Saturday, July 2, 2011

From the Archives: Smile & Watch the Birdie

Today's story from the past comes from my dad and the very first trip he went on in 2006.

Aly just loves when I use some old expression to describe something I'm talking about, so when I chose the title for today's blog she gave me that look….. Anyway the above title would be synonymous with taking pictures. Pictures are very much a part of our work in Uganda. We use them not only to preserve memories of the trip, but to also use them in our presentations to show the differences of another country and culture. The pictures show the beauty of the country and its people along with their needs and living conditions however, capturing these scenes can lead to some interesting experiences.

As our team was returning from Igamba to Kampala I took an opportunity to capture some pictures of the cascading Nile River as we were crossing a bridge near Jinja, the source of the Nile River. A couple points to be noted here are:

  1. At Jinja there is a dam that supplies hydro-electric power to most of Uganda. Given the importance of this fact, along with the need to protect the power source, the dam is guarded by the Ugandan Army.

  2. It is illegal to take pictures of the Uganda Army.

With that being said I was able to capture the pictures I wanted to take on this return trip. I took the pictures as we entered the bridge and had what I wanted by the time we were in the middle. At that point I innocently pulled my camera back into the taxi our team was riding in. Unknown to me on the exit side of the bridge the Uganda Army had a station. It was at that time I discovered how alert the soldiers stationed there were as our taxi was immediately motioned over and very quickly surrounded by several members of the Ugandan Army. One of the soldiers stationed himself along the taxi by the window where I was sitting. Although he was speaking in his native language it was very clear to me that he was upset especially as he was using a big stick to poke me in the ribs identifying me as the owner of the camera he had seen. Two other soldiers opened the front and side doors of the taxi and wanted to see the pictures on my camera. The taxi full of team members were concerned what the camera may reveal, but I assured them there were no pictures of army personnel, but that was yet to be determined by the army themselves. Fortunately the soldiers I had to deal with spoke English which made communicating much easier.

I turned my camera on and showed the soldiers the last picture I had taken of the Nile River. After looking at that picture they instructed me to click it indicating they wanted to look at the next picture. They had me continue to click through numerous pictures at which point I was beginning to get nervous because the soldier outside my window was still poking me in the ribs with his stick and shouting in my ear. I really was beginning to think I may be headed for prison. At this point the AMG national with us got into a heated discussion with the soldier outside my window which didn't really seem to be helping my predicament any. Soon the soldiers at the door said something and the soldier at the window walked away. The soldiers at the door had me click through some more pictures after which they said something in their native language, smiled, closed the door and walked away allowing us to continue on our journey. I asked the national that was with us what that was all about. She replied that they realized I hadn't taken any pictures of the army nor compromised the security of the dam, but they liked my pictures so much they wanted to see the rest of them. For those who know me something like this can only happen to me.

How do I tie this to the ministry? As we travel innocently down the highway of life speed bumps appear challenging us to whatever test has been presented to us. We must face these bumps and have faith that God will see us through. I know during all of this incident team members were praying. At the time I wasn't sure if they were praying that no one went to prison or if anyone has to go to prison please let it be just Dean. I'm guessing it wasn't the latter since I'm sitting here at home and not in a Uganda prison, which would indicate that God does hear and answer prayers. And I truly thank Him for that.

The story doesn't end there. The last day of the trip we were traveling to the airport along Lake Victoria. It was late evening and the sunset was beautiful. The sunlight made it difficult to see the screen so I had to take pictures using the view finder which gave me limited sight of where we were. All of a sudden the blue sky turned brown. I took my camera down and there we were at the entrance to the airport and yep there stood a member of airport security looking at my camera. The whole team let out a groan as one was heard to say "here we go again………."

- Dean

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