Summertime…

Hope you all are enjoying your summer in the Northern Hemisphere!

Slice of paradise.

Sunset

We’ve had a lot of perfect days in May and June. Weather has been awesome. Water and power are almost always on. The dogs have settled down. Beautiful sunsets.

Jesse – IT expert.

Jesse IT

 

Jesse has been working on getting new phones for all the agents. The phones have to be very specific because they must get the cell tower signals in UG, and run the two different payment applications to top-up customers.

Goodbyes.

Goodbyes

Our friends that went on home assignment were supposed to be moving back, the ministry progressed differently while they were away, so they just came back to get their things. There was a big goodbye party for them while Jesse was away.
Living overseas means lots of churning of your friends. That part stinks, BUT is also means lots of new people (which extroverted-me loves!)!

Jesse – Inspiring English Language Learning.

Jesse English

This is a screen shot of messages from my friend Flavia (Ugandan) in Kampala. She is a friend from when I was here with EMI. We visited her and the street boys (including Abdul) that she rehabilitates last fall. The boys loved Jesse and asked him SO many questions while I fetched water with Flavia (because she knows how much I love water, she said). Apparently, they are all working on their English so they can talk with him more when we visit next time.

Helen.

[Sorry. No photo of Helen…which is SO wrong! I’ll totally get one soon.]

Helen is our “house helper” and she is awesome! She cleans, does some cooking, buys groceries, bleaches our produce, burns our trash, and just taught me how to make dog food (because we can’t get it in Gulu) from dried fish and posho (don’t ask). She especially helped when we first got the house by doing a total over-haul cleaning while we bought appliances in Kampala before we moved in. I literally cried when I thanked her for cleaning this place.She asked us for a loan (advanced salary) to pay for her kids school fees in February, and we gave it to her. She was almost done paying it back, when she just asked for another. So, I sat down with her for an hour or so last week and did some basic budgeting with her. School is supposed to be free here, but it doesn’t really work out that way.

We pay Helen 250,000 shillings per month, which is about $74. I know. I can’t hardly process that information still. This is on the very high end for what people pay their helpers, and I have actually been chastised by some expats for paying her so much.

When I did the math, the school fees for her 3 kids (in “free” public school) is 2 million shillings, or $590 per year!…2/3s of her salary!!! I got so mad at the systems here, at poverty, at how women are treated, that the father isn’t around, at just…everything.

After our budgeting session, we worked it out that after a year, she will have paid back her loans from us and then we’ll start saving her money for her (she, like most Ugandans, do not have access to banks). That means that by January of 2018, she should be able to pay her kids fees from her savings, and won’t need a loans!

Agent Meeting – Phones and Tree Climbing!

Agent Meeting Phones

June 4th was an all-day agents meeting. We discussed sales, lessons learned, distribution issues, and a lot of other stuff. Jesse gave out the new phones and reset everyone’s phone settings, etc.

Then I needed to get a TON of information from these guys in the 45 minutes that were left in the meeting! It is hard to communicate cross-culturally, and a lot of stuff doesn’t get across. In an effort to reduce information loss, I had the agents pair up and each do a skit for how they make a sale. It was HILARIOUS! And SO informative! One agent climbed a tree to get better phone signal for his disgruntled customer!

Agent Meeting Tree

All this info is to help us design this super-awesome technology to complete sales/top-ups in a completely new way. It should expand access to literally millions of people who live where there is no grid. It’s exciting and we are much more encouraged about the tech development since Jesse’s conference last month. At the conference (Global Off-Grid Lighting Association) we found out that we are very possibly the only company in Africa trying to get electricity like this to low-income rural villagers. This not only explains why it has been so difficult, but also how important it is that we keep trying!

Some hard things…
As always seems to be the case here, there are great things going on at the same times as very, very difficult things.
Myron
West Family Photo

Myron West, with his wife and two children.

 Our friend, Myron, who developed complications from malaria has pasted way. They took him off life support a bit over a week ago. This has been really hard for the other missionaries that are here in Gulu. The malaria outbreak is so bad. One statistic estimates that malaria rates are up 300%. Helen worked for Myron and his family for nearly 3 years before we hired her. That is actually how we met Helen. I had to tell her last week about Myron’s prognosis and of all the things that have happened since we’ve arrived here, telling Helen about Myron was absolutely one of the hardest.
Gun Battle
A little over a week ago, there was a gunfight in Gulu. It was pretty close to our house, and to call it a “gun fight” seems like an understatement. It was the kind of event that you get a brief training to cover before you get here, but no one ever thinks you will have to use it. Knowing what we know now about the fight, we were not in direct danger at any point, but we didn’t know that at the time. All the reports and information about the fight are conflicting and unclear. We do feel that we are safe here. We are taking extra safety precautions, and if things escalate, we can do much of our work from Kampala if needed.
Some Friendly Competition
Lastly, we discovered very recently that the biggest company in pay-as-you-go solar has now opened a shop in Gulu. Honestly, I (Rachel) am a bit discouraged by this, but Jesse feels like they are not a threat, AND that their interest in this region is a good sign for us. He has good points.  =)
Prayer Requests:
– Myron’s wife, two children, and other family.
– For the malaria outbreak in Northern Uganda to end.
– For Lumi to be able to get good traction on our current projects, and for investors to join us.
– For safety in Northern Uganda.
– Travel mercies as we visit Mbarara (about 12 hours south) for a WorldVenture field meeting) in a few weeks.
– Praise God that even with the struggles of living here, we sometimes can’t imagine going back to life in the US because there is so much we love about living here.
– Praise God that we get to be a part of this work to serve the rural villages of Northern Uganda.
– Praise God for the cooler temperatures and rains this week! It got all the way down to 70!
Anyway, we love you guys and miss you!

~Rachel (& Jesse)

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2 thoughts on “Summertime…

  1. Great letter to help us pray,

    Harold Britton
    Director of Church—Missionary Relationships
    720-283-2000 | Ext. 2550 | CELL 720-363-0787
    [http://www.worldventure.com/files/signature/wv-signature.jpg]
    WorldVenture.com | Facebook | Twitter | Official Sites
    1501 West Mineral Avenue | Littleton, Colorado 80120-5612

    Like

  2. Hey!

    I love this newsletter! Thanks for all the pictures! That is so cool how you worked things out with Helen to help her start saving in advance for her kids’ school fees. You guys are so great!

    Meg

    Like

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