Thursday, 14 June 2012

Home

Just a quick note to say I'm HOME! For one month I'll be in the UK, seeing family and catching up with friends and having a bit of a rest. It does seem a bit mad to be back so soon, but Brendan's sister is getting married, so we're taking the opportunity to have some time at home as well.
Things I'll miss...

  • Boda bodas taking you from wherever you are to wherever you want to go (no walking to and from bus stops!), or bringing dinner when you can't be bothered to leave the house..
  • My awesome GETS girls
  • My kittens (obviously..)

  • Mosquitos stuck in my net (not!)


  • The heat
  • The sun
  • The lovely cool but bright feeling after it rains (nothing is ever grey there)
  • Everything else about the weather
  • My friends - Anthea, will I manage not seeing you almost every single day??
  • Mini bananas
  • The colours of the market (possibly not the smells, though)
  • That being late is socially acceptable, and I'm usually not the last person to arrive..

If you want to meet up with me to talk about Mbarara or have me come and speak at your church, feel free to get in touch. I'm around until the 9th of July.

Care-bye, Mbarara, see you soon!

Friday, 1 June 2012

When charity turns toxic

I just read an article on Relevant Magazine about effective and ineffective charity work, and the dangers of putting a 'do-gooder' attitude above awareness of the real needs when it comes to poverty. Great discussion on that old phrase 'give a man a fish..'
The sentiment of the article is one of the main reasons I moved from being a lab worker to teaching discipleship and life skills. Working in the lab, I was doing a good job but it was a job any Ugandan could  do, and did not have any long term effect. The girls I teach now are learning things that will have a positive affect on the rest of their lives and that of their families. It has the added benefit of being a million times more rewarding, but at least I know now that what I do is sustainable and in the best interests of the girls I serve.
Please read the article for a fantastic discussion of really good charity work, and if you're thinking of serving as a volunteer or missionary, either at home or abroad, have a really good look at your motivations.
It can be very easy to think 'I'm doing good, so what's the problem', but as the article says, an awful lot of money is wasted on expensive short term mission trips to 'paint a school' (that may have been painted 3 times in the last 4 years) that could be used, for example, to pay school fees or hire local workers. You may be doing good, but are you doing the best good you can do? Are you doing it to stamp your 'do-gooder' card, or are you doing it because you know the work you do will have the most effective positive outcome for the people you serve, and will have a sustainable and long-term effect after you've left?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Forgotten God


Sometimes I feel completely useless. Yesterday was my first day back at teaching, after being off ill for two weeks. I had started to ask God the question, ‘Why did you bring me here but have the girls lose vital weeks of teaching?’ I’ve come all the way over here from the UK and have been constantly delayed and had to miss lessons due to things out of my control. My tooth broke, and I was in Kampala for a week; I was ill for two weeks; I’ve been besieged by migraines and had to take random days off in the middle of the week… I had begun to convince myself the girls were learning nothing because I was never around.

I’ve been reading Francis Chan’s book ‘Forgotten God’, about the Holy Spirit, to prepare for a session on the third member of the Godhead that nobody really feels they know much about. On reading it, I realised I know very little about him either! In the book, when Chan asks the question ‘When was the last time you undeniable saw the Spirit at work in or around you?’ My first response was ‘a long time ago, because I haven’t been able to do His work’. Then I actually had a think about that, and it hit me that I had experienced Him this very afternoon.

Monday, 21 May 2012

I'm a pregnant refugee

I was thinking very philosophically this morning, and I've decided my body must be feeling so bad because my heart is in the wrong place, as well. As much as I have been ill a lot recently, the things that have been really bothering me are more of a heart nature.
I was reading from The Message the other day (seriously my favourite Bible paraphrase - so readable and makes the Bible come alive if you're struggling, as I often do. Don't use it for study though) and I read from Romans 8:19-28. I would usually just link to it, but the words are so powerful I'll put them in full here:

The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Tiredness and kittens

It's been a while, I'm usually a lot better at writing here, and I'm sorry I've been out of touch. It's been a hard few weeks, and I think the reality of being here is hitting me again and I've not had the energy to be updating.


I moved house a couple of weeks ago, and I really think God for providing me with somewhere so perfect. It's a little apartment in a complex of 7, with a security guard and lovely gardens. It's exactly the kind of place I'd hoped I'd get, and the rent is really affordable. It took a while to move in and get settled (still missing a fair bit of furniture, and no mirrors in the house!) but it's so lovely. On Monday I'll be getting a couple of kittens from a friend who unexpectedly had them (her cat, not her!) and I can't help feeling that will complete the place. Aren't they cute? I'll put more pics up when they move in. Mine and the white one and the stripy one at the top. Stripy is still nameless! White one is Splash.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Creativity

Over the last year or so I've been trying to find new ways of interacting with scripture and words, as I'm such a visual person that reading non-fictional text doesn't grab me, and I tend to forget what I learn.
I've started creating images with texts that inspire me, so I can look at them and see the meaning and be reminded of things I need to learn. This really helps me take things to heart and live them to be true, rather than just keeping them as words in my head.

I didn't draw any of the artwork or take most of the photos, but I used them to create something new. Have tried to refer back to original owners where possible.

Picture taken by Astrid, a lady I met in Namibia who is an
excellent photographer.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Dear Gran..

I just wrote a big long letter to my gran, and realised it was a nice summary of what life is like here in Mbarara, so you out there in blogland might want to read it, too. Have edited out some of the more boring bits that only a grandmother would be interested in!


Dear Gran,

I’ve been thinking of you so wanted to write a letter. I’m sad that when I’m far away I don’t get to see you, but I do think about you often.

Life here in Uganda is lovely, but always harder than life at home. I live in a small town called Mbarara, which is actually the second biggest town in the country after the capital, Kampala. When coming from the UK it’s hard to call it even a town – our first supermarket opened last month, and it’s only as small as a local co-op! Only about a third of the roads are paved, the rest are compact mud and get destroyed in the rainy season. We have two nice restaurants and a hotel with a (sometimes clean) swimming pool, and are only 4 hours from Kampala, which is a big city with everything you could ever want.

Something I like about here, though (on most days!) is that shopping is a lot like I’ve heard it used to be in England, where you had to go to at least three different shops, and the market, to do a weekly shop. I like meeting so many people and going all over town every week, though it certainly is nice now to have the option to go to the supermarket when you’re tired. It’s a lot more expensive though!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Media in worship - more than our mouths

We've covered a few different subjects together in GETS so far this term, and this week are about to start a three week session on knowing God and understanding the Trinity. It's all pretty solid material that we cover (last week we looked at our own weaknesses and strengths, and worked out an action plan to put into place damage control for weakness and growth for strength. Again, not easy) so between difficult lessons we tend to look at some of the more unusual methods of prayer and worship, to open our eyes to communication with God that's more than just talking or singing at Him.

I thought I'd share with you a couple of the videos we use to connect with God. Sometimes we sing along, especially if there are words on screen, and sometimes we just watch and listen and allow the words to move in us. The idea of using video and music to learn and connect with God is very new to the girls but they absolutely love it, and always come up with fantastic insights and things they've heard from God after doing this kind of activity.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Cake!

A lot of the things we study at GETS are interesting but not really anything you can take pictures of and show here. However, today, (along with book reports and looking at how worship needs to be of the heart and mind and not just singing) we baked cake!

None of the girls had ever baked cake before (the first time they baked was two weeks ago when we made sugar biscuits, which were a bit over-crunchy but yummy all the same). We followed a recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery cookbook - you can find the recipe here, it's really easy and tastes great. We made one big cake and added 10 mins cooking time, and I honestly haven't seen a more perfect vanilla sponge - these girls learn quickly. They've all already decided that when they get married this will be their wedding cake..

We got a bit excited and cut it up to make it before thinking of taking pictures, which is why it looks a bit bedraggled. We haven't got as far as learning to ice, either (one thing at a time!) and a couple of the girls had never seen the 'inside' of a cake before. I'm sure soon I'll be showing you pictures of perfectly iced vanilla sponges, as well as everything else they've decided we're going to make (including spinach and cheese muffins, banana bread and chocolate banana cupcakes), but in the meantime, meet the first ever cake made by any of the GETS girls:



Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Pictures!

Most of my posts recently have been all text, and look very boring, so I thought it was time to spend some pictures with you all. I can't put up many as bandwidth is slow, so here's a choice selection from my last 2 weeks.

While in Kampala I went to relax at Munyonyo Resort, built when the queen came to Uganda about 20 years ago and still very fancy. They are one of the only places in Uganda to have horses, and my favourite was Iron Bru - he's really Scottish, and his nose is orange from drinking too much Iron Bru. Only kidding.

We (Well, Brendan) were invited to a St Patrick's Day party at the Irish Embassy residence, and as we were in town we went along. It was far fancier than any party I'd been to before, except as a waitress! There were canap├ęs, fairy lights, speeches and Guinness all the way from Ireland. 

It must look like all I do is go on holiday, but it's not true! Though I have been travelling to lots of exciting  places recently. This weekend we did a quick jaunt up to Queen Elizabeth with some friends who are volunteers at St Francis, my counselling school. It's only 1.5 hrs away, and you can stay in a lovely resort called Kingfisher. I had to leave on Sunday evening to get back for school, and happily for them but sadly for me, everyone else saw leopards and lions on Monday..


Meet Iron Bru, one of the horses at Monyonyo resort. What a great name!

The embassy party even had a traditional band from a town near Brendan's home town.




We got all dressed up - Brendan even wore a tie.

The ugliest animals in Queen Elizabeth

I wanted to take a baby elephant home with me in my pocket..

Just a quick update - the internet is working for once but it's 7.20 in the morning and I need to leave for school soon.

Tooth is out! I made the decision to take it out and trust God that I'll be able to get the implant. It would have had to happen eventually, whether in one year or ten, so I prefer to decide for myself when to get dental treatment and not just repair it and wait for it to break again. It was also nice to spend some time in Kampala, though that place can get so hectic and mad, and overwhelmingly hot.

Monday was my first day back at counselling school, and I'll be there for a week. Being back studying it reminds me all the more why I wanted to in the first place - we can be hours late for lunch but no-one in class notices as we're all too excited about the subject matter. The teachers are inspiring, and it's exciting to be in a culture that recognises the importance of the spiritual side of ourselves, whatever our belief system.

The GETS girls have been left with a project to study a book and do a presentation on it next week. They requested the opportunity to learn public speaking skills, and even requested to do the presentations in front of more than just me and Mabel!

We also did personality tests last week, and I wanted to share some of the results with you as it's an interesting but quick look at the effects of culture vs genetics/personal preferences. If you're familiar with the Myers-Briggs types, you'll understand what I'm talking about, but I'll try and keep it simple for all of us. The test gives your four letters or preferences, and you have two options for each letter (E or I, S or N, F or T, J or P). The last preference, J or P, deals with whether people are more interested in details or the big picture of an idea. J's tend to be organised, punctual and detail orientated, whereas P's tend to be messy, spontaneous and generally late. All of my girls have J preferences, yet they are as liberal with time as any other Ugandan, and are more likely to be late than on time. It just shows the power of culture that we can behave in a way that our personality type would say should generally be the opposite - here being there for people and making sure you do get there, but not specifically to the minute of the expected time, is more important than being dead on time.

I didn't give this post a title as it doesn't seem to have a general theme, except maybe 'my week', which seems a little bit too primary school for my taste! If you have any ideas for a witty and intriguing title that will get thousands of people reading my blog, let me know!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

An unexpected trip, and fun at the dentist

So things have taken an unexpected turn here for me! This past week was supposed to be about settling in and really getting down to business with teaching the girls and lesson planning for the year ahead. The theme for this week is 'Getting to know ourselves and each other' and has involved focussing on Psalm 139, listening skills and following a programme allowing us to get to know our 'SHAPE'. We got to day 2 (which also included baking sugar biscuits - the first time any of them had baked, and Ozan now has plans to start a baking business, she loved it so much) and I went out for dinner with a few friends in the evening and..

My tooth broke.

I had a root filling in there, and turns out it was pretty weak. I now have almost nothing left of my tooth, and the dentist in Mbarara told me the only way I could get it seen to was to go to Mengo Hospital in Kampala, a 5 hour bus journey! Luckily, Brendan was going up himself to pick up his brother who's come to visit, so I wasn't alone for the journey and have had some company here in Kla.

Right now I'm in Kampala, and I don't know how long I'll be here for. I've seen the dentist at Mengo (hewas very reassuring - it's lovely to have Footsteps on the wall when you're nervous!) who is unsure whether he can save the tooth with another root filling or I should just take it out and have an implant. I have another appointment on Tuesday morning (will have been in Kampala a week by then!) and by then I need to decide what to do. An implant seems the best choice, but it's mightily expensive! A filling could last 1-10 years, but it's a gamble. Though dental treatment is far cheaper here than in the UK, an implant is still almost £900- that's the cost of a trip home, and a large dent in savings. Another filling and crown would be £200, a lot of which would be covered by insurance. Hard to know what to do!

So some prayers would be appreciated, and any opinions as well! I need to decide by Tuesday morning what I'll be doing. Thankfully, it doesn't really hurt very much, and I have a wonderful community of friends praying for me and calling regularly from Mbarara to see how I am. But it's very unfair on the girls to have them miss a week of teaching this early in the course, so I really need to be back with them soon.

On the plus side, being in Kampala gives me the unexpected opportunity to see some good Navigator friends here - you know who you are, and I can't wait to see your faces again after so long.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Networked Blogs

I have a new way of following my blog - if you're on Facebook, you can add the application Networked Blogs and have my posts come up on your news feed whenever I add a new one. You can do this even if you're not 'friends' with me - find me here on Networked Blogs or take a look at my new sidebar and click 'follow'.

Dusty and dry and very short showers

Well, the rainy season is late so real life in Uganda has hit me hard! Lack of water means we don't have enough water pressure to fill our tank, so we had no water in the house. Just last night we filled the tank a little bit with jerry cans, but we're now on severe water conservation - for those of you in the UK, think extreme hosepipe ban! Have to duck in and out of the shower only when necessary, and no more night foot washing which means bedsheets get VERY dirty.
Everything is v dry and hot, and the sun is constantly belting down (except at Lake Nabugabo, but I'll explain in a bit). I know I was saying a lot before I left that I couldn't wait to be in the tropical paradise that is Uganda, but the reality is that the weather makes life pretty hard for many people here. Planting has already happened, but no rain yet means harvests will be late and food expensive. Roads are dry and dusty and get all gets right at the back of your throat and into your eyes - someone recently recommended that I wear sunglasses all the time, even at night, to avoid the dust. It's dry!
The only place it's not sunny, apparently, is Lake Nabugabo, where a couple of friends and bussed down to for couple of days of holiday. It's about two hours east of Mbarara and is easy to get to by (hot and crowded) bus. We put the tent up in what felt like a gale, then spent most of Sunday getting burnt but not feeling it as the wind was so cold! The sun was hidden away but sent just enough rays through to turn all the mzungus in the group beetroot red. At least I'll tan..
So it's very dry holiday weather everywhere that isn't a holiday resort, but the real-life consequences are uncomfortable and making life more and more difficult for ordinary Ugandans.
Please pray for rains soon!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Launch of the Class of 2012

Welcome to the class of 2012!

On Saturday we had a launch lunch to welcome the new girls and new teachers, and had a graduate from 2011 along as well. 

From left to right we have: Back row - Rosette (you can hardly see her!), me, Osanne (I think that's how you spell her name - sounds like Rosanne without the 'R'), Anthea our new drama and craft teacher, Fiona, Martha our computer teacher
Front row - Stephen our farming teacher, Judith, Annet (from the class of 2011) and Mabel Twinamasiko, the founder and lady in charge of CCFM and GETS


Class of 2012 and Mabel - Rosette, Osanne, Mabel, Fiona and Judith

I just love this picture. Taken when they weren't expecting it - Mabel and Anthea having a cheesy moment!

Rosette, Osanne, Me, Fiona and Judith

Classes start today (Monday). Soon I'll give you an idea of a typical day for me and the girls.

Message that greeted me on me return to Mbarara..

From my partner and leader at CCFM, Mabel Twinamasiko:
Isa 52:7 How wonderful it is to see a messenger coming across the mountains, bringing good news, the news of peace! He announces victory and says to Zion, "Your God is king!"

Dear Wonder Girl,

Have a blessed journey. God bless your parents, may they say with us the same words of Isa 52;7 when you return to them, when the work is done. Amen

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Prayer letter, Feb 2012



QUICK LOOK
First visit: October ’09
Most recent: Summer ’11
Jobs: Started as a lab tech before moving into women’s ministry
How?: I studied biology, but soon realised my passion for building up young women so trained in women’s ministry with Navigators UK
Organisations: AIM then GETS, always overseen by The Navigators
Why? Young women in Uganda can have a brighter future with the confidence and skills they gain through my classes and one-on-one teaching


BACK TO MBARARA... 
This next trip is less of a ‘trip’ and more of a ‘move’! As of March 2012 I’ll be living in Mbarara, Uganda for at least two years, working with young women and studying for my diploma in counselling.
The GETS programme (Girls Empowered To Serve) will be restarting on the 1st of March with 4 brand new girls aged 18+, to begin 6 months of classes covering things like leadership, computer and vocational skills as well as a strong focus on developing their personal faith in God and, most importantly, confidence in themselves. In a culture that tends to downplay and often actively suppress the importance of women, this course is unusual in that we focus on giving women a voice and a hope for the future. We concentrate on a few and encourage them to go out and demonstrate what they’ve learned. All of our 8 graduates are now in further study and are sharing their new skills with their friends, so now it’s time for the class of 2012! I will be joining the leadership team in teaching classes and helping them develop as individuals through counselling and one-to-one mentoring.
I will also be some teaching some classes in universities and colleges on equipping ourselves and others in relational disciple-making (sharing our faith with others effectively and with integrity).
The rest of my time will be split between studying counselling (1 week/month) and working with a small group of young women who became Christians as a result of the conference led jointly by the Navigators team and GETS girls of 2011 (see

picture, above). They have asked me to join them in creating a community dedicated to growing in faith and reaching out to their workmates and families. Watch this space for more info - at the moment we are at very early days.
That’s all for now, so until next time..  
With love, Lou Talbot 


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Though I’ve faced it many times before, I am still
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First few days
I will be arriving and getting stuck in
immediately, needing to deal with a big change in weather and culture. Pray for keeping my head on straight and fully relying on God!