We arrived at Musana Camps late in the afternoon on Thursday. It’s quite a ways from the guarded entrance to the main center of the camp and being fairly dense jungle I didn’t realize at first how much there was to the camp. The part of the camp we came to a stop at consisted of the almost-finished, new kitchen; the covered, picnic shelter for eating/meeting; the small camp office; another small building for storage and the tiny, current kitchen; a few tents and a rustic outhouse. I thought I was in for a primitive experience! I didn’t know there was still the lovely, new homes of the missionary families and the guesthouse yet to be seen.
Musana is a newer outreach of New Hope Uganda ministries. Obviously, Christian camps aren’t exactly rampant in Uganda, so, they have an unique opportunity to use the experience of an absolutely gorgeous corner of God’s creation to share the love of Jesus and the gospel with people. In addition to the Ugandans that come to Musana for camps and retreats, the staff reaches out to the people of the nearby fishing village and to those who live in the hills around.
I wasn’t ready to leave Musana when we had to go. It is so beautiful and peaceful and Ugandan staff as well as the missionary families (the Sparks, Jacksons and Blanks) were all so kind and generous with sharing their homes, hearts and vision with us. Despite being so far “out in the bush” and having only solar-powered electricity, I was amazed at the inventive ways they’ve come up with to circumvent the problems. While at the older, established Kasana we had cold showers and intermittent power, at Musana we had warm showers and consistent electricity!
Mr. Sparks would drive us around Musana simply spilling over with the ideas they have for the camp. (Here we’re going to have an obstacle course, here we want to put in an airstrip for if there’s medical emergencies…)
Many of the islands visible in the Lake are also inhabited. At night, rows of twinkling lights would shine across the water from them. We found out that the lights were kerosene lanterns on small rafts that the fishermen would use to lure and catch the fish at night. Tilapia and Nile Perch are the usual catch.
We spent two days doing eye exams at the newly built clinic near the entrance of Musana. Our days (both at Musana and Kasana) ran from about 9 in the morning to about 4:30 in the afternoon and we were busy. At Musana, we saw some of the staff and then many of the village people. The boys would check people in, have them write their names and ages on a piece of paper, then, help me do pretesting (mostly reading the eye chart, doing a 3-D, depth-perception test and taking eye pressures) and then, they were off to see the Doctor. Two of the Ugandan staff members, Medi and Mwanje, were extremely helpful in translating as most of the village people didn’t speak English. (English is the official language of Uganda and is taught in the schools, but, there are about 29 different tribal dialects in common usage as well.)
Interestingly, most Ugandans don’t need prescription glasses. If they did though, we had glasses for them to try on and find the shape they liked which we will make back home in the US and then send over. Dr. T. also had a supply of reading glasses (most Ugandans tend to be far-sighted rather than near-sighted) and a bunch of sunglasses we handed out.
One thing the Doctor did find was several elderly gentlemen who were almost blind from cataracts. One realizes how blessed we are in the US with the availability of surgery to prevent loss of sight from cataracts.
Our lunch breaks were quick as Uncle Steve, with his usual fired-up energy, suggested the camp staff bring our lunch up to the Clinic so we wouldn’t have to take too much time off. The Ugandan staff cooks made us yummy, traditional meals. We had the very common, Ugandan Posho and Beans. Posho is corn mashed up that tastes rather like grits. The beans were baked and very flavorfully seasoned. We also had matoke (cooked bananas that taste rather like squash) and G Nut sauce (“G Nut” is short for ground nuts which is what they call peanuts.) Cabbage is another fairly common food and they also make a tortilla-like bread.
Seeing all these, impoverished, village people – may of whom had walked a long ways to come to the clinic – was truly a humbling serving experience. I quickly learned to not fret over dirt, germs, or the smell of our patients. (What with the heat, lack of water, and a dearth of deodorant, the Ugandans all had a definite fragrance!) Mr. Sparks told us one evening at supper that he had seen a fellow who has caused them a lot of grief and trouble getting his eyes checked earlier. Neat opportunity to show compassion and possibly win a way into the heart of an antagonistic person!
For supper and breakfast we usually trotted up or down the hill to one of the missionaries homes. They feasted us royally with such yummy things as breaded Tilapia, mango crisp, guacamole and homemade chips, and pancakes with mango sauce. The meals were always delicious and the laughter and conversation very sweet. The Blanks have only been at Musana for a few months and they shared quite the story of how they had felt like God was calling them to Uganda and so they came without ever having been there before or having a mission group they were connected with. AND Mrs. Blank had battled some severe health issues until just recently. They truly stepped out in faith, trusting God even when the world was calling them crazy!
Sunday morning, Church was held in the picnic shelter/meeting place of the camp. There was a whole gaggle of children from the fishing village there. I sat down next to a bunch of the little girls who were dressed in their pretty, pillowcase dresses that ladies in the US make and send over for them. They were very smiley and kept creeping and snuggling closer to me. Worship was a mixture of English and Lugandan worship songs. One of the Ugandan staff led and played guitar while several others sang and played drums (the African drums are so neat!). Mr. and Mrs. Sparks also joined in with drums and flute. Then, Mr. Sparks preached about the Holy Spirit and the basics of Christ’s death and resurrection that all who are saved believe.
After Church, we spent the afternoon down on the beach. There was swimming, photographing, sand-castle building, fishing, card games and Frisbee matches going on. The camp has two canoes as well, but, with the wind and waves being decently strong nobody felt quite that adventurous. I elected to mostly sit on a hollow log and breathe it in!
The Musana staff went to a lot of work to clear off the densely wooded and overgrown beach and area where the boathouse now is.
The boys in the boat had an interesting method of smacking the water with a long pole which apparently frightens the fish and causes them to swim into their nets.
It was definitely easier to hike down the hill to the beach then back up! I didn’t notice very many mosquitoes at Musana (despite sleeping under a mosquito net), but, what there was a lot of was swarms of tiny, gnat-like, Lake flies. On the way back from the beach there was one spot where there was a innumerable horde of them to be plunged through. At this juncture someone started to get the giggles….
Monday morning we were up early to hit the road to Kasana!