Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NDE- Near Death Experiences

So, it has been a while since my last post, and I apologize. We have been having some remarkable experiences these last few weeks. I am beginning to realize how hard it is going to be to go home. This experience truly is life changing.
To start off the USP students and the Honors college students traveled to Jinja in Uganda a couple weekends ago just to relax. We stayed at Kingfisher Resort, which was an amazing place. We stayed in bungalos, which resemble some sort of hut. We had hot water for one of the first times, which actually I haven’t missed too much. Cold showers are something you never get used to, but after exercise cold showers feel pretty good. There was also an amazing pool at this resort, which we all used religiously for the weekend. The food was remarkable also. On Saturday we began the day with some worship and then broke up into groups and shared our timelines and then the four most important things to us in life. As we went around our group, it came time for the guy next to me to share his timeline. He recalled an experience that I could never share. He told us how right before coming to UCU while he and a friend were traveling on a bus, they were stopped by some members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and everyone on the bus was pleading for their lives. The guy next to me and his friend attempted to escape through a window and before his friend could escape he was shot dead, while Moses was able to get away. The LRA continues to kill across Northern Uganda, and there is no way to know when this war will end. That afternoon the group all took a boat trip to the source of the Nile River, which was pretty incredible. The weekend was filled with recreation and relaxation. Needless to say I returned to campus pretty sunburned.
This past week of classes marked the halfway point of the semester. In my African Traditional Religions class we had a Bishop from Northern Uganda who came and spoke to us about the attempts for reconciliation that is currently going on in Uganda. The process is known as Mato Oput. The process has four steps, and the final step being sharing a meal with the criminals. They aren’t looking to punish those that have harmed like many people from the West would say to do. Instead they look for peace through forgiveness. The Bishop was correct in saying that peace will be easier to attain if forgiveness is achieved. Revenge after all is just a game and it never ends. In fact, the Bishop spoke of a time where the people of Uganda will work side by side with those that have killed off many of their friends and relatives. I left this lecture with a brand new perspective.
Now for the best part so far of this adventure. This last weekend I planned a rafting trip for the USP group down the Nile River. We left early Saturday morning and began rafting by 11:00 on Saturday. There were two options for the trip, mild or wild. Some students chose the milder route while I went the wild route. Right from the start the guide in the boat flipped our boat over and taught us what to do if we get trapped under the boat. The first rapid is a class 4, but in the US would probably be a class 5 rapid. Then on the second rapid, which was a class 5 ½ pretty much a tidal wave, looked as though for sure we would flip. As our raft approached the rapid, I felt our boat begin to tip and then saw Bryce go out of the boat. I immediately jumped to the other side of the raft trying to keep it up, which I did successfully, but I ended up being tossed out of the raft in the process. As me and Bryce tried to stay near the raft it seemed like we were being hit by water repeatedly. It was so difficult to gain a breath. We finally hit some calm water and were able to climb back in the boat. Shortly after a few more rapids we had lunch on an island. It was wheat sandwiches and they were amazing. After lunch we paddled through a lot of calm water, but then we came upon our first feat of the day which was Bugugali Falls. We were literally about to go over a waterfall. We were the first to go over. We paddled onto a rock waved to the camera then it was time to go over, unfortunately we went over backwards, and by the look on the guides face it wasn’t normal. We all were able to stay in the raft, but as we came up from under the water, we all were in different places than we were before the waterfall. Immediately after the waterfall we had to paddle hard in order to hit the next class 5. We were one of two boats to take this route. We were the first again, and this time trying to save the boat was unsuccessful. Our boat flipped, and all of us were stuck under the raft. It seemed like a long while before we were out from under the boat, but we all ended up being ok. Fast forward to the biggest rapid of the trip. It is actually the very last rapid. You actually walk your boat on land past the first part of it and then get back in for the last of it, which is called the “bad place.” Our boat of course went straight for the middle and it a great attempt, we flipped end over end, and we were all again in the water. Except this time it was as though it was time to see Jesus. It was impossible to get a breath due to the amount of water hitting us. The only thing I remember is praying there would be a kayaker when I came to the surface and there was, THANK GOD! The rafting was amazing and there’s nothing I really can compare it to in the states. On Sunday morning, I purposely didn’t tell my Mom what I was about to do. 10 students and I bungeed 44 meter or 132 feet into the Nile. We even were dipped into the Nile up to our waist. I remember the feeling at the top not even wanting to do it, but as soon as the countdown started I knew I had to and as soon as he said bungee, I leaped out and I can’t even explain what was going through my head, all I know is it was the most incredible experience of the weekend.
So that’s a little of what has been going on here. We have our midterms this week, and so far so good. This weekend we leave for our rural home stays so I won’t be able to update at all while I’m gone. We will each be staying with a family in the flooded region of Uganda so please be praying for us. I will update after we get back in a couple weeks. Again please continue to pray for our group, they are much appreciated.

Prayer Requests:
-Rural Home Stays- Families and USP students
- Health- some students have been getting sick
- Midterms and Classes

Thursday, October 4, 2007

In Full Swing....

So the home stays are over, which has its drawbacks, but also is a much needed relief. The drawbacks are missing the food my host mom prepared. There were options almost every night compared to at school where we always have rice, beans, and occasionaly some meat. The relief is that I'm back with the other students on campus.
This past weekend the group went into the capital city of Uganda-Kampala. We went in for one of the students birthdays. We at a place called the New york Kitchen, which has some amazing American food. We ended the day by going to a craft market behind the national theatre. Of course we were being offered the "mzungu" price, which is often thousands of schillings more than an African would ever have to pay. I basically came out of that market empty handed. Saturday night some of the students and I went to a sports bar to watch a football game. This is becoming somewhat of a ritual on the weekends. It is amazing to watch a game with hundreds of Ugandans all cheering for the same team.
On Sunday, I went to church here on campus with most of the students here at UCU and it was quite a long service. It began at around 8:30 and ended around 11:30. Sunday afternoon the directors of the program Mark and Abby had an open house for the students in the USP program. This doesn't include the studnets who are living with host families the entire semester, they are refferred to as IMME. Abby prepared some donuts and chocolate chip cookies for all of us, which were fought for by all of us. The one thing everyone seems to be craving is chocolate. It was a great time of getting to know Mark and his family.
The school week so far has been quite busy. Tuesay, Tara (other student from Idaho Falls) and I went to our service project at Salama School for the Blind. We began the day with the Pre-1 and Pre-2 students who read to us using their braille. The teacher, who is also blind, types out a one page story, and then the students read the page. The student I worked with, Adrian, had most of his sight and also spoke English very well. After classes were dismissed we ended the day by playing sports with all the students. Sports is quite the experience at this school. After leaving we came back to the school and the USP students played the Honours College Students of the university in a game of ultimate frisbee. USP made quick work giving Honours College their worst defeat ever- 10-1.
The past week has been quite difficult for Jason (other students from SNU) and I. Jason's good friend Spencer Green, who was an amazing student at SNU, passed away Friday of last week after a long battle with cancer. Please be in prayer for the Green family and Jason and I, in the loss of a dear friend.

Prayer Requests:
- Jason- missed the service of Spencer, he has been pretty torn up.
- Our classes and work
- SNU community in the loss os Spencer
- Just for the USP students in general, very many have become quite homesick.

P.S. Pictures are very difficult to upload here because of how slow the internet is. When an opportunity comes, i'll be sure to post some pictures.