Baptism in Uganda

One of my favorite services here in Uganda is our baptism/wedding service. We have a huge gathering of all four churches together. There are usually over 200 adults and around that many children. We sing all the best Swahili songs. The church choirs sing specials. We have preaching, then the baptisms, then the weddings. We finish with a meal, complete with cake.

This last week, I made 19 recipes of my favorite white cake. Most of that was in the form of cupcakes for the kids. Of the 190 cupcakes we took with us, we had 6 leftover! My kids were impressed that I’d guessed so well. 😉

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Twenty-two people were baptized today. One of them was the man who got saved a couple weeks ago. He was obviously nervous as he entered the water. He gripped the side, every step deliberate. 

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James baptized him, but the man clung to the side with one hand the whole time. Everyone noticed. The church leaders standing nearby started calling to him that his hand hadn’t gotten wet. He looked up at them, puzzled. So Zizi said it again, “Your hand didn’t get wet.”

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So the man dunked his hand under the water. Problem solved. Everyone cheered and laughed.

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I guess they were worried it would only count if all the parts got wet.

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We took food and medicine out to the church folks this last week (over a half-ton of it! We carried as much as our vehicle could safely hold.). We weren’t able to get all the doses of malaria medicine we needed so we had to take more today. Many of the adults were visibly ailing from malaria. Several were so sick they missed the service. We’ve taken 170 adult doses and 80 children’s. Given how many are sick, it feels like a drop in the bucket in the face of all that is needed.

Visiting the Afflicted

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I found my quiet seat prizes as promised and gave them out today. Hands down, the very favoritest are the matchbox cars we give to the boys. Today, the big brother that got the prize shared it with his little brother. The boy played with it and entertained younger children with it for almost the whole church service.

Church attendance was down today. Many people were home sick with flu (head colds from the dry season) or malaria. The harvest was poor last month. Many are suffering from sickness brought on by malnutrition. These are issues we deal with here on a regular basis. 

When Jesus ministered here on earth, he met people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Sometimes, in order for people to hear the message we are seeking to share with them, we have to remove the obstacles that are preventing them from hearing. If they are hungry, they need food. If they are sick, they need medicine. 

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We asked for a show of hands in the service at Isanja for how many were sick. Every adult there raised their hand. These people live with deprivation on a daily basis, but for the last year, it’s been much worse. The rains didn’t come as they should have and people in the district died of starvation from the famine that ensued. Christians around the world and the entire country of Uganda were moved to help. They brought food to the people in the districts that needed it most.

The rain came for the rainy season earlier this year but it ended too early. The crops didn’t yield as they normally do. The people in the district are facing famine and starvation for the second time in a year.

We have been getting a list of needed medication to take out to them this next week. We’re also going to be taking food and soap out on a regular basis for a while. If we don’t meet the physical needs, they won’t even be around for us to meet the spiritual ones.

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As for meeting spiritual needs, James was able to sit with a man from Isanja, lead him to the Lord, and give encouragement to all the men in the church! They were all listening intently to everything that was said, not only by James, but also by some of the other church leaders. One man is from another village where we’ve wanted to start a church for a long time. Some from that village have walked to either Ngarama or Isanja for church but it’s a long walk to either place. With four churches already, we’ve struggled to know how to take on something else. It appears God is opening doors for us!

The Harsh Realities of Life

This morning I got up and gave my children a hug. I snuggled them, kissed them, told them I loved them. My children are happy. My children are healthy. My children are alive. I pray every day they stay that way, though this is entirely outside my control.

This morning we got a message that an 8 month old baby of one of our church members died yesterday afternoon of a mysterious illness. They baby was taken to the hospital but there was nothing they could do for the baby. It had gotten too sick, too fast. 

This afternoon James preached a funeral for a baby.

No one ever wants to attend a funeral for a child, but here in Uganda, it’s far more up close and personal. Here, you go to the home of the individual that died. Their body is lying in a casket (or wrapped in a blanket or cloth) in a room in the family’s home. The women sit together with the woman of the house who suffered the loss.

The rest of the people sit outside the house on benches or on the ground.

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Today, they brought the casket outside and placed it on a small bench that was still bigger than the casket. The women had made a shroud and the men made a small cross with the child’s name.

We sang hymns in Swahili, some of my favorite hymns, actually. Then James preached. They gave a short eulogy and took up an offering. Taking an offering is often the only way the family can afford to pay for the expenses of the funeral.

Then several men came forward and took up the casket and we all walked to the graveyard.

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They said a few words at the gravesite and we sang another hymn. Then they buried the baby. The father and mother put the first dirt into the ground. They finished by marking the site with the cross they’d made.

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It’s raw. It’s personal. It’s harsh. It’s the way they’ve done every funeral I’ve ever been to here.

Tonight I came home from church and hugged my healthy children once again. Days like this help keep a person from taking anything for granted.

How’s Africa? — The Trade Fair

One of our first experiences in African culture was at the Trade Fair. We hadn’t been in Uganda long when they held one in our town in the local football stadium. Vendors from all over East Africa came to sell their wares. They even had carnival rides — if you were brave enough to try them out!

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Ever since, we’ve eagerly anticipated the Trade Fair coming to town. We start seeing banners and posters for it about a month beforehand. A couple days before it arrives, you can see people out in the stadium setting up tents and stages.

The Trade Fair was in town last week. James and I got to go one afternoon.

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Some of the booths sell hair care products, others household goods, Still others sell bulk food items or specialty products you can’t get at other times. Still others are food vendors where you can get goat on a stick and chips for only a couple dollars.

My favorite part are the vendors selling African crafts. I love shopping in these tents, choosing things I think my family or friends in America would like, and then haggling over the price until we reach an agreement. I’ve gotten pretty good at haggling over the years, especially as I’ve learned the real cost of items and the “mzungu price”. We’ve been back to the Trade Fair often enough that we’ve started to recognize the vendors who come regularly and they recognize us. 

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A dream of mine is to get a booth at the Trade Fair where we can hand out tracts and share the gospel with people, but we haven’t ever been able to figure out how or where to sign up for it ahead of time. This remains a goal for the future.

Blow wind blow!

James is preaching through Romans in our churches. He started today with Paul’s greeting and introduction in chapter 1.

Today is also Eid and the end of Ramadan. Muslims don’t go to mosque on Sunday but this morning they were going in droves. It was strange to see so many Muslims walking to their meeting along with everyone else who attends Catholic or Protestant services.

I taught Sunday School at Ngarama and Isanja today for the first time in over a year. Years ago, I started teaching through the Bible in Genesis. We’ve reached the life of David.

I felt like I couldn’t quite get it together for the class this week. For one thing, I can’t remember where I put my quiet seat prizes. I know I have them. Somewhere. But I haven’t seen them in the stuff I’ve put away and cleaned so far. Gotta love it when you put something somewhere so you can remember where it is — and then you can’t find it. 😀

It’s very windy today. I got through the whole lesson at Ngarama with only one or two of the flannel graph pieces blowing off. I tried to be cool about it, pick the piece up and put it back while not losing pace in my lesson. Theogen shut a window to help with the draft.

Then the whole bottom panel with all the pieces fell off and landed on the ground.

I picked it up but didn’t put it back because I was so close to the end and I couldn’t be cool about it and not get distracted.

Elizabeth stood next to the board at Isanja just in case. Next week I’m taking clothes pins to keep it on!

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(She wasn’t upset, she was just bored. All she had to do was stand there and block the wind and it didn’t fall off again. 😉 )