Friday, November 28, 2008

Life and Death in Africa

The past couple of months ran the full spectrum of human experience. “A time for all things” Solomon said. Our good friend and colleague, Peter, lost his father early this month, after battling with cancer. We were invited to join in the 3 day funeral/wake/celebration of his life, in which hundreds of family members, friends, and neighbors gathered to mourn, laugh, cry, and remember this great man’s life. It was very evident that he had deeply touched many lives. Morris was actually Peter’s uncle, but was called and considered his father, as culturally the headship over the surviving wives and children pass to the next male sibling upon one’s death. As Morris was his last immediate uncle to pass, Peter is now the male elder of the family, responsible for his aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces.

Family and Friends gathered under the tent for the service.

More family and community members in front of Peter's home. Accompanying huts can be seen in the background.

Restore Academy students also gathered to remember Morris, and support their Headmaster, Peter.

During the service, John and I were invited to speak, and afterward we shared a meal with Peter and the the elder males in Peter's community.

Tragically, our good friends at Cornerstone Leadership Academy also suffered recent loss, as a car accident claimed the lives of two students and one teacher. There are only 25 students in each of the classes, made up of the brightest kids from varied tribes and areas of Uganda, so the loss shocked the small community. We mourn their loss as well.

A Celebration of Life and Restoration...

Bob Goff, the Founder and President of Restore International, and his team of four (Brian of YoungLife, Kippie and Kristin from Chicago) recently arrived for what was to be an absolute blast of a trip. The foursome, along with our good friend Gary, who operates Kenmore Air (seaplanes in Seattle), were an absolute kick in the pants. We had 10 awesome days together, highlights including meetings with several dignitaries (The First Lady Janet Museveni, several Ministers of State, High and Supreme Court Justices), visiting the boys in Naguru Remand Home, and a fruitful trip to Gulu to visit the Restore Academy Community, and finalize an initial purchase agreement for a 38 acre permanent location for the school we’re hoping to build.

At the Statehouse with Bob, Gary, Tim Kreutter, Brian, Kristin, Kippie, two Members of Parliment, and First Lady Janet Museveni (in hat).

Kristin practicing her balance...

Kippie holds one of our student's baby. The students of our school face unique challenges, and some of them are child-mothers. Kippie absolutely loves children- and they love her!

Fun car rides and conversation with (from left) Kippie, myself, Bob, and Kristin.

Bob up in a tree, filming a song/poem that the students performed for us. It was incredibly moving, as it spoke of the atrocities faced in their lives, and the hope they have for the future:

After two years of hard work, and countless hours (put in by our former Country Director Ilea, my colleague John, Laker, Peter, and the Restore International Team) of struggling and learning, we were thrilled to finally sign this agreement for the land. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Restore Academy Interim Board of Directors, the PTA, the students' families' communities, our lawyer Kenny, and the local Leadership of La Mogi area for their tireless efforts on behalf of this endeavor.

Bob, John, Peter, James, Kenny, PTA and Board Members, and the local family members celebrating at the future location of the school.

Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves, as we’re hoping to build 4 initial school buildings, thanks to Lazarian World Home’s generous help. This is an awesome organization that focuses on Insulated Concrete Form construction (the same type we built with at Cascade Head) in impoverished areas around the world. They plan to send a construction manager, and all necessary supplies for the building of the school. The beauty of Lazarian Homes’ design is that it is relatively simple to construct, allowing for easy training of unskilled labor forces in these areas. Additionally, Lazarian Homes is also planning to leave the tools here, allowing us to start a micro-enterprise construction company using this unique and cost-effective building product. The cool thing about ICF is that it's styrofoam block, so it insulates well, but is filled with concrete and rebar, making it incredibly sturdy, safe, and long lasting. It might just create a wonderful new construction industry in N. Uganda.

Bob and the Restore Academy Staff and Students

The dreams and potential for the school are overwhelming. We hope to incorporate solar technology, allowing the students a hands-on opportunity to participate in physics and chemistry coming to life in practical ways before their eyes (photosynthesis simulation, AC/DC battery technology, conductivity etc). Most of these students, who primarily come from the surrounding villages, haven’t been exposed to much technology, so it will be quite a leap! We hope to power lights for studying at night, as well as a computer lab, to connect them with the “Global Village”. This will allow the students to gain valuable computer and communication skills, and provide a wonderful opportunity to talk with their elders, and share their family and cultural history, and aspects of their daily lives (like photos of local foods, huts, roads, and videos of the language) with other students from around the world - A great way to claim back some of the cultural identity lost in the violence and disruption of the last 20 years.

Cause to celebrate!!!

Farmer John...

The soil is rich, and we’re incredibly excited to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty! We have a great opportunity to grow our own food, as well as experiment with novel crops that could create new micro-markets in N. Uganda. Biology and Agriculture will come alive in practical ways as the kids learn valuable skills, and maintain a close, practical and organic relationship with the land. Jim Lorenzen, the father of our adoptive Kampala family, is a plant geneticist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and will be advising us on which crops we can grow, and how to do it. Also, Kristin from Chicago is tied in with a seed company who is interested in donating to causes such as ours around the world, so we’ll be working together to put in a proposal for funding and equipment. It’s an absolute blast and a blessing to watch God put the puzzle pieces together!

Preliminary survey of the land

So needless to say, there’s tons to keep us busy here, but it’s joyous work, and incredibly humbling to be a part of the story God is writing in this community. We're praying that everything continues to go well for the building of the school, and the projects in the High Court. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as well~

I truly hope you are all doing well- I know I’ve dropped the ball on communicating for awhile, but please fire me off a message when you get a chance, I’d love to know how you’re all doing!

Peace to you~