Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Visit to Papa

Africa Update –March 12, 2007

We’re sorry that there has been a prolonged gap between our updates. We have been away in the village to visit Jane’s dad and some other close relatives who we had not seen yet. Being in the village basically means we have also been away from electricity and other civilities such as running water and the internet.

Before going into our village adventures we would first like to update you on what’s going on with our work. With OKM we have been continuing to meet with the various families and start planning how we can reduce their expenditures, increase their income and help in the counseling and care of the young people. We met with Topista who is a widow that heads a satellite family of the Wamakales. The children she cares for are all her own. She sells fruit and vegetables at a roadside market in a nearby town called Bugembe. OKM helps with the children’s school fees but she is left to care for the rest of the needs of her family. She is HIV+ and faces difficulties with her health and energy as a result. We are seeing how we can help her to gain more from her market business. We will be helping her make a business plan so she can perhaps get a micro loan or grant through OKM or another organization to increase her business. She would like to have a better place to sell her things and increase her inventory to attract more customers. She is a lovely lady but faces difficulties such as a 14 year old son who does not want to go to school. He is starting to develop some bad habits as he has time on his hands and doesn’t like to listen to his mother. She has 6 children between 12 and 18. Please pray that she will have the courage and energy to be open about her sickness as well as that the children would want to all contribute to the well-being of their family.

We also met with the Kironde family who have 20 children, 3 of them biological and the rest of them “adopted”. They have children all the way from 1 year old up to University. They have a few things they are doing to earn money such as making necklaces and growing Aloe Vera. They seem to be quite motivated so we pray that we will be able to help them succeed in their projects. Most of their adopted kids are young ladies so there will be lots of work for Jane in having time to talk with them and encourage them in their lives. Many of them are in boarding schools so they face many pressures there.

We have been warmly welcomed by the OKM families and Topista, the social worker for OKM (yes, there are two Topistas). We feel challenged and encouraged when we visit these families as they have taken on such a huge task in looking after these children. Please pray that we will really be helpful in supporting these families. These families are fighting the front line battles – we feel like the supporting crew. We really want top make their job easier and for them to feel that there are people supporting them in prayer and action in what they are doing.

I am planning a water purification plan for the families so they can filter and treat their water instead of boiling it which will be much cheaper.

With Bushfire we are waiting to start in earnest with plowing and planting the farmland they have (around 100acres). The tractor we have been using has been far from reliable so we hope that the other one we have lined up will be better. The rains have started so we are anxious to get going on the planting. Pray that we will get the land planted on time.

Francis at the Sheraton…back to our trip to the village. We left on a Wednesday for Entebbe which is about 120 km from our place. We went with Jane's sister Paullina and her husband, George and their young daughter who were visiting us from Hoima. We were 10 people squeezed into our truck (5 of them were kids so each adult had a kid except for Andrew who had his own place on the squishy back seat). We stopped a bit in the city (Kampala) while George and I took care of some business while the rest waited for us at the Sheraton Gardens. There we met up with our friend Francis, who has a ministry to disabled people. Francis himself is in a wheelchair and is trying to help many other disabled people whose lives are very restricted without wheelchairs. He is working through churches in Kampala. We were able to deliver a wheelchair to him on behalf of some friends in Canada. He has already selected a young person who will the wheelchair will be assigned to.

That evening we went to Jane’s brother Bizi’s place in Entebbe. We arrived at night at the high school where he works as the cattle keeper for the school. The school is right on the shores of Lake Victoria. It was good to see them but we were again very squeezed when it came to sleeping quarters which resulted in a hot, claustrophobic night. Were 16 people sleeping in a two room house – most of us were crammed two or three to a bed. It was amazing how their son Elisha had grown since we saw him last a year ago.

The next day we made our way to Kampala and on to Luweero. It took a very long time to get through the city as there were very bad traffic jams. Uganda has SO many vehicles but such poor road infrastructure. The taxis and boda-bodas (motorcycles) are especially troublesome as they are very numerous and tend to ignore most, if not all the rules of the road.

We finally arrived in Luweero town and decided to sleep there for the night as it was getting late. We went to a local hotel where we seemed to have to wait for well over an hour for “fast food” of fried fish and chicken with chips. I think we were finally finished supper near 11pm. We had a less claustrophobic but still stuffy night in a local guest house.

The next morning we visited our nephew Stephen who is going to school in Luweero town. Stephen is in S6 which is sort of like grade 12/college. The conditions are quite difficult (as they are in many Ugandan schools) as the owner is still building and doing renovations while the students are there in class and in their dorms. There were piles of building materials here and there with the sounds and sights of workers plastering various buildings. Stephen’s dorm was full of dust and sand – it’s hard to believe that people can live in such conditions let alone be able to concentrate on their studies, but such is the situation of many schools in Uganda. It is such a struggle for many to finish their high school studies that students are willing to sacrifice many things in order to finish school.
Papa’s placeLater that day we finally arrived at Papa’s. He was very happy to see us. It was nice to see the place where we spent a good chunk of 2002 and 2003. We were also glad that we were just visiting as life there is very difficult with no power or running water plus a lot of dust and a very small house. Jane and I enjoyed a nice rest on “our” bed after the two previous very uncomfortable nights. We spent most of the time trying to visit a few of our many friends and catch up with Papa. We saw our good friends, the Clays, who have a farm in the area and work at New Hope Uganda (where we used to live and work). We also had some good time with my former family group, Pacific Family. It was great to see how my children have grown – they also enjoyed time with our kids as they had not seen them for a while. We enjoyed late night conversing at Papas outside in the full moon with a nice cool breeze keeping away the mosquitoes.

We also had the privilege of being with our nephew Tugume who we used to live with us previously. Tugume is 5 years old and lives at New Hope in Pacific family. He was so happy to come over to Papas for a couple days and be with his “brothers”. It was really cute one night as he fell asleep hugging Kenny. The boys had lots of fun running around and playing in the dirt and watching Papas cows. He was so upset on Sunday when we had to part with him. He would love him to come and live with us but we do not feel settled yet about taking him back with us as it would be difficult to part from him when going back on furlough.

We had a good time at Kasana Community Church on Sunday and then visited Jane’s good friend Addie and her family (although her husband Sam was not around). Addie noticed that Andrew was making funny noises as he tried to clear his throat and chest. Later that afternoon, just as we were going to pack the truck to head back to Jinja, I noticed that Andrew was breathing very quickly and the area between his ribs was being sucked in the same way as someone with pneumonia, however he had no fever. We took him immediately to Kiwoko Hospital where they diagnosed him with asthma. This was the first time Andrew has ever had an attack so it took us off guard. Upon reaching home we discovered Albert had a very high temperature so we immediately returned back to the Hospital with him. It is not good to leave a fever unchecked here as diseases such as malaria can kill very quickly if they go untreated. They could not find any malaria parasites but we treated him for malaria anyways and put him on treatment for his cough as well.

Finally, the next morning we left for Jinja after a night of constant waking to check that the boys were OK. It has been a tough week as almost all of us have had a fever and /or the runs. We are on some treatment now so we hope we will be better soon. Also, Vicki, our maid, decided to leave us abruptly so we are again looking for house help. Jane has been one of the sickest members of the family so we have gotten behind again on house work. We trust that the next time we communicate we will be in better health.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support.
God Bless,
The Sperlings