The Clares January in Uganda




We wanted to start by apologising for the radio silence around the elections here which started on January 14th and have just finished with the local councillor elections yesterday. We had an update pre-written and ready to send out on the eve of the election, but unfortunately the government instigated a 5-day Internet blackout that evening before we could send it…

Now that the election (and the associated Internet blackout) has come and gone, we thought we should write a fresh update, so here it is…

Christmas lunch on the verandah

Elections now over...?

It has been fascinating being around during the election campaign season and now also through the election process here.

President Museveni, 76, was declared as winner by the Electoral Commision with 56% of the vote, and is due to start his sixth term as President shortly. Of the 10 opposing candidates who were looking to oust him from his seat, Robert Kyagunlanyi (aka Bobi Wine) came closest to President Museveni, with 34% of the vote.

Kyagulanyi is a 38-year-old musician who grew up in relative poverty in Kampala before his musical career offered him prosperity and a subsequent route in to politics. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the current President for some time and he reports that he has previously been detained and tortured by security services in the past. He was arrested in November 2020 due to allegations of breaching COVID-19 protocols during his election campaign, with the arrest sparking unrest in Kampala which led to the death of 54 people, some of whom were innocent bystanders.

There has been a heavy security presence in Kampala since the election, including a significant force outside Kyagunlanyi’s home, although a court ruling yesterday has required the security forces to leave the premises and they have said they will do so. Kyagulanyi and his team allege that they have evidence that proves significant electoral irregularities, with the Electoral Commision standing by the official results and inviting them to provide their evidence.

It’s not clear what will happen next, with Kyagulanyi and his supporters promoting the idea of peaceful protest and legal challenge in wake of the election results, whilst a heavy military presence remains in the capital. There has never been a peaceful transfer of power in Uganda and Kyagulanyi has recently pledged that he and his allies aim to have President Museveni out of office within a year in spite of the presidential terms now being 7 years – do pray for God’s will to be done here, for both peace and justice to reign together.

We actually spent three nights around the election in a friend’s guesthouse mainly due to the inevitability of loud noises on the main road outside our house through the night! However, there was also a polling station very close to our front door and given the violence that marred the primary elections last year, it seemed best to us to be somewhere else for a few days.

Now we are back home and life, in this corner of Uganda at least, seems to be returning to normal again.

Joel enjoying one of his last cuddles as a 1-year-old

COVID-19 - the elephant in the room

As election campaigns have taken centre stage over the last few months, it appears that the very real threat of coronavirus has faded in significance in the minds of the people here.

And yet, the number of cases and deaths continue to creep up, without the necessary increase in testing that would enable the Department of Health to keep full track of the pandemic here.

We have been saddened by news of Ugandans both in and out of the church suffering and dying with COVID-19. The Bishop of Nebbi, our neighbouring diocese, died a couple of weeks ago, apparently after having had a positive COVID test. The previous bishop of our Madi & West Nile Diocese has also been admitted to hospital in the capital with severe COVID along with wife, although we understand they are now improving.

Do pray for the church here as they mourn and celebrate Rt Revd Alphonse Wathokudi. There were large numbers in attendance at his funeral last week. Pray that the COVID operating protocols would not be ignored but that fellowship, life and faith will still thrive in the church community in spite of the restrictions.

Pray also for the leaders who will be elected, that they will have the wisdom to help bring the pandemic under control and gain access to sufficient vaccination doses that can be safely transported here as soon as possible.
A view from the nearby Mount Wati on a New Year's Day hike

“See, I am making all things new”

We are so grateful to God for a very blessed, if different, Christmas and New Year this year. We enjoyed 2 nights away in Murchison Falls National Park for Joel’s second birthday and had some lovely family time. We were also blown away by the incredible generosity of family and friends in sending parcels for our family.

>From Tom’s side, it has been a relatively quiet start to the new year, as we’ve avoided travelling too much around elections and as he now waits for the renewal of his annual medical registration and license to practise here which will enable him to go back to seeing patients again soon. Tom is taking the opportunity to prepare a range of training for the health centres and to think and pray about God’s plans for the year in the Health Department.

These plans include the potential rollout of community health insurance at St Luke’s Health Centre in Katiyi (there should be a team coming to train the health centre staff some time before April) and looking to enable the health facilities to more effectively point patients towards their Healer and Creator.

We are also having twice-weekly language lessons as we look to make this year the one where we really dig in to learning the Lugbara language.

Verity is due to start a seven-week Trauma Healing Training next week, run by one of the American mission agencies here. It will involve meeting with a group of local women each week to lead them through what she has learnt in training. Please pray for the women who will attend the group – our friend, Peace is currently mobilising a small group from our local community. Pray for Peace as she helps translate the sessions, for Verity as she gets to know the women and hears their stories and for God to bring healing through his word.

The boys are continuing to thrive, particularly enjoying their friends in the missionary community recently. They have done so well in transition here and the significant local missionary community has been a real blessing for them in terms of finding good friends with whom they can immediately strike up a bond. They also continue to enjoy playing with various neighbourhood children in our compound most afternoons as they await news as to when schools will restart. This is something we don’t take for granted, especially in light of the restrictions in the UK limiting social interaction. Pray for us as we continue to look to both engage with the local community and also maintain relationships with the missionary community here.
Joel with his friends Joshua and Benjamin

Prayer points

  • To thank God for the rich blessings of 2020 – for health and safety here, for generous family, friends and other supporters, for the rapid development of COVID vaccinations and for His love and peace with us here
  • For ongoing peace and justice through the election process and any subsequent protests that may occur
  • For wisdom for Tom in guiding health facilities in pointing patients towards God, in pressing forward with community health insurance at Katiyi and in making plans for the year, along with Heather Sharland
  • For Verity as she takes on new trauma healing training over the next few months and begins to speak to local people about the hope God provides in the face of trauma, as well as for patience in her role as teacher at home
  • For Ezra – to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of homeschooling when he would perhaps rather be socialising all day every day!
  • For Eli – to continue to settle locally and to build one or two friendships with local children as well as with others in the missionary community
  • For Simeon – to continue to grow in the contentment he already displays so clearly, knowing and appreciating God’s full blessings in his life
  • For Joel – to remain healthy and happy as he continues to thrive here
We are praying for those of you in the UK as you take on another lockdown of your own, but this time in the cold and dark of winter. It’s so hard to read the news and hear from friends and family about the situation you’re facing and we’re praying for you all. We pray for perseverance, that you would ‘never tire of doing what is good’ and that somehow another lockdown may bring the opportunity to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus, our hope and our salvation.
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:5-8

Tom, Verity, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

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