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Thursday in Africa

My last day in Torroro, Uganda Africa…

I can’t really express the feeling I am experiencing inside my heart and soul.  I am physically and emotionally exhausted and invigorated.  I am so joyful to get home soon and hug my amazing wife and children and I have a huge heartache to leave a place that could use the encouragement and love of this American and many others.  So many children today knowing that our goodbyes must happen today wanted to just walk with me wherever I went holding my hand and asking if I was ever coming back.

This morning we got up…same breakfast as the previous blogs described…after breakfast half of the group headed off to the town of Mityana where many in the group have sponsored Children.  It is about a 5 hour drive to this town.  I’m not sure what that group fully did since I wasn’t with them.

We stayed in Torroro and went to the city square where all the business takes place during the day.  The streets are dirt and full of potholes….and there are thousands of people walking back an d forth, taxis in the form of motorcycles (boda boda’s) beeping their horns and zipping and zig zagging with no pattern in their direction of driving.  In the streets of Africa….EVERYBODY has the right of way…except pedestrians.  While we were downtown today a Boda-Boda was driving and a police officer tried to pull him over…the Boda-Boda would not pull over so the cop took it upon himself to ram the Boda-Boda…the driver fell to the ground and hit his head and died on the spot.  We were just around the corner, so we didn’t see the actual incident, but all of a sudden you could hear the roar of a crowd.  The market stores we were in told us to stay inside as they ran and grabbed the front doors of their businesses and pulled them shut.  We didn’t stay inside but chose to get out of the store and get out of the downtown area.  As we got outside of the building you could see the crowd gathering…the police officer took off for fear of his own life and the citizens of Torroro began to get big rocks and place them in the middle of the streets so that the police cars could not get in.   I’m not sure how it all ended.  We do know that the driver of the Boda-Boda was killed.  Its seems that all quieted down.  The people in the hotel told us that it is common for the Boda-Boda drivers to go on strike until the police admit fault and try to make amends.  Crazy.

After some shopping we headed back to the True Vine Ministries property and spent the whole afternoon playing soccer and throwing frisbees, and just spending time with some very special people in Africa.  I gathered about 10 young boys all ranging about 10-13 years old and we just walked for about 2 hours.  We talked about everything.  They asked me questions about America and I asked them questions about Africa and her language and words.  They had never really touched white skin before so I let them tug and pinch my arms.  They have no hair on their arms in Africa and they are fascinated with the white mans hairy arms.  When I told them they could feel my whiskers on my face…a full day and a half growth of very bristly whiskers!…they freaked out.  One boy couldn’t touch my whiskers….he looked like he was about to literally get sick.  He was somewhat emberassed by the whole thing, so I didn’t ask.  It was funny.

We talked about Bible stories that they had never heard before.  Imagine me talking to 10 boys ages 10-13 about the story of David and Bathsheba!!!  They knew King David, but they didn’t know this juicy story!  I had them leaning in as I told them about a great King who was wandering on the roof tops and spotted a beautiful woman bathing.   They leaned in more!  LOL   They got a sadness in their eyes about this sin of David.  Then we talked about Psalm 51 where David records his sorrow and repentance and we talked about forgiveness and how  good and patient our loving God is.  AweMazing moment with these young men.

As we walked around some more they wanted to show me their classrooms where they learn and get their education.  As they were showing me the different rooms, three of their teachers walked in.  Very sharp men.  Dressed in dark slacks and pressed button down shirts.  These men were dressed in such a way that they could be successful businessmen in America.  They greeted me with big smiles and I spoke with them for a few moments….then…I asked them the big question!   “What do I have to do in Africa to get an African name for myself?”   They laughed and spent about 15 minutes explaining the different names I could actually get.  Depending on where you live, your African name begins with a certain letter.  They asked me if I liked the City of Kampala or the City of Torroro better.  I love Torroro anyway and all three teachers lived in Torroro so they took great delight when I told them my favorite was Torroro.  This would mean to my African name that it would begin with an “O”   They then explained that since this is my first African name that they recommended that it be a very simple sounding name so it would be easy for me to remember.  I said “good!”  They then asked me my birthdate.  I told them October…October…they said that October is the sunny time in Torroro.   They asked me what time of day I was born.  I told them around 1 a.m.  These questions all help determine my African name.   After they discussed it, and even included the 10 boys I was with in the discussion they came up with several and then asked me to pick one.  They said that when they pronounce the different name options that one will feel right with my spirit and I’ll know.  I don’t remember the full set of choices…but when they pronounced “OCHIENG”  It just seemed like the one I wanted so I told them.  It is pronounced O-Chang.  (the O is a long O.)   They all smiled and clapped and I was nervous thinking they played a joke on me…but they consider it a great honor to name someone with an African name.  They were simply celebrating with me.  I asked them the meaning of my name and they said that October is the Sunny time of Torroro, Uganda, Africa and that the name Ochieng means person of light!  I was touched in a powerful way by that.  I feel honored by it.  My greatest desire and my greatest passion is to be a light bearer for Jesus Christ.

Now some of you might be a bit disappointed after reading this because you read last nights blog where I posted that you had to eat a White Ant in order to be given an African name.  Well that was just the leader of the group basically playing a joke on me.  HOWEVER…I promise you if we come across a White Ant in the next couple of days…I will eat it anyway and video record the whole thing for your delight!  I asked a little more detailed questions about this white ant.   It is actually a large termite that lives in the big dirt mounds you see in the middle of the African bush.  These things have wings and are about an inch long and as thick as up to two pencil widths.  Juicy and buttery…is what I’m told they taste like.  Again…If I find one…I will eat it and video it.

We leave early tomorrow for a place in Africa called Fort Portal where we will spend one day doing mission work and the other day going on an Africa Safari!

I’ve got to pack.  Then get to bed.  Tomorrow we have a 10 hour drive to Fort Portal.

May your day be blessed and may you fully serve the Lord in whatever you are doing throughout your day.

Trent


Ugandan Sunday! Whoa….

What words can I possible use to explain such an ovewhelming day in Africa? Let’s get right to it.
We got to sleep in a little today because the church service didn’t start until 10am. Breakfast was at 8 and then we gathered as a whole group to get our plan. The group of nearly 60 split up into 4 groups to go to 4 differnt villages to experience and participate in a Church Worship Service with the Ugandan people. I chose to attend the largest worship venue and village because I wanted to see a large gathering and how it all goes every Sunday. I chose to go to True Vine Ministries where nearly 1000 people gathered in a Church building made of concrete and an A-Frame roof that had a few ceiling fans stirrin the humid and deoderant-less air!!!

Wow is an understatement. I’ll start by saying that the worship service started at 10 and we got out at 1:30 and everybody kept saying it was as short service. They said that often it can go until 4 pm. I have never seen such joyful and energetic worship music. Dancing, jumping, screaming, and praise. Very good music. Done with great quality and authenticity. I know you’ve heard it before…that high pitched very fast tongue roll…la,la,la,la,la…if you don’t know what that sounds like, ask Kelli my wife to do a rendition for you. She an nail it!

But really…I am sitting in a service with some of the poorest people in the world and they have nothing but praise and thanksgiving and joy for the Lord.

The most adrenalin rushed moment for me was when…without hardly any warning the pastor of the Church said that we are going to have an Amerian Pastor preach this morning. I thought to myself…”I wonder who that is going to be?” Well it turned out that when we broke up into 4 different groups that morning…I was the only pastor in our group. Yep! Imagine. 1000 Africans joyful and praising God that the “white-boy” is going to deliver a message! Gulp. I walked up…pretended like I knew what I was going to do and in sheer panic mode dug into my mind of past messages and chose to just begin with Genesis Chapter 1. I can only say that God came through for me as the Scriptures say He will. We had fun and I encouraged the crowd and found myself getting into rythym with my translator. What a rush. All I can say is, Thank You God for such a great honor.

After the service we hurried back to the hotel and freshened up a bit and then headed off to a local Ugandan Hospital. I was not prepared for this experience. When we arrived we found nice looking buildings on the outside and somewhat cleanliness on the inside but it was basically a military style barracks where rows of beds were filled with sick and dying people. There is no medicine. Two doctors rotate through the wards only two times per week. So we showed up with toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and some hard boiled eggs and water. Oh, how grateful the people were. We explained that we were not doctors but we just were Americans who traveled over to serve them and show them how much we loved them and wanted to know if we could pray for them. They were so grateful.

The first patient we prayed for first needed some immediate medical attention. It so happened that 3 guys with us were EMT’s and had a few supplies with them in thier backpacks. The man we first came across had just been hit by a car in the leg and had nasty 4 inch wide and 8 inch long chunk of flesh missing from his lower leg around the chin bone. When we removed the nasty wrapping there was no broken bone, but this huge wound. All the guys could do was ask me to hold the man down and try to tell him he was okay while they took care of the wound…without any pain medicine. The intense pain made the man scream, but he knew we were trying to help him. Once we got the wound cleaned up, we gave him one antibiotic pill and some water and prayed he would be healed and get some rest. As I sit in the comforts of my hotel room, I know he is still there in a hospital with no medicine, no glass in the windows and no screens. The EMT guys went back there tonight with some more medical supplies, pain medicine and some blankets. Other patients we prayed for were dying of Aids. One man had what could only be described as a flesh eating disease all over his legs and he was begging us to cure him. All we could do was ask God to cure him and leave him in the hands of God. Believe it or not…the man was comforted and grateful we were there. I feel so helpless in the whole situation. Another man had Malaria…the #1 killer of people in Africa (damn mosquitos). All we could do was pray. Another man had massive adominal pain and on and on and on. When we finished in the Male Ward we had a few minutes to go over to the Children’s Ward. We announced that we were not doctors but Christians and we loved them and wanted to pray for them and give them a few supplies. Well, due to time we could only pray one big prayer for everybody. The translator announced that I was a pastor and that I would pray one prayer for everybody and that God would be okay with that. When he announced this…all the desperate moms and dads grabbed their sick children out of the cribs and rushed up to me and held thier babies out to me asking me to help them and touch them and pray for them. I was so overwhelmed. What could I do. I just looked up to God and cried out a prayer for God to come through and His will be done. The parents were so thankful and I walked away feeling so….(words can’t describe.)

When we were finished there, we went back to the hotel to clean up. I have never scrubbed my hands and arms so hard. That hospital is a place of desperate sickness where diseases of biblical proportions exist. I believe God will heal many of those patients. The presence of God here is real and obvious. Its hard to explain.

We then headed off to an orphanage where 5 years ago a 70 year old man in Conneticut retired from is engineering career and chose to move to Africa and serve orphans who have lost their parents from Aids. He started with one orphan 5 years ago and no property. Today at 75 and several acres and the best kept facilities and yard I have seen in a long time he now has 50 orphans with the age range of between months to 17 years old. These orphans gathered in a small room with the 30 who chose to go. Imagine nealy 80 people in a room that was a small living room. These 50 kids sang to us for 30 minutes. The room was mostly concete so you can imagine the acoustics of 50 vibrant and joyful African children crowded together, swaying together and singing at the top of their lungs. I wept as I heard 50 orphans who have no parents because of Aids sing over and over…”God is so good….God is so good…God is so good…He’s so good to me.”

I will never be the same.

Its 1am and I have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow. I must get to bed.

I must say this at the risk of offending some. Please don’t be offended and simply try to understand my point. Its a good point if you think about it deeply.

All day today I heard the most desperate and poor people of the world sing worship songs to Jesus Christ. The only slow song I heard all day was these orphans singing about how good God is.
Nothing slow…or singing about broken desperation.

Every song was full of gratitude and praise and thankgiving. Full of energy and dancing for joy.

What is it about so many Christian songs that are originating out of America that are so full of sorrow and desperation and brokenness? We can do better. We are so blessed.

If you are reading this…I am honored. I pray that you will make a journey to Africa.

You need Africa. I would have never thought that I needed Africa more than Africa needs me. But its true.

I will never be the same. I must come back. Our churches must do more.
To whom much is given…much is required.

Good night.
I pray your Sunday is a blessed one.
Trent


Laid Back Day in Africa…Saturday

What a good day. Very simple. AFter yesterday I needed a mental and emotional break. Today we went back to True Vine Ministry and visitied some of the same kids as we did on Wednesday. I guess we did more than just visit. We played basketball with the kids, the ladies in the group let the girls braid their hair, other guys in the group played soccer and volleyball. Today was just a relational day.

I had a chance to run downtown Torroro and purchased some soccer balls and basketballs to give to the ministry and school we visited. I took a motorcylce ride back. I went with a group of about 8 and we most definately stand out. We where the only white people in town. The Africans call us MUZUNGO…which means White and rich. Its not meant as a slam, just slang. Kinda like Gringo in the Mexican world. So as all 8 of us rode back on separate motorcyles and our drivers all lined up in a single file line people shouted Muzungo Train!

I have never met such a freindly and kind group of people. They actually see it as improper to not greet one another with a “Hello, How are you?” Everybody smiles. Its so refreshing. I think we Americans could work on this a bit. We have a tendency to be so independant and nervous around each other we’ve lost the art of friendliness. I want to challenge you for the rest of the day to say hello and smile to every person you make eye contact with.

One other quick story that is just fun and differnet and it proves that God is the creator of all things and He made everything very similar. So here’s the story. Just outside the front of our hotel is one giant tree that has a whole bunch of yellow birds. You know the kind you see only in cages in America. They are called Yellow Weavers. Beautiful bird. They are all making these round nests. Its seems like you could count 50 or so nests being woven together in this tree. The nests are round and about the size of a large Grapefruit. These Yellow Weavers hang upside down from the bottom of the nest and weave them together. In fact I found out that males are the ones who do all the work weaving these nests. You can watch these passionate men working away trying to make thier womans home just right and see all the energy and effort it takes. They leave a hole in the bottom of the nest and the birds enter the nest by flying up into it and then there is a flat inside the nest that they grab and rest and lay eggs in. Well after all the hard work of making the nest you can watch the male stop his work and sit on a branch close to the nest and he is chirping away with great pride at all his hard work. What happens next is amazing. The female then flies up into the bottom of the nest. She seems to remain inside for about 30 seconds to maybe a minute. If she approves of the nest, she flies out and then lands next to her male mate/husband and they chirp in agreement. If she doesn’t approve of the nest she flies out and lands just at where the Male Yellow weaver attached the nest with a braided string and she snips that string with her beak and the nest falls to the ground and is destroyed. The male looks at his work as it falls…seems to take a sigh…shake his head and then starts all over. Typical Wife….moving the furniture. God really did make all of creation very similar. You can tell there is only one great creative artist!!! LOL

Well, we’re back at the hotel. Its raining again. You can hear the rain coming down and you can actually hear monkeys running across the roof. Not sure what dinner is tonight, but I’m glad I get to blog a little early tonight and therefore get to bed earlier. .

Africa is outstanding. I hope you will plan on going someday. Traveling with Hope4Kids International makes it very simple.

I am so blessed to be here.
Thanks for reading.
I’ll update tomorrow. I’m going to an African Church service tomorrow…I have heard they can go on for many hours.
Gather with your church family tomorrow and celebrate how much God loves you. Don’t just go and attend a show…really give thanks to God. Bring your tithes and offering with you and sing out with all your love for God and take great notes as your preacher shares the Word of God. Then Go out and Be The Church!
The Hope of the World is the power of God working through your hands and feet and heart. Gather with people you love, enjoy the community of it all and keep being the Church! It really is the only hope our world has that lasts.

Love ya…
Trent


Oh My God! (Friday in Africa)

You read the title right for this blog and for my experience today. And, no its not said in a blaspemous way. Its the only expression I can respond with after seeing Africa’s children and people in the conditions they are in.

I awoke this morning a half hour prior to my alarm clock going off due to some rooster outside my hotel room crowing at the top of his lungs that this is going to be a great day in Africa!

We gathered for breakfast and I am thankful that we had bacon for the protien instead of the kidneys of some mammal like we had our first morning. I do think the kidneys belonged to monkeys…but I’m not positive. They tasted like liver. So…the bacon was great…scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, potatoes and chipata (thnk thick tortilla).

We gathered for our first all team meeting. There are about 60 people from all over the nation gathered here through the leadership of Hope 4 Kids International. People from Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, California. They are of all ages and everyone of them very wonderful people. This meeting just gave us our options and game plan for the day ahead. Some do’s and don’t do’s when it comes to mixing with the African people. We prayed and we prepared for a great day.

As we loaded the bus…and headed to the first African School in Jubba, Uganda…I was not prepared for the mix of emotions that I would experence. As I type this I can’t help but tear up and get that feeling in my chest that makes me want to literally weep and at the same time be so proud of a people who have so much faith in God and joy for life. I have emtions of anger at the lack of effort from way too many Christians around the world but especially in America.

I wish I could post pictures on this blog, but due to something in Africa I can’t on this blogsight…but I can on my Facebook page. I will send some pictures to my wife via email and she hopefully will post them on our Facebook page. TrentandKelliRenner.

When we arrived at this first school, kids come running at and after the bus screaming and yelling for joy. It is quite a sight to see. There is something about their beautiful dark skin in contrast with their bright white smile and white’s of their eyes that makes them glow and you can’t help but get down and hug them as they mob you and touch you and hold your hands and look up at you and smile. They are fascinated by the white skin and want to touch it. We have some people in our group who have a lot of freckles and the kids where so experimenting to see if the freckles would wipe off. The kids immediately gathered in a room and sang some songs and danced with joy in front of us. I was so proud and moved to tears by their exceptional talent and passion for singing about thier love for Uganda and for God and how they want to grow up and be responsible and successful. All the teachers at the school looked so worn out, but yet had such a great joy in telling us about what they teach and how they spend their days with so many kids and orphaned kids. I captured some video footage of their dancing and singing and will post it when I arrive back in Arizona so I can utilize the faster internet speed.
At this school, Hope 4 Kids International and the support it receives financially from people has created what is called The Chicken Project where hundreds of chickens are producing eggs and other chickens for income and the Ugandans we are supporting are working themselves toward self sufficiency. Everything is so nice and clean even though its among dirt and mud. We had to spray our shoes before we entered the dirt pen with sanitizer so we didn’t carry germs into the chicken pens and huts that could wipe out the whole flock.

We said our goodbyes with this group and it is so very difficult to leave these kids and get on the bus. They walk with you, holding your hands and grasping at you not to leave. They let go and stand there and just stare you in the eyes. Some smile and wave and some cry and some laugh and run to chase the bus for as far as they can keep up.

We then arrived at an orphanage called Smile Africa. This the place that messed me up emotionally. This orphanage is a property that has rescued children from abusive parents. We met babies that were left for dead in the streets. We met children who were thriving and well but would have been burned to death had someone not run into the burning hut…set on fire by an abusive father trying to kill his family. These children are all from one type or group of people in Africa that are considered outcasts. I don’t know how to spell the name of this group of people, so I am spelling it like their name is pronounced. The Karomojung People. They are rejected by others. But Christ accepts all people and it is such a joy to see hundreds of these kids without their parents going to school, lining up for their one meal for the day and we got the pleasure to hand deliver the bowls of a very scientific mix of food that provides all the nutrients they need for the whole day. They eat this plastic bowl of food with what everybody calls Ugandan Chop Stix…aka…Their fingers. I will make sure I send a couple of pics that Kelli will post.

Many of these kids were walking around with very runny noses, no pants or even underwear, sitting in the dirt and have very rough lives as they push each other for food and treat each other in a very rough manner. The staff of Smile AFrica had so much love and patience for these kids…aged newborn to teens as they teach them education, politeness, and life skills. What I saw these kids going through just makes me scream that its not okay…its not right. I had to walk away multiple times to prevent myself from just weeping in front of everybody. As I type this I have had to stop and wipe tears multiple times. My life will never be the same after this trip. Please save the money and make this trip next year or as soon as you can. I think we are commanded by Jesus to go. Take your older kids with you…it is safe. The African people so love Americans.
As I handed each child their plate of food…a mix of rice, chicken flavoring, extra nutrients and vitamins the body needs, vegetables…I bent down and whispered to my self each time…”This is unto you Jesus.”

Jesus said when you “give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, food to the hungry and care for least of these….you do so to me.”

I physically looked into the face of Jesus today. I will never be the same. I will never experieince church worship services the same again.

We were done serving the Smile Africa Children at 2PM (5am AZ time) and we headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch. I had “Fish and Chips.” Pretty good. They serve you a glass bottle of Coca-Cola. What is it about those glass bottles that make it taste so good!?

AFter lunch we got back on the bus and headed to a Village that one family from America has sponsored. Through H4KI you can round up about 45,000 dollars and from fresh dirt build a fresh water well, school, Church, a house for the village pastor a medical clinic and many other cool things. Get your church to sponsor an entire village all on its own. Get together with as many families as needed to raise that kind of money and create a village town square with everything I just mentioned. It is so life changing for thousands of people. For 10,000 you can provide a fresh water well which would allow thousands of people to have fresh water and no longer walk miles to fill up jugs with polluted water that the whole family must drink to survive, but end up dying because of the water born diseases.

Enough.
I could share so much more from just this one day.

The whole experience makes me fall to my knees and cry out, “Oh My God…What can I do to be more of your hands and feet.

So many people give up on God because they don’t understand how a loving God could allow such injustices and horrible conditions for people to live in. God doesn’t allow it. He provided the answer to the problem. Its you and me. When we do nothing to be a part of the solution to this problem. We are the ones who allow such injustices and horrible conditions for people to live in. God has provided us as Americans so much. We must become givers. All our support we give through specifically H4KI…is not used as a welfare program. It is used for training and equipping the African people to become self supporting and learn how to provide for themselves so they may prosper. To whom much is given much is required.

You are the answers to so many people’s prayers. People are praying to God right now asking for God to intervene in thier lives and pull them from such horrible situations. God created you and me to be the answer to their prayers.
Oh My God!
Trent


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