Written on the Walls Behind Bars, Part 3

Written on the Walls Behind Bars

This is Part 3 of 3 in the “Written on the Walls Behind Bars” posts (see Part 1 and Part 2 to see the progression). The transition to the bars and then with “Love” written on the face of the father is pretty incredible to me. These shots were part of a larger shoot that day from these facilities in Uganda. To see more images from those days click here to see They are Hidden but Not Forgotten and The Challenge of Being Salt and Light in the Darkness.

Still Adjusting to Life in the Fast Lane :: Friday Feet

This is just about the first time I have felt like or had the energy to get back on my blog since I got home from Uganda. This particular trip has been the most difficult trip to readjust from and just back into just the normal routine of things. I got sick just about the day I walked into my house (and am still recovering), then Deborah got sick yesterday (and she is still recovering) so I never could distinguish between jet lag and sick lag. I could probably have seen this coming as I spent every ounce of energy I had in Africa over that 10 day period.

It’s more than that though, it’s a deeper connection made with some people literally half way around the world, and our life in my cultural context doesn’t give you any time to “adjust”, it just keeps moving forward at breakneck speed. There is nothing wrong with life over here any more than life anywhere else, ever single place has it’s own struggles, and often they are almost identical in nature, we just always think they are different because of the lens we look through every day.

Today’s Friday Feet comes to you from Kampala as we waited with the gals from Sixty Feet to go inside the second children’s facility in Kampala. I took those shots above that day with this post in mind, even if the two K’s (Kelsey and Kirby) didn’t know what I was doing, and honestly, I can’t remember which K’s toes are shown below, I think they are Kirby’s. What was really amazing to me about life over there is that almost everything we did was either preceded or followed by some kind of worship to our King, and it was often 60-90 minutes at a time, and it didn’t matter what day of the week it was. They just hauled the drums over, dropped them down and we were good to go.

I know Sixty Feet’s ministry name has to do with number of feet deep not actual toes and shoes, but it works for my Friday Feet today, thanks for being such great sports and for the work you two are doing over there Kelsey and Kirby.

Our Final Full Day in Buloba Uganda Today

Today was our last full day in Uganda. Tomorrow we will head over to a local market and have lunch before we head for the airport and a long long ride home. Today we went across Lake Victoria to the Bethany Village Orphanage in the morning, and back to Buloba to visit some sponsor children, put up some rain catches, and the woman were able to speak with a group of local woman. It was a very refreshing and uplifting day.

Tonight we had a wonderful last dinner at the guest house with our friends from 60 Feet. It was so great to have the two K’s over for dinner (their first names are Kelsey and Kirby), and I think we all enjoyed some casual discussions, along with African Renewal Ministries who came over as well. There were so many things we experienced on this trip that need to be followed up on, things that God pulled together for our team that became a great start. We understand as a team we probably can’t change the world, but we can continue to take some small steps forward that will collectively make a difference.

Tomorrow we head to the airport for our 11pm flight. Our flight leaves about 2pm Central Time on Thursday, and if our flights are on time, we should be back in Auburn late Friday afternoon. This trip has been incredible to say the least, and God put together a team that had so many different individual gifts and talents that only God could have brought us all together like this. As we head home we have so much to reflect upon, so much to process, but we trust in God to take care of the details and to use this trip to fulfill a purpose that will glorify God.

The Challenge of Being Salt and Light in the Darkness

We have just about two full days left before we head back home. Today, at least I was thinking, was supposed to be a little easier than yesterday, but as when you try to plan for God, he often has different plans. This was by far the hardest day we have had, and as we met tonight we struggled with what we saw, and ultimately had to give it up to God and go to bed. There were 7 of us (out of the 9, the other two went to the University today) that went to the 2nd and 3rd children’s facilities today and when we got back to the guest house I think we all felt beat up and worn down. It was such a night and day difference between yesterday and today. We have compared and contrasted with each other for hours, struggling with what we can do, what we can’t do, and what we have to just give up to God and be ok with.

The photos in this post were only taken at the 1st place we went to today. The second place we went to we were told the government would not allow any photos within the facility, and for the first time, in perhaps years, I really had no desire what-so-ever to take a single image away from that experience. It will be forever burned into my mind as God showing me what His heart breaks for in this world today. With my camera stuffed in my backpack I was immediately taken out of my own comfort zone, behind the camera, and shown the realities and challenges our world can deliver. I’m grateful for that opportunity and I think I will learn from it for a long time to come. There were several team members who suggested that I write a short post and not put up any photos at all to correlate to the experience we had with the second children’s facility, but that was really only half of the day today. So, the other half of our day is shown in the photos in this post, there were none from the second half of the day. I love the shot of Amy Frye at the top. I think that pretty much sums up the day, but we are thankful for God’s love and that he is in charge.

The other two members of the team, Probakar and Emile, went to the University today and had an incredibly positive experience. Probakar was able to give a guest lecture to about 100 students and Emile explained her process of making clean water from sale and light. They brought back many new connections for future work that can be done and had a very positive and uplifting day.

We took away several positive individual stories from both places, and we have planted many seeds for our local partner church in Buloba or Gaba to pick up the work where we just barely got started. The team is really looking forward to tomorrow where we will go across Lake Victoria to Bethany Village Orphanage and then on to Buloba in the afternoon where the ladies will share with some of the woman from Buloba Church and the men, plus Amy Frye, will install some rain catches.

They are Hidden but Not Forgotten

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

This is how our team started the day today.

This verse from Isaiah was on all our hearts as we headed two and half hours out of our comfort zone, into the Ugandan landscape, to visit some children that we have been praying for and about, for months now. Words just can’t describe the day we had today. How do you explain the heart of God in the midst of nine people who only want to follow a call that none of us seemed to understand, and in many ways, still don’t? I know there are just some days when you can feel God’s presence moving and working more than others. I think we all go through days like that when we feel farther away from God’s presence, and then there are days, like today, where God’s presence is so tangible that you wonder how you can keep time from moving forward.

Today we visited the first of two very special children’s facilities in Uganda, escorted alongside a ministry group that has been working very hard over here to be the salt and light to these very special children. We spent the day interacting with these kids, and we worshiped with these kids in a way I don’t think any of us expected. There wasn’t a praise and worship chorus sung, there weren’t any lights or electricity, it was just a few African drums and the voices of about 100 people, mostly kids, singing in a way only the Joy of the Spirit can provide.

The photos here (and this text) represent our day at this facility today in a way that is meant to show part of what we experienced throughout the day. These weren’t the photos I liked necessarily, they were the photos that the entire team picked out to include. As if the day wasn’t incredible enough, all nine of us waded through about 1,500 images and narrowed them down to these 16. Some images weren’t included here and were as powerful as any image I have taken in my 20 years as a photographer, but all of this was done with purpose and conviction with these kids in mind.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is how the day ended.

Center Day in Buloba Uganda is all About the Kids

Today was Center Day in Buloba, which means all the schools in the entire sponsorship program from ARM come together in Buloba, for breakfast, and a huge lunch, intermixed with classroom instruction. The teaching today was the Fruit of the Spirit, and I think all of our team learned something about the Fruit of the Spirit from these kids. They can memorize things at such an incredible rate, it was quite humbling.

In an effort to not repeat or duplicate images from my previous trip I have included some photos today that were unique to this center day. There is always so much going on with the kids on this day, and it was so great to get to see all the kids in one place again. We had some one on one time with our sponsor kids today as well, and tomorrow we will be visiting some of their homes if we have time after church. We were given the task tomorrow of talking to the seniors at Buloba High School along with attending church in Gaba and Buloba Community Church.

Everyone on the team is doing well. We are all pretty tired but other than that we are in good spirits and looking forward to the upcoming days with the children’s facilities on Monday and Tuesday. More about that later… for now, here are some shot from the day. War Eagle everyone, since kickoff isn’t until about 2am we will have to catch the highlights in the morning.

An Incredible Day 1 on the Ground in Uganda

Our first full day on the ground in Buloba is just now coming to a close. Everyone is in bed, probably fast asleep at this point (it’s about 10pm here), and hopefully gaining enough energy to last the full day tomorrow down in Buloba. So, I know this post is going to take forever to load on some slow connection but I just couldn’t eliminate any more images than I posted here. In total I think I took about 5,000 images, and for my repeat readers here I tried to make them as unique as possible so I didn’t just show the exact same thing as last time. Keep in mind as I write this post I am barely able to keep my eyes open, so I know it’s going to packed full of typos, but it will just have to be so this time.

A small note about the timing of everything over here. I always get questions about when I will be posting, because the timing seems so odd. I post in the airport and all that and then… nothing, for what feels like days over at home. We arrived last night into the guest house from Entebbe airport at about 1L30am and we were all asleep about 2am. No way I could post last night, and then today, we got up at 6am (yes that was about 3-4 hours after we went to sleep) and headed out for the day. We got back tonight in time for dinner, then I did a quick edit of the images and here we are at about 10pm. From this point forward, I will hopefully get to post around this same time for the next few days. Today’s photos ended up being Amy Frye day just because of the specific interaction I was able to capture, but each had their turn in the camera spotlight.

Today was great in so many different ways, and as we met after dinner to discuss the days events we discovered how tired we all actually are. Today was to be our orientation day to understand, yes, we are in Uganda, and it ended up being a day crammed packed full of God’s love. The day started off with a walk over to Gaba church where we were given a detailed tour of the Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM) buildings facilities and classrooms. The guest house is located on Lake Victoria, in Gaba, basically right next to Gaba Church and ARM. The shot of Amy below with arms wide open is shot on the balcony of their office.

Next up was a trip into Kampala for some administrative duties, and lunch, and then we headed out to Buloba. I’m grateful that since this is my second trip the ride and culture shock going into Kampala was basically minimal for me but those who hadn’t been were trying to comprehend what they were seeing, hearing, and smelling. When we arrived in Buloba we had the customary (i.e. extended) greeting and prayer at Buloba church and then we proceeded to visit the well and haul water up from the old well. For those who hadn’t been yet, doing this routine of going to the old well was and will continue to be a very important part of our welcome to Buloba. There just isn’t anything other than the experience of carrying 50 pounds of water 2-ish miles, which can explain why the other well was so important. It was pretty impressive to see Amy carry 50 pounds of water up these hills, but if she can do it I’m not sure who couldn’t.

After that we watched Emile do her water experiments with the local ladies. Through a simple process of making water into a chlorine based water with a solar panel and some salt, she showed the ladies how they could use this water to disinfect various pots and pans, bathrooms (per-sa), and do so in a very simple and inexpensive way. We did spend some time visiting with the children and meeting some of the sponsor kids before heading back to Kampala for dinner, and then here we are.

A quick explanation of some of the photos below. The first shot was for Bart, who seems to have a facination with the roosters here between wanted to eat them and keep them as a pet. That photo is standing at the gate of our guest house looking out to the main road in Gaba. Amy is not actually calling rain to fall in the next shot, she is directing the boys singing hymns about 50 feet below here. The shot of John Dow with the Water Buffalo, steer, cow, thing (it was big and had horns and looked like you could probably eat it) was John saying as we are watching the explanation of the bore well, check this cow out, and the shot of the shot of Emile is her performing the experiment for the ladies.

All in all a fantastic day, and an overwhelmingly exhausting one to boot. If all goes well I will post again this time tomorrow, but power is very limited here it seems, and I may or may not have a battery, time, or the energy, so if not tomorrow, the next day. Thanks for all your prayers. It is greatly appreciated by all the team members.

No Refunds in Auburn for City Schools Fall Festival :: Friday Feet

I’m playing catchup today with some photos I took earlier in the week. My countdown clock to Uganda (we leave on Wednesday) is running faster than a normal clock it seems and I didn’t get a chance to post these Tuesday night after the festival. So, today’s Friday Feet comes from the Auburn City School Fall Festival that took place on Tuesday, but the feet shot above was just way to cute not to use for today’s post. Each year the Auburn city school system gathers at Duck Samford park in Auburn for their fall festival, and this year I was asked to take some photos of the opening band, called No Refunds. The youth have a great band and it was a lot of fun to listen to them play on Tuesday night.

Below is a shot of each of the band members from No Refunds. No that the fall festival is over we could use some actual fall weather.

A Photographic Look at the Faces of Uganda :: Part 2

This is part two of a post I did last week (part 1) on the faces of Uganda. This set of images was a quick project related to the kids at African Renewal Ministries (ARM), which is the ministry group in charge of the sponsor child program we work with at Cornerstone Church. This is a pretty amazing program for the kids in Uganda and ARM coordinates the sponsorship of over 7,000 children in Uganda right now, along with being a bridge for churches and other non-profit organizations among other things. They are an amazing group, but you can really see the difference they make when you actually go over to Uganda and meet the children in the program in person and see that it really does make a difference to them.

To me, they are in the business of producing fruit… something we all should have on our to-do list as Christians, if I can say that and not make it sound like a checklist. They, and the people who work with them are producing the fruit, described in John 15, for future generations in Uganda. Something not just talked about in John but all over scripture, and to me that’s exciting. Our October mission team leaves in about a week and I can’t wait to get back to see those kids again. Just saying that feels a little weird since I’m not really one for searching out kid-friendly whatever but there is just something about the joy those kids have about life that is contagious, except perhaps when they get caught in the rain, but who likes that.

A Photographic Look at the Faces of Uganda :: Part 1

Today I finally had a chance to process some more photos from the shoot in Uganda. These were specifically pulled out for the kids, and there were way too many to put into one single post so I broke this up into two pieces. I’m not sure what preconceived stereotypes you have in your head when you think about the phrase “Uganda kid photos”, but what I had in mind was the late night 2am TV commercials guilting you into sending money. That just wasn’t what I saw when I was there, and below is a very small sampling of what I encountered while I was there in August. There is no sugar coating their hardships, and they do exist, but as you are surrounded by people who have basically nothing, according to our western standards, you find they are happy, smiling, laughing, and overall excited to see you.

It was quite inspiring to be around people who seemed to genuinely happy in spite of the adversity they face. There are so many things we (I include me in this) complain about every day that I think some days we just flat out lose our joy for life. Perspective helps, but that too fades with time. Ultimately I pray God will at least change my heart for the things He cares about, like the people in these photos. Only about 10 more days before I head back to Uganda with a completely different group of people, a completely different mission and schedule, but I’m pretty sure all of us have a soft spot in our heart for these smiling faces. In some respects this upcoming trip will be emotionally harder as we are scheduled to be in two different children’s prisons in the middle of the week. I know God will be moving with us and the kids while we are there, but I know the entire team would appreciate your prayers as we get closer to leaving.

Keep an eye out for part two of this post with the remaining five or so photos from this particular batch. Have a great weekend.