Tuesday, August 14, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 12

Yesterday and today have been kind of a whirlwind. I’m starting to realize that we’re more than halfway through the trip and the kids in the choir, especially those we sponsor, are starting to really latch onto us. I’m beginning to understand why Hillary didn’t want to leave Uganda her first two trips. These kids are so special and are so quick to give you their love.

This morning, many of them stayed in the “big people” church service instead of going with the kids as usual. They wanted to hear us lead worship and my preaching. It was so great to look up into the balcony where they were sitting and see the huge smiles on their faces. I really wanted to have an African drum beat on one of the songs, so I asked Bruno at the last minute if he would play with us. He smiled and said “yes.” He played beautifully. So many of these kids are so talented. He’s got a great feel for drumming. You’ll get a real kick out of him when the choir comes to the states. Mary, Courtney, and I led the congregation in six songs then I got to fulfill one of my dreams. I’ve always wanted to sing with an African choir behind me. It was awesome. The congregation really got into it too. They were all dancing, the way only Africans can dance, and singing at the top of their lungs. It went on for quite awhile, but I think I could’ve done it all day!

After the choir sang some more songs and then some more choruses, it was time for me to get up and preach. Before that I snuck out because I had to use the restroom, I had consumed so much liquid to try and get my voice to work. I know this is a weird topic of discussion, but this is a journal, so excuse my stream of consciousness. The usher pointed me outside and showed me where the restroom was. I really didn’t think any men’s restroom setup could confound me…I mean how complicated can it be? But, this one really stumped me. When I got there, it was a series of walls set up like kind of a maze. The walls were only about four feet high and there was no ceiling. I could see there was already someone in there, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to join him, or if the maze was several different “stalls” or what. I decided to wait and when I went inside, it was basically three walls with a drain on the floor. I think several people use it at the same time. This wasn’t gross or anything, just something I had never experienced before. I never found out what the other divisions were for. I’ll investigate when it’s not so busy.

Anyway, preaching was also a new experience. Oh, I’ve preached many times over the years and, at times I’ve spoken in front of youth groups two to three times per week. But I’ve never needed an interpreter before. Well I might have NEEDED one, but I’ve never used one. It was very strange to speak in phrases, waiting for the interpreter to repeat it in Luganda before continuing. Fortunately, Pastor Dithan was my interpreter. He has a great sense of humor and always makes the congregation laugh, so he was able to adapt my funny stories into Luganda. They laughed at all the right places and said, “Ah-mee-nuh” (or Amen) when they really liked something I had to say. I’ve been worrying about this since the first day we got to Uganda when Pastor Moses said, “On the twell-eth (twelfth) it will be YOUR Sunday.” (I love how they add syllables to words. It makes it more poetic.) Running our own worship service has kind of been hanging over my head, but, as usual, my worry was unwarranted. After I was done, I sat down next to Pastor Moses and he complemented me and said, “Next time you come to Uganda, you’ll be preaching every Sunday you’re here!”

When I went up into the balcony after the service, I was greeted by a bunch of the kids. Eric said, “Your preaching was very good. I enjoyed it very much.” I said, “Was it understandable enough?” “Oh yes! It was very valuable and informative.” was his reply. I officially want to take him home with me, and I’m not kidding. I know I’ve talked a lot about him before, but I’m really in awe of him. He’s been through a lot of pain and suffering in his short life and he’s like a 30 year old in a twelve-year-old body. Today, after the choir led their own choir practice (that’s right, they led it THEMSELVES), they had a time of prayer like they always do. They all start praying out loud and it’s amazing to watch. No one is paying attention to what other people are doing. Some get down on their knees, some stand in reverence, and today both Eric and Jane were walking around inside the circle. I have never even seen adults pray with such sincerity. I’m completely humbled by these kids. Jane had this angelic look on her face and was praying with such passion. Eric paced back and forth across the room and was in deep conversation with God. He was imploring, and pleading, and worshipping all at once. At times he had his hands folded behind his back with a serious look on his face, at other times he made motions with his hands, palms up, as if he was pleading a court case with a huge smile on his face. It was one of the most amazing displays of devotion I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. I’ll stop now, because there’s no way my words can do it justice.

After this was over, they went around and hugged each other and then each of them took turns hugging us too. I love these kids. I just can’t believe they did all of this with no adults in the room. Then they all headed home, with no parents to pick them up. Most walk, some hang around for awhile, some, including our little man Julius, take a boda-boda. I don’t want to even think about leaving them yet. It’s too sad for me to think about. I’m just glad they’re coming to the US this year for the choir tour so I can see them again soon. I’m not sure how we’ll manage it, but I’m going to make sure we do whatever it takes to get the kids we sponsor through college.

Tomorrow we go to Kitongo and Kasanda (I think that’s how they’re spelled) to collect more sponsorship information. It’ll be a great time, but I’m sure we’ll be exhausted when we get back. Tuesday, we have a day off, so I’ll probably videotape the choir in their school setting for the choir promo videos. Wednesday, we go to another school in the bush. Thursday, we take the choir to a remote location to take promo photos and video for their trip to the States. Friday, we go to Gulu, a five-hour trek to northern Uganda. We’ll be in the area two days and we’re going to try and stop by a wildlife area on the way to try and see some cool animals. My cousin Brenda will never let me live it down if we don’t see some animals that you don’t see in the United States. The place we’ll be going is the setting for the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” the story of Diane Fosse, who lived with the gorillas of northern Uganda. Gulu is the area that received a lot of attention from the “Invisible Children” documentary. It told the story of how many families were driven from their homes by rebel forces and the children were forced to become soldiers. The rebels have since been driven from the country, but the displaced families remain in refugee camps. This is where we’ll visit.

As a side note, the country is not very happy with the “Invisible Children” campaign by most accounts. Uganda, whom Churchill called “the Pearl of Africa,” relies on tourism for a lot of its economy, and “Invisible Children” scared away a lot of tourists even though the problem with rebels no longer exists. So the financial hit the country has taken from a lack of tourism far outweighs the money brought in my “Invisible Children.” It’s a case of someone trying to do the right thing but not really weighing the impact before jumping in. Just throwing money at the problem is not always the answer. Anyway, that’s my political editorial for today.

I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to post this, it’s going to be a busy week. I know in the Old Testament, God shut the mouths of the lions so that Daniel wouldn’t be eaten. I’m hoping that he chooses to shut the mouths of the dogs outside our apartment!

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.