At the Market

On Tuesday, several of us needed some things, so we decided to take a drive. We do most of our local shopping in Namalu, the nearby trading center; but it was market day over in Naturum, and we wanted to see what was available there.

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After driving 10 minutes or so, we arrive in Naturum and drive down into the market scene. There are two clusters of trees where the main activity is happening.

We get out of the vehicle and are quickly surrounded. M, the young son of one of our workers, is there. He asks for a ride back to Nakaale; I agree. Another person requests a ride, but I don’t know them, and express doubt. We need to shop first, anyway.

I walk toward the crowd. Most vendors are seated on the ground, and other people are milling about. I get a little way into the tangle, far enough to see large pots of cooked cassava and a few piles of sad-looking tomatoes – and to wonder whether the produce I came to buy is even here – when one of our mission workers, A, greets me. She says she is hungry; her children are hungry. I say we must pray to God.

I walk on. A clothing vendor calls out, “Hey, white man!” I tell him I would rather be called by my name, and introduce myself. I glance at his goods, but they don’t interest me today, and I move toward the further cluster of trees. Maybe the produce will be there.

It is not, but a veritable hive of people (250?) is gathered under the trees, humming with conversation and drinking the local “brew.” Turning back, I encounter and greet F, who is slashing for us. He does not know if there is cabbage; maybe back on the main road – he will go and look.

Back under first group of trees, I’m eager to leave, but I meet J. His situation is difficult, and we’ve been trying to discern how we can help him. He speaks some English, but I always struggle to understand what is being said. He wants to tell me about his recent visit to our clinic and the medications that were given to him. He tells me once again that his children are hungry and have nothing to eat.

The others are now back at the Land Cruiser waiting for me. But as J is talking, an old man with a hat and a walking stick comes and interrupts. He is obviously happy to meet me, shaking my hand and lifting it high. He asks my age and I ask him his. He says he is hungry and wants snuff. (All the while, J is attempting to translate.) I say that I don’t help people get snuff, and mention that if he wants to live longer, snuff won’t help him with that. This semi-humorous interaction goes on for a while. I pray for the man and his needs, and we finally part.

We must go to Namalu to look for the missing produce. J asks for a ride; I agree. He runs ahead to do something. I arrive back at the car and find we have another passenger, A.

We drive back up onto the road and pass a school. We wave at the kids who are looking at us, and sitting in the school window I see D, a young man I’ve befriended. He runs out, and I pull over to greet him. I ask where he was this past Lord’s Day; we missed him. He says he was busy but doesn’t explain. He says his head teacher is now asking for 1,000 shillings for his end-of-term exam. They want more? I tell him to have the teacher call me. A group of students is now gathered all around the vehicle. I urge D to come to church and to invite all his school friends to come with him. (Later, I hope he doesn’t think we’re inviting all of them to dinner.)

Driving toward the main road, we encounter J. I open the back of the vehicle and he gets in. Still hopeful, we drive up the main road; there are lots of people, but no produce, and no sign of F, our friend who was looking for the cabbages. Disappointed again, we turn around and make for Namalu.

In Namalu, I park right next to the matoke (plantain) vendors. I get out to open the back so our passengers can exit. J asks again for food for his family. Before I can close the back, a woman comes and tells me her son has a bad wound; would I come pray? I follow her past the market and through a narrow passage between mud buildings with low roofs. At the back, there is her son, A. He is probably about 11 years old. In 2011, he was in a bad accident. Now he defecates through his side and urinates where he should defecate. I can see a thin stream of fluid running under his shirt and down his pants. She lifts his ragged jersey and I see a portion of his intestines sticking out. He is not bleeding and does not seem to be infected, but it does not look good. I am amazed that he is alive and seemingly able to function, albeit not normally. The mother says he needs to be taken to a hospital in Kampala, but she is a single mother, struggling to get by, and does not have the money. It is terrible. We pray. She asks for nothing, but in my heart, I ask: What can be done, Lord? I learn that she attends a local church, and determine to investigate. J comes up while I am there.

Back in the market, J asks again for food for his family. I ask him to wait and begin to shop. The cabbages are tiny and awful, so that’s not a good option today. I look for other items. M helps me with my list; J attempts to help, telling me what I should buy and from where, but I have different ideas. The conversation is awkward as he tries to help and I try to do things my way.

I buy something and receive the balance, a 500 shilling coin. A man I have seen before comes up and demands it of me. He almost takes it out of my hand. I tell him I don’t give money – I try very hard to abide by that rule. Something is not quite right with this one. He indicates that he wants food and snuff. I say I’m sorry he is hungry, and I don’t help people get snuff. I manage to detach myself, but he hangs around, gets into a quarrel with a vendor, screams furiously, and almost throws a large rock at him. I am thankful when he leaves.

Still shopping, I meet another pastor. I tell him about our plans for another conference in May; he says he will come. I am slowly getting through my list with J and M in tow, and we take a heavy basket back to the vehicle. While loading it, a man, apparently drunk, comes up and begins yelling at J. I try to understand what’s going on, but don’t really want to get in the middle of it. I see rain coming and hurry off to get the final items. My patient passengers are waiting for me again.

Everything is purchased now. Well, almost. I go back for an item I forgot to buy. J asks again for help; now is the time. We get him some dry beans, 5,000 worth. The bean sellers squabble over who should get the business, but J is firm in his decision for some brown beans. It will not be enough; he is caring for his mother and some others. I buy three bags of posho. He says his family will be happy. I pray for him right there at the entrance of the store. The vendor joins us.

Time to load up. I get to the back of the vehicle, and three more people are there: an old man and two younger people. They want the old man to go with us back to Nakaale. There is room; I agree. As they help him get in, they argue with him, but when the hatch is closed, they are all smiles and thank me.

Back at Nakaale, our passengers unload by the side of the road. We return to the compound. The skies continue to threaten rain. We pile out of the vehicle and take shelter.

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All of this in the space of around two hours.

All this for a few fruits and vegetables.

It’s not always so hectic. But this experience isn’t far from normal, either.

It is overwhelming; sometimes exhausting. I’m not used to it.

But can you get accustomed to such need? It is constant, sometimes horrific. We cry out to God: What should we do? Most of all, we plead: O God, open blind eyes and deaf ears! Let the Christ who is our greatest need, who can alone meet our every need, be heard and known, loved and followed, glorified and worshiped! In mercy, save your people from their sins, and give them comfort!

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We go to town again this afternoon.

Maybe there will be cabbages.

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White Ants

About a week ago, we had another emergence of “white ants.” They were flying everywhere, as you can see.

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I understand them to be termites at a particular stage of development. Our neighbors understand them to be food. Here are some folks preparing to pounce on breakfast as soon as it flies out of a mound.

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We were awakened to celebratory cries from the nearby villages. This meal provides more protein than many people have had in quite a while! It is God’s wonderful provision for the hungry.

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Our kids thought it was fun to catch them, too, and even contemplated eating them.

Joshua first sampled a wing, which he said was papery…

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Then he worked up the courage to actually consume one. He felt it would be best if it were dead first, so he applied his butchery skills.

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What did it taste like? Well –

Did I try them? My children have more bravery than I, so I’m afraid we can’t tell you anything about the flavor. We hear they don’t have much taste, but some have likened then to lard.

The white ants come out several times a year. This was the second emergence, a sign that we are definitely in the rainy season. It is a hungry time. There have been a lot of crop failures in recent years, so grain is more scarce and prices are high. Please pray that the Lord will send the rain at just the right time and in just the right amounts. Above all, please pray for souls that are hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of Christ: he promises to satisfy them, not for a season, but forever.

A Deluge of Pictures

We’ve had some torrential rain showers lately. Has the rainy season finally started? It’s hard to say. But this time of transition can feel a lot like a heavy storm: so many things are happening all at once, and so quickly, that sometimes it’s hard to know what to share or even how. So here you go: a pictorial deluge of recent goings-on, as messy as real life!

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Kids playing at KEO (Karamoja Education Outreach). I think this is some sort of relay.

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On Palm Sunday, the KEO students and teachers gave us a singing presentation after the morning worship service.

An aside – we are desperately in need of missionary associates to serve at KEO. Please pray with us that God would send the right people at the right time.

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Under a tree close to a recent Bible study in Nakaale. Some of the men are playing cards. The bags in the trees are filled with packets of vodka and gin.

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At another village, waiting for a Bible study to start.

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Riding back from a village Bible study with translator Emmy. Imagine what that river will be like when the rains come!

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We stopped and visited with a family in Namalu. This photo is looking in the direction of Mt. Kadam: rain is on its way.

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Our front steps in the middle of a downpour…

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…and rain seen from the bathroom overlooking the courtyard.

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There has been some road work recently. The road is so much better! The washboard is practically gone now, and we’re very thankful.

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This daily scene is directly across the road from the road grader pictured above and just outside the clinic grounds. People are playing games, selling things, waiting for pikis (motor bikes), hanging out, etc.

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I recently visited the local government hospital in Tokora. Sad to see a young burn victim on one of the beds.

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One of our security guards, showing us his skill with a bow.

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Fires lower down on Mt. Kadam at night. People continue burning their fields.

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Lokwii and Kosmas recently discovered iced tea – with sugar and lemon, of course – and they absolutely LOVE it! They had never had it before, but they can’t get enough. So, a little West Virginia/Southern culture has arrived in Africa. 🙂 Emmalene is trying some, too, I think.

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One my greatest privileges and joys is to work with this man, Pastor Dave Okken. So thankful for his faithful labors, his partnership in the ministry, and his friendship.

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Another wire car seen at church. These things are really cool. This one is not just steerable – it also has a spring suspension in the back.

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We took a trip to Mbale last week. We had two flats on the way down.

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We praise God for Milton, a wonderful deacon in the Mbale church! Our last breakdown was about 15M from the city, and he came with a fresh tire so we could make it into town.

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These flowers are growing in the Jacksons’ yard. So beautiful! (So is the lass holding them, I might add.)

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While in Mbale, we stopped by Endiro, a local coffee shop. It was really great to have a burger and chips (fries).

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The Mbale market is a really interesting place. This was one of our final stops before returning to Karamoja.

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We found broccoli!!! Greens are hard to come by, especially beautiful, fresh ones like these, so this was a huge blessing! Emmalene is flanked by some market helpers who happen to be Karimojong.

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Back home again; no flat tires this time – so thankful. Hannah is thrilled with her new boots. Just in time for the rainy season, if this is really it!

The Fear of the LORD

Some weeks ago, our mission was invited to a birthday celebration in the village of Nakaale. Who doesn’t enjoy a good birthday party? We went, of course, afternoon heat notwithstanding.

From what we understand, it’s a Karimojong tradition that when twins are born, the family kills a bull – a very costly thing – and there is feasting and general merriment. But this party was unusual: it was held, not for an infant, but for a grown lady (a twin), married and with children! The birth party had never been held for her, so it was an extra special occasion.

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Our group, walking to the village. It takes 15 minutes or so.

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We were warmly received, not least by the children!

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This man regularly attends church with us; Joshua and Emmalene are pictured beside him.

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Many people wanted us to take photos of them, or with them, and we were happy to oblige.

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Special clothes for a festive occasion!

The families of the wife and of the husband were segregated. Many of the men (and some women) were crowded into various into huts, each with a warm, bubbling bottle of fermenting beer in the center of the room. I was invited to partake, but declined as politely as I could. In some of the huts, there were intriguing sounds of singing; songs honoring the bull and its strength, we were told.

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After visiting several huts, I was invited to go to the hut of the elders; a great privilege indeed. (Notice the bottle of beer in the middle of the room.) I sat with them for quite some time, asking questions and trying out my limited phrases in Karimojong.

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Our next stop was to see the ladies jump-dancing nearby.

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The temperatures were rather hot, and we tired quickly.

On the walk home, we began piecing together fragments of our conversations. We had thought we were simply attending a belated birth party, but there was much more going on than we realized. According to tradition, if a younger daughter of a family marries before the firstborn daughter is married – as happened with this lady – and if the families of the married sisters have eaten together, then you can expect a child to become sick. If that happens – as it did – and if the younger woman’s birth party has not already been held, it must done in an effort to restore the families to each other and to heal the sick one. (Well, that’s what we think we understand.) And so they did.

Putting it plainly: superstition is alive and well in Karamoja.

No bull sacrifice, no celebration or ritual can bring healing. That is God’s sovereign work. The same must be said of medicine: apart from God’s blessing, it can do nothing for us. Our health, indeed all of our life, is in the hands of the one who made us; and he has provided the only sacrifice needed, a once-for-all offering so effective that his blood, the precious blood of the Lamb of God, washes away the sin and guilt of those who trust in him. His life gives us eternal life. By his wounds, we are healed. The full extent of his healing power will be ours to enjoy in undying strength in the age to come. This glory belongs to Jesus Christ alone: and he will not share it with bulls or goats or golden calves.

We later asked some Christians about this practice. One, a godly leader in a nearby church, was very clear: this is not Christian at all. Some lay folk saw no problem with it; it is simply tradition, they said. They did not see it as incongruous with faith in Christ.

This is the darkness in which we labor. We are at war. If our enemy cannot persuade men to reject Christ, he will be satisfied to keep them in the bondage of superstition and religious pluralism.

But the Lion-Lamb will save his people from their sins: this is certain. His word of promise is enough, but he has given other encouragements, too –

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Scrawled behind this esteemed elder are the awesome words of Proverbs 1:7. We pray earnestly that the people of Karamoja will learn to fear the LORD, and be truly wise unto salvation! And we wait expectant for answers from heaven: for the new birth to become evident in those still dead in sin, and for the church to be perfected in faith and obedience. THAT will really be something worth celebrating.