The beginning of July brought the much-needed rains we’ve lacked for our crops and the newly planted grass on the football (soccer) field and playground. As I mentioned in the June Update, God’s tank was much bigger than ours. We received just enough rain in June to keep things alive and the July rains are helping them to thrive. Farming is fun! Sandra and I have had a few home gardens through the years but nothing on the scale of Abaana’s Hope farming. The largest garden we’ve ever planted was probably less than 2 acres and we had both a tiller and a tractor with implements. All the cultivation done (about 40 acres) on Abaana’s Hope property is done with a hoe. Of course, we have about 44 agriculture workers on the end of those hoes. There is a man in downtown Gulu who loves to see me come in his store. I bought 20 hoes a couple of months ago and paid an additional 1,000 shillings (40¢) to have them sharpened. This week, I bought another 10 hoes and had them sharpened. When I was leaving, he wanted to know when I was coming back. I think I may have made a friend and definitely made his day with these purchases.
I know I am taking a risk with some of you anti-hunting readers by telling this, but there are hundreds of doves flying around our property. Jim, Amy, Fisher, Jude, Tripp and Levi are coming for a three-week visit in late July so I was thinking how much fun we could have dove hunting. All the boys like to hunt so I’m thinking this will be so much fun! The more I discussed it with our fellow team members, local missionaries and our Acholi friends, I found out it is extremely difficult to get shotguns (or any firearms) through the paperwork maze into Uganda. Then, most importantly, I was told that because of the war history of our area, the people would become very frightened by the sound of gunfire. So, that was a bad idea, but there’s just something genetically in most men and boys that makes them want to hunt (at least in Southern boys where I grew up). I also found out the Ugandan men love to hunt and use catapults (slingshots), spears, nets and bows and arrows. They hunt ground animals and birds in trees and on the ground. When Darrell left for his new job in Kenya, I bought a pellet (air rifle) gun from him. I have now set up a blind beside our soccer field and somehow, there are always a couple of ears of corn shelled out about 40 yards from this blind. I now have two plastic chairs in the blind and am ready for a grandson to join me. Hey, you gotta have a little fun! The 8-10 guys who spend the night on our property during the week love eating dove. Just be sure none of you tell Myron about my secret blind.
The East family (Matt, Jamie, Kristen, Cole and Virginia) left at the end of July for a time of furlough back home in the good old USA. Please pray that they will have a refreshing and enjoyable time with family and friends. Pray for them as they seek God’s direction and timing for opportunities to serve and glorify Him while at home and abroad. They were the first full-time missionaries for Four Corners Ministries and in many ways paved the way for us who followed.
We are very excited that the West family (Myron, Holly, Ryan and Rachel) joined our Ugandan team this month. We have eagerly anticipated this move for months and now it has arrived. Please pray for them as they adjust to the culture and adjust to being apart from family and friends. Pray for them as they seek how they may most glorify God in their service to the Acholi people and to move the vision of Abaana’s Hope forward. Pray for them that they will keep utmost in mind their call from God to “Go therefore and make disciples,” acknowledge their weakness in themselves and their utter dependence on God. This is a great family and we are extremely blessed to have them serving in Uganda.
We were blessed to have two mission teams visit us in July. First, a team of seven from Knoxville, Tennessee led by Ben Davis. Ben and one other team member, Jonathan Chastain had visited Abaana’s Hope in July 2012. When they last visited, there was only a foundation on the Caretaker Building and the Grist Mill. They were amazed at the transformation that God has done at AH in just one year. This team (Ben Davis, Jonathan Chastain, Rick and Leeann Starnes, Lilly Hackler, Elizabeth Ridge and Matthew Starnes) blessed us in so many ways—first, they gave us (Myron, Santo and me) a free ride on their bus from Kampala to Gulu and most importantly, they spent Saturday afternoon at our house, along with the West family praying for us, playing meaningful music on our iPod player, sharing meaningful scriptures and personal stories of how good God has been in their lives. It was just a terrific time of encouragement to each of us serving here and we praise God for their coming and already look forward to a return visit from these wonderful, Godly people.
The second team was Four Corners Ministries Board of Directors Chairman, Tommy Cummings, FCM Vice President, Yancy Carpenter and Robert Beacham, all from First Baptist Church in Opelika, Alabama. This church is extremely outward focused on missions and has blessed Abaana’s Hope with financial gifts to help build our Medical Clinic. We took some pictures of these guys installing the front door to the clinic. I thought there was some good symbolism to their putting the front door in place where literally hundreds of Acholi will walk through to be helped and many whose lives will be saved. We have recently heard of a baby boy of only a few months and a five-year old girl dying of malaria near this clinic. Malaria is so easy to treat if medication is started in the early stages. When this clinic opens later this year, lives like these will be saved.
Don’t you think Tommy looks like he belongs behind bars?
Jim, Amy, Fisher, Jude, Tripp and Levi arrived on July 25th!!!! We have been anticipating their visit for months. We have Skyped with them weekly, but that doesn’t compare to having them here in the flesh. They will be with us almost a month. We are going to work with a team from Alabama (three couples in our small group at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham and another four people from Opelika—more about them in the August Update.) We will be working with the guys installing our playground equipment and Sandra and Holly will be working with the ladies making jewelry, knitting and doing back-yard Bible club and games with children surrounding Abaana’s Hope.
Chase and Kimmey Barbrey will also be on the flight with the Alabama team. Chase will be our Construction Manager and Kimmey will manage the Intern Program along with working in the ladies ministries and several other things. We are tremendously excited they will be here soon. I have been a rather poor substitute as Construction Manager since Darrell Hobbs left at the end of May, so I am particularly glad to have this great couple becoming part of our Ugandan Team.
To those of you who are our “Family and Friends” group list, I have had several very positive comments about last month’s attachment of “The God Who Runs,” a sermon my brother, Wallace, preached while in Africa last October. Because of that I have attached another sermon that he recently preached at his home church, Central Baptist, in Marshall, Texas called “Manna.” It is well worth taking time to read. It spoke to my heart and I pray that it speaks to yours as well. For those reading this who are not on our “Family and Friends” group list and would like to receive the added attachments sent each month exclusively to this group list, just send us your email address and we will be happy to add you to this list.
Construction at Abaana’s Hope continues to progress and we are thankful for God’s protection of our workers who were involved in an accident. Six of our men were injured while driving from Abaana’s Hope to pick up a load of marrum for making bricks. The driver and two men were in the cab while three more were riding in the bed. The key was jarred out of the ignition and fell to the floorboard, locking the steering wheel, eliminating the ability to turn and they hit a tree hard on the right front near the headlight. The two men riding in the cab were thrown through the windshield the three in the bed were thrown over the cab while the driver was pinned behind the steering wheel and dash as it was pushed back into him. A piece of metal had gone into the outside of his right knee and thrust upward about six inches into his thigh. It was a miracle of God that not one of the men sustained a broken bone and the only injuries were cuts (all requiring sutures) and bruising. The Canter was totaled with the frame broken, the cab beyond repair and even the bed bent at odd angles. The light at the end of this tunnel was that we wanted to sell the Canter anyway and replace it with a tipper (dump truck) that would be more functional to us.
We were able to sell the Canter for parts and an anonymous donor bought us a tipper. The accident was on a Friday and Stephen, our driver with the injured leg, along with Santo, Myron and I went to Kampala on Monday morning to find and purchase a tipper. The four of us rode a bus to Kampala to save money ($9 each) as Stephen would drive the tipper back, if we found one, and the other three of us would ride back with the Knoxville, Tennessee team on their nice multi-passenger carrier. Even though we arrived about 25 minutes early for the bus, it was about 90% full. Santo and Stephen took the first two seats open together and Myron and I took the only other seats together on the very back row. The back row would hold five but there were only three of us so I’m thinking this will be fine. As the time to depart inched closer, more people came on and eventually another guy had to join us. There were only two seats left and one was by a lady who had put all her belongings in that vacant seat and the one by us. A new passenger got her to move her stuff and took that seat. Woo Hoo! It is time to leave—but you guessed it—one more passenger walks on. You rarely see overweight Ugandans but this was that rare exception and he takes the seat between Myron and me. Now the bus is totally full and the back row had five fairly large men packed in. For six hours we jockeyed our shoulders to have them back against the seat. If one of us rose up, he lost the “comfortable” position of having his shoulders against the seat. I finally got the position and leaned back and closed my eyes. I have frequently talked about the importance of prayer and how much we need your prayers and appreciate so much those of you who pray for us. I am somewhat ashamed to say that in my entire life I never remember praying for two hours straight. I did on this trip. I prayed for our family, I prayed for each of you on our group list, each member of the FCM team, our home church and the leadership there, the Acholi people we serve, the nation of Uganda, the United States and everyone God put on my mind. What would have been an uncomfortable, difficult ride became a joyful experience of time with God, the Creator of all.
I have learned that mzungus (white people) do not get the best prices on major (or minor) purchases in Uganda so I wanted Stephen and Santo to negotiate the price for the tipper before Myron and I even showed up. There are three places to buy used trucks in Kampala, and Santo and Stephen went to each. Stephen has a friend that was connected to one of the dealers and was able to get a great truck for a great deal. In fact, it was such a great deal, that the first week back, a businessman offered us a 9,000,000 shillings (about $3,600) profit for it.
Well, it’s time for a few table games with our family so I will close out this month’s update. Thank you for keeping up with us. Thank you who have sent us Premium Saltines, Peanut Butter, Vanilla Wafers, Oreos, Pecans, M&Ms, Cheese, Taco Seasoning, Homemade Jellies and various other goodies that we are unable to get here. As always, we are most grateful for your prayers for us and for this ministry God has called us to. We are certainly honored to be part of the mission here and have never been more excited to have front row seats for seeing what God is doing in this rather remote part of Uganda.
We love you and thank God for you,
Royce & Sandra