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Matt Abajian – Update #2


Matt is a member of The Well who is currently in Uganda with Invisible Children. (click on graphic for more info)

Update from Gulu, Uganda #2

I want to put a disclaimer on this email first for those who pick up email updates: this one is a lengthy, but I feel it is necessary to get across some of the thoughts and feelings I have been through the last week. Again thank you for the prayers and encouragement I have received from so many of you; those are the words that I have come back to over the course of this trip through email! Thank you!

So much has taken place since the last email I have sent out that it is hard to put in words as each experience has its own discoveries, challenges, and joy. Our group arrived on Thursday night in Gulu, a small town of about 100,000 six hours northeast from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. You can describe the drive out to Gulu as what the African’s call “the bush” which pretty much means lush vegetation, red dirt roads, and small villages consumed with thatch roofed huts and not much else. Our group is staying in a compound called Sacred Heart, a convent hosted by Sister Appelonia who is the head-master of the teacher education program for this small school. Her hospitality far exceeds anything in the states, as she has prepared meals each day for us, stayed up late talking, and washing and ironing our clothes. Before you begin to think that we are being waited on hand and foot, remember that there frequent water shortages, consistent cold water bathing from dumping cups in a pail, the fight against the malaria carriers, and the constant awareness of what you have put in your mouth that may cause an unpleasant visit to the latrines (almost has happened with an extremely bad stomach ache from a buffet in town, although the goat tongue I was served probably wasn’t the best for the stomach either!)

Two stories I would like to share with you, as I feel stories are much more powerful then giving you a laundry list of what we have done and where we have gone. The first happened two nights ago, as Sister Appelonia invited us to a party for a bishop who was graduating for a reason that was unknown to me. As we arrived, to our left was a huge hut (yes the stereotypical rounded hut you may have imagined about Africa), a covering with chairs full of elderly Acholi (native tribe) with years of age in their skin and some of the most colorful clothing you have laid eyes on, along with younger children and adults in the middle of the gathering, kicking up red dirt to the music the live African band was playing. Imagine 2,000 people celebrating since noon (we arrived at six). The energy was amazing, as the children flashed their huge white teeth and mimicked your every dance move (just a little shuffle of the feet and you have gotten the African dancing down with a little shake of the butt). The smiles from these people are incredible as there is so much joy behind it; pure joy the likes only those who have experienced hardship could display. We kicked up dirt with the children and adults for two straight hours, chanting, and smiling every moment of it. Near the end, the bishop invited us all into his hut to sit on the floor and eat rice and beans with him, scooping it out of the bowl with our hands. He gave a speech, as most Acholis do, thanking us for coming, personally greeting each one of us and then attending to his guests. How can a people group accept a bunch of “munos” (native word for foreigners or white) into their traditions and customs? How can a people that have seen civil war the last 23 years celebrate with such passion and happiness?

As for the second story, most of you know that I am here to team teach with a Ugandan educator at a high school (secondary school/college in African terms). The story takes place with my school, Lacor, St. Mary’s; the Central High School West Campus of Uganda. It is a 10 minute boda ride (motorcycle taxis that drive way to fast on unpaved dirt roads) from my location. This ride gives you a view of the lush valleys of Africa, mixed with native culture of brick buildings, open markets, and a school in the middle of no where (everything that is West of the 99 in Fresno). The school is made up of four classrooms with 220 students and a total staff of 13 teachers. Okema William Stephen is my teacher, who teaches Geography of Africa to S1 – S4 students (comparable to freshman to seniors in high school). As I sat in the staff room today for a number of hours planning how to teach about Palm Oil found in Niger for an hour and a half, I had numerous conversations with fellow teachers, especially two who were student teachers about to receive the equivalent of teaching credentials in a month. We engaged in conversation for about two hours today, as they discussed with me the effects of colonialism on Uganda by the British, the aggressiveness one must have just staying alive, and the allure of the United States to follow your dream compared to the realities of Africa. They took me to their home to show me the numerous awards they have garnered, but at the same time the room they called their house consisted of three beds, some jugs of freshly pumped water, and the JC Penny type bag that contained all of their clothes. “You Americans can buy pure drinking water in Uganda for less then a dollar….water…yet we are scratching for a dollar to stay alive my friend…” Comments such as this shut my conversation down and brought me into a deep place of thinking for the rest of the day. How do you show these people you want to help when the stereotypical impression is all Americans are rich? How do you even begin to relate with the experiences of a teacher losing his dad 15 years ago to the LRA (rebel group in Uganda) or begin to reconcile the fact that the school you were at 7 years ago became the target of 13 dead by a failed abduction attempt? Everywhere you go in Africa you go around town, Africans will stop, say something about you or laugh (not making fun but that you are trying to use their language in our American accents). You cannot escape the constant attention or the feelings that the place you were born in automatically placed you into the top 10% of the wealthy in the world, so why weren’t others that fortunate? Africa raises these questions when you engage this culture and it is those questions I am determined to face and pray head on, as you begin to see hope and resilience in a people group with almost nothing to lose but everything to gain!

Blessings family and friends and again thank you for the prayers and the opportunity of a lifetime!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Brea permalink

    Hey Sabrina-
    I’m so excited to hear about all the wonderful things God’s showing you and how you’re doing your part to do God’s work. I’m wondering if you’re keeping a journal so that you can look back and remember all the little details. Nola and Nash say “Hi” and there have not been any more cat fights since you’ve left, so you’re not missing out on anything out here but I’m sure we’re missing out on a huge eye-opener that you’re experiencing. Enjoy all that you can and we’re praying for you!

  2. Suzanne Bradford permalink

    Matt, as I was running at Woodward Park this morning, I thought of you… wondering if you had been running recently and curious as to how you were doing. You just popped in my head. Then I checked on the blog site today and lo and behold but what do I see? I am amazed at what you are doing. Reading your two stories made me want to smile and cry at the same time.
    It sounds like you are having a challenging and fascinating time simultaneously. Having interpreted for you teaching a few times, I am POSITIVE that you are doing a great job and enjoying yourself as well. You are good at what you do. I will be praying for you in Uganda.
    Please continue to write updates when you can. I am encouraged by your willingness and pray that God will use you to bless the people as well as be blessed in a ways that no one could imagine.

  3. The Honduras team permalink

    Hi Matt
    We are still in Honduras, and are praying for your work. Keep the amazing stories coming!

  4. Jameisha Blue permalink


    i love what you’re doing, you’re an amazing man!

    love miss blue

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