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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last Post from Africa

Vocational Handover

Unofficial Church Sign

Sister Bean and Baby Sarah
Sudan Hut

With the VP of Southern Sudan

Dear Family and Friends:

This will be our last blog coming from Uganda.  We will leave here on Friday, October 31st and fly to London where we will spend two days and then fly home to Seattle.  We should be home on Sunday, November 2nd.  We cannot believe it is time to go home and still remember the day we arrived and Elder and Sister Call picked us up at the Entebbe Airport.  Today is Sunday and we went to the Kololo chapel to watch October conference.  Uganda receives the conference on a disk, so we see it later than the live broadcast.  So many people spoke with us and wished us well and told how much they would miss us.  It was very emotional.  If anyone had told us a year and a half ago that we would have mixed emotions about leaving, we would have questioned that statement.  We have so many friends and people we love here. Tomorrow night will also be hard because we are going to visit our little branch and take most of our clothes and other things to give to them for distribution.  It will be hard to tell them goodbye.  Thursday night is a going away party at the mission president’s home and the couples will all be there, and that will also be a very emotional meeting.

Our replacements, Elder and Sister Glenn from Salt Lake City, have now arrived. We liked them immediately and they will do a wonderful job.  They have a very exciting mission and adventure ahead of them.  They have been here for less than a week and we have taken them to witness five project handovers. They have been very good sports, as we know they must still be experiencing some jet lag. We are closing most of our projects as we will be leaving very soon. We held a sewing and knitting machine handover at a small medical clinic to help them buy medicine for their patients. We also had a handover where we distributed 20 wheelchairs to the physically handicapped and the rest of the 750 chairs will be distributed shortly.  We commissioned 26 newly protected spring wells and officially turned them over to the communities where they are located.  We launched a poultry project to benefit a teenage center here in Kampala and also gave away 26 cows, 80 goats, 60 pigs and the necessary veterinary drugs to 10 groups of 30 women residing in 7 different adjacent villages. Many other women in the villages will be helped when they receive offspring from the donated animals..

 One of the memorable handovers was at a small school that was newly launched.  The Church gave them sewing and knitting machines, wood working tools and paint for the outside of their building, among other things.  The man in charge told us to wait at the top of the hill before we came to the school for the handover.  We had also invited the missionary couples to join us Elders and Sisters, Wilkes, Giles, Libby’s and Nye’s.  We all formed a line with our trucks at the top of the hill and soon a big brass marching band in full uniform came up the street, turned around in front of our line of trucks, and led us slowly down the road.  We drove past little huts, houses and schools, with the band playing marching music.  We were a missionary parade.  All along the way people came out of their houses and kids came out of the schools and waved to us as we passed.  The kids shouted, “Hello Muzungus”.  We felt like very important people being escorted to the school by a very loud marching band, and we all waved and smiled and really enjoyed it.  We took pictures and felt very important. 

We have three more handovers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and wonder when we will have time to pack or sleep..  It does seem a little unreal that we will be going home in a few days, but we are excited to see our family, our house, and be back in the United States. 

We will be back in time to cast our vote.  The U.S. election is causing a lot of excitement here and people have been following the campaign religiously.  They are asking all of us who we will be voting for. As you might guess, everyone here loves Obama   The Ugandans love him because he is African and Kenya of course claims him as one of their own.  Kenya is already making plans to renovate their airport so it will be big enough for Air Force One to land.  They will call it the Obama National Airport. 

We have had a very busy and interesting month and October has just flown by.  We went to the Sudan on October 1st and stayed there through October 6th.  We accompanied President and Sister Christensen and the two assistants to the president.  The President wanted to check out how many members are there, if they have been properly baptized and what their needs might be.  Our job was to identify sites for 10 boreholes, and latrines and to assess any need for wheelchairs and school supplies.  We flew from Uganda to Juba, which is the capital of Southern Sudan.  Juba is a one hour flight from the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and is located on the Nile River. Upon arrival we were met by Bishop Enos Lanogwa from Kenya, who is a public affairs person for the Church, and has important contacts in Juba, one of which is Dr. Rick Machar, the vice president of Southern Sudan.  He took us to the parliament building where they were holding the Government of Southern Sudan 6th Governor’s Forum (GOSS).  The room was set up like a United Nations meeting with seats in a circular formation and we all had ear phones for translation purposes.  There are 10 states in Southern Sudan and all governors were present and spoke, plus a few representatives from the United Nations.

 We sat for at least three hours in this meeting and when it was finished at about 7:00 pm, the vice-president invited us into his private office and we met with him and explained what we wanted to do in his country.  He was very gracious and certainly approved of the Church moving in to the country and liked the idea of the help we were offering.  He had his photographer take an official picture of our group and we then went to our hotel, which was pretty expensive, $250.00,  for what we got.  The next morning we flew on a small prop plane into a town called Aweil.  This town was pretty far into the interior of Southern Sudan..  It is a two hour flight from Juba and we flew over vast uninhabited land, except for a few grass huts here and there.

 Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is very different from Uganda.  It is not as tropical, nor has it progressed as far.  It is still, I would guess, backward and unchanged and has not progressed like some other African countries.. One of the reasons is that it has seen constant war in many different areas since it gained independence.  It is a very poor country and the area we were in had recently experienced severe flooding.  The Sudan is almost like two countries, they have Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan and they have two different governments.  They do not get along very well and Southern Sudan is trying to gain its independence from the north so it can become a separate country.  This is causing a lot of trouble between the two regions.

Upon reaching Aweil, we landed on a dirt airstrip, after the cows, chickens and goats had been shooed away.  The other unsettling thing, was that as we were about to land, we looked down and saw quite a few wrecked aircraft lining the airstrip. However, we landed safely and headed for our hotel, which was to be our home for four nights.  The hotel was not especially a plush hotel and we didn’t sleep very well as there were no sheets on the mattress and the mattress was lumpy and the we had only one pillow, which was like a sack of cement  There were no towels and when we asked for a towel, they told us to go to the market and buy one.  We went to the market and all we could find were wash cloths, so we dried on a wash cloth. The first morning our outside door handle broke off and we couldn’t get out of our room. It was not a very clean place, but everyone was a good sport and we had a few laughs and did one-up-man ship on who had the worst room.  Also it cost us $180.00 a night.

The prevalent tribe that inhabits Southern Sudan is the Dinkas.  They are very very tall, very skinny and quite dark, darker than the Ugandans.  Even the little kids are very tall. They look like the wood carvings you see of African people with a robe over one shoulder.   I just couldn’t get over their height.  They speak the Dinka language and are quite handsome.

We drove to a village called Nyamlel where there is a large settlement of people who call themselves members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There is a handwritten sign on the road with an arrow pointing to a large area with a thatched roof-like structure, which is the Church building.  The sign read “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. These people have not been baptized, but want to be members very badly.  They had been given Church literature in the past and knew somewhat of the doctrine. Theyare anxious to be baptized members of the Church.  President Christensen told them they had to first be taught more about the Church before being baptized and he held training sessions for the people that could speak English and asked them then to teach the others.

 The village also has over 700 orphans who had in the past been kidnapped by Arabs in the north and recently the Save the Children organization had negotiated their release and brought them back to this village and just dropped them there, so there were many children without parents.  It was an unbelievable situation, there were children everywhere.  They are being cared for by the Latter-day Saint people and I suppose this care is pretty minimal because of their great numbers.  We held Sunday service by the hut-like structure and Sister Christensen and I held Relief Society under a tree.  We used a translator and we told the women a little bit about ourselves and then asked them to come forward and tell us about themselves or ask any questions they would like.  Most of them told us they needed medicine and a health clinic.  They also wanted education for their children and they wanted to be official members of the Church.  Their plight is very sad and you could see that a lot of them had health problems.

Ron and I spent a few days on our own meeting with the Water District and talking with people who had drilled boreholes in the area and speaking with NGO’s that operate in that area.  We have since sent a request to the Church asking them to approve the drilling of 10 boreholes, the constructing of 10 latrines and have requested 300 wheelchairs and also provide some school supplies for the village of Nyamlel.  We are pretty sure this project will get approved and will leave it up to the new couple to follow through.  It was a very interesting and also a very sad experience.  These people are the poorest we have seen in Africa and need so many things.  There was flooding in the area and a lot of people had made temporary shelters along the road while their small huts were half submerged under water.  We were grateful to have gone there and at least we have started to place a few projects in motion, which will give a great boost to the area.

We are very humbled and grateful for the blessings we receive as members of the Church and for the abundance that we enjoy every day of our lives.  It is a big reality check when we see how many people live. They  have very little, and are without adequate medical help, without adequate food and live in very poor circumstances and then to see how much we have and take for granted.  We are grateful for this reminder of how blessed we really are.

We are well, happy and look forward to see all of our family and friends.  We love all of you and really appreciate the support, love and interest you have shown to us during our mission.

See you soon, Elder and Sister Bean

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

August/September -- One Month to Go!

Dear Family and Friends:

The time is now very short and soon we will be finished with our mission.  We have mixed feelings about that.  We are anxious to come home and reunite with our family and friends, but we also feel a great love and bond with the people here and also we will miss the work.  We have set our departure date for October 31, 2008.  We will do a two day stay over in London where we have purchased tickets to see the musical “Wicked” and also want to do a little sightseeing.  We are set to arrive in Seattle on Sunday, November 2, 2008.  We sometimes lie in bed at night and imagine what it will be like to drive on the right side of the road, with the steering wheel on the left and on a smooth surfaced road.  We imagine the trip from our home in Mukilteo to Pam and Matt’s house in Lynnwood or Brian and Nicole’s house in Bonney Lake and try to visualize the turns while staying on the right side of the road.

The last six weeks will be going very fast and we have projects lined up to cover the complete time.  We have been asked by President and Sister Christensen to go with them to the Sudan to check out the water situation there and to see if it is feasible for the Church to drill a few bore holes as a prelude to getting the Church accepted and established in that country.  Right now our mission consists of the countries of Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda.  President Christensen would like to expand that to include the Sudan.  We will be leaving on October 1st and will fly into a town called Juba.  From there we will take a small plane and land in a village in the interior.  From that village we will drive a car to a village called Aweil.  We have met with a few contractors and people who have done some drilling in the Sudan and so far it sounds like it is a very hard thing to do.  The country is vast, very poverty stricken, totally undeveloped and still has conflicts and wars in many of the areas.  This country has not been free of war and turmoil since it gained independence.  President Christensen feels there are many people there waiting to hear the gospel and join the Church.  President and Sister Christensen have made one trip there and feel it has great potential for the Church to be established.

 We are also considering asking the Church to send wheelchairs to be distributed in that area, but we are not sure who we can partner with to get them into the country.  There doesn’t seem to be a very solid government, nor many regulations, etc.  We will check that out when we arrive.  Anyway, we are excited and a little apprehensive, but we will have the honor of being the first missionaries the Church has sent into that country, even though it is basically a fact finding trip.

We had four people visit with us from Salt Lake City this past week, one couple is a large donor to the humanitarian fund.  We took them to see several of our project, which included the upland rice project, piggery, pineapple project and several protected springs that we developed in the Wakiso District.  We also took them to a handover in the Kamuli District.  This is the District where we renovated 25 boreholes and drilled 15 new ones.  We also supplied 10 schools with a water catchment system and provided pit latrine slabs and mosquito nets to the community as a bonus for cleaning up their areas and digging pit latrines.  Our visitors loved the dancing and music that usually ccompanies these handovers.  The district presented the male visitors a kanzu (long white robes that the men wear for formal occasions) each and the women with necklaces and handicrafts.  The kanzus were beautifully made, all by hand with tiny little stitches that were works of art in themselves.  We visited several boreholes and at one of the boreholes there were African drummers and native dancers waiting to perform for us, as well as local media to report the activities. This borehole was decorated with flowers and ribbon and we cut the ribbon and officially handed over the water supply to the community.  The people had also decorated the borehole with two palm branches decorated with beautiful flowers.  The flower laden palm branches were planted in the ground on either side of the entrance to the borehole.. We understand that this is a great honor and is only done on very important occasions.  For example one is displayed when the President of Uganda visits or some prominent person dies.  Evidently the Church was being highly honored because of its contribution of clean water to thousands of people.

A few weeks ago, we also launched the second phase of a water project in another district. This was also covered by the media and an article was printed in the newspaper. We feel that the Church is finally getting a lot of recognition for its efforts and contributions made in Uganda.  We are seeing a lot more articles regarding these handovers in the local papers and media.  We also know that this helps the young missionaries when they approach people and identify what Church they represent. At Church on Sunday a whole school class of students, about 25 or so, in their nice green school uniforms came to investigate the Church because they had a borehole constructed on their school grounds and they wanted to attend the Church that provided it.  A lot more people are now aware of the work being done by the Church here.  We meet with organizations on Wednesdays and have also seen an increase in the people that are coming to us hoping to partner and receive help. 

We have checked on some of our other projects the past few weeks and we are especially happy with the pineapple project.  The pineapple plants are now about three feet high, healthy and flourishing.  The price of pineapple has gone up considerably, so our organization of women should do very well.  We remember when we first visited their field and it was nothing but heavy bush, trees and thick foliage.  Now it is a wonderful pineapple plantation.  The women are very hard working and work in shifts around the clock.  I actually cried when we left.  Rose the leader of the women in this project and the woman we dearly love, was standing in the field waving good bye as our truck pulled away.  I fear I will never see her again or that beautiful pineapple field and it was very emotional for both of us.  She always gives us something from her garden as we leave.  The people here are very generous with the little they have.

Our vocational project to provide training materials to an organization operating in two cities was handed over recently.  It consisted of sewing machines and materials, knitting machines, salon hair dryers, and welding equipment.  They are so excited to receive the help and their expressions of gratitude are very humbling.

The second rice project is underway and is doing very well with the small improvements we learned on the first project. The Farmers Association won an award that you can see in the attached photo on their presentation to the national farmers association on the methods that we are using to properly farm, etc.  Chairman Ben is the agricultural minister to the king of Buganda and Mr. Silver, the project manager, is wonderful to work with.  The pigs are doing fine in the piggery and a new batch of little pigs had just arrived when we got there to check on the project.  This is also a very fine healthy project and we know that it is sustainable and will help many people in the future and support the organization in their educational efforts. We still have several projects that are not quite completed and many more that we would like to do, but will have to leave that to the new humanitarians.

Our replacements arrive on October 20th and we will have approximately 10 days to show them around and introduce them to different organizations and individuals.  They are in for a very exciting and wonderful time and I know they will love it as we do.  I for one would just like to leave here in the middle of the night and not have to tell people good bye.  We love our Mengo branch and the people in it.  I have four piano students that I am going to try to transfer to Sister Nye, another senior missionary, who teaches piano.  I have really enjoyed teaching piano lessons.  This is the first time any of them have been taught anything about music and they are enthusiastic and so willing to learn.

The three containers of wheelchairs have finally arrived in Uganda and we will hand them over for distribution in mid-October and launch the largest water and sanitation project that the Church has done in Uganda, as well, before we leave. 

We are really going to miss being here and will miss the people especially.  We love the other senior missionaries and have a very close tie with all of them. They are our tie to home I think. They are wonderful, fun, good natured, and we all help each other very much. We love getting together on Wednesdays for movie night and on Sunday night for Family Home Evening.  We even manage to all go out to dinner once in a while. We hope to keep in touch with them when we are all back in the States.

See you soon, Elder and Sister Bean

Friday, September 19, 2008

Local News Coverage

Here's an article about the great humanitarian work the Church is doing in Uganda (perhaps you can see in it Elder and Sister Bean's fingerprints!). The original can be found at: http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200809190082.html

Kamuli Drills 40 Boreholes

The Monitor (Kampala)

19 September 2008
Posted to the web 19 September 2008

By Moses Mutaka

Kamuli District has taken a step towards improving hygiene by drilling 40 boreholes and shallow wells at a cost of Shs455 million.

Despite the fact that sanitation remains one of the biggest development challenges in Uganda today with 440 people mainly children dying of diarrhoea every day, Kamuli has changed this trend drastically.

The boreholes were drilled in the sub-counties of Butansi, Nabwigulu and Balawoli and some rehabilitated under the water and sanitation project funded by the Latter Day Saints Charities, a US-based religious organisation.

The development was revealed by the district water officer, Mr Charles Kiwalazi, on Wednesday at Naibowa Primary School during the closing of the water and sanitation project.

"It's encouraging to note that Latter Day Saint Charities identified the integrated package of safe water supply, sanitation and education in our district," Mr Kiwalazi said adding that water borne diseases had reduced.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

July Blog -- Matt, Jake and Joe Visit

Handover Ceremony

The Guys on Safari

ATVs on the Nile

Handover Ceremony

In Front of the Branch Building

Dear Family and Friends:

The month of August is already here, but this is our report for the month of July.

We started Phase 2 of the upland rice project with the Mukono Farmer’s Association in July and held the required handover.  This Association is one we partnered with previously and launched the initial upland rice project. We told them if it did well, we would help them with phase 2, which included many more farmers receiving help from the Church in the form of rice seed, fertilizers, farm equipment, pesticides and spray pumps.  This is a great project because after harvesting the rice in six months, the farmer’s return to the organization half the value of the help they received, and then the association in turn trains additional farmers in modern row planning and proper use of fertilizers etc.  We think this project is and will be very successful and it was very pleasant working with their people.  The handover was attended by approximately 100 or so farmers, which were all very grateful for the continued help.  This rice project will help approximately 450 people.

We had a wonderful time this month and enjoyed a visit from our son, Matt (President Latimer) and two of our grandsons, Jacob and Joseph.  They arrived on July 14, 2008 at the Entebbe Airport and we immediately took them to visit the equator.  Uganda is halfway the world between the northern and southern hemisphere. There is a monument at the point of the imaginary line.  A favorite activity here is the water experiment.  For a few shillings you pay an attendant to pour water in a basin and drop in a flower blossom and watch which way it swirls.  At the Equator line, water drops straight down and the blossom falls straight down through the opening.  As we stepped a few feet to the north of the line and then a few feet to the south of the line, the water drained clockwise or anti-clockwise in the different hemispheres and the blossom swirled accordingly.  It was pretty fun and the boys got a certificate saying they had visited the equator.

 The next day we took Matt and the boys to visit the Source of the Nile in Jinja and went on the boat cruise to the exact spot where Lake Victoria flows into the Nile River.  We then rented ATV’s and went four wheeling at Bujagali Falls.  This consisted of each of us having our own ATV. We were provided with helmets, overalls, rubber boots, goggles and scarves, and were given a few minutes of training.  We were shown how to start, brake, shift and otherwise handle these quads and then with a guide in the lead we started off.  We drove on dirt roads through African villages where little kids waved and goats and chickens ran for their lives.  We drove through fields of maize, cabbages, matoke (bananas), and other garden crops.  We passed schools and waved at the kids outside.  We also climbed to the top of a bluff overlooking the Nile River.  We rode along this narrow ridge above the Nile and saw the kayaks and river rafts negotiating the falls.  The river rafting in this area is very popular and includes nine major rapids, four of which are classified as grade 5, so it was fun to watch from above and see how many made it. The scenery was spectacular.  It had rained a little bit that morning and made the road a little muddy in places, but this also kept the dust down and made visibility much better.  Jacob managed to ride through every mud puddle and threw a little mud on his grandmother, who was riding behind him.  It was fun to look ahead and behind and see the guide first and then, Joseph, Jacob, Sister Bean, Matt and Elder Bean in the rear.  It was great fun, we took lots of pictures and we all got back to the start without any injuries.

The next day we all went on safari to Murchison Falls.  It is a fairly long drive from Kampala and is right on the border of the Congo.  The boys were great and enjoyed the sights along the way.  We first visited the top of the falls, which is unbelievable.  This is the place where the Nile River narrows down to a very small gorge and creates this tremendously wild, noisy and beautiful falls.  You can stand on the rocks above and see this thrilling and powerful sight.  While we standing on the rocks watching this wild water go by and head for the falls, a dead hippo came floating down the river, it was on its back and of course very bloated from being in the water and it came rushing by us and went over the Falls.  It was a pretty weird sight and looked like a huge rubber toy. The boys loved it and I think was one of the hi-lights of their trip.  We climbed up to several look out places and took many pictures.  We then drove a few miles to the ferry boat that would take us across the Nile and to our lodge.  While waiting at the landing for the ferry, we saw warthogs, hippos and a huge herd of elephants feeding on the opposite shore.  We did two animal drives, one in the morning and one in the evening and we even saw a leopard lying on a branch of a tree.  Our guide had us drive off road and we headed into the bush and there it was.  The guide told us that not even the guides had seen a leopard in over six months and they go out every day.  So we all got a real treat.  We also saw elephants, giraffes, a monitor lizard, water bucks and many other wonderful things.  The last day we took the river cruise up the Nile, which ended at the base of the falls.  It was a very nice safari.  We stayed three days and then headed back to Kampala.

Saturday we took the family to a handover in a village called Mawaito about a two hour drive from Kampala.  Four villages are involved in the project and the Church had provided the partner organization with 12 pregnant cows, and 5 bicycles for the people who monitor the project.  After the cows give birth, the calves are taken care of until they are old enough to be passed on to another family.  Males are sold and the females, when they are old enough, are impregnated and the cycle continues on.  In time hopefully a lot of families will have a few cows of their own.

Upon our arrival, the villagers ran out to meet our trucks and surrounded us with singing, trilling and drumming.  We were escorted to our seats, which they had covered with pretty embroidered handwork and tables decorated with beautiful flowers.  We sat on a platform that overlooked the whole wonderful show.  There were several other Churches represented there, including a minister from the Church of Uganda.   The villagers danced, sang and welcomed us as only the Africans can.  We love these people.  They are warm, happy and generous and just want us to enjoy and appreciate what they have prepared.  Whenever we thank them or tell them how much we enjoy their efforts, they always say, “thank you for appreciating”. 

Jacob and Joseph especially enjoyed the kids and were completely surrounded by them most of the time.  The program consisted of an opening prayer and then we stood and sang their national anthem.  This time they surprised us.  They had recorded the United States National Anthem and we all stood and sang it.  It was kind of emotional for us, because we haven’t heard it or been home for awhile.  We always sing their national anthem at our handovers, but no one has even thought to have us sing ours, it was very thoughtful of them.  There were the usual speeches and Elder Bean asked our group to sing, “As I have Loved You”.  Matt, Jacob and Joe brought some soccer balls from the U.S. and the boys presented them to the organization, along with a big sack of candy.  The organization will give them to the local village kids.  These balls will be wonderful for the village kids. They do not have any thing as fancy as a real soccer ball, but we see them kicking around things like an orange or a ball they have formed out of banana husks.

A big African dinner was served and then we were presented with gifts from the villagers.  The women lined up and each presented us with things like, corn, avocados, sugar cane, pineapple, and a dress and a shirt they had made for us.  One women gave us a real live chicken I did not know what to do with it and kind of jumped back.  She said “are you afraid of a chicken”? I said we could not take it in our truck.  She said, “why not, do you think it is not healthy?”  It was such a big sacrifice for her to give us a chicken, but it was impossible for us to take a live chicken in our truck.  Joe held it and really wanted to take it, but we were all (except Joe) relieved when it fell in the mud and then eventually ran away.  We loaded our truck with the food, minus one chicken, and took it to Jinja and gave it to one of the branches of the Church there.  They will distribute it to the people who need it, which is everyone.  We know this project will help the people in this village and will be sustained for a long time to come.

We went to Church the next day and Matt and the boys got to see our small branch and participate in the meeting.  Joe went to the primary and distributed crayons, colored pencils, paper, stickers, and other things that his aunt Torri had sent and also gave them some flannel board story packets that the young people in the Lynnwood Stake had cutout and colored and sent with Matt. The primary president and the kids were very thrilled with these nice things.  Our little primary does not have many resources. We only have about 10 kids that come to primary and they all meet together, regardless of their ages.  Jacob went to the young men’s program, which is also very small.  Most of these kids go to boarding school during the school year and are not around very often to participate in Church.  Jacob seemed to enjoy his class though and I am sure provided much needed support.  We all talked with the missionaries after the meetings and took pictures of the boys with the missionaries and some of the members.  In the evening we went to Family Home Evening at the Mission home.   President Christensen showed a film of his and Sister Christensen’s recent visit to the Sudan.  It was very interesting.  We feel sure that someday the Sudan will also be added to our mission.  They went there on a fact finding mission to see how many members might be there and where and if they are meeting in any kind of a church service.  We were surprised to see how tall the Sudanese people are.  They are very tall and very thin and looked a bit different from the people in Uganda.

Matt and the boys left the next morning and we miss them terribly, but had so much fun showing them around our mission territory and loved having them here.  I think the boys enjoyed sleeping under mosquito nets, brushing their teeth in bottled water, washing their fruit in bleach and doing all the things we do here that are different from home.

Our water projects are going well and it is again a thrill, when we realize how important clean water is here, to be a part of the Church’s program in using some of the humanitarian funds for this purpose.  It is also fun to be drilling new boreholes in places where it is a little closer to schools and a little closer to the villages so it is not so far for women and children to carry water.  It is interesting to see them walking along the road with these huge heavy jerry cans full of water on their heads.  Water projects occupy a relative high portion of our time and energy because of the great importance they have for the people here.  We are glad that the Church is approving our water projects, which also include major hygiene and sanitation initiatives.  We still have the sanitation portion of our 46 borehole project in Jinja in progress, the installation of water catchment systems in the ten schools in the 35 borehole project in Kamuli, are progressing well in the 15 borehole and 22 protected spring wells in the Wakiso district, and have just received approval for the largest water project in Uganda that the church has been involved in.  A mixture of fixing old boreholes, building new ones, building latrines and water systems for schools, and even providing personal hygiene supplies for girls and other hygiene/sanitation initiatives will keep us busy.

Our 750 wheelchair order is finally scheduled to arrive around the middle of August and we know they are sorely needed.

We are thankful to be here in Uganda and love our mission.  We have remained healthy and happy and know that it will not be too long before it is over, so we are enjoying every minute.

Love, Elder and Sister Bean.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The June Blog-- Torri Visits

On Safari with Torri

The Crested Crane -- Uganda's National Bird

Elder Bean at the Handover

The "Big Drum" Minister Musa

Torri, Sister Bean and the Women at the Handover

Dear Family and Friends:

We have had a very wonderful month of June and here are a few hi-lights:

On June 5th we left Kampala for the District of Soroti in the Northwest part of Uganda to distribute some of the items from the ten emergency relief containers sent by the Church. We invited President and Sister Christensen and two of the men from public affairs to accompany us. Ecweru Musa, Minister of State for Relief and Disaster for the Country of Uganda also went along with his driver and body guard. We had turned these containers over to him when they arrived in Uganda and he was to determine where they were to be distributed. He is a very “big drum” in Uganda and has the ear of the President. There are only two Ministers of State in this country and he is one of them. He had arranged for three schools in Soroti to receive the sanitation kits and rice. This is the area where he was born and grew up and has many family members and friends there. He had arranged for us to stay in The Soroti Hotel, which he said was more in the expectations of Muzungas. It was OK.

The area is very pretty and quite mountainous and we took a small detour to see Sipi Falls and ancient caves, which are featured on many post cards here. It is very close to the border of Kenya and a few times we could almost step across the border. The roads were dirt and quite bumpy, but we are use to that. As we climbed higher on the roads we could look out and see plains where the Karamojong warriors graze and rustle cattle. The Karamojong are fierce warriors and still dress and keep the culture that they have had forever. They wear very little in the way of clothing, but wear a lot of beads, earrings, tattoos, etc. They raise cattle and think that all the cattle in the world belong to them, so they take whatever cattle they come across and cause much havoc in the area.

The Soroti area is also the place where Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Liberation Army, kidnapped and killed many of the people. It is a story right out of the Book of Mormon and the 2000 Stripling Warriors. Kony came into the area with plenty of soldiers and ammunition supplied to him by the Sudanese to take it over. The Ugandan Army was there, but because of graft and corruption, they did not have many weapons to fight and so they didn’t. The older people in the area were so demoralized that they didn’t fight back either. Ecweru Musa, the Minister that we were with, rounded up and trained all the young people in the area and told them that they were fighting for their homes, land and families. He organized a group called “The Arrow Boys” and all they had were bows and arrow, against more sophisticated weaponry. He also supplied others of the kids with guns, etc and led them into battle. He said because they were fighting for their homes, they had a cause and they were fearless in battle and they drove Kony back up in the north and out of their villages. He showed us some of the sites of the battles and described them to us. He is a big hero in this area and everywhere we went, he was treated with great respect and adoration. He is a very charismatic and capable man. It was fascinating. The Christensen’s gave him a Book of Mormon and told him to especially read the Stripling Warrior account.

The first school we visited was called The Lwala Girl’s Secondary School. This is one of the schools that Kony raided and many of the girls were kidnapped. Many have been returned, but some never have been located. Some of these young women were raped, beaten, kidnapped and many witnessed their parents being killed. It was very humbling to look over the girls assembled and to realize what had happened to them. We handed out hygiene kits, and they sang, danced and several were assigned to speak to us. The Minister, President Christensen and Ron then spoke to them. They also had cooked a nice meal for us, which we appreciated. In the afternoon we visited another school with the same scenario. This school is located in the Amuria District. It was called the Orungo High School and had both girls and boys living there. Again most of their parents had been killed and the kids had endured and witnessed terrible things. We handed out hygiene kits and a few speeches were made and then we drove back to our hotel. We were all pretty humbled by what we had seen and heard.

The next day we visited our last school. It was called The Bethany Girl School and was located close to our hotel in Soroti town. We could tell that the Minister had a close connection with this school and these girls loved and adored him. He delivered a very uplifting speech to them and promised them that Kony would never come back to their area. He asked them when was the last time they had eaten meat and they responded that they couldn’t remember. He said “well you shall have some tonight”, a goat was then brought out and they cheered and yelled and it was pretty emotional. We handed out hygiene kits and the rice that the Church provided and I expect they had a wonderful meal that evening. We were then treated to lunch. Dessert was served in the form of a beautiful cake that the girls had made and decorated especially for us. We drove back to Kampala. It had been a very emotional, but rewarding three days.

Our water projects are proceeding very well. We are doing the second phase of clean water and sanitation in the Impigi District. It was fun to tell the water district people that the Church was not going to do the amount of boreholes that they requested, but we requested that they do a lot more and also to add on latrine covers, mosquito nets, hand washing facilities and water tanks. It was great to see their reaction. We are still awaiting approval of this from Church Headquarters, but feel it is a great project. This is a very rewarding mission.

We also arranged for the first new boreholes to be drilled in the Kumuli District, about three and a half hour drive from Kampala. We were there to witness the first new borehole find water. We stood on the road and watched the crew drill deeper and deeper in the ground with nothing happening. We watched another pipe go down and then another and almost the whole village was standing or sitting and watching. We were standing very close to the hole, when water was finally discovered and mud and water erupted like a geyser into the sky. We were peppered with mud and water and we ran for protection. It was pretty exciting. Some of the women started beating on a very large drum, which they said was telling the village that water had been discovered - their version of a cell phone. It was very exciting. Usually we have been rehabilitating old broken down boreholes, but this was our first brand new one.

We also had a very successful Neonatal Resuscitation training project in June. Three doctors came from the United States and in conjunction with a doctor here, held four days of training sessions. Two venues were arranged for and they trained many healthcare workers in Kampala and outlying districts in resuscitating newborn babies. Uganda has a very high infant mortality rate, partly because they do not have proper training or equipment to resuscitate a baby who is not breathing when born. They will not do mouth to mouth resuscitation or provide any physical contact because of HIV/AIDS, so a baby not breathing is just put aside to die. This training was so thorough, tables were set up and we watched these people practice on dolls using the new equipment. These health care workers were given instructions, equipment, stethoscopes and all things needed to go back to their clinics, villages, etc and train other people. We know this will make a difference.

At the end of the month, we had a wonderful visit from our daughter Torri. She accompanied us on our assessment tour of one of our potential projects - seven rural villages involved in the new project. We also took her to a school handover celebration, where the Church had supplied 100 new desks, chairs, tables, and book cabinets. We had a wonderful safari at Murchison Falls and she was the guest pianist at our little branch of the Church. Sandra and Torri had fun teaching the primary while Ron taught the Gospel Doctrine class, with his usual 30 second notice. She also helped us prepare and present a great family home evening lesson on Stakes in the Church. We did some shopping and visited the Source of the Nile. We really enjoyed her visit and she fit right in.

We have four new projects in for approval and are anxious to get them started. We are a little concerned though, because we understand our Stake President is coming to Uganda to check on our conduct and to find out why we are having such a good time.

Love to all.

The Beans

PS Can’t wait to see Matt and the boys.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mountain Gorrillas, Memorial Potties and Mark and Darcy's Visit (not necessarily in order of importance)

At the Handover Ceremony . . . .

Mountain Gorilla

Elder and Sister Bean

The Sefcik Exploration Team

A Tribal Wedding?

"Ron" and "Sandra" and the Beans too!

Dear Family and Friends,

We are finally sending the May edition of the blog. Somehow it is June already and May got away from us. We completed three projects in May and had three handovers to complete the work. The first project was helping a craft organization consisting of over 200 people. They meet together every Friday and sell their crafts on a very dirty, weed infested piece of land by the railroad track in Kampala. They have some shelter in the way of a few tents, but most sit on a blanket, rug or whatever out in the open in the hot sun or rain. Many of them weave their baskets, make their beads, carve or whatever they do with babies on their back or little children playing around them. Their representatives came to us and asked if we could help them improve their market to encourage more people to come and buy their crafts. They needed two outdoor toilets and some tents. We felt that this was a good project to help these people improve their market so as to attract more business and supply more money to them and their families. The humanitarian fund bought two outdoor toilets, a hand washing facility and three large tents. Their contribution to this project was to clear the land of weeds and debris, smooth it out for comfortable walking and dig two pits for the latrine. When this was accomplished, we delivered the toilets, etc. The market looks wonderful and when we occasionally drive by, we see that it is quite busy and many people are shopping. As a side note: they named the two toilets, Sandra and Ron. So we feel quite honored to have two toilets in Uganda bear our names.

Out second handover was to celebrate the completion of a pineapple project. This organization consists of 98 women living in a small village out in the bush, which is about two hours from Kampala. These women formed an organization and purchased five acres of land. Their intent was to plant pineapple plantation. A small woman with a small baby on her back came to our office and asked for our assistance. Her name is Rose and we have come to love her. She speaks on behalf of the woman in her organization and is a very hard worker. She has nine children and works out in the fields each day. She has limited English skills, but manages to make their needs known. They wanted assistance with pineapple tissues, fencing material, a chain saw, coffee husks (for fertilizer) pangas for clearing the bush and various other items. We went out and walked their land, checked on prices etc.
and had this project approved. It is now complete and we attended a very wonderful handover on May 17th out beside their pineapple field. They treated us to African dancing, music, talks, and many thanks of appreciation. We always invite the other senior couples to these handovers because they are so colorful, fun and you get to see rural Africa. The little children are the best part, they follow you everywhere you go and love to have their picture taken. After the proceedings, Sisters Giles, Libby and Wilkes and I gathered all the kids together and played games. We taught and sang primary songs like “Do as I’m Doing, Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, etc.” Kids are the same where ever you go. Even the big kids loved it and so did we. The handover ended with a big African dinner being served to us, which the women of the village had cooked outside behind the huts. When it was over they sent all of us home with large delicious pineapples that had been placed at each of our chairs. We feel so thankful to be here. You can hardly believe what you are seeing, hearing and feeling when you have played a small part in helping people help themselves. These wonderful women have so little, work so hard, and some of them have severe health problems, and yet are so genuinely happy and appreciative for all the Church had done to help them. It is a very humbling experience. We are so blessed to get to see the Humanitarian Fund in action.

Our third handover was to celebrate the completion and commissioning of 22 boreholes and the launching of the hygiene and sanitation initiative for the second half of the Jinja Water District project. This was particularly fun because our daughter Darcy and her husband Mark were here from Wisconsin and got to participate and see it firsthand. We visited two completed boreholes and officially launched them by pumping water. One was particularly fun because it was by a big elementary school and all of the children came to watch the proceedings. Mark and Darcy really enjoyed all the interaction with the kids. Darcy had brought candy to give to the kids, but there were just too many and the candy would have run out before the kids did. We then drove back to the place of the handover. Big tents had been erected and an African band was there supplying much drum beating and chanting. There were about 500 people in attendance. They had come from all over the district. We were treated to one of the best African dance groups that we had seen up to this point. There were speeches by many politicians and Ron and I spoke and then Ron asked all the couples to sing “As I have Loved You”. Ron even performed his version of an African dance and the people clapped and laughed and really loved it. The Church got a lot of press coverage. There were people with cameras everywhere. In fact we found out the next day that we were all on TV and also it was announced on the radio. Those who saw the coverage said it was fairly long and was a very favorable news report about the church and what it was doing to help the people here in Uganda. At the end of the proceedings a big African dinner was served and the party was still going strong when we left. We and the other couples had to drive back to Kampala and we wanted to get home before dark.

It was wonderful to have Darcy and Mark visit. We took time out for a three day safari at Murchison Falls, where we saw many giraffes, elephants, warthogs and a big surprise and treat of driving along a dirt road and seeing 12 lions laying on the road sunning themselves. The guide had told us that they had not seen lions in the park for the last few weeks because the grass was so high they were totally hidden, so we really lucked out and took many pictures. The guide also told us that some people a few months earlier had been hurt when an elephant tipped over their pickup truck and stomped on it. As we were coming around a bend in the road there were several big elephants standing on part of the road and eating the bushes. We were very close to them and Darcy and Mark and the guide were standing up in the bed of our truck. It was pretty stressful. The guide had us backup and then make a run for it past them on the road. I have decided that elephants are not very nice and we would like to keep them at a distance.

We had lunch with the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune a few weeks ago. She and 11 editors from major news papers and magazines in the United States came to Uganda to observe and write about some of the political situations, poverty, humanitarian work being done, and other issues that are facing this country. Salt Lake e-mailed us and said that she would like to contact us and discuss what the Church is doing in Uganda in the way of Humanitarian projects. She is not LDS, but is friendly toward the Church. She called us and we arranged to meet for lunch at her hotel. We found her to be a very charming, intelligent, open and easy person to be with She told us that years ago she had served in the Peace Corp. She was very interested in our projects and asked many questions about our work and what the Church was doing in the way of humanitarian work in Uganda. We had typed up a very long list of our projects and gave her a copy, so she could see how much the Church is doing here. The interview went very well and we felt a nice connection with her. She asked if she could send a cameraman and a reporter back to spend a few days and see our projects first hand. We have since received a very nice e-mail from her thanking us for meeting with her . We are looking forward to having people from the Tribune come to visit and showing them some of our projects

We had a wonderful experience a few weeks ago, we and three other senior couples including our mission president and his wife, President and Sister Christensen, took a few days off and traveled sourth to see the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This trip had been planned for many months as permits to see them are scarce and have to be obtained many months before hand. These gorillas are the world’s most endangered apes. They are found only in a small portion of protected forests in Southwestern Uganda, Northwestern Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo. There are only about 700 individuals left in the world and about 320 are found in Uganda in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Only eight people a day are allowed to hike up to where they are and can only observe them for one hour. The threats to the mountain gorilla population and its habitat are many and one of the threats is the possibility of disease transmission from humans to gorillas so there are many rules to follow when and if you are lucky enough to even see them, as they travel back and forth from the Uganda side to Rwanda and the Congo. There were no promises that we would get to even see them. It is the rainy season here so they told us the gorillas tend to stay farther down the mountain and are sometimes easier to find. The group we were assigned to see was made up of ten gorillas and one silverback. It was a very strenuous climb, they were in a very large rain forest and the terrain was wet and very busy, when our guides finally found them they used pangas and machetes to chop their way through the dense undergrowth so we could even get to where they were. One thing they forgot to tell us was that it was the season for ants and they were everywhere, biting us through our clothes going up our pant legs to bare skin, they were terrible, but we did get to see the gorillas and took many pictures. The climb back down was slick and all of us fell a few times on our bottoms. Back at camp we nursed our ant bites and our stiff bodies, but thought the experience was wonderful, so we didn’t even mind. We have been working very hard and have many projects on our plate to work on. We all felt justified in the few days we took off to see these wonderful gorillas. It was an opportunity of a life time. They were very calm and seemed to be comfortable around us, but they really made us work to see them and take pictures. They kept moving around and climbing up higher and we had to keep climbing to keep up with them. All in all it was a wonderful experience. This Gorilla trip was a mother and father’s day present from Kami and Brent and it was much appreciated and something we will remember always. Also Ron and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary at the gorilla camp. The other couples arranged for us to be served an anniversary cake and they even sang to us. How can we top that next year?

We are excited about some of the new projects that we have also recently started. We are finally drilling new boreholes and not just rehabilitating boreholes that have broken down and need to have major repair work done (everything pulled out, replaced with new and the aprons repaired). The Kamuli project is the furthest from Kampala and is the most extensive and costly water project that the church has done in Uganda. Thirty five thousand people will have access to clean water, ten schools will have water systems, and a major hygiene and sanitation issue is a major component. Another cow program was started for four villages, vocational help has been purchased for a wonderful little school in the form of sewing machines and materials, and another upland rice project in partnership with the same farmers group we helped last year has been launched.

Our time here is going too fast only about 5 months left.

Love to all of you.

The Beans