Tag Archives: Uganda

GTRI 2014 Trip: Day 3


[These are journal entries from my recent trip To Uganda and Rwanda during the first weeks of July.]

Day 3, July 3

Today was the 2nd and final day of the first ever Community of Practice for the Bible Society of Uganda trauma healing volunteers. Another long day as the program did not end until about 7 pm! Today I presented on an overview and update on the impact and treatment of PTSD. This is a group that likes to ask questions! We discussed the role of demonic in PTSD and how to know the difference. Many of the participants were quite interested in discussing how to educate local pastors in understanding the nature of dissociation. I also participated in teaching the new lesson (added chapter to Healing The Wounds of Trauma material) on domestic violence. In discussing why victims “choose” to stay in DV situations we had some lively discussion about whether the Bible teaches that women must stay. Very productive I think and gave some people a new perspective on the need to bring this hidden scourge out into the light.

The conference ended with reports, public conference evaluations (loved the very direct and loving evaluation of my presentations: have me speak more, have me slow down!), the handing out of the certificates, and final words. One of the most moving items was that I received “thank yous” in every mother tongue present. Seemed like there were at least 30 different languages represented. It was hard not to be choked up. I recognized a few (Arabic, Swahili, Kinyarwandan).

Two take-aways I want to remember:

  1. We need special materials for ex-combatants. First, much of the focus in Uganda has been on child soldiers. But the country is full of adult ex-combatants who were in Amin’s military or subsequent militaries and who now feel disconnected and distanced from current society. Some report that if they get together for sharing with other ex-combatants, they get reported (falsely) for starting a rebel group. One reported being jailed briefly for such a matter. Several told me that they were suffering terribly from being in POW camps and from the violence they witnessed. But most importantly, they noted that much of the trauma healing materials only speak of soldiers as the cause of trauma and so they feel more isolated when they read about or attend trauma healing exercises. No one, they feel, speaks of the trauma of seeing comrades die, of being forced to carry out commands against their will.
  2. Trauma healing volunteers, financing, and the need for View from my roomtangibles. Some of the volunteers believe that they must bring tangibles when coming to do trauma healing work. Words are not enough and participants expect some sort of handout: soap, money for transport, etc. The discussion we had about this ranged from criticism of this part of Ugandan culture and the need to develop a donor rather than handout culture to recognition that this culture has been formed, in part, by well-meaning foreign (Muzungu) NGOs that offer handouts as a means to increase participation in projects. Some volunteers noted they had been falsely accused of pocketing monies intended for participants when they didn’t come with any “gifts.” In addition, many discussed the difficulty of funding the trauma healing groups and the need to find sustainable funding using micro-enterprise.

My day had three other stimulating experiences. First, I was interviewed by a journalist for television broadcast. Supposedly, it aired across the nation this evening, though I did not see it. Second, a woman told me of meeting Joseph Kony about 4 years ago (during the failed attempt to negotiate with him). She said that he was very winsome and crafty. If she didn’t know better, she could have fallen for his lines. I guess this is one of the reasons he is able to stay “missing” by convincing others to help hide him. Finally, I received a text from my wife letting me know that the US government warned of a terror plot at Entebbe airport tonight (about 10 miles from here). I’m planning on being there tomorrow to fly to Kigali. I guess I will evaluate the treat in the am.

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GTRI 2014 Trip: Day 1 and 2


unnamed[I’ve been back for a couple of weeks but just now getting to write about this trip. These notes from each day come from my journal and don’t represent all that I did each day.]

Today (July 1), I landed midday at Entebbe airport just outside Kampala, Uganda. Entebbe is on the shores of Lake Victoria. I was met by Justus Rubarema of the Bible Society of Uganda as well as Klero Onuha of the Bible Society of South Sudan. Both men worth getting to know! We waited a bit for Margaret Hill’s plane arriving from Nairobi. Once gathered, we made for the Lweza Conference Centre about half way to the city of Kampala. Lovely grounds. Peaceful. Enjoyed the little monkeys eating flowers and looking for handouts (I had none).

I arrived at this conference (Community of Practice for Trauma Healing practitioners trained by the Bible Society) feeling fairly awake despite 26 hours of travel time. It may have helped a bit that I was unexpectedly bumped to business class on Qatar Airways from Philadelphia to Doha (a 13 hour leg). I suspect the lay flat seats had something to do with my feeling pretty good. Feeling good, I invited Margaret to go on a small walk around the area and on a quiet road outside the compound. Discussed some of her techniques to help quiet distress in participants where violence and trauma was ongoing (e.g., Bangui, CAR). We discussed the use of the “butterfly hug” as a means to calm. Also, discussed the use of drawing a place “bien etre” rather than a “safe place” since most participants she had did not have such a safe place at the present time. We finished our discussion of how to safeguard the mis-use of these calming techniques so that they would not be mis-represented as being more than they are, techniques used to help someone in the midst of distress.

Ended our day with a meal of rice, bananas, potatoes and chicken. Off to bed in hopes of getting on the right time zone quickly.

Day 2

First full day of the conference (and FULL it was, 8am to 6:30pm). Attendees are all Ugandan plus Klero from South Sudan. Most are volunteers for the Bible Society, trained to provide healing groups using the Healing Wounds of Trauma materials. Some work with children, some with adults, some with ex-combatants, some with refugees, and some with women with HIV. The purpose of this conference is to add to their knowledge and skill base plus problem-solve as to how to provide more trauma healing experiences around the country—with almost no budget. Most of the country is well-represented including a number from Gulu and also the Nakivale refugee camp. More men than women. A couple of academic types are also present, representing both the Ugandan Counseling Association and the Ugandan Christian Counseling Association. Plus, one nun representing the faculty of a nearby Catholic college.

I presented on an update to listening skills which seemed well-received. This group is very willing to discuss, raise questions, and debate. I like it! It was requested that I offer some counseling sessions after dinner and so I did. Two men requested it and so I got a chance to hear about their ministries, their hearts, and their difficult struggles, both from the past and in the present. One of the things I am seeing here is that Ugandans need the wisdom of Solomon, the heart of David, and the integrity of Daniel, even when trying to deal with so-called Christian bosses. One fun fact is that the power went out right in the middle of one of the sessions. No problem. We could keep talking in pitch-dark! But by the time I fumbled with lighting a nearby candle, a generator kicked on and power was restored.

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Tuza 2.0: Day Six and Seven


[June 28-29, 2013, Kibuye to Kigali, Rwanda]

Since my little fire mishap in the middle of the night, this conference has gone ever so smoothly. Our only difficulty has been figuring out what to cut since our talks now take twice the time due to translation time. The cuts have been to case studies in order to protect the cherished small group times. I opened our morning session with a devotional on “the cup of sweet water” and our need to address the bitter water that flows out of us. In a conference like this where we talk about domestic violence and sexual abuse, it is easy to think about evil “out there” in its most grotesque images. However, we all have the roots of this evil even if it only show up as pride and arrogance. I ended our devotional reminding us of the grace and hope given us in 1 John 1:9.

Our morning session consisted of Dr. Beverly Ingelse giving a talk about caring and counseling children who have suffered abuse. After a break and a group picture, we returned to our small groups to respond to some of Bev’s questions and to discuss cases. In my group we went fairly off topic to hear how two of our group members survived the genocide and how they are now dealing with children who did not go through the genocide but have symptoms of traumatic reactions (depression over lost Aunts and Uncles, dissociation during memorial periods, chronic fear). Just in these two stories, they counted 115 murdered extended family members! It boggles the mind of those of us who have only read about such experiences.

Just before lunch I gave a brief talk about how to facilitate storytelling in ways that does not further traumatize the teller. We looked at common behaviors of counselors that support recovery and common behaviors that may hinder recovery. Look for those in an upcoming post!

We concluded our conference a few hours earlier than expected so that attendees could return home to manage household duties prior to Saturday’s Umuganda, or monthly required civil service. We concluded with a short “What’s next?” session led by Baraka. A couple of key ideas were proposed and repeated:

  • One day set aside for hearing and responding to case studies
  • Seminars about integrity for pastors and lawyers (apparently, some very public abuse cases (by pastors) have rocked the counseling community in recent months
  • Network building: the attendees discussed formal or informal counselor network (to promote learning, peer supervision, and support. They requested technical assistance from AACC.

After our last lunch overlooking beautiful Lake Kivu, we boarded a bus and returned to Kigali. I sat next to Worship and her mother (a most precious toddler who batted her eyes at me and played peekaboo with me for 3 hours). Arriving in Kigali at dusk, we ended our day with a meal and good conversations.

Day Seven (the last)

The day started quiet and lazy with a savoring of my favorite breakfast: tropical fruit salad, coffee, and a croissant. It is good that it started this way because last night, neighbors of the retreat house decided that midnight to 5 am would be a good time to remove a sheet metal roof. The workers worked diligently and loudly, singing and laughing right outside my window. Around 5 I fell asleep for about 2 hours. These would be the only 2 hours for the next 40 or so.

As this was our last day in Rwanda, some wanted to get a bit of shopping done. I wanted to be sure to get some Rwanda tea and coffee. We hung around until about noon, when the required civil service was completed. Then, we struck out for good places to buy a few items. Though this is my third trip to Rwanda, it is my first to a shopping district. Some of our team looked for dresses, others for artistic work. I bought a few things but mostly enjoyed the people watching (and being people watched). Back at our Solace Ministries, we got our bags ready and watched a Rwandan wedding get underway. We were told after 3 hours that the bride had yet to make an appearance and that this is quite common–a good reminder of the differences in time culture!

By 9 pm we were boarding our plane to return home. I found it interesting that much of this flight (including the stop in Uganda) is filled with young (mostly female) adults looking to be college age. Some we spoke with had just spent 6 weeks with a professor and seeing various NGOs at work.

This has been a short but fulfilling trip. I look forward to returning in 1 year with our first round of Global Trauma Recovery students.

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DRC/Rwanda Trip: Day Two


October 12, 2011

Woke up to a beautiful morning in Entebbe. Enjoyed a brief walk along Lake Victoria and the garden areas just outside our hotel. Everything is green and warm. Ate a breakfast of roasted vegetables, croissant, a tamarillo (tree tomato), and coffee. Also read the local English paper. It was all about anti-corruption in politics. Seems to be a universal problem.

Wanted to tell my family that I had arrived safely but the Blackberry system had crashed in Europe and Africa so I resorted to finding a nearby business center that charged me 2 dollars for 30 minutes of internet access. I’m reminded how fast our net speed is here in the states.

By 1 pm we were in the air in a 10 passenger Cessna operated by Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF). I got to sit right behind the pilot and had a great view of the landscape below. The short videos I took do not do the landscape justice. But what I saw looked like Savannah (grasslands with stands of palm and other trees) bisected by dirt trails/roads and dotted with small villages and neat terraced farmland. Some abodes had metal roofs whole others were clearly thatch. Throughout our trip we saw small fires being used to clear land for farming.

Our flight took us from Entebbe, Uganda northwest to Bunia, DRC, across the southern end of Lake Albert. Bunia was the site of terrible fighting in 2003-4 between warring tribes, renegade militias, and both Ugandan and Rwandan military. From my seat behind the pilot I got a great view of the runway and the significant presence of UN peacekeepers around the airport. One of the reasons this area has so much UN presence is that it is rich in gold, diamonds, and other important natural resources. Prominent at the airport are rusting and cannibalized UN aircraft.

On the ground, we were met by DRC bible society staff who helped us through the customs. Though we had already secured visas, we were still asked to fill out all the same information and demanded that we present additional passport photos (that we did not have). Our handlers spoke both in French and Swahili and at some point the officials relented. DRC is known for the reality of bribes. However, I did not see money exchange hands. To us US folks, bribes only represent individual corruption. But, I’ve come to understand that many officials in the DRC do not get paid and thus the bribe becomes one way to make some money.

Without much delay we were on our way to Shalom University where we met with faculty and administration to discuss the needs around trauma counseling. The University has a great research department and is having students do field survey work to understand the extent of rape and other traumas as well as the problem of literacy. They spoke of a couple of trauma trainings that had been brought to campus and how they were helpful but not yet enough. One of the key problems was the fact that many good students are still struggle with war/conflict related trauma and are not doing as well as they could. They would like training for their faculty to address the needs of students in all departments.

After the meeting, we were shown around the campus where we saw the chapel, the new library building, some student housing and the house of a top administrator. As we passed the student housing–cinder block 2 room abodes that might have had electricity but surely no other amenities as the outhouses were about 15 feet from the front doors and the “stove” was an outdoor fire pit–I was reminded just how blessed we are in the US. Many of us would think that this housing was traumatizing when I suspect these students are quite thankful for the opportunity to study and live in a relatively safe environment.  Each house had a small garden of beans and other veggies for their food.

Once our meetings were done we then followed Bagu (our ABS host/guide) to the church he planted and had built here while a student at the university. We met a couple of the pastors there who showed us the grounds. This is a burgeoning church with English, French, and Swahili congregations. While there we ran into a choir practice–teens practicing their English singing. In the dusk of the night and in the cramped quarters of a side shack outside the church we were treated with one of their songs. What I am struck with is how much activity, growth, and excitement there is around this church where if it were in the US would be seen as squalor. Also, I’m struck with just how much Bagu is a rock star here. People keep coming up and being amazed at seeing him again after not being here for 15 years (I’m vague on this number but I know it has been a long time!).

As dusk turns to full darkness we walk the dirt streets back to the Hotel, still teeming with people walking here and there, passing shanties filled with people buying various items such as cds, SIM cards, alcohol, photocopies, food and whatever else you might want to buy.  At the hotel, I find the room consists of a bed with a mosquito net, a TV! that gets 2 stations when the electricity is on, and running water. The toilet works great and the shower is in the opposite corner with a drain but no enclosure.

Just before turning in we had a dinner of beef skewers and pomme frites–you need to love potatoes if you live in this part of the world. I think I ate them at every single meal.

As I doze off (or try to in spite of getting used to the net over me, the fighting dogs in the alley below, and later a person who must have screamed for at least 1 hour) I am reminded that I am more blessed than I deserve. I recognize that some of my stress these next 11 days will be the result of the strangeness of my surroundings, my lack of personal comfort, and my missing my family. However, I also recognize that I will be able to rectify these stresses by leaving and that those I will interact with do not have the luxury to leave the difficulties behind. We Americans view suffering as something to get through and not something to live with in this life.

Diane and Bagu resting at Hotel Karibunde

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Back in the USA after whirlwind trip to DRC and Rwanda


Glad to have the trip to see the trauma recovery efforts and needs in the DRC and Rwanda. Glad to return home. It has been a whirlwind of experiences and emotions. I know many of you were in prayer for our trip so over the next 2 weeks I plan to post daily logs of our trauma recovery trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. I have some pictures and video that I hope to post but am still trying to figure out how to make some edits to the video clips I took each day.

Let me start by making a couple of observations about the things that were most noticeable–both in going to a new culture and in returning home. These are random…

  1. Chaos is the name of the game in the DRC. Nothing works well. Not customs, not roads, not electricity, not UN.
  2. Smooth roads in the DRC are few and far between. In Goma, they are TERRIBLE. Looks like they just carved them out of lava. What a wonderful place to live if you make your living replacing axles and struts.
  3. Electricity is spotty, internet slow…but most in Goma have 2 cell phones each. Why? Because they have two cell providers and at any time, one may be down
  4. The UN soldiers aren’t well liked in the DRC. Seen as either neutral (just observing not helping) or negative (participating in the raping of the Congo). Being a UN soldier may be one of the most mindnumbing job there is. Stand around. Do nothing for most of the time.
  5. Everybody walks everywhere
  6. Rwanda is developing by leaps and bounds. Not sure if all of it is good. On the one hand, massive construction in Kigali. Roads from Goma to the center of the country a delight. On the other hand, there are large sections that used to be slums in Kigali that are now green space/farming/nice properties. Where did those people go?
  7. Stereotyping: Congolese seem more open about their feelings than Rwandans.
  8.  We are so blessed in this country. We can count on our infrastructure.  We do not have to pay bribes. If we work, we probably will get paid.
  9. Despite their poverty, African worship is far more joyful and therapeutic (in a good way) than what we call worship in this country.
  10. I probably wouldn’t invite guests to my house if it were a 2 room board shack with no running water or toilet. Not the case for some in the DRC and Rwanda.
  11. Trauma is everywhere in Africa. Few resources to deal with it there, including the church

Day One: October 10-11; travel to Entebbe, Uganda

6 pm. Lift off on time from Philadelphia International Airport. Diane and I fly overnight to Belgium. It is always a challenge for me to get sleep on a plane so I got a prescription for Ambien to help. Learned that half a pill doesn’t much work for me. The total trip from Philadelphia to Uganda takes 18 hours of flight time. Add in the waits in Philadelphia, Brussels, and Kigali and you have 24 hours of travel, a long and painful trip. Yet, each leg went well and went off as planned. Two minor interesting experiences

  • Recognized a stewardess on the first leg who plied me with a few freebies to make the trip much more pleasant
  • Pretty sure I sat next to French journalist, Jean Hatzfeld, author of Machete Season and the Antelope Strategy on the trip to Kigali. Not sure since his English isn’t that good but he was editing proofs of a new book he said was about him and his role after the genocide. Wished I had determined for sure who he was and told him how I found his books so helpful.

Arrived in Entebbe at 9:45 pm, October 11. After that many hours, you feel rather fuzzy brained. But, we were met by someone from the Ugandan Bible Society who had us wait at the airport with him until Bagudekia Alobeyo, our American Bible Society friend, arrived on his flight some 45 minutes later. Once Bagu (our Congolese pastor/guide and friend) arrived we set off to a nearby hotel, the Imperial Beach Resort Hotel right on Lake Victoria. This turns out to be our best accommodations of the trip. First impressions right out of the airport. The lovely smell of charcoal cooking fires are quite prominent.

Off to sleep in hopes of good rest to be ready for our quick flight into the DRC tomorrow!

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Trauma Recovery Work in the DRC and Rwanda


Location map of Rwanda

Image via Wikipedia

It is official. Diane Langberg and I have our tickets for our upcoming trip to the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda where we will be interacting with trauma victims, pastors (who are also trauma victims), Bible Society and World Vision workers, and probably medical and education officials as well.

We leave on October 10 and arrive in Uganda on the 11th. We will be traveling into the DRC in the northeast quadrant (picture tiny plane!) near Bunia and also to Goma, on the shores of Lake Kivu and under the shadow of a large and active volcano. There we will be observing the work of the American Bible Society and She’s My Sister as well as meeting with rape and trauma survivors.

On the 17th, Lord willing, we’ll drive from Goma into Rwanda to Kigali. There we will be joined by colleague Carol King (Langberg & Associates therapist) and Josh Straub of the AACC and our Rwandan compatriots Josephine (WV) and Baraka (IJM) and will lead a  three-day training seminar re: trauma recovery resources and best practices. The plan is to return home via Kenyatta airport and Brussels on the 22nd.

Prepping for the trip includes everything from shots to planning who does what training segments. Those of you inclined to do so, pray for the logistics there as World Vision Rwanda puts the final touches on the location of training and invitees. A lot of work must happen for this to go smoothly. Also, there is an effort to raise funds for this (Project Tuza) at the AACC World Conference in Nashville the last week of September. Pray that attendees will catch a vision and support us as they can.

Anyone wishing to donate can here.

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Ebola outbreak in Uganda


Our church and World Harvest Mission (started by our founding pastor many years ago) have connections to mission work in Bundibugyo, Uganda. The medical team there is in the middle of an Ebola outbreak and some of their staff are sick with the disease. The team has sent the non-medical staff and children away for safekeeping but the missionary docs may have been exposed to the illness or are at least at risk of it.

Consider praying for the team each day for the next 3 weeks as they labor to control the disease and treat those suffering. It is very deadly. Here’s a link to a blog by one of the doctors. You can read and pray specifically for their needs. http://www.paradoxuganda.blogspot.com/

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