05 April 2008

Our safari begins

Only had a slice of toast and one cup of coffee before we piled onto the buses that would take us to Murchison Falls National Park. We were told our first bathroom stop would be in about 4 hours, so I was worried about injesting too much fluid. They split us into 3 buses so each one could have a window seat as these would also be the vehicles that we would be in for the game drives. Most fell asleep as soon as we started moving. I wish I had gotten pictures of people's faces when we hit the first big bump in the road. It was a wake up call for everyone, more so because we did not have seat belts!

We stopped at a lodge in Masindi for bathrooms and a bottle of pop. This was the first time Rick and I tried Stoney, a delightful ginger drink that left an interesting burn in the throat.

Back on the road quickly because we wanted to see the top of Murchison Falls and catch the ferry across the Nile to the Lodge in time for lunch. I was not prepared for the magnificence of the falls, the water had a life of its own as it leaped and danced, singing in a continuous roar. I was grateful that Rick has video capability on his new camera so that he could capture some of the intensity of the moment. What rose up in my spirit was John 7:38 "The one believing [or, trusting] in Me, just as the Scripture said, 'Out of his belly [or, innermost being] will flow rivers of living water."

One of our younger teammates Ashlee had the comment of the day when she said later "You know that waterfall? That was just God showing off."

As we ferried across the Nile we could see Para Safari Lodge on the opposite bank.

We had our first "big thrill" when we spotted an elephant that seemed to appear on cue as a sort of "greeting committee".

We knew we were going to see animals, but we all seemed taken by surprise and squeals of delight filled the air. Do you suppose our God was laughing with us, touched to the core by our enjoyment of His creation?

The ride had indeed been long and hot and we were covered with a fine mist of red dust from the road. We were treated to cold, wet face cloths as we entered the lodge, and while our bags were being unloaded we were also offered glasses of fresh passionfruit juice. I am not used to this level of service and found it extremely welcoming. We felt as if we had entered into an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and when we entered our room, that feeling only multiplied! The wall opposite the entry was all glass with french doors to a balcony with a view of the pool and the Nile River.

We enjoyed a lavish buffet of gourmet foods for lunch on the dining room balcony (which became our regular place to sit) and then had about three hours before our first game drive to unpack, relax, rest and splash around in the pool. There were many jokes made about this not looking at all like a normal missions trip!

Saturday continues

Because we would be on the road early Sunday morning on our way to the safari lodge, our long and busy day continued with a 5 PM worship service at KPC. God is so willing to meet each one who walks in the door of His house! It was World AIDS Day and we were blessed to be able to pray with someone we had never met before, a Ugandan man who happened to sit next to us. It was good to share with someone who was not one of our team members. The devestation Aids has left in its wake in Africa is beyond words, yet with the love of God and the help of the KPC community cell groups, HIV positive men and women are being ministered to and cared for.

We got home and had a quick dinner then off to bed to try to get some sleep before our early wake up. We had to be on the buses ready for a 4 AM departure. For all of us who were going to be partaking in the safari adventure there was a tangible sense of excitement and joy!

Family Dinner

After the morning at the Bulrushes we went to Suubi to be treated to a dinner in a family home. We were served traditional food including the national dish of Uganda matoke, (green banana steamed in banana leaves). The 4 girls in this home are training to be part of the choir that will be here at MVCA in June and we persuaded them to sing for us. How moving to listen to orphans rejoicing in their Lord and singing “I am not forgotten, God knows my name”

Many of the women who provide the daily care for the children have also experienced great loss, widows who have struggled to raise their families after the death of their husbands. Watoto provides them the opportunity to have a better life and also to play a vital role in the destiny of their country. I am not sure if they even realize how important they are as they raise the next generation of Ugandan leaders. Robina is still new at the task, having been a housemother for less than a year. She struggled to speak with us knowing very little English, but the warmth and love in her spirit shone brightly. She truly felt as if we were sisters.