One year in Uganda!

On July 18th, Jesse and I celebrated our 1 Year Anniversary of being in Uganda!

1 Year in UG

One Year in UG!

 

I had some clear expectations of how life would be after 1 year in-country. And we all know what happens when you put clear expectations on a very unclear future. Things didn’t exactly turn out like I thought they would…in some good ways and in some hard ways.

Positive Surprises:

  1. Expat Friends! – Since no other WorldVenture people live in our town and Lumi has no other expats working here, I was a bit worried that we would be off on our own, in terms of American/Western friends. I was SO wrong! We’ve made great friends here and it has been one of the best parts of this whole experience. I can’t emphasize this enough. Not only have these new friends helped us adjust to life here and given us practical assistance, they have challenged and encouraged our faith, and truly walked with us and we’ve all grown together. I’m not sure I’ve ever had community quite like this before, and I am really grateful for this opportunity.
  2. Health! – In June, Jesse and I caught our first head-colds that either of us have had in over a year! Jesse had one small food-related issue back in September, but other than that, we have really been VERY healthy! We are especially aware of our good health since many of our friends have been sick with malaria, bacterial infections, parasites, and food-issues in the last year.
  3. Hope Alive! Project! – We hoped to be able to work with Engineering Ministries International while we were here, but we did not ever think it would be for a ministry in Gulu that is run by another WorldVenture missionary! We were really excited to be a part of the design team with EMI to help begin designing Hope Alive!’s Koch Goma campus (very near Gulu) this Spring. It was such an encouragement to me (Rachel) especially as I was able to reconnect with many of my old colleagues from my internship with EMI years ago.
  4. Lumi Technology Projects! – Before we came out to Uganda, I was a bit concerned that we might not be able to get very far with designing new solar products while were in Uganda. I was SO wrong. Instead of just designing new solar lamps we are creating an entirely new sales model and all the technology needed for it. This new model has the potential to expand access to power to tons of people around the world.
  5. Security! – We still haven’t had anything stolen! We have been told by many people to expect theft and just be ready to deal with it when it happens….but it just hasn’t happened. Nothing has been stolen from our bags, car, or house. We have an AMAZING day-guard who has helped us keep our house and stuff safe; even with all our traveling.

Less-than-Positive Surprises:

  1. Housing – Our 4 month wait to move into a house was NOT very fun. Driving back and forth between Kampala and Gulu was stressful and tiring, but there were definitely positive things that came from it. The biggest being that Jesse and I both feel very comfortable driving in Kampala and we know where all the stores and restaurants are. Most people that live in Gulu do not travel to Kampala often, and even fewer are willing to drive in Kampala. Jesse and I still travel to Kampala often for work, and we are able to really enjoy our time there since we lived there when we first arrived in Uganda.
  2. Water Project – For me (Rachel), I can say that he hardest surprise was realizing that Lumi would not be expanding into water access. The majority of my adult life has been focused on eventually working with water in developing countries, and I believed that coming out here to work with Lumi was going to be the culmination of that dream. When I realized that Lumi was not likely to expand into water, I thought that it would be easy to find another water group to work with, but after about another 6 months, it became obvious that finding another group, for a variety of reasons, was not likely. The realization that I may not be able to do much water work while here was crushing.I didn’t realize how much of my identity and my faith was tied to water engineering in Africa, until the opportunity was taken away after getting so close. There was/is a lot of grieving, but I am learning SO much through the process. The biggest take-aways for me have been the importance of staying focused on what matters most, reminding myself that my value is not tied to my performance or significance, and knowing that there is no promised result of following God in terms of “success” or “importance”.

I am still an Engineering Director with Lumi, and have had the opportunity to help with some water projects while here, as well, but I have been looking for more in “my” field. Very recently, another potential water opportunity has come up and I will share more about that if it starts to look more likely. It is still in very early brainstorming stages.

3. Work-style – When we left the US, we figured we would spend our time with our co-workers and out in the villages, and that was true for the first 6 months we were in Uganda. Unfortunately, the last 6 months have involved a lot of report writing and designing from our office at home. Both of us are getting a little bit of cabin (or compound) fever. Hopefully after these big reports/designs are done, we will have more time away from our desks,  with co-workers and with customers.

One-year Summary:

After a year, Gulu feels like home. We love our house, dogs, car, friends and co-workers. We’ve learned “thank you” in a lot of languages…but have not learned how to say much else! =) Half the time we can’t imagine staying here more than our 3 year commitment, the other half of the time we can’t imagine going back to America (don’t worry, we’re still planning on coming back).

Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support during this year and during our preparation time before we left.

Please continue to be in prayer for our health and safety and for Lumi!

Thanks!

~Rachel & Jesse Geiger

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)

Customer Testimony

One of our Ugandan colleagues documented a customer testimony for us. Here is the transcription…

“Before acquiring lumi solar lamps, we were using paraffin lanterns but we would often have flue that would affect our family members sneezing hard sometimes with black stuff coming out of their nose which worries me.

Since the presence of these lumi lamps, we have seen a lot of changes, no sneezing and the lamps are bright enough. We even used it the other day for catching white ants at night.

These lamps have helped me so much with my family; we have both the small and big one. Now I can light both children’s house and ours but also we do not have to taking our phones to the neighbours for charging like the way we use to do. My children are using the big one because they have to be reading their books!

When I compare these lamps with buying paraffin, this is better. We don’t have to walk longer distances like to Opit market to buy paraffin and we pay slowly slowly which is good for us…we don’t use much money per week since we can charge our phones at home and don’t buy paraffin anymore and you people also come around our homes.”

I thought you all may like to hear a testimony, but also to read some Ugandan-English and learn a few cultural things.

The “white ants” that the customer is referring to are actually flying termites that swarm around this time of year, when rainy season starts. People collect these ants and eat them. Typically they are mashed into something like a meatball and cooked. No…Jesse and I have not tried them yet. Here is a picture of them at our house.

White Ant Collage

White Ants:  The ants swarm toward light at night. Then their wings fall off. In the morning, there are piles of wings along the foundation of our house (far left photo). The wings are really big (top right photo), but so are the ants (bottom right photo)!

Also, “slowly, slowly” is a very common phrase in East Africa. Most people speak Luo here and it is said, “mot, mot”. It is a very helpful phrase! Especially when people ask us if we are learning Luo.

Update:

My father visited during the second half of April and we had a great time! My next post will likely be about that.

We have continued working on the new product designs, gathering customer feedback for test products, and will attend a solar training in Kampala this week.

Jesse may have a short trip to Nairobi soon for a Pay-as-you-go solar in Africa conference. Which will be the first time one of us is in Uganda without the other since we moved here.

URGENT PRAYER NEED:

Jesse still does not have his final work permit. He has been able to get temporary passes up until this time while his work permit application is under review. Immigration laws have changed here in the last few months, and we have been told that his current temporary pass is the last one that they will give him. It expires in June and there is no sign of his work permit being approved any time soon. Please pray that Jesse receives his work permit before June.

Thank you for  following along with us and please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

Jesse Preached!

Gulu Baptist Church

On Sunday mornings, we attend services at Gulu Baptist Church (GBC). It was started in part, by a WorldVenture missionary long ago (at least 30 years ago), which is how we found out about it. The church is run by Ugandans, and there is only one other expat couple (a lawyer and a geologist missionaries from the UK) that attend.

Front of Gulu Baptist Church

This is Gulu Baptist Church on the second Sunday that Jesse preached. You can see Thomas (founder of Lumi) on the far left in the blue shirt. Jesse is next to him. I (Rachel) am behind the man next to Jesse. The other American in the foreground, with the children, is Margo, the wife of Lumi’s CEO who was visiting at the time.

The lead pastor is currently taking classes at a nearby university, and is unable to preach regularly. This means that we have many guest pastors preaching. Everyone preaches for two weeks when it is their turn. Jesse was asked to preach and chose to share from a sermon we heard at New Denver Church (with permission from the pastor…thanks Stephen!). He focused on how to pray, from Matthew 6.

IMG_5247

Jesse preaching on his first Sunday with a translator.

Jesse’s message was apparently very well received the first Sunday, because on the second Sunday, someone stood up and shared about how he did not go out and pray loudly in the streets with a friend that week because Jesse had shared that prayer is about your communication with God, not about the other people around you that can hear you. That same person (who happens to be a local Christian rap artists) wrote a rap (in a local tribal language) using the verses from Matthew 6. That was pretty cool!

We aren’t sure if Jesse will be preaching again, but we wouldn’t be surprised!

Update:

Sorry for the long delay in getting this blog post uploaded. We had our CEO and his wife visiting, then another couple from Denver in town, needed to finish up our designs for the EMI Hope Alive project, and then we were/are traveling for 3 weeks! We left home just before April started and spent some time in Kampala, before heading to Mombassa, Kenya for the East African Spiritual Renewal Conference and First Termers time. We added a few extra days for a vacation, too. It was AMAZING! I’ll post about that later.

When we flew back to Uganda, my dad (Rachel’s dad, Russell) flew into Uganda from the US! He will be visiting us for the next 2.5 weeks and we are SO excited to have him here. We are still in Kampala, but will be back in Gulu soon.

Prayer Requests:

  • Guidance and wisdom in work/ministry priorities and how best to use our time here.
  • For our home to be a place of rest.
  • For safety as we continue to travel within Uganda.
  • For Lumi to gain more investors and for wisdom in how to move the business forward.

Thank you so much for following along with us in the journey! Please let us know how we can be praying for you, too!

~Rachel (& Jesse)

 

Hope Alive! EMI Project

Hope Alive!

When we joined our mission agency, WorldVenture, we quickly learned about all the other missionaries that are in Uganda with our agency. One woman, Catharine, founded and runs a ministry called Hope Alive! (http://www.hopealiveafrica.org/). This ministry has 3 locations, with one in Gulu, Uganda. In fact, she has recruited another couple from Denver to come to Gulu later this year! We were able to spend time with them before our move and are looking forward to seeing them again, here in Uganda.

EMI – Engineering Ministries International

When we arrived in Uganda, we met with Catharine, and she told us about her big plans to develop land near Gulu that her ministry had recently purchased. She said that she had applied for Master Planning services from EMI’s East Africa office (emiea.org), but had not yet heard back. I (Rachel) spent a year as an intern with EMI….6 months in Uganda and 6 months in Colorado. Jesse also volunteered with EMI in South Africa several years ago, as well. We were VERY excited about the possibility of an EMI trip in Gulu.

By October, she found out that EMI had accepted her project and that the team would arrive in January! We immediately applied to be on the team, and got approval from Lumi and WorldVenture to join. We we accepted onto the team (Rachel to help with water/wastewater, Jesse as the lead Electrical Engineer). We had a GREAT time! Rachel was able to see two people from her earlier EMI days, and we had 3 Ugandans on the team as well!

Here is a slideshow/video of our project trip!

Photos

Here are some photos that we took of the trip as well!

Water Source 1

The community’s current water source.

Stella Getting PawPaw

Our guide (who is up in the tree) wanted us to visit his family. When we arrived, he climbed this tree to get us a pawpaw (papaya). He tossed it down to his wife, who washed it (yes, with that white water shown above) and served it to us. We all ate is gratefully.

Lipstick as a field marker

Sometimes you don’t have a marker on site, so you find your lipstick from last weekend!

Simon Electrical

Here is Jesse and Simon (the other electrical engineer that worked with Jesse) presenting on the proposed power solutions.

Prayer Requests

– Grateful that we are adjusting to life here and finding community!

– For Uganda’s elections as they continue and as results are released and discussed.

– Grateful for a home that is slowly starting to feel like home!…and continued prayer for housing as we have some issues with the house that look like they might not have solutions.

– Please pray for Lumi, and its founder, Thomas. Right now, prayers for wisdom in how to best fill some openings, for our coworkers, and for clear and effective communication across cultures, time-zones, and continents.

-We have a few visitors coming through. One is Lumi’s CFO and his wife. They are from Denver! The other is a couple we know from Denver who are coming out on a vision trip! We are really looking forward to seeing both couples again! =)

– Please also pray for our marriage, and for wisdom, confidence, and peace for us.

Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

Photo Update!

It is dry season here!

We did our Quarterly meetings with WorldVenture, made more progress on Jesse’s work permit, Jesse turned 30, and we had our EMI project here in Gulu! I’ll post a whole update about the EMI later this week, as it really deserves its own!

Also, Ugandan elections are February 18th. Please keep Uganda in your prayers during this time. Thank you.

See photos below!

We had an all-agents meeting in early January to start the year!

Time in Kampala…

Kampala Jam

This is actually a one-lane road!

NDC Card

Our home church, New Denver Church, sent us a card!!! I cried. Miss them all so much.

Solar Testing at CREEC

This is one of the chambers used Makerere Univeristy to test solar lights. We have lights being tested here, now.

Sushi Dinner

We both turn 30 in Jan/Feb, so we went out to Kampala’s Sushi restaurant. It was GREAT!

 Time in Gulu…

Jesse product surgery

Jesse working on one of our lights as the CTO Skypes in to help!

Pantry

We JUST got our pantry shelves! Finally starting to settle in.

Super Bowl!!!!!!

Super Bowl Set up

Setting up our “screen” and projector to watch the Super Bowl on Monday night!!! GO BRONCOS!!!

Super Bowl Win

Watched our Broncos win the Super Bowl! SO great!

 

Prayer Requests

– Grateful that we are adjusting to life here and finding community!

– For Uganda’s elections starting on February 18.

– Grateful for a home that is slowly starting to feel like home!…and continued prayer for housing as we have some issues with the house that look like they might not have solutions.

– Please pray for Lumi, and its founder, Thomas. Right now, prayers for wisdom in how to best fill some openings, for our coworkers, and for clear and effective communication across cultures, time-zones, and continents.

-We have a few visitors coming through. One is Lumi’s CFO and his wife. They are from Denver! The other is a couple we know from Denver who are coming out on a vision trip! We are really looking forward to seeing both couples again! =)

– Please also pray for wisdom, confidence, and peace for us.

Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

Wanting: A season of fridge magnets and the Rolling Stones

“Want but do”-ing

I’m not sure if you have seen them, but some people have these magnets on their fridge that are all small words, etc and they use the magnets to make sentences, notes to each other, funny phrases, poems and other fun stuff. When we started cleaning our newly rented house, I found one of those magnet words on the floor. It had been a bad day. I had spent the day trying to figure out how this place would ever feel livable, let alone like HOME. I kept thinking I wish it was a new house, so that it wouldn’t have so many cracks that bugs can get it. I wished it was smaller so that there wouldn’t be so much to clean. I wish the kitchen had been remodeled so that the cabinets would feel clean enough to put food in. I was wanting a lot of things to be different.

Then, I found the magnet word “want” on the floor. How a magnet word got in this house, I’ll never know, but I felt like I was basically being called out. I immediately realized that I was being ridiculous. Seriously?…I’m going to sit here in a HOUSE complaining about how it isn’t like an American house? Really? I’m not living on the street, or even in a hut (yes, we know expatriates who choose/need to live in a hut). I’m not hungry. I’m not thirsty. I’m not in danger. I don’t even have to share my house. Jesse and I get to have it all to ourselves. I’m living better than most people on the planet, and I’m going to complain and whine about some small, manageable, even repairable inconveniences?

I remembered Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Or the way the Message Bible writes it, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.” The rest of that chapter talks about how God leads and it wasn’t the following: “God gives me a perfect house and no bugs.” It is stuff like “he refreshes my soul” and “he guides me along the right paths.” We’ll I’m not really letting him lead me anywhere when I’m sitting on the floor of an empty house whining.

But the words continued.

Over the next 2 days we found “do”, “but”, and “ing” magnet words  inside door jams and in used furniture we had purchased. Then it stopped. I’m not superstitious, but I’ve kept the words up on the fridge (yeah, we even have a fridge!). So it reads “want-ing-but-do-ing”. I think that’s the right attitude for us for now.

"Want-but-do"ing.

We find so many things that we miss/want…to be near family, clean water from the faucet, constant power, no bugs, grocery stores, paved roads in town (on their way!), understanding people (whether they are speaking English or not!), even winter. But we must continue to “do”. Not meaning that we should stay so busy that we don’t feel our wants, but that we acknowledge them, cry if we need to, then keep following God.

Basically, our theme song has become…

 

Updates:

We started renting a house in early-November, and we able to move in in early-December (after some much-needed work). Since then, we’ve only been able to spend about a dozen nights in the house as we had a Kampala trip and then Christmas traveling. We spent our Christmas in Mbarara (Southwestern Uganda) with friends from WorldVenture. We even got to spend two nights at Lake Bunyonyi for our own little get-away.

Lake Bunyonyi in Southwestern Uganda.

Lake Bunyonyi in Southwestern Uganda.

At the house, we still have very little furniture, as pretty much every piece is made to order. We have gotten a desk and coffee tables made. We found plastic table and chairs (think patio furniture) for our dining area, and we very lucky to find a used couch and hutch for the kitchen. We are borrowing a bed, and our mattress that we ordered in Kampala has arrived in Gulu! We are hoping to get a bed and some kitchen shelves in the next 2-3 weeks. Otherwise, bugs have been our most consistent issue in the house. We even  had Army Ants try to nest in our roof one night in December! I wont expand on that much except to say that I am extremely grateful for pesticides and everything is totally fine now.

In Lumi news, Thomas (Lumi’s founder) has returned to Uganda and we are growing! The Electrical Engineer who visited back in September has decided to accept a position as our Chief Technical Officer and has already been very helpful, especially for Jesse and me!

Jesse has been busy with more large system designs, technical trouble shooting, and managing work on the house/car. I have been able to finish the interviews with the Lumi customers who tested one of our sample products, have been figuring out where to buy food (can’t just run to the grocery store, but I’m figuring it out), and will begin standardizing a lot of Lumi’s processes and procedures next month.

In February, we will be joining an Engineering Ministries International (EMI, http://www.emiworld.org) team for a design project  in Gulu. The project is to develop designs for a school (Hope Alive!, http://www.hopealiveafrica.org) that is run by another WorldVenture missionary. What a cool way for us to merge our history with EMI (I was an intern for a year, and Jesse has volunteered on a project) with our new roles with WorldVenture. In fact, someone has already offered to financial support our participation on the team, before they even knew we were accepted by EMI!

Prayer Requests

– Grateful that we are adjusting to life here and finding community!

– Grateful for safety and protection during our Christmas travels, and for that to continue.

– Grateful for a home that is slowly starting to feel like home!

– Please pray for Lumi, and it’s founder, Thomas. Right now, prayers for wisdom in how to best fill some openings, for our coworkers who have lost a lot of their families from disease and wars (and are especially reminded of their loss at Christmas), and for clear and effective communication across cultures, time-zones, and continents.

– Please also pray for wisdom, confidence, and peace for us. This month, we had our first “I can’t do this anymore.” moment. I know these are a part of missions and living somewhere unfamiliar, but they are hard and I know that prayer makes a difference. At the same time, I am SO grateful that during those moments, we received some very encouraging emails form friends and supporters back in the US. I can not express enough how much those mean to us.

Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

 

Our First Big Solar Install

In early-November, Lumi completed our biggest solar system installation ever!…which happened to be Jesse and my first solar system installation since arriving.

The system is for a Christian school in Gulu that is run by a ministry in Gulu. This ministry is AWESOME! They do discipleship, leadership development, run a home for vulnerable children, primary school, and medical services for children with special needs (including speech and physical therapy).

They are located in a part of Gulu that has no access to the grid. They asked the local electric utility how to get connected and were told that if they paid about $40,000 USD for the connection (utility poles, wires, etc) they would connect them now, and charge them the regular monthly rates. OR they could wait about 5 years or longer for the connection to be developed. Fortunately, they were able to receive a grant for $10,000 to install a solar system and a back-up diesel generator. Jesse, Taban, and Thomas were able to design a system that powered all their needs (with some room to expand for about 5 years) for $9,000!

Here are some photos of the installation.

Installing the panel brackets

Installing the panel brackets on the main building. Taban and Innocent are on the roof, Jesse is on the ladder.

Connecting the panels

Taban and Innocent are wiring the panels together. That is HOT roof, too!

Nearly done

Finished up the smaller building!

The installation took about 5 days, and was a great opportunity to connect with more of our Ugandan coworkers!

Update:

We still have not moved into our house yet, BUT the work on the house is going really well! We have had electricians (Innocent and Taban, actually!), plumbers, carpenters, masons, and more in the house for over a week now! Most of the big things should be finished up on Wednesday. We will likely move in Monday.

Unfortunately, this means that Jesse and I have been pretty much of house-duty for the last 2 weeks. We did get a small system installed in the coffee shop -slash- guest house that we are currently living in, and Jesse has sized about 3 more solar systems in his evening hours.

Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I have to say, it makes my Top 5 Thanksgivings of All Time list. Gulu held it’s first 5k Turkey Trot in the morning, followed by a pancake breakfast! Oh MAN! I was SO excited about that! Jesse and I “ran” the 5k and ate “pancakes”. =) In the evening, the place we are staying at hosted their 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner with over 60 people! It was GREAT! It has been really fun to teach Ugandans and non-American expats about Thanksgiving, too. Explaining a Turkey Trot was kind of difficult, actually. Then we Skyped family in the evening and watch a bit of American Football. It was a great Thanksgiving.

Prayer Requests

– Grateful that we are adjusting to life here and finding community!

– Safety and protection while driving in Uganda (especially as incidents of theft increase as we approach Christmas).

– Grateful for a home and that we can move in soon!

– Grateful that our visas/permits have been granted by the government of Uganda!

– Lumi is in a critical phase right now as the capital raise and trial are going. Please pray for Lumi, and it’s founder, Thomas.

– Please also pray for confidence for us. Sometimes things are very overwhelming here…like being regularly asked for money for some emergency, or to give someone a job, or a handout, the daily cultural misunderstandings, the “weird stomach issues” that seem to come each week, getting the house ready (and dealing with all the bugs and critters that go along with that), and all the other daily stuff that comes with living here. But yesterday, Thanksgiving, was such a great reminder that we’re ok. That a TON of things are going really well. And most importantly, that God is in control even in a place where we don’t know what to expect or how to respond.

Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger

The Road to Gulu (literally)

We FINALLY moved to Gulu!

On November 17th, we drove a HUGE van with all of our stuff and recently purchased appliances from Kampala to Gulu and unloaded it all in our newly leased house.

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Loading the van we drove to Gulu (van is on the right).

The house needs a lot of work. We’ve already had plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and a wall-building team at the house. Looks like we will have crews on site for the next week or two. In Uganda, when looking for furniture, having it made is usually the cheapest option. So, we still don’t have furniture. All this means that although we started our lease about 10 days ago, we still aren’t living there. We definitely plan on moving in before Thanksgiving, though.

During our previous drives to and from Gulu, I kept wishing that there was some way to share the drive with you all. So, this time, I took a photo every 15 minutes (starting from outside Kampala, or about 30 minutes into the drive). I hope you enjoy!

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Just 30 minutes outside of Kampala. The rain stopped, so the photos started. From this point, I took a photo every 15 minutes of the drive.

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Construction stops have become fewer and fewer as they make more and more progress on the road. They are almost done!

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Then we cross the Nile River at Karuma Falls, where we see the baboons!

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Everything north of Karuma falls was influenced by the Lords Resistance Army (led by Kony) when the LRA was in Uganda.

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Then we reach Gulu town!

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Entering downtown Gulu.

As you can see, our drive has gotten REALLY smooth. The roughest driving we have is dodging potholes in Kampala, and then the roads within Gulu town…which are now being worked on as well.

Sorry for the delay in posts. We have been swamped with this housing/moving stuff. I hope to catch up soon, as we have lots of cool stories to share.

Thanks for following along!

Prayer Requests:

  • For smooth transition into this new house (for quick work/repairs, safety, etc)
  • Wisdom, clarity with new routines at Lumi.
  • Praise for finding a home!

Let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse)

Finding our Stride

Finding our Stride

Glad to say after a month of trial-and-error, we have found a stride…for now.

In our last post, I wrote about all the accomplishments of the previous month and described the results of our boundary-less, hit-the-ground-running entry strategy. We’re happy to say that we’re recovering and found a much better pace. It wasn’t easy, and the second we stopped pushing so hard, we realized how much damage we had done to ourselves. We were distant and irritable, exhausted and numb. We spent a lot of time this past month repairing and re-strategizing.

And we’ve seen it working already! For example, our driving experiences have dramatically improved. I noticed yesterday, while driving back from the store, that I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was almost enjoying the drive. I used to LOVE driving in the US, so I think I’m starting to let go of enough of the stress and fear to enjoy things again! We are handling negative things much better, too. We still don’t have a home and are still trying to figure out our visa situation (looks like that might get resolved tomorrow), but those don’t feel like crushing pressures anymore. We’ve made time to enjoy each other, life, and God again, which really we never should have stopped.

So, things are looking up!…or at least things are looking sustainable! =)

Now, here is a photo update of all that has been going on!

Food Photos!

Engagement Lemon Chicken, a Becky Geiger classic has FINALLY been pulled off!...after two other attempts.

Engagement Lemon Chicken, a Becky Geiger classic has FINALLY been pulled off!…after two other attempts.

Had a

Had a “date night” at KFC! I almost cried. EVERYTHING about it could have been in the US!…except they don’t have soda fountains here.

I made french fries (or

I made french fries (or “chips” here) from scratch!

During our water well days (described later), we were given a bunch of fruits to try. This one didn't have a name, but it was like pomegranate inside. The fruit was yummy, a bit like citrus. The seed was INTENSE! It was like biting into nutmeg or cloves!

During our water well days (described later), we were given a bunch of fruits to try. This one didn’t have a name, but it was like pomegranate inside. The fruit was yummy, a bit like citrus. The seed was INTENSE! It was like biting into nutmeg or cloves!

Water well day - lemon.

Water well day – lemon.

Water well day - sugar cane.

Water well day – sugar cane.

Water well day -

Water well day – “Black sweets”…which they pronounced as “black sweats”. These were very strange. The taste was like licorice, but the fruit wouldn’t pull away from the nut in the middle.

Water well day - lunch was chicken stew with posho. Seriously the best chicken I have ever eaten. We ate with our hands.

Water well day – lunch was chicken stew with posho. Seriously the best chicken I have ever eaten. We ate with our hands.

Water Well Days!

Last week, we were invited to join a local water well drilling team and another American (Hal) while they drill and install a water well for a church outside of Gulu town. I was SO excited. I had been disappointed that I hadn’t been able to get involved in water work since we’ve arrived and I was asking God to please let me be involved with something. To connect with Hal and be invited to join was definitely God letting me know that He heard my heart. Here are some photos (from the MANY, MANY photos) I took during those 2 days.

Driving out to the villages.

Driving out to the villages.

The road was getting difficult just as we arrived at the site.

The road was getting difficult just as we arrived at the site.

To drill, we used a hand-auger, or some call it a post-hole digger. We dug about 14 feet below the ground.

To drill, we used a hand-auger, or some call it a post-hole digger. We dug about 14 feet below the ground.

WATER! We reached water and tested to make sure that there was enough supply there to support the hand pump that we will install.

WATER! We reached water and tested to make sure that there was enough supply there to support the hand pump that we will install.

This is the site. In the foreground, you can see the community's current water source. This is a little hillside that the people dug into to reach the ground water. This water pools here and the people fill their jerry cans with this water. Note the algae and trash. The team is drilling just above there, on the hillside (you can see them in the background). This will develop a much more protected water source.

This is the site. In the foreground, you can see the community’s current water source. This is a little hillside that the people dug into to reach the ground water. This water pools here and the people fill their jerry cans with this water. Note the algae and trash. The team is drilling just above there, on the hillside (you can see them in the background). This will develop a much more protected water source.

A good view of what it looked like at the site.

A good view of what it looked like at the site.

The team was making their slit-screen which is what protects the pump from dirt and debris. I tried sawing small slits into the PVC too, and given the quality of the saw and the quality of my upper body strength, it seemed better to leave it to the experts.

The team was making their slit-screen which is what protects the pump from dirt and debris. I tried sawing small slits into the PVC too, and given the quality of the saw and the quality of my upper body strength, it seemed better to leave it to the experts.

By the end of day 1, the team had drilled the hole, installed the casing, put in sand and cement, and had cemented the base of the pump.

By the end of day 1, the team had drilled the hole, installed the casing, put in sand and cement, and had cemented the base of the pump.

Day 2 was time to build the pump base and install the pump. Here, the team is setting up bricks to build the pump base. It is important to allow excess water to drain away from the well to prevent well contamination.

Day 2 was time to build the pump base and install the pump. Here, the team is setting up bricks to build the pump base. It is important to allow excess water to drain away from the well to prevent well contamination.

How do you make aggregate for cement in Uganda?...you smash some rocks (

How do you make aggregate for cement in Uganda?…you smash some rocks (“marrum”). Martin is teaching me how.

Time to prepare the submersible well. Here, Martin is holding the well (the red piece).

Time to prepare the submersible well. Here, Martin is holding the well (the red piece).

Hal and I were talking together, when we realized that the team seemed to be having a debate. They speak to each other in Luo, but the manerisms seemed like they were disagreeing. We asked what they were talking about and they said they were debating what the Bible says about how Christians should view death. Next thing I know, a Luo Bible comes out and we all start learning.

Hal and I were talking together, when we realized that the team seemed to be having a debate. They speak to each other in Luo, but the mannerisms seemed like they were disagreeing. We asked what they were talking about and they said they were debating what the Bible says about how Christians should view death. Next thing I know, a Luo Bible comes out and we all start learning.

Here, the pump is in the hole, and the top pulley mechanism for the hand pump is being finished.

Here, the pump is in the hole, and the top pulley mechanism for the hand pump is being finished.

Finished well! The team did a great job, and were SO meticulous about the concrete finishes on the pump base. After installing, women and children from the community came around and learned about how to use the pump and how to manage for maintenance.

Finished well!
The team did a great job, and were SO meticulous about the concrete finishes on the pump base.
After installing, women and children from the community came around and learned about how to use the pump and how to manage for maintenance.

Around Town

Beautiful sunset in Gulu!

Beautiful sunset in Gulu!

Entering Gulu town. Lumi is just down the street on the right.

Entering Gulu town. Lumi is just down the street on the right.

This is the road to our hotel where we stay in Gulu. We turn right after that building that is under construction and the hotel is there.

This is the road to our hotel where we stay in Gulu. We turn right after this building that is under construction and the hotel is there.

This is a field of sesame (

This is a field of sesame (“simsim” here). This is grown in many villages near Gulu.

Gulu's town clock. Elections will be in February, so people are posting many flyers for their campaigns.

Gulu’s town clock. Elections will be in February, so people are posting many flyers for their campaigns.

We drove through a CRAZY storm on our way back from Gulu last week. It even had HAIL!

We drove through a CRAZY storm on our way back from Gulu last week. It even had HAIL!

Kampala has been getting a lot of rain. We were downtown to buy a laptop for Lumi and this building on the left had waterfalls coming off of it. Everything shuts down when it rains, so I could not find a parking spot. I had to wait in the car for about 2 hours. Adventure!

Kampala has been getting a lot of rain. We were downtown to buy a laptop for Lumi and this building on the left had waterfalls coming off of it. Everything shuts down when it rains, so I could not find a parking spot. I had to wait in the car for about 2 hours. Adventure!

Fall Traditions

Every fall or the last 7 or 8 years, I have taken my littlest sister, Abbie, to a corn maze and pumpkin carving. It is the only annual tradition that I have, and I knew that missing it would be very difficult. Fortunately, we were able to carve pumpkins together over Skype! I carved an African pumpkin that I bought at the grocery store, while Abbie had a good ol’ American carving pumpkin. Honestly, I was just really happy not to find any worms in mine.

Here's my pumpkin! It's a light bulb for Lumi.

Here’s my pumpkin!
It’s a light bulb for Lumi.

I even used one of our demo solar products to light it!

I even used one of our demo solar products to light it!

Other photos

A new missionary just joined us in Uganda, and she brought some documents for our visa paperwork. Jesse's parents included a few extra goodies as well! Great for our newly created rest time!

A new missionary just joined us in Uganda, and she brought some documents for our visa paperwork. Jesse’s parents included a few extra goodies as well! Great for our newly created rest time!

I went to get a new sponge from under the sink, when I noticed a small black dot on it. I picked up the sponge and this thing popped out! I screamed like a little girl. I just found out crawling out of our box spring as well. Just when I start thinking that it's getting easy to live here...a worm or roach or snake or something seems to show up. =)

I went to get a new sponge from under the sink, when I noticed a small black dot on it. I picked up the sponge and this thing popped out! I screamed like a little girl. I just found out crawling out of our box spring as well. Just when I start thinking that it’s getting easy to live here…a worm or roach or snake or something seems to show up. =)

Update

Over all this month has been hard work, but VERY worth it. Big strides have been made by Lumi and by us and our adjustment to life in Uganda.

Prayer Requests

– Grateful that we are adjusting to life here and finding community!

– Safety and protection while driving in Uganda (especially while traveling to and from Gulu).

– Glad we found a sustainable pace of life for now.

– A suitable and affordable house in Gulu before Thomas returns.

– Our visas need to be resolved in this week.

– Lumi is in a critical phase right now as the capital raise and trial are going. Please pray for Lumi, and it’s founder, Thomas.

Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

~Rachel (& Jesse) Geiger