Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp

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Wow! We have been really busy the last couple days! On Monday we visited the Bidi-biddi refugee camp. I felt we had been really well prepared for this visit, as everyone who heard that we were going to the refugee camp gave us all kinds of advice for the visit.

A man named Mickey was our host for this ministry, and he came and picked us up from VTC in the morning. The adventure began about half an hour into the drive, when Mickey’s car got a very flat tire before we even left the town of Arua and we waited on the side of the road for about an hour while people worked on fixing it. Finally, we decided to all pile into the vehicle Rolf was driving, while Mickey would follow when his car was fixed. This was an entertaining drive, as we packed ten people into a vehicle that would have been cozy with eight. Nathan sat in the very small trunk with the guitar, and Lindsey sat on Gabi’s lap, and then we all fit!

After two hours of driving down a dusty, bumpy road, we made it to St. Paul’s School in the camp. The children were singing their welcome song for us before we even stepped into their classrooms. We sang some songs and performed a skit for them, and after greeting all the adults and a lot of the children, we left to visit a church that was also in the camp.

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This was an inspiring church! Before we had even stopped the car, the church was singing their welcome song, clapping, and playing instruments for us! So we joined the welcome dance and went with the flow as they led us into the church with a processional, complete with leafy branches underfoot and a banner overhead. In the church we sang for them, Rolf gave a word of encouragement, and then they sang for us! After the formalities, they brought out food and tea for us, which none of us wanted to take, because this was food they would have had to sell some of their rations for, and none of them were eating. But we were reminded that they would have been very hurt if we had not accepted their gift and so we ate it, feeling very humbled at their generosity, even in the midst of their tough circumstances.

So here, in the refugee camp, we felt again the very welcoming attitude that people have greeted us with all over Uganda. We felt so blessed to be part of the family of God in another country, and extremely humbled and challenged as we thought about what situation they were in and the way they were still so joyful and welcoming to visitors.

Some ways to pray for us:

  • Energy as we have been going without many breaks for a long time already and still have more ministry to go
  • Our village homestay which is coming up this Friday-Saturday
  • The churches in the refugee camps as they still gather to worship and praise God after all the things they have gone through and the challenges they still live with

Thank you all so much for praying! We appreciate so much knowing that we have a community behind us in prayer as we serve and learn in Uganda.

Alysia Thiessen

Village Church Experience

day 10 churchToday, being Sunday, we had the blessed opportunity to join two Churches in their regular morning service. Half the team went to a rural village Church comprised primarily of Muslim background believers, while the other half of the team attended a South Sudanese Church here in Arura with the Kruses.

I personally had the blessed opportunity to attend and preach at the village church! We were warmly welcomed, sung and danced to a few songs, and then jumped right into the preaching of the Word. God used this opportunity to show me the greatness of His body. After preaching I realised I completely forgot to give an application to the sermon. However, a local pastor was asked to share and gave practical application that spoke directly to the culture of the people. After him, Rolf Kruse was asked to share. His piece also tied so well into the sermon that enhanced the message even more. Finally, our leader who brought us to the Church was asked to share and he too solidified the message with the words he shared.

From these many messages I saw the body of Christ work together to bring forth this message from God. One last thing I want to say about this church. The leadership was comprised mostly of those who were 20-25 years old. They did have one head pastor who was older, but other than him, these young guys were the ones preaching, teaching, and leading the congregation in song as many of the other older men were still in Sudan. Watching these young men take leadership in their church was very inspiring for me as I am a young man thinking about church leadership!

The other group had the opportunity to attend a South Sudanese church here in Arua with the Kruse family. Professor Carl preached, the team led a drama, Nathan led in song, James led the young male leaders in a devotional study, and the girls taught the children in Sunday School. I heard that this was a very encouraging and fruitful visitation as well.

After reconvening at the Kruse’s house, half the team had the privilege to be hosted by Muslim family from the children’s school that we have been serving at for supper. I personally did not have the opportunity to go, however, I heard that they were given a great history of the family, fed some amazing food, and had some meaningful conversations.

Those of us who did not go to the family’s for supper, stayed at the Kruse’s, ate some tasty food, played soccer, and rested. This was a very busy, but blessed day!

Thank you all for your continued prayers. God has been opening our eyes to His work within the Church amidst many hardships in such beautiful ways! These times of fellowshipping with the local Church has been very encouraging and inspiring to us as a team!

Your friend and brother in Christ,

Steven Warthe

Rest & Relax

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On Saturday the team spent time resting and relaxing after a busy week. One of the challenges of a busy life of ministry is making sure to take a day off regularly. If missionaries are too tired they are not as effective or struggle with attitudes (that probably applies to most of you as well).

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee, and then decided to explore Arua. Our team headed to downtown and browsed through a few shops, purchased a soccer ball, and a few groceries. Team members managed to locate a small bookstore that sold Bibles in the local Lugbarra language and purchased a few copies.

Then we headed to the White Castle resort and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the cool water. A few of us had the opportunity to meet some men who are working for local organizations and discover a bit more about how NGO’s operate and set priorities as they serve refugees and local residents who are struggling.

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Supper was delicious Ethiopian food at a local restaurant and then we wandered through a massive crusade in an open air park near the center of town.

We have been in the middle of a busy stretch of ministry this week, so our blog posts have been delayed. The team have been up early and out late, so you can definitely pray for energy as we serve, learn, and connect with a wide variety of ministries. Our next few days will be full of reconnecting with people and ministries we met last week, and then students go to a nearby village for their home stay experience on Friday. Pray that we would notice those who are open or waiting to have conversations with us. Pray that our minds and hearts would remain open to learn as much as we can from local believers and leaders in our remaining days here in Arua. Pray that God would be glorified and that we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as we share Jesus.

Carl Loewen

Flutes and Encouragement

At the end of day 8 … we are still alive. But quite tired and in need of a good break. You can pray for us as we take the day off on Saturday and then are involved with two different churches on Sunday.

We started the day off at Rauka school participating in the morning warm up then going in to a classroom with everybody and leading worship. We cut it short this morning as every Friday morning a missionary dad comes in and leads P.E. with everyone. Shelvis has two children in the school. They moved to Arua a couple years ago and helped start Rauka school. It started as a homeschool coop between a few parents and he would come in and read to the young kids, but as the school grew into what it is now it became necessary for there to be a P.E. program and he was the obvious fit to lead it. He began by taking the oldest 7 students and appointing them as team leaders while we were singing with the rest of the school. He discipled them a bit in leadership and introduced our key word ENCOURAGE. We split up the kids into seven groups and taught the importance of staying as a group and ENCOURAGING each other. They learned how to do a train and then lined up for relay races. It was hectic as kids changed teams whenever they wanted and then took a water break and kids were clinging to the playground equipment. We then played red-light-green-light and freeze tag and those games worked well with the whole school participating. We ended by ENCOURAGING each other again and talking about ENCOURAGEMENT.

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At 10:30 the rest of the group left as usual, but I stayed behind to teach the older class. Steven, Nathan and Alysia went with a lady out of town to a village and had a wonderful church experience. Lindsey and Gabi taught a toddlers swimming lesson and James went to a coffee shop called Borderlands.

I was going to teach music at Rauka to the older class because no one had taught them music before. I was given recorders, which are referred to as flutes here, and a bunch of music books with introductory theory. Everyone else thought it would be a disaster and the incessant squeaking would drive me nuts right away, but I had optimism going into it. I gave them the flutes right away and they squawked away happily at any moment I didn’t have their attention. They all spoke English, but I struggled to understand their accent and a few of them spoke very quietly. I taught them in a crowded classroom with all their textbooks still on the tables and no black board to write on. It was very different in this class than the roomy tent I was in the days before. Their teacher had agreed with them to have a shorter break, but I didn’t know what time classes began and ended at after 10:30.

We had a break at some point and another boy the children knew from last year came and joined them at that time and he said he was just visiting at that point, so I figured he wouldn’t stay long. We moved the class outside where we were relieved by the beautiful breeze revived our focus and desire to learn. It ended up that he would be a student that very next Monday and I felt bad for not giving him a very warm welcome. These people are always so very welcoming! I gave him a flute and he immediately lit up with excitement.

I am looking forward to teaching them again next week. Those 8 kids are very dear to my heart now and I don’t want to let them down, and so want to teach them more. We then began trying to write our names on the flutes with a red felt marker. We then proceeded to sanitize -in a bucket of water and Jik which I think is just bleach- the flutes and rub and wash off the names we had just written on. We went back the class and wrote names on strips of paper and then looked for staples for a stapler to attach them on the ends of the flutes. They took the opportunity of me being distracted by squirming around in the stuffy classroom to blast out a few notes at each other again. I collected the flutes because I didn’t want them to be distracted with them for the whole afternoon and they couldn’t take them home for the weekend. I sanitized them all again. I thought it was a huge success, but it was exactly like the others were thinking it would be. Rolf and Kalia came and picked me from the school around 12 and we got back to VTC at 12:30 for lunch with most of the team. A lady named Amelie was doing laundry for us and then cooked us a wonderful Ugandan meal for lunch.

In the afternoon I spent some time going over some of the music books and came up with an idea for teaching the next week. I also spent some time in prayer for these kids and journaled about our time here. I met a man named Alfred near our guesthouse, and will give him a Bible next week as he expressed a lot of interest. The team gathered at the Kruse’s for supper and enjoyed sharing about all of our experiences.

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– Colton

Hill Top Bible Study

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The first hour at Rauka school we spent singing many songs, including one of the children’s favorites. Hallelu hallelu hallelu hallelujah – they really enjoyed singing faster and faster each round. Colton and I then each shared a Bible story, first the story of young Samuel and then the story of Jonah. After that I spent the rest of the morning helping out in Kindergarten class. The teacher was a 22-year-old lady named Mildred. She asked me to teach so we taught them social habits. Ex: How does a grandparent walk? They clearly walk slouched over with a walking stick, so we would imitate that. It was a fun class.

After the morning at Rauka school we went to have lunch at a local cafeteria. I had some fried cassava chips with goat stew, some of the others tried ‘Matoke’, which consists of boiled mashed bananas. It was absolutely delicious, like most dishes around here are.

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In the afternoon we split up and went to a couple of different places. Alysia went to help out with swimming lessons, Colton and Prof. Carl went to the farm where they were taught how to plant seeds, as two white guys from Canada might not have any idea how to plant anything. James, Steven, Lindsey and I went with Bobby to join a Bible study in a small village near Arua. The Bible study took place on top of a hill, under a tree that had hardly any leaves to shade us from the hot afternoon sun. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. We could see all the surrounding villages. There was a white cross on top of the hill and they are building a small roof up there to shade people who come up there to worship and pray. The people started arriving as soon as we got there. There where between 12 to 15 fairly new believers, many from a M background. Bobby shared with us how this ministry started. It all started with one person being led to Christ, who shared his faith with many others, and then several others came to know Christ through this. Unfortunately, that first Christian has recently fallen into alcoholism. Since the culture is honor/shame he is now avoiding his fellow believers but they continue to pray for him and try to reach out to him.

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This Bible study was definitely one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. These people are really new believers, they are learning the story and purpose of Jesus and of creation. But they don’t know the middle of the Bible. Bobby taught on the instructions God gave the Israelites on sacrificing animals to atone for their sin. The moral of the story was perfect sacrifice is necessary since sin needs to be paid for even if it is forgiven and that is what Jesus came for. The method Bobby uses to teach requires a lot of patience for the leader. Rather than giving all the answers, he asks a lot of questions which the people need to reflect on and answer. There is a lot of repetition involved to ensure that details are remembered, even though the people can read they still are more of an oral culture that passes on knowledge and wisdom through spoken rather than written word.

I shared my Bible with two young girls, both who are still in high school. Both had only recently joined the Bible study and are supposed to receive their Bible next week. Both spoke English which was great since this allowed me to actually talk to them. They seemed very shy at first but warmed up more towards the end. I am looking forward to hopefully meeting them again next week.

This experience was very eye opening and encouraging. The work of the Holy Spirit in that village and in those people is very evident.

Later in the evening we had a Valentine’s Day supper at VTC together with the Kruses. We enjoyed pizza and heart shaped candies.

Prayer requests:

  • Continued growth for Bobby’s ministry
  • Energy and flexibility for our team
  • Health and safety
  • Pray that Lindsey’s bodas and tuc-tucs stop running out of gas
  • Efficiency in ministry and travel

Blessings, Gabi

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Rauka School

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Day 6 in Uganda and we are truly enjoying our time here. In morning we had a simple breakfast together and shared a devotional before walking to Maggie’s school. Maggie’s school is named Rauka which is Swahili for “rise”. Maggie is a Kenyan woman who moved to Uganda with her four children and she started the Rauka Christian school about two years ago. Education in Uganda is very important but in order to receive quality education it costs a lot of money and most families can not afford to send their kids to a good school. Therefore, kids end up in government schools which are free, but the education system is poor and the children do not really learn. The classrooms are full and the teachers are few.

 

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Maggie’s school is a great ministry because everyone is prioritizing quality education. Although her school is Christian, they allow kids from other religious backgrounds to attend. Her school has approximately 50 children from nine different cultural backgrounds! It is very culturally diverse! Arua in fact, is a very diverse city because of all of the refugees and UN members who have settled in the town. In the last five years Arua has gone from a population of 5,000 to 70,000 because of the war in Sudan and South Sudan and all the refugees fleeing into Uganda.

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When we arrived at Rauka school, we were welcomed by the teachers and students and participated in their morning routine. This routine consisted of dancing, singing, chanting, and praying. Then we had the opportunity to lead worship singing and share a Bible story to the kids. There was a M devotional that was happening at the same time and once the kids finished their program they came over and joined our program. It was pretty cool to have them join us in worshiping Yahweh! After the devotional our team split up and joined the children in their different classrooms. Gabi and I had the privilege of being with the youngest students; 15 three-year olds who love to play! The others on our team were with the older students and had opportunities to teach the class.

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At 11:30 am we went to Eden Farms for an hour and learned about plants, trees, natural remedies, and what it is like to farm in the West Nile. We enjoyed hot hibiscus tea with some of the local farmers. They showed us the “tippy tap” which is a simple homemade hand washing station using sticks, two strings and a small water jug. Then we went and satisfied our hunger with some fresh Rolex (common street food made with eggs, veggies, and chapati) with the Kruse kids.

After lunch we learned how to slaughter a chicken (we bought it in the market yesterday) in the Lugbara traditional way. The Kruse family have a day guard who is Lugbara and he showed us how to butcher and prepare the chicken for supper. Then we hosted several Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and ran a kid’s program for them while their parents were having a Bible study. We sang songs, performed a drama about the Good Samaritan, shared a devotional about Jesus walking on water and played several games with the kids. After the parents picked them up in the evening we ate our chicken and more chapatis!

After a full day of activities, learning new words and meeting new people, we cleaned up supper and talked about more ministry opportunities for Thursday and Friday. All together it was a very busy day but also a very good day. We saw God at work through the people we met and through His creation.

Prayer requests: Sleep! Not everyone has been sleeping well at night. Please pray for continued health for the team! You can also pray that we can be focused on the present with open hearts in the ministries as we get to observe the culture and serve people.

Praise: The weather; I love being outside in the sun and the constant heat! And the VBS program is going well!

Thank you for praying for us! Blessings!

Lindsey

 

 

Learning, Laughter, & the Streets of Arua

Day five began similarly to the previous day. We started off with a breakfast and devotions together and had a cool start to our day.  We sat together and learned from some people about culture in Arua. We talked with David, a missionary who has been in Arua for approximately 30 years. David is experienced and is a part of an agricultural ministry here in Arua and shares with short-term teams, things that should be understood when meeting up with the culture of Arua. As well as Robert, a local who has worked with David for a while. We talked about greetings, clothing, food, squatty potties… Yes. Squatty Potties. A simple hole in the ground… Enough said… as well as gifts, and faith. This was very good for us to hear. Even though the months leading up to us coming here, we did learn about culture and quite a bit of it was refreshing, it was still good for us to hear, because now this is real. We are in Arua. We experience the things that we talk about. We get embarrassed if we don’t remember some of those things. (But more on that later). It was also good to hear these things from someone who has been around Arua for a long time, and while he may not be an expert, he certainly is experienced.

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After eating a lunch of Rolexes (fried egg, onion, & tomato wrapped in a chapati – really good), we spent the afternoon doing a scavenger hunt. To help us get acquainted with Arua, the Kruse’s set us up with a list of things we either needed to get, learn about, or take a picture of. We were split into teams of three and were dropped off in the main town area market. We were tasked with getting different prices of meat from vendors, to find a specific type of bread from a specific bakery, or to learn 10 words of the Lugbara language. There were a lot of cultural experiences and awkward/embarrassing moments for each group to experience. For example, Steven, Alysia, and I were dropped off in the market by a Tuk Tuk (A 3 wheel Taxi) and figured our best bet would be to ask for directions to the nearest pharmacy, so immediately we went to the first person we saw and asked them. To which they responded, “Why didn’t you just ask the Tuk Tuk Driver to take you there?” to which, we didn’t have a good answer.

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It’s interesting how many things you have to learn or re-learn when you come to a different culture, and how much extra time simple things take. Like crossing the street took probably 5-10 times longer than it normally would and felt like a triumphal victory when we finally managed to do so. Or every time we would say thank you in Lugbara – Awadifo – every person we would say it to, would correct us in how to say it and say it many times for us until we got it right, and then the next person would correct us entirely differently after some laughing. It was certainly a unique way to learn about a culture, and there are so many more stories that could be told, not just from our group, but all of us that went out.

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Prayer Requests:

  • More Sleep & Energy – Some of us are trying to finish up our Jet Lag, and others have been able to make the adjustments needed. Pray that those that need more sleep would be given the rest and energy needed so that they can help in ministry to the best of their abilities, and if not, then that they would be still be able to give glory to God through the lack of energy.
  • Remembering the Cultural lessons – The last thing we want to do is come and ignore the cultural lessons that are important, and hurt what God has been doing here in Arua. So we want to be respectful of Arua’s unique culture.
  • Glory to God – That we would continue to give glory to God for the things that we see he is doing here in Arua and that we would continue to be willing workers for His Mission.

Thanks all for your prayer and support. Let us continue to serve God in the way that He has called us.

Nathan