Decker’s Diary

Dear Friends and Family,

on the Mission Field
June 2012

I greet you all in the love of Jesus, the Messiah. In the seven months I have been here, there has been no conclusion of projects, no completion of dining hall or kitchen, prices of materials are still rising all around, and no new construction has commenced. So, I want to tell you about the little things that make this place run.

Garden Talk —
On the British school program, schools are in session for three months and then have one month off. So, from mid-April to midMay, the Abba House kids Jessica, Hope and Steven did not go to school and had work in the potato patch. time to work in the garden. It's a time for them to work barefooted in the rich Ugandan soil. They leave their sandals on the path and go into the garden to work the soil. This year, most of the ground went to planting sweet potatoes. Last time they were planted at the start of the dry season and instead of big, round potatoes, the harvest looked like blond carrots. Sweet potatoes here are a staple food; they are big and round and tan on the outside and creamy yellow on the inside. We have since had a Vanessa, Enock, and John fiercely wet rainy working with peppers season and the sweet potatoes we planted are growing nicely. Seed beds were set up for lots of different seeds and were then transplanted. We transplanted only about 50 cabbages, that were rescued from the ants, about 150 pepper plants and what seems like about that many tomato plants. Onions were Tomatoes also planted, but somehow did not start well and were replaced by sweet potatoes. We are trying to maximize the use of the garden plot. Last year, for the carrot sized sweet potatoes, we dug 20-25 hills just to get enough for Abba House lunch, or supper. I kept thinking, “We have got to have a bigger place than this if we are going to self-supply Abba House with food.”

Barb Decker My Life in Uganda—
My health has been basically good. I have been eating posho, (corn flour mush), and red beans twice a day, every day for about six months. In December, we ate mostly rice or potatoes; I think that was like a good treat for those kids who couldn't go home for the break. I thought I would come to a point that my mouth would just no longer receive them, but on the contrary, I still look forward to sitting down with the kids for supper to eat my portion from the huge saucepans of food. Although it does give me some heartburn, interestingly enough, it doesn't get stuck. I have a “condition”, which I am finding to be common—food gets lodged in my esophagus on its way to the stomach. Sad to say, most of the food that I have trouble with are “American” foods eaten and not posho and beans. When I relayed this story to the pastor's wife, she just said, “Well, it just means that you were meant to be here!” When I ride the boda-bodas, as pictured on the back, I really have to thank my folks for the horseback riding lessons I got in my youth. Straddling the bike behind the driver, I sometimes have to hang on, not only with my hand on the seat but also with my knees taking the bumps and curves. I think about “posting,” as at a trot, on an English saddle. It's interesting the things that come back from childhood as we face new challenges as adults. For instance, my favorite part about my four years in high school was, actually, riding the bus to and fro. As I think back on that, and on the hundreds of times I have ridden in public buses in El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Israel, and now in Uganda, it's kind of like linking the Old Testament with the New Testament. We have to have the Old Testament to understand the New Testament. We have to have childhood to understand adulthood; or at least as the testaments are linked together, so are our stages of growth.

Who’s Who At Abba House —
Jackie is the director of the Home and the chief purchaser of everything that the Home needs. Professionally, she is a certified social worker, but her love for the welfare of the Abba House children gives us an advantage of her skills. (cont. on page 2)

Jackie

“Senga,” or Aunt Rose, cooks for the home. She starts her day at about 4 a.m., and ends about 10 p.m. She builds up the fire to make the morning porridge and then sets the beans on the slow cook. She cuts up the vegetables to put in the beans. Tried and true, her pot of beans is better than most others. The other Auntie Rose cares for the girls home and also works in the garden and with the physical aspects of Home life, like finding firewood for the cook fire. She cooks when Senga has a day off, and is responsible for bringing vegetables and potatoes to the meals. She's a hard worker. She has a couple of children and grandchildren in Abba House. Her mother is still alive but is ill and she sometimes goes back and forth to her village to care for her mother as well as other family members. This caretaking part is hard for her and so she has given notice to Abba House to go back to her village. We can start now to pray for someone to take her place. Aunt Josafine is the school's tailor. She makes all the school uniforms as well as fixing Abba House kids' clothes. The Singer machines don't take any electricity, so Josafine happily treads along continuously. I am hoping that she will be able to teach the older girls how to sew. I have bought cloth and accessories for her to show them how to make their own skirts. It will be good for them to learn how to sew. Over Christmas, they really caught on fast to crocheting; I'm hoping the same enthusiasm will be found in sewing. Robinah is our new “uncle,” in-auntie-skin. She is also the superintendent of the kindergarten classes at New Life School. She has worked for several years in the Watoto church and home facilities in Kampala, internationally known for its children’s choir. She also knows some of these Abba House children from when she worked for New Life Primary School, when these children—that are

now 15 and 16 years old—were in 3rd grade. She runs a tight ship and I think she sees the bigger boys as if they are still in 3rd grade. They don't get away with a lot around her. Luganda is her first language so she is telling me a few things that the kids are saying. I am also learning bits and pieces of Luganda from her. Eric, I guess, is the official Abba House boda-boda driver. Bodabodas are the ever common motorcycle taxis that are everywhere. Besides the regular minivan taxis, boda-bodas are the main means of transportation. Eric helps Abba House very much, but especially on Saturdays when the director goes and buys the weeks’ worth of produce at the market. She sends Eric, too, with all the vegetables to the home late at night. He is trustworthy. His motorcycle is not the most comfortable to ride, unless we sit side-saddle, but he can really load it down with supplies.

Rules Are Necessary/Boredom Happens —
Abba House now has its list of rules that have been written and that all have read and accepted. One of those rules states that no one can leave the compound without permission. It seems it's harder for the bigger boys to submit to this. There really isn't anything to keep them interested and they get bored. I am hoping to set into concrete some sort of exercise bar, or parallel bars, so that they can power-up a little. The hip-hop dance has taken over and they are all doing headstands and handstands and such moves which come from break dancing. Through one multi-school competition the New Impact High School, where Abba House teenagers go, won second place out of four schools. It was their first competition, ever. My supervisor, John Gross, will be bringing a team mid June. They will be doing some painting, and so I hope to make the empty paint cans into barbells as well. The smaller boys, in their boredom, tend to just get themselves into trouble, but they did try their hand at minigardening. I gave them flower seeds and they also found some beans that were swept out of the storeroom. If not “gardening,” they have used toothbrushes to catapult stones at objects, or have made bows to send stiff stemmed grass arrows to their targets.

Community Relations—
Our partners, Grace Global Impact Ministries, have started to make Abba House known to the establishments and companies around Entebbe and Kampala. We have taken a brochure about Abba House and talked to many people about the work being done right here in Entebbe, Uganda. We have been received, which is good. There have been a couple of places that have donated to the cause, both in money and in goods. At least we are promoting Abba House and giving area folks the chance to get in on the blessing of helping their country's destitute children.

Now They Know and Pray for You—
I want to thank all of you who have your hand in caring for these children, whether in sponsoring the children or supporting me so that I come and care for these children. The children were even unsure of what a sponsor is, not understanding sponsorships. House of Friends office sent me a short summary which helped the kids understand about all that. Now we pray for you as sponsors and supporters with more understanding of sacrifices that you make so the children here can have a better life.

Last month we were connected with a mission organization located in Kampala, who are engineers and check projects to insure buildings are built correctly. We contacted them to come to Abba House to see if our building was correctly done and also that we were not being overcharged for what had been done. We want to be sure our donor dollars are spent wisely. We were informed there are some problem areas in the construction of the dining hall/kitchen that will require some correction. The Abba Houses are located on the western edge of the Rift Valley Fault and so the building must be made stronger to better withstand earthquake tremors etc. We also learned that many contractors in Uganda do not know engineering practices when constructing buildings. This group also looks at building projects to determine if there is any corruption going on in projects. As a result of the findings of this American engineering group, the cost of this project will be increasing in order to make it safe for the children. Along with a roof and the plastering of the walls yet to be completed, there are some structural things that will need to be done to make the building stronger. In addition, we will need to purchase a firewood efficiency stove for cooking. Needless to say, we will be needing more funds to complete this project. We are very thankful, however, that the Lord led us to this engineering group as we do not want to endanger the children with a poorly constructed building.

Chocolate Pudding or Millet Porridge?

Dining Hall Kitchen Project—
I still have great expectations for the dining room and kitchen. It may not solve all the problems—with losing plates and cups, washing dishes, kids not getting food, or having one location to eat—but I hope it will help.

Shalom, Barb Decker
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