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Monday, November 17, 2014

There are developments afoot at the Baby Unit...

Tony, one of our first White Eagles and now Vice-Chair of our Leadership Academy, has completed a course in Journalism. We're giving him a chance to try out his story-telling skills by writing for the River of Life blog - here's one of his first efforts!

The Baby Unit is a very important unit at Kitovu Hospital. Before this unit was put in place, the hospital were unable to give sick or premature babies proper care. Dr Sarah and Bridget, a nurse from Canada, used to visit and work with the staff in the maternity ward but unfortunately it wasn't enough to really help the situation.

A lot of equipment had been donated many months before, but wasn't in use, as there weren't staff for the unit. So Dr Sarah suggested that River of Life help, to make a properly staffed unit become a reality. She discussed the issue with the Elders of River of Life and they bought the idea, arrangements were made, and people were asked to donate so that we could help the little ones live. The Baby Unit officially opened in January 2013. As we speak now, over 400 babies have passed through the hands of this unit which is amazing!

There is a threat at the unit where little ones born outside Kitovu hospital are brought in needing medical care, which poses an infection risk to the babies we already have. Therefore we have just constructed a brand new partition within the unit so that we have room to take care of these other special babies from outside Kitovu, beautifully decorated by a host of willing and talented volunteers including our very own White Eagle Catherine!

The mums of the looked-after babies are pleased. “We are happy because our babies have been cared for in a very good and caring way. The nurses have been so helpful and ever willing to come whenever we called for their help,” they said. The nurses are very excited too, to be working in the unit because they enjoy the experience of seeing the little ones grow.

We are saying a big thank you to everyone who has donated different things such as equipment and funds for the survival of these little ones!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Christmas Gift that can't stop Giving

This year's Advent Adventure is the Awesome Alternative Gift that just can't stop giving!

As announced in our latest newsletter, for £20, you can buy the farm a piglet and fund its care for six months. In that time the piglet should be worth £75-100. We will then buy another, and in six months time... you get the idea! You will get a Gift Certificate for each Piglet, and all proceeds go to providing food for the White Eagles. Our Farm has been breeding pigs for some time now, so we know it can work! We're even going to be posting updates on our blog so that people can check up on how their piglet is getting on :)

This year the 'Gift Certificate' is in the form of an A5 Christmas Card. You have a choice of three different designs, and on the back is a short message with details about River of Life and the piglets. On the inside the card is blank for your own message. We can either email you the design of your choice so that you print it yourself, or we can print and post it to you.

The three designs are 1. Little Pig, 2. Cheeky Pig and 3. Beauty Pig

On the back of each card is more info (the colour matches the design on the front)

How to buy
It's easy to purchase a Piglet. Simply make an online donation here, or send a cheque made payable to Uganda River of Life Ministries to UROLM, 136 Essex Road, London, E10 6BS.

Then send us an email saying how many piglets you would like, which designs you would like and whether you would like us to print and post them to you, or whether you would like us to email them to you (that's a pretty good option if it's getting close to Christmas!). If you would prefer a different message on the front of the card, let us know - it can easily be personalised for you.

The money raised through the piglets will make the world of difference to the orphaned and vulnerable children in our White Eagle project - please consider buying all your friends and family a piglet!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More great news from River of Life!

Packed full of the latest news from River of Life, our Autumn Newsletter is sure to lighten up the dark nights drawing in!

Download Newsletter

We've had a wonderful time with Visitors over the last few months, including our Summer Short-term Missions Team, the White Eagles have got a brand new playground, there's the chance to quadruple your Christmas Donation (if you were thinking of making one!), and there's an update on the Gideons.

Our feature article looks at the hope and perseverence that we encounter through our Community Outreach work, whilst there is also news of a brand new computer lab at River of Life. There's the opportunity to donate to our building fund as our rented offices are no longer safe to stay in, and there's a brief update on the Prayer Mountain, Synergy's successful start to the Big League and a lot more besides.

So, please enjoy and download the newsletter, and spread the good news by sharing it with all your friends and family!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hope and Perseverance in the Community

Elder Betty leads our Community visits. Our current volunteer, Katie, accompanied her last week - this is her story.

Off the main streets of Nyendo are lots of homes, each home holds a family, and each family has its own story. These are the people of Nyendo that a passer-by might miss, unless he chooses to venture out onto the bumpy tracks.

This week I had the opportunity to join Elder Betty on Community Outreach. She led me through the back allies, past children playing and chickens roaming. We came to a home, where the mother welcomed us with such joy. She told me that she had four children, three in school and one about to begin. She loves them deeply, and spends her time doing all she can to provide for them. She said she is happy, because the Lord is looking after her, and through the church she is being helped to meet her needs. Her face was full of hope, a genuine hope, and a genuine trust in God.

But she admitted her struggles, that it is hard to find enough food, hard to give her children all that she longs to. She wants to share a meal with them of the tasty nutritious food she sees other people eating. When she is not caring for the children she patiently weaves colourful floor mats. She sells them to try and support herself. I asked her how long it takes to make one, and she laughed, and said one month. Oh, how I long to have patience like this! I was blown away.

I felt Jesus in this woman’s home; in her persevering love and sacrifice for her children, in her joyful thanksgiving, and in her determination and resilience. We have so much to learn! From the faithfulness of Elder Betty to pursue the passion God had placed on her heart to the way that when we come together as a church we are able to bless people abundantly more than if we try to work on our own.

Our Community work is supported by the ‘Gideons’ - our new regular prayer and giving programme. If you would like to find out more, please contact us.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Katie's Adventures in Africa continue...

This is update number two, it's been just over three weeks so I've passed half way!

I got back today from a night in the capital city Kampala. It was super worth it - I had no idea such a side of Uganda existed, a naive assumption I guess! But yes it turns out there is a lot of wealth in parts of Uganda and I felt like I had jumped forward in time a bit to a more modern, western influenced culture. I got to see the biggest market in Kampala, which was crazy. I literally had to duck a few times as men carrying giant bags of rice on their heads charged passed. It kind of felt like Super Mario as I dodged crazy stuff while walking really fast.

Other cool things have been happening here in Masaka, last week I got to preach in a secondary school and in prison. Very exciting! The prison was way more chilled than I expected; small and low security. They worshiped like crazy and it was so cool to be able to join them in that - and then to be able to bring God’s word to them too! We’re going back again this week, it’s such an incredible opportunity to be able to taste and see Jesus in these places I know he would be found in if he was walking on earth today.

On a funny note, well, I found it funny. The kids at the children's home got to play on their new swings and seasaw and roundabout for the first time - and they all were so excited, went on everything, came off, vomited, and got back on! They kept being sick but they were so excited they'd do it quickly and sprint back! I guess it is quite sad though, as the sickness is due to the fact that at age 7-12 most of them had never experienced the sensation of any of these simple things and so they body didn't know what to do. But still - we laughed.

On another funny note, we have been doing Aerobics at church, the women found out I was football coaching and they wanted to jump on the fitness train. At our first class we had about 15 women, which I was not expecting! And they all wore long skirts! Which meant that when I got them to lie down and do sit ups with their legs up they all screamed at the young guy who was sorting the music for us and he left very quickly - then they all burst out laughing!! Today - I couldn't do it with them, and yet there they were in the hall going for it on their own. Success!

I’ve got two weeks left, time is flying, but there is a lot to do before then, so stay tuned for another update!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Strength Will Rise!

We all know that we have some spiritual warriors amongst our women at River Of Life church, but last Saturday they proved themselves to be physical warriors too. We had a great turn out at our first Aerobics class – strictly women only!

When the women discovered that our visitor Katie was doing some football training with our young Synergy boys, they wanted to make the most of her stay for themselves. And so a women’s fitness class was arranged for Saturday afternoons. All the men were shewed from the hall and the women flowed in ready to work out.

Everybody took part in some way, and everybody had a great time. I think as much energy was burnt through laughing as was through running around. Katie said, “That was the most fun I’ve had doing exercise in a long time, and I Iove exercise! Everyone should come, I’m sure they will find it uplifting in all manners of the word!”

Rumour has it that a Thursday class has been requested as well as a Saturday class now, and when Katie leaves us in three weeks the ball will be rolling, and the classes will continue… let’s hope!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Synergy kick-off their Big League Campaign

Last Thursday evening saw Synergy step up to their first game in Big League after last seasons promotion from the Regional League. The local fans turned out in force and there was great excitement and anticipation as the lads have really been showing what they are capable of recently. Their opponents were VCC, a solid, well-organised Big League side managed by the son of former Ugandan President Idi Amin.

VCC had the better of the fist half, going into the break 1-0 up. But Syerngy came our roaring in the second half, equalised with a calmly taken penalty, to set up a thrilling final 30 minutes. Somehow VCC survived wave after wave of Synergy attacks, and held on for the draw. The game finished 1-1.

Tim Crow, head of Synergy, was happy. He said “I was very happy with the boys’ performance and their spirit. They were losing but they came back to batter the opposition and really showed themselves to be the stronger team.” Both Tim and Brian, Synergy's Manager, were encouraged by the players’ demonstration of determination and skill and we're sure exciting things are to come as the season continues!

Synergy has become the talk of the town, with Brian regularly invited on to radio shows to share the vision.
We're not about buying in players and just being successful in football. It's much more than that! Yes, the players and 200 odd Academy members are coached to perform the best they can on the field, but they are developed in all aspects of life through mentoring and relationship building. They are encouraged in their faith, and are supported in their goals both on and off the football field.

We need sponsors to keep the First Team on the road, as well as cover the running cost of the Academy. If you fancy being part of the most exciting thing to happen in Ugandan football, please get in touch!

New Computer Lab opened for business!

We’re delighted to announce that we have opened a brand new computer lab to offer training in computer skills, graphic design, website building and more.

It’s taken some time to get everything into place, with security being the toughest nut to crack. Our vision is to offer training in Computer Skills, Graphic Design and Website Building, so that members of the Leadership Academy can acquire some decent income generating skills.

Ernest and Tony (pic.), our 2014 Academy Chairman and Vice-Chairman, are already getting to grips with the new computers. We now have 25 members of the Leadership Academy, including three who will be graduating with their Bachelor Degrees this month from Nkumba University. They’ve done brilliantly well, and we’re very proud of them! This lab should offer them, and the other young people supported by River of Life Church, an opportunity to learn some valuable practical skills.

As Tony says
"Good news to all Leadership academy members! It's been our prayer that we could get more knowledge about different computer programs that aren’t commonly taught in schools but would still be of use in our day to day life. I am very excited to inform all the guys in the academy that we can now rock it! It's taken some time to set up because some software had to be downloaded but we are thankful that they are here at last. The computers are now available and ready to be used, different programs are to be taught to you and after that, you will go and explode in the whole world as we promote River of Life’s Mission “To see the Glory of God cover Uganda and the whole world through church revival and community transformation"!

We're particularly grateful to our good friends in Canada who made this happen!

Software update time at the new lab
Tony and Ernest get stuck in
The 2014 Leadership Academy

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Introducing Katie

Katie is with us for the next 6 weeks as our volunteer. She's going to be doing a ton of stuff, including training our brand new ROL Roving Reporter, helping us tell more of our stories! In the meantime, she'll be sharing her own take on all things River of Life...

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalm 139:7-12

I arrived in Uganda 6 days ago on a plane from London, to come and be with the River Of Life Church here in Masaka. I have been to Africa once before, but that does not take away from the fact that everything is different here!!! From the roaming cows to the crazy roads. But in all of this difference I know that God is here.

One project I am joining in with at the church is The White Eagle Project, a home for children where they are taken in and cared for, before being resettled with loving families. On Saturday night I was there with them, enjoying lots of laughter and dancing - Who knew Wii Dance was a hit with Ugandan kids too! After dinner came devotion time. The Children's home Aunt asked one of the girls to lead. She is ten. She accepted her responsibility with pride and went on to lead the group in a time of sung worship, reflection and prayer. A ten year old girl!! And when she sung, with no band to back her up, completely vulnerable... she sang! And she worshiped God like I have never seen a 10 year old girl worship before.

These children know the love of God with such confidence, and I believe it is so hugely due to the care and sacrifice they have experienced first hand from their family in Christ here at the church.

I am so excited to spend more time with these kids!

And to see the freedom and life that comes when we let God's love work through us, in all areas of life!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Latest News from the White Eagles - July and August Report

The July/August Report is out! Packed full of news from your favourite White Eagles, updates include:

  1. Term 2, done and dusted - including one of our girls being top of the class for the fourth term running!
  2. Persevering for Good Health - malaria, mumps and stomach infections have been duly dispatched.
  3. Team Green blow us away - our Summer Missions Team did, well, just that. They were awesome!

Read all about it by downloading the White Eagle July - August 2014 Report here!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Esther and Katie signing off

We're here. We've done it. We've reached the end of our adventure in Uganda. To say we've enjoyed it would be an understatement- we've LOVED it. Having been here for almost 7 weeks we've been able to get really stuck into to everything at ROL and, as you may have read in our previous blogs, have loved experiencing new things and stepping up in ministry.

For our last weekend in Uganda we went on safari! We had the most amazing 3 days seeing lions, hippos, elephants, giraffe and almost getting killed by a buffalo when our crazy guide thought it would be nice idea to go for a walk in the wild! (Note to self- NEVER DO AGAIN.) Although we hiked up the amazing Murchison waterfalls and went on a boat along the Nile as the sun started to set, we missed our home in Masaka and all the amazing friends we have made there!

Our time in Uganda has been an amazing and unique experience and now it's time to fly the nest. We have met some amazing people here who have created a second home for us and taught us a lot. There have been so many highlights such as visiting a school CU for the first time, going on community visits to pray with people, playing with the amazing White Eagle children, meeting phenomenal people and almost getting killed by a buffalo (to name but a few). We've been incredibly blessed and hope we've blessed the places we've been too!

This is Katie an Esther signing out for the last time.

Please please...stay fresh.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Malaria, Prison, Bubbles and more!

Wow, it's been a while- we've missed you. Unfortunately we've been busy being ill and having malaria. As it's so common in Uganda they were able to quickly treat it with strong medication.

So now we have two weeks to cover in this blog as we missed last week. Last week we had the chance to speak at the youth group here and visit Masaka prison where we were asked to share a song. Both were great experiences for us and gave us the chance to step out in ministry more. In the youth group it was amazing to be able to share with people our own age our passions to see a courageous generation seeking The Lord together despite inevitable cultural differences. When we were given the chance to visit the prison we were asked to bring a song with us, they don't allow just anyone to have a quick look around. The idea of singing to a bunch of prisoners at first was slightly daunting but once we arrived and were joyfully welcomed with singing and A LOT of hugging, it was easy to relax and enjoy ministering to them!

This week, now we are on the mend, we have spent a lot of time with the White Eagles children. This is the last week before they go on holiday so we're making the most of the time we have together. Over the last 5 weeks we have spent our weekends with them playing, dancing, eating, singing, shouting, running and everything else. One of their favourite things to do it set exams for us to do - this has been embarrassing at time, especially when on of the topics was farming tools and we have no clue where to start! We brought some nail varnish with us and as they are know are on holidays we all spent the afternoon being pampered, even the boys joined in! Who doesn't love having pink nails? The White Eagles are a great bunch of kids and spending time with the has definitely been one of our highlights and we'll miss them when we leave!

Also this week, we had the privilege of going to our dear friend, Julius', Kwanjula which is kind of like a pre wedding ceremony where Julius was formally introduced to his fiancé, Martha's clan. This was a proper Ugandan day out! We were dressed in the traditional Ugandan party dress called a Gomez which as colourful and flattering as they were we will not be rushing to wear them a anytime soon- Ugandans have the right figure for it but we most definitely don't! Fortunately for us, the majority of the introduction was in English as requested by Julius so we were able to roughly follow what was going on. It has been such a joy to get to know Martha over our time here and we can see that they are going to be very happy together- what a match!

So, now we're preparing for our last week in this wonderful country and are looking forward to our safari trip which we'll tell you about next week.

Stay fresh.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Can you join the Gideons?

The Gideons? What's that? Well, faced with a powerful enemy of 120,000 swordsmen, God got Gideon to raise an army of just 300 to fight for freedom. The rest is history… (read about it in Judges 6!)

When faced with the challenges we face in Uganda, it can be easy to feel similarly outnumbered. And yet the opportunities to change lives, to see communities transformed and individuals flying high have never been so great! From the tiny babies on the Baby Unit to the budding nation-changers of the Leadership Academy, we know that we can dare to dream - but only if we dream together!

So we're recruiting ‘Gideons’ - people who want to be part of this dream and are ready to fight through regular prayer and regular giving, so that we will see more lives transformed.

We want to be snatching hope from the jaws of despair - as a Gideon you'll be on the frontline of the action! You will get regular prayer updates and the inside track on our news, and we also want to hear from you and be praying for you. Please consider signing up today from just £10 a month. It's easy - you can set up a regular gift on our BT MyDonate page.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Half way point

It's 1/2 way day!

Today marks the middle of our trip. If the second half is anything like the first, we're in for a treat!
Although we have been here for over three weeks, this was a week of firsts! We helped out on the church's farm, went to an amazing BBQ and were involved in worship at church.

After 1 1/2 hrs working with Stephen and Gerald on the farm we now consider ourselves dab hands at farming. We raked the ground; cleaned up the matoke trees and pulled funny faces at the cows! To our delight one of the pigs recently had piglets - cute doesn't even begin to describe them!

Having mentioned in a previous blog that meat doesn't appear much on the menu, Rob and Katharine took us out for a night to get our 'meat sweats' on. The local cafe, every Friday, hosts an incredible meat filled BBQ buffet. After we had eaten our fill ... And everyone else's, we just about rolled out of the cafe... Like two giant meatballs ... With legs!

This week we also had the opportunity to help with the worship in church. Although at first we were a bit reluctant, we soon embraced it and definitely were glad we stepped out of our comfort zones! We told ourselves to say yes to the things that terrify us... However, we've now got ourselves into leading some songs in the local prison tomorrow - PRAY FOR US!

Until next time - keep it fresh.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Great news from River of Life!

Our Summer Newsletter is out! And it's packed full of news of the great impact that your support is having here in Uganda.

The Battle for Prayer Mountain has entered a new stage, the White Eagles Home has got a brand new perimeter fence, the Leadership Academy is about to admit a new cohort of young people ready to transform their communities and there's even news of a miracle baby from the Baby Unit!

There's also news of a brand new initiative - The Gideons! We face a golden opportunity to make real and lasting transformation in the lives of hundreds of people here in Uganda - but the challenges are great. So we want to recruit a 'Gideon' Army of people willing to pray and give a small amount regularly so that together we can snatch HOPE from the jaws of despair for more people!

If you are interested in joining the Gideons, just email us and we'll tell you more. In the meantime, please download the newsletter, and spread the good news by sharing it with all your friends and family!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Goats galore and more by Katie and Esther

We have spent over two weeks in Uganda now and feel very settled! The idea of taking a taxi or popping to town was once daunting but now we take it in our stride!
Masaka town and Nyendo are the complete opposite of the neat roads and pavements of Bristol. One thing we've loved in particular is the fact that there are a loads of goats everywhere- we have a new found appreciation for them!

On Sunday Cheryl, a law graduate from Singapore joined us. Her and her boyfriend Joel are here for the next two weeks. It has been great fun showing them round, feeling like proper locals.

On Mondays we have the opportunity to go to Masaka hospital with elder Betty and her team! We have gone twice so far and both times have left thankful for the opportunity to minister to the sick, but also grateful for what we have readily available to us back in the UK. The team go around the different wards, handing out bread and bananas to the patients and then offering to pray with them. Their dedication and love for the ministry is inspiring and we have learnt a lot from both praying with patients but also from watching the team sit with and chat with them, not being able to speak Ugandan means we're not very good at just chatting!

A significant moment of this past week, has to be going to a prayer and intercession meeting at church. Ugandans have serious prayer stamina! It has been amazing to pray and worship alongside the people here because their passion and faith is so fierce that it has encouraged us to fix our eyes on the Lord at all times until earthly things fade away and our affections are given to the one who is worthy. There is also such a beauty in Ugandan time keeping because sometimes it's non existent that time itself does not stop them from worshipping which is not a bad problem to have, as God is outside of time! We have also learnt a lot about interceding and praying for things that don't seemingly affect us, as if it's our own responsibility and how we are to seek first the Kingdom of God.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Latest White Eagles Report out now

With all the latest updates from the White Eagles, the May/June report is a must-read for your next tea-break!

There's news about our Holiday Programme, the hard work on the farm, going back to school, but we leave the best bit till the end...

Buckle up for the good news - we've managed to trace the relatives of one of our girls, and she is SO excited! She was the last child in the Resettlement Home without known relatives, and it was tough for her. But now we can get started on the resettlement and reconciliation work so that she might be reunited with a loving family and continue to thrive and fly high!

Enjoy the report - you can download it here.

The White Eagles on the Farm, enjoying some sugarcane!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The White Eagle Fence is almost Complete!

It's been a long time coming… But yes, your eyes are not deceiving you! The White Eagle Home finally has a permanent wall and fence!!!

Now what's so exciting about that you may ask? Well, first of all we've needed one for AGES - 14 years to be precise - to keep the White Eagles safe. Second, they're not cheap. And third, it's one of the requirements for being a Registered Children's Home.

The local mechanics had practically taken over our playground, were prone to shouting suggestive comments at our girls and any play equipment we had was trashed. And so it was high time to do something about it.

With new double gates, a wall on one side for privacy and chain-link fence on the other two sides, we are finally secure. It's not quite finished - there is still a course of concrete to lay at the base of the fence to prevent animals (or people!) pushing it up and getting underneath. We also want to plant out the perimeter with bushes to add to the security, and make the place prettier!

It's a huge step forward. Praise God! And it wouldn't have been possible without your generosity. You know who you are. And you ROCK!

First week complete - by Katie and Esther

So, our first week on the continent is complete, we've tasted the food, we've met loads of people and only got in a random person's car once- success!

The thing we have craved the most since leaving the UK is (unfortunately) the readily accessible variety of junk food... that said however, being big meat eaters, we have survived well and gone DAYS without the luxury of a slice of ham! Nevertheless, on a more serious note it has opened our eyes to 'basic' things that we so often take for granted in the West.

Over the last week, we've had the opportunity to go on school ministry visits with the River of Life Church. We visited two very different schools so far, the Nile Vocational school, where we met students between the age of sixteen and twenty. Besides, getting lost on the world's bumpiest track, in the car on the way, we loved every minute of it and were completely blown away by the warm welcome we received. Walking in to the room where the session was held, had to be one of our biggest highlights as we entered a room full of the students singing and worshipping the Lord.

The second school we visited was Aunt Louise's School for the disabled. We met Edward and Louise who run the school and look after over twenty children with all different kinds of disabilities. We came away full of admiration for this couple who have dedicated their lives to provide for these children with an education but also rehabilitation. Before we left we lead the kids in a rendition of 'If you're happy and you know it' - we bossed it!

Everywhere we go we are expected to introduce ourselves and share about what we are doing! We have got quite good at condensing it all down to a couple of minutes each!

Each week we are invited to have dinner with an Elder of the church. Last Wednesday we had a Ugandan feast at John Lutaaya's. There was pork, there was chicken, there was matoke (steamed green banana) and our favourite - chapatis! Tonight we are off to have dinner with Elder Betty and her son Julius who is a good friend of ours and a big part of us coming to Uganda!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Our Summer Visitors give their First Impressions!

Katie and Esther are from Bristol, UK, and are volunteering with us for the next 6 weeks. Here are their first impressions of coming to River of Life...

Having never been to Africa we had no idea what to expect. All we knew was what we had pictured in our heads.... Not the most reliable source of information. Besides, it being our first time in Africa, it was also our first time traveling for a lengthly period of time without our families. All that said, we managed to get through Entebbe airport surprisingly well, leaving with both a valid visa and all our luggage!

Stepping out of the airport it was apparent to our senses that we were definitely in a different country. The fact that it was 11pm and it was still pretty warm was not what we were used to, being from the UK. We spent our first night in Kampala, in a backpackers hostel where it didn't take long for us to doze off. In the morning with the sun shining in all it's glory, it really hit us that we were in Uganda. We took our malaria tablets and set off to breakfast, fried egg on some sweet bread. Unfortunately we didn't read the malaria instructions, which if we had, would have informed us not to have taken them on empty stomachs. It resulted in, as Rob most carefully put it, in doxypukes!

Once recovered, we set off to Masaka. As not all of the road had been resurfaced, at times it was a tad bumpy but all the more, fun. The tourists that we are however, meant an inevitable stop at the equator for a quick photo shoot and we were greeted with great smiles of the Ugandan people as they noted we were foreigners!

Having arrived at the River of Life Church, we were introduced to the staff and were welcomed with open arms. We shared a little bit about ourselves and now have a lot of names to learn... We think we're doing quite well! After the meeting, our friend Julius took us around town. This involved a very amusing taxi ride in which eight people squeezed into a five-seater car. Julius had the driver sitting on his knee, while we shared our seats with some friendly Ugandan people who were asking us about England. Definitely a Ugandan experience!

By this point we were starting to lag, but just before heading home a bunch of children who live next door to the church ran over to us affectionately shouting, "Mzungu", which means "white person." They gave us both massive hugs, fighting for our attention - never have we felt so loved by people we didn't know!

This is just the start of our unique six weeks in Masaka and we're definitely excited for what more is to come.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Miraculous Bundle of Joy

The Baby Unit has been through a tough period recently, with a higher number of babies than normal not surviving. So when another mum wanted to be discharged early (which we have to allow here) with a very sick baby, the Baby Unit team very reluctantly agreed. The mother signed a "against medical advice" form and promise to come back in a couple of days...

Dr Sarah takes up the story:
When she returned, we were all alarmed to see that the baby looked really quite ill.

Over the next day, the baby continued to deteriorate. She needed to be assisted to breathe for up to 10 minutes at a time, had jaundice, extremely high blood sugars, and profuse diarrhoea. Now that we’ve been in Uganda a while, I know what that usually means. The game is up.

But there were people already praying for this little one, and Sarah also prayed that God would do something, because she was certain that the baby wouldn’t survive without a miracle. We all know that God doesn’t heal every time, and sometimes it’s mystifying why one person is healed, and another is not. But this little baby did indeed survive and is continuing to heal – she’s even breastfeeding well these days. Woo hoooo!
It's an awesome story of the impact the Baby Unit is having here. But it also poses a tough question. What about the next time a mother wants to take her baby home too early? It’s nearly always about lacking money, or lacking someone to look after your other kids at home. Whatever the reason, it’s rarely that the mother simply doesn’t care.

Dr Sarah has an answer for the problem:
From now, we’re planning to be stubborn when mothers try to take babies home who are likely to do badly. No, we’ll not handcuff them to the Unit... although, actually, that’s not a terrible idea! But we’ll insist that they stay, and offer to talk to the social worker of the hospital to see if any assistance can be arranged. Not always an easy task when the hospital is really strapped for cash, but we have to try.

Please pray for the Baby Unit team, doing a tough job in difficult circumstances, and thank God for this latest, miraculous little bundle of joy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

30 reasons to smile...

The White Eagle Project Monthly Reports for January and February are now published for your reading pleasure!

With 30 children heading back to school after the long holiday, there's plenty to smile about. But we've also had a Chicken Pox outbreak to contend with and some major Child Protection challenges to deal with.

Read all about what's happening with the White Eagles by downloading the report - please feel free to share with your friends, family, church, school or workplace!

Download the White Eagle Project Jan-Feb 2014 Report here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Battle for Prayer Mountain is Won!

The determined gang of land-grabbers who have forcefully tried to steal our Prayer Mountain land have been defeated - at least on paper.

Ever since buying our land for the Prayer Mountain vision (download a copy here) we have been trying to deal with claim and counter-claim from people claiming 'occupancy'. We tried to deal with claims amicably, but no-one could produce evidence of their so-called tenancy. What's more, there was no physical evidence of occupancy - like a house on the land - to back up the claim. And then last November, the 2 or 3 people we were dealing with over about a 1/3 of the land suddenly became 20+ as a gang descended on the remaining 2/3 claiming they had bought 'tenancies'.

Overnight, tree-seedlings were planted everywhere. It became unsafe for us to even go on the land - we were chased off. At one point our pick-up was badly damaged as rocks were hurled at it. We had been flung into a mighty battle for the Prayer Mountain vision.

Now, land is a big issue in Uganda. Barely a week goes by without stories in the papers of court rulings, evictions, and violence relating to land wrangles. Although the law is quite clear, the police are not particularly keen to get involved in civil issues and can be easily 'convinced' to treat even the most laughable claim as legitimate. This has enabled a small army of people to fraudulently claim tenancy on our land, present obviously home-made documents and generally get away with murder (not literally, thankfully, although they’ve threatened it).

We had to act, or we would lose the land. Cue petitions to the President, Police CID HQ, and everyone in between. For the last 3 months we've been in meetings with State House, Police, Lawyers... until now. Now we have the written report from last months final meeting on the hill held by the Director of Lands for State House (the President's representative).

The meeting had gone well enough. The Director had already reviewed all documents relating to the land - although 'documents' is too strong a word for the scraps of hand-written 'agreements' and fake receipts that were presented to her. She told the assembled claimants that they were trespassers, that they had no rightful claim to the land, and that they risked legal action if they continued to make claims. That caused quite a stir. After much shouting, gesticulating and arguing, the crowds slowly dispersed.

Ignorance of the law has very real consequences. Most of the claimants knew very well that what they were doing was fraud. But there were some who had bought fake 'tenancies' from fraudsters who are now on the run. You can not 'buy' an informal tenancy here (or anywhere I imagine) without the registered landowners permission of course - that's just common sense. But in the vacuum created when there is no effective rule of law, the loudest voice rules. And for a while, the land-grabbers shouted the loudest, despite us making daily public announcements to warn people. Some parted with hard-earned cash. In a country racked with poverty, it's outrageous that people can treat each other that way.

There's still some hard-work to do. The report entitles us to the Police protection we should always have been given in the face of aggravated trespass. Most of the trespassers have now given up - the threat of arrest and legal action being enough for them to realise that there's no quick buck to be made here. We expect the last few to give up this week, but probably with a bit of a fight. But then, finally, we can get the surveyor in, re-open the boundaries, fence the land and start developing the Prayer Centre, Church, School and Clinic - the vision that Pastor Duncan had 25 years ago.

If you want to be a part of it, get in touch!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Now, that's integrity!

What would you do if you were the only 'breadwinner' in your home, your father was blind, you didn't know where the next meal was coming from... and you were offered money to do something a bit dodgy, but would at least buy enough food for your family for the next few weeks?

At Synergy, building upon our Godly foundation involves consistently encouraging the development of Christian character in our lads. At the forefront of that is drumming home the importance of integrity.

This has recently really been put to the test in one of our players. Having reached the semi finals of the Tonny Mawejje Cup recently, we were drawn to face a team from Masaka Town. This is a team who had put a lot of money and resources into their push for victory, even bringing in professional footballers from around the surrounding districts, paying big money and giving their players promises of hefty bonuses for every goal they scored and match they won.

To try and give them an edge, they decided to offer our keeper a sizable amount of money, to play below standard and help them win. To put this in perspective it would take our keeper 14 Regional League matches for him to get this amount of money through playing for Synergy.

Not for sale: the Synergy First Team Keeper

Peter is in desperate need of cash. He's the main breadwinner at home due to his father being blind. Did he accept the bribe? No way! “See my manager if you want to give me that money,” he said, and from then on ignored his phone every time they called him. More than that, on the day of the match, he put in an outstanding man-of-the match performance to keep that team at bay with a clean sheet allowing Synergy to win 1-0 and progress to the final where we eventually were crowned champions! Now THAT’S integrity!!

Quite possibly the largest trophy we've won!