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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Forney Flyer - February 2015

Here's the latest copy of our Forney Flyer hot off the press.  If you typically get our letters via e-mail, then you should have already received this yesterday.  If you're on our hard copy snail-mail list, then it should arrive in the mail sometime in the next week or so.  If you want to see a larger copy of this letter, just save each of the jpeg images below (one of the front page, one of the back page) to your desktop and then open them at full size.  (For a pdf copy see below.)

If you'd like to download a pdf copy of this letter or a few of our previous Forney Flyers, or if you want to sign up to receive our letters via e-mail in the future, or if you're interested in joining our ministry team, please check out the right sidebar over at our MAF staff web page here:  And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.  Many thanks!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Musana Camps (2 of 3)

We were only there at Musana Camps for two days, but the sunrises both mornings were magnificent!  This was the view we enjoyed the first morning just as the sun peeked up over the Eastern edge of Lake Victoria.

And this is how far we had to go to enjoy that view...about three feet from the front door of the house where we were staying.  We could watch it all right there from the front porch!  I'm sure Joy and the McFarlands will appreciate me putting a picture on here of them enjoying some quiet time about 15 minutes after getting out of bed.  No makeup, no showers, but hey--they look great don't they?!

While they were enjoying their thing, and occasionally looking up to exclaim something like "wow!" or "amazing!", I simply couldn't take my eyes off the changing scene in front of me.  I love watching the weather, and I obviously enjoy photography.  I sometimes think I could/should have been a wildlife photographer because I would actually have no problem sitting for hours, or even days, waiting for the perfect shot, soaking it all in while I wait.  But since I don't have the time for that (six kids and a busy schedule keeps me from too much down time), or the money for the lenses, I just get to enjoy little bits here and there.  

Anyway, this was a rare morning where I got to just sit there and take it all in.  I loved watching how the scene was continually changing--the colors magically taking on completely different tones depending on where the sun and clouds were.  Every 30 seconds it seemed like a totally different scene to me.  The first picture, above, was taken at 6:32am.  This picture, below, was taken two minutes later at 6:34am.   In two minutes, check out how far the sun has moved, and how the overall colors have changed from shades of purple and deep blue to more of an orange and lightly-muted purple glow. 

Of course, the choice of lens, and perspective can also dramatically change things.  The above two shots are in nice and tight (200mm).  But on the previous post, the first photo I showed was an image shot just a few seconds after the one above, but much wider (70mm).  In that one you can also see the fishing village in the foreground, and more of the sky.  It really changes the look of it.

Now, six minutes later at 6:40am, I put the really wide lens on as the sun climbed high enough to allow the myriad shades of blue to show, while still painting the undersides of the dissipating clouds orange and yellow, leaving those in shadow purple and pink.  So awesome!  (This one was shot at 16mm).

But wait...there's more!  Even after the glorious sunrise was finished, the show didn't end there.  All day long the clouds and weather were constantly changing and fascinating me.  At one point, we saw a few water spouts virtually appear out of nowhere, way out in the distance over the lake.

And of course, as the air warms up and the moisture evaporates off the lake, and rises, it forms new, big clouds, which often develop into thunderstorms.  I bet you can guess what I'm about to say now--yep, I love watching thunderstorms too--day or night.  They amaze me!

The second evening was mostly clear, with just some thin, high clouds, and we made a little campfire up on the hill, overlooking the lake, and made s'mores.  Good fun!

After the younger kids hit the sack, Britt and I spent a few minutes flinging glowing sticks through the air like a couple of crazy men (yeah, that's not a good idea if the little kids are still around).  It might have looked like we lost our minds (and I'm not going to argue that point) but we were actually trying to make light paintings.  Here's one that I made, while the camera was taking a long exposure sitting on a tripod.  It's supposed to be a mountain, tree, and sun.  If you look closely you can see Lake Victoria in the background, and the lights of some fishing boats out on the water.  You can even see the little light trails of a few stars shining through the thin wispy clouds above.  That's how much the earth has rotated during the 82 second exposure.  Cool hugh?

The second morning we were treated to another magnificent sunrise, just as amazing, but completely different from the one the previous morning!

Another thing we enjoyed watching were the birds.  I love watching, and photographing nature.  It's especially hard to get good shots of birds, without the huge (and very expensive!!!) super telephoto lenses, of which I own none, but certainly covet.  However, that just makes it a lot more of a challenge--as I have to be more patient and get a lot closer to get good shots.  I'm not saying these are good, but they give you an idea of what we enjoyed watching.

There were a ton of large grasshoppers flying around--the kids were kicking them up in clouds as they ran through the grass.  Capitalizing on the great opportunity for a snack, a group of kites and hawks were circling close above, diving in and catching the large grasshoppers in their talons, and then quickly gobbling them down while they flew.  If you look closely, you can see one of the just-captured grasshoppers in the talons of the bird below.

Stop by again next week for a few more shots of some of the other birds and wildlife we saw at Musana Camps.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Musana Camps (1 of 3)

Our great friends, Keith and Laura Beth McFarland, who we knew from our college years (but hadn't seen since then, until we moved here) have lived and ministered in Uganda for a long time with New Hope Uganda.   They are an amazing family, and New Hope is an incredible organization!  We've absolutely enjoyed the visits we've made up there, and only wish we could get up there more often.  In addition to their main "campus" in a village setting up north of here, New Hope has also been gradually developing a beautiful property that they acquired overlooking Lake Victoria.  It's called Musana Camps, and it's a simple, but very functional and gorgeous Christian camp that they use for many purposes.

We were blessed to be invited to join the McFarlands for a little family get-a-way to the Musana Camps back in November.  (Above, the first sunrise we enjoyed over the lake from the front porch of the house we were staying in.  We only wished we could have stayed a bit longer.  Unfortunately we weren't able to get Britt out of school, so we were only able to stay the weekend, but it was SO relaxing and fun!

Below is a picture of both of our families--lots of kids eh?!

The drive there was grueling!  If they had an airstrip there, I could have flown us there in about 6 minutes.  But they don't have an airstrip...yet.  And most of the road going there is murram (dirt) and it had rained torrentially for several hours, and was still raining for most of the drive.  So it took us about four or five hours to navigate the slippery, muddy, deeply rutted roads to the camp.   Fortunately (miraculously) neither of us got stuck, or slid off the road anywhere.  Shortly before we got to the camp, there's a nice overlook up on a rocky hill.  By then it had stopped raining and the clouds were finally thinning, so we stopped and had a late picnic lunch.   The kids were very happy to get out and stretch their legs and climb a few rocks!

Not too sure if Britt was happy to get a kiss from mom, but hey, he's still smiling. :-)

The drive was worth it!  This was the house where we stayed--as you can see it sat atop a hill overlooking the gorgeous lake!  Yep, the sky and water were really that blue--the result of all that rain clearing out the dust in the sky.  Take note of our newly "painted" van--the lower half is usually white/grey, not red/brown.  Most of the time it looked even worse than that, but the rain cleaned much of it off before we arrived.

We enjoyed a variety of activities while there, including a short hike through the "jungle" to this beautiful waterfall.  

Gifty was having a blast and was desperate to get his turn climbing up to the top of the waterfall.  So after I took these pictures, Britt and I helped him climb up to the very top.  I wish I had a picture of that.  He was SO very excited to be up there, waving and wanting everyone to see him.

We ate simple, delicious, Ugandan-style meals in the open-air cafeteria/meeting building, also on a hill overlooking the lake.  There were a variety of fun backyard-style games around for the kids to play while we ate and hung out.

Basically, we all just enjoyed the beauty and freedom of the open space, the constant breeze and fresh air, and the peace and quiet of our surroundings.  Gift found a wagon and spent most of his time pulling around anything and everything he could find.

Down at the waters edge is a beautiful little man-made beach.  There are tubes and canoes and stuff for the kids to enjoy.  Just a few weeks before, some guys in the next-door village had killed a croc in the lake, but there's not too many of them around this area (as compared to parts of the Nile where they are prolific and huge!), and our chances of getting eaten by a croc are probably far less than of dying in a traffic accident on the crazy roads of Kampala.  So we weren't worried.

The kids swam and tubed and canoed for hours and loved every minute of it!

We also enjoyed some good worship together...

...and started the advent season with some readings geared towards children.

Check back next week and I'll show you some more of the great scenery around there!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dry Season

We're right in the middle of the dry, hot, dusty season right now.  It started in late December and I'm told it could go through February or March.   We've had one or two rains in the past few months here in Kampala, but up in Karamoja there's places that haven't had a drop since mid-December!

Our red dirt strips used to contrast nicely with the bright green grasses that surrounded them.   Now everything is a thousand shades of brown, orange, and red.  Sometimes it even takes on a monochrome look.  

I find it strangely beautiful--not unlike the stark, surreal, but sometimes bleak beauty that surrounded us when we lived in a remote village above the arctic circle.  Only it's much hotter here!  The photo below is a typical Karamojang village in Northeastern Uganda.  If you look closely you can see a group of people right in the middle of the circle of huts staring up at the plane.  To see how this compares to the green lushness a few months ago, check out my November post:  Rainbows & Other Stuff.

While I do find the parched, gritty, almost black & white look of the Karamoja region in the midst of dry season rather striking, I'm not sure I feel the same way about the overwhelming red dust in Kampala, where we live.  It's constantly covering everything.  You can clean stuff off and the next day it's covered in a thick film of the fine red powder again.  It gets in everywhere throughout the house.  There's no way to keep it out.  Some of the roads are paved in the city, but many of them are red murram (dirt) like the one in this picture.  After a few days without rain they turn to fine dust and the city is enveloped in a thick cloud of it.  After a rain, most of these tin roofs will shine bright as they reflect the sunlight.  Not much chance of that now.  The white and colorful stuff to the right side of the road are a bunch of goods being sold at a street market.  

It does make for some nice sunrises and sunsets though.  This is the road to our little airfield in Kajjansi. The sun is just beginning to pop over the horizon when we arrive early in the morning.  The overloaded truck (a very common scene here) is carrying charcoal to be sold for cooking fires.

Yep, that's the red African sun!  It's beautiful shining through the dust in the sky.

However flight visibility is not nearly as beautiful in the dust and smoke.  This has been a very typical scene over the past two months or so.  One good thing is that we don't have to battle too many storms this time of year, which is good since we can't see more than a few miles ahead much of the time.  If you want to see what the weather and visibility was like a few months back, check out this post: Views From My Office Window.

Speaking of dry season--we've been battling relentless water issues at our house ever since we moved here last March.  There were a number of times when we had no water for a week or more at a time.  And the rest of the time we'd just have a trickle off and on--more off than on.  For a family of eight that's not much fun.  It would frankly be better to have an outhouse and a river nearby in times like that, than to live in a house made for running water, but with none to be found.  With the onset of dry season the water situation went from bad to worse.  Our header tank is just too high for the trickle of water from the city to fill it by gravity--which I guess was the idea.  It wasn't working!

We finally had enough of it and I decided we had to do something about it.  It took me a few days to round up all the supplies around town.  Right when I was ready to begin installing the new system (ground tanks for a reservoir, pump with electrical float switches, all the pipes, connectors, fittings, wire, etc.) three awesome guys with Kids Around the World came to visit and offered to help.  They had just finished up a project here in Uganda and had two days to kick it before heading back to the U.S.  Fortunately this was their idea of fun!

We were SO thankful for their help!!!  We got it all installed and running in a day and half, finishing up just a few hours before they had to catch their international flights home.  And we are SO enjoying having water now--which we've had every day since we installed this system!  Woohoo!  We'll never take water for granted again! :-)

Now, about the electricity...  :-)  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kalongo Hospital

You may remember just before Christmas I wrote about a medevac flight that I did for Lois, who runs a children's home up in Northern Uganda, and had fallen and broken her femur.   While we were in Kalongo waiting for the 4x4 ambulance to arrive with her, we got to take a little tour around the Dr. Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital there in Kalongo.  Here's a few pictures from that tour.  (Each one was taken with the permission of the people shown.)

The "Kalongo Hospital" as many people refer to it, is one of our MAF customers, and they also help maintain and control the local dirt airstrip there in Kalongo.  

They serve many hundreds of people each and every day.  It was an absolute beehive of activity, with people everywhere waiting to be seen by a doctor or nurse, or waiting for family or loved ones that were being treated.  People come from all around, this being the only hospital in the region.

The waiting room prior to being seen and/or treated...

Outside the maternity ward there was a long line of women with brand new babies being processed out.  I loved the big smiles of the nurse (at right) and assistant (at left) who were helping with the process.  This ain't like America where they keep you in the hospital for a day, or a couple of days, just to make sure everything is good.  After delivery, if mom and baby are well, then off you go! :-)

Here we interrupted the staff of the children's ward who were taking a short break.  Again, they were full of laughs and smiles.  It was great!

No laughter around the TB Ward, however.  We didn't go inside this one...

They were actually cleaning it at the time.  In fact, all around the facility, even though much of it was very rudimentary and basic, there were always people in the process of cleaning and sanitizing.  I was impressed by the way in which they were taking care of what they had, and using it to it's maximum potential!

Most patients (hundreds per day) are treated and immediately sent on their way.  But they do have some beds for the more serious cases.  It's certainly not what you would be used to in the West, but for these folks it's the best--the only--option.  And they are blessed to have a wonderful group of very energetic and well-trained, caring, staff to take care of them.

When I did my post back in December I mentioned that I had taken Andy along on the flight that day.  He's one of our awesome Aircraft Engineers (mechanics), who are the heroes of us pilots.  He was snapping some pictures while I was busy with our patient and the aircraft stuff.  I didn't have the pics available back when I did my first post, so I thought I'd share a few of them here.  If you'd like to check out a few more of his shots, or read about the story from his perspective, you can check it out on his blog here

Praying with Lois, who is on the stretcher on the floor behind the back seat, and her friend Jackie who accompanied her.

Carefully off-loading Lois in Kumi, where there was a waiting ambulance to take her to the orthopedic hospital.

Before leaving she grabbed my hand and enthusiastically thanked me and MAF for the help in transporting her by air--the alternative being a very long and grueling 4x4 journey over land.