"to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faithin me." Acts 26:18

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ugandan Purchasing Power...from Eric's Keyboard...

It’s very difficult for Americans to put themselves in the shoes of rural Ugandans.  I try to do so, by thinking of what they can afford with the money they earn.  If they have a job, which few do, it can pay $4 per day.  Many people do not have jobs, and so have to scrape by on far less.  In America, many jobs pay $100 per day or more.  How can we imagine what it is like?  I often make the following calculation: since a Ugandan earns 10,000 UGX (Ugandan shillings) per day (if they have a nice job), and an American with a job might earn $100 per day, I will take 2 zeroes off the 10,000 UGX per day and it becomes 100...or $100 USD.  Now what if we do that to the prices of common items for sale in Uganda?  What if we take off 2 zeroes?  That helps you to “feel” the pinch of what a Ugandan can afford, even one with an envied job.  So, imagine that you are earning your current salary in America, and you go to Wal-mart, and discover that…

A single banana costs $2.00
Butter is $25.00 per stick. 
Milk is $56.00 per gallon (yes, fifty-six dollars)
Eggs are $3.75 for one single egg
An apple costs $20.00 (apples are luxuries in Uganda!)
1 mango is $5.00
1 watermelon is $50.00
1 pineapple is $30.00
A whole chicken is $200.00
One pound of meat is $36.00
1 pound of flour is $10.00
1 ear of corn is $3.00
1 bottle of soda is $10.00
1 pound of sugar is $10.00
1 pound of salt is $20.00
1 pound of rice is $13.60
A small piece of chicken and a plate of rice at a cheap restaurant costs $20.00
Rent on a small (100 square feet) one-room, windowless apartment with shared bathroom in a poor section of town is $300.00 per month. Renting a 3 bedroom house is at least $4,000 per month.
What about clothes:
A new pair of trousers is $250.00 (You can find one used for $100.00)
A new button shirt is $200.00 (You can find one used for $50.00)
What about transportation?
A gallon of gas costs $136.00 (yes, one hundred and thirty six dollars)
A cheap small car costs $50,000
A ride across town on the back of a motorcycle costs $10.00

How much of this could you afford?  This is the reality for all but the wealthiest Ugandans.  This helps you to see how difficult it is for most Ugandans to eat well and be well-nourished.  Many children and adults might get meat once per month, or less.  Many might drink milk, once a week at the very most. 

We have the great privilege to love these brothers and sisters, who are in this type of financial situation.  If God has blessed us with so much more, we have the great privilege to be “generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).  We have the great privilege to imitate Christ: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you by his poverty might become rich”  (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Are we willing to become poor(er) so that others might become rich(er)?  Are we willing to make real sacrifices, like Jesus did so that others can be lifted up?  Most Ugandans we know are not lazy.  There are some lazy drunkards.  But many are diligent hard-working brothers and sisters who are greatly encouraged when far wealthier believers show them the love of Christ.  What a privilege!  What a joy!  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Team OPUM takes on a 12K road race...

Mbale hosted a 12 K race today, in honor of Woman's Day.  The Orthodox Presbyterian Uganda Mission put together a smashing team composed of Dr. Jim, Haily, Emily, Morgan, Katelyn, Eric, Timothy and me. 

The race was advertised as being an 11K.  When we plotted the given race course on the internet, it was actually a 15K.  So I contacted the organizer.  He switched the route and handed out new maps.  It was still 13K...so I contacted him again and sent him a screen shot of a proposed 12K route...not quite 11K, but to get it to 11K would have required some major re-routing.  The organizers liked the new route, so 12K it was.  All of the signs advertised it as starting at 9:30, but a few times we were told 7:30, so we called to find out and the organizer insisted that it was 7am...at 6:30 am this morning, he even called us and told us to come now...so we did...and then we waited until 8:45 or so when it started.  But we had a reason for waiting...we were waiting for the guest of honor to show up...Rebecca Kadaga...she is the head speaker of parliament.  She came finally came in with her police escort and said a few brief words and flagged us off.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Neighborhood Outreach

Over this past school break (our Christmas break and the Ugandan school year break) we had many kids coming and going on our compound.  We got to know the group quite well and made great efforts to get to know their parents, if possible.  We were also able to often include them in our family devotions.  It made for a busy couple months, but a good couple months.  Once the school year started, though, it became clear that we needed more structure to the time.  First kids began bringing their school friends so that we couldn't keep up with getting to know them and then a few began to try to skip school trying to use our compound as a place to hang out...not good!

So our friends gave us a great idea of hanging a red sign and a green sign on our gate.  When it's red, the kids can't come in.  When it's green, they are welcome.  It has worked beautifully.

Now, the kids and I pick a couple hours a week to open our gate and let our little friends come play.  We also decided to become much more intentional about the time.  Each of our kids pick an activity to take outside and do with some kids.  We bring out crayons and coloring sheets, the football (soccer ball), a jump rope, and books to read.  We also work on literacy.  Many of our coloring sheets are geared towards practicing phonics and I also try to sit down with any kids who want help learning to read.  I was amazed the first day we did this how many fourth grade kids could neither identify the name nor tell me the sound of the letter A.  And on some days we are still able to do devotions with all the group.  We usually have between 20 and 30 kids come.

This ministry is hard.  I'm not going to lie.  I've already seen that Satan hates it.  The first school day we decided to be very intentional about our time with the kids, was the worst school day we have had all year.  The kids can be rough...especially when they first start coming.  We've already seen that after a few times of coming and being accepted and loved on, some of the worst (some of the kids that when you meet them on their first day and say in your un-sanctified state, "I don't like that kid.") have become so sweet and respectful.  Here is one of them...

His name is Junior and he is one of the poorest of the poor.  He was so stubborn the first few times!  But wow has he changed!  He's the sweetest little guy now!  And some of the kids...well they are still stubborn...but for those, we've had a chance now to sit and listen about what their home life is like...and well...as much as my flesh is annoyed by stubborn kids...the Spirit continues to remind me of the need to love the un-lovable and to love them as I love myself.  

We also had one afternoon where we were sitting around coloring and chatting and some heads poked into the gate...having obviously never been here before.  Immediately, all of the kids at the table said, "oh mama Dianna...please don't let those ones in...they steal our pencils at school and beat us."  I started to head to the gate to talk to them...completely unsure of what to say, when more kids from the other side of the yard came running with all their might to tell me the same thing and beg me not to let them in.  Now, having heard it from two separate groups, I felt confident that the report was true.  So I greeted them and said, "These ones tell me that you have been stealing their pencils and beating them."  The kids, who were quite a bit bigger, hung their heads...not offering excuses.  "So...if you give back their pencils and greet them at school tomorrow nicely (a common gesture here of reconciliation), then you may come in and play next time."  The next time came around and when I walked out I saw them sitting at the table coloring.  I inquired to all of the kids, if the terms had been met and they all readily agreed that they had and they played nicely together the rest of the time.  We all found it quite humorous as we gathered around the supper table that night.

This is also a difficult ministry because on the days that we open our gate, our schedule feels like "go, go, go"  We have to be up in time in order to eat breakfast on time in order to start and therefore finish school on time, so that we can clean up in time to open the gate in time, so that the kids have a decent amount of time to play (1 to 1 and a half hours) before we have to send them home so that we can eat supper on time and still go to bed on time...whew! (Maybe that's why this blog has been so unusually silent these days? haha!)  But again...the Holy Spirit presses in and says, "Will you not give up a few afternoons to let me do some kingdom work?"

Please pray for these afternoons...that God would use them in mighty ways to breath life and Holy Spirit warmth into the dry dusty hearts of many and use these dear ones to make his kingdom a strong and mighty kingdom...it's worth the couple hours of my time...and worth a few minutes of your time on your knees.