May 2014

How well do you know me? It is definitely 'me' to want to make something beautiful. I see all kinds of possibilities in all kinds of things and tend to horde. (My poor wife! My poor mum!) Rayah, our eldest daughter, is the same. We just see potential in junk!

In creating something beautiful, there's often an UGLY stage. If you're not creative, you may struggle to see beyond it. Piles of rubble have been moved from the guesthouse and I can't believe how much more there is. I created a pile yesterday.  At the end of my day there was an ugly heap. But I have seen something beyond it.

Building the guesthouse has taken far more time, effort, and money than I could have imagined. A few of you have walked the full story with me as it unfolded from 2003. It has been really UGLY at times, but God has something in mind. I have seen it and it is beautiful! Our work with babies, that has grown into family strengthening, has been so demanding and we see lots of ugly stuff. It is messy work, but we have seen beauty in it too.

Those glimpses keep us going despite the ugly bits, like being away from Robin and the girls for two months. It has been an important and productive time and I can look forward to being back with my wonderful, supportive family soon.

The girls have a little over a week of the school year left. They have loved it. Sarah just turned 9 and Rayah will be 10 on June 12th, which is Robin's birthday as well. I arrive in Texas a couple of days before. For now, we Skype every couple of days and message all the time. We are grateful for the technology that bridges the miles, but we are looking forward to being back together!

We are grateful for you sharing the journey with us and the support you are. Here's an update on things in Uganda.

With love and appreciation,

David & Robin Stearns, Zemba Children's Foundation

Solomon back with his mum and doing so well...

We began caring for Solomon in May 2013. He was 4 days old and very tiny. His mother Eve, was unconscious in intensive care for 2 months after his birth. She is HIV positive and TASO (The AIDS Support Organisation) introduced them to us.

Eve, pictured here with Solomon, remembers, “It was the best moment of my life seeing Solomon for the first time, lying in a basket next to me. I was proud to touch my baby, but I couldn't. I was so weak. I spent the whole evening weeping, but I was so happy."
Eve and Solomon live in an area known for its many bars. Eve earns a meagre income running a very small 'local' restaurant specializing in cooking pigs’ hooves. If you saw her restaurant you would wonder how she manages to get money out of it. But she manages to pay her rent and other domestic needs, and more importantly, to look after Solomon!

He is feisty and sociable and has certainly not suffered any developmental delay. He’s starting to crawl. He loves it when rain starts falling. This is his season. It rains most every day.

Weekdays I work at the guesthouse. Saturdays I attack our home to get it ready for our return as a family on the 1st October. I have also enjoyed visiting our project - AcaciaTree

Andrew and Blessed are expecting their baby boy within weeks. Last weekend, they welcomed Tendo into their temporary care. He is a 5 pound four month old, swamped by clothes for a premature baby. More on him in our next update.

The community work is great! Our staff is showing lots of ingenuity in strengthening families. With twenty babies, in their families, being supported in our rehabilitation program, we are grateful for some income from our farm. The chickens lay up to 80 eggs a day and we have a GOOD market for them. In February, Ugandan staff salaries were covered by farm income. That was timely as our regular monthly income has dropped to a point where it will not cover outgoings.

We sold 2 large pigs last week and two more this week. The first two paid our water bill and enabled reconnection. We are going to expand our chicken population with the proceeds from the next two and aim for really yellow yoked eggs which commands a higher price. The farm income is great, but its not yet enough to cover the expenses. We still need partners to boost regular income. As we cover all Ugandan staff and operational costs first, Robin has had only one partial salary this year.

The work I am doing on the guest-
house has been made possible by a designated, flexible 'soft' loan (interest free and with no obligation for repayment). It's a miracle that we have been able to enjoy a break back with family and to keep building.

It is great, too, that we have a good mechanic and fixing cars is cheaper here than in the UK or US. Our two vehicles have not enjoyed standing idle. Mine was fixed immediately to get back to work. It has carried all and sundry since it was gifted to me by returning missionaries in 2009 (thank you so much!) Though over 20 years old it has been great. It is hard to imagine how I did without a vehicle for the first 3 years here!

It's rainy season at the moment which often means wet mornings and  steamy afternoons. Everything grows fast, no less the hedge at the guesthouse, so I am really pleased that Hasan, one of my building workers, picked an interest in using my hedge trimmer - quite a novelty here. We cut the hedge back so hard that it looks UGLY right now, but will soon recover with better growth. He will happily trimmed it while I am away.

Stone cutting
bites the bullet!

Despite mechanical breakdowns and power cuts, the dusty, noisy, heavy work of stone cutting is thankfully over. Some of the stones were over two inches thick. Arranging and trimming them into attractive patterns that drain well, with a cutting machine that weighs 5kg/11lbs is heavy work! A bad elbow and aching back remind me I am not as young as I was when I started cutting stones back in 2011.

Richard, who stays at the guesthouse, fended off two lots of burglars! He did some smart thinking and had the doors welded shut after the second attempt. I discovered that, when I tried to get in on my first day back!

The welder is finally on site to fit locks and bolts and there has been power! He and the plumber constantly break their promises of coming to work which makes me even more grateful for Peter and Hasan, who are so diligent. They have worked hard on bathroom floors. We have finished the septic tank so that it can function and have fitted the staff toilet (with me acting as plumber!). Richard especially appreciating the new facilities.

We did some remedial work on the main gate posts after they had been undermined by road works. I have made a proposal to Entebbe Municipal Council for improvement to road drainage at my gate - at my own cost too, of course! The Municipal Engineer promised a site visit and I hope he manages so that I can set Peter going on those repairs before I leave.

I'm very glad to have bought most of the toilets we need. I will make one more shopping trip to Kampala this week. Having the specific fittings enables us to prepare the bathrooms appropriately, fitting is then easy. I have decided it is better to store things safely until our return and not struggle to fit them now, leaving them vulnerable.

There is a lot to tie up in this last week of work. Please pray for favour with the welder, uninterrupted power and dry weather while he's around. We had many, many power cuts the first weeks I was here. Besides fitting bolts and locks, he is making another door for the gate house room, some secondary manhole covers for planting grass in, and will weld security chains to all manhole covers so that safe to flush! Meanwhile Peter, Hasan and I are attacking all the messy bits so
beauty takes over.
We are so thankful for partnerships - partnership with our supporters around the world, partnership with our passionate Ugandan colleagues and partnership with families in our local community.
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