Some thoughts from the author…


Friday Funny — Amazon is Coming to Mbarara!

They’ve been putting up a building in town for the last several months. We’ve watched the progress with interest and much speculation about what the building would house.

They hung the sign on the building this week. Guess what? It’s the Amazon Building! Amazon is coming to Mbarara!


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We’re not getting our hopes up that it’s THE Amazon coming to Africa. That would be nice, but not very likely.

(Don’t you love the scaffolding on the side of that thing? Sitting on the balcony, no cross supports to speak of. The men at the top are standing 50+ feet in the air on a couple boards. That’s it. Yep, no OSHA here!)

A Dedication at Ngarama

We’d been planning for the dedication at Ngarama for weeks. Folks from the church passed out 500 invitations to the community. They insisted 500 people would show up. That made me nervous. I couldn’t imagine 500 people crammed onto the land there by the church.

We planned for a simple service: a chance to greet the guests who came, a short message, a baptism, a snack of soda and biscuits, and show the Jesus film in Kinyarwanda. We also planned for it to begin at 10AM. We’d be done before it got too hot.

We forgot to buy the biscuits in town during the week so we left early the morning of the dedication and stopped by Vicky’s (a local wholesaler) to get them. He was already opened when we arrived. We drove up, bought the biscuits and left in about 10 minutes. 

We arrived in Ngarama at 9:30AM. A number of men from the church and several from Sangano were putting up poles to make a tarp tent.

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Once they’d gotten a few poles into the ground, they started tying up the tarps.

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By the time they had four tarps tied to the poles, it was 11AM. 

Things don’t always run on the same timetable here that they do in the States. At 11AM no one from the community had arrived except those who were helping prepare and a few people from the churches at Isanja and Sangano. 

No sooner had they secured those four tarps but a HUGE gust of wind came up. We could see its approach across the valley. Zizi saw it and said “Look, there it comes. It’s going to hit us.” Then it did. Like a brick wall. The tarps snapped up into the air and then back down hard. Two of the tarps broke loose from their ties. One of those shredded completely down one side. The men rushed to secure them again, but we were losing time.

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We switched gears and set up inside the church. We filled it with benches from the front to the very back. Then we began singing hymns. People began to trickle in. The church filled. And filled. And filled. 

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Pretty soon we ran out of room for the children. They all went outside to sit on benches under the tarps the men had fixed to the posts. One of Zizi’s daughters led them in singing, taught a memory verse and played games with them. My kids helped with crowd control.

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Many visitors came from the community. They introduced themselves. James gave a short sermon that included the gospel message.

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Then we all went outside for a baptism service.

The first lady to be baptized was named Esperanza. She is 105 years old. She’s never been able to come to our services at Sangano because she can’t make the trip on the truck. There was almost 100 years difference in age between her and the youngest person to be baptized.

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The choir from Sangano sang a special. Then we served some refreshments. By this time it was 2PM and getting hot. The steady breeze helped, but barely made a dent inside the packed church. Almost 200 bodies crowded into that space warms up fast whether there is a breeze or not.

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The last event for the day was showing the Jesus film.

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People seemed to enjoy it but our speaker wasn’t loud enough for those in the back to hear. We got about half through. The combination of the heat and the long day and the speaker not working made people restless. Around 4PM, James decided to stop playing it and release everyone. We’re going to attempt to find a better speaker and set a time to show it where that is the only activity for the day.

Our best estimate for attendance is about 350 people between the adults and children. It wasn’t the 500 they expected but I don’t thing we could have fit any more than the ones who came.

It’s so exciting to see how God is already using the new church building in this community. The old building would never have held this many people, nor would we have been able to even attempt showing the movie. We were able to meet people we never would have before. This is only the beginning of how God is going to work here.


How’s Africa? – Valentine’s Day in Uganda

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentines Day isn’t celebrated the same in Uganda as it is in the US. In the US, as soon as Christmas is finished, stores put out their Valentine’s Day goods. The holiday is everywhere you look. The pressure is there for both those in relationships and those who don’t have a Valentine.

It’s easy to forget about Valentine’s Day in Uganda. When we first arrived, if stores got any gifts at all, they were difficult to find, hidden away on the corner of a shelf. The day would come and go and you’d find the items and wonder if they’d been intended for Valentine’s Day. Most of the time we couldn’t find any roses at all. In a fit of annoyance one year, James went to a nursery and bought a bunch of rose bushes for our yard. Now we get roses year round.

Today, a few years later, stores get the gifts sooner, but we still don’t see them on the shelves until a week or two before the holiday. They are small, often generic, type gifts.

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We plan ahead for Valentine’s Day. Last year we stocked up on chocolates and brought them back with us in our luggage.

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We had a special breakfast and a special supper and James and I went to town for lunch. There is a new-to-us restaurant in town called Curry in a Hurry.

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They really do bring that food out to you in a hurry! It’s almost as fast as ordering in an American restaurant! I love Indian food and have my meal already chosen for the next several visits. 😉

One of the local hotels is holding a Valentine’s Day concert. They’ve been advertising it for the last couple weeks with huge speaker trucks driving around blasting music and advertisements for the event. It’s not exactly the way you’d celebrate the day in the US, but I can’t blame the hotel for trying to capitalize on the holiday.

Worst of all? No discount chocolate after the holiday. Tomorrow, they’ll pack up the Valentine’s Day gifts and pack them away for next year.

What Sugar Cane Taught Me About Love

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A couple weeks ago, we attended the 25th Anniversary celebration of some friends of ours here. They had a pastor from another town come and preach. His message was fantastic. I learned something new that day:

The oldest part of the sugar cane is the sweetest.

This fact made me consider: Have I gotten sweeter, more loving, as I’ve gotten older?

Have you?

We’ve all seen them, people with more life experience than we have who are grumpy and bitter and refuse to be kind to others. 

The truth is, Love is a Choice. 

We choose if we will be loving and considerate to others. We choose how we will respond when others hurt or offend us. We choose to grow in either love or bitterness through our life experiences.

How can we learn this? How can we grow in sweetness and love as we get older?

1. We obey Christ’s command to love one another.

Jesus said: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)

This command seems simple enough. Love other believers. But it takes daily effort and a daily choice to do it. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of choosing to respond with grace to family member who is annoying you. Other times, other believers say or do things that are horrible and offensive. We still have to respond with love.

2. We walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16 says “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Then, the very first fruit of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22 is love. The Holy Spirit enables us to respond with love (instead of envying and strife) to those around us.

3. We abide in Christ.

John 15 4 says “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

And then my favorite verse in the Bible: 

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There is no way, in our own strength, to respond with love and grace to the things that happen. There is no way for us to grow sweeter as we grow older on our own. The only way we can have this lasting fruit of the Spirit, is to abide in Christ. 

But, like the sugar cane, if we abide in our vine, Christ, we don’t have to struggle to grow sweeter, we don’t have to work for it, we don’t have to fight for each correct response. All we have to do it abide and the sweet fruit of Love will be a natural byproduct.

It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

And so, this Valentines Day, remember the sugar cane. Choose love, Choose to grow sweeter as you get older.

Choose to abide in Christ.

In Pursuit of Pork Products

What would you do if you walked into the kitchen and discovered your husband had left one of these on the counter? 😉 

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In reality, getting a pig takes planning and forethought. It’s a huge, two day process and involves giving up most of my refrigerator space. We start planning for it a couple weeks in advance.

Not long after we arrived in Uganda, we discovered that obtaining pork products was challenging. Yes, people here eat pork. They don’t, however, eat it like Americans who have made the consumption of pork products an art form. We can’t get sausage or ham. We can get small breakfast sausage type things, but the meat doesn’t resemble anything I’m familiar with. We can also get pork on a stick — roasted over an open fire in the evenings. It’s tough and usually full of bones.

We brought the necessary supplies (a meat grinder attachment for our Bosch kitchen machine, and sausage seasonings and casings)  back with us from the States. 

James heads to the Western Market to get the pig. All livestock is slaughtered in a slaughterhouse where it is inspected for disease or other problems. Then they bring it to the market where people break it down for sale. We got the whole pig this time. They took off the head and shaved it.

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Then they gutted it.

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Finally, they weighed it and charged us the hanging weight.

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James brought it home, where we’d set up the kitchen so he could break it down. We have a special saw and fillet knives. James has kevlar gloves to protect his hands from the sharp blades. He and the boys spent several hours breaking down the meat into usable portions. The bones all went into a huge stock pot we use to make bone broth. He saved out ham bones for ham and beans — a family favorite. The rest of the meat went into the fridge to cool overnight. (The carcass was still warm when he got it home. Oh.the.horror.) 

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The following day, James and the boys work with the chilled meat and make it into all sorts of good things. Well, they’ll be good once they are cooked. They put the meat through the grinder, then mix in the necessary spices. Bulk sausage is bagged and frozen. The rest of the sausage is put back through the grinder and fed into the sausage casings for bratwurst. 

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Last, but definitely not least, the finished product is stored in the freezer so we don’t have to do this again for several months.

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Where am I during this process? I don’t handle the raw meat well. It looks to me like a giant ball of salmonella or botulism and the smell makes me queazy. I’ve tried, I really have. But they all took offense to me following them around with the bottle of sanitizing spray. So I stay away and let them work. I try very hard not to think about what they are doing and where they might be tracking meat and blood in the rest of the house and I try even harder not to freak out when I do, indeed, think about it.

When they are finished, they clean the kitchen from top to bottom. So I get a freezer full of meat and a super clean kitchen out of the deal. Win win for me! 😀


Friday Funny – Can You Hear Me Now?

We followed this lorry full of chairs from a party and noticed there was a man perched on top of it all. He talked away on his cell phone, never noticing that at times his head barely cleared the power lines over the road.

Do you think he was trying for a better signal?

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“Can you hear me now?”

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A Micro Library at Ngarama

The building at Ngarama is completely finished, including a fresh coat of paint and the name of the church on its side. It boasts its own baptistry and a fancy new toilet with two stalls for women and two for men. 

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A couple years ago we shipped a container full of books we’d collected from all over the US. Our goal was to build a library at Sangano and stock it with books. Bro. Bassett built the library building before they moved back to the states, then we began carrying books out there as soon as they arrived. Bro. Tom Tracht built a school at the church in Sangano. It has over 300 children in attendance every day. We’re working to sort more books into each of the grade levels, which we’ll then stock in the classrooms. It’s a long process and we still have many boxes of books to sort.

Another goal we had was to create a mini library at each church. We were finally able to begin this project at Ngarama. The second week of January, we started sorting through books in our personal library. We’d accumulated quite a few over the years and we weren’t using nearly all of them. We didn’t need some of them anymore — maybe we had digital copies or the children had outgrown them. Whatever the reason, we were able to clear the books from 3 bookshelves.

We took those bookshelves and dropped them off at Ngarama a week ago yesterday. We also carried a couple bins of books out there and discovered we could bring quite a few more bins before the shelves would be full. This week, we carried four more bins and still didn’t fill the shelves.

The children always struggle to sit in church, so this week we spread the mats in the back and passed out books for them to look at. It kept them quiet for most of the service. Brennah sat in the middle of the group and whisper read books to as many as would huddle around her. One of the little girls told me (in Swahili) “She’s teaching me how to read!”

I can see we’re going to need to keep all the churches well supplied with children’s books — not a problem since we have many of those.

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That Amazing Car – fiction by Anna Spilger

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Last week, we spent the week sorting through old books and papers. We reorganized our bookshelves and got rid of things we weren’t using, didn’t need, or that the kids had outgrown.

In the process of all that, I came across one of the first “novels” I ever wrote. I’ve typed it up here for your enjoyment. I corrected most of the spelling errors but left some of the grammatical ones. I also discovered a potential reason I have trouble picking character names — I used them all up in this story. 😀

You might also note that my 9 year old self thought a moral was an essential element for a novel. My much older self laughed to tears over the moral my 9 year old self chose. Especially since said 9 year old self was rather obsessed with winning.


That Amazing Car

by Anna Spilger 9 years old

Chapter 1

The Race Car

There once was a race car that always landed upright when it went over a ramp. Other cars always landed on their side or top. Everyone wanted to know how it was made but no one did.

Chapter 2

The Unusual Car

This car was made different. It had bike pedals and a gas pedal so if the bike pedals didn’t work, the gas pedal did. If the gas pedal didn’t work, the big pedals did. If none of the pedals worked, you couldn’t drive it.

Chapter 3

Meet the Car

The car had a name. It’s name was Fred. Fred was all blue except the lights, windows, and a white triangle on the front and both sides. The white triangles had the number 30 on them. It was neat.

Chapter 4

Meet the Driver

The name of the driver was Fredrick. His nickname was Rick. Rick was tall and strong. His voice was deep. His hair was black and parted in the middle and smoothed back. He had brown eyes and smiled like a half moon. He was the best racer. He never gave up.

Chapter 5

About the Other Cars

Joe’s car was guaranteed for landing upright (but it never did). So was all nine of the other cars, except Rick. None of the other cars ever landed upright. But Rick’s did.

Joe’s car was white with 18 written on the side. Bill’s car was red with 100 written on the side. John’s car was yellow with 10 written on the side. Albert’s car was green with 23 written on the side. Gorge’s car was purple with 90 written on the side. Ken’s car was brown with 88 written on the side. Alan’s car was orange with 76 written on the side. Gilbert’s car was gray with 66 written on the side. And Peter’s car was black with 59 written on the side. All the cars had the numbers written on white triangles.

Chapter 6

The Big Race

The race was just beginning. Joe was in the lead but Rick was just behind him, pedaling as fast as he could. He had decided to bike pedal because he’d never done it before. He pushed the gas pedal and went ahead of Joe. Just then, on their last time around, Rick went over the ramp, then Joe, then —

Chapter 7

The Accident

Rick had just cross the finish line when Joe went over the ramp and landed top-side down. The other cars stopped, not wanting to hurt him more. Rick turned around and went back to Joe, pulled him out of the wreck, called an ambulance, and went with him to the hospital. Joe was in critical yet stable condition.

Chapter 8

The Repentant

When Rick walked into Joe’s room, Joe said, “Rick, we drivers have envied you, but mostly me. You see, we thought you were trying to make yourself great. I think you proved that you weren’t today. I’m sorry” “That’s alright,” said Rick, “and from now on let’s share the winning sensation, okay?” And they did.

The End

Moral: Share the sensation of winning, don’t get too proud.

What 10 Eggs Taught Me About Gratefulness

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We bought our Thanksgiving Turkey from a man who attends the church in Sangano. We didn’t intend to buy a turkey when we left for church that morning so we hadn’t come prepared to carry it home with us.

Now, I know how to butcher a turkey. I didn’t know how when we got to Africa, but I’ve learned since then. Just because I know how, doesn’t mean I enjoy doing it. I’d rather pay someone to clean it for me. Besides, I was in my church clothes and I couldn’t conceive of a way we could get two *live* turkeys home with us. So we included the butchering cost in our purchase price. 

As I watched the turkey butchering process, I noticed right away that the young men we’d hired to clean the turkeys weren’t actually the ones doing it. Zizi’s wife was doing most of the work. It irritated me. I told Zizi that if I’d have known his wife would end up doing the work, I’d have paid her to do it in the first place. I told him I wasn’t going to pay those guys, but I was going to give the money to his wife instead. It was only fair.

Zizi insisted I couldn’t do this. We’d already agreed on it. So I told him he and his wife were to take the offals (heart, liver, gizzard). We gathered them up and one of his daughters carried them into their house.

Sadly, I only had enough money with me to pay what we’d agreed to the guys who didn’t do much of the work. So, the next week I sent a little money to Zizi’s wife in payment for all her work in cleaning the turkeys. It wasn’t much. I felt embarrassed sending it but at the time it was all I had.

The next Sunday we were at Sangano again (we alternate weeks between the four churches, two one week, two the next). As soon as service was over, Zizi’s wife pulled me into their house and handed me 10 small, white eggs.

She said, “Thank you for buying me a soda and biscuits (cookies).” She’d used the money I gave her to buy herself a treat. (What woman doesn’t enjoy a treat now and then?)

Eggs are expensive in the refugee camp, almost half again of what we pay in town for a tray. She’d given me a valuable gift, far more valuable than what I’d given her. 

God’s gifts to us are the same. They are far more valuable than anything we can bring to Him. All I can give God is what He has already given me. 

I have nothing.

He has everything.

Yet He wants us to give ourselves to him — after He has done everything to redeem us. We are valuable to Him because of who He is and what He has done, not because of who we are.

Paul says it best:

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. 

II Corinthians 9:15

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(The bright yellow yoke on the right is from one of the eggs we were given. The one on the left is an egg I bought in town. Most eggs here have yolks that are so light they are almost white.)


How’s Africa? — When the Water Comes Out Brown

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What would you do if the water looked like that when it came out of your tap?

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How about if it looked like this coming out of your shower?

The truth is, it doesn’t always look like this for us, either. (Our water had been off all day and this is what it looked like when they turned it back on.) Most of the time the water is murky or cloudy. Our whites don’t stay white very long. Showers, toilets, and sinks get a film of dirt over them between cleanings. We never use the tap water for cooking or drinking. 

But not everyone here has that option. Many people use the water here, straight from the tap without boiling. Water is a necessity of life. They can’t afford a fancy filter or to buy bottled water  so they drink what they can get. I’ve even seen children collecting water from ditches and puddles. I tell myself their mom is going to use it for laundry. Then I wonder how on earth she’ll get the clothes clean using muddy water to wash. But I know better than that. I know people drink and cook with that water.

So, what do you do if you visit a place where the water isn’t suitable for drinking? Here is what we do and it’s worked well for us the last several years:

1. Drink only bottled or filtered water.

We have a Berkey water filter at home and we use that for our drinking and cooking water. When we go places, they always serve us bottled water (you have to pay for it; water isn’t free here) and open the bottle for us while we watch. 

2. Make sure water for coffee or tea is boiled.

Sometimes we’ll order coffee or tea when we’re away from home. We always make sure the pot they bring us is to hot to drink immediately. This ensures that the water, even if it came from a tap, was heated hot enough to kill anything inside it.

3. Love the skin you’re in

Skin, your largest organ, will protect you from everything else. I try not to shower or wash in nasty water (what good does it do, anyway?) but soap still binds with dirt and oil and washes it away, even if the water is, well, dirty. I keep Epsom salts around to use for soaking if we get infections. 

We also treat the whole family for intestinal parasites a couple times a year, just to be on the safe side. 

Next time you turn on the tap in your house and clean, drinkable water comes out, give thanks! Most of the rest of the world doesn’t have that.