Thursday, February 13, 2014

Potty Talk

Caution: Reader discretion is advised. The images contained in this post both in photo form and word form cannot be unseen…

Public restrooms in Uganda might possibly be one of the biggest surprises ever for a woman. With each door you open it leaves you wondering what you will find on the other side. Will there be a toilet? A porcelain squatty potty? Just a hole? A drain? Or something completely different altogether?

It’s kind of like a walking into a surprise birthday party. You’re not quite sure what is going on, but when it’s all said and done, you realize you peed a little on yourself.

Ok, that’s might not be the greatest analogy. But I have yet to know a white woman who can maneuver in some of these bathrooms without getting their feet a little bit wet.

Aren’t you so glad you started reading this post? Admit it though, you’re a little bit interested to see where this is going.

So this is a common bathroom in most villages in Uganda. While at youth camp in Bugongi, this is what we used. As far as I can tell, the raised up part is where you are supposed to place your feet when you squat.


The problem here is that I feel I need a little more width to my squat than what is given, which causes a some balance issues, which doesn’t help the wet feet problem.

Seriously, reading this post is kind of like watching one of those shows on TLC about little people or men with too many wives or Amish kids gone wild. You want to stop but just can’t seem to pry yourself away. But I’m glad you’re still with me because I have a question:

Any ladies out there want to take a swing at how you maneuver in this bathroom?


This is seriously a public restroom, very common to most gas stations in Uganda, and I am here to tell you that for a woman, it is most assuredly as complicated to use as it looks!

And this ladies and gentlemen, is why I fear no public restroom in the US anymore!


Mabel's House

While in Bugongi, the team had the opportunity to visit an elderly woman named Mabel. This woman walks with a stick because only one of her legs works. She stays with her children and grandchildren, and was living in a house that was falling apart. She has a granddaughter in AMG, and when the Dorcas ministry heard about her situation, they donated funds to help build a new home. AMG also got the community involved. Neighbors, friends, and even strangers gave a little bit of money or donated some timber or other materials to help build the house.

On January 21, the US team along with representatives from the Dorcas ministry and AMG Uganda went to Mabel’s to dedicate her new home to the Lord and to celebrate what the Lord has done in her life.

We arrived to tents, plentiful seats, family members, neighbors, children, grandchildren, and the smiling face of Mabel. We sang a few praise songs, were given the background of what was going on and how Dorcas and the community helped, and then one of our team members cut the ribbon so that Mabel could enter her new home.


After entering, the women from the US team sat inside and prayed with Mabel.


We came back out to hear a message from another team member.


The family served us sodas.


And Mabel went around thanking everyone on the team for coming.


We know that Mabel is blessed by this new home, but the team left feeling showered with blessings to be part of the event.

Youth Camp #2

The graduation party marked the end of youth camp #1. After some home visits, we headed off to Bugongi (about 220 miles West of Kampala, a trip that took us almost 9 hours) for youth camp #2. This camp was put on by the Alumni (or kids who have finished in the AMG program) from that area to minister to youth that are not in AMG. So it became known as the “Non-AMG youth camp.”

This was a much smaller group setting. Instead of the 30 youth in our Bible study groups during the AMG youth camp, the Non-AMG youth camp had about 7 youth in each Bible Study group. It gave the team an even greater chance to get to know the youth, spend time talking to them, listening to them, and praying with them.

It lasted 3 days. Each morning there was a speaker .

Then we split into our small groups.

We ate meals together.
We played games together.

And we took time to talk and pray together as well.

By the end of the week the team was absolutely exhausted but so encouraged when they learned that 14 youth had given their lives to Christ as a result of this camp.


Youth Camp: Graduation Party

AMG Uganda loves to make youth camp special. So this year the organizers decided to hold a graduation party for all of the AMG students who have graduated from Universities and colleges in Uganda. It was a way to both celebrate their accomplishments, while also hopefully inspiring the 250 campers to keep pushing forward in their education so we can also celebrate them one day.

We decorated the main hall for a big party. They prepared special food for supper: fried chicken, rice, beans, matooke (mashed green bananas), chapati’s (similar to tortillas), mango, pineapple, watermelon, noodles, and sodas.

Just after dark, we were ready to start the celebrating.

And then the power went out.

It gets dark at Upendo when there is no power! But we pressed on. We revved up the generator, which caused all of the lights all over Upendo to flicker on and off, on and off. Once that got under control, we started the party.

The graduates entered to the cheers of the young campers. They took their seats. Some of them gave their testimonies, the hardships they faced over the years, but AMG was there to help them through.

One by one, the graduates presented thank you notes to the US team leader, Pete, to take to the US to give to their sponsors. Many of the graduates gave a special thanks to Reuben and Florence for being there for them.

And it led me to wonder, do Reuben and Florence realize the impact they have had here over the last 18 years? Where would these kids be without the work of their hands and the love in their hearts? Because I know they wouldn’t be standing here at Upendo in caps and gowns having graduated with degrees and certificates.

Watching all of this take place made me so proud to be a sponsor. I sponsor 4 children through AMG. Two are here in Uganda and two in Peru, and it excited me to think that maybe one day I will be able to attend their graduation celebration and give thanks for all the Lord has done in their lives.

And again I wondered if the sponsors of these graduates really understand the impact they have had over the years. Do they truly understand that they had a hand in giving these graduates a hope? At a time in their childhood when they had no hope, someone stepped up and decided to take action to help them in life. And now their life is forever changed.

The US team joined the graduates in cutting the cake.


And then the dancing started.


Between the fatigue of the team and the sugar from the sodas and cake, the team really enjoyed dancing around with the graduates.


The campers really enjoyed watching the muzungus dance like crazy people. Everyone was just so excited to celebrate the accomplishments of these young people.


When it was all said and done, I went up to give Shamilla, one of the graduates, a hug. I’ve known Shamilla for years. She was part of the old Camp El Har, back before Upendo was built and they were renting a home in Kampala to serve as an orphanage for some of the kids. Shamilla was part of that group. She was still going through school, but even back then she was one of the leaders of those kids. And now she’s graduated. I told her how proud I am of her and all that she’s been through, that she is an inspiration to the kids she used to live with, who are still part of the orphanage now, that they too can make it. She stood there in tears, completely overwhelmed as she realized what the Lord has done in her life.

It was a night of joy, a night of tears, a night to celebrate all the Lord has done and continues to do in and through the ministry of AMG Uganda.

Youth Camp: By The Way

After the opening night of youth camp I got a good night’s rest, and in the morning I headed down to the main hall fully anticipating a good day of hanging out with the kids and making sure the team had all they needed to enjoy their time there. What I didn’t expect was the conversation I was about to have with one of the coordinators.

Let me back up for a minute and say that as we were preparing for youth camp, we were deciding on roles different people would play. Each of the US team members was to help out with some aspect of camp, whether it was welcoming the kids the first day or helping in the kitchen. They gave me the job of “Camp Coordinator” along with Sylvia, the organizer of the camp, and Pastor Martin, a pastor from a local church. Since Sylvia was the one organizing everything she took the lead. But she ended up having some exams she had to take the week of camp.

Cue my conversation that Tuesday morning.

Sylvia calls Pastor Martin and I and lets us know that she has an exam and has to leave very soon and won’t be coming back until evening, and the same will happen tomorrow as well.

Oh, and by the way we’re in charge.

She gave us a few instructions and off she went. Martin and I stood there for a few seconds just looking at each other. This was his first camp, and I had only been to one other camp here before. Neither of us was prepared to take the reins and keep everything running.

But somehow we did.

Lunch isn’t ready on time? Ok, let’s add in a training on how to use the Gospel by colors bracelets.

We have to take 250 kids out into the community to share the gospel? Ok, let’s group up based on our Bible Study Groups.

Things popped up here and there throughout the day, but somehow we made it through, and by the grace of God it all went smoothly.

I woke up that morning thinking I’d have a fun and easy day enjoying camp. Little did I know I’d be running around like a crazy person, sitting for no more than 5 minutes at a time during the course of my 14 hour day. It’s not what I expected, but it all worked out in the end.