Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Home visits, Self-Reliance Training, & Chobe--April 20

  Home visits, Self-Reliance Training, & Chobe--April 20, 2015


Last week was very busy for us. We worked in Gulu Branch on the other side of town from us. President Patrick asked us to me some home visits with him to “a few members.” He made out a quick list of families to see and it had 20 names on it. Luckily for us, he came with us.

It is hard to comprehend the poverty here unless you see it up close. This week we saw it up close. Pres. Patrick took us to see the families and it was good that he did because people don’t have addresses here and people don’t have cars so when they give directions it is from the perspective of a person walking. So “a little ways” could mean 100 yards or 2 miles. Go straight could mean, “stay on this road and take the fork to the left that goes mostly in the same direction.” We have decided to get a GPS and put in the coordinates of people’s houses once we find them.

I will try to describe the homes of 3 families we visited. The first and most dramatic was in a village far out of Gulu. We went off the road toward a group of huts where the “road” became a very muddy footpath with ruts 9-12 inches deep. Past the huts a little ways was a tiny, one room brick house with unfinished sides. The foundation had been created by removing dirt from the perimeter of the house to a depth of about 1 foot leaving a raised dirt rectangle on which to build. Where they intended to put the front door they had left a small rectangle of earth which was dug down half the depth of the foundation. This was the front step into the house.

As we approached we saw three young children playing under a small mango tree. They ranged in age from about 3 to 7, and there were two boys and a girl. The boys had on dirty t-shirts that were too big for them. The girl had on a black t-shirt and a red skirt that was nothing more than a rag. It was completely torn and frayed around the bottom and none of the children had shoes.

There was no door on the house and the only light inside came from the doorway and a large open square window left in the bricks. The floor of the home was just dirt and very few furnishings. One small wooden desk with all the finish worn off and the three would drawers that were once in it were long gone; probably used for firewood for cooking or to make something useful out of them. We sat on a wooden couch, home made out of scrap wood.

As we entered the home we saw a very old woman with a man’s suit coat on. She wore a dress under it and had no shoes. Her fee were tough and callused. She spoke little English and talked to Pres. Patrick mostly in Acholi, the regional language of Gulu district. She had been sleeping on a bamboo mat which is common here. Obviously she remained there as we had taken up the only piece of furniture in the home other than the tired old desk.

The lady had been in poor health and apologized to President Patrick for not coming to church. Her daughter in law, who is about 5 months pregnant came in and sat beside her; then her son Moses came and sat on the earthen floor beside her and then a relative named David. We stayed just s short while and went back outside to our truck and moved on to the next family. We took no pictures of any of these visit though we would have liked to. We are not tourists and maybe at some point we will have some pictures as the people become our friends.

The next 2 places were in town and by now it had started to rain very hard so everything was turning to mud and standing water everywhere. We drove to “the police barracks” which as a set of run down looking wood structures in a poorer section of town. We visited a man named Daniel who is a policeman but he was laid off 4 months ago. Water was standing all around his house a few inches deep so we parked our truck right on top of the small porch made of bricks laid out on the ground so we could exit the truck onto the bricks. Daniel invited us in and told us we didn’t need to remove our shoes because the floor was a mess anyway.

The duplex was quite small. The living room/sleeping area was tiny and crowded with just 4 adults and 2 small children and a TV in it. The part of the room we were in was divided in two with a lace curtain that had some kind of material behind it so you couldn’t see what was behind the curtain, but you instinctively knew what it was. The rest of the house was behind a single door which presumably led to a tiny bathroom and cooking area about the size of the living room. One wall of the wooden structure had a large painting of an African woman with a baby on her back and the words “African woman” at the bottom. On the other wall hung a few pictures. One was of Daniel and his wife in their police uniforms. Others were of graduations or important events. People don’t have cameras and few have smart phones with cameras so they don’t have many pictures and what they do have is precious to them.

Daniel told us his wife was working late because of some sort of trouble outside of town. He suspected some sort of tribal issue he thought. Then he told us he had a job interview the next morning in Kampala at the U.S. Embassy for a security position. He was very excited about it and would be taking the bus that night. He would ride the bus all night and arrive in time to change clothes and get to the interview. After the interview he would get straight back on the bus and make the 6 hour trip back to Gulu. He was very excited just to have the opportunity for a good paying job with a more certain future after 10 years of experience in Gulu.

Our next house was also in the police barracks only this time we had no bricks and had to walk through a half inch of water to get the few feet to the house of Stella. As we went into the house they had been sorting dry beans on a large piece of material on the floor. They have to pick out the small rocks and bad beans before they can use them. Stella was sitting on a half a sack of beans as she worked with her niece who was visiting from boarding school. Together they wrapped up the beans in the cloth so we could bet in the door and sit down.

The space was maybe 8 feet by 10 feet at most and Eileen, Pres. Patrick and I took the three padded seats with wooden frames that were on one side of the room. Stella stayed on the sack of beans and was flanked by a full sack of beans and a tiny table with something the shape of a small HD TV covered with a cloth to keep the dust off of it. The dust covers anything and it is the only way to keep anything clean. On top of the full sack of beans was a bundle of heavy rope, probably 100 feet long or so. It was still clean and looked like it was brand new.

Stella seemed very sad and troubled about something. It turned out that her brother in law, who was only 23 died suddenly that morning. He took care of Stella’s 5 cows for her in the village. Her brother had been looking after the cattle but he died just a few months ago in a terrible accident. Now she had to go to the village for a few days to help prepare for the funeral and look for someone to tend her cattle. As she told us the story it was obvious the stress that she was under was getting to her and tears came to her eyes. Not only would she have the expense of the travel to the village and back, but the rope cost her a lot because of the amount she needed and she did not know who she could get to take care of the cows and she started to week. At last Eileen whispered to me, “She needs a blessing.” So I suggested the possibility to her and President Patrick picked up on it.

Stella joined the church just 3 or 4 months ago so she did not know what a blessing was or how it was done. So we explained how it could help her. She said she would like one and I was asked to give it. We stood up and President Patrick placed his plastic lawn chair in the middle of the room for her to sit on rather than the beans she had been sitting on. She wept silently as we gave her the blessing and afterward said she would be all right.

Home visits are harder here than in the U.S. First there is the challenge of just locating the home and then there is the uncertainty of what you will find inside the home when you get there.


On Tuesday the Story’s came up from K’town to train 5 members from 4 branches (Gulu, Bardege, Lira, Yadell) in how to use and complete the new self-reliance program the Church has developed called, “My path to self-reliance.” This is a beautiful program but takes 12 weeks and a lot of work for a person to complete. Those who stick with it and do finish the program get a certificate from LDS Business College so they have an academic certificate showing their training. The training to complete the program took 4 hours and this is what Elder Story provided.
Elder Story is a great teacher!

A major problem in Uganda is that most people are unemployed. Two thirds of the people in the region live on less than $1.50 a day. There was also a war in this area about 20 years ago and the effect of it still plagues the people. Because of the war hundreds of NGO’s moved into the area and started giving people things to try to help them---food, clothing, wells, education or education assistance, money, etc. Over time what has happened is that in spite of the good intentions of these organizations, which are staffed by muzungus, the people have not become self-reliant but just the opposite. They learned to rely on the NGO’s. The message was that they could not help themselves; everything had to be done for them and now there is an attitude of entitlement. People have lost the desire and knowledge of how to work; how to get off of this assistance; and there is even an attitude of entitlement. There is an idea that the reason the muzungus (including senior missionary couples) are here is to provide for the African. In short, the people have been crippled through this process.

      Four Branches participated  -- Gulu, Bardege, Lira and Yadell

Now the NGO’s, after 20 years, are leaving Uganda. The Africans who worked for them no longer have jobs and there are no jobs for them to go to in the region. Those who depended on the organizations never learned how to meet their own needs and are just as bad off now as they were before. What people have to do now, is learn how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

There is work involved in this course. Success takes commitment

If day care is not available you just bring your child with you.

The Path to Self-Reliance program will help them do that if they follow the program. It is based on scriptural ideology. It is goal based. Small groups meet weekly but there is no instructor just one person appointed to be the facilitator—to keep the group on task, to make sure people report to the group on their homework assignments and to keep the group moving through the 12 weekly lessons and assignments. With Elder Story’s training they now have the tools they need to move forward. We know that most will figure out that there is a lot of work involved and will quit the program within a few weeks. Others will falter midway through when they realize they will not become rich overnight. A few will see it through to the end. But hopefully they will help others build a work ethic and an attitude that through their own effort they can be successful.

Four straight hours of training, and nobody slept!


We went to Kampala for missionary transfers on Wednesday. It’s a 6 hour trip normally but we stopped just 2 hours away at Chobe (Cho-bay) which is part of the Murcheson Falls National Park. There are lots of wild animals just roaming around like at Yellowstone except you are seeing baboons, giraffes, warthogs, kudus, bush bucks, hippos, all sorts of lizards and birds, and one elephant who refused to pose for us. It was great fun. You could get out of your car to take pictures and in just a few minutes we had a lot of pictures. We drove into the lodge and it was unbelievably beautiful compared to everything else you have ever seen in Uganda. We had a great lunch at the Lodge and then headed on to Kampala. Total cost---admission to the park for Eileen and me, $3.50; great lunch at the lodge with a soda for each of us, $20. For the length of time we were there we  couldn’t do a game drive and didn’t hire a guide, so that $23.50 was our total cost and worth every shilling of it---especially the entry fee. Hope you enjoy the pictures, they speak for themselves.

Eileen spots a giraffe and takes a picture. Animals are everywhere!!


Giraffes are incredibly beautiful and graceful when they move

Warty the Warthog


The birds are varied and beautiful at Chobe


Hundreds of yellow weaver birds nest in just one tree

Safari Lodge is a spectacular place on the Nile River and costs just $300/night

The Pool and Grounds are Gorgeious

It's also a great place to relax while waiting for a fantastic meal.

Watch out Elder Lamb! Hippos are bigger, stronger and faster than you!!


 Watch out! Here come the Hippos!!

See you next time.



  1. Dan,
    This is posting under Megan but it is me (Ray)....I enjoyed this post. the experience with the members was great and it was fun to see the Story's teaching self reliance. We will see them soon. they are great friends. I am glad you got to see Chobi. the animals there are incredible. Have fun...

  2. It's so good to see you two looking so good! I was set apart as a Family History Support Missionary today and even wore my tag. What a feeling! Eileen, are you planning on teaching cooking classes for self help? Like ground bean gravy...