Thursday, 17 May 2012

Love Africa Team Visit May 2012

In May 2012 ten people from St James, including the entire Love Africa Steering Group, visited the Love Africa Partners. The purpose of the visit was to get in depth perspectives and insights into their work and especially the programmes Love Africa is funding. Also to build yet deeper and strongr relationships with the pastors and leaders as well as the communities they serve.

During the middle of the week the team split up to spend 2-3 intensive days with inndividual partners. This is the first hand account of the week. 

More pictures to come!

Monday May 1st
All the partners together in Mbale...for the first time.
This has been a remarkable day in the life of Love Africa - that I don't think any of the Steering Group, Martin, Jill and Annabelle or the 7 partner projects will forget.

We were a little concerned about making the planned 1pm start for the meeting but didn't need to be as when we started at 3pm two projects had not yet arrived but by the middle of the afternoon they were all there with Archbishop Simon Peter from PAG.

The Love Africa Celebration was a wonderful time of listening to God's word on, prayers, worship. Martin spoke wonderfully and passionately on how Love Africa has impacted the life of the two St James through our partnership.

In the 2nd part of the meeting we broke up into small groups with the project champions and the people from their projects . With the 5 established projects they looked at the question, "what impact has Love Africa had on the work they do?, and what 1 thing had made the most difference?"

Each project leader spoke to their poster for 10 minutes (English and not Ugandan time) and then we collected the key themes some of which were:

Many projects told of a multiplier effect where 1 group where a project started then supported the development of work in other communities, churches, schools
The connections that have been developed between projects, e.g. UWCM and PAG as well as the learning we at St James have brought back from Uganda 

It was very interesting to note that financial support was hardly mentioned and that all the projects concentrated on relationships.

This time was an excellent introduction to the in depth project visits that start on Tuesday morning and for the LASG meeting on Saturday as we gather again in Kampala and review what we have heard and learned for the future.

Martin concluded our time together with an open time of prayer and words from Ephesians 3 . The event was captured by our photographers with a series of pictures that tell the story of the day which was a unique event in the journey of Love Africa with all of LASG and all 7 projects gathered together.

The evening was spent with an informal and noisy dinner where existing friendships were extended and new friendships made (we all had a goal to speak to every other person during the day) and we all went to bed exhausted and exhilarated at the outpouring of God's love, as we had prayed for and expected.

On Tuesday morning the group splits up early to continue the in depth project visits

Martin and Andrew for Soroti and then Apac
Geoff and Rachael to Soroti
Annabelle and Nigel to Iganga
Jill, Jacky, Frank and Sue in Mbale for UWCM and ACET Mbale 

Tuesday May 1st
“Tuesday morning had an emotional start as there were a series of partings after breakfast, between the partners and with the members of LASG.

Martin and Andrew joined up with Rachael and Geoff to drive to Soroti with the PAG team organised by Jane from PAG Central and Deborah from PAG Soroti. Annabelle and Nigel were taken away by Pastor Paul to visit CFE in Iganga.

After reflection overnight the feedback from the partners and the LASG team members on Monday’s celebration event was hugely positive. It was clear that the representatives from the projects and from St James had been deeply moved by yesterday’s experiences. The faith we share and the warmth of the personal relationships led to some emotional and tearful partings 

Frank and Sue spent today in UWCM’s offices. Firstly to review informally the process of reviewing UWCM's strategic plan under Annette's leadership which we have supported from Love Africa. Annette has led an insightful and very professional process to look at the future of UWCM taking into account the environment in Uganda and how UWCM can develop to meet the challenges. We then spent a broader time with Edith and members of the UWCM staff covering a lot of discussion areas from processes to life stories to how UWCM can get  a new vehicle (many thanks to Peter Mawditt for including UWCM in his new venture to assist funding of vehicles for NGOs).

Edith had prepared bananas and mangos from her garden as a "snack" before lunch. Our visit concluded with a time of sharing and prayer together.

Certainly Jacky, Frank, Sue and Jill needed some down time after the celebration event and the UWCM visit today. Tomorrow we split between ACET Mbale and UWCM.

I also received a text from Geoff on behalf of himself, Martin, Rachael & Andrew:

“Arrived safely in Soroti with puncture on arrival! Met the team and visited Pingire project – fantastic welcome and hospitality. Also a visit to very remote bush communities to see evidence of PEP fruit. PAG doing great work. To bed now with grateful hearts.”

 Wednesday May 2nd

Thank you so much for your prayers. We have had another wonderful God-given day with the CFE team. It is difficult to imagine how much of God's work is done with so little resource by Pastor Paul and his team at CFE who are largely volunteers. This visit is a stark illustration of how difficult it is to measure the impact of St James' giving without plugging in to the day-to-day reality of CFE's work.

This morning we visited one of CFE's 70+ centres, Mawagala where individuals at St. James support over 100 children out of a total Compassion project number there of 285. The welcome we received and what we saw was a testament to God's love in action through the work of Compassion (a well-regarded child-support Christian charity).

In the afternoon we had an opportunity to receive the testimonies of many people who have been trained by St James to run Alpha courses. It was truly uplifting. There are so many things to pray for. We are particularly thankful for God's transformative power through CFE's income-generation and HIV/AIDs programs and the impact of the Alpha initiatives from St James that have truly changed lives.

Today has been a wonderful day. Full of tears of sadness and tears of joy as we have deepened our relationship with CFE, it's dedicated staff and inspirational leader Pastor Paul who is in reality a Bishop. From the start of our day at CFE's offices in Iganga when we met with it's leadership group, to a visit to one of CFE's 74 centres (that are essentially key churches) and one of the eight which are part of St James Love Africa project, we were welcomed so very warmly. The work done by CFE is truly amazing. Funding for their work is very limited and they never ceased to emphasise the vital role played by the Love Africa St James funding. We are scheduled to visit a further centre that was part of the St James Alpha initiative and look forward to giving you more news. We have
been able to go deeper with CFE and continue to receive so many testimonies about the impact that the Love Africa relationship is making.

Tuesday May 1st
And the following text from Geoff & Rachael in Soroti (Deborah is heading up the PEP mission work at PAG Soroti and Owii is one of the communities where PEP has been running):

“Great day in Soroti with Deborah. Many prayers and blessings coming from Owii yesterday. Please pray for the school adding a new class and classroom and for the new chicken house project. Also please pray that the termites will be successfully removed from the mushroom growing house”

I spoke to Nigel and Sue in Mbale by phone this afternoon:
Nigel & Annabelle had been to see 2 churches with Pastor Paul this morning and heard amazing testimonies from people who had taken part in the Global Alpha Training back in Jan’10 and how this had changed the lives of their churches. I’m sure this will be a great encouragement to all those who took part in that training. Also, saw some very successful income generating projects. Nigel said that he could see God truly working through the initiatives which Love Africa has been able to support.
Sue, Jill & Jacky had taken the hazardous trip up the mountain to Bulaago where they had received a fabulous welcome. They had seen the work of small savings groups providing loans for people to start small businesses. They were impressed by how organised these groups were. Sue said that she could see how the success was spreading into other communities and people were being empowered

I received the following report from the team in Mbale regarding their day yesterday:

Jacky and Frank were with the ACET Mbale team for the day. We started by driving to the foot hills of Mount Elgon to an area of astounding beauty in Bufombo.  Daudi was conducting a 5 day course peer education seminar with a group of 40 Compassion kids and training another ACET facilitator. Jacky and I sat and listened to presentations from each group on experiences of peer pressure and how they had dealt with it. The kids spoke with a lot of assurance about issues of smoking, school dodging and sex. For us it was the first chance to see the ACET guys deliver such a seminar that raises awareness about HIV and builds capability by training peer educators and a new ACET facilitator. Jacky and Frank spoke to the kids about Love Africa and Gerrards Cross and they were very attentive The level of knowledge about sexual health as judged from the written questions submitted was very low showing the importance of this training in raising education and awareness.

Next stop was another seminar for younger children let by Jane with input from Paul. The topic was teenage pregnancy. Interestingly the boys were more vocal in the groups and feedback sessions. The level of engagement from the group was very high, the questions very good and the way Paul and Jane handled the kids on this sensitive topic very impressive. 

While we didn't see it in the sessions we were in, it was apparent from the timetable and the charts that the kids had worked on in the 1st 2 days that all these messages were in the context of God’s love for each person and each one of us being a unique creation of God’s.

Then it rained, more heavily the ever and we set out deep into the bush along red dirt roads and became comprehensively stuck on a mud road despite the 4 wheel drive. After about 30 minutes and after we had emptied the van of people and belongings a group of local lads lifted the van onto a flatter part of the road. It was the only "sticky" situation that either of us had experienced in 7 visits between us to Uganda. We continued on foot to meet a local VHT (Village Health Team) trained by ACET. This was group of 10 people each of whom were responsible for the health of 30 families in their village really focussing on immunisation (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, Hep B) malaria diagnosis and treatment and TB treatment .They also followed the weights and development and health of babies in the village. The group were varied in their faith ("saved", moslem and no comment) and hugely enthusiastic in their voluntary activities. The role of ACET as the sole provider of training for this group, none from the government, was clearly recognised and appreciated .

 We just beat another storm back to the Mount Elgon Hotel.

Jill and Sue spent the day with UWCM. The day started at the office with UWCM morning prayers and Bible study (Proverbs 7) let by Annette. The first visit was to a teenage mothers project where they met about 40 teenage mothers and some babies with George Susan and Zoe - the main volunteers. The babies seemed very healthy - apparently in Uganda babies are an average of 4kg at birth. The girls presented some drama about the dangers of "rich men" and accepting the girl back into the family with the baby. The role of UWCM was highlighted in teaching the girls about vaccinations, contraception and income generating projects such as goat projects. Not surprisingly they make crafts - crocheted squares and bowls, doughnuts and fruit. Some of the girls gave powerful testimonies of how UWCM had helped them as teenage mothers.

They then moved on to a CCMP project supported by St James in Memyenye. Jill and Sue were surprised that there was an agenda for their meeting (they were item 8). Through a PEP process 5 communities were working together where they had built a Church together and had focussed on agricultural skills to learn about organic farming. In the middle of the meeting in the rain a man arrived on a bicycle - the mobile healthcare vaccinator - with an insulated box of vaccines. As people left the meeting they were offered tetanus vaccinations. Some of the women then gave testimony about how they were now allied "out of the kitchen" and had grown in confidence through PEP process to be women leaders in the community.

They had also grown 5 new Church leaders within the community through the PEP process. Jill reported that a lizard dropped out the ceiling during the meeting narrowly missing Sue as she was giving her introduction - such are the hazards of Love Africa field visits.

Jill and Sue were then recruited to the UWCM "ministry in the market place" and managed to stop the traffic in Mbale high street when they were measured in the street for dresses.  

Friday is Edith and David's 38th wedding anniversary. The LASG team have ordered a cake for them from St James to thank them for their hospitality and support.

Edith and David Wakumire invited the group to dinner in their home with a group of people involved in UWCM. It was a really blessed time with wonderful food from Edith's garden. The evening closed with short introductions and speeches from everyone about their faith and commitment to the work of UWCM and Love Africa. 

During the day we heard from Nigel and Annabelle in Iganga with Pastor Paul They had spent a useful time in the office with PP's team and then a visit to a community with a Church plant and the evening with PP and his wife. They felt they were really making progress in understanding the work of CFE in this extended visit .

2 May - travelled from Soroti to PAG Apac – one of Love Africa’s newest and most remote projects.
“Arrived safely in Apac – journey was 1.5 hours on good road and another 1.5 on dirt road. Welcomed for lunch at Bishop Richard’s house, together with Pastor Geoffrey. Bishop Richard is the head of PAG in Apac, and Geoffrey is the PEP field officer.  Then met all the PEP “disciples” at church in Apac; some had travelled 30km just to meet us. They all send warm Christian greetings to all at St James. 
At Akere church we received the usual exuberant welcome with singing and dancing. Heard about PEP enabling people to meet the problems in one hand with resources in the other. Examples already included pastor being able to save and buy a motor bike and a family making bricks and about to use them to build a home. Real sense of all this being enabled through studying God’s word, and of partnership between them & St James. Thanks for your continuing prayers. Love Martin & Andrew”

Thursday 3rd May
“Nigel and Annabelle arrived safely back from Iganga with Pastor Paul and his daughter Pamela. They were full of what they had seen, the welcome they had received in the projects they visited and the impact that Love Africa support makes in the 8 villages/Churches we support. Nigel was enthused about how faith in action impacted people’s lives in small ways but showed God's love e.g. teaching people about planting seeds to get the best yield on crops, micro finance to get an income generating project started, one lady made a 7 times return on a brick making project.

The CFE team were also very open with Nigel and Annabelle (the "Nigels") about their structure and finances so our confidence in the support has increased greatly.

Jill, Jacky and Sue made the trip to Bulaago with Janet from UWCM. They were invited to a CMT review meeting - 2 hours of reporting and were asked to each share a "word" with the CMT members This group is now an example for other CMTs in training due to the success of the programme and it is now almost time for UWCM to disengage and let them go ahead on their own as UWCM's work is done.  Jill said that of the 30 ladies she met last year there were only 27, 3 having died. The raincoats from the pastorate were still very much appreciated in the cold and rain on top of the mountain. They all said that the impact of the rains and erosion was obvious from last year. One village had been abandoned  and cracks are apparent in the side of the mountain due to erosion. Another village had been wiped out in a mudslide with the loss of all except 3 people who escaped. Despite the dangers these people do not want to change their way of life which has clearly been vastly impacted in faith and works by the intervention of UWCM.

The evening was spent with the 6 team members & Paul and joined by Naomi (from ACET Mbale) her husband Robert and 1 month old Esther - who was much admired.
We have seen the reports from Apac and Soroti but had no direct contact with our colleagues.

This morning Geoff and  Rachael are arriving from Soroti and then the 8 of us are proceeding to Jinja for the visit to Tumaini children's home. We had a very constructive session with Pastor Nicholas and Maria on Monday so we are looking forward to being welcomed - we have prepared some activities for the children as well as the supplies Pastor Nicholas requested. 

Tonight we all gather in Kampala and then tomorrow we have our debrief meeting on the trip. 

Friday 4th May 

Despite no electricity or running water much of the time, and the stifling heat, Andrew & Martin were doing well. They had felt very privileged to have the opportunity to meet the communities in Apac and to see that the PEP Programme, despite being new in Apac, was already making a real difference to people’s lives.
At Pastor Geoffrey's house  this morning he presented them with two live chickens! As far as I know, that’s a first for Love Africa J. They promptly named them (Eve and Catherine) and then gave them back to Pastor Geoffrey for safe keeping - now they will have to go back to check up on them!

“Friday was the day when the whole team was planned to assemble in Kampala in time for dinner, but it didn't work out quite like that!

Geoff and Rachael arrived early in Mbale from Soroti - they had left at 0600 so the first reunion and swapping of stories started. Deborah from Soroti accompanied them on the drive so we were all able to thank her and say good bye. Edith arrived to greet the team. Jill and Sue greeted her in their new Ugandan dresses and gave her the anniversary cake. It was an emotional farewell for the then 8 members of the team. We had shared a lot with Edith and Janet from UWCM and Deborah from PAG Soroti. Their welcome and generosity to us was extravagant. Their faith in action is humbling to experience.

We managed to load the 2 ACET vans and set off for Iganga first where we dropped Sue to meet her Compassion children with Pastor Paul and then to Jinja. On the way we rehearsed the programme for Tumaini. As we made good time we had a short excursion to visit the source of the Nile - the first down time the group had managed.

We collected Sue at the Madhvani Guest House (no time for the curry lunch buffet) and set off through the estate to Kakira visit - imagine our surprise when Martin's face appeared at the van window! He and Andrew had made good time from Apac to Kampala and driven straight up to Jinja for the Tumaini visit - the whole team was together for the 1st time since Tuesday morning.

The first timers were quiet as we entered Kakira village to see the huts, poverty and the people on the way to Tumaini. As we drove up we were welcomed by the children with songs and smiles and handshakes and hugs. Pastor Nicholas and Maria were generous in their welcome and especially pleased to see Pastor Martin.

We had 3 hours at Tumaini which reminded us all of the paradox of this project. There were 35 children present, the rest having "gone home" for the school holiday - or at least to members of an extended family.

The greeting from the children was huge. They have acquired an electric keyboard so their repertoire has much more of a beat as they sang of their faith in English and the local language. Pastor Nicholas made a speech - representing the children he said. He told us that the support for school fees has had  a good impact with 3 of the top 6 results in the primary 7 exams for Kakira being pupils from Tumaini but that the "children" were requesting further support from St James in a number of areas. We listened dutifully and then launched into our programme for the children who responded enthusiastically. 

Jill had put together a programme that included "going on a lion hunt", worship songs (fortunately the children knew most of them) a Zaccheus play, the "parable of the pencil" and a play on Jesus calming the wind and waves where all the group acted (!) It was great to see the engagement of the children (and the adults) in these activities which then led to a period where the team members met in small groups and 121 with the children. 

These children are amazing in their faith and the love they show. Pastor Nicholas and Maria have the biggest hearts in the world for taking on the challenge of these 72 children. However the way Tumaini is run and the attitudes are poles apart from the Godly stewardship we experience with other projects. Most of the team were torn over our support and our involvement with what is a wonderful project .

It was difficult to leave - and took a long time. Eventually tired, elated and hungry we got into the vans for the 2 hour trip to Kampala, or so we thought. The traffic jam in Kampala can only be described as "Old Testament" in proportions, plagues of frogs, parting of the Red Sea and Kampala traffic on a Friday night. We reached the ARA about 9 pm to find a Folk Night (obviously open mike from Kampala's ex pat community) in full swing. But fortunately they had kept back dinner from the buffet and a private table in the garden so the weary travellers (like Geoff and Rachael who had been on the go for about 20 hours) had a wonderful meal and a few beers to unwind and up load iPads with pictures.

 It was a great day - exhausting physically and emotionally. 

Saturday 5th May
“We gathered in Kampala this morning for the third and last part of our trip - our Love Africa Steering Group meeting.

After a time of prayer and reflection we spent time as a group with feedback from each project visit and from each individual on their personal high spots, concerns and "God moments".  We felt as a group that we had built up a unique perspective of Love Africa at this point in time - probably with better understanding than we have ever had before. 

We finished with an open discussion about the future direction of Love Africa and a commission to LASG to look broadly at the future direction over the next 9 months. 

Martin concluded for us in prayer to thank God for all the wonderful things we had seen, experienced and done this week. 

In the afternoon we had some free time to shop or relax (though paying the bill at the ARA could take several hours) and tonight we (think) we are having dinner with (Arch) Bishop Simon Peter.

Last Day
“The final evening in Kampala for the team was spent as the guests of (Arch) Bishop Simon Peter and Bishop Franco of Kampala from the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. They very generously took the whole team and Paul for dinner at a lovely restaurant which was a wonderful end to our visit. Simon Peter reflected on the impact of the partnership between St James and the PAG projects especially the links in prayers, the level of involvement and understanding with the projects and the shared faith and values. Bishop Franco spoke on the value of partnerships and told us something of the work of Watoto (8 Churches in Kampala which are part of PAG). Frank and then Martin were called on to respond for Love Africa. 

At the ARA the group met for the final time and reviewed the time we spent together, concentrating on the hilarious, bizarre and culturally Ugandan! However what happens in Uganda stays in Uganda so unfortunately this section is censored.

Sunday started at 0530 Uganda time. We were not sure if the music and dancing outside the ARA was the late partiers finishing or the next shift taking over but we left as we arrived in torrential rain. The group were pleased to see BA0062 on the ground when we arrived at Entebbe. We had an uneventful flight to London and even no immigration queues at Heathrow.

There was an emotional parting of the 10 team members at arrivals as we were met by Gail, Gordon and Heather and we distributed home.