Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Water from Heaven

Been working on a new project in Bundibugyo.  It’s a rainwater harvesting project for Christ School Bundibugyo, the secondary school that was started by WHM here in the district.  We’ve been concerned that the large increase in population in Nyahuka combined with the road project that there will be significant water outages for the school.  To head that off I am in the process of installing tanks and a  gutter system that will increase the storage capacity on the CSB campus as well as provide an alternate source for water in the case of extended outages of the current system.


The whole project has been a blessing and demonstration of God’s provision out here in Bundibugyo.  This project went from the drawing board to fully funded in a little under 2 weeks.  And now the tanks are being installed and only awaiting a little bit of plumbing to get them connected to the system.


In total we are adding four 10,000 liter tanks and gutters to the four biggest roofs that I could get my hands on. 


Thank you God for providing ‘Water from Heaven.’

And then Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God,
and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’
you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
-John 4:10

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Trying to stay a step ahead of the “one step back”

One of the things that has characterized some of my frustrations working with the water project are the steps backward that we sometimes take.  In my 9 months in Bundibugyo, the water project has been sabotaged 3-4 times (it gets hard to remember).  Sometimes it has been ignorance – a child wondering into the area housing the reservoir tanks and grabbing a 1/2” GI pipe that acts as a snorkel for the system and breaking it off.  (a snorkel is a pipe that allows air into the system when it is turned off to ensure that the HDPE pipes don’t collapse under the vacuum of water and surrounding soil pressure.  By nature, they have to be taller than the static pressure head so that water doesn’t come out of them.  At the reservoir tanks, they are 10’ tall and connected at only one end which means that not much force is required to break them off).  Sometimes it has been thievery – someone cutting some metal pipe for their own personal use.  And sometimes, heartbreakingly, it has been intentional sabotage to prevent other’s access to drinking water, which happened during recent tribal conflict.  Thus,  I have spent time planning, designing, and fabricating countermeasures with the help of my Ugandan friends.


The first step has been installing a new door at the reservoir tank compound.  There had been a wooden door installed there when the tanks had been first completed, but a long time ago it had rotted away  (I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t even there in 06-07 when I did my internship in BGO).  Hopefully this door can last for years (praying maybe decades).


The next step was ‘glassing’ the upper rim of an unprotected section on one of the reservoir tanks.  The height of this tank was low enough to pull yourself up to get access to the top of the tanks (I know, I used to do it regularly).  With the door in place, it would be simple to bypass by jumping to the top of the tanks.  While neither of these measures have transformed the tanks into an impenetrable fortress, I’m hoping that they will greatly reduce vandalism.

The other area that needed attention was the sedimentation basin.  This is a specially designed tank at the source to remove some dirt, sand, and other particles by gravity before sending the water down the pipes to the communities below.  This was the location of intentional sabotage about a month ago to prevent people in the villages below from having access to water. 


These are the unprotected, plastic HPDE pipes that leave the sedimentation basin and bring water to the villages below.  On the bottom pipe you can see black tire tubes that were utilized to repair the cut that a machete made in the pipe.  These pipes are 110mm, which make them difficult and expensive to repair. We were fortunate that the saboteur had only made one cut in the pipe and that it was repairable by the inexpensive tire tube method.  I purchased a 110mm HDPE Union in Kampala incase this repair didn’t hold and it ran me about $56.  I now have it for a backup in the future. 

Even though we didn’t have to do this specific repair, as a financial comparison, adding local labor to help make a repair would increase the cost to about $70 (Material plus 4 Laborers to help with excavation and positioning the pipe).  This represents about 60% of what the local water committee is currently able to collect in one quarter from its small user fees and 15% of the annual budget.  For one repair. Turns out sabotage is not sustainable.  Repairs to the water system can cost between $2 to over $70 per repair depending on the nature of the problem. Currently my assistance in materials and money for labor is subsidizing the local water committee at somewhere around 80%.  There is a long road ahead to make this project sustainable and it is overwhelming to realize that it is grossly underserving the community and needs large expansion projects to increase supply.


These are the pipe covers that I designed and had a local technician fabricate to protect the 4 feet of HDPE pipe when it leaves the sedimentation basin.


Here’s the installation of the metal covers, the one on the right has already been bolted into place.  The remaining exposed pipe was inside the trench and was recovered by soil afterwards.  Total project costs of trying to prevent those “steps back” (door, masonry, metal covers, and labor) was about $170. 

Friday, August 03, 2012


This little joy is named Joshua.  I’m not really sure if he was named after me or we just share a common name, but his father seemed very proud to tell me that his wife had just “produced” and that the boy’s name was Joshua.  Either way, I’ll take it as a complement and enjoy the moment:


(Me holding little Joshua at his house)


(My friend Byamaka, his wife, and little Joshua)


(The little guy getting a little sleepy and ready for an afternoon nap)


I really enjoyed sitting with my friend and his family, asking questions as to what they thought he would be when he got older (the most common answer was doctor).  It was fun to be able to hold his little body and play with his miniature toes and just sit with the family for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Heavy Rain and Heavy Hearts

So it doesn’t escape my thoughts that I live in a rainforest.  It’s just sometimes I remember it more than others.  So the past two weeks we have had a deluge of rain and not the 5 minute afternoon rain shower variety – I’m talking the all night thunderstorm where the lightning feels like it’s in your bedroom and you wake up to find out that the water is in your bedroom.  This happened to one of our mission houses this weekend. 


(Chrissy modeling the gumboots in the house look)


It turns out that the water level outside the house was about 4 inches above the soil line at the back of the house which created a not so good situation hydraulically with the shower soak pit allowing water to backflow into the house via the shower drain.  Beyond house flooding, the rains have made one of my other occasional tasks – air traffic controller – significantly more difficult.  About a week ago, I spent the entire day coordinating with MAF Uganda to get a plane in and out of our airstrip under less than ideal conditions. 


(The MAF pilot did an AMAZING job landing through the mud)

The whole day was definitely an adventure and when the pilot stepped out of the plane and asked, “hey, did you get that on video,” it pretty much affirmed to me that it wasn’t every day you land in that kind of mud. 


One of the harder things about these rains has been the whole climate of this region this year.  This past dry season in Jan-Feb was MUCH drier than normal (it didn’t rain once for over 35 days!).  This really affected the food gardens that so many people rely on here.  The drought caused local food to run out quickly and people here quickly ran out of money to buy imported food.  This has affected all of life and many students haven’t been able to pay school fees for the second term as a result (I believe that Christ School Bundibugyo, the secondary school that WHM runs, had only received about 33% of student fees a week before the term ended – it’s really left our mission trying to scramble to keep the school open by paying the Ugandan teachers salaries and have food for the students.  It’s pretty much on crisis fundraising mode just to be able to open up again for the final term of the year in August. If you would like to help out the school, it might be one of the best ways that you could use your money: http://www.whm.org/project/details?ID=11024)

In March the rains began coming regularly, and we all rejoiced in what we were hoping would be a bountiful local harvest about 3-5 months later (depending on crops).  The problem has been that the rains, which should have slowed to about 1/week in June/July, haven’t stopped.  In fact, they’ve increased.  The past two weeks have been completely overcast with a major rainstorm about once/day.  I have a friend whose garden was washed away in a combination flood landslide that happened this weekend. 


(This is the view from above my friends food garden.  He lost all of his g-nuts and beans, and some of his bananas)

I went with him to his garden just to mourn the loss with him.  Many others I’ve talked to have suffered the same thing or had what was left in their gardens slowly stolen by thieves (who are likely neighbors who had their crops destroyed).  It makes life here heavy sometimes as we move from crisis to crisis.


The newest crisis to come to Uganda is a new Ebola outbreak (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/07/31/157647569/as-ebola-cases-rise-in-uganda-health-workers-seek-to-contain-virus?ps=sh_sthdl).  I’ve known about it for a week now (or maybe it seems like a week as a few days can seem like a long time).  It’s sad and hard.  People here remember so freshly when Ebola was in Bundibugyo in 2007.  I remember how it affected my missionary friends and how we lost a really good Ugandan friend I had worked with during my summer internship.  Here, we are praying for those in Kibaale district and for God’s protection and isolation of this highly infectious and deadly disease.


I would love your continued prayers for me and for Bundibugyo.  I haven’t even been able to get into the details or frustrations on the water project, or how I pulled a muscle and/or bruised a rib last week (and it still hurts), or how my truck is still delayed in Kampala, or how 3-5 people come to my door per day looking for food/work/money.  Ministry is hard here and it is so easy to become weary.


“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust,’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

Psalm 91: 1-4

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to spend 3 days getting a driving license

Day one (Friday): My colleague and I went to police administration building where some of our Mzungu friends mentioned was the place to get a Ugandan driving license.  Upon reaching the pale yellow building without any signs, we inquired from a nearby policeman standing outside where we were supposed to go.  He chucked to himself and said that “ah, getting a driving license is a long process.”  We should have known then what we were in for.  He directed us to the Driving License Office on Kampala Rd which was 10 minutes away.  We signed in at the guard gate and went in to talk to them and see what we had to do to get a license.  At the office, the gentleman said that we would need to go to the URA office to fill out some forms before coming to them, but that we wouldn’t need to take a test since we had valid american licenses.  We headed off to the URA office and found the entire office in a meeting.  They told us to come back 30 minutes later.  In thirty minutes we returned and they were still meetings.  Someone broke away from the group and told us that we had to go to an online webpage to register the payment for the driving license.  She wrote down the address.  Upon reaching the Hostel where we were staying, I went online to the address.  There was no where on the front page that said anything about driving licenses.  I searched around for 30 minutes.  I finally found the page for a payment registration for non-tax revenue (NTR).  When I went to register, you have to select what the revenue is for from a list.  The list had about 30 abbreviations of which I didn’t understand which one I needed to pick.  There was no help or explanation and no phone number to call.  Dead end.  End of day one.

Day two (Monday):  First thing  in the morning we drive back to the Driving License Office to inquire from them which selection we had to make.  They answered that it was the “Exchange D/P” selection from the list.  We complete it in front of them online, but then they said we had to print it out.  No printer available.  So we drove into town to an internet café.  We found that the power was out and that we would have to wait for it to come back on.  Got lunch.  No power.  Ran some errands.  No power. When power finally came back on we rushed back to the café to print the form.  4:15pm.  We rush across the street to the bank to pay the assessment (all government payments have to be made at a bank).  The bank had closed at 4pm.  End of day two.

Day three (Tuesday):  First thing in the morning we go to the bank to make the payment.  Unfortunately, no one told us that we needed to have two copies of the payment slip, one for us and one for the back.  The teller had mercy on us and went to make copies.  We made the payment, had it authorized and went back to the Driving License Office.  The gentlemen at the driving license office asked were our URA forms were.  We showed them the payment receipt and they said, no, we needed to also have the application.  We drove back to the URA office.  Told them what we needed.  They said that the one who takes care of it would not be back for a few minutes.  We waited.  Then when he came back we showed him what we had and told him what we needed and then he asked us where our police forms were from the driving test. AHHHH!  We told him that the DLO told us that we didn’t need a driving test because we already had valid foreign permits.  He disappeared for a few minutes to confirm this.  He walked us through the first application.  Then he said that he didn’t have copies of the second application that we needed. He handed us a blank and told us to go make copies.  We came back with the copies and got everything filled out.  We then went and made copies of everything we had incase we needed something else.  After this we went back to the DLO to get the permits.  Upon arriving we were excited to find out that we had everything that we needed.  Jessica, my colleague, went back to get her permit picture first.  40 minutes later I went back to see what was taking so long and the machine was refusing to accept her left finger print.  Finally it worked.  Then my turn came.  Right finger print.  Left finger print.  Picture.  Sign the pad.  Then she told me again: Right finger print. Left finger print. Picture.  Sign the pad.  I repeated this a third time and asked what was going on.  She said that the system was networked to the capitol and if the network failed everything had to be repeat.  This happened a total of 6 times.  45 minutes later it was done.  Went to pay for the permit.  Found out that they actual just give a piece of paper as a temporary and I’ll have to pick up the real thing in about a month.  Exhausted.

The other day someone asked me some of the cultural differences between American culture and my Ugandan host culture.  This is a perfect example of the difference between a low context (american) and high context (ugandan) culture.  A low context culture is where everything is explicitly stated to you – whether by a person, a set of instructions, a website.  A high context culture is one where you understand things implicitly because of the context surrounding the situation – which is a context which you have grown up in.  Neither is inherently right or wrong.  The experience getting a license is one where there is a clash of expectations and an example of the frustrations that can be experienced when you traverse from a low context to a high context culture.  It’s also a primary example of why things can take a long time.

Experiencing this difficulty brings me to a place of wonder at how Jesus crossed a much wider gap in coming to earth in obedience to God and to die on the cross in our place. The birth, life, and death of Christ becomes even more majestic in this light.  Pray that God would enable me to transverse cultures much as He did through the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Well its been a while...

Well it has been a while since my last post.  There has been many a well intentioned evening where I planned to write an update, but which ended in me in bed by 9pm (which is known as missionary midnight).  Should I be so bold to say that I will be blogging regularly again (new years res?).  Maybe. 
God has been incredibly faithful in these first 3 months back in bundibugyo.
The old GFS water system near where I live is in an constant state of needing repair.  It has been easy to get frustrated when it feels that my time is completely spent on temporary repairs as opposed to longterm solutions.  But seeing the taps flow again and children and women collecting water warms my heart.  As challenges have come, God has given me double measures of patience and I am often reminded again of His calling on my life here and during temporary setbacks His refreshments lift the burdens of life here off of my shoulders.

One of the exciting events in Bundibugyo is the roadwork going on - they are paving the road all the way from Ft. Portal to Nyahuka where I live (crazy exciting as it should drop the 3-3.5 hr transit time to the next biggest city down to an hr and a half!).  One of the downsides is that the large construction trucks broke one of the main road crossings for the town center of Nyahuka.  How can you be praying for the water project?  Prayer is desperately needed for developing sustainable operating and management practices for the already built water projects.  Currently water projects operate well for a few years until they slowly start to fall into cascading levels of disrepair.  Teaching and empowering the community to repair, maintain and fund these activities is one of the greatest and hardest tasks in front of me.  Right now, leaks are either repaired by outside funding or the system just stops working and people begin collecting water again from the streams (dangerous!).

This is my friend Gilbert.  Children here enjoy our presence greatly and when you pull out a camera they will go crazy posing if you are willing to show them the picture afterwards.  These are little moments of joy for me.

And sometimes life gives you the most wonderful pictures.

We went Christmas caroling around our "neighborhood" and everyone loved it! And were willing to pose for a quick picture!

Sometimes cultural differences give you something unexpected.  I went to give this little buddy a five and he just held my hand. Love it! 

Our growing team's christmas picture! (Left to right: Ann, me, Pamela, Jess, Anna, Lilli, Aidan, Amy, Patton, Travis)

I have been blessed with good friendships here in Bundibugyo.  This was a snap from Topi's birthday (she's in the purple) and is married to Bhiwa who is one of my best friends here.  He's been helping me with language learning and has had me over several times to eat with them (he always jokes with me that its the mosumba's legs that feed him - mosumba means bachelor).

I am thankful to God for each day that I have been here and for the days to come.

"He  who sacrifices thank offerings honors [God], and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." - Psalm 50:23