Sunday, March 8

The Pearl of Africa

After an overnight flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi, and a connection from Nairobi to Entebbe, we finally arrived in Uganda late this morning. We were met at the airport by a lady named Margaret, who is an assistant to First Lady Museveni, and a driver named Sam. They brought us to a VIP Lounge, took our passports and left us to relax while they processed us through security and got all of our baggage for us. We were trying not to gawk at the service we were recieving!

We boarded a small bus and were driven from Entebbe (where the airport is) to Kampala, where we are staying. It was about a 40 minute drive, and we all loved every second of it. I don't think we knew if we should take pictures or just take it all in or laugh or gape or was just so neat. Seeing the sights and smelling the plants, hearing the birds, all for the first time was so much fun. We drove through some smaller feeling towns and then into the big city, which is their capital. It is very green right now, lots of palm trees and other plants that are cool looking, the soil is a sort of red color, and it was so warm and sunny. Probably low 80's. We had the windows open in the bus and with the wind in our hair we were all just so happy. A few things about Ugandan driving: you drive on the left side of the road, and you don't obey traffic rules. :)

Upon arriving at our hotel, we met some people who are involved in the ministries here. Vicki, from Hands of Hope, and her daughter-in law Sarah who is a photojournalist were there. A man from Living Water International who is working with the First Lady to start this big well initiative was here, and a missionary couple who has just moved to Kampala about 3 weeks ago to head up the well initiative and well digging accross the country. They have twin 2 year olds and we all had fun playing with the kids in the lobby while we got checked in. After checking in and getting some lunch we were able to get a few hours of MUCH needed sleep, and some of the girls spent some time out in the pool, soaking up the African sun.

This evening we had an absolutely amazing opportunity. We were hosted by the First Lady at the State House for a reception. This is the equivilant of having a meal in the White House. It was a little bit overhwelming at first as we went throuh security at the State House and were escorted to a waiting room. But then we were brought to the (really cute) building where the First Lady was hosting us, and from then on we were quite comfortable. Madame First Lady shook all of our hands, welcomed us to her country, and had us in for our meal. We were served a beautiful 4 course meal with many typical Ugandan foods, and were able to have some great conversations.

Joining us for dinner were 3 Ugandan women who are involved in ministries here and are considered pretty high up as far as leadership in the country goes. We sat at different tables, and each of us had one of these women at our table. Their names were Corrine, Angelina, and Marcella. It was fasinating to talk to them, hear about their country, their culture, and their ministries. They encouraged us to ask questions and learn from them. We learned that the number 1 cause of death in Africa is actually malaria, number 2 is water related diseases, and number 3 is HIV/AIDS.

Angelina explained to my table that when you translate the names of the family in Ugandan languages, your mother is called "momma", her older sisters are called "big mommas", and her younger sisters are called "little mommas". This shows a bit of how the culture functions, for if a mother dies of HIV, the children have other "mommas" already in their lives to care for them. Often times orphans will be cared for by their families. The problem there is when so many people in the family are sick or dying of AIDS, they are no longer able to care for each other's children, and that is when the children are sent to orpanages.

Something else we learned is that many people in the villages don't know that such a thing as running water exists, and most have no concept that water is to be clear. Angelina held up her glass of water at the table and said because you can see through it, if you were to hand it to a villager, they would not recognize it as water. It was a really strong reminder of how important the project was for the well, and how wonderful it is that the funds came in to make this happen!

It was such a humbling opportunity to meet the First Lady and interact a bit with her. She prayed for our meal and it is clear that she loves the Lord. Worship music was playing in the background as we ate our meal, and it was just so neat to see believers from multiple countries coming together to fellowship. Praise the Lord for this opportunity we have! There's much more to say about what we learned and saw today, but jet lag is in full swing, and we are suppossed to be sleeping right now since it is 1 in the morning here. We have a full day tomorrow, so we'll be sure to let you all know what happens.