Sunday, January 17, 2010

Near Disasters

This weekend my mind wandered to the near disasters I’ve experienced in the last two years in Uganda. I can only be thankful that they were near and not actual disasters. In each case, it took some time for me to realize how bad the results could have been. So often we live on a knife’s edge between safety and danger, life and death. Thanks to God for every moment of life we enjoy!

The first near disaster I want to recount happened late at night, when Amber and I and two Ugandan friends were driving north to Karamoja from south Uganda. The road we have to take through the district of Amuria has a particularly nasty stretch containing several low spots that turn into massive mud-holes in the rainy season. This night, one or two trucks were stuck, blocking the way enough to prevent other trucks from passing. As a result, a long line of trucks (10 or more) were backed up in single file, their drivers sleeping as they waited for dawn. Our Nissan SUV was agile enough to get around the trucks stuck in the mud, but then we were blocked by the line of parked trucks. This was because the road was narrow, especially over several narrow land bridges. I started to edge around one of the trucks in the front when one of my passengers yelled in alarm for me to stop. Stop I did, and good thing because we were only inches from rolling into a swamp. Inches.

Last fall I wanted to help a Karamojong friend earn some money for driving & mechanics school. I loaned him some solar equipment—solar panel, battery, and inverter—so he could start a cell-phone charging business. We worked up a plan for him to save for tuition and pay off the equipment in about three months. At the end of the three months, however, he had only saved a few dollars and was in trouble with the police. Since we were leaving the next day, I decided to confiscate the equipment from his house. He wasn’t there, but his friends were. I felt a little cruel being the mean lender, but I also knew that if I left the equipment, I’d probably never get it back. I stepped in the mud hut and started to disconnect the wires which were thoroughly tangled. Without thinking, I disconnected the battery from the inverter and just let the wires fall. The positive and negative ends fell together, exploding in a loud, angry pop with sparks as the battery was shorted. Fortunately, the wires fell further apart. Otherwise, the shorted battery could have exploded, and who knows how we would’ve been injured. Phew.

After a year and a half with no tire punctures, we started to get one after another. Just before coming back to the US in November, I had to change another tire at our office in Entebbe. I’ve changed quite a few tires in my life, but the spookiest thing kept happening to me this fall. I kept forgetting to tighten the nuts after I let the truck back down off the jack. That happened at least three times. This time, again without thinking, I jacked up the truck, ignoring the fact that we were on a slight slope in the parking lot. The wheel was about an inch or two off the ground when the truck just rolled right off the jack. Fortunately, I hadn’t removed the wheel yet. But stupid me, I moved the jack to another place under the truck and did the same thing again! This time, I had already removed the wheel when the truck started to roll of the jack. Our night-guard was watching me, and I quickly called for his help. We grabbed the truck and steadied it while I put the wheel back on the bolts. Let these stories be a warning against absentmindedness!

Monday, January 11, 2010

On the road again...

We've been on the road since December 28th. Our travels started when we drove west to Dallas & Lubbock, Texas. Our time in Lubbock was special because we reunited with old friends from Uganda. Jacob & Georgia Reed had lived in Kaabong and introduced us to the area when we first arrived in the spring of 2008. Their friendship & support has been encouraging these past two years because they understand our situation personally. We spent New Years Eve with Jacob & Georgia and reminisced our time in Uganda.

While in Lubbock, they took us to a couple of their favorite joints. West Crust Pizza is artsy and unique. They blend interesting flavors to make mouth-watering pizza; this was our first taste of pizza in the states. Thanks guys!

From Lubbock, we headed east towards Oklahoma City. On the way, we were fascinated by these large windmills. They seemed almost alien to us. I bet one of these could power a whole town in northern Uganda.

We were also fascinated by the ice dripping down these rocks in Missouri. There wasn't much snow in this area but the low was 5 degrees that night.

One of the most interesting places to pass through was St.Louis, Missouri. Neither of us remembered having driven through St. Louis before. It's got character.

After St. Louis, we found ourselves driving towards Indianapolis. The snowy farms of Indiana were beautiful and picturesque, although the cows did look cold. We also saw five deer grazing near the road that evening. As we approached Columbus, the snow and ice pounded our windshield and made it difficult to see through. We're definitely not used to driving in this weather. Thank God that the roads were clear and not too icy.
This river in Indiana was starting to ice but was not fully frozen yet even though the temperature was 18 degrees.

We awoke in Columbus, Ohio to a fresh layer of snow. We can appreciate the beauty but it's too cold for these Africans.

Being in Ohio always brings back good memories from my childhood. I began the first 12 years of my life here in Holmes County. My (Amber's) grandmother & some extended family still live here and give me an excuse to return often. We look forward to Amish cheeses and homemade doughnuts. It's a funny thing. The snow kept getting deeper as we traveled east into Pennsylvania but the temperature went up. It's been 27 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night. We headed to Bellefonte, PA where Terrill's brother, Chad, and family live.

It's currently snowing as we head back to Ohio to be with my grandmother. We just realized that the windshield wiper fluid is not spraying correctly. This could be a problem if we need to clean the window of all the snow, dirt and ice. Pray for safety this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Gingerich Christmas Recap

A huge incentive for coming home this Christmas was to meet my nephew (Cristian) for the first time. It's hard to be 8000 miles away and not be able to watch him grow up, so I try to cherish each moment I have with him. He reminds me of a little Josh walking around (my brother, Josh, for those of you who don't know him). There's nothing quite like a Christmas spent with a child; experiencing the joy of unwrapping their first presents and liking the paper more than the gift. Cristian and my sister-in-law, Amanda, are working on the first present below.

Another treat is sharing nostalgic moments with my family. Everyone knows that mom will unwrap each gift slowly and with sensitivity. She'll admire what she's got and thank everyone excessively before starting on another gift. Dad, on the other hand, will be tearing at the wrapping (just enough to peek) before we even get started. They are two of a kind who somehow make a marriage work. I thank God for Christian parents who've taught me how to love and be part of a family.

Terrill & I are similar to my mom & dad. He tears open a present while I linger a little longer. Somehow we make it work the grace of God, I'm sure.

There was nothing better this Christmas than sharing life with my family. We ate frosted sugar cookies and chex mix. The girls went out to do last minute shopping. The guys played Wii. Mom ran after her first grandbaby. Dear friends came over to play games. The tree was lit. The music was loud. We read from Luke 2. Being a family was a gift that we all shared.

Amazing Partners

In our effort to minister to the Ik people of northeast Uganda, Amber and I have some incredible partners. I'd like to take this opportunity to honor two of them: Richard & Sally Hoffman of Mansfield, Texas.

Richard & Sally heard about the Ik in the early '80s and have been passionate about their well-being ever since. The Ik have never had (and probably never will have) more loving and devoted advocates than the Hoffmans. Because of our connection to the Ik, the Hoffmans are now our advocates. We owe Richard & Sally a HUGE thanks for all the prayers and labors they have put into reaching the Ik with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for all our other partners...and readers, we SO appreciate you TOO!

Birthday Brisket

The barbeque beef brisket my mother baked for us two years ago for Christmas (Jesus' birthday of course) left such a favorable impression on us that it was our meat of choice this both the Gingerich AND the Schrock family celebrations. Once again, the succulent slices of pure, juicy tastiness succeeded in satisfying us all (Amber's corn fritters being the perfect accompaniment!).

Unfortunately, my brother Chad, his wife Rachel, and their baby Toby weren't able to join us this year, but tomorrow, if the snow isn't too bad, we'll meet up with them in PA. For Christmas in Mobile, that left us, my parents, and my sister Laura.

Many rounds of "Settlers of Catan" were played during the week. If you know my (Terrill) general dislike for table games, you may understand why everyone broke out in a round of applause when I agreed to play...

Coming home to celebrate Christmas with our families was a huge reason why we decided to return after two years in Uganda. We would like to settle into a 21-months-on-the-field followed by a 4-months-in-the-States routine. That would give us 1 month home for every 6 months abroad.

After getting over our original bout of sickness, we improved enough to enjoy socializing (though I came down with a second cold on the way to Texas). Thanks to everyone who whispered a prayer for our health. I wrote in my journal yesterday: "I fear no cold. I fear no flu".