When You Believe – God is in our story. The end of a matter is better than its beginning,and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8.

This garage once served as our bedroom, dining and living for four and we sometimes dined in our unfinished house as inset in the Apple computer.
This is our living room now where we sometimes dined from when it was just a collection of bricks and mortar without a roof.
The garage was everything. Thank God COVID-19 spared us here in 2020.
Dining on a Saturday morning in the incomplete house in 2020.
Now we can work and do stuff from various rooms.
Mom can now produce the food in a clean and quiet environment with little or no distractions.
We can now afford a book or coffee on the veranda that was previously dusty and flea infested since it served as a kennel.
Mosquitoes had a great feast of us every evening before we put glass on the doors and windows.
This room was damp whenever it rained, for windows without panes let the water in. Sometimes it was a blessing, though, as it saved us the burden of spraying the dusty floor during the dry spell.
We no longer have to clog the staircase with stuff. Nearly everything has its place now.
By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4. This is how far the Lord has brought us. Ebenezer!
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Sharing the Word with pictures from home and Mt Elgon National Park.

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Uganda’s eyesore – Trash.

https://www.quora.com/

For whatever reason, the people of the Philippines recently elected president, a son of a former dictator. When I see trash everywhere and anywhere in my country today, I get so disgusted that I am wish that somebody would bring back my childhood days of “KEEP UGANDA CLEAN” during the reign of dictator Iddi Amin Dada when citizens were compelled to be mindful of both public hygiene and order.

It seems to me that not even our leaders are bothered by trash, especially plastics. Otherwise they would find ways of containing the trash situation that seems to slowly but surely drowning us.

My late parents, on an evangelical visit to Rwanda were so impressed by what they saw there that they told that if only Uganda could learn to manage its garbage and people, what a beautiful and orderly country this would be. They neither saw garbage, especially kavera (disposable plastic bags) and idle people on the streets of Kigali and other towns they visited.

We seem to be trying our best to present our pearl to the world wrapped in trash. This is a different world from that of Cinderella. Few will go look for a mysterious girl with a glass slipper. They would rather go for the obvious – what they see. Beautiful people, let’s clean up our country and keep as pristine as these waters of River Sippi on the foothills of Mt Elgon and the crater lake in Mt Elgon National Park.

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Uganda’s eyesore – Trash.

https://www.quora.com/

For whatever reason, the people of the Philippines recently elected president, a son of a former dictator. When I see trash everywhere and anywhere in my country today, I get so disgusted that I am wish that somebody would bring back my childhood days of “KEEP UGANDA CLEAN” during the reign of dictator Iddi Amin Dada when citizens were compelled to be mindful of both public hygiene and order.

It seems to me that not even our leaders are bothered by trash, especially plastics. Otherwise they would find ways of containing the trash situation that seems to slowly but surely drowning us.

My late parents, on an evangelical visit to Rwanda were so impressed by what they saw there that they told that if only Uganda could learn to manage its garbage and people, what a beautiful and orderly country this would be. They neither saw garbage, especially kavera (disposable plastic bags) and idle people on the streets of Kigali and other towns they visited.

We seem to be trying our best to present our pearl to the world wrapped in trash. This is a different world from that of Cinderella. Few will go look for a mysterious girl with a glass slipper. They would rather go for the obvious – what they see. Beautiful people, let’s clean up our country and keep as pristine as these waters of River Sippi on the foothills of Mt Elgon and the crater lake in Mt Elgon National Park.

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Taxi Tales – Where is Bukedi?

Checking what your kids learn, helping and keeping them interested makes a difference.

When I was growing up back in the seventies and eighties, by the time I left Primary school I knew quite a bit of the geography of our country Uganda and the East African region. A primary seven pupil would also know something about Africa and a little of world geography.  One would name the major regional African and world cities like Nairobi, Accra, Dakar, Cairo, London, New York, Peking, Tokyo and Bombay, as they were known then. We also knew the major economic activities in the various world geographical regions or what the cities were famous for. For instance you would say that the Mediterranean is well known for citrus growing, and the Prairies for wheat, while the Pampas are for cattle ranching and the Veld in South Africa is known for maize – the Americans call it corn.

Talking of America, we prefer these days to refer to the USA just as America. We know, that it is the USA we are referring to, unlike when you hear an American pastor refer to Africa in a manner that suggests that Africa is a country rather than a continent. When my son was in pre-school he asked me where Africa was and I said to him that we are in Africa, but he rejected the answer, saying that we are in Uganda. He could not then understand the difference between a continent and a country.

If he asked me such a question now when he is in secondary school, I would be perturbed,  like I was lately when traveling to Mbale by taxi (omnibus matatu). It was the end of the school term and in that taxi were school girls returning home from school. They talked about their teachers, the military barracks in which the school is located and the super unlimited internet access the military authority gives the school. Somewhere along the way, one girl asked her friends; “People, where is Bukedi? I often hear about on television, she added.”

None of her friends had an answer. Then I said to her that she was traveling through Bukedi and she seemed surprised by my answer. I went on to explain the origins of the name Bukedi from the British colonial rule and the districts of Uganda that comprise the Bukedi region (Tororo, Busia, Butalejja, Pallisa, Budaka, Kibuku and Butebo). I also talked about other regions of the country like Lango, Acholi, West Nile, Busoga, Buganda, Ankole and Kigezi. The students seemed surprised that I had such knowledge and asked me where I learned such things from. I told them, first from the classroom and books in primary school, media, and parents and siblings and you today can learn from the internet. This one girl seemed more intrigued and asked me how I keep the knowledge fresh in my head? By reading, more learning, keeping abreast of current affairs, and changes in my environment and by sharing knowledge.

It’s said that we now live in a global village but you might be surprised of how little of the global village we know. And some folks are content to keep that way. Our president, in the thick of COVID-19 said that who knew that a virus from far away China would reach Uganda. Probably lots of us called it the Chinese disease like Donald J Trump, and thought that it would not get here. If we had been curious like the wise men from the east who said that let us go and find out this thing that has happened in Bethlehem, perhaps, we would have been better prepared to face the Coronavirus (corona serious as one child put it).

Thank God for that one curious girl who was determined to reduce her horizons of ignorance by asking questions. Perhaps she will use their super internet access for better things.

Someone said that if you want to keep something good from an African, keep it in a book. May it not be so, pick up a book today.

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One Tree – Home to many.

A native tree in our garden which I “dressed” with at least three creeping plants more than ten years ago, besides other plants around it added as the years have gone by.

The last time I heard or looked up the definition of environment was probably forty-five years ago when I was in Primary school. Prompted by comments and questions by some of the visitors to our home, today I have looked up the definition of environment and it’s components.

The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates is it’s environment. Environment also refers to the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographic area, especially as affected by human activity.

Wikipedia describes the natural environment and it’s concepts as components as below:

The natural environment or natural world encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally, meaning in this case not artificial. The term is most often applied to the Earth or some parts of Earth. This environment encompasses the interaction of all living species, climate, weather and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activity. The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished as components:

Complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive civilized human intervention, including all vegetation, microorganisms, soil, rocks, atmosphere, and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries and their nature.
Universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from civilized human actions.

Very often first time visitors to our home ask if there are any snakes in our garden and when I say yes, they shudder. And I tell they don’t bother as long as we don’t bother them. Usually the snakes that we often see are up in the trees and if any happen to be down, they run away from us.

Up here dwell snakes, birds, mice and bees. The hornets visit for nectar from the creeper’s flowers.

No visitor, though, has ever asked whether we have birds, mice, bees, lizards or hornets as part of our environment, all of which seem to have found home, resort or diner up in that one big tree in middle of the garden.

When I hear the birds make queer noises, for certain, there’s a bird of prey or a snake eating their eggs or nestlings. Sometimes, a nestling or lizard has fallen on the old garden table below, to the delight of Tommy the cat. Thank God they have not fallen when we are having a meal, neither has a snake or bird dropped dug in our food but they have once dropped on my shoulder.

Because of the quiet and green flowery environment, we have at least five bee nests in our garden; one up the big tree, two on two mango trees, one in our roof and the other up an electricity transmission pole. Different kinds of birds come every day for fruits, leaves and nectar. And we are glad to share our environment.

My hope is that the next time somebody visits, my environment will bring to mind the creation story rather than the thought of snakes. Please find a gallery below of the apparent features of our environment.

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What if? – In memory of Papa

Uganda got talent.

Lately I have been watching a video of a girl from the the north of our country playing a flute which someone sent me on WhatsApp. Initially I ignored the video and nearly hit the delete button thinking it’s one of those videos of attention seekers that have made so many rounds on social media that they have become repugnant. Well after a week or so, when I had time to spare I decided to give it a look. Wow! It was amazing to see the tall boyish looking lady play the flute with such flair. She seemed to play it to an audience that didn’t pay much attention to her wonderful performance, save may be the one who recorded the video.

I have watched this video several times now and I keeping asking myself the same question each time I watch: What if this lady had a chance to make it to shows like America got talent or Britain got talent here on our land, would she not have an opportunity to further explore and exploit her talent? That is if we really had any talent spotting avenues in our country.

Incidentally this video has reminded me of my late father who in the seventies helped a peasant youth from our village join the Uganda Prisons Service. Papa had on several occasions spotted the lad play a traditional stringed instrument so well that when had that the Prisons Service was looking for talented people to join the service, however low their education was, papa spared no time in looking up the late Okwii who played the guitar as part of Uganda Prisons Jazz Band until recently when he passed away.

Okwii was no relation of ours but Papa being a man who was passionate about human development, something reflected by his concern for the education of children and environmental protection, never counted the cost of finding the young man exploit his talent.

Papa told us Okwii’s story again and again with delight, to encourage us help the less fortunate in our community. Papa loved the part of the story in which Okwii comes back to the village in Prison officer’s uniform and looks him up to say, “Odeke, here I am, look what you have done. Thank you very much.”

Just last Sunday an elderly man walked up to me at All Saints Church, Kwapa to say thank you for saving his daughter’s life. My young brother bumped into the young lady nearly fifteen years ago on a village road walking around with her body thin and pale, and her mental health too was failing. However, James was able to recognize her as his primary school classmate and that evening reached out to me to tell me what he had encountered on the road.

We thought of what we could do to help and first thing was to call a friend of mine in medical field to explain the situation and ask if she could be of any help. Once we got the nod, we reached out to the father to help us get the woman ready to see a doctor and out of her grandma’ place where she had sought refuge after being kicked out by the husband on discovering that she HIV positive.

As it is said, the rest is history. The lady lives a healthy and peaceful life now and one day she called to say thank you. Better still I didn’t know until last Sunday when the father told me that her HIV positive child too lives and because of the knowledge and guidance she received from the doctors, nurses and counsellors, besides the medication.

Just, what if somebody cared?

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Hearing and Listening.

Go to the ant, O sluggard; and see, and emulate his ways, and become wiser than he. Proverbs 6:6

Someone said that inspiration comes from unlikely places and having got inspiration from not so obvious forums myself, I completely do agree. Sometimes I do wonder why Jesus in some of teachings would say that let those who have ears hear? “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev:2:29. Obviously the people who he addressed had ears and even if there were some deaf ones, they would have probably heard him if he wanted to, since he God incarnate. Some in the audience might have felt insulted like Mr Gradgrind’s son in Charles Dickens Hard Times that he would be asked if he had a heart when acted heartlessly towards Stephen Blackpool. Obviously he would not live without a heart that pumped blood, but the heart that was referred to, was compassion. Likewise when Jesus said that let those who have ears hear, he likely meant that, “please people get the message right and also pay heed to it.”

Many times I have been to funerals and weddings where speakers have said something very serious or touching, and more often than not all that it means to the listeners is that it was serious or touching: Like in Ezekiel 33:31, I have also been to work places, sat in buses and taxies and listened to people talk. And I have also watched movies and heard some very interesting statements made by the characters which have lingered in my mind years on. For instance in the movie “Jerry McGuire”, an elder said to a young man, “Roll with the blows.” That statement has been an inspiration to me on several occasions when I have come to a point of giving up in pursuit of a goal.

While I worked with the government owned newspaper The New Vision as a salesman I had a hard time on one occasion loading promotional materials on a pickup truck while preparing for a sales campaign. Having observed from a distance my futile attempts at loading the materials, a security guard walked up to me and said, “Moses, things which do not think should not defeat people who think.” And he showed how to and helped me load the newspaper stands on the truck. Several times have had some quite difficult tasks to perform which I could have easily given up without much thought but that statement to me years ago still rings loud in my ear.

How can I forget Reverend Father Van from whom I got the inspiration to improve my compound and have since then improved several other People’s gardens. It didn’t come down as a lecture or seminar on compound improvement or gardening, but a statement said out of disgust to trespassers (we school boys) who had gone to the chapel garden for a photo shoot without any permission. He said as he chased us out of his garden, “You can go and improve your own compound.” Some of my friends threw back insults at him but I took in what he said and went with it home after the school term. Inspired by the old man’s words, I have gone on to seek knowledge on gardening and house decor from newspapers, magazines and sites like Housebeatful and Houzz.

A water feature in my compound inspired by Houzz and house beautiful.

I have learnt to give ear to very “insignificant” people after listening to an NRM founding member years ago in Singo Military School of how a seemingly drunk or mentally ill man saved their lives by warning them (rebels back then in the eighties) of an imminent attack by government troops. He said that they could have chosen to ignore him when he said that he did not want them to die because he had seen government troops nearby moving towards the trading center they in at the time. No sooner had they left than they had gunfire behind them.

An old friend of mine who happened to be the MC at my wedding said informally during the reception that an elder’s advice is a command. He said that in response to my wife’s grandpa’s address to me in which he said that their family had given the bride freely and all they asked of me was to love her. Seventeen years down the road that “command” has been a reminder of my commitment to my wife. The MC also made two more seemingly funny statements which have been an inspiration to me to love and cherish my wife, her strengths and weaknesses not withstanding. He said that I can call my wife honey but I have to remember that honey comes from bees and bees do sting. Then he said in reference to cherishing her company, that I should not let go of the hand I was holding lest it went shopping. Incidentally that is biblical because Apostle Paul (1Corinthians 7:5) warned couples not let the devil take advantage of them in any circumstance. In humorous note, somebody said that Adam left Eve alone for a moment and the devil tempted her to disobey God.

The MC went on to speak proverbially, saying that marriage lasts three years: In the first year the man talks and the woman listens. The second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. And in the third year, they both talk and the neighbors listen. But if they keep Jesus in the middle of their marriage, the neighbors will not have anything to listen to because Jesus will listen to them. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

It is time we started listening and possibly doing. If moves us at the point of hearing, probably it’s worth remembering and meditating on.

Holding her hand and not letting it go shopping.
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Taxi Tales – The Abnormal Normal 2.

In this beautiful country of ours, anything can be normal. This Lions Children’s Park in Tororo can be a grazing ground or anything else but it can also be sold and the children find somewhere else to play.

Are any of you wise or sensible? Then show it by living right and by being humble and wise in everything you do.
That is what the Bible says about a wise person. James 3:13.

The other day I was watching a morning show on Uganda’s national broadcaster “UBC” in which one of the two presenters said that so many abnormal things in our country have become normal and that it will only take divine intervention to turn back the tide of moral decadence in public service. When I heard him, I thought how spot on. I had just arrived in Entebbe from Tororo by taxi in which two medical/health workers, who were fellow passengers conversed loudly all the way through.

The duo discussed all matters medical, from wrong diagnosis, prescription, treatment, self medication, drug resistance and you guessed it; theft of government medical supplies, especially drugs.

What really pricked my ears and got me listening normally to the two guys, was when one of them said that let us face the fact that Ugandans are experts in self medication. And they went on to agree with each other that self medication is one of treatment failure, besides drug resistance.

One of them said that when you receive a patient at a medical facility, you assume that they have not had any medication and because of the big numbers, you don’t bother to ask what you are normally required ask before making a prescription. Therefore you go ahead with a first line prescription because you have assumed that the patient hasn’t self medicated or sought medical assistance elsewhere. In that case treatment failure may occur in a patient who should have received second line prescription but due to failure on the part of the medic to probe, got the same medication or something even weaker.

As I listened to these two men talk about these pertinent issues, I wondered how many people out there are aware of the possible downside of self medication or how many people whose situations might have got worse because the medic did not do what was right. I briefly lost track of the conversation as I also thought about the people around me who self medicate pretty normally without any reservations. I wished they were listening, probably they would change.

It’s normal to fix a rural bridge like this one every year without anybody asking why it breaks down every rain season.

I caught up with my friends again when they were on to the drug stock-outs in government health facilities due to theft by staff. They seemed not to be in agreement on this one. One of them said that the government is trying it’s best to provide medicare to the rural communities but the medical workers were letting it down through theft of medical supplies from the health centers they work in. And very often the drugs ended up in private clinics or drug shops owned by the same people.

Whereas one medical worker acknowledged that this vice was normal and common where he worked, to the extent that stock-outs of supplies of both the first and second quarter can happen even before the first quarter ends, the other shook his head in disbelief. He asserted that he regularly monitored the store’s activities at the medical facility that he was in charge of. His friend did not agree that that would be normal in any public medical facility in Uganda. He said that his colleague was simply unaware of what might going on at his facility or was naive. To put it in another way that l may painfully call it Ugandan, “He was simply stupid, not wise or abnormal” by not practicing or being aware of such things as stealing government drugs.

Rural folks like old man continue to suffer because of selfish people in public office.

Some of us of who have tried to be ordinary normal people trying to earn a living by honest means have been referred to as unwise or abnormal, because you didn’t use your privileged position to take a bribe or use public office for personal gain.

A friend of mine told me that his nurses were told by a woman whose offer they had turned down of a fraudulent deal to get money from an insurance company for fictitious medical expenses, that they were stupid poor people who would die poor.

My mother died recently, and before long after her burial someone approached at the sub-county quarters and asked me told me that one county official wanted to see me. When I asked why, he said that he wants to talk to me about how we could get my mother’s monthly seniors payment from the government. I was so so shocked that I had no words for the guy who approached me, save to say, “we shall see.”

They were asking me to pick my dead mother’s money? Yet when she was alive, she missed it at least once because they wanted her to pick it in person whereas she could not because of her disability. My mother was a woman of integrity who worked hard for a living by farming and taught us to live honestly and humbly. Silence speaks volumes. That sub-county official never rang me as he had promised except that his messenger apologetically said to me that he had sent to ask me to do something that was clearly wrong.

Our parents showed us the way to go: The honest way.

That’s how abnormal we as a nation have become. Many of us think that we’re wise but our lives speak not the wisdom of God. We say, “For God and my country”, but we seem not to see that don’t mean business with him. Otherwise, wisdom starts with the fear of God.

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Taxi Tales – The Abnormal Normal 1.

A rod and a rebuke give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15

I really would love to write and post something positive here but all I seem to run into much of the time is the negative and the abnormal, even though I take the “the half full glass rather than the half empty” attitude to life. Let us start on a positive, though

When one would think that gone are the days when it took the whole African village to raise a child, since we are living in the age of the rights of children and nobody would dare raise a hand at somebody’s child; somebody dared to care anyway.

Lately I have been using public transport to travel between Tororo and Entebbe which affords me lots of unavoidable “eavesdropping” in the omnibuses that I ride on. One can call it listening or overhearing or whatever but when passengers decide to loudly share all and sundry so loudly, I can’t help but listen, for this is no private place or helicopter that I should shut my ears.

One morning as passengers waited for the taxi to get full for us to leave Kampala for Tororo, a woman brought a young woman whom she paid for the taxi fare and once the young woman was safely in her back seat, the woman walked away. But not before having a word with the taxi conductor. No sooner had the taxi pulled out of the park than the young woman asked the conductor to let her out. However, the conductor refused to let her out and the vehicle moved on to the surprise of the young woman who decided to make an alarm that she was being kidnapped. Little did she know both the conductor and the driver had been briefed by the woman who brought her on the young woman would be up to, and had been asked to deliver her to Tororo.

With one hand on her mobile communicating with someone, probably a boyfriend and the other trying to shove passengers so that she could reach for the door, the lady irked many of the passengers, some of whom joined with the conductor to restrain to her seat by tough talk and threats of action. One elderly lady who addressed the young woman as an ill mannered girl promised to take her on physically if she dared get up from her seat again. That warning kept the girl quiet in her seat for next 20km out of the city before she resumed her phone calls and made another futile attempt to light off the omnibus. This time round, she was simply ignored by nearly everybody, save for someone who just jeered.

When we arrived in Tororo, the conductor told the young woman that she was now free to run away. Instead of indignation as it was in Kampala, she smiled to a chorus of laughter from the passengers. We were all happy because we all cared. That was abnormal when it should be the normal thing.

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