Greetings and gratitude to all of you who supported the most recent project of Global Mosaic International in Kigumba, Uganda, August 4-18. You lifted us up in prayer, donated monies and supplies, reached out to us with encouragement, and truly stood along beside us each day.
We also greet with thankfulness the twenty-one people who took great steps of faith to be boots in the dirt of Kigumba (“Chigumba”). You sacrificed in so many ways to share your life with the people of Uganda, who so sweetly welcomed us with open arms, hearts, and minds.
It is not a recommended tactic in writing, but I do feel a need to offer a few disclaimers before proceeding with this story. First, to do justice to the experience it is going to be long. Second, is a difficult decision. In our last debrief before leaving Uganda it was emphasized to the team that we all acknowledge the negative but emphasize the positive takes as we share with family, friends, and supporters. Some negatives were not out of the realm of expectations, such as no running water for the last several days. However, without any expectation of any of us, a child of one of our participant couples was killed by a hit-and-run vehicle while crossing the road. I will include more of the details of this traumatic event within the story. The third and final disclaimer is that there is no way to fully immerse you to allow a complete understanding of all which engulfed us during our time in Uganda. Please enjoy the pictures and videos. Please make contact and allow the team members you know to share their own perspectives and learning. As with any and almost every “mission” it is the ones who go to “serve” who end up reaping the most benefits. Never be fooled by thinking where people live defines them. There are deep wells of faith and understanding within the people of Uganda which defines them and encourages us.
Now for the story. If you want to just skip to the end, we all lived happily ever after. But for those of you who want all the details……………….?
This undertaking began in 2005 in Lira, Uganda. Evelyn, and a team from Global Mosaic International, conducted a training program with topics such as counselling and listening skills, and crisis and trauma recovery. This was only a few years after much of the deadly wars within Uganda and the displacement into refugee camps of thousands who lost homes, families…everything. There were multiple relief organizations in the area providing housing, food, and medical. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs these are the first items needing to be addressed. But a little group of volunteers added another level. How do we help these people emotionally, spiritually, psychologically?
One of the students was a young man named Jimmy Obang His heart was awakened to the great need to address this level of need. At the time he was a schoolteacher. As many of those in this area, he had migrated farther south to safer areas, such as Kigumba, which had escaped the war. On his certificate from the training was the signature, Dr. Evelyn Biles. He went to Facebook, (yes, Facebook is everywhere), to locate Evelyn Biles to send a message of need for more training. This was pre-Facebook time for Evelyn. It was to be two years before she saw his message.
Much to his delight, after patiently waiting, a line of communication was opened. He had already begun to make use of the few materials from the training in Lira to start teaching others. Over the next several years Evelyn corresponded with him, sent training materials electronically, prayed for his work, and promised to one day come to Kigumba. Six years ago, Jimmy left his teaching position to become a full-time pastor. He also began studies toward a degree from a seminary in Kampala. God’s timing was slow for Pastor Obang but this year, 2018, became the year ordained for Global Mosaic International to bring resources of people and instruction to Kigumba.
The decision was made late in 2017 to trust God for the planning, developing, and realization of a training project in August 2018. At the time this seemed as plenty of adequate time for all to be made ready. It is not like we were going to the moon. You could think that, but it was more like going to Mars.
You can picture all the logistics and needs. From our side: who will be able to go, how will they get there, where will they stay, visas, immunizations, funding, materials, what topics to focus on, clothing, packing, funding, expectations, orientation, malaria area, yellow fever area, passports, jobs, school, communication, and on and on.
Evelyn and I had returned to the USA on December 27 (my birthday if you want to add to your calendar) thinking we would be there our usual three months. I know this is about the Uganda project but a side story taking place was that because of multiple medical and surgical needs to be addressed we did not head back to Malaysia until the first week of July. Instead of planned the three-month travel recovery we had only three weeks before heading to Uganda. We are getting older so that does make a difference. But back to the story.
For those curious about how some of the logistics and needs from the team side were conquered. The initial topics decided upon were “Healthy Relationships,” “Recovery from Trauma,” and “People Helping Skills”. Other topics also were added as seen below.
Who made up the team?
Six graduate counselling students from Trevecca University along with two of their professors were assigned to the first two topics.
Evelyn and a friend of a friend from Minnesota, USA co-taught the third topic, assisted by two former students of Evelyn’s from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A spiritual trauma recovery training was offered by another of Evelyn’s former students, who joined us from her home in the Philippines.
A long-time friend and former student from Singapore recruited two of her colleagues to present sessions of using play and parenting role to support their children after trauma.
More people stepped forward from Malaysia. Many of the participants had children and we wanted to free them from childcare so they could attend the training. Now this was the original plan. Maybe 40-50 kids each day. Word was sent out and we had six volunteers with many years of experience in children’s ministry join the team. I described the children as free-range kids all around the area. No helicopter parenting. As a result, the numbers were up to an overwhelming 150 kids some days. Now four of these Children Ministry volunteers are up in years, so they truly gave it their all. If you know and see them be sure to give them a gigantic hug.
Volunteers raised or self-funded the monies for their personal travel and on-site expenses. Airline tickets were reserved and purchased. We all came through various connections on the final routes to Entebbe, Uganda. Doha, Qatar; Nairobi, Kenya; Dubai, UAE; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
Kigumba was a four to six-hour drive from the airport in Entebbe, depending on the traffic in Kampala. Evelyn and I arrived first on Friday, August 3 and I became the official greeter at the airport four times as the team arrived on different schedules beginning on August 4. One time I even had to tell the designated driver how to get to the airport entrance and how to punch in the parking ticket.
Visas were required by all those not from Malaysia. Documentation of Yellow Fever immunization was required by all upon entering. Most of us took Malaria preventative medicine. All beds had mosquito netting.
Most of the materials such as training manuals were printed in Malaysia and the weight was shared among those from here to carry in. The children’s ministry team also brought supplies and needs from Malaysia. You can see many of them in the pictures. Even the donut visuals. “Life without Jesus leaves a hole in me.”
Communication. Some had international phones. I got a SIM card when I arrived, but it did not work out in timing for anyone else to get sim cards. People connected to the WI-FI at the hotel when available. Another side story: The one teen on the team went on a gaming binge upon returning to Malaysia.
There were inconveniences, no electricity at times, no running water for last five days (it was the whole town) so the hotel provided five-gallon jerry cans for bathing. Noise at night was a factor interrupting sleep. These were all the possible occurrences that go with remote locations. A money saver was that there was absolutely nothing to buy in the town that could be called a souvenir. I, personally, was able to find Mountain Dew. Those who know me will understand this standard of civilization for me.
The logistics from the Uganda side.
Pastor Jimmy went far and wide to promote the training. He sent us names of those who registered for the course offerings. Many of these were committing to travel long distances, farther than they could commute each day. A hostel was reserved, and mattresses rented for these participants. Global Mosaic also pledged to provide three meals a day for the out of town participants. Lunch was also provided each day for the local residents and their children.
There was a team of volunteers who had been involved in all phases of the planning, procuring resources, renting a venue, tents, and chairs. Many women from Pastor Jimmy’s church daily cooked hundreds of meals. These were all prepared over wood fires. A huge stack of wood fuel gradually diminished and disappeared by the end of the project.
A little back up here. When we headed to Uganda on August 3 we had a registration list of 293 names. We were prepared with enough materials and despite some angst were ready for the challenge. Adaptability is a buzzword for remote missions. Around 140 different people sat in the classes which were offered twice each over the two weeks. Some were there every day and thoroughly engaged in all the sessions. There had been good rains so many needed to use some of the scheduled time to tend to their farming. Some had job and family responsibilities. The mantra of the team was that God had placed them in Uganda and God had brought to the table of learning those people whom He wanted to be in that place at that time.
The Global Mosaic team was asked to share individually during the final afternoon of certificate presentations what they saw as their most compelling take-away. I think 99% of their words were something like this: “I was so overwhelmed by the depth of your spiritual life. How dependent you are on your faith in a wonderful God. You live in a community of sharing and support. Your eagerness to learn and joy in asking questions, discussing life, probing us for more. I learned so much more from you than I could ever begin to teach you. I am humbled by knowing each of you.”
This was also the take-away from those working with the children. They saw the children as eager sponges, soaking up all that was given to them.
My heart is conflicted now as I need to share of the story of the child who was killed. There is no way to remember this event comfortably. Please listen with intention to feel the pain and understand the burden of such an event upon her parents. It also was such a defining moment for the whole community which now included us, as well.
On Friday, August 10, the children had gone from the school to the church where they were given lunch each day. This involved crossing a busy highway with no official pedestrian crossways or deterrents such as speed bumps to slow down vehicles. The children were instructed to stay at the church until the end of the day when they would be released or picked up by parents who were participating in the training. At some point a group of the children decided to go back across the highway to the school. Rosalyn, six years old, tagged along. When all the group saw an opening and ran across the highway, Rosalyn had not been paying attention probably and when she realized she was left back, then she also ran to cross the highway. Everyone in the school sessions heard the impact and screams of the children. Immediately, many went to the highway to stop traffic and attend to Rosalyn. Her father, Samuel gathered her up and sped with her on his motorbike to the hospital which was about six miles away. Betty, her mother was in Evelyn’s class and she was told of what happened. She obviously collapsed and was comforted by friends. The first communication from the hospital was that Rosalyn was still alive but within a few minutes it was communicated that she had died. It does not matter to Samuel and Betty but unfortunately, we were told that many times 2-3 people have been killed in accidents in the same area each week.
Samuel and Betty have two other children. One older and one younger than Rosalyn. They are a beautiful, gracious, lovely couple. Samuel teaches science and math at an upper level school. He also serves as the youth pastor of his church. Betty was characterized as one of the most engaged and thoughtful of the participants. Why? Why now? Why Rosalyn? Why Samuel and Betty? Why such a terrible event?
I cry every time I relate the next part of this story. Normally a funeral would not have been until the Monday at the earliest. I was told that Samuel and Betty wanted the funeral to be the next day on Saturday so that the training would not be interrupted on Monday. I was not surprised by such a selfless thought. What a testimony of true goodness.
It is fitting to end the story of the Uganda project with this story of Rosalyn. This is the life of faith. No one knows the path ahead of us. We do know, however, that we are not alone. God in His providence goes before us.
Thank you for patiently reading and engaging with our story. Many of you have supported the ministry of Global Mosaic for many years. Many have just come along beside us on this most recent project. We will be posting pictures and videos as they are gathered from the team to our website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Steve for all the team