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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Clearing Kaabong

One of our airstrips up in far Northeastern Uganda, Kaabong, was beginning to become overgrown with thorny Acacia trees.  So just before Christmas a group of us went up there to do some bush-whacking.

Here you can see the part of the airstrip that's in the foreground is being choked by the Acacia trees.  The opposite end has already been cleared by The Baptist Mission, one of the groups we serve up here.  This strip is very close to the mountainous border with Kenya, and during dry season (which is now) it experiences very high and turbulent winds, which can make it a bit tricky for landing.  Being narrow obviously doesn't help... so we determined to return it to it's original width.

We brought along a few boys to help--two of mine on the left (Hudson and Britt) as well as Simon's boy, Joshua.  This shot was taken on the flight to Kaabong in the morning.  Notice how energetic and excited they are?  Compare this to the photo at the end, when we're heading home.  It's quite a difference!

Armed with machetes and definitely feeling macho, the boys immediately began helping to clear the brush along the sides.

In this picture you can see where, in the foreground, some of the trees and bushes have already been cleared and burned.  But as you go further down the strip they continue to encroach more and more.  That's what we were about to tackle.

Simon and I each have a chainsaw, so we took opposite sides and began working our way down the strip, cutting the larger stuff and leaving the smaller stuff for the boys to clear behind us.  These Acacia trees are no walk in the park!  They are absolutely bristling with extremely sharp, hard, long thorns, which seem to delve out a disproportionate amount of pain when they poke and gouge you--almost like they have a bit of poison on them or something.  And because the trees are all interwoven, and the thorns act like Velcro, holding them together, the trees never seem to fall where you want or expect them to.  So Simon, below, and I, both had our fair share of battle wounds by the end of the day.

At one point, a tree about the size of the one in the photo below, spun around and fell on me.  It happened a few times to both of us--and it always took about 10 minutes to slowly extract ourselves from the thorny prison.  These trees are bushy, and not all that heavy, so it's not the tree itself that hurts.  It's those blasted thorns!  On that occasion I put out my arm to protect my face, and a thorn about 2 1/2 inches long buried itself right into the back of my elbow joint, all the way to the base.  It felt like I got knifed.  And by that night my elbow was all swollen and throbbing.  I felt like a wuss... I mean, after all it was just a thorn.  But man those things are big!

But it was all great fun!  There's just something therapeutic about chopping down trees!  Around 1:00  Jeremy, from the Baptist Mission, brought us a great lunch, which we enjoyed along the side of the strip.  

Hudson is my technical guy--he loves tools and fixing things, and says that he's going to be a missionary pilot when he grows up.  He was desperately hoping to get to use the chainsaw, so we worked together on a few trees.

Then he wanted to pose for another macho picture, with the saw.  The smile says it all! :-)

We had accomplished quite a bit by the time we headed back in the late afternoon, not he least of which was to completely tire out those three energetic boys!  Only a few minutes after takeoff and they were all three completely out! :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Years in Fort Portal

We were invited to join two other MAF families for a few days over New Years at a little, German-run bed and breakfast farm called Kluge's, out near Fort Portal.  Thanks to a few special gifts from some individuals who required us to use the money "for something fun for our family" we were able to make it happen.  It was just what we needed!  Below is a picture of the lane as you drive into the farm.  It felt like we were entering a different country, with the lush flower gardens, wood picket fences, and Holstein cows happily grazing in the pastures around the farm.

The Fort Portal area is very beautiful.  The rolling hills in the area are covered in endless tea plantations.  It doesn't look like anything that I would have had in my mental stereotypical images of East Africa.  It actually reminds me a lot of parts of Java, Indonesia (Bandung, Bogor, etc.) where we spent a year studying the language way back when. 

Kluge's Guest Farm is located in Western Uganda, not too far from the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains, along the border between Uganda and East DRC.  You can see them off in the distance in the picture below, as the sun sets behind them over Congo.  The Mountains of the Moon, as they are sometimes referred to, are the highest mountain chain in all of Africa.  There are a two or three individual mountain peaks in Tanzania and Kenya that are a bit taller, but most of the highest peaks in Africa (16,000' and higher) are found in the Rwenzoris.  They contain year-around snow and glaciers.  It's said that some of the most amazing flora in the world can be found on the climb up the Rwenzoris.  I've seen pictures, and it's amazing!  Someday I'd love to climb them, but there are parts that require technical climbing, and the government requires a guide...which is very expensive.  So for now I'll just have to enjoy the view from a distance. :-)

The farm is surrounded by pastures and woods.  The woods have hiking trails, and we're a hiking-type family.  But who wants to simply walk when you can swing and jump from a nearby vine?

Everywhere around the farm there were flower gardens.  These shots were taken a few feet in front of the porch where we were staying.

And if you took the time to look a bit closer, there were lots of little critters around.  This is an itty bitty tree frog of some kind.

If you don't believe me about how tiny he/she is, check this out... I took my watch off and coaxed the little frog onto it so I could show you.  Tiny hugh?  And cute!

About the same size, but not so cute...

The breakfast part of the "bed and breakfast" was a huge treat for the kids--for all of us really!  The food was all from the farm and gardens and was home-cooked and very tasty!

Aside from the great food and fellowship, we also enjoyed simply relaxing, reading, playing board games, and some big, competitive capture-the-flag nerf wars.  Adults vs. kids.  That was a blast!

The kids enjoyed the pools (they were making waves in the kiddy pool below, but there was another pool beside this one that was a bit bigger).

And we enjoyed some walks through the beautiful, clean, litter-free forests!

After a very busy, often stressful first 10-months in our new home country, a few days of rest and soaking up God's beautiful creation was just what we needed!  On New Years Eve, Kluge's set up some tables and chairs in the garden and did a barbecue for the guests.  It was such a beautiful evening!

As usual, Gift was loved by all--full of laughs and smiles and joy.  He was helping to clear the napkins from the tables when he figured out that it was a lot more fun to play peek-a-boo with Simon.  He was gut-laughing each time he'd be scared by Simon's sudden appearance, and of course we were all laughing too.

At midnight--yep, most of us actually made it to midnight for the first time in who knows how many years--they even set off a few fireworks.  The sky was brilliantly clear and the 3/4 moon was shining brightly.  You can even see some stars in the picture below if you look closely.  What a fun way to welcome in the new year!

And here's a closer shot of the moon, properly exposed.  I love looking at the moon and stars!  It makes me feels so small and insignificant, and in awe of our Creator! 

Well, that's what we did for New Years.  Thanks to you guys who gave us the gifts that "forced" us to do something fun as a family.  We came back refreshed and ready for the new year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Heroes!

"The king will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' -- Matthew 25:40

Here are a few of the parents and caretakers who are taking care of the "least of these" in a society where they are generally shunned.  They are truly heroes!