It is hard to realize that my time here is coming to a close. I have loved being here and feel that the Lord had me here at the right time for many purposes. In many ways I am not ready to leave, but I will be very glad to get back to Marcus and the boys!
I’m sitting upstairs while Selah sleeps on Renee’s bed listening to the sounds of Masese from the open balcony. The noise here is constant; a mixture of voices, cows, goats, children playing, the breeze off the lake, an occasional sound of a piki, the cutting of firewood, radios blaring and above it all a child’s toy repeating “it’s a small world after all….”. When I leave, the life here will be the same but I will not.
Our week has been unusual. Monday morning we left the house at 6:30 with Pastor Jeffrey and drove for an hour to catch a ferry to the island of Bafuma to try to find the Grandmother of Rachel and Rita. Their mother abandoned them in Masese near Pastor Jeffrey’s church and he brought them here the day before we arrived. After waiting for an hour at the dock it was time to back the van onto the flat ferry equipped with 2 large motors. The attendants got quite a chuckle out of a blonde white girl trying to back a van down the slope, cross the gap to the ferry on 2 small boards and position it for transport. After all 6 vehicles were loaded, the piki’s, bicycles and dozens of people on foot climbed aboard filling every bit of space left and we were off at a snail’s pace to cross Lake Victoria to it’s largest island. I did have a slight concern when I saw all the men in the business trucks put on life jackets for the trip, but it was uneventful and fairly pleasant. About an hour later we pulled up to the dock, drove onto the land and headed off to find the grandparents.
The initial roads were in surprisingly good condition and we were surprised to see some fairly up to date buildings for schools and a small medical clinic and, although there is no electricity on the island, many of the homes were well cared for and there were a number made of brick rather than the standard mud and stick construction. We picked up a pastor along the way who knew how to find the pastor who knew how to find the grandparents and then the roads got a little more adventuresome. I’ll just say that Renee’s van has earned a crown of some sort and I believe could hold her own in an ATV competition in the states! We didn’t realize that our initial dirt road was actually an interstate until we were trucking down a cow path through the woods while dodging ditches that would require jumping on horseback! After about an hour, we stopped to meet up with another pastor who knew how to find the actual house. While we waited for him to collect some deacons and elders from his church, we took a trip to visit the landing site on the other side of the island.
This island is divided into two sides. We landed on the side controlled by the Bafuma tribe who originally settled the island. They have a decent dock and a small village with brick and mud homes with tin roofs, a school for the children and a medical clinic. Those that live on the other side however have very small homes of mud and thatched roofs, no schools or access to the medical clinic. Their landing site is a small stream, about 6 feet wide, where a small boat can carry people and supplies out to the main lake to get to the mainland. If there is a medical emergency, they must travel by boat the 10 km to Jinja for help. The tribe from the other side of the island is gradually lumbering all the trees on this side to make charcoal to sell on the mainland leaving these people no way to make any income. We began to look at the lifestyle of those on the other side of the island differently – even without the benefit of electricity, their life didn’t looked pretty good.
When we picked up our third pastor he was accompanied by a team of 2 deacons and 2 elders from his church. We managed to pile everyone in the “wonder-mobile” and chugged up the hill to meet the grandparents. When we reached the top, the view over the lake was breathtaking! We unloaded everyone and followed the pastor down a narrow path through tall fields planted with millet. The home was in a cleared area and was built of split boards with a roof of a stick frame wrapped with banana leaves. We were immediately offered the seat of honor; a wooden plank between a stump and a rock under the shade of a Jackfruit tree. The others sat on a mat made of reeds tied together. Pastor Jeffrey began a long story in Luganda telling the grandparents of the situation caused by their daughter. We were just an audience as the men all responded in unison to comments made by the grandmother and the pastor. As time went on, we attracted quite a bit of attention and, although there were no other homes in sight, by the end we had accumulated an audience of about 25 people! After much discussion, it was determined that the grandparents were not in a position to care for the children but the Grandmother would come with us to try to find her daughter and bring her to Masese. So, we collected the grandmother (who did not speak a word of English) with a few of her things and headed back to catch the ferry.
We were relieved to arrive well before the scheduled docking time of the ferry (it was scheduled to leave at 4 and we arrived at 2:30) – the prospect of finding a place to stay overnight on the island if we missed the ferry was not appealing!! We had plenty of time to kill as the ferry did not show up til 5:30 – TIA! (This Is Africa!) During that time, we searched for air time and bottled water among the small businesses in the community, played Duck Duck Goose and the Hokie Pokie with the mob of staring children and I learned how to wash clothes! I still can’t pronounce the name of the 13 year old girl who was my teacher, but we had great fun as I helped her do her family’s laundry on the shore of the lake. It is quite a process involving a bar of blue soap that is vigerously rubbed on the clothes in a basin of lake water, wringing it out and repeating the process at least 3 times before starting the rinse cycle of at least 2 rinsings in the same tub. There were 2 ducks that bathed as they watched us and one time I looked up and saw a young boy with a herd of about 6 rangy cows that had come to the lake for water. All the while, the fishermen working on nets or their boats nearby laughed with us as I diligently tried my best! I believe that if I had to wash my clothes like that, I would wear a lot of light weight polyester blends…… I am even more grateful than I thought I was for my washer and dryer at home!
When the ferry finally arrived we got into our spot to back the van in. After looking at the even steeper drop and larger gap to the ferry, Renee quickly opted to let one of the ferry operators do the honors and back her van into place. We could tell that they had been laughing about Renee’s parking on the trip over and they were quick to take the wheel. We tried our best not to laugh when they got the van stuck in the gap to the dock!! Not a problem though as several men quickly surrounded the van and simply lifted it up and onto the bed of the ferry. After loading all the extra people, pikis and bikes, an older man calmly stepped up onto the front of the ferry with his black longhorn cow. The cow rode calmly on the front of the boat without even attempting to move as the ferry chugged through the choppy waves all the way to the mainland! When we docked, the group of ladies sitting near our van each pulled out rolls of banana leaves to place on their heads and then each balanced a very large jack fruit (about the size of a medium watermelon) on top and walked off to the shore. We were just grateful not to get stuck!
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jaja (grandma) on the way home as she held her little granddaughter, Rita, perhaps for only the second or third time ever. There is no need of a common language to communicate the love of a grandmother as she rediscovers the joy of holding her precious little granddaughter.
Now 2 days later………I have recovered from a nasty 24 hour bout with food poisoning and am trying to get caught up here before we leave in the morning. Most of the paperwork is done for Renee’s NGO and our new printer is installed. Eileen and I are still finishing up some packing and I’m working up enough nerve to eat some dinner. Apparently Rachel and Rita’s mother has been found and we are expecting her along with the father and grandmother to meet here with Pastor Jeffrey and Renee for a counseling session. Tomorrow Renee and I will meet with the Probation Officer for the Jinja district to present a proposed agreement for the malnutrition program, look at potential rental property for the program next door and head out for Kampala around 11.
Thank you all so much for your continued prayers throughout our stay here. Thank you also for the many comments that so many of you have sent – it has been an encouragement to me to see how our experiences here have touched your hearts. I will miss watching my beautiful daughter as she grows into an incredible woman of God passionately seeking His will for her life and holding my precious little grandbaby, Selah. I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing family and have the opportunity to serve with them in this beautiful place.