Marian Baker

From Board Member Marian Baker: Around Uganda

On the 22nd, Rose and I travelled to Kaimosi to Friends Theological College. There we met with Robert Wafula, Margaret Amudavi, and Alfred Wasike to make final plans for the Uganda Pastors Conference. Met with three of the four tutors to explain why we had asked them to teach the Ugandan pastors, based on our on-the-ground observations of the needs in Uganda.

During tea, we met Dan Beane from Iowa who has been leading a team of students from Canada in helping mud houses for widows (as part of the work Karen Bauer has been doing each year). He was interested in hearing more about the ministry the Kenyan women pastors are doing in Uganda and Tanzania.

Enroute back through Kakamega, I was finally able to get the checkbook and visa card for the new account we had set up for the USFW pastors. It took 20 days to get a new bank account up and running!

On Friday, we went to Kakamega to do errands. Rose bought a new Kenyan dress. Saw a noisy crowd of protestors marching on the main streets. A family of Asian shopkeepers pulled us into their shop for safety while the angry mob marched by. It turns out they were protesting the abduction and murder of a young school girl in Lurambi. Spent rest of day working on financial reports while Rose rested at Elizabeth’s. Saturday after washing clothes and working more on financial records, I went to town to scan and send the reports to FUM office to get the money spent on travel of the Kenyan women reimbursed into the new account, while Rose enjoyed relaxing on Elizabeth’s farm. We packed ready for the two-week journey in Uganda.

Early on Sunday we met Eileen in Kakamega and travelled to Tororo, Uganda arriving by 1PM.

We had arranged to have Eric Sifuna, a young man we had trained in Sunday School teaching to come join us in Tororo. He has a natural talent in teaching young children and we hope to get him into a teacher training college in Tororo. We found him giving a practical teaching to Tororo meeting Friends about how to be prosperous (work hard, pray always, expect to have challenges, and be patient). The Tororo congregation loved it. As he taught he was constantly moving around the room, and the room they rent has so many deep pot holes we were concerned he and others might fall and break ankles. Eileen also gave them a teaching about working hard themselves, not expecting every Kenyan or American to just hand out money to them.

The next day, we divided up the church into two groups- one with the pastor, Alfred, and I and the four young women and the other led by Eric and Rose with the older women. Pastor Joseph Okama led our group into a section of brand new houses to visit the Friends (who worked at the houses, not the owners). He preached at some of the people, so only one person who was blind from diabetes came to the special evening service. Rose’s group went to the poorest part of the town finding many women and children- e.g. one woman living in an empty mud house with 24 children. The children followed Rose around like a Pied Piper. Many of those women and children came that evening. We had Eric tell a story- he chose David and Goliath and I taught a song with actions- and all enjoyed themselves and planned to return to the church.

On Tuesday, we bought 2 bags of cement and as the men patched the holes in the floor, we sat with the women who shared their testimonies with each other outside. One young woman had been to work at a hotel in Sudan and had returned with a baby from one of the many men who raped her. Those who come to the city of Tororo who are educated can get jobs, but the poor women come to the city where the men leave them after they bear several children and go to other women. Since they have no land on which to grow food they are destitute. That afternoon we shared together some ideas of things they might do to lift themselves up, e.g. starting sewing project. They also need latrines near the church, but we encouraged the pastor to talk to the landlord, as if a child falls down the collapsing latrine, the owner would be liable.

They rent plastic chairs and wanted to buy some, but we suggested they use mats for a few months and save up the money for chairs and consider making benches from wood scraps that would last much longer than Chinese plastic chairs. Meanwhile the men have created their own table banking system to help buy cows to help everyone. We arranged for Eric to go to Tororo regularly and train another to teach the kids, and Alfred and Eileen promised to visit them again soon to get self-sustaining projects started.  We then traveled on to Mbale.

On the 28th, we went into Mbale town with Sylvia Wopicho to collect the remaining foods needed for the pastor’s conference. We dashed around town and missed lunch, and I ended up sick so slept early to knock off the stress and irregular eating. Meanwhile the Pastors Conference started well. The only problem was that the women cooking, when told to have the meals ready at certain hours, e.g. breakfast at 8AM, they would just start making it at that hour causing all the programs to be two hours late.

The next day, Robert Wafula taught about mentoring (allowing younger people and women to be trained to take the place of elderly men) and Rodgers Wekesi taught how to be effective pastors (a key topic). I found a couple men outside during the important lesson complaining they didn’t get a good mattress the night before! Rose went to buy several mattresses to solve the situation that afternoon.

On Friday, the pastors made use of the time spent waiting for meals in organizing themselves as pastors, giving support to each other. (no quarreling like is commonly found in Kenya among men). We had three women pastors attending and 34men We also divided into five teams and visited the neighbors. This gave an opportunity for the younger more educated pastors to write and give the reports of what each group found out in the neighborhood, and they could see it didn’t require money to go share and invite nearby neighbors to the church.

On Saturday, Margaret Amudavi used her session on guidance and counselling in a clever way. She taught that counselling is often needed to change the attitudes of people in problems, giving the example of the need of those who are poor to quit saying they are poor and to begin to work to get out of poverty rather than waiting for handouts. Eileen Malova also gave many practical examples of why time management is important. Then Meschak Musimbe led a session on Christian marriage. The rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent answering many questions that had arisen from each lesson. I went with Sylvia to get supplies to print up reports for each to take home, and Sylvia went to find a new dress for her daughter for Easter. Here, people dress up for the holiday like years ago. In the evening, we woke everyone up with laughter when Alfred played the video of me playing football(soccer) during the Sunday school training in January, Then, we handed out all the certificates of attendance, plus a few certificates of appreciation to hosts. A few took all night buses that night, others left early in am.

Easter day, we had an early service led by Samwel Wefafwe that was the old style of meeting, (older hymns, and long prayers), then most of the more local pastors left to get back to their churches for Easter. Meanwhile Agneta arrived and Mbale Friends had a modern service with choirs of many different ages singing joyfully to celebrate Easter. In the afternoon Rose, Agneta, and I gave Sylvia a break and we cooked up a meal of local sweet potatoes (sweeter than American ones), and feasted on a turkey (a rarity in East Africa). We couldn’t bake it, but Agneta made it like Kentucky fried chicken and you should have seen how happy Apollo, our host was eating one of the big drumsticks.

Our last morning in Mbale, Alfred, Rose, and Samwel went to the church to visit the Friends Nursery School and to erect the newly painted and enlarged Yearly Meeting Signboard. Meanwhile Agneta escorted me to town to get money and food for our journey out west.

By midday, we left to go to Lira (in northern Uganda near Gulu and Sudan).

Our visit to Lira was full of miracles. We couldn’t get a hold of the Friends pastor in Lira, but due to Agneta’s husband’s friendship with a Pentecostal family in Lira, we were given a welcoming place to stay. The next morning, Samwel greeted us with the news that our Lira pastor was in jail! It turned out that Peter, the Pentecostal pastor who also worked with Hands across Africa, a group that teaches literacy to adults had a pass to enter the prison at any hour. We thus were able to enter the prison full of bare footed men in bright yellow shirts/shorts (with black stripes) and met with Sam, talked, and prayed with him as we watched the literacy classes. They say 75% of the men are arrested on trumped up charges, often by jealous relatives, and end of staying in jail for years until the courts prove there is no evidence of such allegations. Meanwhile Sam and several other pastors in the jail continue counselling and praying with others while they wait to be released.  Peter was glad to meet Sam and will help him get released. Sam’s wife is Acholi (Luo related tribe) and thus had not been able to let anyone in Uganda YM know what had happened. We also were able to talk on phone with the daughter of Rose’s pastor who recently married a Sudanese pastor near the border of Uganda.

We then took a bus to Kigumba, past Kaguna Falls of the Nile River and its resident baboons of the national forest land. Unfortunately, oil companies have been allowed to drill for crude oil in the national forest lands and much of the wildlife has been killed or migrated away.

We arrived in Kigumba in later afternoon and sent Samwel the elderly superintendent to visit Pastor Fundi along with the new younger pastor we are training at FTC. Fundi had led the church for over  40 years, including protecting the building during Idi Amin war, but was unwilling for anyone else to be in leadership and the meeting was down to a handful of very elderly people. After a man-to-man sharing, Fundi calmed down some, but refused them to stay the night (and it was rainy and dark). We ended up staying in some rooms at a café in downtown Kigumba, a noisy place with bars nearby, heavy lorries carrying cargo between Sudan and Kampala, fighting alley cats, noisy night watchmen, and clatter of dishes being washed at 4am. Large lorries full of the longhorned cattle (each horn up to a yard long) passed by taking them back home to southern Uganda. They had been sent to northern Uganda during the dry season to pasture.

The next day we all went to Nyama Friends Primary School and were warmly welcomed by the school board and PTA members who were glad to see friendly Friends (instead of Fundi).

We taught them how to plan for the future of the school and encouraged them to plant trees on the vacant land for any future building. They wanted the old building (built by Lorton Heisel of FUM back in early 1980’s to be renovated, along with the old latrines. The Uganda government has built 2 new teacher houses and 2 classroom blocks. We were surprised to hear that the enrollment of pupils had dropped a lot. It was 200 girls and 95 boys in January. Now it was 160 girls and 99 boys! Was this because they changed the head from an active woman to an older man, because some moved away, or because girls were forced to work in planting the fields? (Boys traditionally are considered more important to educate.) The main problem was because the old block floor was infested with jiggers and kids had multiple jiggers in their feet and hands. When I got one jigger in a toe years ago, it itched so much I couldn’t sleep and multiple jiggers I would find unbearable. We encouraged them to work on repairing the floor and treating the jiggers of the children first before any other repairs and we would help with the bags of cement. (10 bags totally $90 US dollars). After meeting the board and PTA we met with Fundi and one other relative who had left the church but was willing to host us and return to Friends as he liked the new pastor. We expect to have a team of students from FTC come go house to house to restart the church in Kigumba in June.  Meanwhile they promised to check with the forestry/agricultural dept. to find out which trees to plant (not Eucalyptus that damage the environment). Afterwards we realized that the longhorned cattle they raise can produce rich milk which could be used to start a cottage industry in making yogurt/cheese.

Since they are on the major highway where many aid workers and tourists pass, selling cheese and yogurt could be a viable income generating project. If you know of anyone who is skilled in making yogurt and cheese on a small scale, let me know.

On April 5th, we left Kigumba at 4am, travelled through Kampala to Kimidi in Busoga (southern Uganda). We arrived at noon and were embraced warmly by the smiling women of the village who had started the Kimidi Friends Women Group to do an agricultural self-help project. We were shocked to find that the local people when planting maize (corn) plant 5 seeds in each hole and then throw away several small ones after sprouting! What a waste of money, seed, and soil. Agneta demonstrated that what makes Kenyan women farmers wealthier is they plant one seed per hole and plant one seed of beans or groundnuts(peanuts) between to replenish the soil. The land is so fertile no fertilizer is necessary. We were able to get them to cut down the number of bean/peanut seeds to plant. Meanwhile we taught them ways of paying dues each week and do table banking to build up their capital. When a chicken was brought to us visitors as a gift, (similar to when a woman brings some produce instead of cash) we asked them the cost of a chicken, then Rose bought the chicken for our supper. Already the women are much more motivated and ready to compete against the men and the youth in raising

money for themselves. The men traditionally deal with all the money and do not let the women touch it in Busoga region. What a joy to see the changes taking place in Uganda.

On Friday, we travelled back to Agneta’s home in rural Kabras. We bought a cake enroute and celebrated her birthday with her family. Saturday, we washed clothes and rested.

Yesterday we travelled early to Kakamega and attended the family service at Amalemba. All ages sang in choirs, including an energetic Quakermen chorus. They blessed two children, one a new infant and one total orphan the church was adopting. Then after the service they held a fundraising asking groups representing different professions (medical workers, business men,

teachers, housewives, and those looking for work to compete in raising funds for their social concerns committee (that deals with orphans, widows, and others in poverty) and raised over 1million shillings. Afterwards we ate lunch with Eileen and then were glad to return to Elizabeth’s for a couple days of quiet rest.

Thanks for all your prayers and support during this extensive travelling ministry.