Wednesday, March 23, 2011

He will make you strong!!!

Well, we just came back from Mbarara for our Circuit Assembly. The program was really encouraging and straight forward. But let me start from the Pioneer Meeting on Friday.
We left Fort Portal Friday morning early (me, Chris, Trevor, Abraham and Benjamin, one of our studies)  and I have to admit that by the time we arrived, we just had the time to put on a skirt (for me) and a tie (for the boys). We were tired and I was feeling a bit "lazy" (I found out later that I wasn't the only one) but the moment we stepped into the Kingdom Hall something lifted our spirits instantly. We felt... happy and light at heart! 
The moment we started singing...
WOW... we could definitely feel Jehovah's spirit at work in there. We had goosebumps. We were shouting, all of us, at the top of our voices, but we sang beautifully. We sounded like the Vocal Renditions (I'm not exaggerating).  After hearing song 36 "He will make you strong" (my favourite), Jehovah took us away with him in what it turned out to be the best Pioneer Meeting we had since our Pioneer School! Three and an half hours went like a blink. And the District Overseer asked to sing the last song 75 "Our reasons for joy" in turns. So the sisters sang the first part of the line and the brothers the second. We then joined in for the chorus. Well, the stereo wouldn't work but I personally think that it turned out to be AMAZING!
Again, shouting at the top of our voices, but perfectly in harmony! Not one of us was out. And I have to admit that the brothers were simply perfect. Even the D.O. said so at the end. And the feelings we had after that...well we couldn't even explain it to each other. Not only goosebumps again but also tears (some of us). 
So let me stop talking about the singing and let's go on the talks! The first thought in the first talk was brilliant! The District Overseer said that Satan wants us to leave the SAFETY of the full time service! I never thought about the full time service as a SECURITY for us. But when we think about it, being in the full time service does keep us safe.
We have less time and opportunity to be distracted!
We're constantly in the field talking about Jehovah so our faith keeps on growing and that's what keeps us in the full time service! It's a continuous cycle! And another important thought was that joy should spring from within us, not from outside! And it's true as sometimes the environment, emotional, economic or other type of hardship can take away that joy from us and although we're still in the full time service we're not giving our 100% to Jehovah!
Now to cultivate that joy though we need to get to know Jehovah really well and always see our ministry as a privilege. Isn't it true that sometimes we give our privileges for granted? Or that we tend to feel superior because of our privileges? I personally feel that it's difficult to fight these feelings! Like "Oh yeah I was at the pioneer meeting because I'm a pioneer" or "Oh yeah I know the missionaries because I'm a pioneer" or something like that. To be honest, yes it's a wonderful privilege to know all these missionaries and to be good friend with them, but sometimes I look in the congregation and I see the sister who preached in Sudan in the 70's on her own although it's a muslim country. I see the sister that although she wasn't a pioneer,  brought to the truth entire families. I see the brother that could choose to go to university but instead chose pioneering. I see the brother that was abandoned by his wife and he has 2 children to care for but still endures! These brothers is a privilege to know! They form our congregations. They encourage us by being there although they have to walk miles under the sun!

Well yes, I think that Pioneer Meeting was what I needed! It recharged me!

Now I could tell you more... but then I would have to kill you ;)

So I'll be writing about our CA soon and our crazy evenings in Mbarara!

Hope I wasn't boring!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Moving House!

Changing house is among the main causes of stress in humans' lives. That and divorce.... and divorce is not included in our vocabulary so...
Now let me tell you about our "changing house" experiences in Uganda. You see, here contracts have no value. I mean, you can write down together with the Landlord/Landlady, sign it in front of witnesses but still... it has no value! Actually, it has value when it comes to the landlord rights but not when it comes to your rights.
Let me explain...
Since we came to Uganda, we changed 7 houses. 7 HOUSES!!!! In less than 5 years... now someone could say "Well, maybe you're the problem then". To be honest, we thought that too for a while... but the evidence says the opposite.

So, 4 years ago, the first house we found, was a 2 bedroom,2 bathrooms,study, sitting room, dining room, kitchen and garden. Very nicely finished. Tiles, proper shower with an amazing water pressure (big deal for Africa), nice size kitchen with door on back garden. Mosquitoes' net on windows (another big deal for here, especially in Kampala) and half furnished. The Landlord was very reasonable and, even more important, he was never there as he was half Ugandan half Argentinian so he was spending most of his time in Argentina.
Well, the house was in a very secure compound with other 5 houses, all occupied by nice people (so we thought). But then few weird things started to happen. For example in 2 months we got malaria twice (both of us) and we later found out that behind our back garden there was a swamp. Our house was at the end of the compound, bordering with the owner's house who had 3 dogs that kept barking every night, the whole night. We asked him to keep them in at night but, after 2 or 3 days of peace, they were out again barking. So we couldn't sleep. The neighbour opposite us, an Italian by the way, used to bring girls and have big parties every other day. The women often started fighting with each other (probably jealous) so all you would hear was screaming and swearing. So I think you understand why we had to leave that place.

Now on to the next house. We got in contact with this Landlady who was living in UK and was thinking about renovating her house. When she heard we were interested, she agreed with us to give us the house after renovating everything. She even asked us to help in choosing the tiles, doors, handles, kitchen cupboard and to give ideas on how to improve the garden. After going around for 2 weeks with the plumber, carpenter, electrician, painter etc etc the house was nearly ready. 2 weeks before moving in, we called the Landlady to update her on the developments and she was strangely cold and dismissive and hanged up. After that phone call, we tried and tried again but she would never answer the phone. 5 days before moving in, she finally picked up the phone and simply said that she didn't want to rent it anymore. So we talked to our Landlord and asked for a couple of weeks to find a place, but he had people moving in our place 2 days after we were supposed to move out. So we had 5 days to find a house.

We eventually found two storey house (1 apartment above where the Landlady was living, 1 below empty). The apartment was really nice. Beautiful tiles, massive kitchen, massive garage, laundry, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an annex with another en-suite double bedroom (that came handy later when a sister needed an accommodation for few months). Everything was fine and it was incredibly cheap. The surroundings were not the best, but we were right into our territory so we didn't mind. Until we found a rubbish tip on the back of the house. Until we found out that there was a problem with the water pipes coming to this part of town meaning that we didn't have water for 2 months. Until a 15 year old boy was killed outside our gate so they could take the equivalent of £2 from him. Until we got stuck in the mud with our car and we had to pay 10 guys to pull the car out by hand. We HAD to leave.

On to the next house. My parents were coming to stay in Uganda so we decided to start with a bigger house and see if we could just share the rent. The house was really big, but not well distributed. One bedroom was enormous while the other, although en-suite, was tiny. Fine! No problem! Until... the toilet seat broke and the landlord didn't want to change it! Until the sewer started coming up from the drain in our bathroom and the landlord wouldn't do anything about it. Until the kitchen started to fall apart. Until my cat chopped half his foot off on the barbed wire. Until I got malaria again because on the other side of the wall next to our bedroom there was a slam area with stagnant water. Until the Landlord found someone who would pay more than us and took our complaints as an excuse to send us out.

Next please!!! An old house, half renovated, perfect size for us, not too big nor too small. Big garden. Only house in the compound. The landlady was even building an on-suite bathroom outside our bedroom. Perfect! Until... we started noticing rat droppings on the kitchen top coming from a whole in the ceiling. Until the builders used to come and sit around, leave a mess but they wouldn't get anywhere with the building. Until after 3 months we asked the Landlady when this bathroom would be finished and she got so angry that she sent us a letter giving us 1 month to get out of the house. That's when we decided that we had enough. We decided to go back home. So we took our safari trip and discovered Fort Portal.

Planning to come to Fort Portal, we then found the "perfect" house. European Landlord, only 2 bedrooms, B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L garden with bananas, avocados, mangos and even a marijuana plant (that we obviously eradicated). Amazing flowers, anything I would plant would grow. Why did we leave? We had to leave the country as the immigration would not renew our visas. We would never have left it otherwise. But then we came back...

So the house where we were staying before the one we're staying now, was too big, bad condition, very old...not very nice! I know, someone would say that T.I.A. but as we finally decided to stay in Uganda, we wanted to find something where we would feel happy and that would take less time. So we moved into this house where we're leaving now.


You the house is new and unfinished, the Landlady agreed to use the money from our rent to finish certain things around the house. We entered the house without any kitchen cupboard or internal door. She said they would be fixed in a week or so. It took them 3 months. If you could see the house today, you would notice that nothing has changed in the last 8 months a part from the money WE spent to fix things she didn't want to fix (vital stuff like electrics and showers). At the end of September 2010 if you remember we had the C.O. staying with us and we still had no internal doors. A bit awkward to have a shower without the bathroom door right? When we called the Landlady 3 weeks before explaining the situation, she assured us that she would fix every door in a week. 2 days before the C.O. arrival, we called her to ask about the door and she just replied "Well you have to stay without doors because I don't have the money to pay". After a "short" discussion in front of other people (and our threat to leave the place) the doors arrived and were fixed in 2 days.
Then we finally asked for the boys quarter (external rooms) as we wanted to help a pioneer sister in the congregation. Now, the boys quarter is supposed to be included in our rent but we've been patient with her as she said she had some of her things in it and we didn't really need it until now. When we finally asked, after 6 months, she said "No I'm not going to remove my things from there." End of story. Again, we tried to ignore that. But then we found out that Chris' parents are coming to stay so we wanted to make some improvements to the house, even if it meant doing it ourselves. So we cleared out all the building sand and broken tiles and pieced of metal left over where the parking space should be. We asked her many times to clear out the "rubbish" (as SHE called it) and she always said "I will, I will". So now we just took action. Two days after, Chris receives a call from her, screaming that she wants all her "rubbish" back as it was very expensive. So Chris, very politely and calm, clearly explains that we needed that space cleared out as his parents are coming but she replied by rising her voice even more "I want my stuff back!!!". So Chris, exhausted just said "Ok, I'm sorry but we're going to leave in June (after his parents leave)". She hanged the phone and we've never heard from her. In the meantime, Chris wrote the notice letter as the contract stated that the notice should be written and should not be only verbal.
Two days ago we received a letter from her lawyer saying that we have to get out by the 10th of May as our rent expires on that date. We then called the lawyer and said that we obviously wanted to give the money for extra month and that we didn't have any intention to stay here without paying. We still waiting for an answer.

We're currently looking for a decent house and still deciding if it would be wise moving before Chris' parents arrive (don't want to move house while guests are here...I get all stressed and nervous and then become nasty with everyone).

So anyway... T.I.A. As you can see, IT'S NOT US!!!
Jehovah always gave us the strength and patience to keep our calm with our landlord/landladies and in a way he always rewarded us with a better place. So we're heading to our 8TH house! We're praying that the next place will be our last one, so we're looking carefully trying to make a wise decision.

We'll keep you up to date.