Thursday, 18 December 2008

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Introducing PAG Soroti - A Love Africa Project

One of the least talked about but most exciting of our 5 Love Africa Projects is PAG Soroti. They work with a programme called PEP which mobilises whole communities towards sustainable transformation. Most of the communities they work with are deeply impacted by HIV/AIDS. Tim Raby from Tearfund has recently completed a review with PAG Sroti and he has sent us this fascinating report.

Tim writes..

Spending time in Uganda visiting the projects run by Tearfund’s partners means that I encounter many different manifestations of poverty. Poverty includes a lack of material possessions, a lack of access to decision-making and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of opportunities. This can result in the mindset that people are helpless and can only survive on the charity of others.
Projects such as the PEP (Participatory Evaluation Process) project operated by PAG Soroti, in eastern Uganda, can start to change this mentality – which not only exists in the minds of the poor, but also in the attitudes of many relief and development charities. Driven by a sense of compassion, and confronted by the massive needs that are apparent in many countries, the desire to offer aid is natural. Yet because such generosity does not always last forever and can create dependency, it can end up being harmful. As one man in one of the villages we visited said, “Depending on relief is like leaning on rotten wood”.

PEP starts by leading the church through a series of bible studies, which can be quite a novelty themselves, and drawing out principles relevant for development. For example, by studying the “Feeding of the 5,000”, the church can understand the relevance of Jesus feeding the crowd using the food that they themselves had; or by studying the parable of the Good Samaritan, the church can understand the importance of reaching out to the whole community, again using the resources it has. As relationships between the church and the community develop, an Information Gathering Team is appointed, which gathers and then analyses information about the community, such as the levels of education, water sources and the type and frequency of disease.
Equipped with this information and the mentality that their own resources are able to solve some of their problems, the community is then able to make remarkable progress. We heard dozens of individual stories of change, such as Robert’s, where people’s health, income, self esteem, leadership skills and spiritual growth had all improved.
The process also brings the whole community closer, so that unity and interdependence increase and relationships (particularly between men and women) improve. We heard many examples of where communities had set up nursery schools – even building houses for the teachers – and established “self-help groups” (such as the Etaritoi Group, right) where people’s savings were put into a central pot and used to improve agriculture or loaned out to help people set up small businesses.
Because the process is led by, but not restricted to, the church, we heard many stories of spiritual growth. Relationships between different denominations had improved, people could now see the relevance of church and the bible and many people had become Christians.

The role of the NGO (such as PAG Soroti) is now less a provider of aid, but more a supporter of community action. Their technical skills (such as how to improve agricultural yields or prevent disease) are still required, but PEP is no longer seen as a project “done to” a community by an NGO, but a way of life owned by the community itself. As another person we met said, “Now we think deeply about things. There will be no going back. Something very fundamental has happened here.”

Robert Etoku's Testimony...


“My name is Robert Etoku and I am leading the PEP project in Otuboi. In 2003, the LRA attacked my home area. All my belongings were stolen and I had to run to the bush and then to Lira - a town about 40 miles away
When it was safe to return, I came back, but I had nothing and had to stay with my parents. After PEP I put some of the teaching into action by planting tomatoes, which improved my family’s diet and gave me money to be used for medical treatment. Last year, I sold the tomatoes for 450,000 USh - about £150 and used this to buy a heifer, which has given birth to a calf. My family now drinks milk, and all of my 6 school-age children are at school.
I have plans for a permanent house and I have already bought the timber and iron sheets and will sell this year’s sunflower crop to buy bricks.
I have 10 goats and some chickens and 7 acres on which I grow maize, tomatoes, sunflowers, cassava, beans, sesame. I use bulls for cultivating the land.
I am also the pastor of Anyara Assembly Church, which has 7 branch churches. Before PEP, we had built the church to the ringbeam level - just above the windows and we had asked PAG and others for money to complete it. After PEP, all the members of the Assembly Committee agreed to contribute 30,000 USh - about £10 and church members contributed 25,000 USh - about £8 through selling their own resources like goats and crops. We finished the church in October this year.
As a pastor I have learnt to work with my congregation, and I now have the skills to mobilise both the church and the community, so that they are able to come up with solutions and prioritise using action plans. The main things that I have learnt are that God has given us resources that we can use to meet our needs and that the church needs to be salt and light. We need to be people who can be an example to others, so that they can also change.”

Friday, 14 November 2008

Update on 3 Love Africa Projects from Martin & Eve

Eve & I took the October half term week to have some "Dad & daughter time" visiting some of our Love Africa Projects in Uganda. Although this was a visit that Eve had been asking to do with me for some time and therefore sort of unofficial we were able to spend quality time with three project partners and get a sense of how our Love Africa financial support is beginning to make a difference already. So here is our report!

Pastor Paul Luballe Centre For Evangelism.

Pastor Paul (2nd from right) and some of his wonderful Pastors

At one of the communities we are supporting near Iganga through the ministry of Pastor Paul Luballe and The Centre For Evangelism; we heard in detail about how Love Africa monies are already making a difference.

Grandchild number five. The grandmother is sick with Aids and both parents have died.

Pastor Paul has invested Love Africa monies strategically in five of his 60 churches to lift people from significant poverty caused by HIV/AIDS. The levels of poverty are extreme and his approach is very systematic:

1. Identify the most vulnerabl people in the community
2. Give them immediate practical help such as blankets and food.
3. Bring them together to become a group that learns to help one another instead of being isolated by poiverty and disease.
4. Educate them about infection, treatment and sustainable living using new income genrating activities
5. Work with them to become secure in food and health management.
6. Encourage them to help the rest of the community to avoid infection and disease.

We heard such powerful testimonies of transformation and hope from two of the five extremely rural communities. That is amazing progress just a few months after receiving the Love Africa Funds.

The other four grandchildren

Messages of gratitude to the St James church family were passed to us over and over again. It was incredibly moving to see how our help is making such a difference already.

Eve meets children at a kakira Sugar plantation Camp

Pastor Nicholas Ong'amo - Tumaine Children's Home Kakira
We have been very focussed with our support of Tumaine to try to get the building project finished before moving to other areas. What has our money ensured?
1. Fresh water supply from new tanks that catch hundreds of litres of rain water.
2. Funding for electricity supplies which should be hooked up before Christmas
3. An underground water storgae tank
4. A repaired and secured roof with no leaks.
5. Uniforms and school fees for 70+ children to ensure they can go to school every day
6, A bible for each child together with Mosquito net and soft toy
7. Clothing for all the children accross the age range
8. Medical support costs for each child.

This is the environment from which Tumaine children have been saved

We spent a lot of time with the children and they are so grateful for all the big improvements they have seen. They talk about and pray for St James every day quite spontaneously. We heard many of the stories behind why some of the children came to be at Tumaine and these were very harrowing and moving. Without this ministry these children would be living in some of the poorest and most dangerous camps in the country.

Tumaine children were so happy to see us. We had great fun!

There is more to do and if we can work effeiciently and closely enough with Pastor Nicholas we hope that we will be able to help with food security programmes at Tumaine in the coming year. ACET have worked extremely hard with Tumaine to help them manage their funds well.
Eve makes friends in Iganga

Uganda Women's Concern Ministry - Mbale
Edith Wakumire and her team work with 15 Community Mobiliastion Teams (CMT's) and we visited one of the most remote teams in the mountains at Wanale. Edith says "where everyone else's work stops, this is where our work begins". She works with the neediest people of all. We have visited this community before and there is such a fine line between exisiting and falling into life-threatening poverty. The CMT's identify the most needy families and children and support them with immediate practical needs then help them to earn money through food, craft and skills programmes as well as educating them about HIV/AIDs and malaria. We were able to meet three families who had been helped by UWCM who would otherwise surely have perished. It was a very moving experience to talk with them about their plight and how they had been helped.

Meet and greet on the mountain at Wanale

The CMT's need some discretionary funds to help needy people right on the spot and we are talking with Edith about how to make those funds available to the CMT's from the monies we will be giving from Love Africa in 2009.

While we were with UWCM we attended their first ever CMT gathering where all the CMT's came together to share best practices and to support one another. This is one of the activities Love Africa has made possible for the first time. They were so professional, dedicated and evangelistic in their approach and more funds will flow into their work to support and grow this ministry in the months ahead.

View from the mountain to Mbale district below

This is a short summary of what was a truly amazing visit. It was very special for me to share this aspect of our ministry with Eve and she has since presented her experiences to resonate at st James and to her school year.

I think our biggest learnings were
1. That relationship makes all the difference and that is why it is good to visit and why Love Africa has relationship at its heart.
2. That the need is very great yet it does not take much to change lives.
3. Love Africa funds, even after 6 months are making a difference and the potential to change whole communities for the long term once and for all is HUGE!
4. The faith of the Pastors we are supporting and their evangelistic zeal is simply breathtaking and very humbling. They live on faith and share the gospel wherever they go.

We were not travelling with Tearfund or ACET and we were not staying in guest houses but in local homes so there were times when Eve & I felt vulnerable and exposed. We FELT the prayer that was being offered up for us and there were times when Eve especially had to dig deep.... But she did and I was very proud of her!

We praise God that we have been able to see and hear the difference that Love Africa is making for oursleves.

Some children know how to melt your heart!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Tricia Tennant is back from WATOTO

Tricia Tennant is a long standing member of the St James Church family and has close links with the WATOTO Choir who have visited St James on a few ocassions over the years. Tricia travelled to Uganda to meet some of the WATOTO children she had hosted and to accompany Pastor Nicholas and his wife Marie from Tumaine Children's home on a WATOTO conference. Pastor Nichiolas & Marie's places were funded by Love Africa. Here is her story...

How it all began

When I was a little girl, growing up in Ealing, one of my father’s great friends from Mercer’s school, would visit us on leave. He was the District Commissioner for Uganda from 1948 – 1965. Jake would tell my brother and I engaging stories of life in the ‘bush’. It captured my imagination, and yet I never dreamed I would ever visit this wonderful country.

Back in 1996 I was introduced to the Watoto Choir at All Souls Langham Place. I was enchanted, and throughout the years have shown an interest in their development. Last year I was fortunate enough to have one of the choir sing at my retirement party. They were hosted by families in Gerrards Cross and organised a wonderful concert for us all at church on the Sunday 18th November 2007.

Then in April this year I received an invitation to go to Kampala to attend the 2nd Watoto ‘Hope for Africa’ conference. It’s amazing how God sows seeds in our lives. It’s like stepping stones to our purpose. ‘The opportunity of a lifetime must be taken within the lifetime of the opportunity’.

September 24th - 28th WATOTO Conference

This was held at Kampala Pentecostal Church. There were 500 delegates from 25 nations. I had travelled out on my own, however, the ‘Love Africa’ team had sponsored Pastor Nicholas and his wife Maria, to attend the conference as well. It was great to spend time with them both, and also for them to learn from the Watoto model.

Our first day involved a visit to the Bulrushes Babies Home. Currently there are 83 babies being cared for. There is a ‘prem’ unit, where babies are nurtured, who have been rescued from rubbish tips and latrines in the city. People can volunteer for a minimum of a month to look after these babies. They are kept in the home until they are three and then transferred to one of the villages, where they attend school. The home had originally been the Officer’s Mess when Idi Amin had been in power, before being purchased by Watoto.

During the conference we learnt how war affected and traumatized children had been rehabilitated, having been recruited as ‘boy’ soldiers at the age of 12 for Joseph Coney’s army in Gulu, northern Uganda. It was heartbreaking to learn of the physical atrocities they had to perform on their own family members, otherwise they would have been shot themselves. Watoto is now building a village in Gulu, to support these youngsters.

The same was true for the ‘Living Hope’ project which seeks to restore the dignity of vulnerable women, by empowering them with the necessary life skills that will enable these women to become productive members of their community, so they can raise their own children and support their families.

There were workshops on Networking/Partnership; Social work; Child development; Fundraising/Financing and Village Management and Projects.

On the Saturday we were taken to the Watoto Villages in Suubi and Bbira. This is where we were able to experience life in an African village, and have lunch with the children. This was a traditional meal prepared by the housemother. It consisted of mashed potatoe, sweet potatoe, yams, goat, rice, noodles, beans, matouki (roasted banana) with peanut sauce, and chicken.

At The WATOTO Homes

Each house consists of six rooms and accommodates, eight children – four girls, four boys;Eight houses are built around a central green play area, which is the traditional way of an African village in the bush. It was a real bonus to actually meet some of the choir members who sang at my party!

On Saturday evening we celebrated the African child in a unique cultural experience of African dance and music. I loved the drums! There was a firework grand finale.

My lasting impression was the degree of excellence that Watoto promotes. This is achieved by the incredible sponsorship programme, and the income raised by the choir tours throughout the world. The children only get to go on tour once, so everyone gets a chance. Their faith in God shows, and the gratitude from being rescued from the streets, lights up in their smiles. All the homes and schools, medical clinics, and facilities, are built by volunteers, who raise the money themselves prior to going to Uganda , so that all materials are purchased and supervised locally. By the end of a two week period the buildings are complete. It was an incredible experience and one I shall always treasure.

October 29th to September 1st

Thirty one delegates were taken on a safari to Murchison Falls. We had a seven hour journey by bus to Paraa Safari Lodge on the edge of the great river Nile. It was wonderful to see the real Uganda, once we left Kampala. The road was not made up and consisted of many pot holes in the red dusty sand. We had a stop in Masindi. We saw many small, scattered villages along the way; colourful markets with brightly coloured vegetables and fruit; children walking to school at 6.30 in the morning , barefoot; women carrying water pots and huge straw bales on their heads; men walking with sugar cane, and carrying chicken ready to be plucked.

Such a beautiful country

The safari was so worthwhile to observe many animals in their natural habitat, and at such close quarters. I loved the trip on the Nile up to the Falls. We even had the added bonus of a rainbow! A reminder of God’s promises to His people.

Then it was back to Kampala where Pastor Nicholas was taking me to Kakira.

October 5th to October 2nd

The afternoon was spent at the counselling centre in Kakira. The women had met for a Bible Study and I was asked to speak and encourage them, through Pastor Patrick who translated. I shared some of my family history and mentioned I had one son. They laughed, and I wondered why! It was because most of them had 8 or 9 children! I warmed to these ladies. They worked hard. They lived in very poor conditions, in makeshift homes, with possibly a mattress on the floor, but little else in the way of furniture. When it rains, it comes down thick and fast, and soon the roads are awash in thick red mud. The children are scantily dressed and most do not own shoes. Cows, goats and chickens wander all over the place, scavenging for food. There’s one central point to collect water. That evening, when I returned to the Madhvani Guest House I was trying desperately to assimilate all I’d seen and heard.

Pastor Nicholas and his wife Marie with me and his assistant Pastor

On the Friday I was taken to the source of the River Nile at Jinja, and then on to Bujagali Falls. That evening Beatrice and Grace helped Maria, and I had the most delicious Supper at the Centre. All the ladies were so generous. Whatever they had they shared with me. It was very humbling. In Swahili I am ‘Mamuke Musungu’, a white woman.

On the Saturday I was taken to the children’s home that St James supports. This is situated on a huge sugar plantation called the Kakira Sugar Works which was established in 1985 by the Madhvani family. It is totally enclosed by Security and there were checkpoints where our permits were inspected. I

On arrival, all the children at the home greeted me with a special song they’d learnt. A lot of the house parents were present as well. Pastor Nicholas spoke and told of his plans for the future. I’m not used to speaking in public, however, it seems a visitor, is expected to bring words of encouragement to the children and adults and it’s something they expect quite naturally!

Touring the home it was good to see the work that Heath and Barbara Drewett had done in the summer, was continuing. All the mosquito nets that Heath had erected were over the beds, and the children had their Promiseland Bibles, either in their little suitcases by their beds, or in the ceiling rafters.

The nets brought by the Drewetts are still there!

Work is still in progress at the home. Betty the Matron, and Charlie the Warden were introduced, before lunch was served to the children. This consisted of bowls of mashed potatoes and beans in sauce. The children all line up and wait their turn. It’s amazing to me that all this food is prepared in huge vats on a single charcoal fire, outside, under a makeshift roof.

Water Tank Funded by Love Africa at St James!

A water tap has been installed. Part of the St James funding. Ongoing work will provide a pump. The showers and latrines are yet to be completed, and work on the roof has to be finalised. The surrounding land will eventually be developed for a school house and a possible conference centre. Pastor Nicholas has a huge vision.

We ended the day at the children’s camp at the Kakira Sugar Works, where some of the older children instructed the younger ones with a Promiseland theme. The Drewetts did a good job. It was good to see the T-shirts being put to good use.

The Bible donated by St James are firmly established in the Tumaine Children's individual lives

I left with a heavy heart. The need is so great. I wondered how on earth we’d ever make any progress in relieving their plight.

One thing I learnt at the conference, is that it’s not about status, but service. ‘A man goes out on a journey with one staff. Two is a burden’. ‘If you want to be first, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’.

I guess that’s what it was all about for me. Yes, I was a woman alone, just one member of a congregation, of a caring Church, that wants to make a difference. Together.

It’s not about the money, it’s about building relationships.

I felt the love these people so warmly gave me. The love and the sharing touched my heart and the glorious smiles and big brown eyes that reached deep within my soul, that I will never forget. We just have to start where we are. In our own little pond, and see how far the ripples will travel.

‘Love never fails’.

Tricia Tennant

October 2008

Monday, 6 October 2008

New Furniture For The Kiswa School

The new desks were made locally by local carpenters
with money donated from the School in Gerrards Cross

Very Smart!!

Nicola Flower, Head Teacher at Gerrards Cross CE School writes with great news about the way that they have been able to follow through on their link with the Kiswa school in Kampala...

The new school year started on 15 September at Kiswa school and we have been delighted to receive photographs of the children and their staff with new furniture. Through fundraising events at The Gerrards Cross CE School organised by the PTA and by the children themselves, we have been able to support the staff and pupils at Kiswa by funding the provision of 31 new benches with desk tops: the children can now write without the need to kneel on the mud floor.

Our children have written letters to the pupils at Kiswa and we have also sent some of our uniform to them – both staff and pupils at Kiswa can now regularly be seen sporting Gerrards Cross t-shirts and polo shirts.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Drewett trip - day 13

Our final early morning saw us off to the airport at 6.30am for our return flight to London. We were accompanied on the flight by five of our fellow "builders" - two bound for Los Angeles, two for Toronto and one for Dallas!
We said our final goodbyes at Heathrow's Terminal 4 before returning home.
An amazing trip by all accounts, and one I suspect none of us will ever forget. Our hope is that we will have made a difference, albeit in only some small ways, to the lives of those with whom we had the privilege and pleasure of spending time on our trip.

Drewett trip - day 12

A very busy agenda for the last day of our trip began with a visit to the Sunday morning service at Kiswa Baptist Church in Kampala. The corrugated-roofed, brick-built church building doubles up as [four/five!] classrooms for Kiswa school during the week. The school is supported by The Gerrards Cross CE School, which has recently provided funding for 31 school desks to replace the simple benches previously used. The service, and preceding Sunday school which we were able to attend, was a great encouragement. Despite a lack of any real resources, the delivery was very child-focused and engaging for the children, and the decoration of the church brought colour and life to the whole proceedings. As is seemingly customary, we were given the opportunity to address the congregation and speak of what we had done on our trip, and the privilege that it was to support the work of the church/school in Kiswa. The Pastor of the church, Pastor Wilson Tumale, seemed very capable and, based on the contents of the service and the announcements, had clearly established a real community within the church.
After the service we met up with David Kabiswa (from ACET) and his family for lunch. It was a great opportunity to discuss the work of ACET and the challenges and opportunities presented by the different projects that we had visited.
Later in the afternoon we made our way out to Bbira, the second of the two Watoto villages. The village was much older than the one where we had been building, and was set-out in a slightly different way in terms of the houses. We were very excited to meet two of the girls who had stayed with us on the last choir tour last November, together with the Palmer family's sponsor child, Sharon. It is rather strange to meet the girls in such different circumstances, and really makes you realise how different the life-style they experience on tour is from their day to day lives in the Watoto villages. It must take them a while to acclimatise - in both directions.
Before heading for bed, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Ndere Cultural Centre in the evening to see a display of various Ugandan dance and music performers.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Drewett trip - day 11

A day dominated by our long and bumpy journey back to Kampala along the red soil roads. We came back via the top of the Murchison Falls - where the Albert Nile is forced through a narrow 6m gorge and crashes down to the wide river below. The roadside landscape was very rural with settlements of mud and brick buildings with grass rooves.

Eventually back at the guesthouse by late afternoon, one of the highlights of the day was a visit to an Italian ice-cream cafe after dinner with the team.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Drewett trip - day 10

This was our second and final day of safari in the National Park. We had a drive in the morning, followed by a boat ride to Murchison Falls in the afternoon. The highlights of our morning drive were a beautiful lioness (spotted by our amazing tracker ranger!) followed by a brief glimpse of a leopard!!!! as it climbed down from the tree. This was such a treat as there are only 11 leopards in the whole park, and our ranger said that she only gets to see one about every three months! The boat trip was also fun, with lots of close-ups of hippos and crocs.
We returned to the hotel for a brief swim with the rest of the team before dinner and bed. We have a long ride back to Kampala tomorrow .... and knowing the road ahead it is not an attractive prospect!

Drewett trip - day 9

We got up at 3.30 am!!! to travel to a safari lodge in the Murchison Falls National Park. It's a really beautiful place - we're on a hill overlooking the Nile. There are hippos, baboons and lots of geckos and that's just in the hotel grounds!! On our game drive we saw lion, giraffe, warthogs, vultures, antelope, baboons, elephants and buffalo. Africa is a beautiful country in God's creation.

Drewett trip - day 8

After a 2 hour drive the night before, we set off from the Mount Elgon Hotel in Mbale to meet with Edith Wakumire at the Ugandan Women's Concern Ministry just outside the town. Edith was a familiar name to us as we had heard much about her (and her famous smile!) from Martin Williams.
We spent some time with Edith and her team during their morning devotions, and the team members talked us through each of the three main areas of the UCWM's work - namely, women, children and their fight malaria campaign. It is a huge ministry, covering a wide geographic area and meeting significant need, exacerbated by extreme poverty in the local region. The ministry teams appeared very structured in their work, establishing clear criteria for those who UWCM chooses to support with its relatively limited resources.\
After some time with the team, and an opportunity to walk around the site of the offices, we headed out to the "field". We took the van through narrow paths off road and arrived at the house of two teenage mothers - both with children already, and one pregnant again. This "child-headed" household crossed over two areas supported by the women's ministry section of UWCM - single teenage mothers, and child-headed households. The conditions of the children's home was the poorest we had witnessed close at hand. We spent some time with the girls and their siblings before making our way back to UWCM.
Our afternoon was spent travelling back to Kampala, where we met up with our build team once again!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Drewett trip - days 6 and 7

These were the two holiday club days at Tumaine.

The children's home, which is situated in the middle of what could best be described as a "township" of small brick/mud dwellings, is a brick building with a central room (for eating/meeting), and five dormitories (2 boys, 3 girls) with sets of 3-bunk beds. The conditions of the building are very basic, with no power, running water or even ceilings. The cooking is all carried out over an open fire in a small bamboo hut outside the building. There are currently 71 children in the home (from ages c. 4 to 15), with slightly more girls than boys.

The holiday club was attended by all the children from Tumaine, together with children from the local Sunday school at Pastor Nicholas' church that meets in Kakira School, just along from the ophanage. We structured the holiday club using the PromiseLand model of activity stations, followed by large group time and then breaking into small groups. We taught from the story of David and Goliath with the memory verse Deut 31.6 on the first day, and then The Parable of the Lost Sheep with the memory verse John 3.16 on day 2. At the end of the first session we put up mosquito nets for every child, and they all received a teddy with memory verse attached and every child made a canvas painting with memory verse which we put up by their beds. This was to support the message of the session that God is with the children and that they can feel safe and secure within his care - taking their strength from God as David had done.
There were over 140 children attending each day, and at times we were overwhelmed by the children's enthusiasm and joy. We probably learned as much as they did.
Piers loved making friends with the boy (Trevor) he prays for with his small group at PromiseLand. Barbara also did some training with the leaders from the Kakira Sunday School.
The two days were exhausting but we all came away feeling encouraged - especially when one little girl told Olivia she had felt safe under her mosquito net.
The visit ended with the children singing two "goodbye" songs to us as we left and waving frantically at us as we drew away in the car. A very emotional end to an amazing two days.

Drewett trip - day 5

Today we visited Pastor Nicholas and his wife Maria at their church - Kakira Christian Centre. We arrived late (after struggling to fit all our luggage in and on top of the mini bus) and so only mananged to catch the last two and half hours of the service including a 90 minute sermon by an American missionary!!!!! It was very hot in the school building and there was a bat flying around in the eaves. Piers did really well and only started asking 5 minutes before the end when the service was going to finish - but at thirty second intervals! - at which point Barbara took him out. They were greeted outside by hundreds of children all eager to have their pictures taken. When they came out Olivia and Elliot vowed never to complain about the length of a service at St James again!
In the afternoon we set up for the holiday club at Tumaine. We were initially shocked by the general disrepair of the building but the children and staff were welcoming fron the very beginning. We set up the football goals and they were immediately very popular.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Drewett trip - day 4

For those wondering how Martin is posting this blog - he's not, we're just using his sign-in. It really is the Drewetts on their trip. Anyway, that confusion over with, on to our trip.
Today we had the privilege of visiting Watoto's baby care centre "Bulrushes" in Kampala - established just under two years ago. 90 babies in the care of a number of dedicated full time staff and volunteers. We spent three hours playing with the children, reading them stories, singing a few songs, splashing in the paddling pool (their pre-sleep bath!) and feeding them their lunch. It is an amazing place! Babies and toddlers everywhere. A small number were inside and out of contact with us as they try to rid themselves of a sickness bug that has hit the centre, but those unaffected were free to play and roam outside. They are very affectionate and all the family enjoyed holding the children and nursing them. They were lucky we didn't leave with one or two stowed away in Barbara's bag! Both she and Olivia have vowed to return one day to help for a longer spell.
After the Bulrushes we spent a lazy day with lunch out and a short spell of gift shopping, before returning to the guest house for an "African" supper and preparations to leave for Tumaine tomorrow.
As we sign out now it may be a few days before we update you - by which time we will have run the holiday club and visted Edith. We are really looking forward to it, although not quite sure what it will be like. Whatever is it like, I am sure that we both we and the children of Tumaine will have some fun and learn much over the next few days. God bless to you all, and we will be back on the blog soon.

Drewett trip - day 3

This was to be our last day on the build programme, as although the build team will return next week, we will be in Tumaine running the holiday club. In fact, it was to be our last half day, as we had to return to Kampala for a "Praise/Prayer Rally" at KPC Central (the mother of the Kampala Pentecostal Church family).
So after another early rise, it was off to build. More brick moving to start and then on to the building itself. Heath took a shift mixing the mortar, and was rather put to shame in terms of fitness and stamina by the local team - much to their amusement! Good progress was made though, and we left the site at lunchtime ready for the team to return next week to finish it off.
We were able to meet up again with two of the girls from the choir tours who we had met the previous days - Jane and Sharon - just wandering the village. We also met with Sharon's mother, whose immaculate and beautiful garden was quite a sight. And what an amazing view from the front door of her house across the valley! Stunning. The girls were keen to walk through the village with us, chatting with friends as we went, and we seemed to pick up a few stragglers to join our family as we wandered. It is really a special place for the children to grow up. We said our goodbyes to them all before heading off back to our guesthouse to get ready for the evening service. Our route home took us through a highly congested Kampala - "rush hour" on Friday night in the city it seems.
At 6.00pm we arrived at KPC Central for the Praise/Prayer Rally, for a 7.00pm start. Quite an experience. A very lively service of worship and prayers, interspersed with a couple of brief messages from two of the pastors. Quite political, and certainly "to the point" in terms of the message. They spoke of the journey of KPC from its modest beginnings of just 85 worshippers, to its 18,000 strong congregation some 20 years on. A journey full of prayer and faithfulness, and not without its set backs. The pastor set out the vision for the next phase of the church's growth - some serious vision casting is going on in that church let me tell you! They really live the truth that nothing is impossible for our God.
The worship was supported by a full band and large gospel choir, and from the front rows where we were seated was very loud! And in terms of sound and light equipment, KPC seemed very well resourced with the latest technology.
The service finished after 9.30pm, so then it was back to the guesthouse for the night. Day 3 was over - quite a day by all accounts.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Drewett trip - day 2

An early 6.00 rise for a full day at the build site today. A very dusty first few hours moving the bricks closer to the site to build. Long lines of volunteers passing, and occasionally throwing!, bricks to one another.
Our lunch break from the build brought the most excitement though. We wandered into the village and met three of the girls who had stayed with us in GX over the years. Jane (18) who had visited the UK on the tour in 2000, Sharon (15) from the 2003 choir tour and Ruth (13) from the latest choir which visited St James in November 2007! It was quite amazing to see them all again. We actually visited Ruth's house and met with her mother and some of her sisters. Her mother had not been well and all the girls had been doing chores (cleaning etc.) for her during the morning. She was clearly proud of her house and her girls, and asked Ruth to show us her school report. 100% in English was just one of the highlights of her end of term results. Ruth's mother makes the girls speak English in the house, as well as at school. Despite this, the children speak to each other in Bugandan. It is fun to see the children who we met alongside their sisters in the village - and they were pleased to show us into their (very clean!) houses.
We had our first exposure to Ugandan wildlife today, seeing 2 monkeys in the trees on the driveway up to Watoto, together with a huge rhinocerous beetle crawling out of the cement. We left it on the wall to dry out and recover - which it duly did.
It is great to work together with a team of christians from all over the world and the days, and work, is very much covered in prayer. We are also looking forward to going to KPC (Kampala Pentecostal Church) to a praise rally in the evening. We have been told that it is going to be lively.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Drewett trip - day 1

End of day 1 of our trip. Despite a rainy start (and that was just GX), our transit through Heathrow and out to Entebbe was a complete success. All 29 bags arrived safely, along with all 5 Drewetts.
Watoto picked us up and, with suitcases and bags tied up on the roof, made our way to our guesthouse in Kampala. A quick change of clothes and some money, and we headed out of town to join the build team on site.
There are 22 of us in total and we are building housing for volunteer medical staff who Watoto hope to have living next to a new medical centre on site (partly constructed at the moment). With 23 volunteers and a team of locals to help, we have built the exterior and interior brick walls up to waist height today. We will be on scaffolding tomorrow - watch out for those falling bricks kids!!
Back at the guesthouse now and all cleaned up. Barbara is organising the room (what a surprise!) while we send this note. Will update later in the week. Love to everyone back home. Keep praying for us.

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Drewetts are off soon

The Drewett family, Heath, Barbara, Olivia, Elliot & Piers are making an epic family visit to Uganda this month.

As a family they are giving over their family holiday to work with and visit projects and people close to St James's heart. They will be helping to build a Teacher's house at the WATOTO village just outside Kampala.

They will then go on to visit Kakira and the Tumaine children's home. Here they will do a two day holiday club for the children in the home and those who live locally with foster parents. Pastor Nicholas will bring his own Sunday school team from The Kakira Christian Centre to participate and learn some of the Promiseland approaches! They hope to leave some very special gifts for each child that have been generously donated by many of the Church Family at St James.

On their last leg they will travel to Mbale to meet Uganda Womens Concern Ministry led by Edith Wakumire and the Kiswa School that is supported by the Gerrards Cross CE school. It will be an epic adventure and great opportunity to keep building relationships with the projects we support. Please pray for the Drewetts as they travel.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Coming soon...New project information

Approvals will soon be through for more Love Africa projects that we will be supporting over the coming year. We will update you on the details of those proposals and projects and the part that St James will be playing in the next few days. We are looking forward to introducing a newer project to the Church Family. PAG in Soroti Uganda do amazing work with many local churches equipping them to respond to the impact of HIV/AIDS in their own communities. A profile of PAG is coming soon!

More pictures!

Children at Gerrards Cross CE School enjoy spending time with Pastor Nicholas from Kakira Christian Centre. The visit was a huge encouragement to Pastor Nicholas as well. Thanks for having him!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Another Changed Life

I received an email from David Kabiswa of ACET who was visiting with Pastor Paul Luballe in Iganga. Pastor Paul has received Love Africa funds for his Centre For Evangelism which plants churches and trains pastors and communities to work with people living with HIV/AIDS. They are especially active in supporting widows and vulnerable children and helping them with housing and child-headed family develoment. here is a short extract from David's email:

There was more joy last week as another widow got a house! CFE (Centre For Evangelism) continues to be a major Christian witness in the community. There is this lady we visited when we were with you and you did pray for her at that time. We as ACET felt so touched that her condition wasn't changing much - so we mobilised some resources from a gift we had received. Only last week did she mention to Pastor Paul what her neighbours had told her in the past.... The neighbours had always seen the people coming and taking photos and for a while no results.... “if anybody ever comes to help you, then we shall know that God exists.. why would somebody come to help you, what do they stand to benefit’.. Pastor told me that the widow was ecstatic – almost running insane – the scope of God’s help and answer to prayer was more than she could believe. She is settling down now. Martin, that testimony brought a tear to my heart.. to me this is what we should live for.. making a significant difference in an individual's life, even if it only means one at a time!

One life at a time...that is all we can do! But each life changed is a testimony to God's love and to the willlingness of His church to go to the hard places and bring Christ's hope. Amazing!

David also mentions in his email the impact of the funds sent from Love Africa:

Pastor says that work in the new areas has started. He was also surprised by the poverty levels and needs in among the young children. There was celebration in the community when they received blankets and a few other things from the St James project grant. Pastor himself was happy but even so, he was more humbled. He is so grateful for these links that help him bring Christ's love to the people. I asked him for photos so that we could send them to you before the meeting next week. I think I will get some this weekend. This should bring joy to the Love Africa team.

More funds will be sent in the next few weeks to more projects...Praise God that we are able to make some difference from the richjes he has blessed us with.

Monday, 30 June 2008

New Love Africa podcast

The latest Love Africa podcast features an interview with Pastor Nicholas.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

A Visit to St James from Pastor Nicholas

Pastor Nicholas Ong'amu visited St James during the week. He was here as part of a longer UK visit to meet with some of the churches and individuals that support him and his wife Maria in their ministry.

St James has already sent money to Tumaine Children's home to help fund education, health and construction costs for the children and the home in which they live.

We recently received pictures of work being done to renew the roof as well as add windows, doors and plater to the building which already houses 80 children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Pastor Nicholas's church also cares for another 100 children who are living in foster homes because the community in Kakira is so itinerant and so few own their own land or homes sometimes the children's home is the only hope.

Pastor Nicholas will be travelling to Kampala in September sponsored by Love Africa with a St James church family member to attend the WATOTO conference and to learn about their particular model for caring for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

Building Work on the Roof improvements well under way!

While Nicholas was with us he met many people at St James. He was out for dinner every evening and visited housegroups as well as the Gerrards Cross CE School. He also spent time with our church wardens who were able to pray for him.

Jane Jefferis chatting with Pastor Nick!

A great privilege to pray with the Pastor before he left us

Pastor Nicholas was with us at the Love Africa evening on Monday and nearly 100 members of the two St James were able to ask any questions about his ministry, the Love africa initiative and the issues relating to HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

Time to chat and get to know him better and hear his story.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Love Africa Day at The Gerrards Cross Church of England School

In March 08 Nicola Flower the head teacher of the Gerrards Cross Church Of England School and a member of St James, was part of the team that visited Uganda. She was hoping to forge a link with a school and ACET introduced them to a school with whom they are already building relationship. It is very exciting to think of all the blessings that partneship will bring.

The children at the Gerrads Cross CE school have already engaged really well with Love Africa and just a few weeks ago, just before half tem, St James and The Gerrards Cross CE School had a truly unique Love Africa experience...Nicola takes up the story:

Friday 23 May was 'Love Africa' day at The Gerrards Cross CE School. The exciting day was led by a huge team of 45 staff and volunteers from the two St James, and was planned by the Children's Team as a PromiseLand / holiday club day.

The Team

It enabled 400 children to learn more about Africa, its languages, animals and people, focusing in particular on some of the key partners in the 'Love Africa' initiative. The children learned again about how every person matters to God and that Jesus is there for everybody; they thought about how these bible truths are key to 'Love Africa' and celebrated the faith and vibrancy of Christians in Africa.

Singing African Songs and learning about God's Love for everyone

The day was a wonderful celebration of the relationship between the two St James and the school. The children had an enormous amount of fun and many are still talking about two weeks later. And importantly it gave them an opportunity to explore God's love in a relevant, memorable and immensely enjoyable way.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Does Jesus make a difference? Ask Meyrick Beebee Junior

I am 24 years old and I know there is great suffering in this world, but is there an answer? Does Jesus really make a difference to those whose families have fallen apart because of HIV/Aids? In April of this year I travelled to Uganda on some holiday time I had set aside and I visited some of the Love Africa projects. I met two elderly grandmothers who’s stories I want to share….

I met them when I visited ‘Uganda Womens Concern Ministry,’ which is one of the organisations we support. I visited Mary Masela with Christine and Stella from UWCM. Mary is the lady in the picture with one of her grandchildren. She is a Roman Catholic, 78 years of age with 20 grandchildren. She looks after them all, 15 of these children have no mother or father. HIV/Aids has destroyed her family. She is blind in one eye is too weak to work. She relies on well-wishers to support these children. Stella went to get some food from our vehicle. Mary rose to her feet, knelt on the ground, arms lifted to heaven and said, ‘Thank you God for my guests for whom you had planned that they would visit me at this time. I am glad and pray that you continue to sustain us amidst all these challenges God, I ask you to bless them abundantly.’ I promise you, Jesus makes a difference in her life and so can we. I visited another grandmother, who I will call Hope, for I did not learn her name. I went with Christine and Stella to see her. I walked into a small house and sat and listened to Hope. She is grandmother with four grandchildren. They have no mother or father. Her only daughter and her daughter’s husband committed suicide after they realised they where HIV+. I knelt on the flaw beside Hope and started to pray for her. Tears were falling down her cheeks and this is what flowed our of her heart…

“I had only one child – the mother of these orphaned children and my husband chucked me and married another wife because I had given birth to only one child. But I thank God the creator who has a purpose for everyone. He has put people out there to care for people like me. He knows all our futures and is watching over us. Thank you for loving us…’

I promise you, Jesus makes a difference in her life and so can we.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Love Letters!

I received a text from David Kabiswa in ACET today. It is the sort of text we often receive as the relationship with projects continues to grow and the funding begins to be deployed with ACET's help. the text reads...

"Hi, I am in Iganga with CFE (centre for evangelism)...they send their luv and greetings. They r excited when we mention St James. I see Pastor Nicholas tonight and will send your love. David"

David waiting for us outside CFE project school & life skills Centre!

Please continue to pray for these dear brothers and sisters and that the funds we send will be multiplied by God's grace.

David Thinking...!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Gerrards Cross Church of England School & Love Africa

One of the team that visited projects in March was Nicola Flower. Nicola, her husband John and their two boys are members of St James. Nicola is the head teacher at the Gerrards Cross Church of England School. Here is an update from Nicola about the link she is hoping to build with a school in Kampala.

The visit of the March 'team' to the community school at Kiswa was a real highlight for me. The Gerrards Cross CE School is keen to build a lasting link between our children and the children at Kiswa. Our aim is that we will be able to support the school at Kiswa with resources and some financial gifts from fundraising activities, and also that by an exchange of letters and photos our children will be able to learn about and from those living such different lives.
Kiswa is a school set in one of the slum areas of Kampala. It is housed in a 'building' which is rented by the Baptist church and is led by Pastor Wilson Tamale. About 80 children attend the school during the week and this rises to about 250 on a Saturday! The school/church building has no water or electricity but an abundance of love and energy. The atmosphere on the day we visited was simply inspirational.

During our visit we were able to deliver stationery items generously donated by our children and their parents. Children in Ugandan schools need to provide their own pens and exercise books, and for many these items remain luxuries in life. The pens, pencils and notebooks from Gerrards Cross were received very happily and Pastor Wilson has told me that they have been used by all children in the school. We were also able to leave them copies of our school CD which was recorded last year.

The first letters and photos from our Year 4 pupils will be sent off to them in the next week or so - hopefully they will arrive just as the children at Kiswa return from a two week school break. Last term our children raised £600 for the school at Kiswa through our Lent Fair and a balloon launch. Pastor Wilson is excited at the possiblity of this being used to provide some desks for the children so that they do not have to kneel on the floor to do any written work. He is looking into costs and we hope the money will be put to very good use in the near future.