Tuesday Travels and Travails

After an early start with a blessing on departure from Rev Stephen, and a waving party of Felix (with his new trombone) and some members of the church brass band, two buses set off for the holiday.

The third bus stopped in Nebbi to collect Francesca who was to join us at Paraa Lodge. This was just as well because 20 minutes later there was a big bang from the lead bus which had a burst radiator hose. The second bus then became the lead bus and headed off to Murchison Falls and a holiday.

The occupants of the broken bus sat and waited on nearby rocks in true patient African style and passed the time by chatting lightly about this and that. As if by magic, a number of local children appeared apparently from out of the rocks waiting to have their photos taken. After Simon had sketched and Clare had collected a couple of rocks, we were ready for the mechanic to mend the van – which he apparently did.

Some miles further on, the driver pulled into a conveniently located petrol station to check the hose – and released a marvellous head of steam into the van. Luckily all the passengers were outside surrounded by local hawkers. A number of us were encouraged gently into parting with 1000’s of shillings.

Liquid refreshments were supplied to both van and occupants and we were off on our merry way. Again.

For the intellectuals amongst you, Murchison Falls National Park is a National Park with waterfalls named after Murchison. It’s on the Nile. And in Uganda. But close to Congo and in the East African Rift Valley. There are (and we’ve seen):
An awful lot of giraffes (Simon), hippos, Jacksons hartebeest, oribi, waterbuck, buffalo, elephant, crocodiles, warthogs, ground hornbills, Ugandan kob, patas monkeys, marshall eagle, lots of eagles, some birds and there was a leopard here a minute ago (Stuart)

We had a warm welcome with a cold flannel and cold fruit juice at Paraa Lodge (easily the coldest welcome so far). The imaginary swimming pool finally materialised, as did beer, G&T and pudding.

In summary we have sore bottoms from sitting on the roof of the vans saying “Look at that” and squealing a lot. And we plan to do it all again tomorrow after an early night ready for an early start.

Goodnight from Clare and Di, with dubious assistance from Nick and Simon



IMG-20131021-00297Since arriving in Nebbi bishop Alfonse has shown us many of his jazzy shirts including a satin ppuple number which was our personal faveourite. We were also greeted by bill his pet turkey and rach has been terroised by his various pet dogs and chickens.

Since Friday all we have done is a 7.30 am service and visitied a health centre which was great to see. Korean sister kim was the don of the health centre and is a lovely happy lady, she showed us all her lovely new buildings and offered lauren and rach jobs! We also went to a lovely market full of cows heads, fish and other bits. The rest of the time we have been sunbathing, shadebathing, eating, napping and showering with a bucket and running to drop toilets in the dark. Nebbi is a beautiful place so a nice place to chill! Next stop safari woo!

Looking forward to getting home to show you all our photos, feels like we’ve been away for months at times with all the adventuring!!

Loads of love to home!

R, K & L


Sunday, Nebbi, Sunday

Short blog tonight as no access to a computer. Smartphones are great but slow.

Our Sunday started with the Morning service at 7.30 am. This went on for two hours, including vibrant worship in English and Alur. Our holy Canon, Stuart preached the sermon, and introduced the team. It was especially moving to join in fervent prayers for Bishop Lee’s recovery here in this remote corner of Africa.

At the second service, in the local lingo, Chris preached while Pons, the diocesan secretary translated eloquently. The highlight of the service was a woman of about 70 sharing her memory verse, the whole of Genesis chapter 3 which she did without hesitation. Only thing waas it seemed a strange choice of passage – look it up and you’ll see what I mean.

This afternoon a group went prison visiting. Astrid shared her testimony for the first time ever, and 7 men responded by committing their lives to following Jesus.

Later still after a rainstorm had cleared a few of us went for a stroll into the DRC, a most relaxed customs crossing, although it felt slightly unnerving to cross a border without even a passport. Apart from a few pigs, fighting cocks, some delightful children and a handy long drop toilet it was little different from Uganda, just noticeably less developed. Anyway another country ticked off the list!

Next blog probably in two days time.


Gulu to Nebbi

We currently have limited access to the internet, so we are grateful to our new friend, Pons, the Diocesan Secretary who is allowing me a few minutes to use the diocesan internet connection.

Yesterday was our final day in Gulu and in the morning we divided into three groups to visit two schools which are being linked with schools in Almondsbury and Westbury on Trym. At both sites we met the headteachers and at Lakwatomer Primary school I was able to film interviews with staff and children. Lakwatomer school which will link with W-on-Trym has seen a remarkable growth in standards, children are achieving much higher levels than ever before. Last year their Maths teacher was recognised as the leading teacher in the district, and the English teacher the second best in district. The school was clean, well kept and clearly highly motivated. It was a real privilege to visit.

The third group went to visit the Janani Luwum Theological College and spent time with the Principal, Sandra Earixson, hearing about the developments and hopes there. Keren and Julie slipped away at the end of the visit to see Lucy, the director of the Women’s Vocational Centre, to do a video interview with one of the most inspiring people you could ever hope to meet.

Meanwhile Simon Holmes, following his brush with the law for using his brushes in a public space without permission, was given a strict (although unnecessary) warning not to go painting in town again. All went well and we picked up our ‘papers’ from the District Commissioner offering us safe passage and help wherever we went. Chris again prayed for him for wisdom, courage and grace in his demanding job.

The journey to Nebbi finally began at about 1 pm, and lasted five hours rather than the promised three, but there were some wonderful highlights. The road from Gulu ran along a ridge offering breathtaking savannah views along both sides. After we joined the main Kampala Nebbi road we travelled much faster, only stopping before the Pakwach Bridge over the Nile for a ‘comfort stop’ which necessitated the swift invention of the ‘comfort circle’ although that is a politer version than was originally coined. Suffice to say it was a real relief for the ladies present. I forgot to say, by the way, that the reason for stopping originally was the sight of a huge male elephant taking a bath in the adjacent marshes, our first!

Crossing the Nile we left the park behind and travelled across the plains to Nebbi, and then ascended the hills to Goli and the Diocesan HQ. After the second hill climb one of our vans overheated due to lack of water and we spent half an hour by the roadside. A crowd of people, children, women and men gathered to watch the strange Muzungus and within a very short time Alison Rowe was leading an impromptu worship session, singing Our God is a great big God, and leading a Christian Conga to the refrain of We are marching in the light of God. It was great to see our audience joining in, and eventually providing some offerings of their own. One ladies hip movements left us with our jaws dropping open as she danced away. The children were blown away at looking at their pictures on Astrid’s camera and squealed with delight as they jostled for prime view.

Shortly afterwards we were on our way again and welcomed in some style by the Nebbi Brass band and a crowd waving bougainvilla branches, singing, dancing and celebrating. We truly felt we had arrived in paradise. Most of us already feel we could stay here for the rest of our lives. The welcome was overwhelming and the setting is so picturesque, but the care for our comfort and safety since has been extraordinary. They have made space for us to think and pray, they have catered wonderfully for all our needs, and sat with us to chat, and talk, to share ideas and we feel we have come among friends.

Tomorrow we go to the Cathedral, Chris and Stuart will share the preaching, and a small group will head off to visit a prison later in the day.

We are all well, and despite heightened security alerts, we feel safe and far from any potential targets, and we are reassured by the way the police and army are clearly working hard to protect us all.

Thank you for all your prayers, and we will ask some of our younger members to write a blog tomorrow,

Every blessing,



Visit to Amuru

Barbara and Trevor writing:

Thank you for your prayers and interest. It was another wonderful day today. At 7.45am the whole group bar Julie who was a bit unwell set off for the 2 hour journey to Amuru. We first collected Bishop Johnson who led the way in his car with our 3 vans and stalwart drivers following. Our first stop was at Masalaba, where a cross on a stone and a plaque marked the spot where the first missionaries arrived in 1904. There is a church on the site now which was built in 2011. We then continued our journey and about half a mile before we reached Amuru a crowd of people met us and led the way in front of our vehicles singing and dancing. As we got nearer hundreds of schoolchildren in their royal blue and yellow uniforms also joined the crowd – it was awesome!

After a comfort break and a small meal {which they called a snack!} we all gathered under marquees in front of the children and lots of adults. We guests were privileged to have easy chairs to sit on! The bishop and Stuart in their clerical robes processed in with the male choir and a confirmation and communion service in Luo followed. No short service this – more like 3 hours as there was singing, dancing to exchange the peace, and 70 candidates were confirmed by the bishop. We sang 2 songs – “Our God is a great big God” and “We are marching in the light of God”. Stuart  preached from 2 Corinthians about God’s grace and how God is always full of surprises. The Mothers’ Union sang. The sky got very black and the wind strengthened so we returned to a school classroom for a meal.

Alison gave a speech of thanks and presented the MU with a suitcase of gifts.

Sadly about 3.30pm it was time to leave for the 2 hour journey home. What friendly welcoming people we met today as we have every day.

Powercut blog

Today’s highlight for me was meeting 26 year old Geoffrey Okia who was educated by Bristol people through the Clergy Children’s Education Fund (CCEF).

Geoffrey struggled at GCSE and was persuaded to switch to Janani Luwum Vocational training centre. After a year learning brick laying he is now a trainee instructor at the College and gives spiritual leadership to the students as well. He hopes eventually to train for ordination. Like the other CCEF students we have met so far, Geoffrey sends a big thank you to all in Bristol who have supported his education.

The college was very interesting, 300 students learning brick laying, carpentry, catering, car maintenance and hairdressing for one year. Many students were child mothers, returned abductees, or those who had dropped out of school. We were inspired by the principal’s leadership and vision to place students in jobs in the community. Brick layers are currently employed building new churches for the diocese.

A truly inspiring visit.

Holly Brennan

Wednesday night update

Today was a crucial day for the Deanery trip. Our main reason for coming out was to hold conversations with our partners over the nature and shape of our link. Could we come to some agreed understanding about what our link means and how it differs from a mission agency or and NGO? What is it that is distinctive to the link?

Link ConversationKeren, Alison, Chris and Stuart spent the morning in discussion with Bishop Johnson and seven of his senior staff reflecting on what our link had been and what it might be. After considerable discussion we narrowed down some core values and priorities that we all embraced. Two key distinctives emerged, as they did in Kitgum, that what makes a link a link is that what we do is both relational and mutually beneficial. If we could only do one or two things together we narrowed it down to the areas of clergy training and exchange visits. Our next step will be to reflect within our own context on how this can be worked out and to work on what practical measures can be taken to move them forward. We meet again on Thursday night for a follow up discussion.

We were also impressed today with the conscientious way that the local police and authorities The offending pictureare concerned for our general safety and well being. Simon Holmes had gone for a morning stroll through the streets of Gulu town armed with his sketch book and paints. This, for Gulu, unexpected and unexplained behaviour by a bearded gentleman, who set up camp outside the main police station and started making detailed sketches, led to intervention by the long arm of the law. Simon, used to being the defender of the accused, found himself suspected of being an Al Qaida operative, and found himself being questioned. Exercising his right to make a phone call he got through to Chris, who was happily standing next to the Bishop and so handed the phone straight to him. Johnson’s calm and authoritative manner smoothed over the incident and Simon was soon on his merry way. Not before all 17 members however were kindly requested (ordered) to present ourselves in the District Commissioners Office that afternoon to explain our business and gain official sanction.  Feeling like naughty school children we duly trooped into the office at 3 pm and sat on upright chairs awaiting the DC’s arrival. In due course she arrived, and turned out to be Amelia, who after introductions from the Bishop, proceeded to welcome us to Gulu, to offer us help to ensure that the same did not happen in Nebbi, and in the end we prayed with her before heading out into the sunshine. Overall we were hugely impressed with the politeness, concern and vigilance of the police, and Simon reflecting afterwards said how well, and how rightly they had acted, and we all felt more secure that following the bombings in Nairobi people in Uganda were taking our safety so seriously.

After this adventure some of us headed back for some r and r, while others visited a Health Centre (staffed by delightful and hardworking nurses, effectively volunteering their services so as to keep prices down for patients) and others visited a vocational training centre.

Nelson and BrendaFor those who remember Bishop Nelson who visited Bristol with his wife, he has now retired to a home just outside Gulu and a few of us went for dinner with him. Brenda has the reputation of being the finest Episcopal spousal chef, and her fried tilapia with lemon wedges did not disappoint. We passed a pleasant hour of chat and prayer which was only mildly disturbed when the bishop’s dogs cornered our driver. Once the barking, slathering beasts had been called off our peace was restored and we enjoyed a wonderful time of reminiscing before returning back to our hotel.

In both Kitgum and Gulu we have met many people who have been trained by scholarships and Stephen and Pamelabursaries from Bristol West Deanery. At our farewell in Kitgum nearly half of the 40 clergy present at the time stood up to show that they had received these scholarships, while 6 out of 7 senior staff in Gulu were beneficiaries. Two current sponsored ordinands, Stephen and Pamela, accompanied us throughout much of today.

Just as we turned to bed, the skies opened with a ‘biblical’ storm which does not bode well for our long journey to Amuru tomorrow. We are all well and making great contacts for the future.

Keep praying!


Wednesday visit to Gulu Womens development centre and primay school

Astrid, Holly, Rachel, Katy, Lauren and Julie attended these inspirational projects.
The first visit was to the principal of the development centre whose name was Lucy and was a remarkable woman. The centre trains women in tailoring and hairdressing and there were 72 young women between 18-24.

As well as learning these skills they are also taught business and communication, how to plan and look after themselves and others. They are encouraged to put themselves first, gain training and become self sufficient before starting a family or relying solely on others for support. The course runs for one year and upon graduation they are given a sewing machine plus a roll of fabric or in the case of the hairdressers a similar value of hairdressing products to get their own businesses started.

They return twice a year for ongoing support and training and are encouraged to form support groups within their communities to support each other and also train others in the life skills they have gathered. Whilst Lucy explained there are some students who fall by the wayside ( returning later that year pregnant!) there were also some truly inspiring success stories as well. Lucy is a strong role model and is passionate about each one of her students sometimes going out to the villages and bringing back to finish the education girls who have decided to give up!

The atmosphere when we visited the classroom was joyful and positive, amazing given the difficult lives these women had had whilst growing up in a war zone. it was clear that the strong leadership, excellent teaching and structure was changing lives and creating “girl power” within Uganda! We all spoke and gave a message of just how amazing they all were, we encouraged them to focus on making the most of their training opportunity and spread the message back in their communities and support each to success whist keeping God at the center of their lives.

The wonderful singing and dancing guiding us back to our van was absolutely fabulous and whilst I have wonderful photos and video of this visit I know I shall always remember it anyway as it was SO inspiring . Julie x I will allow someone else from our group to write about our school visit a little later.

Tuesdays trips

In Kitgum a few of us visited ‘Five Talents’, which provides micro-loans for small businesses, and then visited some of the recipients in the local market. We saw buckets full of dried fish, stalls selling net curtaining, crockery, and lots of vegetables. The small team have been busy. Since April last year 5000 have received training and many have had loans, including in the rural areas – but they have to already be running a business. Some of the schemes are for groups not just individuals. The system seems to be working well.

Health Centre visitors were shown round the maternity unit by a dedicated midwife Lauren’s age (who also really loves her job) and they were sharing experiences and recommendations …. but we won’t go into detail here! Immunisations for children, maternity services and contraception are free. The main problems are HIV, road accidents and the use of strong alcohol and its effects.

Holly and Alison met some of the students supported by the clergy  children education fund .it was so moving to hear their aspirations and appreciation and meet two who are now adults ,we were then shown around Jabulonilssoke memorial high school ,1300 pupils and not  a single computer

Before setting off on the bumpy, but this time dry – so dusty, road to Gulu we gathered together for the meeting with Kitgum Diocese Bishop, leaders, many of the clergy and some of the clergy in training supported by Christchurch Clifton. Children’s choirs entertained us beautifully, speeches, gifts and and a feast were shared. Some necklaces, would you believe it, made from magazines, have been purchased for re-sale so if you want to know what they are like see Holly when she gets back to the UK.


Internet access achieved!

Achieving togetherMonday 14 October – Blog post by Astrid Domingo Molyneux

We split into various different groups today: Keren, Alison and Stuart involved in a discussion meeting about the ongoing future of the Uganda link; Nick, Diane and Holly off for a full day to an agricultural project; the remainder of us spending a morning or afternoon visiting two of the Tearfund projects: Chris, Barbara, Trevor, Clare and me (Astrid) going to Akwang in the morning; Julie, Lauren, Rachel to Omiya Anyima in the afternoon.

The Tearfund project was a joy to visit. We were taken by Jokan and Denis, Field Officer and Co-ordinator respectively to meet the villagers involved in the project; greeted warmly with clapping, singing and the high-pitched trill the women make with their tongues (I’m practising, but not quite matching the end sound).

During the morning, we heard from many individuals how the project has helped them begin to think differently about the way they grow their food. Instead of thinking of trying to provide enough food for their own family’s needs, they have now started planting with a view to selling their produce, in order to provide them with a greater variety of food, but, importantly, to then also have money to pay for other things, such as medicines and paying for their children to receive an education. To this end, one man decided to sell some of his goats to buy 30 orange and 30 mango trees to plant and cultivate, from which to sell the fruit on a more commercial basis, not just for his own family’s consumption.

Such thinking has come about from the Tearfund project, which supports an initiative called PEP – Participatory Evaluation Process. Training is undertaken by local people to understand the concept of this process and how to put it into action. Essentially, the community comes together in discussion, in order first to identify the resources available to them in their community and from then to decide how best to use these local resources to provide sustainable living.

One of the important aspects of PEP is to reverse the idea of do-gooders coming along handing out funding or installing a well, when, actually, the needs of the community would be for something else, e.g. electricity.

The villagers have already seen many benefits from PEP: they recognise the empowerment that comes by taking ownership of identifying and deciding their own needs; they have experienced the benefits of working together in groups; they are developing a greater sense of looking out for others in the community (such as one man who has decided to look after a woman  who was widowed after her husband was killed by the insurgents).

LinkWe were introduced to a condition called Nodding Syndrome: a mysterious disease affecting quite a high number of children, certainly in Uganda, maybe further afield. It manifests with symptoms of neural involvement: nodding head movements (as you might expect from such a name!), aco-ordination, difficulty in speech, eating, walking, balance. There are drugs that can help to lessen the symptoms. In addition, families are being given counselling to help deal with the child’s condition, as this causes a great deal of stress within the family, as well as the community.

JoyThose of us who went along today were thrilled to hear such positive things going on. Just as we were delighted to be shown such hospitality with lunch at the end, accompanied by the beautiful music and singing that is so characteristic of Africa.

The drive to and fro was equally thrilling: off road in UK has nothing to where we went to reach the village.

I am now going to stop because I don’t always know when to and have to be told, so before Chris inquires once more, ‘have you nearly finished?’, I shall sign off. (Only because I’m worried the internet will die before we get a chance to post it! Chris)