Church Mission Society (CMS) Mission Partners

Holy Trinity Church has adopted new CMS Mission Partners (Tom & Verity) and their  news from Uganda is posted below after two links to short video messages that they have sent

Holy Trinity hello clip: https://youtu.be/OFCAX69pfx8

3 minute summary video: https://youtu.be/C7ygYzp31tM

Clares in Uganda May update

 
 

 

Hi Everyone,

Thank you to all those of you who have been in touch since we last emailed. It’s been lovely to hear your news. We’ve somehow been in Arua now for just over two months, the majority of which have been spent in some form of lockdown. As I’m sure will be familiar for many of you, the days here have been passing by in a bit of a blur and even though we can’t really go anywhere, it’s a bit hard to account for where the last couple of months have gone!

 

Enjoying Simeon's birthday takeaway during the lockdown here in Uganda 

Living in Lockdown


Uganda has been in lockdown since March 30th with the following restrictions: no handshakes or hugs (a big thing in this part of the world), no public transport carrying passengers (ie cargo only), no private cars allowed on the roads (unless an approval sticker for key workers etc), nationwide curfew 7pm to 6:30am, no gatherings of more than 5 people, the closure of all non-food shops and non-food markets, no religious gatherings, no exercise outside your home.

The first of these restrictions came in before there was a case confirmed here and taking strict measures so quickly seems to have worked, with a recent community survey confirming that there is no significant community transmission of COVID at all. There have been over 200 confirmed cases of around 20,000 tested, 95% of whom are truck drivers screened at the border. There have been no deaths at all as yet.

Whilst this is great news to be celebrated on the one hand, we are also acutely aware of the impact of lockdown on communities here. Access to hospital and health centres (normally relatively easy on a motorbike taxi (aka boda)) has become very difficult. Boda drivers are afraid of being beaten for carrying passengers and one boda driver was recently shot dead, in the South of the country, by an apparently-rogue security officer when carrying a pregnant lady. Not only does the transport issue affect people who are acutely unwell, but it also places a barrier to those needing to go to the health centre for HIV services, antenatal clinics and other more routine health issues. Add to this the loss of income for hand-to-mouth workers, the increased food prices and the high levels of deprivation locally and you can easily see why the lockdown itself will be causing significant problems for so many people in the poorer communities.

We are due for a review of the lockdown in 2 days’ time, with some non-food businesses having been allowed to reopen 2 weeks ago – we pray for wisdom for those in power as they try to strike a balance between the strict measures working so well to avoid COVID in the community and the damage caused by the prolonged lockdown.

 

Our new swing has provided hours of entertainment (and a fair few arguments too) during the lockdown...

Finding a new rhythm


Although arriving in Uganda at this time has made the transition more complex, we are so thankful to God for getting us here at this time. It’s been frustrating for Tom that he can’t get stuck into work, but having him around at home to help the boys as they struggle to adjust to life in a new culture has been an unexpected benefit for all of us. Ezra has found the move particularly difficult and his mood volatility has been hard to manage at times. The boys have all really enjoyed getting to spend extra time with their Daddy- or ‘agun’ as Joel wanders around the house calling after him.

We’ve settled into a bit of a daily rhythm of homeschooling in the morning with the older two while Tom is usually engaged in playing some kind of make-believe game involving Paw Patrol or PJ Masks with the younger two. The boys don’t always come to school with great eagerness to learn but the routine has definitely been helpful for us all. Both boys loved their school and classes back in the UK and we were so grateful for the work of their teachers. It took us a while to come round to the idea of homeschooling here but we’re so thankful that we have a resource package we can follow each week. It’s been a real joy to see the boys getting really excited and engaged in certain lessons- favourites are currently English and Geography, as well as science lessons with Granny via WhatsApp. Ezra has a fantastic imagination and when we can get him to sit still and focus for long enough, to write the words down, in the middle of his constant fidgeting and beatboxing, he’s produced some great work. Eli’s been joining in for a good number of the lessons and currently has a bit of an obsession with homophones!

At times, life here can feel a bit relentless, as with four young children, there is usually at least one who’s upset, getting into mischief or needing help with something. As I’m sure many of you in the UK are finding, being in lockdown with small children brings both real blessings and challenges. I (Verity) have found myself craving personal space more than ever before, which is not really a concept that exists in the culture here.

Life here is much more communal than in the UK. We have our doors and windows open all the time and life is lived much more in the public eye. Noble, our watchman, lives on site as he’s not local to Arua and we have a lovely local lady, Milly, coming for a few hours Monday to Friday to help us round the house, arriving sometime before 8am. Whenever we leave the compound, we are watched as we walk along and often have people peering in through the perimeter hedge just to see what we’re up to. People seem to find it especially entertaining when one of the boys (usually Simeon) decides to have a screaming fit, as children here don’t really cry. We know that they aren’t being offensive or rude, it’s just part of the culture here but it’s something we’ve had to pray for grace and love for as it’s not easy to deal with.

The position of our compound is an interesting one and we’re praying into how God wants to use us in this specific place that he’s provided to be our home. On one side we have welders and mechanics, at least a few of whom chew Khat - a leaf stimulant drug, local to East Africa - through the day causing them to get louder and more uninhibited as the day goes on. On the other side we have a carpenter’s workshop and a few little shops, one of which has a bench at the back, bordering our hedge, where people hide away to drink alcohol. The owner has a large speaker which blasts out music to attract customers anytime from 6am and often, bizarrely, starts especially early on a Sunday morning, broadcasting hymns and a church service from one of the local radio stations. The front of the house is bordered by one of the main roads into town, with a motorbike station and forest opposite, where a group of men gather to smoke some kind of drugs through the day.

None of this seems out of the ordinary though - these things just seem to be an accepted part of life here and we feel very safe where we are. The position of our compound means we don’t have to go far to meet people and begin to make connections. There are a good number of little shops up the road, leading to a local market where we’re getting to know some of the sellers. We have a lovely lady, Mauri, who owns a shop outside our house and her mother, Zilipa, who is often in charge, speaks no English, which has been great for practicing our Lugbara. We go out most days for walks along the dirt roads, in the neighbourhood behind our house and are getting to know some regular faces as we become familiar with the area. Having a baby on my back or small person in tow is a great ice breaker as they love babies and small children here.

 

Prayer points

  • Wisdom for how to engage positively with our neighbours and share God’s love with them.
  • Continued peace for us all as we settle into life here.
  • Wisdom for Tom in how to spend his time in lockdown, dividing his time between language learning, being with the boys and preparing for the medical role.
  • Daily-filling-up with God’s love and grace as we interact with the people around us.
  • Thanks for David and Heather looking out for us and for the few missionary families we’ve met locally who’ve welcomed us and have children similar ages to ours whom they can play with.
 

I was challenged this week when I was talking (complaining) to Milly about the monotony of life here at the moment, that every day is the same and we can’t really ‘do’ much. I realised she had no idea what I was talking about – from her point of view we have so much to be thankful for and the relative stability is a good thing - no-one is ill, we have money to buy food, she has a job to go to, we are blessed with children and a lovely home. This idea of our identity being so wound up in our daily accomplishments and what we ‘do’ is something we are learning to let go of, instead trying to grow in our identity as children of God and bringing our boys up to know his love.

We will soon be sending a link to a video with some footage of our first 2 months here and we are aiming to send shorter, more regular emails on this list from now on if all goes to plan.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers– we are so grateful to God for all of you and we really do love to hear from you and pray for you in return.

Blessings,
Tom, Verity, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

 
 

 

 

Hello everyone - praise God...

We made it to Arua!

 

 

 

We arrived in Uganda on March 5th after an exhausting but mostly trouble-free journey - for those of us who haven't given birth it was the most tired we've ever been! Having stayed in a guest house for a few days in Kampala, we then attended the CMS Uganda People in Mission conference at Lake Nabugabo near Masaka before braving the 9-hour car journey up to Arua.

Thank you for all your support and prayers. It was a very long journey but we are thankful to God for getting us here safely (and even without the need to self-quarantine, such was the perfection of God's timing).

We are now settling in to our new home and Tom is starting work - although as coronavirus begins to grip Uganda, he'll now mostly be working from home.

For those who like more detail, we've written about the journey and our first few weeks below - we'll also be looking to send a link over the next few weeks to a video with footage of the journey for those who are interested. If not, feel free to skim through for photos or to prayer requests at the end of the email.

 

 

 

Anyone for 11:45pm breakfast?


The overnight flight to Nairobi was as exhausting as we'd anticipated it would be. Combinations of an upset baby, excitement from the older two at being able to turn the screen on in front of you whenever you liked, two year old tantrums from Simeon mid-flight and being woken up (when they were all finally asleep!) at 11:45pm for breakfast, meant that we got no sleep at all. We fumbled our way through Nairobi airport and onto the connecting flight to Entebbe and somehow arrived in Uganda with all of our pieces of hold and hand luggage and all four children, so we felt pleased enough with the final outcome!

Our first few days were spent in a guesthouse in Kampala and we had the chance to catch up on rest and relax in the beautiful guesthouse grounds, easing the boys gently into the new culture.

 

A lovely pre-flight, farewell meal with the grandparents

 




They were all smiles at the start...

 





"Nobody move, they're asleep..."

 

Beautiful Papaya Guest House in Kampala

 

 

 

Lake Nabugabo PIM conference


Our arrival just happened to time perfectly with a planned People in Mission Conference for those working with CMS in Uganda. It was great to join in with the conference over a couple of days in the tranquil setting of Lake Nabugabo. We were able to gain useful insights into the joys and challenges of the work of our CMS co-workers here in Uganda and the boys had a great time chasing chickens, playing at the lakeside and going for a swim with Steve, the CMS Africa Regional Director, in the warm, bilharzia-free waters!

 

Lake Nabugabo was a beautiful setting for the conference

 

 

 

The long road north


Having spent over a week in Uganda, we were eager to head up to Arua and start to settle in to our new home. The nine hour journey was thankfully less stressful than anticipated. Prayers for journey mercies are always offered with great sincerity here - the drivers have been quite baffled by our use of car seats and with no seatbelts in the back of the car, two of the seats were tied on with rope and the older boys were left to bounce around at will. We seemed very mean keeping a crying baby strapped into his car seat when the co-driver was offering to have him stand up in the front with him, to cheer him up, while we were driving along....

We passed vast stretches of remote countryside and were surprised to see so many thatched huts along the roadside. The boys were also very excited to see elephants and hippos at one of the Nile crossing points, as well as vervet monkeys and baboons.

It was such a joy and relief to arrive at our home, welcomed by the wonderful David and Heather Sharland, who've been working in this region with CMS for a good number of years and whose generosity with their time and effort to sort our house out before our arrival has blown us away. The house has great potential and the outside space has already been such a blessing.

 

 

 

 

Settling in and locking down


Our attention over the last week or so has been somewhat divided as we've begun to settle in to life here whilst also keeping up with all the Coronavirus news back in the UK and now here, as the first few cases have been reported. We are getting to know people and begin to figure out where to buy things locally etc but at the same time are very conscious of the uncertainty facing so many people we care about in the UK right now. We're very thankful that we flew when we did - arriving in the country just a few days before they started quarantining travellers - but knowing that we now have no way of leaving the country makes us feel just that bit further away from loved ones back in the UK.

It's been almost three years since Arua was first mentioned as a possible place for us to call home and it feels so good to finally be here. We're looking forward to putting roots down here and are so thankful for the people we've met already - David and Heather, Noble (our lovely night watchman whom Ezra said was 'possibly the kindest person he's ever met') and Milly (who is coming to help us out in the house for a few hours each day). We're attempting to learn Lugbara, the local language, renowned for it's complexity. With Tom's community health work opportunities limited due to Coronavirus social restrictions, we now have more of an opportunity to focus on language learning over the next few weeks.

The boys have all shown amazing resilience in this transitional period but have equally taken it in turns to have meltdowns at different times. Ezra is struggling the most, having left such a great group of friends at home and being most aware of having left close family behind. He cheered up over the last few days, playing football in the garden with a group of local boys but due to rapidly changing social restrictions we've now had to cancel this activity. Eli has engaged most positively with the culture and Simeon still insists it's called 'New-ganda' but loves coming to the market and riding in a tuk-tuk. Joel just continues to love being with people and has been charming everyone here with his cheeky smile and ever-growing appetite.

 

 

Plenty of smiles with Noble as we begin lock down

 

 

 

Prayer points


Uprooting a young family to a new country is not the easiest of tasks, even in peaceful times, without a global pandemic evolving daily. We are thankful that we serve a God who goes before us and behind us and we know that we are where he wants us to be right now. We are so thankful for his perfect timing in getting us here, for the wonderful people he's already placed in our lives and the beauty of his creation all around us. We feel so privileged to be living here, looking forward to the adventure that comes from getting to experience life in a different culture.

We are so thankful that we know God and have the light of Christ living in us and we pray that we'd be able to share this light with those around us here in Arua. We'll be praying for all of you back in the UK - please do be in touch with specific prayer requests. If you'd like to pray for us, here's a few specifics:

  • For friends! We know it'll take time but we would love for all of us to make good friends here who we can journey with, especially in these more unsettling times.
  • For peace and grace - to be reminded daily of God's love and enabling for both the big and the small tasks each day. To be a witness of God's love, firstly to the boys as they go through all the emotions of moving here, pointing them to Jesus as our source of protection, hope and confidence. And to share the reason for this hope and peace with those close to us, both here and in the UK, at a time when so many are struggling with fear.
  • For patience as we look to learn the local language and learn it well.
  • For wisdom as we try to keep up-to-date with daily updates of coronavirus restrictions- we've just heard that we're pretty much in lock down as of tomorrow and need to make decisions about food supplies, people coming to the house etc.


Thank you so much for your prayers and support and do feel free to reply to this email to update us on your situation so we can pray in what must be an incredibly challenging time for the UK church.

Remember, if other people would like to join this list, they can do so on the link below - feel free to share this with your churches:

https://mailchi.mp/7edda23d83b7/claresinuganda

With love in Christ,

Tom, Verity, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel