Thursday, 10 September 2015

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 - Retrospect

Two weeks since landing back, so time for some reflection.

Hilary and Janet were quickly out of the starting gate in proposing a return visit to the Nairobi sewing project and Richard's Children's Home.  They have in mind a couple of weeks in December that squeeze in from the end of Janet's term and before the New Year.   Huw's happy.  I must remind them to take some clothes  pegs for their stay at Sundowner.  If the extra fund-raising goes well enough they'll take a couple of other younger women with them. 

Meanwhile, sadly, Phibian's had to suspend the project for a couple of weeks because Four Square's hall was needed for something else.  But it's a good outcome, because they're finding replacement premises, and they've tapped into some micro-finance to keep going.  Hilary's fund-raising Gala Dinner is Thursday 12 November, and we have some planning to nail down, including video stuff, etc.
A green shoot - cheesy, but I don't care

Janet stole the show at the national celibates and singles event, relating how on the Sunday in Kampala, Pastor Philip was unsure whether to introduce her as Pastor, Bishop or Apostle. 

My enduring memories of Uganda proved to be the amazing bird-life, the abundance of pineapples, and the second-hand European clothes that change hands in preference to new Chinese stuff on quality grounds.  I also failed to mention the rice and tea fields that line the main trunk roads.  Len commented that the place is so fertile that if you stand still for too long, you'll grow roots.  I also recalled a couple of pastors asserting that the country was the site of the Garden of Eden, with the third (unidentified) river being the Nile.  Hmmm.

Cornelius continued his extensive correspondence to Trevor.  I remembered a comment in his garden, after the two-hour evening round of exchanges.  "Milton Obote once took eight hours over a broadcast presidential speech.  His sign off was: 'And with these few words...'."

I went to thank Ali for lending us Len while the Brighton saints endured an arson attack at home.  She confided that she'd been given an unexpected gift, and told to, "Go and have a good holiday yourself."  So a return visit to the literacy project in Zambia is in her sights - apparently with or without Len!  To add to the to-ings and fro-ings, it appears that 42 of the RAW-ites have signed up to go to India next November.  And Andy and Eva have posted photos of Kathmandu on their Facebook.

Because having the use of the minibus was so helpful, I've re-written the draft budget for our trip to Rwanda next March, allowing for hiring one for the duration out there.  On the journey across Kenya I forgot to mention the green and yellow agave cactus that grows by the roadside.  They have just one specimen in the glasshouses at Sheffield Botanical Gardens, and it looks creepy. 

Fatigue hit me about three days after we came home, and I must have been a poor advertisement at the Bank Holiday Festival.  Back at the gym, my body felt like rubber, but I managed a five-mile run round the Memorial Park while staying in Coventry last weekend.   At the last count, Viv had 47 outstanding IT service tickets.

Most worrying, I can't find the Jesus Centre credit card that I put 'somewhere safe' at home rather than risking taking it on the trip.  A confession to the Accounts bods is impending if Mary's 'finding angel' doesn't come up with the goods. I may have said 'apostolic irritation' if Nathan hadn't deflated me with an aside in India, "Don't you think these things happen to anyone?"

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 16 August 26 - UK

I managed three hours sleep, then went for a walk around to get my circulation going, find some fruit juice from the stewards' kitchen and sample the fancy blue LEDs in the Dreamliner's toilets.  After breakfast, about halfway through 'Minority Report', the seatbelt alert came on and I had to put away the video screen.  Then we had an announcement that we were being 'stacked' at Heathrow (the result of the late take-off), and I had to twiddle my thumbs for an hour.  Viv tells me the film doesn't end like you'd think, but I guess that now I'll never know. 
(Jinja)  "You can't avoid vultures flying over your tree,
but you can stop them from perching in the branches"

We didn't see anything of the approach to Heathrow because of cloud, and as we stepped out of the cabin onto the air bridge, cold rain dripped through the canopy.  Baggage reclaim took ages, and it was 8am before we rendezvoused with Sam.  I dozed for about an hour on the M1, and the car heater kept my toes warm.

At the Farm Central Offices, Claire was all, "Aren't you excited...?!".  Well, not really, because I'll need to stay over until after the Bank Holiday Weekend Festival, as it's pointless making unnecessary journeys back and forth to Sheffield.  Viv, or Len's son, George, may get a chance to knock a bit of video together for the Saturday evening event feedback.

I dumped my bags in the bedroom, freshened up and then went to see Kelly.  We're on a roll, with Annual Church Convocation on Saturday and lots of Disclosure Process stuff to discuss at tomorrow's Apostolic Team meeting.  Claire announced that 42 RAW folks had signed up for the November 2016 India adventure, and Kiran Paul from Chilipatnam will be in UK in September, giving us a chance to get planning.

I was too late to book in for tea and a visit to Phil and Donna, now settled in Bugbrooke.   At the Farm mealtime, I entertained the guys with my parody of an African preacher doing the worship, bible teaching, prayer for healing, prophesying and tithes announcement one-man-band routine.  Gav rang in the evening so I could say goodnight to the children.  At my desk in the Multiply office, I faded away about 9pm and succumbed to the need for sleep.  (Just as well, because next morning my body thought that 4.15am was a perfectly acceptable time to start the day.)  I'm hoping that Mary will bring my trainers so I can have a jog round the Memorial Park in Coventry when we finally meet up and stay at New Kings.

What stands out in my mind from this trip?  Well, we stayed within budget overall, and nobody got sick.  The visit to the balokole in Magodes was quite special, and the overland journeys in the minibus have given me an idea for Rwanda next March.  The team we've identified in Kampala have the ability to make it work, and Hilary and Janet have given the sewing project in Nairobi a flying start.  But most of all I look forward to using the hand-held mosquito zapper that I got for £3 from a local street trader.

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 15 August 25

I took a little time to savour the last breakfast: warm sunshine on the balcony of the Lodge's big lounge and two cups of Ugandan coffee, while I read Romans 15.  A team of eight girls from Ireland had arrived to help at Emmaus's school along the road, and were getting through their acclimatisation.  I thought about the challenge we've thrown out to our rising generation to self-finance a larger-scale visit to India in November next year (say 20 - heading for three locations). 

Pastor Chris arrived, and laid out the plan for the day.  Giraffes were the priority.  It's been nice that he'd has a grip on all this.  I did the whole checking out thing in the Lodge's office, and mercifully I had enough local currency, so there were no red faces!  Ps Andrew had stayed over with us to avoid the tedious journey to-and-from Jinja.  Our flight to Nairobi was 6.15pm, and we needed to allow up to three hours for the chaotic check-in that can easily happen at local airports.  This would give us about three hours at the zoo park in Entebbe.

Len was buzzing around providing us all with a box of tea-with-ginger to squeeze in our cases and take home.  Baggage all stowed, the friendly security guy let us out through the big gates for the last time.  I'd joined Hilary and Janet in a car driven by Carole, one of Chris's leadership team.  It was good to chat with them - they've done well in a situation where the guys have obviously had the bigger slice of the action.  They're both resolved that they'll be back to give the Nairobi sewing project a boost, and we discussed that the Sundowner Apartments would be an ideal place to stay.

The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre isn't quite your average zoo, but houses mainly rescued animals as part of conservation promotion.  Chris went off to pursue some deal for a discount and a chance to see Charlie the young elephant.  Through the entrance turnstile we could see clouds of lake flies.  "Insect repellent on!"  Carole instructed. 

Chris ushered us through the main reception.  "They normally charge $70 to see Charlie, but it'll cost us nothing."  He clearly has some influential connections - or he had persuaded someone that we were mighty important visitors.  The zoo is fairly extensive, and has a selection of animal in each of the many fenced-off habitats.  A couple of lionesses and a male played about in the shade under a distant tree, but our guide wasn't able to coax them nearer despite his calls.  There was a pair of white rhinos, the broad-mouthed ones, that came very close and accepted a bunch of pampas grass from the guide's hand.

The leopard, we were told, was at some display going on in Kampala, but we found the the giraffes at home, and willing to stretch over the wire fencing to be fed from the viewing platform.  Altogether delightful.  Next, the guide told us to watch the male baboon's behaviour when it saw a man showing attention to a lady visitor.  Sure enough he went mad, leaping against the cage sides.

Chris's phone rang, and he announced it was time to meet up with Charlie's keeper.  We stood under the shade of a couple of trees, and the four-year-old swung into view, as the keeper walked ahead carrying a big pan of carrots, bananas and pineapple.  We took it in turns to lift up the fruit at arms length while Charlie's amazing trunk took a hold and he happily munched away.  

Back at the entrance, I settled up with Ps Andrew for the last lot of receipts and we got off to Entebbe Airport.   Check-in was fairly painless, and the lady on the desk took a liking to Viv (calling him Vivian, which nobody gets away with) and allocated some long-leg seats.  We headed for a small cafe by the duty free shops.  We tipped all our local change onto the table and worked out that we could afford a coffee, soft drink and sausage roll each.  It was coming up to 5pm, and we'd stood out in the hot sun, clouds of flies and considerable red dust for a long time.

We landed in at JKIA's new terminal, and headed for the food hall.  The snack on the plane would be served after midnight, and Hilary and Janet sensibly preferred to eat something earlier.  Viv was on a mission to get to a charger, and I wanted to grab some WiFi time on my laptop, so we transferred to the new Departure Gate with plenty of time in hand.  "I've done this fight (KQ102) three times before," I offered, "and it's never left on time."  Nothing new, then, when we took off half an hour late.  However, what was new was that the customary Boeing 777 had been upgraded to a 787 Dreamliner.  The up-swept wings and large windows are very impressive, but the plastic fixtures squeaked and rattled like a 15-year-old crate.  I'd heard Gregory complain that the Airline was losing money through vanity.

I managed half an hour more on the laptop, enjoyed the roast lamb, stretched out my legs and got down to the serious matter of some sleep.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 14 August 24

Rukundo and I spend his final breakfast together catching up on the disclosures process back home.  While I've been here, the local Northampton paper has featured an article about us.   Next, we scrutinised the programme for the visit to Rwanda in March 2016.  Is he happy with the team?  Will it work for us to hire an eight seater 4x4 to do the journeys from Kigali to Kabarondo, Rukavu, Butare (or hopefully Bujumbura)?  How quickly can Rukundo confirm conference venues and suitable accommodation so I can get the budget agreed in the present round of sub-committee discussions?

It's our first prospect of a day in the open air, as we join the local leaders' group at Lake Victoria.  But first, with Ps Andrew driving, we have to detour to the coach station to get Rukundo sorted out for his evening departure.  We go around the Chieftain's Palace and archway, and Kibuye roundabout, with the crested crane statue.   When our car arrives at Ggabu Resort, the orders for the tilapia fish have been placed.  Now the proprieters are out fishing, and in 45 minutes we'll be served.    A welcome cool breeze blows across from the Lake.  Recently, stormy winds raised the water level here by 12 feet.  The hotel grounds were flooded, and a nearby island sliced in two by a newly created channel.  We watch the prolific bird-life at the edge of the Lake.

The fish arrives - huge portion - and we settle down to the meal: it's all done by fingers.  Half an hour later, Viv asks Chris to grade his efforts by the pile of bones.  Chris is busy pulling the head of his fish apart to get the omega oils out of the brain.  I gave up on this quest when the spinal cord pulled out looking like an intestinal worm.  "A minus." Chris offers.

At 2.30pm we head back to the city and the East Africa Village craft shops.  Len loves this bit, and barters away happily for something for Ali.  Hilary gets a set of three drums at a good price.  "You are welcome." Chorus the stall holders.  I examine some sets of authentic hunting arrows complete with vicious barbs.  Not for hand luggage. 

Chris has arranged that we should spend the evening in a civilised part of the city at the Nanjin Restaurant. He'll be joined by his entire Return to Light leadership team, as a blessing to the UK party.  Even by 7pm I wonder how I can face more food.  "I feel like I ate a shark." Len confesses.  We settle around a huge circular table  Fortunately the hotel recommends that we order one portion between two of our chosen dishes, and use the rotating glass table top to share the food around.  I sit next to Benson and we talk procurement.  Viv is wedged between two eligible single ladies, and momentarily distracted from his phones and camera - momentarily.  The Ugandan ginger tea that's served is sharp, and Len is getting addicted.

At 9pm, Chris calls us together for some final appreciation.  He has a very talented team, and I explain how Multiply draws together saints in many nations and situations: cyclones in the Philippines, constitutional changes in Nepal, Ebola in Liberia, war-torn northern Nigeria and body parts trafficking in Moldova.  A rainbow movement.

Soon we're home at Emmaus, and I can't resist starting my packing.

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 13 August 23

I was due to go to Pastor Matuva's Eternal Life Worship church, out towards Entebbe, where the edges of Kampala are rapidly expanding (as in Wakiso). He had been interpreting into Luganda for me, very effectively.  During the group discussion times, we'd leaned across the lectern and had some good conversations together.  I took the chance of a later start to have a nice hot shower - our bathroom has its own Ariston boiler.  Then I'd joined in saying 'goodbye' to the Kenya guys.  On the evidence of the last two weeks' bumps and shudders, the dear travel-stained minibus KCD402Y will probably not survive the seven years that Gregory built into the financial plan: three or four will be good going, despite Toyota's admirable build quality!

I noticed that the Korean resident who always wore a hoodie at breakfast ('the Monk', we'd dubbed him), had also checked out.  Pastor Chris had taken leave from his own church's regular meeting to see us all off in our various directions, and ensure that the host churches knew that we must be at the City Royal Hotel, Bugolobi, before 3pm, for the widely-advertised Business seminar.

An Airport Taxi arrived somewhat late, with Mutuva and the co-pastor.  At one point we used the newly under-construction superhighway that's going to link Entebbe and Kampala, throwing up clouds of red dust.  "Is this so the Chinese businessmen can got to the city and do deals faster?" I enquired.  "Oh, yes.  And they're paying for it.  In fact they're paying for every big scheme that's going on." I was told.

We bumped along a turn-off road and pulled up by the skeleton of a building, with the mandatory blast of PA kit.  "My goodness," I thought, even the worst of our barns at the Farm is better than this."  But it was newly erected, and the worshippers were clearly satisfied.  The sun was hot, and church-without-walls was the ideal arrangement.  I think they hadn't started the meeting properly until I came, which was obviously later than the usual time.

Somewhere along the way, in their obvious delight at having muzumu with them, I changed from being referred to as Pastor Ian, to Rev Ian, to Rev Doctor, to Doctor Ian.  As last week, my skillful exposition of Hebrews 13 was going to need 'dumbing down'.  Unlike in Kenya, we'd already found several folks at the last two days' conference who actually seemed to speak no English. 

There was a clutch of children on the right-hand side of the congregation, who joined in the singing and dancing.  I managed to make a good bit of the teaching down-to-earth, and they enjoyed my loud closing prayer.  Matuva's wife brought over some bananas and water melon for lunch.  It was an ideal arrangement, and meant we could head back to the city centre in good time.  They also related how an angel had come along with a spade to dig their car out of the mud when travelling to the 'Greater Nile Convention' meeting in Jinja.

City Royal Hotel was a marked contrast, with uniformed staff, manicured lawns and plush leather seats.  This is where Pastor Chris holds his Return to Light Ministries meetings, with engineers, accountants, doctors and business people in his congregation.  At 3pm only he and I were ready; we had some prayer and (quite tuneful) worship.  I resisted the urge to set up the projector, as I trusted Viv would somehow manage to turn up. 

When the remainder of our folks had arrived, the room was pretty full - maybe 100 delegates.  This included Pastor Calvin from Abiding Rock Fellowship.  The session went well.  This was a 'first' in our conference planning, and from the follow-on questions confirmed that we'd pitched things just right.  And, glory be, my friend Alfred Okello from Lira, whom I'd met in Nairobi three years ago, was there, too.

Dinner entailed another visit to Cafe Roma, and I was ready for a good meal.  I texted Gregory to see what progress he'd made.  Tomorrow, we'll have to get Rukundo on his bus back to Kigali, and we're heading for a beach resort on the Lake at lunchtime.

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 12 August 22

Today was cooler (i.e. not heading straight into the 30sC).  I noticed that the early morning sunshine that lit up the guest lodge gardens clouded over by the time we set off for Wakiso and our conference venue.  We planned a varied day: Janet giving her testimony about celibacy in response to yesterday's questions and conversations, Rukundo giving his, and an introduction to Kingdom businesses as a taster for Hilary's full workshop session tomorrow afternoon.  We also negotiated that we'd stay at the church for lunch, to simplify things.

Gregory was anxious to get the three Kenya guys moving towards home as soon as possible, but not at the expense of doing a proper job of things here in Kampala.  He talked through some options, and having them all leave after breakfast tomorrw (Sunday) seemed best.  We could be confident in Chris's administration and care.  Rukundo' too, would need to plan his return to Kigali - he didn't need to hang around for flights, as there are daily coach services.

Len wandered by.  "Did you find where the toilets are?"  "Round that side - some plywood sheet and gravel on the ground.  It just drains into the swamp." I added.  "I couldn't find it," Len continued, "so I went to the bushes.  Then I thought 'crumbs, snakes'!  Pastor Asua's seen black and green mambas and a viper or cobra, which he tried to hit with a rock."

A few spits and spots of rain fell, and folks got restive.  Really, only 4x4s could really make a decent job of reaching the Church, and everyone had an eye on the journey home.  We did finish promptly and were guided round to Ps Asua's home again for the postponed something-a-bit-more-special.  Meanwhile Gregory sat down with the expanded interim team that he'd assembled and introduced, to give them a thorough briefing.

'Buffalo' Charles had been miffed because he didn't get a chance to give greetings from the platform.  For over two hours he wrestled with his native Kikuyu pride while we teased and jostled him to get the matter in perspective.  'Iron sharpening iron' some of the guys had glibly quoted, but the reality was proving tough to process.  Earlier in the week, I'd gently instructed him in the foremost need for passenger consideration when driving a minibus.  Len had explained across the table at Cafe Roma that this is a most touchy sensitivity for a man.  'Buffalo'  had taken it well, and his driving - which he already saw as a serving ministry, had indeed improved.

George had blossomed, too.  First, unaware of the history, his brief contribution to last evening's 'introductions' at Cornelius's had been perceptive and timely.  Although to accompany Hilary and Janet from Nairobi, he'd left his two sons, wife and two-week-old baby, plus a stack of University work, he saw the whole deal as a privilege.  Gregory was keen to find men of this calibre for Uganda.

Our fellowship was jarred by a loud crack and sharp burst of white light.  Ps Asua was smiling, electronic wand in hand, having zapped a mosquito.  Ah, an object of desire.  Time for us all to move on.  A few final exchanges about the arrangement for tomorrow's church services and the afternoon Business seminar, and we were on our way.

I was more relaxed, feeling that the day's format had worked well.  In the back of the minibus, Gregory turned to me and confessed, "I gave them a hard time.  They should have done several things better,"  he stated.  "But we have made good progress."

Multiply Trip East Africa 2015 Day 11 August 21

I woke before 6am, and (while Rukundo slept on) stretched my presentation notes on the Renewed Mind to include eight new bits of teaching.  Then I searched for some breakfast.  Janet and Hilary were already out on the veranda: there didn't seem to be too many other guests around.

Pastor Chris arrived promptly and I joined him in his spotless blue car, leading the travel-stained minibus across town to Hoima Road, Wakiso.  For some reason I'd imagined that the Greater Love Christian Centre would be a substantial and well-advertised facility.  Chris turned on to a steep  unmarked  track that tested the limits of his car's traction, steering and and suspension.  Recent heavy rain had cut gulleys in the mud, and it wasn't difficult to imaging us (and the minibus) getting stuck.

We parked, and slithered the last part by foot into an open field.  The building was a structure of poles with sheets of plywood cladding for walls.  I couldn't imagine who would join us in attending.

Pastor Asua was beaming as we arrived.  Maybe he'd been waiting since 8am, the advertised start time.  With dismay, I noted there was no projection screen: and the level of ambient light meant it would be a pretty hopeless exercise, anyway.  I was glad to hand over the problem to Viv.  There were about fifty plastic chairs in the place, and we'd done all our preparation for 200 delegates.   The folks present (who weren't being registered) at this stage looked like the ladies from the neighbourhood and their children, not cutting-edge leaders who would impact Kampala.  Sixteen months' worth of planning for this!  

After Len's introduction, at 11am, I offered everyone to go to the tables at the back and finish the tea that had been provided: I wasn't confident that we could maintain attention for two hours until lunch!  It arrived on time, but the team was being diverted to Ps Asua's home to eat.  I protested on several grounds: we wanted to mix with folks, we didn't want special treatment in the catering, and it would take up too much time.  All in vain.

Charles got the minibus stuck up the track at our destination: by now he'd earned the nickname of 'Buffalo'.  We knew that unless folks got away by 4pm, they would catch the rush-hour congestion, but the late restart gave us no chance of keeping to schedule - and we had booked to be at Cornelius's for 7pm.

The early evening traffic was a misery.  We sat stationary on the Northern Bypass watching the ankole cattle on the suburban waste grounds.   I still have no idea where we went in relation to the conference or our accommodation.
Cornelius was his effervescent and voluble self, hugging everyone and pressing us into the back garden to enjoy some cool air.  There, nearly two hours passed of post mortem on the last two years' tensions and failures of resolution, hinging on mismatched assumptions about what Multiply should look like in Uganda and who may be best to lead it.  Gregory was a model of meekness.  Hilary stepped in an suggested that the matter should be resolved at Jesus's cross.  We finally got some food - it was delicious - though Cornelius's wife was near to tears over the dislocated events and relationships.

At last back at our accommodation, I reflected how men, with their egos designed to 'make things happen', take second place to women when some more nuanced need arises.