Monday, March 10, 2008

Our New Home

It has definitely been awhile since we last posted an update. It may give some indication as to what life has been like since returning from Uganda.

Eric has kept very busy with his CRWRC work. He is currently in Uganda helping orientate the new person that will take his position. It sounds as if everything is going smoothly. I must admit that I have been a little envious though over this past month as he has relayed information to me from our friends in Uganda.

I have been busy with getting outstanding medical issues dealt with. This process has meant a lot of recovery time. I have also contracted about every flu and cold that has been out there this season. Eric also got malaria after being back in the US for over a month. However, we are on the mend now. God has been so comforting during this transition.

We are both currently looking for jobs. Eric has several possibilities so we are just waiting to see which doors open up. We believe that we are going to be living around Springfield, OH. This is good as we had an offer accepted on a house in Springfield and will close on March 20th. It was one of the very sad foreclosure homes in the area. I have been through many foreclosed homes, and it is so sad to see such great properties becoming ruined as they await their next owner. I am sad for those that have lost their homes and pray that their needs are being met.

Thanks to those of you that are still checking this site to see if we ever post anything. We will try to keep you better informed over the next month as major decisions are made.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Response to AB's Comment Box Question...

Wood burning brick and clay stove

Making different shapes and sizes of rolls and bread

Mixing the ingredients without a modern mixer

Rolling the dough

Signs leading to Kucwiny community

Well, it's been a while since our last post. But we thought you would want to know that we have both arrived safely back in the US and been reunited. We'll catch you up in another post about our doings since making it back. For now, I thought we should take a few minutes and respond to a question left by AB in the comment box regarding the bread baking process used by the members of the Kucwiny community group.

I am adding pictures of the bread making process, as well as the wood burning clay oven for your review. The bread may look yellow-ish. This is due to the yellow food coloring they add, as that apprently helps with sales. The other main difference is that they would add more sugar than normal. This, too, is to make their product more marketable to the general public who might like their bread a touch sweeter to make it a desert item as well. They bake the bread in a variety of shapes - roles, buns, bread sticks, loavs, etc.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Last Word from Uganda

I am posting our last monthly reflection written in Uganda as our last word before leaving indefinitely for the US. My (Eric) departure for Ohio is just hours away. We are grateful that we were allowed these 15 months here in Africa. Blessings to you all and we'll see you on the other side. Hopefully I'll be able to post more pictures when I arrive in the US, as the internet speed has made this difficult here....

This will be the last reflection written to you from Uganda. In a short while our time here will come to a close and a new era in our lives will begin. These points of transition often give one pause – they are a time to ruminate on the direction one’s life is taking and to contemplate where one’s life has been. One question I (Eric) have been asking myself is, “What will I miss from my time here in northwestern Uganda?” The answer to this question is manifold. I could speak of the dear friends and colleagues that have played important roles in our work and lives this past year; I could speak of the beauty of the clear, star studded sky when staying over in a village with no threat of light pollution; I could speak of the warmth and hospitality with which we have been greeted and welcomed by partners and communities; I could speak of the resilient people we have interacted with, befriended, and served during our time here.

While I could easily speak about the above items, and many more like them, I have chosen instead to discuss one part of our reality here in northwestern Uganda that, yes, I will miss, but that also provides an analogy for the transition experience we are going through. Uganda is a beautiful country. I have found this to be especially true of our area of operation in the West Nile region. I have spent a great deal of time traveling this past year to and from Kampala in the southeast. But I always experience a lightening of the heart when I cross Pakwatch Bridge and return to the familiarity and beauty of West Nile. West Nile is full of grand vistas overlooking shaded valleys with grassy hills rolling off into the distance and the occasional babbling brook running through. Everywhere you drive, the landscape is incredibly alive and full of every shade of green that you can possibly think of. I will miss being surrounded by this inspiring scenery, even as I look ahead, intent on the road before me as it cuts through the lush countryside like a gray paved or red clay scar.

The other day I made my last community visit. In my drive home from Kucwiny, a small village nestled in the middle of the Padyere grasslands, I found myself contemplating the theme of life as a journey. What I discovered was that I could only really know the road that stretched out behind me. I could know what I had passed by, what I had seen, what I had experienced. But the road ahead was always less certain. There are many bends in that road; there are many points at which you cannot see what is around the next turn. Our life journey has brought us to such a bend in the road. We are peering around it, trying to know what is next, trying to understand the situation we have been faced with. But while there is uncertainty in driving into the unknown, we can still have the confidence that comes from the knowledge that God has ordered our journey up to this point and the faith that God has, “plans to give [us] hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I could say many things about where I draw hope from during times of transition, but I will mention just one. I personally feel hopeful when I am mindful of the fact that the road representing my life is just one among many such roads. Every heart that beats this day, every life that has ever existed, is also on a journey. In the end, all these life journeys flow into the great story of our time, that is, the history of the entire world. And as when I cross over Pakwatch Bridge and enter back into West Nile, it brings a sense of lightness to my heart when I remember that the path the world is on will one day bring it back to a beautiful country. Indeed, the day is coming, and could even be upon us, when the world will pass over a bridge representing the old order of things and enter into a country that resemble, but also magnifies, the former glory of the Creation. It will be a land marked with rolling hills, shaded valleys, babbling brooks, and grand vistas. It will be a country full of life, hope, and promise. This land is not West Nile. This land is called New Earth.

“Behold,” cries God in Isaiah 65, “I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will fee together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.”

Amen! What a beautiful destination we are heading toward!

All of life is transition. But we can hold on to the certainty that in New Earth, as explained in Revelations 21, “the dwelling of God [will be] with men, and he will live with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” The trick, I think, is to act as if it were wholly up to us to get the world to this point, to pray as if it were wholly up to God, and to live as if the beauty of New Earth were already an undeniable and present reality both in our hearts and in the world today. Even as I prepare for this last trip out of Uganda, even as I leave West Nile behind for the foreseeable future, I wish you God’s blessings in your own life journey.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Kucwiny Community Visit

Kucwiny community members gathering for a visit under the shade of a mango tree

Things have been busy of late. I (Eric) returned Saturday evening to Uganda from a trip to Zambia for some regional CRWRC meetings. I will try to upload some pictures from my last community visit which I snuck in before leaving for Zambia. I stayed a couple of days in Kucwiny. So far in Kucwiny they have three core groups specializing in various activities, though there is a lot of integration between the various programs.

The Archdeaconry Planning and Development Committee (APDC) in Padyere Archdeaconry, which covers Kucwiny, visits the groups regularly to train them on the latest technologies and techniques so that the hard work of the community members yields the greatest harvest possible. CRWRC works to build up the capacity of the APDCs (we work with 6 in West Nile) in partnership with the Church Diocese so that they can have a deep impact on the communities they work with. Using such an indirect approach ensures that the program is more community-based, sustainable and locally owned. In short, there is a lot of value added to our inputs because we work through pre-established institutions. In our case, the local institution is the Church of Uganda which is the largest protestant denomination in Uganda.

One core group that the Padyere APDC works with in Kucwiny is an agriculture group. This core group has planted thus far this year fields of corn, sunflowers, peanuts and potatos. Some of what they harvest is consumed by the community members as food, some is kept back to re-plant during the next planting season, some is put into a revolving loan fund to support community members and some is sold for extra income for the community members and their households.

The second core group is made up of members, most of them from participating churches, that make up a diaconal ministry team. What the team does is provide informal and culturally appropriate assistance in the areas of counseling, discipleship training and conflict resolution when called upon by families or individuals in distress.

The last core group is made up of women who have started their own bakery business. They meet once a week to make bread, roles, cakes, etc. to sell to the local population for income for their community. Most of the women have taken the techniques taught to the group and use them to bake and sell bread out of their houses to increase the income of their families as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This will be the last blog posted by Team Smith from the Arua office. Tomorrow begins the final departure from what has been home for over a year now for the capital of Uganda. The remainder of my (Eric) time in Africa will be taken up with meetings both in Kampala and Zambia. It has been a memorable adventure and I wish our friends and colleagues in West Nile fulfilled lives.

Below are a couple of pictures from a strategic visioning workshop held in Koboko for community group leaders. We spent a total of three successful days together developing consensus on the future of their groups and the Koboko Archdeaconry program that serves to knitt them together.

The participants working hard in their groups. Each group gave themselves a name. The group in foreground of the picture is "Kunya," meaning, "Take Courage." Other groups had names referring to esprit de corps, overcoming the odds, etc...

Groups drawing their answers to the questions, "what does a developed person look like?" and, "what does a developed community look like?"

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Fishing boats on the Nile just down the hill from Junam archdeaconry headquarters

A view of the mighty Murchison Falls from on top of the canyon

Pakwatch Bridge - just one of two Nile River crossings on our way from Kampala to Arua

The following is the monthly reflective piece we wrote for the August newsletters of our supporting churches. Just thought you might like to read this one....

The Nile River is associated with the country of Egypt when in fact the source to this mighty river is Lake Victoria in Uganda. Our first night in Uganda was spent at the Buziga guest house which is within sight of this truly great lake. So it is that we had the privilege of watching the sun rise above the lake our first morning in Africa, the light of the orange orb reflecting colorfully off the faded blue waters below. Since that first morning, we have had the opportunity to get to know the Nile River more intimately during our many trips to our home in Arua from the capital, Kampala.

We like to stop at Karuma Falls, which marks the half-way point between Arua and Kampala, to stretch our legs, eat a picnic lunch, and enjoy the beauty and power of the river as it cascades, churns, and roils across rocks, jetties, and drops. We also enjoy passing over the Nile River on the Pakwach Bridge, a couple of hours from home. The banks around the bridge harbor good wallowing spots for elephants. During our most recent trip we took the time to visit our favorite spot on the Nile, Murchison Falls. One can either take a scenic boat ride along crocodile and hippo festooned banks toward the bottom of the falls, or drive off the main road for a ways to reach where it is forced from a mile-wide river through a nine meter rock corridor. The thunder and roar is deafening and invigorating and the spray droplets come falling down on you like rain.

Water has become an important part of our life here in Uganda, much as it was and is an important part of life in the Middle East. The Bible is replete with references to water. And there’s a beautiful symmetry to be found in the imagery that is used. The first chapter of Genesis opens with the account of how, “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” So begins the creation account. Then, in the last chapter of the book of Revelations, we find the same Spirit of God calling out to mankind, saying, “Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” We are indeed fallen if we do not marvel with King David, “who is man that this God that created all things in heaven and on earth should be mindful of him; should offer him the free gift of the water of life defiant as he is?”

In between the first and last chapter of the Bible, the same imagery is used by poets speaking softly of lying, “down in green pastures,” and being led by “quite waters” (Psalm 23) and by prophets crying aloud, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5). Most importantly, we find this imagery used in the gospel accounts where we find Christ, for example, affirming to the woman at the well that, “indeed, the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4). But it is at Christ’s death that we come to understand the full depth of what this reference to life-giving water means. At the crucifixion, we read, blood and water flowed out of Christ’s body after his side was pierced by a Roman spear. The water, along with the blood, represents God’s grace, forgiveness, good will, peace, love, sacrifice, righteousness and so much more on so many levels.

Isaiah both described and expounded upon Christ’s death when he prophesied, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53). How amazing it is that this event would be so accurately and poetically portrayed by the prophet centuries before it occurred. And how much more amazing it is that Christ, who was present before time and through whom all things have their being, would be willing to step into human history and sacrifice so much in order to offer us peace and healing!

Christ’s broken body was resurrected to wholeness on the third day. While His physical body was later taken into heaven at the ascension, His figurative body, the universal Church, still exists in the world today. And just as Christ’s physical body was once pierced and crushed, there are times when members of Christ’s figurative body feel beaten and broken. While we can in no way compare our experiences this past year to that of the crucifixion, the fact is that we have felt emotionally bruised at times. This was certainly the case when we recently made the very difficult decision to phase out of our Arua position and return to the US where proper treatment for certain health concerns can be found. This decision was absolutely necessary, but the issues associated with it have been difficult to understand and hard to come to terms with.

And yet, through the bruising has come the realization that the figurative body of Christ, the Church family to which we all belong, continues to represent hope just as Christ’s physical body did to the apostles two thousand years ago. Your encouragement, prayer, and support of both our ministry and of us have been for this past year a stream of life-giving water. We thank you for allowing Christ to work His good work in our hearts through you, our dear family, friends, colleagues, supporters, and brothers and sisters in Christ. We are grateful to each and every one of you and our hope is that we will be able one day to pass along the same message of peace and healing that you have given us throughout this oftentimes exciting, and sometimes trying, period of mission work with CRWRC in Uganda.

We pray God’s rich blessings on you in your lives of service to the Almighty, who is the source of the river of life (Revelations 22). Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


It has been a long time. What started out as a routine trip to Kampala at the end of June turned into anything but routine. I became extremely ill while in Kampala. It was the most sick that I have ever felt in my life. After several trips to see Dr. Stockley and three nights at International Hospital Kampala, I was emergency flighted to Nairobi Hospital. I spent five nights at this hospital. After many, many tests, the only thing that they could say was that I had some extremely acute virus. We stayed in Nairobi for a few days after being released from the hospital for more reviews with the doctors. Eventually we made it back to Arua for a very brief stay before leaving with my mom on a planned vacation in Kenya. Unfortunately, I became very ill again while in Kenya. I saw the doctors a couple of more times, but some of the symptoms are still persisting. It has been a very long couple of months. Thank you so much for your prayers and concerns during this time. Eric has been stretched extremely thin with my illness and his continuing work.

Before we even made the original trip to Kampala, I was having to take a lot steroids to ease my chronic health issues. It was at this point that we decided that I was not really being able to live my life here and that we should return to the US. I tell you this with a lot sadness from dashed hopes and dreams. We have come to love Arua and the community that we share here. We believe that God has control of even what is happening now. I know that he has a purpose for us and a plan for us even if it looks different that what we believed it to be a year ago. We have peace with our decision even though it comes with some pain.

As it is still necessary for me to continue receiving medical treatment, our exit from Arua will be very rapid. Eric and I will leave Arua next Thursday. I will leave that weekend for the US. Eric will return to Arua until Sept. 18th and then have a couple more weeks in Kampala. At that point, the office in Arua will be closed until a replacement is found. Eric will be continuing to work for CRWRC and with our partners here in West Nile until at the most January, 2008, or until a replacement is found. Ideally he will return to Uganda for handover once the new person is hired.

We ask for your prayers during this transition. Eric and I are not looking forward to more time apart, but it seemed absolutely necessary in this situation. We will be moving back to Ohio where I will begin looking for a job once I am fully recovered. As there are so many unknowns (where we will live, what kind of job will I search for, what church will we attend, etc.), we covet your prayers. One of the things that makes me very sad is that our faithful househelp, Grace (bread Grace), will no longer have employment once we leave. Please pray for her as she seeks other employment. We also have a cat that needs a home so please pray for Milo too.