Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hockey, Monkeys and Mangabeys

There are a few things we found here at Uganda Christian University that we didn’t expect to see!  On Thanksgiving weekend we were invited for a hockey game and dinner at the home of another Canadian family living on campus.  They are great hockey fans and love to play, so they have actually built a paved ball hockey court behind their house (complete with stone stands as seating for fans).  It is the best they can do in the tropics where there is no ice!  Karl has played goal in the past for ice hockey teams, so he was conscripted and did a great job---their team won!
DSCF4168 (800x600)
Now, of course, monkeys are more what you would expect to find in Uganda…but we were surprised to find so many living right in our yard at the university!  In fact, we have seen many more here in the last couple of weeks than we normally see in a game park!  And these are not the usual vervet monkeys that can be quite annoying, stealing food and hanging around houses.  We have a whole extended family of red-tailed monkeys that are amazing acrobats… jumping and swinging in the trees in our yard and onto our roof.  Sometimes it is actually hard to concentrate in my office with all their banging around up there!  Then we have the mangabeys (which are supposedly rarely seen) grunting and whooping and ‘gobbling’ in the trees and eating the leaves off our papaya tree.  They are a kind of monkey closely related to a baboon.  These must be what the little Ugandan neigbour girl told us about when we first came.  She told us there are gorillas in the trees here!
DSCF4163 (800x600)
DSCF4132 (800x750)

DSCF4137 (800x728)
Red-tailed monkey

DSCF4150 (800x600)
DSCF4116 (800x600)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thirsty Hearts: UCU Mission Week


P1240041 (800x600)

As the Mission Week continues here at Uganda Christian University, students are responding to the Word of God as it is being shared by Dr. Benjamin Kwashi. 


Today’s message in the community worship gathering focused on Jesus’s invitation John 7 to come and drink of the living water that He offers freely to satisfy our deepest thirst for love and truth in our hearts.  You could have heard a pin drop in the large gathering as students related to the message, and several responded to indicating that wanted to commit their lives to Christ and find their satisfaction in Him.     



After the community gathering, there was a session in which Dr. Kwashi addressed the staff and challenged us to understand the importance of Christian education in the transformation of Africa.  He stressed, “Only Christian teachers who know the gospel are able to transform Africa” and referred specifically to the need to model and teach integrity in the battle against corruption that plagues many countries.  This is what the work of the Institute of Faith, Learning and Service will focus on—equipping faculty members to teach from a Christ-centred perspective in all disciplines.  God is already at work laying the foundation for what He wants to do!


Some of the faculty members

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Run the Race!

On Saturday, just a few days after moving to Uganda Christian University in Mukono, we were able to take part in a fund raising event (proceeds towards the building of a student centre on campus.)  It was a great way to get some exercise and also get to know more of the staff and students.  The Vice Chancellor addressed the participants and encouraged us all to support the expansion of the university facilities.  He also reported that at a recent meeting of several  university vice chancellors in Kampala,  UCU was looked to as a model in many of their programs, so we are encouraged to be a part of the Christ-centred education of university students in this place. 
P1230984       P1240002

On Sunday we attended a special church service launching the Mission Week  at UCU with an excellent speaker, a bishop from Nigeria.  Last night it was beautiful to walk around the campus and hear groups of students singing in the chapel and in the open air. We pray that many will respond to the challenge and invitation to walk faithfully with the Lord and find His will for their lives and careers so they can be  most effective in bringing positive change in Ugandan society.  Our prayer is that many of our Kibaale students  and Timothy Girls High School students will be able to continue their education here. Again we are grateful for godly, humble, inspiring leadership here and are looking forward to growing in our own walk with the Lord as we work shoulder to shoulder with the Ugandan staff who have dedicated their lives to God’s work in higher education.


Now what exactly is an IAPCHE?  I was not too sure myself until I was invited to attend an IAPCHE seminar just outside of Nairobi in August.
I should back up and explain that Karl and I have taken a sabbatical from our work at Timothy Centre in order to pursue some opportunities for ministry that we feel the Lord has directed us into.  Our sabbatical officially began June 1, but we remained at Timothy Centre for four months as I was committed to finish teaching our ‘pioneer class’ in our Certificate in Christian Education program and the last module was held August 26 – Sept.11.  Karl also had several Farming God’s Way workshops lined up in the Masaka and Rakai areas in August and September (workshops are done in the dry season to help farmers prepare their fields for the coming of the rainy season and planting time).  During this time (in June) I was interviewed by Uganda Christian University in Mukono (just east of Kampala city) for the position of director of their Institute for Faith, Learning and Service.  UCU had asked me to apply for this position back in December last year and around the same time Karl was asked to help give national leadership to the FGW programs while the coordinator was due for furlough in Canada for a year. As we prayed about these things, we felt that these were opportunities that we should pursue in order to expand the ministries that we were involved in at TC (training Christian educators, and training farmers and pastors in FGW principles).
In July I was appointed by the university as the director of IFLS which is basically a program to train the faculty in the integration of faith and academics  (More about this in later blogs as I start the work in earnest.) So…the university asked me to join a team of delegates who were planning to attend an IAPCHE (International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education) seminar for East AfricaDSCF3061 (800x600)n universities.  This was held in the middle of August near Nairobi (we flew just days after the fire at the Nairobi airport).  What an amazing opportunity to network with other East African universities who were also committed to moving ahead in teaching from a Christian worldview.  Our group from UCU came away with an outline for an action plan that we want to implement in the next six months, and then we will meet again in April/May next year to report back and learn again from each other and a follow-up seminar.  This was so helpful for me as I begin working this month for UCU. 
After our teacher training module at TC was complete and we took a few days of R&R, I spent a week working with a team of international and Ugandan educators as we did an evaluation of the Watoto schools in the Kampala are. Then Karl and I packed up our belongings (with the help of our friends and coworkers at TC) and traveled to UCU.  Thankfully the rain held off and things arrived relatively dry!  We looked a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies, but we managed to get everything into the school truck …everything fit in one load exactly!
Ready to leave Timothy Centre

Our new home at Uganda Christian University

  P1240009 (800x475)
Taking part in a fund-raising run on our first weekend at UCU
We have already started to feel a part of the wonderful community here and are looking forward to what the Lord has in store.  The first few days have been just settling in and setting up home and office, a few meetings, etc. but now we are about to get into the swing of things.  There is a real excitement on campus this week as this is ‘Mission Week’ where special gatherings and prayer times are being held as the staff and students are being challenged to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord and to “Set your mind on things above”  (Colossians 3:2-4).  The motto of UCU is “A Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa” and we are very encouraged from what we see in the hearts of the leadership so far. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Safari Adventures (Queen Elizabeth Park)

After we spent a night at Lake Mburo,  we travelled another few hours farther northwest to Queen Elizabeth National Park and spent two nights at the Kingfisher Lodge overlooking the Rift Valley.


We have visited this park numerous times, but always enjoy the new adventures we have each time.  Rayleen was looking forward to seeing lions and elephants.  It seemed that the large elephant herds had moved to another part of this vast park, and we saw only the occasional lone elephant this time.

DSCF3313 (800x600) 

The boat launch on the Kazinga Channel allowed us the usual great sightings of several kinds of birds, hippos (including an albino hippo) and crocodiles (including one that was incubating eggs on the shore). 

We drove around on several tracks one afternoon hoping to see at least one elephant herd, but unfortunately saw little in 2 or 3 hours other than nasty flies with long, pointed ‘stinger noses’ that attacked us in the vehicle when we had the windows open.  We were about to conclude that we just had a bad day for animals when we suddenly came upon a group of about six Cape Buffalo lying in the mud on each side of the small track we were driving on.  They were literally right on either side of the track with maybe ten feet in between ….and we spotted a young one with its mother in the group.  These are the most ornery, aggressive land animals and can do some very serious damage to vehicles (and people) with their powerfully strong necks and horns.  It was a very narrow track in a bush area, hence no place to turn around and get out of the way.  As a couple of the animals started getting up out of the mud and looking rather scary, I decided all we could do was to gun it and hope we got through before they could get their footing in the mud.  So we went for it and managed to get through before they had time to come after us.  No time for a photo as we were escaping!  Here is one from the boat launch, though….rather grumpy looking creatures.

DSCF3388 (800x600)

The last morning we took a last drive through the park where lions are often spotted.  We had gone to that area the previous morning, but were not able to see any in the tall grass.  This time, however, we had a fantastic sighting of a female lion near a thicket.  As we watched her, a male lion also emerged….and then another female!





They were amazing to watch—so majestic and fearless.  Rayleen saw her lions!


Another great safari in God’s amazing creation.

DSCF3333 (800x600)

DSCF3343 (800x600)

DSCF3376 (800x600)

Safari Adventures (Lake Mburo)

After our teacher training module finished (on Karl’s birthday) we set out for a few days of rest and relaxation to celebrate… and to give Rayleen (our Canadian visiting teacher) a chance to see more of the beauty of Uganda.  We spent one night at Lake Mburo National Park where we went on a horseback safari and then travelled on to Queen Elizabeth National Park.  We really enjoy Lake Mburo, as it is so close to the Timothy Centre so is not a long, arduous journey, and it is small and relatively quiet .  It is brimming with wildlife (zebra, eland, topi, waterbuck, bushbuck, Cape buffalo, monkeys, baboons, impala, wart hogs, all sorts of birds….and is a good place to spot leopards).  This time we decided to enjoy the wildlife on horseback, as one of the lodges there has stables and takes visitors on safari to get close up views of the animals.  It seems that the animals, especially the zebras, find the horses very non-threatening and so it is easy to feel ‘one’ with them as they graze nonchalantly and calmly with the horses around. 






The park also offers night safaris, with a guide who comes along in the vehicle with a large spotlight.  In the past, we have seen leopard on the night safari but they seemed to be hiding this time.  However, we saw the nocturnal bush baby (smallest primate), and the white tailed mongoose along, along with the animals normally spotted in the daytime.

081     P1230645


In the morning, while we were having breakfast in front of our tented camp, one of the vervet monkeys that like to hang out and cause mischief nearly ran off with my purse. One always has to be watchful when camping in a game park!


Well Done to our Teacher Training Class

This blog is long overdue….

It has been a very, very busy last couple of months at the Timothy Centre, with the completion of our first teacher training course (August 26 – September 11).  All of the preparations for the final module on Methodology were finally completed a couple of days before the teachers arrived.

It was great to have two other teachers help facilitate this module.  On August 21, Rayleen arrived from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and helped with some of the set up, preparation of materials, repairing of mosquito nets in the dorms, setting up the resource library, etc.

DSCF3075    DSCF3076

Rayleen is a recent university graduate (B.Ed) and the daughter of a very good friend….and she grew up listening to stories of our work and ministry at Kibaale Community Centre and Timothy Centre when I would visit back in Canada over the last 20 years.  It was wonderful to have her participate in this teaching module.  Then on August 23, just two days before the teachers started reporting, Lizabee (our Pacific Academy colleague) also arrived from Canada to begin another year of service at Timothy Centre as the Director of Education.


She was also a huge help during the module, team teaching with Rayleen for a couple of the days that I needed to be away conducting a workshop at the UCU satellite campus in Kabale (near the Rwandan border in the far west region of Uganda).  Rayleen and Lizabee took responsibility for the marking of the teachers’ assignments for this module—a big job and a blessing to the teachers who were very happy to get more immediate feedback this time round.


The teachers participated whole heartedly in the class discussions and group work, and found the topics in this module especially practical as we focused on the biblical principles for teaching critical thinking, student-oriented active learning, classroom management and discipline (a hot topic in a culture where physical abuse in schools occurs too often), brain research and learning (one of their favourite topics it turned out!), cooperative learning techniques (as opposed to the highly competitive methods used almost exclusively in Ugandan schools), and cultural learning styles (helping teachers to recover and maximise traditional learning methods).

DSCF3098 (800x600)     DSCF3110

DSCF3104 (800x600)


Towards the end of the two and a half weeks, we also gave teachers choices in some very practical workshops on early literacy teaching methods, hands-on mathematics methods, teaching student note-taking skills, and the use of graphic organisers.  These workshops catered to all levels (nursery and early primary up to secondary).  For the last two days, teachers had opportunity to make teaching aids (charts, big books, math games, etc.) to take back to their classrooms.  All the cardboard and other ‘junk’  that we had been collecting over the last 3-4 years was well used!

     DSCF3213                                                               DSCF3251    

One of our Kibaale Primary School teachers, Margaret,  who has been attending our course was expecting her baby a couple of days after the start date of this module.  She wanted to finish the course so badly that she decided to come and to pray that the baby would wait until she was done with her studies.  She came faithfully each day and worked hard to complete here assignments….and went into labour the day we finished!  She has a lovely new daughter named Patience!



We will miss this group of dedicated teachers, as we have grown close in heart over the last two years.  We pray they will be a great blessing to their schools and to every student they teach!