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Reisverslag Blog 7 - The Rhino Refugee Camp
15 januari 2017
Blog 7 - The Rhino Refugee Camp
Wow, I know we say that a lot, but these past 5 days in the refugee camp have been an unforgettable experience for all of us and the cool 30 degree weather of Arua is a beautiful thing to come back to after the deathly temperatures of the refugee camp. We all made it back safe and sound, covered in dust and dirt, exhausted, but happy to be back in more normal civilization.
On Saturday we began our trek to the refugee camp with our little jeep packed to the limits and stopped in town for some last minute items before leaving for the camp. We stopped and tried to grab some sleeping mats, and boy was that an adventure. We were bartering with two or three guys trying to get a real price and not a “rich white-person” price while we were still in the car. There were three cars across a road barely meant for one vehicle so the pile-up that ensued was crazy. We bartered for three or four minutes while a 10 car pile-up was growing behind us and behind the cars going the other way. So trying to get out of there was quite the adventure. There was a herd of cars and people crowding the streets and it was like an elephant trying to get out of a herd of cattle, not the easiest thing to do. Then we began our journey and we had a Texan driving, Sid, and if you know anything about Texans they like things Big and Fast, and are some of the craziest people in America. He’s a great guy though and on those bumpy African roads we did get airborne on those seats in the back of the jeep a couple times. It was a crazy 2-hour ride. We arrived in the refugee camp and the first thing we had to do was set up the big tents we were going to stay in. The boys stepped up and had to show their machoness and insisted on setting to work putting up the tents. Some duct tape was used, some grunting, and much more sweat than was necessary but in the end we had a beautiful tent any man would be proud of. We then had to take a rotation in the team holding up some bamboo mats as a curtain for the bathroom since they hadn’t actually been built yet. The hole was there, but there was no walls surrounding it, just open-air. So any bathroom visits meant you had to go with a 3 or 4 man team to make sure the locals didn’t get a full view of a muzungu using the toilet. But we got settled into our little camp, played some cards to pass the time and rest, and at night we all found the most comfortable holes and bumps to sleep on the ground (the mats were only 1 cm thick) and then headed to bed for our first day of ministry.
The first day of ministry was on Sunday so we split into three different groups and all went to a different church. John and Geerte were the first to go and John wasn’t sure if he was going to have to do a preaching but was only told that morning so he was praying that he didn’t have to since it was less than an hour of preparation. Unfortunately for John, God had other plans and he had to give a preaching to the church in the open air under the shade of a big mango tree to a congregation of around 30 people. It went well though and he was just happy it was in the shade as opposed to in the direct heat of the sun. Sarah and Jonathan went to the biggest church in the area and Sarah gave a preaching to them which she had been preparing for a while and did a fantastic job, Jonathan was very impressed! Steven and Josh were the last team to leave and although none of them shared a message, they still shared about the ministries which we would be doing in the next few days to the locals so that they could spread the word. After the church we got our first experience with the Rhino Camp heat. We took a break in the afternoon for lunch and we found out that everything in the camp closes around lunch time. It is literally just too hot in the afternoon to do anything, even for the locals. When you start walking in the sun it is like opening an oven and the blast you get in the face of hot air, it’s that same kind of heat. It was so hot. We had scheduled a time with the orphanage in the camp to do some kid’s ministries there but first we were invited for a wedding from one of the pastors so we stopped there on the way. Now this was not a normal western event. It began by us getting front row seats to the ceremony, and Steven on the end got placed in front of a GIANT speaker over a metre high with African music blasting in his face. Keep in mind this is taking place in the heat of the afternoon under some bedsheets held up by some giant sticks and we had already sweat through our clothes in the short 5-minute walk to the church. Then after 40 minutes of watching some children dance to various songs, we realized that it wasn’t going to start any time soon, we were still waiting for the minister to arrive. So we went on our way to the orphanage and then found out that all of the kids were AT the wedding in the town centre. So we had to rally them up and then began our kid’s ministry. It actually went really well and we played a number of games with the kids, sang a bunch of songs, did a little bible story and shared a short word with them. The children just live in terrible conditions in the refugee camp and can barely get the proper food or water they need so it was just nice to raise the joy level and see the smiles on their faces for that short time. At the end we decided to make balloon animals for them and even though they didn’t quite understand what they were and thankfully they did not have the aggressive enthusiasm the unreached villages had, they still appreciated them and had fun with them. After the program we headed back to the camp to get some dinner and relax and rest from a long first day of ministry, heat and dust. When we got back to the camp we also found out that the minister who everyone was waiting for at the wedding was coming from a town near SOROTI, the same place where we travelled from and takes 8 hours to get to. So when we were eating dinner, 3 or so hours after leaving the wedding, our contact person announced that the minister had arrived and they drove past our camp. That was insane, they had already waited a minimum of 4 hours before the wedding even STARTED. Welcome to Africa boys and girls.
The next morning we had house visits. Everyone was excited for those because even though we had heard some of the stories of the refugees, we hadn’t been able to connect on a deeper level yet. One member had to stay behind to guard the base so Geerte volunteered, obviously the most ferocious one. We even had a watchman at night and I kid you not he had a home-made bow and arrow and apparently was quite the sharpshooter with it. So if things got messy, Geerte was not afraid to unleash her bow and arrow skills. Josh and John were the first pair to head out and they only went to two houses but it was so cool and so productive to see God working during those times. At the first house, there were 3 or 4 people who were devout Christians and fairly well-versed in the Bible and knew pretty good English. They asked a lot of questions about Bible verses and other things about the Bible so the boys gave a mini Bible study to them. After that the people asked about getting involved in missions and how they could do that and Josh and John shared about the Great Commission and how we can do that even at home or in local churches and how we’re called to disciple people. After that encouraging start, the next house was even better because the man decided to give his life to the Lord even after Josh, John, and the translator explained what it fully meant to give your life to Jesus. It was so perfect because they boys then got him in touch with the previous person so that he could disciple this new Christian. It was crazy to see how God worked like that. Sarah and Jonathan also had good conversations with people, and Steven and our contact person John, had a similar experience. They were able to encourage the people there and listen to some of their crazy stories. It’s insane to see what these people go through, so many of them don’t know where all of their family is, brothers, sisters, parents, children, and haven’t had contact with them for months. Many of them walked to the camp for 2-4 days with nothing of their belongings, leaving everything behind. They get a small piece of land 30 m x 30 m and then they have to try and make a shelter or hut or something out of it and use the rest of it to try and cultivate or use it in some other way to make money. There isn’t enough water in the camps so people are waiting in line for 2-3 hours just to get unclean drinking water (we had to filter ours which was gotten by our hired female refugee workers), the land won’t cultivate because it’s so dry which means that they can’t get any money for food. And on top of that they don’t know how long they’ll be in the refugee camp for, it could be 5 years or it could be 12. And every time they come here they have to start over. For many people this is their third time in a camp. South Sudan has been war-torn since the 60’s and they have been in their country for 5-10 years, then the refugee camp for 5-10 years, then their country, then a camp, and they just keep cycling and each time they go they have to start over form nothing. It really is insane to hear about their stories. After the house visits, the team had lunch again and then went out for football ministry in the afternoon. We arrived at the local field and off in the distance we saw a cloud of dust rising into the air…. The children earlier had been notified that we would be there and a STAMPEDE of children came running and screaming towards us, literally more than 300 children came from the other side of the field and the playground. It was all you could see on the horizon, definitely a daunting thing to begin the ministry to. But we rallied everyone up, sent 120+ kids, all under 5 years old with Geerte and Sarah to deal with and John, Steven and Jonathan tackled the soccer ministry. Geerte and Sarah were quite overwhelmed by the sheer amount of kids. That many kids in our own countries for that age group would be daunting enough for 2 people, but in Africa with language and cultural barriers, that was insane. They pulled out all of their games and songs and kid’s ministries secrets and ended up exhausted but with a successful ministry and brought lots of joy to the kids. The boys had a similar experience and were overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids and not having as many team members to guide and direct everything. But it all went well and at the end everyone gathered together to hear a great message given by Sarah about their worth in Jesus Christ. The team walked home, after an absolutely insane and exhausting day of ministry, had some delicious chicken made by the hired local women, and slaughtered by John. (By the time our team is done with Uganda, there will be no chickens left in the country.) After dinner the team collapsed in their “beds” (the African floor) for the night.
On Tuesday, it was another day of house visits and this time things didn’t go as well as the first morning. The teams went out again but this time Geerte was substituted in for Jonathan. When the teams went out again, they listened to the stories but there were more women there this time and not as much men and in this culture women are very passive. They didn’t open up very much and it wasn’t as easy to connect with them but the team still had a great time connecting with them and listening to the intense stories of loss and pain which they had to go through. We returned for lunch and found out that our contact person, John, knew 15+ languages, fluently! Not just dialects, but fluently knew 15 separate languages to the point of having the correct accent for them and everything! It was crazy, one of the most talented people we had ever met. In the afternoon was another day of football ministry, and this time the team came more prepared except for one small detail, they only had one ball. The day before towards the end of the ministry, 2 of the balls had apparently popped so there was only one ball left for the 100+ kids. But the show must go on so they did their best to improvise and the football ministry just ended up being a mish-mash of African children playing football on one field at once. They tried to make teams but that doesn’t work so well in Africa when there is only one ball and it was like watching a swarm of bees following a pot of honey. The kids would go into a group of 50 or so kids and just buzz around the ball and follow it wherever it went. There were over 100 kids on the field at one time. Josh and Jonah had quite the handful with them and just let them have fun and play. John joined Sarah and Geerte with the young ones and they did a Bible story, lots of songs, played a HUGE game of duck, duck goose, hot potato and freeze-dancing. It was quite the sight to see the joy and smile on those kids’ faces as they were able to forget about some of their worries and pains in the camp and just be kids. The team headed back to their tents extremely exhausted after 3 days of ministry and extreme heat and prepared for the final day of ministry.
On Wednesday the team had planned to meet with the widows and orphans of the refugee camp and pray for them but that didn’t really work out. They got to the church and waited for an hour but only a few people showed up. There also was a huge amount of kids, who came from around the town once they saw we were there and Sarah, Geerte and Steven took control of the situation and played some games with them. Josh, John and Jonah met with one women who had a very sad story about how she had developed epilepsy and how much it was effecting her life and how she couldn’t provide for her kids and was hearing voices in her head. The boys prayed for her and felt really moved and a lot of compassion for her. Another lady came and we prayed for her kids who were sick and one more woman came who was a widow and her grandchildren were orphans and she told a weird story about a witch doctor. The boys prayed for them all and it was a neat experience just to bless the people there. The team then went back to the base, had an amazing last dinner of chapatis and chicken (the team’s favourite) and played cards for a few hours under the shade to kill time before the vehicle arrived. They had another wild ride on the way back with Sid and everyone RAN to the showers when they got back. After 5 days in the dusty, hot refugee camp with only bucket showers, they all basked in the amazingness of running water and enjoyed their shower. (Sarah was in the shower for over an hour.) The girls were welcomed by another 10 girls in their dorm room from the German team and the boys had an additional 4 in theirs. It was cool to meet everyone and in the evening, everyone had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and connected with each other. It was cool to meet people from all over the world and the teams here are both really cool. We realize we are really blessed to have such a small team because we really feel like a family, and even though it’s nice to have westerners to talk to again, it feels a little bit crowded and not as nice with so many people around, it is just too busy.
We had a very memorable experience at the Rhino refugee camp and everyone learned a lot about themselves personally and about having compassion for people through God’s eyes. It was something none of us are going to forget any time soon and we are all very grateful for that experience. The team is doing well and we are happy to be back in civilization and are enjoying our time of rest. We have a safari planned for Saturday so we are all really stoked about that even if we have to get up at 4:30 AM. Sarah’s infections have come back and she went to the doctor so continue to pray for those but she has antibiotics now and they seem to be going away. The doctor said it’s just because of the heat and the dirtiness of Africa that the infections have returned. Other than that continue to pray that we can have effectful ministries here in Arua and can connect with the other teams and not get too carried away with all of the people here. Being away in the refugee camp we had some very serious talks about the food and people we are missing back home and on Friday we will have officially reached the half-way portion of the outreach. Love you all, talk to you later!
Foto's bij verslag (2)
17 januari 2017 09:42 | Door: dienet
Lieve Geerte en team uganda!!
Wat weer een bijzonder verhaal, wat beleven jullie veel.
Hoe dankbaar moeten we zijn dat we in een land zijn geboren waar zoveel overvloed is, een dak boven ons hoofd en stromend water en genoeg voedsel voor iedereen.
Ik wens jullie veel plezier en zegen op het laatste deel van jullie reis.
liefs Sietze en Dienet XXX