Sunday, April 22, 2012

Life behind the scenes

I had to do just one more post about the work team's visit. I showed you before all that they did while 'on the clock'...but here are a few photos of what life was like 'off the clock'. 
Kaabong airstrip as seen from the MAF flight coming in.

Doreen painting fingernails.
Meeting with local officials and having tea.
Jake doing more fingernails, boys and girls alike.
Meeting with the Ik. Jon had a newborn baby named after him while he was here.
Making time for tea.
Going on a hunt with the Ik. 
An Ik man carrying his portion of meat on his back.
After the hunt...tired and dirty but still smiling.
Doing endless dishes.
Washing clothes by hand.
Carrying water from the well up the hill. 
Making us a privacy fence near our guest house. 
Hiking Ik paths to visit our sick friend, Mandella. 
Life with the Ik is certainly not easy, but it helps us to appreciate the simple things in life like:
-running water
-washing machines and dishwashers
-meat from the freezer section
-a good cup of tea in the afternoon
-neighbors and friends
-travel on paved roads
-how a little paint can put a smile on a child's face.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Office renovations

As many of you know, we had a work team come visit us from Atmore, Alabama in mid-March. I've been trying to get these pictures up for almost two weeks but our internet has been terrible lately. Better late than never. The team of five people: Don Metzler, Keith Hess, Doreen Hess, Jake Penner and Jon Yoder stayed with us for a week and a half, helping us to renovate this old health center (below). We had gotten special permission from the government to use this building for awhile in exchange for the renovations. The first thing they did was to put barbed wire on the fence posts, enclosing the compound. This was a key aspect of the renovations so we could make the office more secure from those who might want to vandalize. Also, as much as we love the children, we need to keep them out of our hair during office hours. Without a fence, they would be staring in the windows nonstop. Ironically, a few of the children helped the team to put up the fence.
And the finished fence. Isn't it a beauty?
Another task the team worked on was to finish some of the cement work around the building. It was grueling work and they didn't start out as experts, but I think they went home with a new skill for their resumes.
And then there was the dirty work of cleaning the building before the painting. It's previous inhabitants had been bats, spiders and it did not smell the best. We also had to wash graffiti off several of the walls.
Another task was to get the water-catchment system set up. They put gutters into place and made a platform for the water tank. Jake had to climb into the tank to clean the loose debris out. We all resisted the urge to roll him down the hill. When the tank was set up, we filled it part way with water from the well and attached it to the gutters with a pipe that will allow water to flow directly into the tank. Now we will have a steady water supply, especially during rainy season.
And then we started painting. It took hours and days. We painted high...we painted low...we painted inside and out.
We painted on our knees, standing tall or on ladders.
We painted with brushes and rollers. If there is one thing that got was painting.
But when they were done, the results were exciting. We have fresh office spaces and places to interact with the Ik.
This is the waiting room on the clinic side of the building. A new medicine window was installed and doors were hung.
This is the big room (for translation work) on Terrill's side of the building. He's already started holding his translation classes here. The Ik love having a place of their own to work in.
This is my new clinic space. I was hoping that the bright color would chase away the fears that small children have of the doctor. They usually associate clinics with injections and some start crying right when they enter the room. I can't tell you how thankful I am for this room. For a few years now, I've been operating off of a mobile cart that we carried around to wherever I set up shop. Now I have a whole room. Praise God for the small things!
And this is the finished product. The building is now cheerful and functional. The Ik are proud to have such a nice building in their area and they're hoping that we will invite district officials up here to show the building off. I'm not sure if we'll comply with their wishes, but I must say I'm pretty proud of this building as well. A big 'Thank You' to Don, Keith, Doreen, Jake & Jon. We couldn't have done this without you. I also want to thank all of you who have prayed for this time we had with the team. The days were covered with God's grace and his mighty provision. And thank you to our friends, Dave & Linda Marcy, who contributed funds towards this project and have prayed for the Ik since the mid-80's. We have an office! May God use this building for his glory and for the enrichment of the Ik community.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A day in Africa

Do you know those days, when you look back at all that happened and wonder how it could've happened in the same day? We had one of those days in March when our visitors from Atmore, Alabama were here to help us renovate the office. It was near the end of their stay, and we wanted to take them to see the animals at a nearby game park before they left.

We got up at 3:30 am so we could leave by 4:00 am so we could be at the park entrance by 6:30 am so we could see the animals in the cool before they sought shelter from the sun. Leaving our home in Timu in the dark was exciting; we had never done that before. We saw owls and rabbits in the headlights. Reaching a certain area where armed bandits are known to cross, I fell silent, concentrating only on driving us quickly out of the riskiness. After getting through that area, I relaxed a bit, knowing the roads were safe all the way to the park.

Crossing a narrow metal bridge near the town of Kathile, I saw a group of people ahead in the road, just where the headlights were carving out the darkness. My brain immediately told me it must be Ugandan soldiers on night patrol. At least they better be, for our sake! No one else—or should I say, no one good—would be out walking that time of night. Just as we crossed the bridge, one of the men held up his hand for us to stop. That was unusual; usually soldiers don't stop random civilian vehicles. That's when I took notice of the group's attire. Camoflauge, yes, as would be expected. But mismatched and disorderly. Not what is expected from soldiers. Then a memory flashed through my mind: warriors from the Jie tribe to the south of us used to dress up in army clothing to confuse their enemies. But still, these had to be government soldiers. The one who waved us to stop sauntered on over to my window. I greeted him in Swahili, knowing that is the language of the military. No response, just a drugged-up stare and a hand motion that says 'you give me…'. My heart rate started to jump then because I knew there wasn't a soldier in the entire army who didn't know Swahili greetings. Trying to feel the guy out a bit more, I was about to greet him in Karimojong when a second soldier appeared and asked me some questions in English. He wanted to know where we were going, and we told him. Then he sent us on our way. Phew!

Another ninety minutes or so and we were through the park gate, just in time to see a spotted hyena headed for its den. Hyenas are strictly nocturnal and are rarely seen in these parts. We hadn't seen a live one in the wild in four years and probably ten trips to the game park. So that was a real treat. 

Twenty minutes into our morning game drive, we spotted a pride of lions perched on mounds of dirt, intently watching something we had just passed: a group of six cape buffalos, five adults and one young. Once we realized a hunt was going down, some of our visitors climbed on top of the truck while I threw it in reverse. As I was reversing, we saw two lionesses leading the stalk toward the buffalos. I could hardly believe what we were seeing: a lion stalk and hunt. And we had front-row seats (at least about as close as you'd want to be around hungry lions…). Just moments after we got into position, the lionesses attacked the buffalos. Four adults took off and never looked back, while the mother of the young one turned and tried to defend her calf. One lioness distracted the mother as the second one went for the calf. There was some contact and fighting, and we could hear the buffalos bellowing. As soon as the mother saw the calf go down, she turned tail and ran. A couple lion cubs half-heartedly followed the mother until she crossed the road toward the big heard in the distance. Such raw nature—terror, death, and the circle of life—was gripping to watch and eerie to contemplate. 

Much later in the day, after our lunch and siestas, we headed back into the park for an evening game drive. We saw lots of animals: buffalos, giraffes, zebras, hartebeests, oribis, waterbuck, baboons, and many kinds of birds. Elephants too. One particular group of elephants was close to the track, so we tried to get a little better view. Now, knowing how touchy elephants can be and having been charged before, I kept what I thought was a very respectable—almost cowardly—distance from the bull in front. The last thing in the world I wanted was for one of our party to get injured by an animal! God forbid. So I pulled ahead slowly and stopped. Still a long way off, the bull elephant charged! Ears flapping out in aggression, dust billowing up in a cloud behind him. This is when you go into an adrenaline-induced trance. Time warps, and you react without thinking. People on top of the truck are hanging on for dear life. I'm driving in reverse, looking first in the rear-view mirror and then back at the charging elephant. Deep down I knew it had to be a bluff charge. We were simply too far away and hadn't provoked them in any way. And indeed, it was. The charge stopped just about as soon as it started. None of us knew how much ground the elephant covered in those seconds, nor how much longer it would have taken him to reach us. And none of us, I'm confident, thinks much about what could have happened. It just ain't perty. 

Now we don't have visitors everyday, and we don't go to the game park everyday. Not every day in Africa is as packed with excitement as this one was. But I will tell you: when Africa is ready to give you an adventure, she sure knows how to deliver.