Sunday, 20 May 2018

May Update

Here is the link to the video blog for May.

Please enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opMCBny_WZ8

Friday, 27 April 2018

April update

A video blog update for April.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LIYbdGzD_c

Friday, 19 January 2018

January 2018

Hello everyone.

I am sorry to say that this will be my last ever written blog on this site.

But I am happy to let you know that I will now be realizing one video blog every month.
This should be much more interesting and I hope you all enjoy this method of communication more then written word.

You can go to my youtube channel below:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFlmCCf8oCDJ22O_CG72dLQ?view_as=subscriber

and click on the Jan 2018 video.

Or go directly to the video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQf5Pyynv00

I will still be posting the links the videos here on this blog for a while ... but if you want a direct update you can rather send me an email on ooeeluke@hotmail.com and be put on my mail list.
or you can subscribe to my channel and hit the little bell button so you can be notified when I have placed a new video up.

Thank you all and God bless.

Luke Vandenberg.

Monday, 1 January 2018

December (very short update)

Well it is a new year, and since it has been the holiday season I have not got round to fitting in this blog before December came and passed.

Aggie, Ethan and I are all back in Australia now, and we have enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our family here very much.

I stayed on in Uganda for the first few weeks of December, where I was able to get a lot of work done.

I was able to finish up some work for Wise Choices for Life.
You can have a look at the videos I made for them below.

https://vimeo.com/244610645

https://vimeo.com/244971985

I was also able to see the beginnings of the slab be laid by the Schoolies team.
The Ugandan builders were then able to finish off the slab, and get it ready for the January Hope Builders team to begin the building of the center.

Our dancing group also ran a fundraiser down at the shores of the lake in Uganda. It was focused around a talent show that had young people from all around come and perform some of dance / song / drama.

All the funds raised from this day went towards buying some soap and rice for the people in the local slum.
This was all done through the local chairperson, and the boys handed out the rice to the neediest people in the slum, so that they would have something to cook for Christmas.

Otherwise I got many things in order before I left, and I feel confident in the team that will stay on behind and run things at YSU.

I pray that you all enjoyed your Holiday break and I look forward to 2018.

I have been struggling a bit with blog writing, and since I have got much more into film making over the last year, I will be starting a vlog (video blog) for 2018.
This way I can be more interactive and show you guys my life over in Uganda through video.

Aggie and I thank you all for the support you have continued to give us, we love you all dearly.

God bless.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

November.

Hey everyone.

November has come and gone and I feel like it was a busy month with lots that was done.

We had two guests stay with us, I have been doing some filming work, a schoolies team working on our property, the beginning of the youth center being built, living all alone in my house and more.

Recently I had the chance to do some film work for Wise Choices for Life. This is a program that I have talked about before, as we use it quite a lot here at YSU.
WCFL teaches about reproductive health, basic midwifery, a biblical design for relationships and family, and much more.
The main aim of WCFL is to save women from dying from pregnancy related issues (which happens to be 16 women everyday in Uganda)
They have a training conference every year where they train up leaders in the community to be able to go out and share this knowledge to the people they work with.

I will put a link up to those videos I did once they have been made officially public.

We also had Emily Campbell stay with us here in Uganda for a few days. Emily is very much involved in WCFL and has even been involved in bringing it to the Village of Hope and some of our YSU girls.
She got to join in on a WCFL session with our tailoring girls, and spend some time with us.
She helped sponsor Agnes and myself to attend the WCFL course last year, so it was great to be able to show our gratitude and host her for a few days.

My mother also came and visited us for a week .. and she came and took my wife and child away from me!!

Well, it was planned though.
Due to Aggie being pregnant, and wanting to have the baby in Australia, we had to plan for Aggie to fly back to Australia before she was 29 weeks pregnant, due to a policy that Emirates have.

This was a bit stressful for me because of the timing. Leaving at this time would of felt hard for me because there is lot that still needed to be done before I go.
A schoolies team coming, plus many young people are finishing school and will be coming to organize next years options for them.
I really needed to be around, but Aggie would not be able to fly back by herself with Ethan.

Ethan can be a bit of work, and Aggie's pregnancy often gives her a lot of trouble and pain. So I was very thankful to know that mum would use a free trip that she had scored from emirates, to come and visit us and help bring Aggie back to Australia, while I use this much needed time to complete some tasks.

So they left over a week ago. It was a very strange feeling coming home to an empty house after dropping them at the airport, it is the first time I have been so far away from them. And apart from a camping trip here and there that I have done, I have never spent time away from them.

I was very very anxious while they were traveling, because I know Aggie can get a lot of pain from sitting, she usually can't even last for a church service.
So how grateful to God I was to learn that they had a row of 4 seats to share between them from the 5 hours from Uganda to Dubai, and then Aggie had a row of 4 seats and mum and Ethan had a row of 4 seats for the Dubai to Melbourne flight.
So Aggie got to lay down for the full 15 hours.

Prayers were answered and I was able to sleep easy after that.



Agnes and Ethan before leaving Uganda.


Ethan in Australia checking out the ducks.

Seems like lots of chaotic interesting things this month. Political upheaval in places, a few weeks back the army was firing tear gas at civilians and protesters, I heard gun shots and lots of people running ... felt like a war zone. Although it doesn't take me aback ... I have become a bit hardened by it that I usually just smirk and think 'oh here we go again' .. I have seen it all before.
But instead of being cynical I have to remind myself to pray for Uganda and to pray for its peace.

It seems violence is much more in your face here that you tend to get used to it. A man was murdered and stabbed to death near us a few weeks back. Farouk and a few others found his body in the morning. Again this is not something that shocks me.
At YSU community house the other night, thieves broke into the gated compound at 3 am, and even went inside the quarters where our neighbor sleeps (which is attached to the YSU house) to try and steal his boda. Luckily him and his brother who was staying over woke up, and chased the thieves out of our compound. Farouk woke up as well and joined in the chase but the thieves got away.

Again this is not something that really shocks me. Home invasions are common here. We have had lots of thieves try to break into our YSU house during the night. This is why here at the YSU property (the new place) we have a night guard on duty all night, plus two guard dogs.

It is just the reality of what we live with.

The other morning when I was going on my morning walk at around 7 am, I came to my neighbors house where a group of people were standing around looking shocked but not doing anything. I had already heard the screams before hand and knew a child must of been in the process of being beaten.
Sure enough I came across a grandmother who had tied a eight year old up with rope and was punching her in the head.
Sometimes it is uncommon for people to stand up and do something, they see it as someone else's family business that you should not get involved in. So they just stand around and watch.
I was with one of my friends and by telling the grandmother to stop, the girl was able to escape the grandmothers beatings.
We managed to talk to the girl for a bit, she was a bit bloody, that she should be a good girl and behave but that if she needed a safe place to run to she could come to our property, while we try to calm the grandmother down (it is quite a regular occurrence in this household it seems) . I tried to talk to the grandmother but she had run away. She was obviously scared ... she could be in big trouble and obviously knew she was guilty. They also get nervous around people from other cultures seeing them beat children, as they know that we understand the law of Uganda.

It is one of those things where the law is in place, but is not really implemented. There is no child protection agency. Stuff like this goes on all the time, and it can be hard to know how to deal with it.
There is the balance between always standing up for what is right ... but knowing how to do that in a wise culturally sensitive way, in a community that you are trying to reach.
Intervening does not always win you the favor of the community here.

These are all things you can pray for me about. How Aggie and I deal with these issues of domestic violence in our communities.

Lastly, I am very happy to say that the building has begun for our youth center.
The schoolies team started digging the trenches for the foundation yesterday. After working a very hard day and half in the sun, they have completed.
This means that a slab should be finished by this year, and building can begin next year.

This is very exciting, to see the YSU property taking shape.





I look forward to seeing you all over the summer break in Australia.

Thank you again and God bless.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

October.

Another month has passed since writing my last blog, so I thought I should give a quick update.

Our tailoring girls have been doing very well, and are continuing to learn the skills they need to be independent.
Agnes and myself have also begun running the Wise Choices for Life program with the girls, and their responses have been great.
Although this group is fairly quiet and shy, some of the activities like drama have brought them out of their shells.

We also had Andrew come over, although only for a week, and he was able to get some things done with Village of Hope. We are excited about some of the changes at Village of Hope, and perhaps how YSU will be involved with VOH in the future.

Our dancing group have also continued to be a big part of YSU.
They will often train on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, including a bible study on Sunday. They then also organize some kind of outreach every month.
During holidays this can mean a bigger project like building a house for an elderly women. But during school season, it might simply mean a Saturday morning washing clothes for an elderly disabled woman (which is what they did last Saturday)
The dancing group realizes that these outreach's are just as important, or more important, then their dancing skills and dancing performances.

You can check out a little clip of their building this house here:  https://vimeo.com/234269358

We have also been happy to see Allan grow as one of our YSU members.
Allan is a former YWAMER who is now working for us. He helps lead the guys and teach them dancing and performing arts, while also monitoring their welfare and being a bit of a mentor to them.
I have also been meeting regularly with him every Wednesday afternoon.

He is still a young man, but we see lots of potential with him .. and he has a very strong passion for the work.

We want to be a bit more intentional here at YSU, to build up younger people who may be able to take over more and more in our program in the future.

Our young guys also ran in a charity run recently. This was to raise money for more equipment for the local health center, for more maternity beds.
Here are some photos from the run! They did a great job of representing YSU and getting engaged in the community.


Farouk also gave it a go. And could barely walk after he completed the run.


Allan participates in the run. Allan has been helping teach the dancing boys program.


Our boys Lucky and Ofono.



Here Grace is leading the pack. Grace is our boy who had a tumor in his leg. At the start of the year he had the tumor removed and tested to see if it was cancerous (it was not) How great to see him now being able to run on his leg, after many months of being crippled. He has made a full recovery and we praise God for it.


The team at the end of the run.


Personally we are doing well, although a bit tired and looking forward to the summer.
We feel that we have a good local support system in place right now, compared to say a year ago.
We have been starting to attend Calvary Chapel in Jinja a lot more regularly. We love this church, as they seem to be a really great bible based teaching church .. something that can sometimes be hard to come across here.
Aggie also has her weekly women's group that she attends on Thursdays, and we also have a cross cultural marriage group that comes together every month.

Sometimes it can be a bit hard to try and find something interesting or inspiring to write here on this blog. The daily grind and slog of life here goes on ... and sometimes I need to stop and remind myself of the beauty in each day, or the lesson God is trying to teach me.
It is easy to get a bit discouraged. Or sometimes, you may be surprised, it is easy to feel 'bored' here on the ground. Many people in Australia may feel that working in a third world country in ministry would never be boring .. that everyday is a learning curve, and being stretched and challenged. And certainly that can be the case.
It might sound surprising that I would mention being 'bored' at times, because in all honesty ... there would be very interesting things that we observe and see all the time compared to what might happen back in Australia. But I have been here long enough to become perhaps 'desensitized' to the unusual.
So something I often find surprising, is the feeling of being 'bored' .. or missing out on something more. I am learning to deal with his. Perhaps it is state of my own heart ... a feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side. I am trying to deal with this, and learn to be content and satisfied in God throughout all the experiences of life.

But we are trying to learn to stay committed to the people we are serving here, no matter how exciting or not exciting the day may seem or feel.
Our feelings should not dictate how we serve ... some days are amazing and we feel like what we are doing is very worthwhile. Other days not so much. But either way we are learning that God works in both the exciting and what seems mundane.
I have learnt that it is also very important to not rest heavily on getting your meaning and your purpose from your work.
Otherwise every setback will be shattering. Resting in God and putting your purpose and meaning in Him means that no matter what happens .. ultimately you can't be shaken.

Looking back we can also see God's graces in what we have done. Yes there are failed projects that have collapsed. Yes there are people who went back into a destructive lifestyle. There are disappointments and conflicts.
But there are also changed youth, changed people and changed hearts. There is progress, success and hope. We are able to thank God for all of these things.

Personally with health, Agnes is doing well, although she still needs plenty of rest as the pregnancy is hard on her.
She will be traveling back to Australia with my mum next month, and I will join her in December.

We thank everyone for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you over the summer.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

August.

August has been a very busy month for us!

First up, we are finally in our new home!
This is very exciting for us, and the house is beautiful. It is located right on the shore of the lake and so we have great views on our balcony.
We have also noticed that it gets quite cold here by the lake. The wet season has started and so there is lots of rain here at the moment. We also have lots of ants in our kitchen, but we can deal with those.

Ethan is settling in. He seems to miss all the other little kids around and he has been quite clingy to us.
He has done well in sleeping in his own bedroom in a big bed though, and slowly he is starting to explore the place.




I have been a bit sick from a lot of the stress of dealing with many things while moving house. I didn't look after myself and got run down and now I have inflamed tonsils.
A few days rest and some meds should have me good again I hope.

We really look forward to seeing a youth center running on the property here! It may take quite some time till then, but we will keep pushing forward.

Some other news which is no secret really, although Aggie and I have not gotten around to sharing it publicly, is that Aggie is fifteen weeks pregnant.
The first trimester was especially hard on Agnes, and she was on doctors orders to spend most of the three months in bed.
This is due to her having a medical condition that makes it very difficult to keep a pregnancy. We had complications with Ethan as well, and our doctor basically said it was a miracle Ethan made it, due to the severe complications Aggie had.
This time around Aggie has not had as many complications but this is mainly due to her resting in bed for three months.
She is now on the safer side of things and can do a lot more, and the baby growing inside her is looking healthy.
We thank God for keeping us and our child during this time ... it has been hard to have one parent down. Night time duties with Ethan, and early morning duties with him have mostly been given to me!!!

We will be having this baby in Australia, and the baby is due in February.
It looks like Aggie may have to come to Australia a bit earlier, because of her condition, so that she doesn't fly too late.
I may come back a bit later for Christmas, as there is still lots to do here.

We thank you for your prayers and support, and we look forward to a good time catching up with everyone over the summer.

Lastly, our dancing group of young men have had their school holidays. Over the school holidays they decided to build a mud house for an elderly widow. Her house was falling down, and so the group wanted to bless her with a new place to live in that wouldn't get wet from the rain.
The boys (and one very hard working girl) spent their free time laboring all day in the hot sun. This was all voluntarily done, and besides them getting a cold soda at the end of the week, they didn't do this for any payment or wages.
They had such a positive attitude through it all, and really worked hard. At the end of the week they were able to hand the house over to the elderly woman and pray for her and the house.

Throughout the whole week a group of elderly men in the community sat under the shade of a tree and watched the youth work.
These men are the neighbors to the elderly woman, and even some of her relatives. They did not lift a finger to help, and basically got drunk off strong booze the whole time.
I was so impressed with our youth! It should be the men setting an example for the young, but here were the young people showing what an example they were to the community.
There are young Ugandans here who want to make a change for their communities, and want to witness the love of God to others ... without getting any earthly gain in return.



These are the things I always love seeing when working here. I love being able to support a group of passionate young men and women to help their community!
Again we want to thank everyone who has supported us this last month, through your prayers and finances!