The First Week (or so)

We are in Karamoja! We boarded a plane on Monday, February 15; landed in Uganda on Wednesday; and arrived in Karamoja by Land Cruiser on Friday. It was a long trip, but the Lord granted us safe travels, and we give him thanks.

There are so many new things! This is not the first post on our blog, but there are a lot of things we’ve seen or done for the first time here (as a family, anyway; Rashel and I visited the country last August). Here are just a few firsts, with pictures:

First international flight (for Emmalene and Hannah)

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Here we are in Sacramento, getting ready to board our first plane. We are sad to leave family behind, but thrilled to go, as you can see. And we know our luggage priorities: chocolate chips are a must!

First arrival in Entebbe, Uganda

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Even after ~30 hours of flying, we were thrilled to step out of the plane into Uganda. Some of us were not ready for it to be so warm. (We’ve adjusted well since then.)

First shopping trip

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When you live in Karamoja, it’s not every day you get to go shopping, even for basic things like groceries. We made a quick stop near Kampala to buy a few items.

First naps

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Everyone was super excited, but after all that flying, it was difficult to stay awake. A nap in the car seemed to really help with the jet lag. Maybe us adults should try that next time!

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Joshua is sleeping next to Carmel, the daughter of missionary associates Christopher and Chloe Verdick. They provided our transport up to Karamoja. Thanks, guys!

First night in Uganda

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We stayed that first night on the compound of a Christian ministry on the east side of Kampala. The grounds were lovely; this was a view from our balcony.

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Emmalene used the balcony to practice teaching Bible stories to Karimojong people. Since none were available, Hannah filled in.

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This jack fruit tree was close to our room. They are huge! We’ve not tried them yet.

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The elephant statue was a hit with Hannah.

First swimming pool

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Next day, we drove east to the city of Mbale, where our team has two families. It was warm, and the hotel had a pool, so there was jubilation.

First time meeting teammates

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Everyone on the Mbale team – the Jacksons, Tuiningas, missionary associate Sarah Jantzen, and a guest – came out to meet us. Such good fellowship!

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The hotel where we met also had a pool, of which the kids were glad to again avail themselves. Emmalene made instant friendships with the little Ugandan girls, who were fascinated by her hair.

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Hannah received a lot of attention, too. She wasn’t sure what to think about that.

First African dance

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The girls were literally dancing around with happiness. It wasn’t exactly African in style, but they certainly were enthusiastic.

First Ugandan presidential election

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We arrived in Uganda right at election season. There was some concern that civil unrest and police maneuvers might hinder our travels, but in God’s mercy, we had no problems whatsoever. However, we heard that there were some troubles down country after we made it through.

Several of the posters above are for opposition candidates…

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…the pictures plastered across the edge of the roof across the street were for the incumbent, President Museveni…

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…and so were the many posters on the town clock tower. Not surprisingly, he won. We pray that God, who sets up kings and all who are in authority, may give the church peace during his tenure so that the gospel may have free course.

We saw many polling places as we drove from Kampala to Mbale, and some crowds in following days, but all was quiet.

First time entering Karamoja

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Karamoja at last! This is where we will serve and minister the gospel.

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It’s the dry season right now, so there was no mud; only dust. The roads are still challenging, though!

First time arriving at the OPC’s mission station in Karamoja

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Here we are, arriving at the gate! This is where we live now.

First friends in Karamoja

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Joshua hit it off with Jacob Okken immediately…

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…and also with Caleb Okken and bunches of Karimojong young men. We will not lack for friends! Praise the Lord! There is lots of playing going on over here. In the picture above, I think they’re pretending to ride a motorbike.

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Aren’t these sweet pictures? Emmalene and Hannah love playing with Megan Okken and Carmel Verdick. It is so precious that the Lord has provided them for each other. May these friendships strengthen them in faith and bear witness to the love we have in Christ!

First fires around the mission compound

The Karimojong routinely burn the fields in the dry season to make way for the next planting. We arrived just as this was happening nearby.

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Look at those sheets of flame! The crackling sound was incredible, even at quite a distance away. The fires burn through quickly enough that, amazingly, these trees will survive.

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The fires got quite close to the compound, and in a few places, even came inside the fence; but the Lord protected us, and our fire break seemed to work well.

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At one point, the air was filled with smoke. There are still many fires burning, but the smoke has decreased.

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The fire was right outside the Okken’s gate.

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Now there are burned patches everywhere. We still see some fires up in the mountains.

First football match

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We hung around and watched Caleb Okken’s football (US: soccer) team challenge a village team.

First Lord’s Day in Karamoja

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On our first Sunday, these cheerful two got up early to be with me!

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It was good to be in the house of the Lord! We are learning the songs slowly, slowly – or as we say here, iwadio, iwadio. We’re so grateful for the faithful and excellent ministry of Pastor Dave Okken. Serving the Lord with him will be a great joy.

First day of school

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As part of our work of learning the language, Rashel and the kids are attending the mission’s Karamoja Education Outreach on weekday mornings. KEO teaches younger kids not just basic school subjects, but also the gospel and the Scriptures. It’s a wonderful evangelistic enterprise that we trust the Lord will use and prosper. The kids were enthusiastic about attending…

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…as you can see by looking at the silly shot.

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This is one of the places where KEO meets, and the place where our kids attend. Please pray with us that the Lord would use this kingdom enterprise to spread his word!

First time preaching in the medical clinic

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Almost every weekday, our medical clinic has a waiting room full of patients. Around 10am or so, one of the pastors goes there to preach the good news of Jesus, “Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3). The picture above is actually Pastor Dave preaching (with the help of one of our translators, Maruk), but he had a touch of malaria the following day, so I plunged in. What a privilege, and what an indescribable joy to be able to freely tell all who come: Christ died and rose again so you might have eternal life!

First time washing clothes by hand

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Several Karimojong ladies, plus our own little ladies, help Rashel with household chores. Emmalene and Hannah are washing clothes in this picture. Their assistance helps to free Rashel up so she can work at learning the language.

First heavenly sign of God’s glory

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Lokwii David does a lot of our translation work. While talking to him about the sermon, we saw people looking up at the sky. We went to look, and this is what we saw! The photos can’t possibly capture it in all its breathtaking scope and beauty. I’m still uncertain what it was; possibly an absolutely immense halo around the sun. There were at least five massive rings, plus another rainbow ring around the horizon. Whatever it was, it certainly proves what Psalm 19:1 so beautifully announces: “The heavens declare the glory of God!” Truly, our God is mighty, and he deserves all the praise of all people everywhere – including Karamoja!

First time saying ejok

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Hannah has been a little cautious about getting to know people. The common greeting here is ejok; everyone wants to greet you and often to shake your hand. When we first arrived, Hannah wasn’t ready to respond “ejok” when greeted. (This whole adventure is, after all, a lot for an almost three-year-old to take in!) But one day at KEO, she decided to start saying it. She came home absolutely thrilled to tell me that she had gone around saying ejok to everyone! Not only that, but in prayer the following evening, she prayed and thanked God that she had been able to say it. How precious! We do thank God for her courage.

The pictures above are at KEO. She’s doing well there.

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…And here’s a picture of Joshua getting in on some goofiness. He really loves it here and loves the friends he is making among the Karimojong.

First village Bible study

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Along with Lokwii David and Pastor Dave, I attended a Bible study in the village of Akiuam. (That makes three Davids together in one village. That’s got to be confusing.) Joshua tagged along. One of these days I’ll try to get some pictures of the studies. We probably had 50-60 people gather around the tree with us. Many of them were children who, like some of the adults, were completely fascinated by Joshua. He had quite a crowd around him! Evidently, a muzungu child is something you don’t see every day.

First cold shower

Here in Karamoja, we don’t have hot water heaters; they would draw too much power to work with our solar panels. But there’s a lot of dust and dirt, and you really have to bathe! A lot of the time, we warm some water on the stove to make it more comfortable. However, it’s been quite warm here, so I decided to take the plunge last week. Cold showers really aren’t that bad! They’re actually refreshing when you are hot.

First market day in Namalu

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Friday is market day in Namalu, the nearby trading town, and it’s a good time to go and get what you need. This last Friday, though, was a bit crazy! There were so many people. I was accosted by a man whose arm had been cut off and only partially healed – it was a sad situation, of which there are so many. He wanted me to pray with him, which I was glad to do, but he probably wanted something more, too. At this point, I seldom know what is being said.

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Joshua and Emmalene came with us for the experience. Rashel is getting right in to negotiating and buying things, and we purchased some produce and matches to light our propane stove.

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These men are selling live chickens.

The kids were again a major attraction. By the time we were ready to leave, there was a huge crowd of people around us, some wanting to look at the children and some wanting a lift in our vehicle.

First geckos

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Yes, we have geckos! And yes, they are inside the house. We are glad to have these little guys because they help keep the insect population down. The kids were thrilled to catch them and hold them.

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Cute little guys!

First time trying sugar cane

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Uganda grows plenty of sugar cane. There are two kinds: the kind that is processed for sugar, and the kind that you eat on its own. They sell the latter in Namalu, and the children were eager to try it, so we got a few pieces. I think the only person who enjoyed it was Emmalene, but it was still fun to try.

First time hosting a station dinner

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The OPC Karamoja station has a standing weekly meal on Saturday evenings; everyone comes together to eat. It’s a great time of fellowship, and since we enjoy hospitality, Rashel wanted to go ahead and have it in our new home! Some renovations were needed so we could live in this house, and everyone on the station worked so hard to make it happen – fixing the ceiling, installing a skylight, updating the wiring, and even painting. It is just lovely, and we are so grateful to our team! They are amazing people.

First time preaching in the church

Well, first time preaching in Karamoja in 2016, I suppose, since I preached here on our exploratory visit. Yesterday I was privileged to bring God’s word to the congregation of Nakaale Presbyterian. We are preaching through Matthew, and my text was chapter 10:21-23. I am so glad to be back to regular preaching!

First time hosting a Karimojong family

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Lokeris is one of our translators and a brother in Christ, and we invited him and his family to lunch after worship this morning. It was good to get to know them a little bit. We are eager to learn the language so we can really communicate with people. Please pray about this with us!

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The kids, of course, had lots of fun together, even without a common language. And yes, those are bowls on their heads.

The greatest first

So many changes are happening for us all at once. It’s an emotional time. There are so many things we love, but there are plenty of hard things, too. But we have so many reasons to give thanks to God! He sent his holy, sinless Son into this wretched, sinful world to bear our wrath and to make us right with him. That was a “first” the likes of which the world has never seen, a change so great it will forever attract our wondering praise. We are coming to know the almighty, sustaining love of Jesus more deeply as we go through this transition. Please pray with us that in all the changes and “firsts” we experience here, the people of Karamoja might witness the saving love of God in Christ.