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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holiday Time! - White Eagle Project Report

Our first White Eagle report for 2012, from Emily, our Director of Training:

Throughout January, I have been continuing to prepare our young men to leave the WEP home. Some have started renting somewhere to stay and have been working to become more independent. Most of our White Eagles returned to school at the end of January, and we have several White Eagles starting nursery school.

The holiday programme ran intermittently, as there were several other events during January (such as visits home, the football tournament, youth camp, etc.). It involved:
  • Life skills - we did a series on relationships (between God & Man, friendships, and relationships between males and females)
  • Fellowships led by Staff – We had a session on “Jesus the King”, looking at different scriptures about the kingship of Jesus, and what that looks like and means.
  • Games and sports, including a mini-Olympics, football, volleyball, table tennis, and indoor games
  • Fellowships led by White Eagles – a prayer session, and a talk on Jeremiah 29:11, on not worrying about the future, because God has good plans for us.
  • Craft - involving card-making and chalk-drawing.
  • Lake Nabugabo - a beautiful day and a wonderful time swimming, playing football and volleyball, and eating chicken.
  • Youth Conferences - 'Let Your Light Shine Youth Camp' (theme “A Call To Purity”) and 'GRIP' (theme “Armed and Dangerous (2 Corinthians 10:4)
  • Week at home - most of our residential White Eagles went to stay with their families from 2nd - 7th January.

Back to the 'Pearl of Africa' - Davies Dispatch Jan 2012

Rob and Katharine Davies, (and their daughter Elena!), are serving with River of Life Church as Long-term Missionaries. Rob is Development Director at River of Life, and Katharine coordinates Missions and is establishing an Early Years programme... Here is the first of their monthly updates

Uganda! The Pearl of Africa, as the Victorian explorers and missionaries called it. It’s good to be back, and certainly after the wet and cold of Christmas in the UK, Uganda seemed to be shimmering pearl-lke as we drove south from Kampala to Masaka after our epic flight via Johannesburg. The rains have been good and long, so harvests are plentiful which has eased some of the pressures on local food prices. Our own garden is producing about a million tonnes of matooke, our favourite green banana staple, every week, which the children down in the White Eagle Project are enjoying!

We’ve got stuck straight back in with the work - although the team out here have done a marvellous job whilst we’ve been away. A new shallow well has been completed giving access to clean drinking water for more of the people of Nyendo (the trading post where we focus most of our activities), our offices, which were embarrassingly dilapidated have been spruced up, the White Eagle Holiday Programme continued apace and a new sports initiative, Synergy Sports Strategy, was launched.

Most of the River of Life news you’ll get (or can get) through the River of Life website, or by email if you are on the list (you can subscribe here) so we thought we’d give you our personal highlights for January...

Week 1: Flying...
As you know, in the first week of January, we were mostly flying and standing in queues. It took us nearly 3 days to get here, courtesy of high winds in the UK when we left. You may have assumed that would mean we had a nightmare journey - actually it was fine! We got the upgrade, Elena slept really well and we arrived in Masaka having had some rare time together as a family. Praise God! Probably the worst thing that happened was realising, on arrival, that we had forgotten to pack any cheese... can you believe it?! But then, thanks to Mary (one of the founders of River of Life) who came out a few days later, our cheese supply was re-stocked and Katharine made the most awesome lasagne ever!

Week 2: Giving blood...
This was a momentous week for me (Rob). I had always accepted the “just returned from a malarial-zone” excuse for not giving blood with relief, because I was pretty scared of the idea. But when Dr Sarah (our fellow missionary to River of Life) called to say that the local blood bank was absolutely desperate and children were dying, there was really very little choice. Now, I faint at injections, so it wasn’t going to be easy, but it turned out okay! Yes, I nearly fainted and had to lie on the floor (not at giving blood, but at the little blood-test prick they do first!) and they had to set me up my own bed outside, but with the help of Sarah holding my hand I did it! (Katharine got out of it because she’s still feeding Elena...) I will definitely be doing it again...

Week 3: A trip to the Lake!
Sand Beach at Lake Nabugabo is an awesome spot about half-an-hour’s drive from Masaka. There are no crocodiles, no nasty parasites in the water, and the water is shallow and warm. (Well that’s what the tourist industry tells us.. to be fair, I’ve never seen a crocodile there, and I’ve never got sick after swimming, so...) Elena absolutely loved it. She took delight in just wading out as far as she could go and then throwing herself further in, which made for a few desperate rescue attempts - but then she would just go and do it again! One such rescue killed Rob’s iPhone which he left in his pocket, but miraculously it resurrected 3 days later!

Week 4: Out to the village...
There is a massive difference here between town and country. Many rural areas are extremely poor, and the cultural norms that govern everyday life can be at best bizarre and at worst pretty abusive. Statistics suggest that over 70% of women experience domestic abuse in Uganda. So at River of Life we have a ministry called “Roots” that goes out to particular areas where domestic abuse is culturally acceptable, and teach and counsel people against it. It was amazing to see how the teaching began to set people free. Whilst the adults were in the Conference, we also did a 2-day programme for about 150 children, which was pretty awesome!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - out to the village on Roots Ministry

Geoff's been with us since October, and recently took part in 'Roots Ministry' - here he tells us all about it!

The month of January also saw some people come back to Uganda. Firstly it was Rob and Katherine who had a good couple of months at home in the UK. It is good to have them and their beautiful 22 month old daughter Elena back as they live/run the visitors house where I stay and always make it a lovely place to be.

Secondly January saw Mary come back to Uganda after being away for around 14 months. The reason for her absence is that her husband and pastor of the River of Life Duncan was and is ill due to cancer. He has had some positive strides forward though and Mary felt called to come back to Uganda for 8 weeks or so. It has been good to get to know Mary a bit more as it gives a more holistic picture of the charity and it’s history. One of the reasons Mary has come back is to run something called Roots Ministry. This is where a number of people head out from the Church to a village outside of the area and run a couple of days of ministry. The main focus of it is abuse, and Mary runs those sessions, giving teaching and allowing the Spirit to heal where possible.

She asked me however to run the children’s ministry. Now the plural there is important because there were around 150 of them! We discussed what the talks could be on and we focused on 'achieving your potential' and 'knowing your calling'. It was a good success with the children and as well as the teaching we had songs, games, prayer, and face pulling sessions. Thankfully it wasn’t just me but Beth also along with some of our youth, and as a team we did rather well. Hopefully it was positive for the children, the prayer was that they may experience something positive from the weekend, whether that be through enjoying the games, learning from the teaching, or importantly that their parents would receive some sort of healing and that would improve their home, or perhaps they would stop being abused. In all it was a good few days and people seemed to take a lot from it which is really positive, and River of Life will be going there again in the near future to back up what took place.

Leading Children's Games

Doing the Sprinkler!

Teaching about how people learn

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking the bonds of violence in Uganda

Domestic abuse in Uganda is at absolutely shocking levels. Figures obtained by the Uganda Law Reform Commission show that 78% of women experience some kind of domestic abuse. River of Life’s Roots Ministry Team goes out to villages to try and begin to put a stop to it...

For the 200 odd men and women crowded under a make-shift shelter waiting for the Roots Ministry Team, violence is just part of every day life. Across Uganda, armed conflict, alcohol abuse, poverty and cultural attitudes all help account for the pervasive, destructive acceptance of abuse in communities. And so for many men and women thinking of a life without violence is almost impossible.

Different studies tell us different things - but they all point to the same ticking time-bomb. One 2006 study tells us 66% of respondents, men and women, had experienced violence, another 2007 report claims 68% of married women aged 15-49 had experienced some sort of abuse from their spouse.

Perhaps most worrying of all, 77% of 15-49 year old women feel that violence in marriage is justified for any number of reasons - like burning food or refusing sexual relations (according to a UNICEF 2008 Report) - whilst another study claims that 60% of men and 70% of women condone wife beating.

In some areas, violence is at the heart of a new marriage. A prospective husband is required, by stealth and strength, to steal in to his bride-to-be’s village and physically over-power and subdue her, with her brothers and uncles watching to make sure he is sufficently macho.

It’s all a depressingly long way from God’s ideal: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25), which is why the Roots Ministry team was established. With Mary back, the time was right to do the first Roots Ministry of 2012. So in the last week of January we got ready to go, with prayer, teaching and planning!

Then for two days we were out, deep in the South Ugandan countryside. Through personal testimonies, teachings on ‘Love Languages’ and ‘How we learn’, specially planned children’s sessions, praise and worship and ministry time, Mary led us as we carefully peeled back the culturally accepted norm that ‘violence is ok’ and exposed it for the destructive bondage that it is.

Many, women especially, responded to the sessions, and came forward for prayer ministry to be set free from the bonds of violence. The vision of Roots isn’t to leave it there though - we’ll be back to help them continue walking in their new found freedom.
The Roots Ministry Team
Meeting together for teaching
Ministering to victims of abuse

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - Silky Synergy Football (most of the time!)

Geoff's been key in River of Life's Annual Community Football Tournament, this year re-launched as the Synergy Cup...

For a big part of January I've been involved with the football tournament ran by Synergy Sports, which is the sports ministry of the River of Life. This involved 12 teams from across Masaka and Nyendo, mainly made up of 14-18 year olds. There were 19 matches in all with group stages, quarters, semis and the eventual final. There was some really good football played (not all the time but often) and each team brought something different to the tournament. It was put on to be something positive for youngsters to do during the holidays, to promote the fact that Synergy Sports Strategy has been established, and to be another way in which the River of Life could reach out and be part of the community. It managed to do all of these things, and in many ways was a great success so we are thankful for that.

There was one very interesting point in the semi final though when a goal was disallowed for offside in extra time a fan walked on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee, which then opened the flood gates for the most of the other fans to enter the pitch and try and have their stay. The crowd became unmanageable, and although thankfully there was no violence, we had to end the match prematurely. I’m not sure how the locals took to a Muzungu standing in front of the referees to protect them but thankfully all were ok and the tournament carried on!

Synergy had 3 teams entered into the tournament, the Sonics, Saints, and Sabres, and all did well and learnt a lot in the process. The Sonics reached the final which was a great occasion with a big crowd there to enjoy. Unfortunately they couldn’t quite manage the win losing out on penalties, however many positives were taken and it was a chance for the whole of Synergy Sports to grow as a group. Some of the Synergy lads have started coming to Youth Group and Church, which is just great as they want to be part of the River of Life community and learn and grow in Jesus, which is why we have a sports ministry.

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Friday, January 20, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - The White Eagles head to the Lake!

Geoff's been involved in the White Eagles Holiday Programme - here's what happened in January:

The holiday program was still running for most of the month, and although it was slightly disjointed due to the many other things happening that the White Eagles were involved in, it was good when it happened. We still had different sessions to do with life skills, games and sports, discussion groups and fellowship. As ever we had lots of fun with the White Eagles, as they are great to interact with. We also had a good few chill out sessions where we would do a puzzle or play some table tennis, these were often with the younger White Eagles which was great, as it was nice to give them a bit of concentrated time.

As part of their program most went home for a week or so. Although this left the project very quiet and we missed them, many had a really good time with their families across Masaka region and beyond. This is great as it is a priority for the children to rebuild or maintain positive relations with relatives.

As a treat for the White Eagles and staff, they go to the Lake every year and enjoy a day out there with some food and a chance to swim and play games. This is funded every year by a wonderful lady called Margaret who comes out from the UK for around 3 weeks every year in January. She is close friends with Mary and Duncan, a trustee of the UK charity that supports the work here, and has been supporting the Ministry from the very start, as well as still helping with communication with UK sponsors. It was a great day, and the lake (called Nabugabo) was a pleasant place to swim and the chicken we had was very tasty. It was wonderful to see the whole staff and White Eagles together enjoying fellowship in the sunshine, a worthwhile trip indeed. One negative to the trip was that I was a touch overzealous in throwing the children about the lake and made little Johna sick...woops! he is fine though!

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Responding to Uganda's blood crisis...

Rob, Development Director at River of Life Uganda, tells us about confronting his fears...

For some reason, I've always been afraid to give blood. Fortunately for me the UK Blood Service has never wanted my blood, as I've always been just back from a malarial region. But I'm one of those people that embarrassingly faint when having injections anyway, and the nervousness of someone taking a pint of blood out of me has always trumped the obvious need for donors.

Dr Sarah gives blood
That was until yesterday, when we got the call from Dr Sarah, River of Life's long-term missionary seconded to Kitovu Hospital: "Rob, we need blood donors. Three children died on the ward over the weekend, simply because there is no blood. Can you round up some of the White Eagles and staff and come and donate?"

Now, although the Ugandan Blood Service is as diligent in screening blood as anywhere else, the whole "I've just got back from a Malarial region" wasn't going to wash. We're in a malarial region. And anyway, children were dying.

For you blood donors out there, you know this is not a big deal AT ALL. But for those of us responding to that call for the first time, it's fair to say we were more than a little nervous. Uganda has a blood crisis at the moment - it's school holiday time and the whole nation is running very low on blood. Why? Because the main donor-base are older school children, who love the opportunity to get a free soda and a biscuit, and to miss an hour of lessons. The great news is that there is a generation of young Ugandans growing routinely donating blood. The bad news for me was that I was going to have to face my fears. But doesn't the bible say we are more than conquerors?

So off we went. And because Elder Betty had inspired us with a word of encouragement earlier in the week that as leaders, we were to lead by example, I gave blood straight after David, one of the other ROL Directors.

Beth giving blood 
And yes, I fainted. Not at actually giving blood you understand, but at the little finger-prick thing they do first to test your blood group. And yes, they had to set up a special bed for me outside. And yes, I had to hold Dr Sarah's hand whilst they took the blood. But, do you know what? It was absolutely fine. And today I woke and could say for the first time in my life that I've donated blood, and will probably save a life.

Gerald, Beth, Kayima and Sarah followed suite with far less fuss - although big respect to Beth also donating for the first time! (she managed not to make as much of a fool of herself as me)

In the next few weeks we'll invite the mobile blood bank down to church, and encourage as many as possible from the community to donate. We'll let you know how we get on...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Introducing Synergy Sports Strategy - changing gear for a new year!

Synergy Sports Strategy is our new Community Sports Initiative. It’s all about enabling young people to reach their God-given potential, in sport and in life, through training, life skills coaching and Christian teaching and mentoring. Sounds good eh?

Over the years we’ve been involved in various Sports Initiatives, believing with Mr Nelson Mandela that “Sport has the power to change the world!”. Most recently we were working with a local Football Academy, Ball Line, but when that relationship came to an end last year, we decided to change gear and ramp things up a bit! It’s been an exciting few months, with a tournament (which the Synergy senior team lost in the finals on penalties - agony!) new training and discipleship programmes for over 60 boys and building relationships with schools. We’re also very proud to be able to say that 21 of the lads have won education bursaries on the strength of their sporting ability! We need funds to keep up the work - can you help? Get in touch by email!

To read all the latest stories on Synergy Sports Strategy, just click here