The Clares in Uganda 22 March 21

One year in Arua!

Ezra and Simeon enjoying a sit down at our local roadside market

The end of a scorching winter...

Rain! Who’d have thought we’d ever be so happy to see rain! The last few days have given the first inkling that the dry season might be on its way out. We’ve had a few spots of drizzle and finally a big, middle-of-the-night thunderstorm two nights ago - which we quickly realised we haven’t missed so much. People are already preparing to plant seeds, our boys have been dancing around shouting “Goodbye dry season!” and yesterday the air was filled with the sounds of whooping children, gathered over holes in the ground to catch flying ants as they emerged. Much like in the UK, where the longer days and warmer weather have been lifting spirits and bringing hope, here, the end of what they call ‘Winter’ feels very welcome.

We had a great time meeting with all the in-charges of the health centres recently

Taking over the reins

Tom is heading into a new season as well in terms of his work, as he is due to take over from Heather as the new Diocesan Health Coordinator when she finishes work next week. Do pray for Heather as she prepares to head back to Northern Ireland for her retirement after 36 years in international mission and 11 years here in Madi and West Nile Diocese! Pray also for her husband, David, a CMS mission partner for over 40 years, as he and Heather look to settle back in to a different culture and that God would continue to lead them in to new and exciting things there.

Tom’s role (as he’s rapidly discovering) is likely to involve significant management & administration responsibilities as he oversees the health work of the Diocese, sitting on several different boards and committees as well as supervising the 7 Diocesan health facilities (6 lower-level health centres and Kuluva hospital). Pray for him as he learns the role, trying to squeeze in some clinical medicine, as well as all the other responsibilities he’ll have. With twice-weekly Lugbara language lessons and Verity having more time out for her own ministry (see below), things all in all are getting quite busy.
Heather Sharland with one of the health centre in-charges (Joycelyn of Anyiribu HC)
Fortunately, we have a Global Link Africa missionary called Joann who has come to join us in the health office for a year. She is from Central Uganda, has a Masters in Public Health and will be a great blessing to us. Tom is particularly excited as she shares his passion for ensuring God is glorified and revealed through the health work of the Diocese.

The Ugandan government have started rolling out their limited supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, starting with frontline health workers and leaders before going on to teachers and the over-50s (who only represent around 7% of the population!) There has not been complete uptake among health workers as some understandable concerns mix with other powerful rumours, but leaders in government have received their vaccinations publicly in an effort to encourage citizens that the vaccine is safe. We pray that Uganda would continue to have minimal deaths from COVID and that the government would have wisdom in deciding at what age the vaccine rollout should stop.
Mother's Day flowers collected by the boys from the garden

One year of homeschooling done!

With their return dates postponed, the majority of students continue to be off school, so the boys’ schedule has stayed fairly consistent- homeschool in the morning, followed by neighbours playing in the garden in the afternoon, punctuated with some time with ‘Mundu’(Western) friends. A highlight of the week for the older two is always football club, which Tom runs alongside another British dad, attended by virtually all the age 4-12s in the missionary community. It’s been a fun opportunity to try and spread the football-love amongst the primarily American community here! And Verity appreciates having a couple of hours to play at home with just Simeon and Joel.

We’ve managed a whole year of homeschooling the older two and have learnt a lot along the way. There have been a good number of days when I (Verity) have wanted to quit my job, including the beginning of last week, but we feel like it’s the best option for now. As we’ve mentioned before, Ezra’s behaviour, especially around homeschooling, can be very challenging. Having spent many evenings over the last year trying to find possible causes and solutions for this, we’ve felt challenged this week that we need to be praying for and with the boys more. We are so thankful for all of your prayers, especially for the boys and their transition over this last year.
Joel delivering a jackfruit on his rounds...

Trauma healing in the local community

Verity has really enjoyed the opportunity over the last few weeks to help run two trauma healing groups. As we’ve mentioned throughout our updates, death, sickness, broken families and poverty are all so prevalent here that most people have experienced significant trauma of some form. 

We are now in our penultimate week of the programme and I’ve really enjoyed being able to participate in the Bible studies and activities in the training, before guiding our groups through them later on in the week. There have been a few cultural hiccups along the way but it’s been such a privilege to share God’s word and give the ladies tools to help in identifying and processing trauma and suffering. Some interesting cultural approaches have come to light concerning trauma and we’ve found it necessary at times to challenge some of the local church traditions around repentance and forgiveness.

As the sessions come to an end next week, we’d appreciate prayer for all the women who’ve attended the groups. They have all heard the gospel and one lady this week recommitted her life to Christ. We’d also appreciate prayers for wisdom for how to follow up with the local community group, possibly continuing with discipleship bible studies and for some additional ladies who’ve expressed interest in attending a new trauma healing group.

As we move into our second year here, we feel like we have a little more understanding of how to do life in this small corner of the world but we look forward to all God has to show us and teach us through living life here. We’re thankful for the local people God has brought into our lives and really pray that God would provide opportunities to deepen some of these relationships into strong friendships.

Thank you so much for standing with us this year and for all your prayers, emails and encouragements, especially with all the unprecedented changes in your own lives this year. We always love to hear from you even though we might not always manage to reply so please continue to stay in touch.

Verity, Tom, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

Prayer Points

  • Thanks for the opportunity for Tom to get involved in playing for and coaching the local Mvara Boys football team, for the friendships that are beginning to form there.
  • Thanks for the consistently quieter nights we’ve been having, with no trouble from the neighbours.
  • Pray for the Sharlands as they transition back to the UK after many years serving in East Africa.
  • Pray for wisdom for Tom as he decides where God is leading the health ministry this year.
  • Pray for Verity as she works out the best way to continue supporting the women from the Trauma Healing groups.

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