Thomasby Barbara Thomas

Dew drops off the eucalyptus trees patter on the iron sheet roof. I wonder if it is going to rain today, or if it’s just the dew. I’ll find out soon enough when the first light comes. The birds begin to sing and we know it’s time to get up. It’s gentler getting up when the birdsong beats the 6:20 a.m. alarm clock – maybe I should record the birdsong and use it as my alarm back in the States.

The first thing is to take malaria prophylaxis, drinking plenty of water with it to avoid nausea from the pill. Ideally we take it an hour before eating so as not to have any binding effects of any milk we might drink. My morning routine includes rolling back the mosquito net, making the beds, hanging out our three solar lanterns from our deck rail and plugging in our solar reading lamp to the small solar panel. A bucket of hand washing, soaking in detergent awaits me in the kitchen sink. I wring these out, rinse in running water, then run a rinse bucket and rinse them again. Once I have these articles wrung out, I put them on the solar dryer, the clothesline on our deck which catches the morning sun.

I refill the drinking water bottle in the bath-room, the bottle we use for brushing teeth and any other bottles we use at our desks or as we hike up and down the hills, sometimes during very hot afternoons. The water filter is now down half-way, so I refill the top unit halfway.

Paul has taken his bicycle out of our storage room under the deck and headed fifty yards up the hill to the Batwa Development Program (BDP) office to catch the news and any new emails. It’s 6:50 a.m. and I’ll have time to do the same before walking down the hill to the guesthouse for breakfast. Paul has a few minutes more as he bicycles; he will pass me on the way.

7:30 a.m. breakfast at the guesthouse is a set menu. We have a fruit plate of a combination of banana, papaya, passion fruit, watermelon and/or pineapple. We can make ourselves cocoa, tea, or have coffee. The opaque coffee is for the brave of heart. Paul drinks it. I opt for cocoa. We order our choice: crepes, French toast, plain or Spanish omelet, scrambled or fried eggs. Our standard choice is two fried eggs, medium. Toast is served with the eggs. It is homemade and better than what one can buy in the stores. Paul often asks for enkombe, a millet porridge, rich in iron.

Breakfast over, we head back up to the BDP office. For me it’s a twenty-three-minute climb. For Paul, a fifteen-minute bike ride in low gear. If we reach BDP in time, we can join in the morning devotions that happen between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. On the street , I stop at the chapati stand and buy four chapatis – our bread for two days.

I pick up my computer from the house and head to the office. The first two hours are spent answering emails and approving requisitions for the staff to go to the field. Safari has a talk to give at Kihembe on behavioral change. Sylvia is going to check on the crops at Bikuuto. Levi has a Batwa Experience tour scheduled and needs funds to pay the elders and performers. Kenneth is asking for funds to buy materials for a new Batwa house. I check the requests against the month’s work plan and sign the requisitions. Justus, the accountant, dispenses the funds. Once most of the staff are on their assignments, Justus and I can do the more in-depth accounting work.

During the course of a month, we gather staff work plans and budgets, compile them into one combined proposal and request the funds from KF. One entire day is spent traveling an hour to our bank in Kanungu, negotiating an exchange rate for U.S. dollars, withdraw-ing the funds and paying the NSSF, the Ugandan equivalent of Social Security.

On other days, I do analysis of cost centers to answer questions such as:

  • If the Craft Banda sells cinnamon bread, at what price should each slice be sold in order to make a profit?
  • How many Batwa Experience events do we need each year to break even, and what are the best program manager compensation options?
  • Given the eighteen schools in which we enroll Batwa children, what is the cost of sending a child to each of these schools?
  • Of the 250+ school children in school, which school are they attending, in what
    grade level and what is their latest term performance? Which children are failing, and who are the best candidates for Bishops’ School?

Meanwhile Paul is hiking forty minutes up the long hill to Mukongoro settlement. The previous day he had Eliphaz craft a Biblical story. He listened to a recorded Biblical text several times. They discussed the text. Then after a break, Eliphaz told the story in his own words. When Eliphaz was happy with his telling, Paul recorded, transcribed and translated it.

At Mukongoro, they meet with a story tester. They play back the Eliphaz story several times, and then the tester tries to repeat it. They also ask questions about elements missing in the story but which the listener should be able to know by drawing inferences. Questions such as, “After Jesus healed the Gadarene demoniac, why did the people want him to leave the area?” Answer given: Because some of them had demons themselves and they didn’t want Jesus to know that they also had them. Follow-up question: “Why wouldn’t they want Jesus to cast out their spirits?” Answer: Because they gave them power.

Tomorrow Eliphaz and Paul will transcribe and translate everything that’s been tested, making needed revisions that the testing has revealed. They will then send everything to a consultant for review and to be approved as a part of a Biblical story set. Teams of Biblical storytellers who have learned the stories go to the settlements where they form groups to learn and discuss the stories. One highlight of our time in Bwindi was when four such groups told the complete set of twenty-eight stories in front of the bishop to the congregation at Byumba Church.

Read part two of Barbara’s story in the next newsletter!

Thank you, Barbara and Paul, for your faithful leadership in Bwindi!

If you’d like to meet Barbara and Paul, join us for our event this spring in Dallas where they will be guest speakers. More information about this event will be available soon.

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