Tuesday was a travel day. We spent about 8 hours total traveling from Kampala out west to some of the more rural areas. On the way we got to drive through a national reserve and see all sorts of African wildlife!!! We had a tour guide come on our bus and he told us all about the animals here. We saw zebras (my favorite), impalas, warthogs, the bird that is on the Ugandan flag, long horned cows, and lots of beautiful scenery. I'm sure I speak for the group when I say that the best part BY FAR was when we came up to a long horned cow (I'm talking like several feet long) that had just given birth by the side of the trail, like MINUTES beforehand. It was still all bunched up and wet with it's head tucked under it's leg and everything. We stopped and ooh-ed and aah-ed over it for a while until the mama started getting nervous. At one point we were able to get off the bus and get a little closer to some of the zebras. It was a GREAT experience.
We arrived last night at our hotel out here, and had a wonderful welcome. Dinner was served to the hotel guests out on a patio and there was a group of African men and women playing tribal music, singing and dancing in their native clothing. It was so much fun to watch and listen while we ate. What a blessing to experience that!
This morning we loaded the bus at 9 and drove another 2 hours to spend the day in some villages. We had the honor of travelling with the First Lady to some sites she planned on visiting. She is very involved in the lives of the people here. About a year and a half ago, Vicki Waterlek, who we are traveling with, started a goat and chicken initiative with the First Lady. In the district of Ruhaama there are about 5,000 people in 1,200 families spread out through the villages. 42 of the most needy families were selected and given 3 goats each. A family qualified if someone in the family was disabled, if they were especially poor, or if orphaned children lived among them. We got to visit 2 of the homes where goats had been placed. It was so amazing to see how this has developed. When each family was given their goats they were trained about how to care for them and how to use them for gain. Now each family has multiplied them, from 3 goats to 8, 11, even 13!
Some famlies are starting to sell a couple to make a profit. It's a great program. One woman whose husband is mute sold 2 of their 11 goats and used the money to rent a bean field. The profit from the bean field is now being used to buy metal roofing for their hut, instead of the thatched roof. Another family who was especially poor has sold 1 of their goats and with that money has been able to send their children to school. It was so encouraging to see how this goat initiative has taken off and how it is practically changing the lives of these villagers in such a short amount of time! The way the project works is after a certain amount of time, the families are expected to give 2 goats back, which are then passed on to other families, with hopes to continue multiplying and blessing these families by providing for their needs and allowing them to take ownership of making it happen. If you are interested in getting involved in this neat project, go to http://www.handsofhope.org/ which is the organization Vicki Waterlek is president of. They are based out of Barrington, and donations can be made to them to purchase goats for the people we were able to meet today!
Today was fun too, because one of the villages we were in had NEVER seen anyone of a different nationality, and most of the children didn't know other skin colors existed. To see the confused looks on their faces turn into smiles of joy when they realized we were happy to see them was amazing. I have never waved at so many people in one day, and we have never recieved such smiles and excitement to be greeted. It was such a good thing for us to see how these people really live and how we can tangibly get involved.
After that we went to a women's center where we were able to see another tangible and practical way that the First Lady is working to develop the communities in her country. These women are entrusted a loan from the government each week and are required to pay it back. The way they do that and make a profit is by selling goods. It has become a very profitable business. They grow and sell produce, and they make and sell all kinds of fabrics, furniture, clothes, purses, jewelery, and the like. They had a display set up to show us what they do and a few of us bought beautiful souveneirs. Through developing this program they are able to pay back the loan and make a profit, therefore furthering their communities through their own hard work.
Our last stop today was at the HOME of the First Lady - the home she grew up in and now maintains for visits to the villages. She hosted us for dinner and told us more about the things she is doing to help the people in her country. She shared her testimony with us, how she came to know the Lord, and what she believes about God and his people. It was a beautiful time with just about a dozen of us sitting in a circle in her living room. We were all AMAZED at the opportunity. We keep being blown away by wha God provides for us on this trip. It was during this time in her home that we formally presented to her the check of $12,000 for the first well in the well project. Madame First Lady was overjoyed and incredibly grateful. She did not know that we had been working to raise that money and the joy on her face was incredible. The president of Living Water International, named Mike, has been travelling with us. He is working with Vicki and the First Lady to get this well initiative going and this was his trip to the country to meet the people and see the need up close.
As soon as we gave the check to the First Lady, she turned immediately and gave it to Mike and praised the Lord for providing the first installment of her dream of providing clean and healthy water to all the people in her country. It was an overwhelming and beautiful experience, and YOU ALL MADE IT HAPPEN! We thank you once again for your generous giving, your incredible support, and your consistent love. Having met some of the people in the district where this well will be and talking to them today about their water situation (one family walks 30 minutes each way to their nearest water source, 3 times a day...this is common...), I can just tell you that this is going to be such a blessing for them! Praise the Lord!
Today was wonderful because we got to see the First Lady up close, in action with her people, and it is so clear that not only does she love these people, but she very deeply loves the Lord. Her adoration for her heavenly Father just flows out of her. Everywhere we went, everyone we talked to, heard of God and his love through the First Lady. She hugged the people and spoke freely about the Lord and his provisions. It was SO wonderful. The people love her so much, and many of them are believers. I can't help but wonder how much of that is because of the witness and influence she has been on her people.
A quick prayer request, today is the first day we've had girls feeling sick, likely from the food. We're no longer in the big city, but out rural. We're being careful about what we eat and taking lots of antacids, but some are still feeling lousy. We were able to enjoy the day fully anyway and not miss out on anything. But please pray that we will rest well tonight and wake up healthy and energized and ready to get back out and keeping meeting the people and learning about this country. We thank you, again, for your love and support.