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Friday, November 23, 2012

There and back...

Three weeks ago, I (Scott) made a last-minute trip to Bundibugyo (Uganda) in order to attend a year-end review with the leadership of Christ School - Bundibugyo. 

There is something about the familiar which is so comforting, so relaxing.  Not that Entebbe is a particularly friendly airport, but I just breathe a sigh of relief after I touch down in Uganda.  I know the place, the rules, the prices, some language. It was once home and still feels that way.  After a brief one hour commercial flight from Nairobi to Entebbe,  I connect with friends from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and squeeze into the Cessna 206 with a pilot's yoke in my lap and scads of dials and meters in my face.  We end up spending nearly an hour and a half in flight because we need to divert around, above, and beneath various storms, but finally touch down on the soft earth of the Bundibugyo grass airstrip.  The door snaps open and the the hot, humid air fills the cabin.  
MAF Cessna 206 at Entebbe airport
Nyahuka from the air (CSB in foreground)
Bundibugyo airstrip and the gathering crowd
Guys from the team, beaming with smiles, welcome me.  Ahh, to know and be known.

Bundibugyo has changed.  From the air, the wide swath of destruction and construction which is the new tarmac road has reached Bundibugyo Town.  Only 12 more kilometers and the pavement will reach Nyahuka and WHM.  Not sure when exactly, but it will definitely be 2013.  While I had been warned that Nyahuka has changed - more people, more buildings, more development -  it seems that there is more that is the same than different.  The place is still lush green everywhere, the rutted dirt road is filled with motorbikes loaded with 2 and 3 passengers weaving around women pack-mules loaded with water and firewood.  As we reach the Mission, the greetings begin.  Faithful friends, despite the lack of foreknowledge of my trip, somehow discover me.  Students, neighbors, former workers, church members.  It's good.

Richard, Basime, and Kadima
Bamparana and Caleb
Asta and Buligi
Isingoma, Michael, and Travis
But this is a working trip.  I come as the East AFrica Field Director, to listen and provide counsel about Christ School's future.  The school is in capable hands: Isingoma Edward, my colleague since 1993, is now Head Teacher.  He's ably assisted by Michael and Travis who represent "the founding body."  We've come a long way since 1998.  Our senior secondary boarding school is now ranked in the top 12% of the more than 1000 secondary schools in Uganda!   No small miracle for a school that is just entering it's second decade, a veritable adolescent in a district which just 20 years ago ranked dead last in the entire country.   I soaked in the stories of the dramatic and tense football season which extended all the way to the National Tournament - as well as the more mundane struggles of preparing meals for 350, of keeping water flowing in the taps, and of collapsing latrines (yuck!).  
CSB and new cell tower adjacent

CSB students and Isingoma
The purpose of this Christ School "Summit" is to make "the way forward" (as they like to say in Uganda).  We had a budget crisis this year.  Cocoa, the main cash crop of Bundibugyo, didn't come in and the price per kilo was low.  By the end of Term 2, we were swimming in red ink.  With the help of many friends of CSB, we weathered the storm.  But we want to avoid these situations which seem to happen almost every year - for one reason or another.  So…budget slashing was the overall theme of the meeting.  Tough, tough decisions…about enrollment, staffing, and curriculum.   We have a plan and we have committed it to God, trusting that He is the One who guides our steps.

My trip was short.  Three nights.  Sunday was full.  I preached at Christ School and Bundimulinga New Life Church.  Watched the Manchester United game with the Christ School staff.   And I saw Johah's wife who continues to amaze.  Her private primary school - Alpha - now has 19 teaching staff.  Unfortunately she faces the same struggles as we do at CSB.  Parents who don't pay school fees and a fixed payroll to meet.  Baby Jonah is almost five and apart from his mom and attending school in Kasese.   The life of a single mother who manages a school and four homes is taking its toll.   She needs prayer.
On Monday, I almost don't make it out because the pilot is hesitant to land on the soggy airstrip.  He does come, but too late for me to make my commercial flight from Entebbe to Nairobi.  I'm bumped to a later flight and finally stumble in the door at Kijabe just before midnight, thankful for traveling mercies.  A mercy that I have not died on that crazy trans-African highway, the A104. 

Cocoa drying in the market

Josh and his new ride
Bundi Team Meeting

the pizza place
these buildings will all be demolished by the new road

Bundimulinga New Life church

New gas pump in Nyahuka

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