to get a more up close look at the town. Bill led us down to Buikwe as he is a trained veteran of this area (Bill’s been to Uganda 6 times). We got a few weird looks from the locals – probably thinking ‘what the heck are all these white people doing down here’? We’ve learned that if we give them a little smile and wave then their faces soften into a smile and they greet us back with a warm face and returning wave. Bill led us down an ally into a local market where there was a lot of local foods being sold, like lettuce, silver fish, tomatoes onions, peppers, avocados (which you have to hold in two hands by the way) and many other various fruits and vegetables. There was music playing in the market and we noticed the kids dancing, so of course we tried to join in. A woman came out from behind her stand and danced with us, really taking a liking to Barb. We laughed, clapped, and danced some more, cheered Barb on and then continued on our journey. We looked at the buildings, admiring their character, and spoke with a few people along the way. One man stopped us and was particularly welcoming to us. He told us we are more than welcome in their home and to enjoy our time.

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We got home from town and enjoyed yet another delicious meal from Irene. We sat around for a bit and relaxed, then we were off to another Village Savings and Loans Association meeting in another local village. It was similar to the one we went to earlier in the week but this one really stuck out to me. There are 30 members in this group, the majority being women (25 to be exact). The little woman power activist in me loved the fact this was a majority women group. They’ve really got quite an amazing business plan going and they didn’t use computers or accountants to come up with it. They have started making crafts with beads, such as purses, necklaces and bracelets to support their group. They also make charcoal that people can burn for cooking. It is made with waste from garbage cans and is long lasting, so it makes it a better deal and is cleaner than what they buy elsewhere. Three women got up and shared their stories about how the VSLA group has changed their life. Similar to the other VSLA group, they’ve been able to buy property, housing, and send their children to school. Things they never thought were possible before they joined this group. They plan to use their money from their personal social funds to buy a cow and sell the milk for money, as well as start a cow-calf operation where they sell the calves. They also currently rent out their plastic chairs for meetings and different functions, with a plan to buy a tent and dishes to rent out for local events. I expressed my admiration to these ladies for what they were doing. I told them I loved their strength in numbers and that this is something they can pass on to their younger generations of women and men. I told them in Canada we really focus on the empowerment of women and what they are doing is really the start of what could be a revolution for the women of Uganda. We women must stand together and encourage each other, especially if we have the opportunity to meet our sisters across the seas.

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We left with joy filled hearts and a cloud of inspiration over our team. We drove home and God blessed us with one of his beautiful African sunsets, something many past teams have been unable to see as by this time we are usually back in our compound where we do not get quite enough of a view of the setting sun. Our driver, Jamil, kindly pulled over and a few of us pulled out our cameras and got some great pictures of the beautiful land our God created.

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As I sit here and write this blog the rest of the team is playing one of our nightly games of UNO and in this moment I realized this is exactly where we are all supposed to be. Just what our glorious God planned.

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Today Bill and I (Adam) visited the International Needs Buikwe Secondary School (High School) to see the science lab that CrossRoads has supported. Originally, CrossRoads funded the construction of the lab, and recently provided a boost in their funding to employ a laboratory technician and stock to the required chemicals. This lab supports the teaching of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, and it is a state-of-the-art facility in the district. It has improved the reputation of the school and students are coming from far away because other secondary schools can’t provide this practical education in the sciences.

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Bill and I also had the pleasure to visit our sponsor kids today! Bill and Pat have sponsored two kids named Raechel and Gabak; while Tracy and I sponsor a girl name Marion. It is such a highlight to visit their homes and see them again! We got time to visit with their Mom’s and hear stories from their family. We were also able to share a few gifts from Canada (balls, clothes, school supplies, and coloring books). The I.N. sponsorship program was well received by the team and many team members are making the choice to sponsor kids too! It’s such a joy to meet the child here, and continue the relationship once we return to Canada.

– Adam and the Team

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Adam and Marion

Today was an amazing day! We all didn’t quite know what to expect, but God had a plan… We got the pleasure of helping with a free health clinic provided by CHAP that tested patients for HIV/AIDS, as well as providing some dentistry work, deworming, as well as just being pure entertainment for all the children! We had an hour long drive from our compound to Ssenyi Landing where the clinic was located, and it was an adventure all on its own! We got to see the beautiful African sugar cane fields with the stunningly vibrant green mountains in the background. All eleven of us in the van got pretty excited and nervous when we did some intense off roading before arriving at the clinic!

We all split off into small groups to do different jobs at the clinic. Kyle and Cheryl gave out deworming pills – at least one hundred of them! Emily assisted in testing for HIV/AIDS. Liberty, Chantelle, and Barb had the task of helping out with the hectic dentistry work. Me (Sarah) and Sherilynn had the amazing pleasure of playing with all the children.

We brought a lot of games to the table that we were sure they had never heard of before. The kids followed along very well to duck-duck goose, the chicken dance, the classic Cadillac Ranch line dance, as well as many other games that surely wore us out, but surprisingly not them! The girls helping in the dentistry portion were very intrigued with how sanitized everything was, as well as the dentist’s ability to pin point which tooth needed pulled without the use of any X-rays. And Kyle and Cheryl did a great job ‘enforcing the law’ to make sure every child took the deworming pill (even though some tried to refuse).

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At the end of the day we were all tried but joyful to have had a great day. And our team grew by one person as Bill Shaw arrived in Buikwe today. He and Adam spent the day in Kampala meeting with the I.N. team before joining us for dinner. We are now 10 people on the team, and looking forward to another great day in Buikwe!

-From Sarah and the Team

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Today was a day I have been looking forward to since we arrived in Uganda. Today we broke off into two groups and went into the primary and secondary schools for the morning. I was privileged to be able to observe in the primary school in the primary 2 classes. Because there are 83 students in total they put the students into two groups of 43. 43 students with one teacher. And we thought our classrooms were already overfull with students. One might think at first glance that the classes are loud and out-of-control but one of the first things we all noticed was how the students had so much self-discipline. So much more than what our kids have. Whenever the class would begin to get out-of-hand, and the kids all had a lot of energy, the teacher only gave a look and maybe said a word or two and the kids reigned it in. No yelling, but always calm and in control. I know I have much to learn from their teaching methods. The kids were all so excited to be at school and ready to learn.

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After the lessons were over the teacher, Elisabeth, invited our team to come up and teach a few words to the kids. Chantelle went to the blackboard and the kids would know what she was writing before she even finished the word. Slowly the words became harder but she eventually stumped them with photosynthesis! Did I mention that these kids were only 7-8 years old? They were so excited by this English lesson from the Canadians that when the bell rang for lunch they didn’t want to go. We wrapped up quickly as this is the only meal they receive until the following morning. They have a snack of porridge maze around 10:00, then a filling meal of rice and beans at 1:00. Every meal counts!

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We left for lunch back at our guesthouse which was another feast. We eat so abundantly while down the road there is so little! We had a few hours to rest before our next journey so a few of us played badminton on the grass (nearly lost the bird many times in the neighboring bush), while others read or journaled.

Later we drove out to Bulere, a 20 minute drive from Buikwe (where the compound is). In Bulere we learned about the Village Savings and Loans Program that the local people have started together. This program is a collaboration of each person putting money into the “bank”, which is a lock box that is locked up by three different locks. Each key for each lock is kept by a different member and the lock box is kept by the treasurer. As a need or goal arises they borrow money out to pay for it. They are then charged interest until they can pay it back. The group meets once a week on Tuesday, every Tuesday, to put money in and hold each other accountable as to where the money is going. The local pastor shared that he used the money for his son’s university education, and in turn his own son is paying for his son’s education. From generation to generation they are creating a legacy. The people were all so proud of all they had accomplished together with their money.

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Uganda is beautiful and we are all in agreement as to how blessed we are to have this opportunity. Every day is filled with new wonders and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store!

Sharilyn

Since we didn’t have power or internet for a while, we have two blog posts for you! After our first day in Uganda, the team shared a few words to capture what they were feeling, seeing, and thinking.

Awe;    joy;    overwhelmed with emotion;   spectacular;   colorful;   sweaty;   smoky;   random roosters;   stolen hub cab?!?;   delicious pancakes;   amazing view;   surreal;   so lush and green;   comfort sounds (grasshoppers);   hard to believe we’re here;   laughing kids;    singing kids (highlight of day!);   big smiles.

-Adam and the Team

Greetings from across the globe where the weather is beautiful and the sound of laughing children is now the norm.  On Saturday we arrived at the International Needs compound after an awe inspiring drive from the airport. We passed through the busy city of Kampala watching Ugandan’s carry out their regular Saturday routine (see Adam and Emily below in the vehicle). All of us were tired from jet lag, yet fighting to keep our eyes open for fear we would miss something.

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We are now on African time where we are learning that 20 minutes is not really 20 minutes. For example, the power was out when we arrived, and apparently it had been out for a day and half! It is a blessing not being connected to the internet and our cell phones. We are enjoying each other’s company as well as spending time with our own thoughts and meditating on God’s Word.

We were welcomed to the International Needs compound with a fantastic home cooked hot chicken dinner with rice, potatoes, and green peas. We are staying in a dorm-like accommodation which reminds me a lot of church camp. Last night it was too early to go to bed so we went for a walk. When the children came running towards us with open arms, it was at that moment all the preparation for this trip became worthwhile. The children greeted us with a song, a little dance, and singing a song about knowing Jesus as their Savior. I was overcome with emotion as these children have so much joy and love to give. They hugged us and touched our different skin.

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We are ‘gelling’ as a team as we have now all share our testimonies with the common thread of how God has changed our lives and has brought us together for a purpose. We are all humbled. This morning’s church service nearly blew the roof off! We were dancing and singing and praising the Lord – amen! Adam was invited to speak at the service this morning and give the message. He sent his greetings from the entire CrossRoads Church, from pastor Dan, the church board, the whole congregation, and it seems like greetings from just about everyone in Red Deer. I guess that’s how they say hi here!

My biggest takeaway so far is the power of a smile!  – From Sheryl and the Team