Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pamela's Introduction Ceremony

I have decided that I like introduction ceremonies much more than weddings. The wedding is the same expected thing and can last for quite some time (depending on how late the bride is and how long the pastor preaches). But introduction ceremonies are always slightly different from the last one.

First, and introduction ceremony is sort of like a huge engagements/meet the parents party. In the old days, the tradition was that the lady was bringing the man (for the first time) to meet her side of the family. He brings his whole side of friends and family as well. Traditionally, after the introduction the couple was then deemed as married-- though this is no longer the case with more modern couples and Christians. It is now just an official way for both sides of the family to say that the couple has their blessing to proceed in marriage.

Last week I had the privilege to attend Pamela's introduction ceremony. Pam is our clinical officer at LCH and has become a good friend of mine. This is her fiance Alex.

Pam was giddy a whole 2 weeks leading up to the event.

These are some of my co-workers and I, waiting for the grooms side to arrive. The appropriate attire for an introduction ceremony is the traditional gomas (the dresses with the pointy shoulders).

I also was able to bring my housemates along. They have never been to an introduction before, so we had fun getting all "africanized" in our fancy outfits. This was probably my 6th introduction to attend, and of all of them, Pam's was the best because the majority was in English. The MC for the Pam's side gave each of us local names and referred to us many times during the ceremony by our new names. Mine was "Adongo", meaning blessing (after having had twins).
The whole fun of the introduction is the friendly banter that goes on between the spokes-man for the lady and the man's side. As with customary Ugandan tradition, the man's side arrived late. Though the invitation said 1pm, they didn't show up until around 2:30pm. After paying a "fine" for being late, Alex's side proceeded in through the arch and remained standing until they were invited to sit down as Pam's guests.
Through more discussion between the MC's, we learn that Alex's side has come looking for a special lady that Alex would like. The MC for Pam's side says that he will call all the ladies of this house and they can point out which lady it is.

This was the first group of potential ladies that Alex is looking for.

The second group.

Obviously Pam is not in either group, so they call out the third group, being the older aunties.

And then finally, the fourth group, where Pam is at the back of the line.

The MC for Alex is looking carefully at each lady to see if the right one is there. And sure enough, she is. The lady that they have come for.

So the Aunties of Alex came with a basket of flowers to tell Pam that they have come on behalf of their "son" Alex to say that she is special and he would like to marry her. Pam accepted :)
Then the aunties to Pam go into the side for Alex in search of the young man that is seeking the hand of their "daughter" Pam. They look through the whole crowd.

And finally found Alex on the back row.

Then Pam is asked if this is the one and is brought to see Alex for the first time
There is some more friendly banter between the MCs of both sides and then Pam come out in a different outfit for the second half of the ceremony. She is the one looking down in green.

Alex waiting on his couch under the tent for his family.

A preacher comes up and they gives rings to one another as a token of their commitment to one another and then the cake is cut.

It is tradition here that the person in celebration (whether introduction, wedding, or birthday) is the one to serve cake to all their guests.

I was able to jump into a photo with these beautiful ladies.

The introduction ceremony is also the time when the man's side brings the dowry and gifts for the family of the bride-to-be. So the members from Alex's side went to the cars to collect all the gifts they had brought for Pam's parents and relatives.

As the gifts come, it is tradition for the lady to just look on- somehow seeing her worth to the man.

Where Pam is from, it is customary to give 7 cows and 7 goats as dowry. Then there are gifts added onto that dowry. Gifts range from bags of sugar, to crates of soda, to suitcases, to baskets of fruits and vegetables, to couch sets, to fridges, to lanterns, to the thigh of a cow (like shown below)

After gifts for the bride's family, they give out whole cakes to the important parties, like parents of each, the pastor, and even LCH got a cake.

Alex, Pam, and me

Co-workers and housemates: Michael, Me, Glenn, Lissa, Emily, Jennifer, and Enoch

The kids and teachers with Pam
Overall, it was a wonderful day. We had lots of fun, and ate a huge feast at the end of the day. We are all eager to attend her wedding.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bududa... mudslides

You may have heard, last month, about the mudslide in Eastern Uganda. Praise God that they were not near Mbale or LCH, but they were located in the mountains in a village called Bududa. There have been organizations and special projects from all over that have mobilized resources to give to the people who lost their homes and possessions. An Internally Displaced Camp has been set up in the small village of Buchekai. Although most of the people in these camp have lost someone- many are still remaining with homes n the mountain but were ordered by the government to evacuate the area, seeing as the ground is not stable (especially during heavy rains). Interesting enough, despite demands of evacuation, there are still people in the area of the mudslide that have refused to move. Teacher Jimmy was talking to one such man and he said, "Let the mud come and bury me, but I can't leave my crops. It is all I have." (What a great reminder that our earthly possessions can be wiped out in a blink of an eye and what will matter is if we have the firm foundation of Jesus Christ as our Savior.)

Anyhow, last Saturday we took 19 children and 6 staff on this hour journey from Mbale. After stopping at little trade centers along the way to ask if we were going the right direction, we reached Buchekai and this is what we saw...

Seeing as there was great need, the children at LCH had the idea to donate some of their clothes and give back to their people. I am so humbled by these kids. They have little, yet from the little that they have, they gave greatly.

After officially registering our visit and donation with the Red Cross, we were able to move around and see what life was like at the IDP camp. (Rachel and Ritah peaking past the first tent)

Gum-boots are a must in the mountains of Uganda.
This baby was 3 days old and had been born in the camp, probably right here in this bigger UNICEF tent.

I heard statistics on the radio that there are around 3000 people living in the camp, now unable to return to their home because either it was destroyed completely or it is no longer safe. They continue to wait on the government to relocate them and give them a piece of land to resettle on.

Red Cross was holding a class for the young people about the facts and risks/dangers/consequences or teenage pregnancy.

I walked around with Abel, Mercy, John, Ivan, and Emma (taking the photo)

Auntie Sylvia greeting a child. Most of the people at the camp spoke Lugisu.

The river nearby acted as the swimming pool and the laundry mat.

It was interesting to hear the questions that our kids asked to the man who was leading us around: "What do you eat? How many people sleep in your tent? Are you ever afraid at night? Do you feel sad to not go back to your home?" Their eyes were opened that life is not easy here at the camp. And the concept that they covered at school became real life to them.

A family inside one of the tents(below). Whether 5 people or 25 people per tent, each family shared one and was given one mattress. The rest was up to you. Much of the ground was uneven and in this particular tent, although there was a tarp, the ground below was totally soggy from rain.

They were distributed food but we were told by someone that they often get almost rotten posho and a few beans. And the tents were SO hot. Seeing as there was no place to go, you found people just loitering around.

After we finished touring the IDP camp, Edward drove us to the village of Bududa. We were wanting to see the actual site. At some point, the road became impassible for cars so we had to get out and start "footing". Luckily it was a cooler day.

Doreen, Zulufa, Nabwire Brenda, Jarod, Me

The mountains were beautiful!! Covered with lush green matoke plants and other crops.

Nabwire, Naster, Me Sylvia

Our groups got split up- the runners, the normal pace, and the slow-pokes. I was in the middle group with Rachel and Sylvia. They were fun to be with. At one point Rachel said, "Teacha- take my hand and pull me. I can't manage this mountain. I have never climbed a mountain. Unless from the garden to the home is a mountain. Can't I just get on your back!!!" Ha. But I will say it was a tiresome climb/walk. And seemingly never-ending.

Rachel also had the new experience of crossing a little log bridge. She was not so sure about it but followed my lead.

Finally, a long 1.5 hours later, we reached the site of the mudslide. I don't know how these people made it, some with broken limbs or carrying people or possessions, to the IDP camp. It is far.

You think you can imagine a mudslide in your mind until you actually reach it and see its greatness and vast impact. Wow. It was serious. On the radio I heard that around 250 people died in the mudslide. Where we were standing used to be a trading center and the health center was just next to it. Now they are completely covered below us, along with many people who were not able to be rescued before the mud dried up (sorry if that is too graffic, but it is the truth).

The Ugandan army has already taken up location on site and is awaiting a huge helicopter that can fly in a bulldozer to grate and remove the remains that are below the rubbish. (Our group that ran up the mountain was able to see, up close, a helicopter land and take off.)

Huge boulders, like the one below, toppled down the mountain, crushing anything in its path.

Once we had really seen what "mudslide" meant, we headed back down the mountain for another long hike.

When we arrived at the car, we found our friends (the runners) playing in the stream. It was very nice and refreshing, and cold.

They told me, "Teacha, get in. Just your feet, we won't get you wet." Ha. Luckily I knew better than that and had someone hold my camera and phone. As soon as I entered into the center of their circle Jarod shouts, "Let's baptize her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." By the end I was completely drenched.

It was a wonderful, fun, eye-opening, exposure giving, educational, exciting day. Thank you Lord for your protection and hand over us and thank you that you have given us good things that we might also bless others.