Thanks be to God! We are safely back in Cambodia, with one day remaining in our third 14 day quarantine in 5 months. Let’s just say that we don’t recommend movement between countries during a pandemic! While the summer had many encouragements, it was disappointing for us to miss out on connecting with supporters and churches.
The Lord gave us grace through a host of logistics to return to Phnom Penh. First, we were able to obtain new visas through a church/business connection. Second, the Cambodian government has rightly instituted a rigorous screening and entry process (the national case count is under 300, with no reported Covid-19 deaths, and they are committed to preserving that). Here’s the short version: proof of insurance, cash deposit, pre-flight Covid tests, medical certificates, round two of testing in the airport on arrival, hotel quarantine while awaiting results, and round three of testing prior to the end of at-home quarantine. We’re so thankful for all those who helped us through both sides of the process, from writing testing orders to dropping groceries at the door of our sublet.
Five days ago, just when we were about to get bored (ok, not really), the government announced that churches are allowed to reopen. We arrived just in time! After 6 months of online worship, this is welcome news, but it comes with a long list of mandated restrictions, including limiting attendance to adults only. There’s much to negotiate, but we thank God for open doors to begin worshipping together and rejoice in the figuring out new ways to connect the CCOP church family.
Despite its low case numbers, Cambodia has been deeply affected by Covid-19, with the near shutdown of tourism and a dramatic decrease in garment factory work. Our friends and church members who work in anti-trafficking tell us that they are seeing pronounced spikes in trafficking, particularly of children, due to increased economic hardship in impoverished families. Lord, have mercy.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Naye ekisuubirwa ekirabika si kusuubira, kubanga ani asuubira ky’alabako? Naye bwe tusuubira kye tutalabako, tukirindirira n’okugumiikiriza.
Dear Friends –
Our last (and as it happens, the first) newsletter was titled “In the Waiting Room for Uganda”. We’re still in that waiting room. Like so many people in so many ways, adapting to a life of sustained uncertainty as we wait out COVID-19, and its transformative effect on our plans.
We had anticipated beginning our lives in Uganda by now. In that storyline, we would be making a home out of a faculty apartment somewhere on the Uganda Christian University campus. We imagine that we would have been choosing among furnishings for the apartment between chairs and table sets that might be floating around the aftermarket of UCU faculty members and expat missionaries in Mukono or Kampala or even as far as Jinja. We might have decided to commission the making of a bed from one of the many furniture craftsmen in Mukono Town who set their products made from handsome African woods in the hard-pack lots in front of their shops along Lower Bishop Tucker Road, or along the A-109 or one of its side streets. Catherine would be checking which vendors in front of which groceries offered the best produce, and we might even have gutted and cleaned our first chicken from the market.
We would be getting more and more familiar with the walks to and from town, down and then back up Bishop Tucker Road, with its mix of ulcerated macadam, mud, and craters for puddles. Most certainly we would have returned home at least once from such a trip splashed with bright red clay mud courtesy of a passing truck. We would have plugged holes in our screens. We would have been familiarizing ourselves with the news announcers on NTV Uganda, along with BBC, Al-Jazeera, and CNN International. We would have been guided to sleep by the nighttime songs of birds we had not yet seen, and awakened by the splendid sunrises over Mukono’s hills, and the dawn call to prayer from the Mosque down the hill and just past the markets on the Jinja Road.
That is a future we can envision, but it is not ours yet. Uganda is still closed to foreign entry. The principal international airport at Entebbe on the other side of Kampala is open only to pre-arranged charters. There is still an early evening curfew that the Uganda National Police enforce in blunt and uncompromising ways. Gatherings larger than ten are not permitted, and churches, schools, and amusements remain closed. Just as here in America, Zoom has largely replaced face-to-face gatherings, and “Isaac, you are still on mute” is as familiar a watch word as it is on this continent. This month, UCU will observe the transition from the administration of Vice Chancellor Rev Dr John Senyonyi (who has become our friend) to that of Vice Chancellor-designate Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, but sadly without the pomp and circumstance from academic tradition that UCU honors like universities anywhere in the world – a tradition that at least at UCU expresses in ceremony the university’s vision to be “a centre of excellence in the heart of Africa”.
Then, out of the blue in the midst of waiting, Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of June. It was detected at a very early stage, before spreading beyond the prostate. Our first months of retirement in June and July wound up dedicated to the tasks of selecting among treatment options, choosing laparascopic surgery, scheduling and having the surgery, and now recovering from the surgery. Laparascopy is a miracle procedure, an improvement on prior surgical techniques, even so for the first few days, in Richard’s words, “it feels like taking a fence post in the gut”. He’s slowly and steadily on the road back, and adding incremental distance to his morning and evening walks.
The juxtaposition of remaining in a waiting mode in a time of uncertainty, combined with an unwelcome cancer diagnosis, plus the inconveniences of surgery with a couple of complications has driven home for us a lesson worth learning and holding onto. Gratitude and hope are not sentiments. They are disciplines. Yes, it is frustrating to live in our small “it was meant to be temporary” apartment in Silver Spring. It is frustrating not yet to be able to begin the adventure toward which we have oriented our lives. But Richard’s prostate cancer was discovered here, the surgery was performed here by an expert in the procedure, and his recovery is taking place here – where we live within a walking distance of a drug store for the various supplies upon which we have been relying. And he’s cancer free with no follow-up treatment indicated, which will allow us to head to Uganda when the country finally opens.
A scene from a quiet afternoon on the UCU campus. Much more tranquil than Lower Bishop Tucker Road!
So in this time of waiting, we give thanks. And in this time of uncertainty and frustration, we embrace hope. Not as mere sentiments, but as our anchors. We continue to receive affirmations for our call to serve at UCU. We continue to see the Lord’s hand in this adventure, and continue to see him pointing toward the road that lies ahead. We continue to receive support and encouragement from you, our friends, in a multitude of meaningful ways. In one sense, we’re still in that waiting room, but in another that is equally real, we’re on our journey – to the heart of Africa. Thank you for being with us on that journey.
In faith, Richard and Catherine
PS: We want to celebrate and offer our congratulations to Dr Roselyn Karagonjo-Segawa on her appointment to chair Uganda’s Leadership Code Tribunal. As Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dean Roselyn was to have become our supervisor once we began our work at UCU, and over a couple of years of correspondence as we have been preparing to serve at UCU, Dean Roselyn has also become our friend. She now has a very important job with the Government. The Leadership Code Tribunal is mandated by Uganda’s Constitution to enforce the Leadership Code, including receiving, examining and adjudicating any breach of the code, and to make formal recommendations on disciplinary actions to be taken against a Government officer under its jurisdiction. And it was characteristic of Dean Roselyn’s generous heart that she set up a Zoom call for us to meet her designated successor as Dean before she left UCU. Prayers and blessings, Roselyn, as you take on this important role. https://ucu.ac.ug/component/content/article/83-updates/171-former-ucu-law-dean-sworn-in-as-chairperson-leadership-code-tribunal?Itemid=437
In February, we reported on the work of Missionary Bridger Patrick Lutalo, founder of the Christian apprenticeship program Teach Men to Fish in Uganda. In the midst of the pandemic, Patrick’s team of young disciples has been able to complete the new maternity center in Mityana, Uganda. This facility, built by a group of young adults equipped spiritually and practically in Christ, will be a blessing to the overall health and wellness of mothers and children in the community. See updated pictures below.
SAMS World Relief Fund (WRF) provided a grant towards this project completion. Would you help support practical, incarnational ministry in Christ with a gift to SAMS WRF? We thank God for the generosity of Senders equipping Missionaries to provide relief in this increasingly tragic time for our world. In this case, SAMS WRF also helped provide funds for development through local Ugandan youth. We praise God for Patrick’s enthusiasm to mentor these young adults in Christ.
,SAMS missionaries are still serving and sharing the gospel in the places they are called during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are living out their Great Commission call, and the SAMS’ incarnational service value.
The Rev. Tom Furrer leads Kateri Medical Services, a medical ministry to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria. Tom received a World Relief Fund grant to provide personal protective equipment [PPE] to all of the clinic’s staff. The funds have also been used to purchase sanitizing equipment and food for the people they serve.
Below is the transcript of Tom’s video update:
Hello. I’m the Reverend Tom Furrer. I’m an associate missionary with SAMS, and also I am the executive director of Kateri Medical Services. And we work in conjunction with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. We have six clinics in Nigeria, in partnership with local dioceses, wherever we are. And our goal is to bring simple, decent, affordable medical care to the rural and urban poor in Nigeria.
Nigeria has a population of about 180,000,000 people. Half of whom, 50% about 90 million people live on less than $2 a day. And those are the people we try to reach with our medical clinics. Those who can’t afford medical care otherwise. So, we run six clinics. And just recently, SAMS through your World Relief Fund has given us a grant of $3,000.
And what we did with that grant of $3,000 was we bought PPE’s personal protective equipment for all of the staff of our six medical clinics. And we bought sanitizer equipment. So [they] have a sanitizer station and each of the medical clinics. So patients and staff could wash their hands and sanitize their hands regularly.
We also bought face masks for people in the churches, because the churches have a lot of very poor people in them and can’t afford face masks, and the government requires facemasks to be worn in churches. And lastly, we also purchased food because of the lockdown there. Just like in this country, a lot of people on the bottom of the economic ladder, when you have a lockdown, they have no means of income. And so, people are starving to death. The churches there are trying as best they can to bring food; just basic sacks of grain for people who don’t have anything to eat. And so, because of your grant, we were able to buy some food for those folks.
And if we get more grants, we’ll buy more food. So, we want to thank you very much for this great grant that you’ve given us. And we have added that with our own funds, so that we’ve supplied about $12,000 worth of PPEs, sanitizer equipment and food for the rural and urban poor in Nigeria. So we on behalf of all of them, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.
SAMS missionaries are still serving and sharing the gospel in the places they are called during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are living out their Great Commission call, and the SAMS’ incarnational service value.
Jacky Lowe, missionary in Madagascar, received a World Relief Fund grant to build concrete benches at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Toliara, providing work for local builders and businesses. This video update is from Jacky who serves at the Women’s Center on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral compound in the Diocese of Toliara. Jacky is helping to establish the Women’s Center and is an anchor for prayer within the Diocese. As Jacky mentions in her video, people travel on foot for hours for meetings and services at the cathedral, and the old benches on the compound were recently eaten by termites.
Below is the transcript of Jacky’s video update:
Hello. My name is Jackie Lowe and I’m a missionary in Madagascar. I live on the St. Patrick’s cathedral compound in Toliara, where I work at the women’s center. I also live in the women’s center. In the afternoons when I’m there, I sit on two benches by the labyrinth and these two benches are made of wood.
And in 2018, and again in 2019, they made a wonderful banquet for the termites. So at the end of 2019, I decided we needed to build some benches for people to sit on made of a material that was not edible. Piave, the night watchman helped me. He got a quote for the benches, for the materials and for the building.
I returned to the US in January 2020 to raise the money for the two benches. They cost $125 each. The bare materials for the benches were purchased in Toliara. So it helped the businesses. And local men built the benches. Beanie, one of the women who works at the center, her son actually helped. So many people were helped. On my return, I learned that SAMS had a world relief fund offering grants to missionaries, and I applied. They awarded me $1,200 to build more benches on the compound. The benches will be built by the building committee and they will decide where they are. They will provide a place for people to sit and pray or read their Bible, or just to meet with others.
Many people walk an hour each way to come to the cathedral for meetings and services. So the benches will provide rest for them. If you are interested in helping to build more benches, if five people donate $25, that’s enough for one bench. Thank you for listening and thank you for helping. May God bless you.
Because of a lack of proper sanitation facilities at the Trinity School for Ministry and Theology at Airahu in the Solomon Islands, faculty and staff, including SAMS Missionary Jonathan Hicks, were forced to send students training to become pastors home when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Thanks to the support of SAMS senders giving to the World Relief Fund, the seminary is receiving funds to build the proper facilities to support students in their studies.
SAMS missionary Jonathan Hicks provides this update to show where the new facility is planned. Video transcript is below:
George: Welcome to Airahu School of Ministry and Theology. I’ve been here for attending this school for three years. I am just walking around in the campus with Father Jonathan to show how campus is like.
Jonathan Hicks: We wanted to give you a picture of our bathroom situation.
This is the road that leads to our outdoor pit. And the new plan is to make a bathroom facility that would go underneath the new, the dormitory. Here’s some of the housing, that’s our house. And then over there, you can see the site where the school was founded as well as the new classroom building, and then this is the dorm here.
So we had to send our students home because of the COVID outbreak, because of a lack of water and sanitation. And our, our hope has been to put a sanitation block under this building here. And, thanks to your help, it looks like we’ll be able to put in a block that will have two shower heads and two toilets as well as two rain tanks as well. So this is, these are the students at Trinity. And they’re just having their breakfast before class right now. And that’s the site of the new sanitation block.
George: That’s all. I’d like to thank you for your generous support towards this project. And we are very happy for the support you give to us. Thank you.