All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November News Letter

Here's a copy of our November News Letter.  If you want to see/download a pdf copy go here. If you're on our prayer letter e-mail list, then you should have already received a copy of this a few days ago.  If you get our letters via snail mail, then it should arrive sometime in the next week or so.

If you want to find out more about our ministry with MAF, and/or how you can be involved, please check out our MAF staff page.

Thank you for your generous ministry support and faithful prayers. We are so grateful for both!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rainy Season

You may be curious why the title of this post is "Rainy Season" and while this photo looks like the complete opposite.  Well, that's a good question.  The answer is that I have not taken a lot of pictures in/during the rains and this was an unusually beautiful day, so I was snapping away.

Another reason is that, when I'm the pilot who is actually flying,  (the PIC - Pilot In Command) I'm pretty busy just handling the loading/unloading of baggage, passengers, etc., and checking/preparing the aircraft for the next leg of the flight. I usually don't have a lot of time to be snapping photos.  But on this particular day I was riding along as a "supervisory pilot" for Andrew, below, who had recently completed a Cessna Caravan transition training course here.  He's been flying for MAF in Chad for a number of years, but on a different aircraft, the Diesel-conversion Cessna 182.  Now he'll be flying the Caravan there as well.  Upon completion of the initial Caravan training here, he then spent a few weeks flying operationally, to help solidify what he had learned.  This was one of those flights, and it afforded me the opportunity to take a few pictures here and there.

The kids are always happy to have their pictures taken. In fact, they usually ask me to take their pictures, by gesturing to the camera and pointing and smiling, since we don't speak a common language.

These were taken in Amudat, far Southeastern Uganda, just along the border with Kenya.

This one, below, was taken on the opposite side of the country. Actually, it's just across the border in East Democratic Republic of Congo (EDRC).  And THIS is a lot more typical of what the weather has looked like over the past six weeks or so.  There has been a TON of rain throughout this part of Africa.  It's nice for clearing the dust out of the sky, but it does make the flying a bit more challenging.  Even so, I love watching the big storms building and dissipating and it's nice to see everything green again.

The ground is totally saturated here in the city, so every time it rains now the water just runs off and pools everywhere.  And because it tends to come in torrential downpours, it all happens very quickly. This has been a common scene in our yard lately--there's about two feet of water stuck at our back wall (the outlet drain holes are too small for the amount of water).  It forms sort of a moat around our goat shed.  Within a few hours it's all gone, and the ground is just squishy and wet.  Those are the milk goats we got this summer.  The white one is pregnant. After having a kid we plan to milk her. The brown one is still a bit too young, but when the time comes, we'll do the same with her.

Speaking of rain... there's obviously no autumn/winter seasons here.  So each "autumn", rather than having a fall festival, like kids back in the U.S. might have, here the school has a "Rain Festival".  It's not a festival where they do some weird ritual and call for rain--no, that's not necessary. The rains are already falling heavily at this time of year.  It's simply called the Rain Festival because its the rainy season and they are having a festival.  Each class at the school goes all out decorating their rooms with in a theme related to what they're learning, and then they get all dressed up and have a parade.  There's food and games and all sorts of activities, and it's a chance for the parents and families to come visit the school and see what the kids are up to.  Our son's 9th grade class had just read Lord of the Flies, and they chose to go with that theme...which meant that Britt didn't really have to do anything different than normal for his costume.  Well, he did add some war paint and threw on an Indonesian pig tusk and carried a "pig" on a pole.  But still, we thought it was pretty funny that he was voted best-dressed boy in his class, when in fact his "costume" was basically nothing but a pair of shorts. Most days he goes to school with no shoes. No flip flops. Nothing but bare feet.  He is required to bring shoes for gym class, but otherwise the school does not require shoes.  That's one of the benefits of being an MK I guess. Just for the record, he does normally wear a shirt to school. Haha

Sunday, October 25, 2015

MAF EDRC Conference

Last week we were invited to attend the MAF EDRC team conference, which was held over here in Uganda.  We're not actually part of the East Congo team, but our Uganda team works closely with them, and they have some team members stationed here in Uganda who do the maintenance on the East Congo planes (they fly their planes over here whenever they have inspections or heavy maintenance due).

So, all of that to say, they kindly invited us to join them, and we had a wonderful, encouraging time!  Above is a group shot of the EDRC team, along with the Rogers (the other U.S. family serving here on the Uganda team) and us, and the Rose Drive Church team that came over to do the speaking, worship and childrens' programs. 

There were a lot kids there and they all had a great time!

There were plenty of outdoor activities to fill in free time--including a frisbee, an aerobe, a soccer ball, volley ball, a swimming pool, and this little "football".  Our oldest son, Britt, has grown into quite the leaping, jumping athlete, who, by the way, rarely wears shoes.  

In addition to the teaching and VBS stuff, the Rose Drive team brought plenty of cool craft activities for all the different ages kids.  Here they are making parachute chord bracelets.  How fun is that? I want to make some!

They also paid for all of the kids to take a pottery class at the little pottery school that was at the place  where we were staying.  Even our little foster boy, Gift, (who has cerebral palsy and struggles with coordination, and is also deaf) was given the opportunity to make a bowl (with a good bit of help from the Rose Drive Team).  It was so fun to see him so focused on "painting" it.  He was very excited about that project!

Gift actually had the time of his life, as he was getting tons of one-on-one attention from the Rose Drive Team, as well as the other kids and families.  He's often a favorite wherever we go because of his huge smile, and his love of life.

Here's a picture of the Rose Drive Team.  Britt just happened to "photo bomb" the shot with perfect timing. I never saw him coming as he flew through the air seemingly out of nowhere.  The team thought it was hilarious. I did take another one afterwards, without Britt, but this one does make me laugh.

One evening we had a talent show after a bbq dinner.  Some of the "talents" were a bit short on talent, and heavy on humor.  We all had some good laughs!

We were supposed to have a campfire one evening, but due to rain (there's been a lot of rain lately) it got cancelled.  They re-scheduled it in the afternoon the last day of the conference.  Hotdogs and marshmallows for an afternoon snack. :-)

There was lots of other stuff too.  But for Joy and me, we especially enjoyed and soaked up the great fellowship, teaching, and worship.

Of course, the treats from the U.S. that the team kept handing out every day--well, those didn't hurt either.  They've obviously done a number of these conferences before, since they seemed to know exactly what to bring to bless all of us.  And its a proven fact that missionaries can focus better and learn more while munching on treats. Haha :-)

Thanks so much to the MAF EDRC team for inviting us to join you, and to the Rose Drive team for coming all the way over here to minister to us, and to all of those who helped plan, and give and pray to make that little conference happen.  It was a real blessing to our family to be a part of it!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Kidepo National Park (2 of 2)

Once, while we were lounging around our camp in the middle of the afternoon, in-between rains, a couple of elephants meandered up past us.  This was taken just a stones throw from where our tents were located. Notice the warthog running out in front of the elephant.

We also saw a number of giraffes and zebras, as well as thousands of buffalo.  Can you see the elephants in the background, gathered around that fan palm?

Here's a couple of young waterbuck doing some sparring in a dry creek bed.

On the rocks by our camp lived a family of Rock Hyrax.  They were plump, cute creatures, running and playing all over the big boulders, but when approached, they would dive into the cracks and holes.  This guy, (or gal...not sure) was a bit bigger than an American football, and apparently felt very safe and comfortable, in a crack in the rock, not more than 18 inches from my camera.

We saw a wide variety of birds too...

The first night we were there, after we got our tents set up and finally got a chance to relax by the campfire, out of nowhere came a giant scorpion.  This thing was probably about 4 inches long before his tail was curled up.  Even though the size was imposing, the truth is, with scorpions, the smaller ones are usually the most deadly.  And this certainly was not a small one!  None-the-less I didn't feel like testing that theory, so I had Britt keep a close eye on him as I smooshed my face into the gravel so I could take his portrait, backlit by the campfire.  He was extremely aggressive, constantly moving and flaunting his stinger and "claws".  And I didn't want to be a victim of those weapons!

Speaking of victims, all over the grasslands there are signs of "victims" falling prey to the predators at the top of the food chain.  Sun bleached skulls and bones can be seen lying here and there, picked totally clean by a wide variety of animals.  When something is killed or dies of natural causes here, nothing goes to waste.

Well, I promised some pictures of the rains and the drama that unfolded as a result.  Here is a scene that unfolded many times while we were there that weekend.  The land was incredibly parched and dry.  When the first rains arrived, signaling the end of the long dry season, out of nowhere the sky filled with millions of flying ants.  And then, also seemingly out of nowhere, birds arrived, swooping and dancing as they gorged themselves on the winged feast.  The whole thing--the silhouetted birds against the dramatic sky--had a very dark, theatrical feel.  It was awesome to watch!

Here you can get an idea of the number of  ants filling the sky.

But the action wasn't limited to just the sky.  After flying around a bit, the ants would crash land back to earth, and then frantically eject their wings, find a mate, and scurry off to do their "thing" in the safety of a hole, or under a blade of grass, before being eaten by a myriad predators waiting to feast on them.

Everywhere we looked there were animals gorging themselves.  This guy was nailing ants left and right, but was all-to-willing to prove his macho-ness to the camera when I approached.

I've never seen so many centipedes.  You could stand in one place and easily spot a half dozen of them, then move a few meters and see at least that many again.  Normally I would be very creeped out by these guys, as they can deliver a very painful and nasty sting.  But they weren't interested in people--they, like like all the other predators, were filling themselves with the ants, one after another.

On a much less creepy note, we were fortunate enough to see a pangolin walking gingerly through the grass.  We didn't realize it at the time, but apparently these are quite rare in the area. The park ranger said they only see about one per year up there.  Sadly, people have illegally poached them to sell for the alleged medicinal value of their scales.  This one was quite large, over a meter in length when walking.  When they feel threatened they curl up into an armor-plated ball, like this.

Even the turtles seemed to come out of hiding for the festive occasion.

Within days there were flowers popping out of the ground, the grass was already turning green, and butterflies abounded.  Its amazing how fast the landscape transforms with the arrival of the life-giving rains.

As the streams and ponds filled with water, those areas also became a swarm of activity.  We stumbled across this bird just as it snagged a rather sizable fish from a pond and flew off to enjoy the meal.  I wasn't set up for a fast-moving shot of a bird in flight, but shot anyway, and got lucky with this one.

As all of this was happening in the southern part of the park, in the far northeastern corner of the park, dry season continued.  That remote section of the park is less-visited, as it's harder to get there and the dry, harsh land doesn't have the same high density of wildlife that the southern part of the park enjoys.  However, we really wanted to see some wild ostrich, and that tends to be where they hang out, so we made the effort.  At one point the road is just a few hundred meters from the border of South Sudan, so we took a quick hike up the dry, sandy, river bed to check it out.  Here's Britt and me standing on the border between Uganda and S. Sudan.

The dry environment in that area suited this tortoise just fine.

Happily, we got to see our ostriches.  In fact, we saw quite a few of them.  The males are almost  black, whereas the females are more of a brown in color.  It was super cool to see them walking in a line through the dry bush.  They're huge!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the scenery and wildlife we enjoyed during our incredible weekend camping in Kidepo National Park.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kidepo National Park (1 of 2)

As I mentioned in the last post, after a week of ministering to local pastors in Karamoja, we then drove up to the remote and beautiful Kidepo National Park in the far northeastern corner of Uganda, for a weekend of camping.  Though some of the other parks in Uganda probably have higher concentrations of wildlife, none offer the same diversity of fauna, or simple, serene, beauty as Kidepo.  Perhaps because it's the most remote of Uganda's National Parks, Kidepo sees far fewer visitors than the other big parks, and definitely has a more "wild" feel, in my opinion.  You really sense that this is what East Africa used to look like back in Livingston's era.

Although this park is very remote, there is actually a small, gorgeous five-star resort there, which offers unparalleled pampering in one of the most beautiful spots in probably all of East Africa.  It's also insanely expensive, and therefore I will never be able to spend a night there.  But I've seen it from the air, and I've seen pictures online and talked with people who've stayed there--they say it's phenomenal.  If you ever visit, and have an unrestricted budget, that's the place to stay.  For most of us, as an alternative, the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) offers a very affordable option with some simple concrete bandas nearby--they are very basic, but also very cheap.  However, we opted for the most basic and cheapest option of all--to camp in our own tents, at one of the gorgeous campsites on a hill, which offered nearly unobstructed views in all directions.  The camping may have been cheap, but the views were priceless!

We arrived just before dark on a Friday night, and set up our camp by flashlight, firelight, and moonlight.  In my previous post, the last picture I shared was a shot of our camp under the light of the moon.  That first night was gloriously clear, but the moonlight was blocking out a lot of the stars.  So I checked what time the moon would set, and then got up about an hour later to gaze at the stars.  I love star gazing!

Since we were camping in the open African savannah, complete with all sorts of wild animals including lions, and since there are often lions sighted on or near the big rocks right beside where we were camping, it was required that we have an armed UWA Ranger with us at all times.  He carries an AK-47 and is supposed to make sure that we enjoy our surroundings, without being "enjoyed" by our surroundings.  When I got up at 1:00am, he was snoring loudly.  Haha.  I thought about borrowing the AK, but decided to take my chances with just the camera and flashlights.

The stars were so bright I could easily see to walk without a flashlight. But out in the surrounding darkness, I could hear strange animal sounds.  Out of curiosity, I turned on my bright spotlight and scanned my surroundings.  It was eerie to see so many eyes out there, several pair of which were obviously staring intently at me!  Anyway, with that creepy feeling that I was being watched, and taking occasional peeks with the bright light to make sure they weren't closing the distance, whatever they were, I spent an hour or more enjoying the beauty of the night heavens.

This shot below was taken about 35 mins after the shot above. The tree on the right side in the shot above, is the same tree that appears on the left side of the shot below.  I should have tried to do a panorama, but with the wide lens I was using, the foreground gets distorted (you can see how the tree appears to be leaning--it was only a few feet in front of me and was subject to the distortion of the wide lens) and makes it a lot more difficult to do a proper panorama.  Plus, I was worried about those eyes.

Anyway, I figured I'd get another chance the following evening for a panorama.  That was not to happen, as the long, grueling dry season was about to come to a dramatic end within a few hours of sunrise the following morning.  With the waves of massive, soaking, rain, and pounding storms that prevailed throughout the remainder of our time in Kidepo, came a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness an epic shift in seasons, and with it, the onslaught of insects and animals that rely on these life-giving rains for their survival.  (I'll have some pictures showing what I'm talking about in the next post.)

But before the storms, we got this--the warm, bright rays of the rising East African sun accentuating the crackling, dry, golden, Savannah grasses, while overhead, the deep, azure skies to the north began to fill with a few clouds, the first signs of the impending rains to come.  I took this photo, below, while sitting up on top of the land cruiser. In the shadow you can see Britt sitting beside me.  It was a great view from up there.

Within hours the sky had changed dramatically.  Storm clouds began moving in, the winds were picking up, and the sun fought hard to force its light through the darkening sky.  It was a photographers dream--those skies--rays of light and shadows dancing over the dramatic landscape.

And then the storms hit!  We had wave after wave of storms during the rest of the weekend--thunder, lighting, pounding rain--then the skies would clear again.  Thirty mins later it would start all over.     It might not have been the best time to be in a tent, but we smooshed our tents inside the little gazebo-style shade shelter they had at the campsite, and managed just fine.  The drama of the changing seasons more than made up for any sort of damp discomfort we might have felt.

Despite the storms, we had nice, brief sunrises, both Sunday and Monday mornings.  They didn't last long before the clouds once again rolled in, bringing with them the rains, but we didn't mind.  In some ways it seemed like this was the African Savannah version of snorkeling the brilliant Indonesian waters of our previous home, where we could simply drift with the current and watch the scene constantly changing beneath us...the next day, repeating the event over the same reef, with completely new and equally beautiful scenes.  That's what this was like, except on land--albeit we were still wet. :-)

Here's a few more shots of the landscape and skies that we enjoyed.

Do you see the zebras, hiding in the grasses near the tree at lower center?

The last evening we were there, we drove to the top of a hill to watch the sunset.  Not surprisingly, the sun disappeared behind another wave of clouds before it sank beneath the distant hills, but we still enjoyed the views.  Britt and Jonathan had the best seat of all, on top of the Land Cruiser.

On Monday, we were picked up at the dirt airstrip by one of the MAF planes, and flown back to MAF's home airfield in Kajjansi.  All along the way we fought these storms, as they pushed their way deeper into Uganda.  In the shot below, about 15 minutes into the flight, South of Kidepo, it's easy to see how parched and dry the land was.  However, within a few days much of this land was actually covered in water, and within a week it had all turned green again.

Here's a shot of the grass lands inside Kidepo Park itself.  When we arrived, all of this was completely brown--in fact, much of it was black because of fires that had burned the grasses.  But by the time we left, three days later, already you can see the tinge of green beginning to take hold--and the ponds, streams, and swamps beginning to fill with water.

Check back next week, when I'll show you some of the beautiful animals we saw while in Kidepo.