Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Farewell to Medair

Here we are at our 'last supper' with Phil, Rebecca, and Chris from Medair. Medair is a Christian humanitarian organization based in Switzerland. They have been doing health, sanitation, and water supply projects in Kaabong since 2006 but have to leave now due to a shortage in funding.

Amber and I have seen quite a few Medair people come and go just in the two short years we've been here. We've appreciated getting to know many of them and making great friends. Medair has been a source of companionship and stability in our Karamoja experience, and we will really feel this loss. Medair was there for us after we had an armed robbery in 2008. Soon thereafter Medair moved into our compound to be our neighbors and have been there since August 2008.

Medair, thanks for all you've done to make the lives of the Karamojong better, and thanks for all you've done for us. We will miss you!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Last Sunday we spent time with MedAir and MSF (NGO's) friends by climbing up a small mountain called Kakamar. I was not as in shape as I'm supposed to be and I felt the climb in my muscles for three days. One side of the mountain actually has rock-climbing opportunities. It took me about 30 minutes to climb up from the base of the mountain...and I was one of the slow ones. I felt the altitude hit my lungs near the top. My steps got slower and my breathing more labored. Thankfully, there were lots of spots to sit and rest...and to enjoy the view.

On top of the mountain were a few trees that we can actually see from our house in Kaabong. Terrill's first endeavor on top was to climb the biggest tree.

Rebecca is another friend I've made through MedAir that I'll have to say good-bye to this week. It's been nice while it lasted. MedAir is officially leaving Kaabong this week.

A view from the top.

Looking down at a village at the base of the mountain. This village is most likely made up of one family cluster (extended family included). The middle 'empty' area is where animals used to be kept. They must now keep their animals in a corral with everyone else's animals.

It was a pleasant climb, but one I'll want to do with sunscreen on the back of my neck next time. We just can't get away from the beauty of Karamoja.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can I Can?

I have one of the best grandmas in the whole world. Her name is Doris and she's always been a loving and supportive teacher of various life skills. I admit to being a young whipper-snapper who needs help to do 'stuff'. One of the problems I came up against in Uganda was how to preserve food. I don't have refrigeration while living in the village (Timu) which makes it difficult to keep nutritious food around. Basically, we have to resort to canned goods and dried foods. We'll have fresh food for a few days but it all eventually goes bad. And then...grandma taught me how to can. I went to visit her in January and we spent several hours going over the finer points of using a canner and getting a sealed product. I was pretty proud of my salsa. The easy part was doing this alongside grandma. The hard part would be doing it by myself.But...I am not one to give up or admit defeat quickly. After arriving in Kaabong, I took the plunge and tried my hand at canning. I brought the 1/2 pint jars along with me from the U.S. I can't find any canning supplies here. The 1/2 pint jars are perfect for one meal between me & Terrill. My first attempts were at canning ground beef and pineapple (separately of course). I humbly thank God for letting all of my cans seal so that we have food to take to Timu. My next try at canning will be vinegar green beans. Now I know that it can be done! Thanks Grandma Stutzman!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Road Home

Our trip back to Kaabong was uneventful and pleasant, just like we wanted it to be. We drove north for seven hours then east into the beauty of Karamoja. It took about 12 hours total. Thank God for safe roads and no vehicle trouble. The day started out cloudy but ended sunny. My left arm got burned where it was hanging out the window. I'm not used to such intense sun after being in the cold U.S. for three months.
We started out from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We both thought it was funny that cows get to hold up traffic even in the city.
We were also amused by the public swimming area that Kampala had to offer.
On the nicely paved road to Gulu, we met these school children either walking from/to school at 10am in the morning. We can't quite figure out their schedules.
The road to Gulu was green and only had 10 speed bumps...an improvement from the hundreds of speed bumps we had to deal with just a year ago.
We turned east at a place called Kitgum and we left the tarmac. This is the most beautiful part of the drive. The colors in the countryside are vivid and the mountains loom around us. It was still fairly green in this place.
Upon enterning Karamoja, we begin to see the huge granite formations.
Then we get past the green fields and reach Kaabong district. Dry and sparse...but home. The road was straight for miles. We felt at peace about being here.
This was a welcome sign. Five minutes from home.
We entered Kaabong to find it bustling still at 6pm. I know it doesn't look bustling, but it is for Kaabong.
Just another kilometer and we'll be home

The red roofs in the distance welcomed us. The dogs were barking their heads off and the spiders in our house were retreating. It's nice to finally unpack our suitcase, settle in and put our feet up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The mystique of Africa...who can resist?

“The wild creatures I had come to Africa to see are exhilarating in their multitudes and colors, and I imagined for a time that this glimpse of the earth’s morning might account for the anticipation that I felt, the sense of origins, of innocence and mystery, like a marvelous childhood faculty restored. Perhaps it is the consciousness that here in Africa, south of the Sahara, our kind was born. But there was also something else that, years ago, under the sky of the Sudan, had made me restless, the stillness of this ancient continent, the echo of so much that has died away, the imminence of so much as yet unknown. Something has happened here, is happening, will happen—whole landscapes seem alert.”


—Peter Matthiessen (1972)

In Memory of Mark

In 2008 we met an Ik man named Mark (pseudonym) from the village of Kamion. Mark was tall, thin, and had one good eye. Someone had damaged his other eye in a fight. My first memories of Mark were him asking me for sunglasses and me bringing a pair on our next visit. Later he named his newborn son after me (Terrill).


Fast forward a year or more later. We stopped briefly in the Karamojong town of Kalapata, halfway between our home in Kaabong and our home in Timu. As usual, we got ‘mobbed’ in Kalapata by Ik and Dodoth people. Requests for rides, requests for this, requests for that… all loud, aggressive and ‘in your face’. Mark was at one of the car windows, trying to be heard above the others. He was going on about being sick, not getting treatment, and needing help. He was sputtering in Amber’s face about having tuberculosis or something. “Everyone needs help here”, I probably thought, “So how am I going to help just you?” As I pulled away, I remember Mark calling out something about him naming his son after me, implying that because of that I should help him. Nice try, I thought.


Fast forward a few days. I’m working in our yard in Timu. A Dodoth man who speaks Ik tells me in Swahili that he found a man lying alone in the forest. He says the man is very sick and is coming to see us. “He should have gone to the hospital in Kaabong instead of risking his life to walk to us”, I thought. I was annoyed. Why do people put so much on us? Why does a dying man seek us for help in the middle of nowhere? “I’m not a doctor”, I said. “Let me get my wife”.


Mark was skin and bones. His body was ravaged by an unknown disease, and we didn’t have the means to diagnose or cure him. We called his relatives in the next village to come get him. We gave him something to eat and drink. The next day we arranged for a humanitarian agency to pick him up on their way back to Kaabong.


Yesterday I found out that Mark died three days later. No one knows what killed him. The hospital either doesn’t know or won’t tell. As for me and Amber, we have our first major regret of our time here. We regret not reading the signs better. Mark was knocking on death’s door the last time we saw him. We regret not treating him better, not treating him like a wounded king. We regret not praying for him and praying with him. I particularly regret not talking with him about his soul’s destiny.


There’s no use beating ourselves up over this. What we can do is let the regret sink in, in hope that next time we will be more prepared.


May Mark rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back in the 'Bong!

We’re having trouble accessing our Twitter site, so we have to use the blog as the platform to announce that…




After four months away and twelve hours’ driving today, we reached our Karamoja home safe and sound at 5:30 pm. We feel blessed and happy to be here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Rise in Crime

We met with some Baptist missionary friends yesterday and were saddened to hear their stories of the rising crime rate in south Uganda. Our friend, Brenda, had gone to the market with some friends. She was carrying $1500 U.S. dollars in her bag and some Ugandan shillings. While walking through the market, someone reached into her bag and stole her wallet with all the money. In the eight years of living in Uganda, this had never happened to her before. When I told this to another friend, she shared that a bag vendor at the market had seen where she kept her money and had bumped into her with the purpose of stealing from her. She was a little luckier and felt him trying to get into her bag. When she turned around, he ran off…without the money. In this situation, my friend is a mother with three kids under the age of 12 that she must look after while at the market. Watching your belongings and your kids at the same time has to be complicated. In yet another story, some missionaries stopped to visit friends in Entebbe at 4pm in the afternoon. For some reason, they had to park their vehicle outside the gate of their friend’s compound. They didn’t think they’d be long but ended up staying for an hour. When they came out, they discovered that their car had been broken into and many of their belongings stolen, including the electric window controls. I’m still shocked that no passersby sounded an alarm on the crime.


These recent stories reminded Terrill & I to be particularly careful in the south of Uganda as well as the north. We have to keep our guard up when it comes to security. I just heard these stories yesterday and you’ll never guess what happened today…


Terrill & I were walking down a busy street in Kampala on the way to church. Terrill had parked along a curb several hundred feet from the church. He turned around to look at the car and realized that he’d left his four-way blinkers on. I told him that I’d wait for him while he went to turn them off. I must have stood on the sidewalk for five minutes. As always, people were passing and staring at me. Towards the end of the five minutes, Terrill had almost crossed the street and returned to my side. Before he made it, a man started walking towards me. In a flash, he grabbed for what I was carrying…my Bible. I had no money on me and no valuables. I did have a gold cross necklace around my neck and he could have been reaching to pull the necklace off. My first reaction was to hold tighter to my Bible. I felt assaulted at the moment and wasn’t willing to give in. If only he had come and asked for something instead of trying to take it from me. In hindsight, I wish I had let him have the Bible. I don’t know if it would have made any difference to him, but it might have made a difference to someone. So…he made a grab at my Bible and when he couldn’t get it out of my grasp, he ran down a walkway to my left and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. All this happened in broad daylight and nobody flinched. I was sad. Somehow I expected a different reaction from the people around me. I wanted them to stand against injustice.


Going into church and trying to worship was a little more difficult after that. I had to forgive that man and everyone else who allows crime to thrive in this place. Tonight I’m praying that those who would commit crime against another might feel loved and learn how to love others. Please also pray with me for the safety of the missionaries in south Uganda who frequently become targets of crime because of wealth.  

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"What a missionary wants, what a missionary needs..."

Occasionally people ask us what we need, what we can't get, what they can send us in Uganda. I have to confess, getting emails, snailmails, and packages is one of the most enjoyable things about being in the line of work we're in. Some of the reasons sending us stuff is a ministry to us are:

  • We can only bring 200 lbs. of luggage with us when we fly, and certain things we need or like to have are not easy to come by in Uganda.

  • When we're upcountry in Uganda, we give, give, give. It's a gracious thing to be given something out of love. It helps keep us sane.

  • The stuff you send often replenishes our supplies that have dwindled as a result of our giving things to others.

  • Getting a package simply makes our day, every time.

For those of you who are interested in sending us a package sometime, we have compiled three lists of things we want and/or need on Amazon.com. The lists are as follows:

Amber's List: this is a list of books, CDs, and DVDs that Amber would like.

Terrill's List: this is a list of books, CDs, and DVDs that Terrill would like.

Lehman's List: No, Lehman is not a third member of our family! Lehman's is an "Amish hardware store" in Ohio that sells a lot of cool stuff that would be useful in Uganda.

Both Amazon and Lehman's can ship things to Uganda, but beware of potentially high shipping costs. An alternative is to have items shipped to you, then you put them in a Post Office flat-rate box. Our mailing address is: Terrill & Amber Schrock, SIL Uganda, PO Box 750, Entebbe, Uganda.

People are often worried that packages might get lost. That can happen. To my knowledge we didn't lose anything in our first two years. It could take a package anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to get to us. The average time it takes is about 2 months. But hey, there's nothing wrong with getting a few extra Christmas gifts in July!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Our Return to Uganda

It seems the journey to Africa is never perfectly smooth but this one wasn't so bad. We started out from Jacksonville, Fl at 4:45 pm on Monday afternoon. Good-byes to my parents and sister didn't seem so hard this time. We spent the first couple hours in the airport just reading, journaling and reflecting on the previously busy weekend. I also wrote some notes to a few friends that I wanted to send while still in the U.S. I soon learned that I couldn't send any mail from inside the 'gate' area. I'd have to go out through security to find the closest postage center. I decided to wait and check the Atlanta airport for a more convenient way of sending mail.

The flight to Atlanta was a little warm, but it might have been because I sat in between two grown men (one being Terrill). The flight took an hour and I had hoped for some peace and quiet. Not to be. The guy on the other side of me had drank a few beers with his dinner and was proceeding to tell me his life story. I shouldn't be able to recite an hour's worth of his life story...but I can. I couldn't help but be little sympathetic as this young father seemed to need a listening ear.

Upon landing in Atlanta, we headed to our gate and sat for only an hour before we were allowed to board the plane. In the meantime, I went searching for a place to drop my letters off at. Again, not to be. I was informed by an older Hispanic lady (why do they have to put people with thick accents at the information desk?) that I wouldn't be able to send any mail from their airport. I was hoping for an alternative to my problem but she didn't give any. I was dismissed. Now I'm sending my letters from Uganda.

So...we boarded the airplane at 8:50 pm and flew all night towards London. I was in the middle seat between two grown men again. However, at the beginning of the flight, the stewardess kindly asked the man on my right to move to another row that only had one passenger. She was trying to give us an extra seat to sleep in. Very kind and thoughtful. I got several hours of sleep on that flight thanks to her.

Now...the interesting thing about this flight was that a man in the aisle across from us was a bit out of whack. We saw him drinking alcohol with dinner but didn't think anything of it. The lights were dimmed and many people fell asleep after dinner. Within a few hours, many of us were awakened by this man crying out in a loud voice...phrases that didn't make much sense to us. He was definitely Scottish. I think he must have been talking in his sleep. His poor wife! The funniest part of this whole episode is that the man awoke right before we were landing...and he was still talking to himself or anyone in general...in a very loud voice...and not making much sense. Everyone around him looked awkwardly at him from time to time. Before we disembarked, I heard a stewardess tell someone over the phone that she had a drunk in the back.

When we landed in London, it was 9:15 am (London time). We sat in the airplane for 20 minutes while waiting for someone to drive the stairs to the door of the plane. This was not a good sign and had us worrying. Our next flight was closing the doors at the gate around 10:25 am. The process of getting from one plane to the next was no simple matter. We disembarked from the plane and got on a trolley which took us to another part of the airport. We got stuck behind slow people...you know the ones who stop in the middle of the walkway to look for something in their bags?...we got stuck behind those with kids who are training their 2 year old how to walk in public...we got stuck behind other just walking leisurely. We went up escalators and down escalators. We went through customs and then security again. At one point, it was 10:15 am and we were stuck in a long line at security. We showed our tickets to an airport employee who promptly helped us skip the line. I did feel bad for those I was skipping but I'm pretty sure they weren't getting on a plane in ten minutes. The security check itself took ten minutes. Belts and shoes off. Laptops out of cases. Passports and tickets in a safe place. Coats off. Then we have to get dressed again. We finally found our gate with no time to spare and were some of the last passengers to board. We should have known that this wouldn't bode well for our checked-in bags. We had our feet and voices. They didn’t.

The ride from London to Uganda was nice and peaceful. We tried to sleep but the Russian passengers in front of us were in jovial moods and talked loudly to each other. No problem. We'd sleep later. We were intrigued by a 'missionary-looking' family sitting across the aisle. We never talked, but I spotted their luggage later and saw they were going to Jinja. Terrill says they reminded him of his family moving to Tanzania. The children had perfect manners and were quiet on the flight. I was impressed. I pray they 'make it' in Uganda.

We landed in Entebbe around 10:10 pm (Nairobi time). The air felt nice and warm. I was getting tired of the cold in the US after living in tropical weather for two years. We found our way to the resident visa line in the building. To our dismay, our visas had expired in December. They stamped our passports and sent us to the visitor visa line. We waited and when it was finally our turn, they charged us $50 each to renew the visa, even though it was supposed to be free since we have work permits. Too bad we didn’t know that!

Finally, we get through and head to the luggage claim. This is when I first had the sinking feeling that the luggage hadn't made it. At the same time, Terrill spotted a sign that named us as not having luggage. We went to the luggage office and waited some more. From here we're told that our luggage will arrive on Friday. By now it's 11 pm and I was tired and not to be messed with. No clothes...deodorant...shampoo. Lucky for us, we had traveled with toothbrushes. We were able to get some things in Entebbe but what irks me is the inconvenience of it all. I'll get over it.

A good friend, Doug, picked us up from the airport and we also agreed to take two Ugandan men to the hotel where we'd be staying. That was a good decision. We dropped Doug at home and made it to the hotel. The other men were checking in when the receptionist told us that someone had made a mistake and booked us for the following day. We went back outside and were ready to go look for another place to stay (as they had no other rooms). Terrill went inside again to use the phone and was told that one of the men who we'd brought from the airport was willing to give up his room and stay with his friend. We had a room and we slept the whole night. Praise God for happy endings!

You know you're in another culture when...

Amber and I made a bet about something last week. If she won, I was supposed to take her out for Indian food as soon as we came back to Uganda (if I won, it was supposed to be steak). I won, but somehow Amber's first meal back in Uganda still turned out to be Indian. :)

Our waiter at the restaurant kindly, if unsolicitedly, told me his name, which to my ears sounded like "Greece" (I couldn't imagine why it would be "Grease"...). I thought perhaps his parents had some connection or fascination with the country of Greece. Later, I pointed out to Amber that his name was Greece, but she heard something more like "Crease". Okay, I thought, I DO know a guy named Bob Creson (our esteemed president of Wycliffe). And I remember that Denzel Washington was called "Creasy" by the little girl he was supposed to protect in the movie Man on Fire. "Greece", "Crease"...whatever. A guy's got a right to be named whatever he is named. Fair enough.

Then Amber started laughing (at me? with me?) because she realized the waiter's name was...simply..."Chris"---"Chris" pronounced with a Ugandan accent. She doesn't often get to laugh at her linguist husband's linguistic mistakes, but whe she does, she takes advantage of it. I guess I don't blame her. :)