UN Grant, UG Client, Uncharted Territory

Lumi – Lumi Store

The Lumi store is up and running. The main sales officer reached his monthly sales goal in approximately two weeks! 3 agent shops have been identified and the first one has been trained. Sales from the store have greatly exceeded expectations which is great and means that Jesse picked a great location. There a dozen or so stories of how amazingly the Lumi team is launching the store and implementing the new sales model. Too many to list here, but one example is that one of Lumi’s original team members offered to shift to part-time since he isn’t as critical in the next few months so that Lumi could hire a new and more immediately relevant sales agent. The team has been self-sacrificing, creative, and determined in helping Lumi launch on the best footing.

It took quite a lot of renovating to bring the new Lumi store up to standards. Here is the “before”, “during”, and “after” photos of the store’s transformation.

New Lumi Team

Bringing the team back together. From left to right : Innocent, Eric, George, and Taban

First Agent Shop

Our first Agent Shop in Koro Abili

Lumi – UN Grant

UN Grant – Lumi has applied for a grant from the UN that would be used to match Lumi and investor dollars to build the new technology Jesse and I designed in 2016 and to test Lumi’s new sales model. We found out a couple weeks ago that Lumi made it on the short list! This means that Lumi is one of the top 10 applicants for this grant. The grant will be awarded to multiple companies, so Lumi has a strong chance of being awarded this grant. What it means for now is that Jesse has three weeks to complete the entire second stage of the application which is very long and detailed, while helping the shop in it’s first few months. The final application will be submitted today, so he will have more time for the shop soon!

Lumi/Personal – Jesse’s US trip

Jesse visited the US for about 10 days in February. While there he visited friends and family, as well as given presentations to both of our supporting churches, Faith Lutheran Church in Castle Rock, Colorado and New Denver Church in Denver, Colorado. It was a great time of encouragement, but it was also full of business connections for Lumi. Lumi gained two new advisors and Jesse attended an event hosted by Denver Institute for Faith & Work.

Jesse in US

Good to catch up with Denver friends!

WET – First Private Ugandan Client

WET had it’s first private Ugandan client! WET has struggled to secure a contract with a private Ugandan client as the negotiation process and expectations are radically different than what is the done in the US or UK. Nearly all prices are negotiable in Uganda, and this client pushed WET pretty hard, but we were able to offer him drilling services for a price he could agree to. The site was in a location that is infamous for dry boreholes and high bedrock, so we were a bit nervous. After the second day, the drill team had drilled 20 meters and there was still no water. We were holding our breath as there is only one other hole we’ve drilled that didn’t have water by 20 meters, and it was our one dry borehole. Then next day, the team drilled to 30 meters. We measured the water level and basically the water started at 20 meters! So the hole had 10 meters of water, which is GREAT in that area! Everything was successful and we are all SO grateful for not only a successful drilling job, but also for a successful completion of our first contract with a private Ugandan client!

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Finished borehole

Personal – Birthdays!

Jesse’s birthday is in January and mine is in February. We wrapped up our birthdays and Valentines celebrations into a weekend at Sipi Falls. This was a place that I visited in 2010 when I was in Uganda as an intern with EMI and I remember thinking then that if I ever came back to Uganda with Jesse I would have to bring him here as it was so gorgeous. It was probably one of the best weekends of our life.

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Gulu is the blue circle. Sipi Falls in the Red marker.

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The view of the middle waterfall from our front door.

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It’s hard to make out but you can see all 3 falls in this photo. It was so beautiful there.

During my (Rachel’s) actual birthday, the drill team was on site for our first Ugandan client. They sent me a great video with birthday greetings from the site and this great photo showing one team member (center of the drill rig) making a “3” with his fingers and another member (below the yellow wheel) making a “2”. This photo makes me SO happy, I’ll keep it forever. Working here is such an amazing (and difficult and exhausting and…) experience, but as everyone says, it is the relationships you build that makes it all so great. Jesse and I are definitely experiencing that.

32 Drill birthday

Prayer Requests

  • Wisdom and energy for Jesse while balancing two full-time work loads with the Lumi store relaunch and the UN grant applications.
  • Praise for WET’s first private Ugandan client and for that project’s success!
  • For WET to identify a Ugandan engineer to start training for an engineering management position.
  • For help for both WET and Lumi. Jesse and I could each really use another person to help us with our workloads.
  • Wisdom and clarity for both of us in deciding what comes next for TeamGeiger after our current term with WorldVenture ends this July.

Thank you for following along with us! Please stay in touch!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

The Big Lumi Update

This is Jesse writing, it has been a long time since we have given any real updates on Lumi. This was partly because we didn’t know which pieces to share but mostly because truly Lumi, and my work here, had been changing on a near weekly basis. So, now that Lumi seems to have a trajectory, I wanted to give as much of the whole story as I can so that you know what has been happening and where things now seem like they’re going.

Reader’s Digest Version:  Lumi had to severely scale back in early 2017 due to insufficient funds. We closed the shop, and I managed a franchisee. In August, I saw a huge increase in requests for larger-scale solar that has continued. These projects earned a growing profit for Lumi, and after prayer and seeking advice, I have decided to re-open the store using the profits earned from the large-scale projects. The store will operate under a new sales model and will have 5 of the previous Lumi team members, some of whom have been working for a solar competitor for the past 6 months. The store will open beginning of February.

Closing Shop (March to April)

Lumi had to shut its shopfront doors at the end of March due to a lack of funds.  While closing was not something I ever wanted to have happen, it was incredible to see God use Lumi even its closing. In Gulu, we had heard that theft can be a serious problem once employees know that their jobs are in jeopardy. I was so proud of our guys for working hard and with the highest integrity even through the last day. Some of our team that we had let go a month prior even came to the store for the last day and worked with the rest of us.  After closing out the shop (and finding in the register slightly more cash than what was in the books), Rachel and I took the entire team out for one last team dinner.  We ended up staying for over 3 hours sharing our favorite and most interesting memories from our time with Lumi.  It was a special night, and so great to hear those stories about the personal and professional development that occurred through Lumi and the comradery inside a Christian business.

There was one large logistics challenge in closing the Lumi store, however. Since our primary market was Pay-as-you-Go lamps, we knew that in order to do right by our customers, we needed to make sure they still had a way to continuing paying off their lamps after the store was closed. While the shop was still open, a few of our employees approached us about starting their own shops.  They believed they could still make a business work if they were not running a full-sized shop like Lumi. We realized we had a way to service our customers while giving our 3 new franchisees a great head start through the revenue from collecting payments from those remaining customers. And so, while the shop ended up closing, we still could do right by both our customers and our previous staff.

Franchise Support, shifting focus, and Odd-jobs (May – August)

My parents visited right after the shop closed, which was a nice time to recover from the stress of managing the shutdown. After my parents went back home, I began to focus on supporting our franchisees while doing a few small battery backup systems. Only 1 of the guys continued growing his business while the other 2 of the franchisees were hired by another solar company a few months later. That was still plenty to keep me occupied, as the franchisee began a pilot program with a new manufacturer and entered a local entrepreneur contest in search of grant funding to expand his operations.  While we didn’t receive the grant, he has still maintained a healthy level of sales and purchased a small kiosk to begin selling other items alongside solar.

Big System Installations (August – November)

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Finishing atop a new teacher’s education center.

Sometime in August, I was hired to design and install a large solar panel system for a remote clinic, the same clinic that Rachel drilled for with WET.  I enjoyed working on such a big project and decided that I wanted to spend more of my time working on these larger systems.  While larger systems has been a part of Lumi since the beginning, it has never been the focus. At this point, it looked like Lumi might have to shut down completely by the end of 2017. Since I knew I would be in Gulu until at least July of 2018, I asked the owner if I could continue Lumi so that I could do large solar and backup systems work while in Uganda.  While there are large solar and backup system providers in Uganda, they are often overpriced and improperly designed and installed. My goal was to be a provider that would only install properly designed systems at a reasonable profit.  At the time I envisioned only doing a handful of these larger systems in the remaining 12 months of our term; however, without any marketing on my part, I was contacted by several NGOs and missionaries asking for solar and grid backup systems. The demand for these systems has not decreased since.

Future Plans (November – January)

By November I had installed roughly 10 of these systems around Uganda, and while it felt good to be working hard and earning a profit with Lumi, I was wrestling with how this work matched with why I felt God leading us to Uganda in the first place.  [Now, for some context, since we moved to Gulu the small scale solar industry has boomed in East Africa.  Many companies have been trying to reach all sectors of the market, but successfully creating a sales model that reaches the rural and poorest parts of Uganda remains elusive.  I do believe Lumi has gotten closer than any other company, and largely I believe that if Lumi can finally discover it, it will because of our Ugandan employees implementing their ideas.] After a few good conversations and evaluating my heart, I have decided to use the profits from the large solar installations to subsidize a leaner version of Lumi’s small solar sales. I am even able to hire many of our old employees that through a series of coincidences has led to many of them being available at the beginning of January. We’ll be trying out our combined ideas for a new sales model and method.

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Lumi is opening again after the paint dries!

So, finally, we are re-opening the small-scale solar shop in Gulu at the beginning of February with PAYGO operations resuming and expanding under a new sales model shortly after. I will continue large system sales and installations in order to subsidize the shop, but my focus will be growing the village scale side of the business. I have no idea what the future holds, but I am trying to faithfully follow the “breadcrumbs” (more on that in a later blog post) that I feel God has been leaving for me since September.

Thank you for following us on this journey.

Prayer Requests:

  • Wisdom and energy for me while managing the Lumi store relaunch.
  • Wisdom for Rachel and her team in managing WET. Specifically in finding their first Ugandan private client and in identifying a Uganda to start training for an engineering management position.
  • Wisdom and clarity for Rachel and me in deciding what comes next for TeamGeiger after our current term with WorldVenture ends this July.

Thank you all. Please feel free to contact us any time with questions, etc. We love hearing from you all.

Jesse (& Rachel) Geiger

Plumbing, bacteria, and Kenya!

Since my last update WET has focused on catching up on projects and business administration items, but Jesse and I were also able to take a week-long break and go to the beach! WET has finished its registration process, finalized the accounting, learned a lot about submersible pumps, and completed the first water quality tests. Check out the photos below!

WET Updates:

Bacteria – I’ll start with my most exciting news, which is about the first borehole we drilled which is in Abwoc. We took samples and completed our bacteria testing. Guess what? Totally clean! Check it out compared with a sample from a nearby shallow borehole and the stream which are the other water sources.

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The blue/purple dots are E.Coli bacteria colonies. The red/pink dots are other bacteria. Check out our sample! No dots! LtoR: Stream, Shallow borehole, WET borehole

I am very excited about these results. I had been feeling a bit discouraged after our dry test hole in Masindi District, so knowing that our first borehole in a local community is totally clean was such an encouragement. I went and drank from it earlier this week. Here a very cheesy photo of me at the Abwoc borehole when we took the samples for testing.

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Pumping water samples at the Abwoc borehole.

Hope Alive! – We also installed the plumbing, tank stand, tank, and taps at the Hope Alive! site in preparation for the pump installation. Selecting the right pump for this site has been a struggle as the borehole has a low yield so the pump needs to be low-flow, but I think we have finally found a good solution through Jesse and Lumi. He will be installing a low flow solar pump. Personally, I love it when our projects get to overlap!

Accounting – I won’t bore you with a photo of spreadsheets, but I spent about 10 days entering in all our expenses from the last 3-4 months and organizing our accounting for 5 different accounts. It is finished and was handed off to our Business Manager and fellow WET Director, Alfred (who you may remember from last September, when I was the coordinator for his wedding to my friend and fellow Coloradoan Elizabeth!).

Rig Rental – We’ve also decided to try renting out the rig. We realized that the pre- and post- drilling work for each drilling job can take a substantial amount of time, so to keep the rig as busy as possible while still maintaining our own work load we are testing out renting it to select water professionals in the area. The rig just returned from its first rental job yesterday. This rental program will be a great additional income stream for WET and an easy way to maximize the number of new water sources being developed.

Lumi Update:

(This is Jesse writing now) Lumi continues to have more and more large PV system work coming in. Since last month plus I have had 3 separate installations: a hospital backup system (and rewiring work) for their new blood fridge, a missionary family in Gulu, and another missionary family near Kampala. In addition to these installations I have also designed and am planning for installing a PV system for a school near Gulu and a solar powered water pump for WET after Thanksgiving.   I will get better at taking photos at these work various sites. 🙂

In addition to the larger scale installations, our franchisee continues to make sales and has begun to make a niche for himself as a seller of quality and affordable solar lamps. He has purchased from me/Lumi and sold 40 lamps in the last month and I’m confident he can keep the momentum going.

Personal Updates:

Anniversary – Jesse and I celebrated our 6-year wedding anniversary! We always take a photo of ourselves with the number of the anniversary. This year, we used the green hose from our drill rig, lit the photo with Lumi solar lights, stood in front of the wall that collapsed twice in a week, and it was taken by our neighbors! This photo (although it looks like we are trying to break out of a prison!) is my favorite anniversary photo yet!

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6 year wedding anniversary!

We spent a week with our neighbors at the beach in Kenya on their way back to their home country. It was such a needed rest after working a break-neck pace for the last 3 months. I was very grateful for that time with our friends, time with Jesse, and that Tim kept things going at WET so I could go. We stayed very near where we had the conference last year, but this time, it was just a vacation (no meetings).

Prayer Requests:

  • Please continue to pray for us to have clarity of vision for our next journey and for wisdom in deciding what is right for us and our work here. Our term with WorldVenture expires in July 2018, and our work permits expire a bit later than that. That means it is time to start talking about what comes next. Jesse and I have been prayerfully seeking guidance and vision for our next season.
  • We are both so grateful for safety while driving and working. We both have a lot more driving coming up, so please always be praying for our safety (especially for trained mechanics for the vehicles).

Thank you for following our journey!

~TeamGeiger

Boreholes!

I’m so sorry for the delay in writing this blog post, but it is for good reason! In the last 2 months, we have bought a drill rig, learned how to use the rig, identified and trained a drill team of 10 people on the rig, drilled 4 boreholes, completed 1 electro-resistivity survey, completed 3 pump tests, provided pump and plumbing consultation to 3 clients, driven too many kilometers, slept in an empty village church, hotels across Uganda, and an empty medical clinic, and so much more! Take a look!  We have…

…picked up the drill rig and got it stored in my garage (July 31-Aug. 5th)!

…completed a electro-resistivity survey for a medical clinic (Aug. 10th)!

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Conducting the electro-resistivity survey. L to R: Tim, Jesse, and a local WASH practitioner.

…drilled our first borehole (Aug. 21-23)!

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First borehole in Abwoc.

…drilled our second borehole (August 24-26th)!

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Second borehole in Pajaa. We hit rock and had to use our rock ram (the red jack) attachment. Worked great!

…trained our new drill team during those first two holes!

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Drill team, trainers, and Rachel (Tim is taking the photo).

…finished our first two hand pumps (Aug. 31 – Sept 1st)!

 

…completed a pump test at a theological seminary (Sept. 6th)!

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Pump testing an abandoned borehole.

 

…drilled a borehole for a child sponsorship program (Sept. 11-20th)!

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Drilling borehole #3.

…drilled a borehole for a medical clinic while Lumi installed the solar (Sept. 25-30th)!

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Drilling at a clinic in Masindi District. You can see Jesse and Lumi co-workers on the roof behind the truck!

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Jesse took the same photo about the same time, totally unplanned. Notice all of their bare feet!

I think the last 2 months have been the busiest two months of my time here in Uganda so far!

So much has been a process of figuring things out as we go, like meeting people through friends of friends for supplies (like gravel, truck rentals, etc), inviting trainees for the drilling team and hoping people show up, and looking for rig parts with no idea if they exist in town!

As I told my mother, “I went WAY outside of my comfort zone and was totally worried so much of the time, but here I am on the other side, and it worked out. I’m so glad that I jumped in (or waded in slowly), and got to be a part of this. I’m so lucky. I just have to thank God that He let me be a part of this.”

Setting up this company has been the most stretching experience I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Other updates:

Jesse was Willy Wonka in a expat community rendition of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory!

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Jesse as Willy Wonka. Charlie is with him in the bottom right photo.

We have had extreme rains here which lead to our compound wall (the wall around our yard) to collapse and flood our neighbor’s house…TWICE in one week!

2nd Wall collapse

The second time that wall collapsed (in the exact same place) and flooded the compound. The neighbors (whose house was flooded) and Jesse and I fought the flood for about an hour in the dark (maybe 4am), and then made some pancakes!

We picked up a second vehicle, which actually belongs to Lumi but had been in storage for a while. This has been great, but we have had two flat tires, a brake caliper fell off (right after we got to the mechanics shop!), the radiator overheated (maybe it is leaking?), and a wheel bolt is leaking grease! We’ve named the car “Bowser” after the evil enemy in Super Mario Brothers (a video game we played as kids) because we think it is out to get us!

 

We’ve had issues at the house again, as well. The drain out of our kitchen sink is completed backed up, but it is the pipe in the ground, so we are digging it up. The pit where we burn our trash is about to be totally full. It lasted 2 years. Time to dig a new one, or excavate the waste out and dump is somewhere. Lastly, the pinching ants that were living in the house have moved back in, but at least they aren’t in our room this time. We realized they were moving in when about a dozen of the flying males flew into the kitchen from the hallway! They have tried to move into the guest bathroom and the garage. Hopefully we can keep them at bay.

Lastly, we had a few issues with WET. The most time-consuming one was that our submersible pump we bought for pump tests never worked well from the beginning, even though it was brand new. After struggling with it for weeks, we finally got it replaced while drilling at the clinic and the new one works great!

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New pump in the shop in Kampala.

Lastly, the borehole at the clinic in Masindi District was bone dry. This was definitely discouraging, but we were suspicious that the hole would not have enough water for the clinic based on our electro-resistivity survey and the client wanted us to drill the borehole as a test to know for sure. Apparently, there are almost no function boreholes in that town because it is notoriously dry. Now we are working with the clinic to help identify another water source. As one of our drill team members said, “Other drillers would hit a dry hole and run away. If we hit a dry hole, we stay around to help them. That is WET Consulting.” I have to say that I felt pretty good about our company when he said that!

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Bone dry bottom of the well at the clinic. Now to find another water source!

Despite all the stress and struggles, one thing has been encouraging me as I work with WET; I have LOVED working with our drill team. They are such hard workers, they have all had experience drilling with other manual methods and are always giving us insight into local practices, hydro-geology, and typical drilling contracts for the area. I am learning a lot about Acholi (the local tribe) language and culture as well. Lumi had a mix of tribes in the office, so we always spoke English, but with WET, everyone except for Tim and I are Acholis. I have learned a lot of words, figures of speech, and even new foods! I love learning more about life here and especially what life is like in the villages. I wish I could show you what it was like to sleep out in Pajaa. I will never forget drinking sugary lemongrass tea around a fire, surrounded by fire flies, under the glow of stars and moon, and singing songs with the local community.

Prayer Requests:

  • Our term with WorldVenture expires in July 2018, and our work permits expire a bit later than that. That means it is time to start talking about what comes next. Jesse and I have been prayerfully seeking guidance and vision for our next season. Please pray for us to have clarity of vision for our next journey and for wisdom in deciding what is right for us and our work here.
  • We are both completely swamped. It is not a sustainable pace of life. We are struggling to find a work/life balance while managing two rapidly growing companies (Lumi has been flooded with big solar system requests, which is great). Pray with us that we find a good rhythm and don’t burn out. We are trying a new work schedule with WET this month and Jesse has just wrapped up a big project (the clinic) which should both help.
  • We are both so grateful for safety while driving and working. Working with big heavy machines and electricity, and climbing on roofs and working in unfamiliar places sometimes far from medical care can be dangerous. Both Jesse and I, and our colleagues have been healthy and happy, and we are SO thankful to God for that.
  • One thing about living abroad is the other expats come and go quite frequently, but the relationships go deep quickly, too. Jesse and I have been lucky to have great friends here, including our neighbors, who are going back to their home country at the end of this month. They have been such a support and encouragement to us and we will miss them dearly. Pray with us for wisdom in what to do with the empty house on our compound when they leave (if we should rent it out to another family?) and for encouragement as we grieve loosing them as a daily part of our lives.
  • I am SO grateful to be drilling! After fundraising, planning, preparing, investigating, and everything else…we are drilling! Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this with encouraging emails, financial support, and prayers. We thank God that it has call come together!

Thank you for following our journey!

~TeamGeiger

 

Summer Update

Whirlwind US visit, a month of sickness, business registration, and potential borehole site visits.

Rachel’s US Trip

My brother graduated with an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth on June 10th and I (with immense help from my sister-in-law) pulled off a surprise visit! I was not able to attend my brother’s high school graduation (I had a mandatory college program that day) or Bachelor’s graduation (I was in Uganda with Engineering Ministries International), so I told myself that if there was anyway to be at this graduation, I would make it happen! Jesse was super supportive, and about 3 weeks before the graduation, we started planning my trip.

As it turned out, my grandfather’s health took a strong turn for the worse immediately before I traveled, so I added a short 2-day visit to Ohio to the front end of my visit. Total travel time from our house in Gulu to my Uncle’s house near Cleveland was 43 hours! I was exhausted, but very happy to visit my Uncle and his family, and see my grandparents. My grandfather ended up passing away a few days later, so I was grateful to be with him and my Ohio family during that time.

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My Uncle Kent, Grandmother, and me in Ohio.

Then I flew to Boston, and was picked up by the CTO for Lumi, John. He has been our boss, but also a great friend. We drove from the airport to New Hampshire to meet with a water engineer and water well driller. I spent several hours with them discussing our developing drilling work here in Uganda. I learned a lot from them and am happy to have their contact information for future consultation.

Then we finished the drive up to my brother’s. John dropped me off right at his front door, which my sister-in-law had left unlocked for me. I walked right in and said, “James, you really shouldn’t leave your front door unlocked. You never know who might just walk in.” He was totally shocked! It was awesome and worth all the travel and secrets!

To make sure my brother didn’t find out, we hadn’t told anyone else in the family (except the Ohio crew). That meant that each day, as a new family member arrived…my mom, dad, sister, aunt, grandmother…we set up a surprise. SO fun!

I was honored to be asked by my youngest cousin, who had been learning about Africa in her class, to come and share about Uganda. SO much fun! Reminded me of all the years (15, I think?) that I taught Sunday School!

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“Raise your hand if you know the name of the animal in the picture!”

My brother (who is a genius as far as I’m concerned) graduated with distinction and earned an award. If I was only going to make one of his graduations, I’m glad it was this one. The whole visit was SO much fun, I will never forget it.

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My brother and me on his graduation day!

Which is a bit impressive, because I came down with a horrible flu almost immediately after arriving in New Hampshire. I don’t think I have ever had a “cold” that strong before.

Sickness

After about 10 days in the US, I flew back to Uganda. I completed my on-line WASH course project, and had just started to catch up on our drilling business registration process, when I became extremely weak and developed a fever. After several negative malaria tests, we realized I had come down with my first sinus infection. After about 6 days of antibiotics (which had worked against the infection), I had an allergic reaction to the penicillin (or something in the penicillin pills that I was taking). I don’t have any allergies, so it took a day or two to figure that out also. After a couple of days of rest and antihistamines, I finally felt healthy again. So, from the time I caught the cold/flu, to the end of the allergy, it was about a month of me being mostly out of it. I’m VERY happy to have been healthy during this last week! And I think Jesse is looking forward to some rest himself after taking care of me for so long.

WV Field Meeting

During this time, our agency had their Quarterly Field meetings here in Gulu. We had made arrangements to host the meetings at The Recreation Project (http://therecreationproject.org/), which is an outdoor adventure facility used for team building and for healing activities (think “trauma counseling”) for post-war communities. We had a great time with the meeting times and the team building and prayer times.

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Site Visits

As soon as I started feeling better, Tim and I went out to visit some potential sites for our first boreholes. Both are within an hour drive of Gulu town, but in villages. These were new places to me, but Tim knew them from when he completed his WASH assessment study a couple of years ago. One site, Site B, is very likely to be our first location. The first site we visited, Site A, is still under evaluation as there are few households in the area. These first two boreholes are being funded by an NGO for us to test our drill rig.

Obwac Church Site

Site A:  This site is the less populated site. This building is a church.

Pajaa Church Location

Site B:  This structure is another church building. Another group has tried to drill here before, but was unable to find water.

Site A has a near by water source, but it only has water during the rainy seasons, and because the well is not very deep, the water is often muddy and dirty. Site B does not have a near by water source. The nearest source is at the town center and is in serious need of repair.

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Contaminated water sources at Site A.

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Broken water source at town center nearest Site B.

Tim’s toilets!

One bonus to the visit, was that Tim (and I) were able to see the result of one of his previous projects. There are few sanitation facilities (“toilets”) in rural Uganda. This toilet facility is on Site B and was SO cool to see!

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Toilet building! These are squat-style pit latrines. You had to duck quite a bit to get in, but could stand up once inside. Local materials were used and the slabs (the floor piece that you stand on) is concrete.

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The photos on the left show the symbols drawn on the sides to indicate the men and women toilets. You can also see the toilet better in the “women’s” photo.

 

 

Paperwork

The rest of my time has been arranging the business registration. We officially have a name reserved. Water and Environmental Technical Consulting Limited, or WET Consulting Ltd. We have nearly finished our Articles and MOU document needed to submit our business registration. The Purchase Agreement for the drill rig has been finished and replacement pieces have been ordered from Kenya.

Paperwork for WET

Receipts, registration forms, MOU, oh my!

Next week will be starting to fill out our drill team and flesh out supply chain for borehole supplies.

Prayer Requests

  • Praise for Rachel’s health!
  • Praise for Rachel’s safe and awesome trip to the States.
  • Request for wisdom for Rachel and Jesse while making decisions for Lumi and WET.

Thank you all for following us and supporting us during our time here in Uganda!

~TeamGeiger

 

Water (and general) Update!

We reached our fundraising goal!

I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers, encouragement, and donations that made this possible.

If you haven’t ever had to raise money through donations for something that matters a lot to you, let me tell you that it can be one of the most humbling and beautiful experiences. To put a request out there to the world, without any idea of how it will be received, and then watch as people respond. It is such an honor to be able to connect people to a cause and to be reminded that I am not alone, but one member of a much bigger group that believes in this cause.

The group that donated the money for this drill rig is really diverse. Strangers. Family. Old friends. Missionaries. Churches. Atheists. Young people. Older people. Americans. Europeans.

This diversity is a reflection of one of the powerful things about water. It affects everyone. Everyone needs it.

What’s Next

I’ve also started an on-line WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) class through the International WaterCentre in Australia. I’m learning a lot that will help with the business. My partner Tim is back in Uganda and we have already started moving forward. We are negotiating the purchase with the drill’s current owner, finalizing the financial model with Jesse, identifying our first borehole locations, and preparing necessary registrations. We’ve connected with another American driller who has been working in Uganda for a long time, and are planning a trip to visit with him. Tim and I are expecting our first holes in late-June!

Other news

Jesse’s parents visited!

We had a great time with them and are glad that they were able to see Uganda, and our home, work, and friends while they were here. There are WAY too many pictures to put on this post, but here are a few.

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We traveled to the equator on our first day together!

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We spent a lot of time at the market in Gulu. This place sells everything! This photo only shows maybe 1/8th of the place! This row sells dried fish, and the next rows sells matoke plantains.

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They tried the local foods. Yum!

We visited Kidepo Valley National park and Murchison National Parks for safari!

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Celebrated Brad and Becky’s 33rd Anniversary!

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Becky took a boda (motorcycle) ride!

Then we all spent the last week of their visit in Kampala because Jesse had a solar training with Taban (left) and Innocent (right). We enjoyed the fact that rainy season had started in Kampala, since we had been completely out of water for about a week in Gulu.

Prayer Requests:

  • We can use prayer for safety while traveling. We have lots of travel coming up (getting the drill rig, visiting the other driller, Jesse has some Lumi sites to visit).
  • We need a lot of wisdom right now. There are lots of decisions to make in this early stage of the water business and it is hard to know the “right” answer. Our next blog will give a big update on Lumi, but it is also going through a big change and Jesse and the Lumi team will need wisdom for that as well.
  • We are grateful for a great visit from Jesse’s parents.
  • We are grateful for raising all the funds needed for the water drill rig!

Thank you all so much for your continued support! Please feel free to write/email any time.

~Rachel & Jesse Geiger

Water Business

I’m starting a water well drilling and pump maintenance company!

This is the most exciting blog post I’ve ever written! As most of you know, it has been my dream since I was young to become an engineer, move to Africa, and work on increasing access to safe water. For the last 6 months, I have been discussing starting a water well drilling and pump maintenance company, and now I’m ready to get going!

Why start this company?

Many people in the rural areas near Gulu do not have access to improved water sources, and the existing drilling methods are too few, too expensive, or drill wells that are too shallow.

Water Sources:

44% of rural households in our area do not have access to improved water sources. That means that people must collect water from sources like these…

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Water source about 45 minutes from Gulu town.

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Water source about 45 minutes from Gulu town.

The water that is collected from these sources is not treated before it is consumed or used. The water from these sources are not clean, and it contains bacteria and other contaminants that make people sick.

Current Drilling Options:

Currently there are two main types of drilling options available:  manual drilling and  the big, mechanized rigs. Manual drilling options are much more affordable, but tend to be very shallow which limits the area that they work in and can reduce the water quality (because it can be contaminated from pit latrines, etc). The big rigs can drill through hard/rocky ground and can reach very deep water, but they can only reach areas that have good roadway access and are very expensive.

Fortunately for us, we stumbled across a Village Drill for resale in Uganda. The Village Drill was developed in the United States for use in developing countries. It is a manual drilling method, but it is designed to reach much deeper than other manual methods. This means it can easily be transported, can drill to deeper and cleaner water, and still be affordable.

Click here to see a video comparing the Village Drill to other manual drilling methods.

With this rig, we believe we can serve most of the drilling market in the area which currently has no available and affordable options. We know several NGOs in the area that have tried to hire a driller to come drill a well and were UNABLE TO FIND ONE! We hope to change that.

What will the Company do?

The company will drill wells, install hand pumps, offer pump maintenance/repair services, and educate communities on health and hygiene topics. Jobs will be created by hiring people for management, drilling, maintenance, and hygiene training.

How many people will be served?

Since this is a business, it can grow and develop to serve a lot of people! For the first year, we are hoping to be able to drill enough wells to provide at least 7,200 people with clean water and health and hygiene education. Many more may be served through the pump maintenance program as well.

Who is involved in this company?

Amazingly, there is a unique group of missionaries in Gulu right now that have an amazingly diverse set of skills to help make this company a reality. Also, we have identified highly qualified potential employees. For me, having a team like this is what gives this business a serious chance to make a huge impact.

Rachel (me) – You know who I am, so not much to explain, but just in case… I received my Engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and received my EIT license in 2008 in the State of Colorado. I have approximately 3 years working in Africa, 2 of which have been working with Lumi (solar business here in Gulu), and nearly 4 years experience working in water resources in Colorado. Since I am connected with WorldVenture, I will be have access to other resources through my agency as well. This includes possibly recruiting additional team members and advisors as needed, including a new missionary in Gulu who has an MBA!

Tim Darby – Tim and I are partnering together to make this business happen. In fact, he was the one to initiate this whole idea! He is a missionary with the BMS World Mission (a UK-based mission agency) and has been in Gulu for about 3.5 years. Has has a degree in Geology and a Masters in Water and Environmental Management from Loughborough University (which is a school I have followed since finishing my undergrad). He also worked as an environmental consultant for 6+ years before coming to Gulu. Since arriving in Uganda, Tim has completed many projects, but most importantly for this business, Tim completed a very rigorous studying in rural Northern Uganda that assessed water and sanitation needs in over two dozen communities. With Tim, comes the support of his agency as well. BMS has already been a HUGE help by connecting Tim to advisors and others who have started similar businesses in other parts of the world.

Joe Ovenden – Also based in Gulu with BMS. He manages the projects for BMS and has already been a great advisor for Tim and me.

Jesse Geiger – You know him already too, but for his role with this business, he’ll be using his economics background. He minored in Economics in college and a large part of his past work experience is in business modeling. He will help make sure that this business makes sense financially and is therefore sustainable.

Local team – Until we get a business formally organized, we cannot recruit local talent. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t identified great potential employees, though! Fortunately for us, we are connected to a local accountant (which are HARD to come by here) and several recent graduates of a WASH training program that was held by a local NGO.

How YOU can help!

The biggest thing we need help with is raising money for the drill rig. Buying the rig and getting it ready for work will cost about $20,000. I know that sounds like a lot, but if we are able to serve 7,200 people in the first year, that is less than $2.78 per person. That’s less than a Tall Cafe Latte at Starbucks!

We have raised $7,810 so far, and we currently have a matching campaign until May 1st, dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000!

Every dollar donated before May 1st will be doubled up to $5,000!

If are able to donate to the drill rig or learn more, please donate by clicking the link below:

I want to help increase access to drinking water!

Thank you SO much for all your support! If you have any creative ideas of how I might be able to raise this money, or any thoughts or questions about this business, please let me know.

Thank you again!

~Rachel

Back “home”

Since our last blog post, we have traveled a lot and are now back home in Gulu. [Side: I feel like we could use the word “home” to refer to a lot of places now. =) ]

Our visit back to the States was such an encouragement. I was especially impressed by people’s genuine interest in what we are doing, our lives in Uganda, and our Ugandan friends and colleagues. I know that not every overseas worker has such a supportive network of friends and family, and we are truly grateful.

When we returned to Uganda, we spent a few days in Kampala to attend the Field Meeting with our agency, and then headed up to Gulu. When we got home, our neighbors had decorated our house, made us dinner, and stocks our kitchen with the basics. It was a great welcome!

Some highlight photos….

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Flying over the Front Range of Colorado!

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Gorgeous New Mexico.

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Green chile of course!

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Our decorated living room!

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Dry season has killed all our grass (or is it reverse hibernation?), but this gorgeous tree provides a welcomed alternative ground covering with its beautiful flowers.

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This picture sums up dry season to me. Burning piles of field/yard debris, blinding sun, and dusty roads. Strangely beautiful.

With regards to Lumi, we very recently received some unfortunate updates regarding the capital raise with potential investors. Please be praying for Lumi to find some funding.

With regards to the mission agency (WV), we have a new family moving to Gulu! It is a couple that we knew from Denver. The husband worked for the agency at the time, and while we were in application with the agency, the couple also applied to move to Gulu (no, not because of us). The husband has an MBA and the wife works in early childhood education. They both intend to work with Hope Alive! which is the ministry that Jesse and I supported by volunteering with Engineering Ministries International last February. Hope Alive! is run by another WV missionary that moved to Gulu (from Kampala) late 2016. The husband has also helped with Lumi in the past and may do so once they are settled. Jesse and I will be helping them through this transition and are looking forward to having them here. They are coming with their young son (9 months).

Our next update will most likely be about the water project, so stay tuned!

Prayer Requests:

  • Urgent Request:  Please be in prayer for Lumi. The finances are tight. As you know, Lumi has been trying to complete a big funding round, but that has just hit a few set backs. Please pray that the business would succeed and find funding opportunities. Also for the health, safety, and growth of all the Lumi team members.
  • Praise:  Grateful for such a great trip back to the States, and for safety while traveling.
  • Praise:  Grateful that it looks like we can reduce some of our budget here so that we can avoid raising more financial support.
  • Request:  Please pray for the new family that is moving to Gulu (they land in Uganda tonight!). The transition can be long and difficult, but they already have a great head start. Pray also for wisdom for us on how to best help through this time.

Thank you so much for following along with us!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Jesse and I have been in the United States for the holidays this year. My brother had his first child on December 18, so we decided to come over to the U.S.! Jesse and I are now an Aunt and Uncle!

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L to R: Jesse, Rachel, Tiffany with week-old baby Archer, James (Rachel’s brother), Abigail (Rachel’s sister) with Annabel-the-cat, Russell (Rachel’s father), and Bentley Moose-the-dog.

We spent a week in New Hampshire where my brother and sister-in-law live. We were actually picked up at the Boston airport by our CTO who also lives in New Hampshire. We had a bunch of solar products to deliver to him, as well. We visited one of Lumi’s Advisors, too.

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Lumi’s CTO, and our friend, John, at his laboratory in New Hampshire!

My father is originally from the Northeast, and since the baby came some close to Christmas, everyone got together to celebrate! I think we had about 25 people together for Christmas (which means there were too many people to take one big group photo). This was also Jesse’s first New England Christmas, and my first in about 10 years!

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Brrr….

We traveled to the beautiful big open skies of Colorado before New Years to visit with Jesse’s parents who live just south of Denver.

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So good to be in our home state! [Side note: don’t worry, the snow showed up not too long after this photo was taken.]

The week after New Years was full of work meetings as Lumi’s CEO and new CFO (and her husband) were in town. Jesse and I met with them, met with two of Lumi’s Advisors, our US Accountant, and our Manufacturing Director.We had a few skype meetings with the team back in Uganda too. It was so fun to show them the snow outside while the temperatures keep rising in UG!

We are also getting a lot of medical appointments finished. So far, it has all been pretty good news for us, medically.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to, is being at our home church, New Denver Church. Fortunately, we’ll be there tomorrow morning and will share briefly at their morning service.

Next week, I will travel to New Mexico to visit my mom in my hometown….and of course, stock up on some Green Chili! Then, we’ll visit with my father and my little sister in Colorado next weekend. After that we’ll have Jesse’s birthday and about 4 more days of more visits, meetings, and medical appointments before flying back to the Uganda on the 20th!

We’ve really enjoyed our time in the US and are excited to meet up with more people over the next two weeks, but we are looking forward to being back in Uganda soon!

Prayer Requests:

  • Praise:  Grateful for all the progress made and joys in 2017:  settling our house, overall good health, the beginnings of a water project for Rachel, great sales progress with Lumi, nearly completed new product designs with Lumi, finding great expat and Ugandan friends in Gulu, Jesse’s opportunities to preach at church, and two weddings and one baby for the Lumi team!
  • Request:  We are currently underfunded. We are going to be talking with the agency about what changes can be made in our budget to reduce costs, but we may need to raise a bit more support. Please pray with us for clarity in how to best move forward financially.
  • Request:  Please continue to pray for health and safety for us as we travel in the US and overseas. Also, prayers for encouragement would also be greatly appreciated.
  • Request:  Please be in prayer for Lumi. That the business would succeed and for the health, safety, and growth of all the members of the team.

Thank you so much for following along with us, and Happy New Year!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

Our First Acholi Wedding

George
We recently attended our first Acholi (the local tribe) wedding! The groom, George, is a guy that works with us at Lumi. George is an amazing guy.
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George showing an agent how to complete product sales.

George interviewed with Lumi during our first week in Uganda. About 2 months later, we found out that he is actually a locally famous Acholi music artist with the stage name “Kiddy Face”. Apparently, he was quite the party and ladies man while his fame was raising, and then he became a Christian and switched to only performing Christian music. He has a strong heart for serving the poor and using his fame to help Lumi reach the villages (since everyone in the north has heard him on the radio). He is one of the most humble men I have ever met (but the concert posters might suggest otherwise).
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A concert poster for one of George’s Gospel shows.

Engagement
George and I (Rachel) have had good chats during a few drives to and from a nearby village called Acet (pronounced “ah-chet”) over the last year.
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George (far left) and I helping an agent in Acet. This is what it looks like when Lumi has a meeting in the villages. Everyone sits under the biggest tree in the homestead and we bring a speaker to draw people from near by. This is my favorite photo from 2016 so far!

During one of our drives back in June or July, George told me that I should get ready to attend a wedding before the end of the year. Which was his way of saying that he had a serious girlfriend and they were going to try to get married. I was SO happy for him and could see his excitement overflowing from his smile. After we got back to Gulu that evening, he directed me to where his girlfriend, Irene works making and selling popcorn. She was really sweet. Jesse and I kept up-to-date from George about Irene and the progress of his wedding plans.

It is VERY hard to get married in Acholi culture. Well…not as much “hard”, as it is expensive. A “wedding” is really done in two parts. The first is called “Introduction” or sometimes called the “traditional marriage”. This is the part where the groom and his family introduce the groom to the family of the bride. This is also when the bride price is negotiated, which can get as high as thousands of US dollars. The groom doesn’t actually do the negotiating, but rather others (uncles, etc) do it on his behalf. Similarly, it is the uncles of the bride that negotiate for her side. While this practice has come under some scrutiny in recent times, I’m told that historically, the idea was that the groom’s family wanted to honor and thank the bride’s family for raising such a wonderful woman. Also, since the bride will leave her clan and join her husband’s clan, the bride’s clan was being compensated for her loss. Jesse and I did not attend the Introduction so that it wouldn’t suggest that “outside funds” might be available to George and therefore encourage his future in-laws to negotiate for a higher bride price.
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George and Irene during Introduction.

 Acholi Weddings
The second marriage event is the “church wedding” for Christian Acholi couples. This is based on western weddings, but definitely have their own flare.
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Church decorated for the wedding. Colors were royal blue and hot pink.

Jesse and I were on the Wedding Committee which met every Thursday night and was tasked with raising money for the wedding and managing all the preparations. To raise money, committee members were to ask family/friends to make pledges using these pledge cards.

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A pledge card to raise money for the wedding.

Being Named
It is not uncommon for expats who build relationships with Acholis to be given an Acholi name. It is not a nickname that one person uses to refer to you, but rather the name to represent you to all Acholis. An equivalent for example, would be when an Acholi becomes a Christian, they are given a “Christian name”. Americans would call it their middle name. Of course, I hoped to be given an Acholi name during our time here, but knew that it wasn’t something that you could make happen. Your name has to be given to you.
During one of the wedding meetings, a committee member asked me if I had an Acholi name yet. I said that I did not have one and after some discussion, George quite formally gave me the name “Aloyo”. He literally said something like, “I now bestow upon you the name Aloyo in the name of Jesus Christ.” It means victory, and I love my new name! My full name to an Acholi is now “Aloyo Rachel Jesse”, unless they know that I introduce myself as “Rachel Geiger”.
Wedding Day
On the wedding day, we volunteered for the transportation team and were both drivers for the day (including the use of our car). We were the only white people in attendance at the wedding…let alone participating. We got a lot of laughs and questions as the white people driving Ugandans, as it is usually seen the other way around.
It was a long day as drivers, we started our day washing and decorating the car at 7am and got home at 10pm. As an extrovert, I was on cloud 9! I would do that once a month if I could. We were both happy to support our friend and colleague this way.

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Our car picking up the bridesmaids from the salon. The salon is behind the yellow umbrella, where you can see the bride.

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The wedding cars. Jesse drove our car and I drove a rented van like the one immediate in front. There were 5 cars in the procession and these were used to transport the photographer, videographer, and the wedding party to the wedding, to the post-wedding photo locations, and back to the reception. We also were lucky enough to drive the bride and groom home after the reception.

Something to Learn
Some parts were awkward/hard, of course. For example, during the wedding service, the pastor was discussing how great it is for a man to marry a woman and how strong African women are, how good they are at cooking and “producing” babies, when he decided to point to me (sitting near the back since I was a driver) and said, “all you African women can teach this one something”. Oh yes…that really happened. =)
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My view of the wedding. We sat near the back since we were drivers. We sat with the Lumi guys. Taban is to my right. Now imagine all those people in front of me turning around when the pastor pointed me out! Eek!

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George and Irene posed for a photo for me to send to Lumi’s founder, Thomas.

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The wedding party. It is common in Uganda for the wedding party to visit a hotel and take pictures in the gardens/lawns and by the pool.

Short Speech
Then, after the wedding service, while the bridal party was getting their photos taken (and I was trying to avoid having mine taken by total strangers as the “white woman” at the wedding), I was told that I would be given a speech on behalf of Lumi, and that I didn’t need to worry because it ONLY needed to be about 5 minutes long! EEK!  However, the people who spoke before me were actually very short, so I shortened mine at the last-minute. I tried to use some humor, but it TOTALLY failed (I think…no one laughed anyway) and then, following the suggesting of another colleague, I presented Lumi’s gift at the end of my speech…which apparently is a well understood way of saying that you want to leave soon and then everyone laughed. OOPS!  George and Irene were very gracious and knew we were sticking around, so we didn’t actually insult the bride and groom.
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Our view during the reception. Look at all the photographers! Only one of these guys are the actual photographer. The others are there to take pictures, print them out, and then ask guest to purchase the prints. You can see the cake stand in the back on the far right. The cakes spell “GEORGE” and “IRENE”. Those cakes are gifts to important groups of people, including Lumi!

Meeting the Families
Near the end of the reception, I was able to meet all of the Lumi guys’ families who had come to the wedding. One of our guys said that he would like for him and his girlfriend to come over to our house so they can learn from us. What an honor! Since Jesse and I both work at Lumi, the guys see us together all the time and our marriage has sometimes been a point of discussion with the guys at Lumi. Jesse and I work as equals and a lot of the ways we interact are uncommon in marriages here. If they comment, it is usually about my independence and individuality and Jesse’s comfort with and appreciation of that.
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Jesse and I with three of the Lumi guys at the wedding service. This is a picture taken by one of the non-official photographers. In Uganda, it is common for men to make serious faces for photos. We were all laughing before and immediately after this was taken, I swear!

Driving Newlyweds Home

At the end of the night, we were driving the bride and groom home (after a long list of random delays, of course) and George said that the he was honored that we would spend our entire day to help with his wedding and that we are now more like family than coworkers. He said that spending our time to help him was worth more than giving money, which meant so much given the typical dynamics between expats and Ugandans. We said our goodbyes and sent them on their newly married way.
Prayer Requests:
– Praise for growing relationships with our Ugandan friends.
– For the malaria outbreak in Northern Uganda to end.
– For investors to join Lumi.
– 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 that a Rachel has been able to join with a British missionary to begin setting up a water business to serve rural northern Uganda [more to come on this very soon]!
Thanks so much for following along!

~Rachel (& Jesse)