Here is what is going on right now, Clint Eastwood style:
We FINALLY got our car registered after being without it for three months. Due to a change in the tax law for car imports into Uganda, we ended up having to pay import taxes that added up to be almost equal to the value of the car! This is still filed under ‘good’ because we were able to pay this from savings we had on hand. We hated making the payment, but are so thankful to be able to drive again!
We had a great visit with Matt’s mom, Joy. She was able to spend ten days with us and see our new city. We all really needed a visit from family. She brought so many goodies from America. We celebrated Hanukkah, went to the art museum, and cruised the Nile River.
I started teaching English for a local organization that supports refugees. Uganda has the third highest refugee population in the world. I have not had much opportunity to work with refugees, so I jumped at the chance to volunteer and learn more. It has been interesting to be a volunteer and not the one in charge. This has been a lifegiving outlet as we continue to wait on starting our center.
The centers in Tanzania are still doing well. There is always a lot of turnover this time of year with kids leaving the centers to start school and new kids coming in after the new year. The Market Center had 11 new kids start coming during the first two weeks of January. We had our first true class of graduates; kids who had attended the center for over a year, and now head into school. We have reports that many of them scored exceptionally high on their entrance assessments and were able to bypass preschool and head straight into kindergarten. This is a huge accomplishment. We are proud to be a small part of the kids’ success.
We are still waiting to start our first center here in Uganda. I hate not being able to go into all the details. I ask you to pray that we have wisdom in this process. We have had several meetings this past week that make us optimistic that things will get going soon. This hold-up has nothing to do with us personally, but because we are entering into a partnership we have to wait until everyone has their ducks in a row. After our most recent meetings, Matt and I were in agreement that we would start looking for other options in February. The benefit of this partnership would be huge, and we do not want to lose the opportunity due to impatience. However, we feel the pressure to get started knowing that we need to have something to show for our time here. We are desperate for God’s guidance.
We have been sick, sick, sick. In the last few weeks all of us have had something. First Tabitha got a bad respiratory infection and had to be on antibiotics. I have to say that God has so looked out for us health wise over the years. Can you believe that this was the first time Tabitha has EVER been sick while we have lived in Africa?! She had never been to the doctor or been on any medication since moving here when she was 3 years old. After that, Matt and Camille both got bad viruses. Camille recovered in a few days. Matt was sick for a week, but finally got over the last of his cough this weekend. I have just been struggling with my Rheumatoid Arthritis. That is a mental, as well as physical, battle as I figure out how to live well with an autoimmune disease.
We are planning our trip back to the States and the tickets are way more expensive than we have experienced in the past. We have some good leads on new places to fundraise, but are still looking for new support partners. The trip is somewhat like a puzzle, trying to balance family time with fundraising trips and a limited number of weekends.
I do not even have the words to tell you how bad of a situation we have been in with the shipping company we contracted in Tanzania. They have made life difficult for us in so many ways. I will not bore you with the details, but they are the reason we had to wait three months to register our car and then pay extra to re-do the paperwork they were paid to do in the first place. We STILL have not received the remaining half of our belongings from Tanzania. They were supposed to pick up our stuff from storage and deliver it to Kampala LIKE WE PAYED THEM TO! Instead they picked our stuff up (with 2 months delay), dropped it off at the customs warehouse in Kenya, and then ghosted us. We have not been able to get anyone to pick up the phone or answer an email. We had friends go down to the office and get all the words of reassurance, but no action was ever done. Finally, we have entered into a legal suit to get some of our money back. Please pray for us in this. It is not like we used a fly-by-night company. They are one of the largest shipping/clearance companies in Tanzania. This week we are paying to have another company pick up our stuff from Kenya and bring it to Kampala. It has been a headache of massive proportions. Once I am free to do so I have a scathing review written in my head. It starts with, “if you have to choose between using XYZ shipping company and lighting your stuff on fire, save yourself the headache and strike a match!”
We are struggling with Social Welfare in Tanzania. After we left, Rhita, the social worker for Walk In Love started the registration process for our centers. We would have done this process a while ago, but we were advised to wait until Walk In Love was a Non-Government Organization (NGO) and not a company. That process was finalized right before we left for Uganda. Sadly, the information we had been given when we started the centers two years ago has changed. The Market center is golden, and will be our primary center. Unfortunately, the Kisongo Center does not meet their standards as far as the facility is concerned. This is really frustrating because we know there are so many centers running with much shabbier facilities, but social welfare told us that they are particularly targeting centers run by foreigners… their actual words. They have given us until August to move locations. Although this is not a fatal blow for the center, so many of the kids and employees live in the community right around the center. Moving will definitely impact their being able to attend. Please be praying that we find the best new location, and that it will not drastically change the make-up of the center. I know that kids will come regardless of where we are located, but the community surrounding the current Kisongo Center has really embraced the work done there.
Here are our current prayer requests:
- Please pray that we will finally get the rest of our stuff and that we can get some of our money back from the shipping company.
- Please pray that we have wisdom in opening our first center in Uganda. Preferably moving forward with the current partnership.
- Please pray that we would know the right way forward with the re-location of the Kisongo Center, and that we can proceed smoothly with registration.
- Please pray that we would be able to find good tickets for coming back to the States this summer, and that we can have successful fundraising efforts.