Paulina and I have just returned from 3 weeks with our amazing friends at Bushfire in Uganda. We are energised by the love, passion and positive attitude of the Bushfire Community and delighted by the improvements evident since our visit in 2016. It is always great to spend time with the staff and students who send their greetings and gratitude to their supporters.
Early in 2017, there was insufficient rain in east Uganda and crops failed to produce. Not only did Bushfire farms have little rice or maize, but the prices to purchase food increased 3-4 times normal cost. This really strained the Bushfire finances. Fortunately mangos sustained many people. The maize crop was also affected by insects which damaged the crop. Rain fell in April and May which eradicated the insects as well as helping the rice grow.
Water for the Bushfire base was also a problem since the wells went dry. This required many trips of the truck to bring water from the well near the Kitalya house.
Many village parents were unable to pay school fees for their children and this meant that teacher salaries could not be paid on-time. We witnessed a mother giving Eva a chicken as a contribution towards school fees since no one could afford to buy her chicken. God enabled a donation which covered the teachers backpay.
Over the past 12 months;
- the security fence has been largely completed (except swamp section) and impressive entrance gate installed,
- Building externals have been painted in bright colours chosen by the staff,
- A very large rough structure has been constructed on Bushfire land known as the Altar. The purpose is to separate Church activities through the week from School activities for security reasons,
- Outstanding electrical safety opportunities previously identified had been rectified,
- A new Business Centre has been constructed in Bulange where there is grid power supply (though not reliable!) for the large electric motors for milling,
- Retail shop-front established in rented premises in Bulange to buy and sell food,
- A new Dormitory block has been completed and occupied and
- A new Library room (part of new Dormitory) and Laboratory and Science store (original kitchen) established
The new Business Centre in the village uses the rice and maize machines relocated from the Bushfire base hence avoids the need to run the diesel generator with expensive fuel. It enables Bushfire to reduce costs by milling their own produce as well as providing a service for other villagers. Despite original concerns, this Christian business has been well received in the predominately Moslem village. Thanks to generosity of Bushfire friends in the USA for this wonderful project. Efforts continue with the Government to extend the high voltage power line several km further to connect Bushfire to the electricity grid.
Another major initiative has been the Jiggers and Bedbug elimination project. These parasites have caused major health issues in the villages in and around Bushfire. They cause people to not sleep hence unable to work in their gardens as well as ostracised by their neighbours. If untreated, Jiggers, which enter a body through their feet, can cause infection of flesh and bone possibly requiring amputation in worst case. However due to the terrific efforts of students at Mackay Christian College who raised approx A$3000, over a thousand homes and huts have been sprayed (twice) to eliminate the Jiggers and Bedbugs as well as educating the villagers. The people affected, and their neighbours, are just so grateful to Bushfire (specifically Fred and Hereth) for their efforts and love. Well done to Jonah and friends at Mackay Christian College.
Sadly the second daughter of Pastor Joseph and Olivia passed away after only several days. The whole Bushfire community and many overseas friends grieved with this family.
During our recent visit, Paulina preached most days and undertook many counselling sessions with teenagers and some staff. Pauline was able to teach and encourage many people, both young and old. The lessons to be learnt from the Psalms were a particular focus. Ken, with the help of Ben, Jairus, Simon, Jabel and Bob installed new solar panels, batteries, switches and inverters to reduce the need to run the diesel generator. The energy provided by solar enabled the Secondary School and some Primary School classrooms to have lighting for study until 9:00pm each night. Various other electrical safety deficiencies and improvements were resolved.
Bushfire also appreciated the gifts of cash, wedding dresses, soccer shirts, tools (including engraving & labelling) and of course Tim Tams. Of particular value to the Science students was the surplus equipment for Physics experiments from Monaro High School.
Many people expressed gratitude for the support of Robyn and Ann from Western Australians who visited last year. Interestingly they assumed that because we lived in Australia, we often catch-up!
Overall we consider that the culture and hope is stronger in 2017 than last year, and there is no doubt that the prayer and practical support has been really encouraging.
Prayer Points include;
- The children at Bushfire accept Christ as Lord of their lives , are discipled well and they continue their Christian walk, despite outside influences,
- Water supplies shall be replenished,
- Students learn and achieve well,
- Crops continue to produce,
- Leadership and staff continue to trust and depend on the Lord and have good health, endurance and wisdom,
- Financial needs are met