Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Food management

One issue that the Ik struggle with every year is retaining food from one harvest to the next. They usually grow enough to last for months at a time, but I've rarely seen them grow what they need to last a whole year. There are many reasons for this: not enough seeds, not enough time and manpower for tending a garden, no modern equipment to help them, large families and continual family growth aided by resources from well-meaning NGO's who make the large families reliant on them. Then, when the NGO's pull out and no longer provide food relief, the Ik are left with families they can't support because the land can't support them all. You get the picture. This issue is a concern close to my heart because we hate to see our friends struggling with hunger. 

Well, one way the Ik may develop themselves in regards to their food supplies would be learning to be better managers of their food. Many days I'll see people eating way more food than they'd need to consume in one meal and I'd wonder to myself why they don't eat in moderation so their food supplies last longer. The answer could be startling. It's possible that people eat all they can at one meal because they don't know when their next meal will be...or they don't know if they'll be around for another meal. In years past, famine taught them that nothing is guaranteed. What a different mindset than we Americans have! Imagine having to eat for the moment with so much uncertainty about your future survival. I'd like to think that circumstances have changed for the Ik so much so that they can now plan for their future. I don't see it often, but my neighbor is an excellent example of how the Ik mindset is changing. 

Below, Nachem Esther is cutting up pumpkin to save for a future meal. She knows that having too many ripe pumpkins is a risk and she doesn't want to lose any of her harvest. So, she enlisted the help of her children and she's cutting pumpkins to dry on the fence. 
Her oldest daughter, Rosemary, is trained in the domestic arts of Ik life and she'll be excellent at food management when she gets married. Hope for the future!
The pumpkin is hung on the fence to dry and will be stored once it is properly dehydrated. Since it is dry season right now, we have plenty of wind and sun to dry it out. They'll still get low on food right before harvest time...but this is a start. And they're doing it all on their own.
I also wanted to include a picture of these gourds they grow. They eat the flesh out of the small ones, but they mostly grow gourds to use as currency. They are excellent water containers once they've been dried out. When the gourds are fully dried, they'll be carried across the border into Kenya to be traded for other goods and services.'s original and it's Ik. I'm thankful for the ways they are empowered to help themselves.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Since we've been mentioning 'Echelon' a lot, we thought it would be good to tell you a little more about them. 'Echelon' is team of young families that are working under the Southern Baptists' International Mission Board (IMB). For now, they are based in Kaabong and living in the Baptist mission we used to occupy. (Believe me, we were more than willing to give it up in exchange for a boatload of friends!). Their goal is to train missionaries to spread the good news of Jesus to the people groups of South Sudan. They were sent to train in Kaabong because the Karimojong are more closely related to the Nilotes of South Sudan than to the Bantu peoples of southern Uganda.

Echelon was an answer to our prayer of many years to have a group of like-minded and like-spirited people to share our burdens and joys with. We can't tell you how much it has meant to us to have them in the region.

Let me introduce you to three of the four couples currently in Echelon (we don't yet have a picture of the fourth couple).

Jeremy and Susan (pictured below) have three kids and served for ten years in South America before coming here. Their specialty is training missionaries to serve in remote, difficult environments and to take great care of them when they 'come out' for breaks and refreshment (we know from experience!). We love you both!
Robert & Maridith (below) have a three-month old baby boy named Shepherd. Robert is a mechanic and is quickly becoming an expert in non-traditional language-learning practices. Robert & Maridith are planning to move to Wao, Sudan later this year to start a church among one of the Dinka clans. We will miss you!
Aaron & Hannah (below) are more recent members of Echelon, and we had the privilege of spending some time with them in Tennessee during our furlough. Aaron is an ace mechanic and has helped us more than once! We are thrilled to have you around Kaabong for a good while and look forward to sharing Karamoja life with you!

For a couple of months, Echelon is doing its first missionary training in Karamoja. The group going through the training includes all the Echelon members, another IMB family, three missionaries from another organization, three Karimojong young men, and three Dinka from Sudan. Here is a picture of their camp in Lotim:
The training touches on many topics pertinent to living and ministering in remote areas. In addition to basic survival skills, the trainees will learn how to tell the story of Jesus through 'chronological Bible storying'. Here's a picture of a session on language-learning that Amber sat in on:

Child-care is provided in the shade of an open grass-thatch hut!
On the way back from this visit to the training camp, we had the incredible gift of a new and strange sight: a flock of cranes feeding on insects fleeing from a grass fire. It was just totally surreal:
We don't know how long we will be blessed to have Echelon around these parts, but as long as we do, we will do our best to soak in their presence as much as possible. We do not take them for granted!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Inching our way back

Hard to believe it's been almost two weeks since we arrived in Uganda. We spent the first couple of days with SIL colleagues Dusty & Kim Hill and their children in Entebbe. Then we migrated to Kampala where we took five days running errands, getting supplies, and hanging out with Aaron & Hannah Mason (members of the Baptist 'Echelon' team now based in Kaabong).

This past Thursday we struck out for Nakaale, a village in southern Karamoja, to visit friends from the Orthodox Presbyterian Mission. But first we had to get out of Kampala, which from a traffic standpoint, is no small feat. By some estimates, the number of vehicles in southern Ugandan cities has tripled in the five years we've been here. Travel times from one place to another have often doubled. And then you have the boda boda motorcyles by the thousands, most carrying people but some carrying things like armoires or even refrigerators!

At the Presbyterian mission, we were hosted by Jim & Jenny Knox for the night. Jim & Jenny operate the mission's clinic. We also had coffee and good conversation with Dave & Sunshine Okken the following day before heading north to Kaabong. 

As we wound our way north, Karamoja was as beautiful as ever, with red dirt, blue sky, and green land:

Since being back in Uganda, everything seems familiar this time. Even broken-out culverts that you don't see until you're nearly on top of them really don't come as a surprise anymore.

Entering the Jie territory of northern Karamoja, we spotted this group of young ladies resting from carrying heavy loads of firewood:

Leaving the Jie territory we were greeted with the sight of huge stacks of freshly cut firewood, lining the road like pioneer fortress walls. Though it's kind of sad to see the rampant deforestation, at the end of the day people need to cook. And most can't yet afford cooking gas. 

Late Friday evening we rolled into the Baptist mission (where we lived the first two years here) and were warmly welcomed by the Echelon folks. They are in the middle of a busy time of incorporating and training new members of their team. Though we are eager to get up to Timu (this Wednesday) and back to the Ik and to our routines, it's inspiring to be around these folks who want to spread the news of Jesus to the peoples of this area and southern Sudan.