Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Benefit Dinner for Youth and Child Visionary Ministries (Uganda) Raises $15,000

(written by Becky Wong)

Bricks, Mortar, & Steel: Building a Hope and a Future

To the spirited rhythms of African music playing in the background, 250 dinner guests were “transported”  via song and story to the village of Kumi, Uganda, on a spring evening in April, 2010. They were attending the first major fundraiser to build a Primary Christian Boarding School in Uganda, sponsored by Chinese Community United Methodist Church of Oakland, CA.

The event was truly an evening of “East meets West”, for while attendees feasted on a sumptuous 9-course Chinese banquet held at Legendary Palace Restaurant, they learned words and songs in Ateso and Swahili, and heard stories from the Mission Team of 8 who travelled to Kumi last summer. Aeri Lee, team leader, shared how the unique partnership developed between Kumi and the small church in Chinatown, which felt called to respond to the needs of orphans in this Ugandan village. 

People were captivated by Peter Chu's accounts of the humble tools used to lay brick, mortar, and steel on the cement foundation. Smiles of glee spread on faces who sang of a “Biggy, Biggy God-O”, a familiar song of the YCVM praise band. And the response was enthusiastic as donations were collected to fund the building project. Altogether the dinner raised $15,000 towards the goal of $25,000 needed to finish one wing of the school. The “Little Church in Chinatown” has truly felt the hand of God moving in surprising and amazing ways. They continue to pray for the project to move ahead towards completion, praising and glorifying our “Biggy, Biggy God-O!”


For more information on Youth and Child Visionary Ministries, visit www.ycvm.org



(written by Peter Lau)
After receiving news about an April 14th earthquake in Qinghai, China, which took the lives of 2,220 people, injured over 11,000, and caused immeasurable damage, CCUMC’s Chinese-speaking Ministries Committee decided to take to the streets to raise funds for the relief effort in partnership with the American Red Cross. Sisters and brothers on English-speaking side were also invited to participate in this fundraising effort. I was impressed and touched by our two congregations working together with joyful heart and one mind.
10 choir members, under the leadership of Yvonne, performed songs in front of the church to attract the attention of the general public Saturday and Sunday afternoon, May 1-2. We were so proud that our two great musicians were able to accompany us, and two able men helped set up the equipment. 8 pairs of brave sisters and brothers, including youths, were stationed at the four cornerimages of the crosswalk at 8th Street-Webster and 9th Street-Webster to ask for public support, while about 6 brothers and sisters faithfully carried posters up and down the streets to encourage people to give.  An American Red Cross emergency truck brought in by Burt, was parked in front of the church and was open for public viewing on Sunday afternoon.
imageThe people of Oakland Chinatown responded enthusiastically and monetarily. 7 buckets were filled on Saturday and an additional 7 buckets were brought in on Sunday. The amount of donations was $5,149.67! Additionally, two major donations amounting to $3,200.00, were made directly to UMCOR via CCUMC for specific reasons. Hence, the grand total of donations to date is $8,349.67! We praise the Lord for this opportunity to bear witness to God’s love for the people in Qinghai.image

Aeri’s weekend report

Monday, July 19, 2010image

Dear Community,

This past Saturday, I was invited to speak at a worship conference organized by a worship training ministry called, Streams of Worship Ministry Africa (SOWMA) which was founded by my former RTC music student and friend Bosco Andama. Bosco was only a teenager when I first met him in 1997, in high school and working for the RTC missionaries. When I next came to Uganda in 2001, he was enrolled as a music student at RTC, proving to be one of my most musically gifted students. Since graduation, he has steadily grown in his reputation as an extraordinarily gifted music teacher and worship team trainer all over Kampala, and Kenya where he was a missionary for 2 years. He currently works at his church in Kampala, and teaches at RTC, as well as heading up SOWAM, in working with area church leaders to train their worship teams.

image The day began with the gathering of the worship team that was to be the leaders of all of the worship sessions that were to intersperse the 2 main teaching sessions. I was asked to speak on ‘the role of music in worship’, addressing the common phenomena in many African worshippers to mistake music as worship itself, and on the other side of the spectrum, the tendency to make worship into religious entertainment, 2 situations that may not be so uncommon in the US as well.

image Along with me, the other speaker for the day was Emmanuel Candia (pronounced ‘Chandia), a wheel chair- bound (from childhood polio) lawyer, a long-time friend of Bosco, a self-taught Bible scholar with an impressive working knowledge of Biblical Greek, a passionate worship leader, a faithful man of God, and apparently a powerful speaker. He spoke on the topic of ‘bearing fruit’ as worshippers, as he reflected on the text of John 15 (“I am the vine, you are the branches….). I left RTC at 7am, and did not return until 11pm, thoroughly exhausted, but full of gratitude.

The lady kneeling in the front is May, Bosco’s wife, currently remaining with 2 weeks until her due date, to deliver a baby girl, to be named “Gracious”, who will be their third child. Imagine leading worship when you are 9 months pregnant! The rest of the worship team members come from various area churches and Bosco’s current and former students. Tomorrow evening, I plan to visit Bosco’s home in the suburbs of Kampala, where he lives with his family of 4, his in-laws, and 3 of his music students that he is currently housing (and discipling, from what I can gather).


image RTC music students are pressing on in their third week of intensive classes with me, already having to face exams next week. Pictured on the right are my second year students flashing a rare smile in my music theory class. I say ‘rare’ because most of the time they are frowning in concentration, or is it consternation?!? Modeste, the one whose foot is now completely healed is the skinny young man in the second row with a white shirt and grey checkers. I hope to teach you a song he composed when I get back.

The upcoming weekend looks as though it will be very full. Silver will likely travel from Kumi to see me, I will visit Veronica and Solomon, Anne Nyarangi’s younger siblings, I hope to make an appointment to interview Sylvia Achana, the lady who heads up UNEB (Ugandan National Education Board) to interview (it’s a homework assignment from Jenny, your fearless Sunday school teacher!) , and go shopping for all the requested items from friends in the US.

Then the following weekend, I’ll be heading back home. I look forward to seeing all of you soon.


Aeri’s visit to Kumi, part 2

(part 2 of 2)

Kumi Part 2, July 12, 2010

image Dear community,

This is a continuation of my report on the trip to Kumi.

Due to my physical state, I had to go straight to Kumi Hotel. After 2 hours of rest, Rev. Odi, the chair of the YCVM board, who had himself just returned from teaching in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) yesterday, picked me up to go to the NorthEast Villa, which by the way was where our Kumi team from last year stayed. Uncle Burt will remember: “Where is the honey, Simon?” ”The honey is ovah”. The YCVM members had been waiting there since 12 noon for my arrival. Pictured above is Patrick Okore smiling with me. He is thrilled to report that he finished the final semester of his courses at the Makerere University School of Business. PTL! He is waiting for the results to come out in late October, which will allow him to graduate. He sends love and thanks to Valene and Dustin. Perhaps one of the members of the mission team from last year can tell you a small part of his amazing life story, particularly all of the gut-wrenching, and tempestuous efforts at trying to secure his school fees in order to get an education.

Our meeting began in the back yard of the villa (remember Valene’s b-day party?) with YCVM members praying and praising. Then Rev. Odi made his opening remarks, highlighting his hopes for the future of YCVM, which are, increased participation from the rest of the team members (other than Silver and Grace) in their involvement with the children, Silver’s marriage and further studies (in that order, but more about that later!), as well as development opportunities for the rest of the YCVM executive team members, even short courses or conferences that will help build their capacities for carrying out the vision and ministry of YCVM. I agree that staff training would greatly enhance and empower the running of YCVM as an organization. With the exception of Rev. Odi, who is very busy with his own ministry of traveling all over east and central Africa, in order to teach, train, and equip ministers (he works with an American based NGO called, Equipping Pastors International), and is involved with YCVM only in an advisory capacity, the rest of the members are sincere of heart and committed to the vision and ministry of YCVM, but have little experience or training in running a non-profit organization. He went on to read Pastor Emily’s letter to the group, at which point I got too sick to continue to keep my head up. I had to be driven back to my hotel.

Over that evening, while I was sick in my room, Rev. Odi went over the letter with the team once more. On Sunday morning, Rev. Odi had to preach in church, so we continued without him. I read the letter to them once more in the morning, going over and further explaining each point, and left my hard copy with the team. The two separate budget plans for the upcoming year, the $6,000 for the support of the children and other administrative costs, and the $40,000 for the school building will be worked on by the team in future meetings.

* However, the YCVM members request that the $6,000 be sent in 3 installments at the beginning of each school term: $2,000 on August 1st, 2010, $2,000 on January 1st, 2011, and the final $2,000 on April 1st, 2011.

*Patrick Olupot, the building engineer, who was present at the meeting, will work on the building budget, and send the disbursement plan later.

By the way, Patrick Olupot sends a special greeting to Peter Chu, saying with a big smile, “Send a big ‘hello’ to Peter. I liked working with him very much. He was my fellow engineer.”

Silver mentioned that the 20 plots of land the school building sits on actually is not big enough to include the 2 acres of grounds for sports and PE that is required by the government for primary schools. And that the lady who owns about an acre of land adjacent to the YCVM land recently approached Silver to try to sell the land. He did not give any response to the lady since he did not know whether he’d have the money, and also because it is not good negotiating technique to seem overly interested. But he says that if the building is completed, that might drive up the price, and that this might be a good time to start negotiating, before the building is finished. After some discussion from the group, it was agreed upon that they would negotiate with the owner and see if they can get a good price that will allow them both to finish the one wing of the primary school and purchase the land within the $40,000 budget. Otherwise, the first priority would be to finish the wing as per the direction of the letter.

Silver also shared with the team and myself a revised and concise version of the vision/mission/objectives of YCVM, and told me that they have a draft of the vision/mission/plans for the school that YCVM is building, which he hopes to finalize before I leave Uganda. We made a tentative plan for him to visit me in Kampala to bring the document, and also so that he can be video-taped for the UMTV. And he will also write out the words and meaning of the songs that Ben sent by then. He will also help me then to answer Jenny’s questions regarding Ugandan education.

He also reported on the YCVM assets, and all the new items received this time around: a keyboard (donated by Wendy), and stand, a projector for showing Christian, and other educational films (like the one on HIV/AIDS), 3 mics and cords, a headphone (now that I think about it, they might not know that it is also a mic?), one wireless mic and receiver, an extra AC adapter, and 2 small bags.

All of the outreach ministries of the band and the team during the past year were reported on as well. They tried to show the ‘Jesus film’ and the educational film on HIV/AIDS on their laptop at these events where there were hundreds and sometimes thousands gathered! Some of the members mentioned that the mission team from CCUMC would have enjoyed ministering with them… I think they were saying that they miss you guys.

Grace Among reported on agriculture and on the children.

*Of the 200 orange trees that had been planted, 196 survived and are growing. They plan on planting 100 more trees this year.

*They currently have 9 children in full sponsorship:

John Opolot, the brother of the girl who drowned in the YCVM well, is now at Mary Marquis Primary School, P3 (3rd grade) and doing well.

Shiela Kedi, is in Aciisa Primary school, P5 (5th grade). She has been able to stay in school without getting sick and having to drop out this year.

Grace Among (she is from Miroi, which is the village that Grace (YCVM)is from, and she (little Grace) changed her name to our Grace’s name (Among) because she wants to emulate her), is in Ngora Girls School, P6 (6th grade).

Martha Among, is in Ngora High School (where Grace teaches English, and is very academically prestigious, I might add), S1 (7th grade). She is the one that has developed a lump in her breast. The doctors have yet to determine whether it is cancerous or not. Please pray for her.

Jessca Among is also in Ngora High, S1 (7th grade). She was home with Typhoid and Malaria, but has now recovered and returned to school.

Stella Among is also in Ngora High, S1. She also had malaria, but has recovered and is back in school.

Raymond Okello, is also in Ngora High school, S3 (9th grade). Grace reports that he is academically excellent, receiving very high marks. (University material, maybe?)

Mary Accio, (you remember she was the one who was raped by a teacher when she was in P6) is now in Geresa High, S4

Aturuke Moses, will be finishing at St. Kizito technical School in Soroti with an advanced certificate in ‘Brick-laying & Concrete practice’ after this year.

Alice, who graduated with a diploma in early childhood education last year, has found a life mate and is now married.

Susan Achom (who everyone in the CCUMC team thought was ‘Suzanne’) has graduated from nursing school last year and has set up and works in her own little ‘drug shop’ (pharmacy) in Serere (a small town in western Tesoland).

Helen Attai, who was reinstated to sponsorship after a year, has again got into trouble with a boy, and was suspended from Ngora High. She now attends Kobwin High, S4. YCVM members, particularly Silver and Grace are still trying to counsel her, even though she is not officially being financially sponsored by YCVM.

Grace proposes that they continue the sponsorship of those 9 children for this coming year, especially in light of the budget of $6,000, and that they consider adding on more children next year, perhaps at some partial sponsorship with some of the financial responsibilities being covered by the guardians. No doubt that there is a LONG line of children in need…

It was interesting to note that the letter from Pastor Emily was treated like some kind of sacred scripture, being read over and over, words being interpreted and mulled over, and some of the fine points being debated… or maybe it was like some alien communication….

Speaking of which, Grace commented that when she read the part in the letter that said something to the effect that ‘reality in Uganda is something we can’t really know’ (I can’t remember the exact words Pastor Emily used), she wished that we could send ambassadors to one another to stay for a while, instead of just one day a year, more like for a month or so to see how reality is indeed on the ground every day for YCVM, or for CCUMC. To be sure, what I observe in my once yearly visits or even what the team observed for two weeks is not the typical ‘everyday’ reality for them. And for YCVM, none of whom had been to the US, they could not be expected to have any idea of life at CCUMC.

And yet, the miracle is that we have in fact made a connection, even, a deeply human and spiritual one in Christ. I have cried with Silver and Grace in prayer over the lives of the children, and over their own personal struggles and challenges. Our Kumi mission team members have shared ministry miracle moments and heard and empathized with all the heart-wrenching stories of the YCVM members. We were all deeply moved when they sang a very tearful song to bid us ‘good bye’ before we left Uganda. They broke out into instantaneous prayer over the Sunday school series that was to begin on Sunday the 11th. They prayed over it on Saturday night, when Rev. Odi read about it, and they prayed again, when I mentioned on Sunday morning that it was led by two high school girls named Wendy and Jenny. So, Wendy and Jenny, know that you have friends in Africa praying for you and your ministry by your names. And I know that they will continue praying for you. Prayer and fasting is a regularly (and really seriously, I might add) practiced spiritual discipline among YCVM members. For example, did you know that Silver had been fasting and praying for 7 days when God gave him the vision for YCVM? Did you know that each member of YCVM took turns fasting and praying for us the whole time the Kumi mission team was there? Did you know that while Silver called every few hours to check on my safe arrival back to Kampala, the YCVM members were in prayer? Wow, do these people know how to practice prayer!!

Finally, Pastor Emily, YCVM members send their love to you, and would like to extend their invitation to come and preach the Good News in Uganda. They are also thrilled that ‘Mama Becky’ is the mission coordinator, and that they get to write to her regularly. “She has a truly gentle and humble spirit. She is a mama to us” Grace says. In fact, they recalled each one of you by name and fondly remembered ministering together. It seems like I’ve run out of space.

So, until next time, Aeri

Aeri’s visit to Kumi

(Part 1 of 2)


Monday, July 12, 2010


Posing with YCVM after our meeting on Sunday, from left to right:

Pastor Lawrence, Patrick Olupot (the building engineer), ‘uncle’ Emma, Grace Among, Patrick Okore (the tallest one in the back), Me (Aeri), Silver Omakenyi, and Okiria Francis

Dear beloved community,

As you are aware, I took a trip to see our dear YCVM friends in Kumi this past weekend. It was a physically arduous trip, though emotionally and spiritually uplifting one. Now that I am back safe and sound in Kampala, I will describe a little bit of the journey there.

I left RTC on foot at 6am on Saturday, my 2 bags in tow, while it was still pitch dark (Sunrise and Sunset being about at 7am and 7pm respectively, pretty much the whole year around, Uganda is, after all, smack dab on the equator). After a bumpy 45 minute matatu ride (a converted 7 passenger minibus that looks to be at least 30+ years past it’s serviceable age) crowded with 20 passengers (yes, one’s sense of personal space has long gone out the window when your daily commute involves being folded on top of strangers, knees digging into the front passengers), we arrived covered in dust, grit, and sweat into the taxi park in the Kampala city center, already bustling with traffic, pedestrians, bikers, beggars, street peddlers and hawkers, and shop owners criss-crossing one another in daredevil-ish speed and abandon. I then quickly headed for the bus park a couple blocks away, trying to find an opportune moment to dodge the oncoming traffic (which don’t stop for pedestrians, ever) while fending off an onslaught of rather aggressive solicitations from boda-boda drivers and other street vendors, and ignoring the usual cat-calls, “Hey, muzungu(white person or more literally ‘non-person’)!” “Hey, Chinese!” (my non-black-ness readily recognizable even in the semi-dark predawn), guarding my 2 bags with both my elbows against purse-snatchers and pick-pockets, and trying not to get too nauseous at the combined smells of the sewage which surrounds the taxi park, trash piles everywhere, human sweat, really strong BO, and noxious black fumes of carbon monoxide (no smog regulations on any auto vehicles here).

Once I am at the bus park, there are no signs for where to go, except for people calling you to ride their bus headed for various cities in Uganda. I find that the early bus to Soroti or Moroto or Karamoja (Kumi is one of the stops on the way) has left. They tell me that I must now get to the other bus park, another few blocks away, then catch the later bus. At that point, I chicken out of having to walk over there, and flag a boda-boda driver, who mananges with amazing skill, to weave through all the mayhem, sometimes coming within a fraction of an inch of the oncoming traffic, sometimes shoving off adjacent boda-boda drivers. Once at the other bus park, folks accost me to ride their buses, though there is actually only one bus headed for Karamoja (in the far north-east of the country), called the “Karamoja Promise”. I pay my fare, the conductor gives me my ticket receipt, and I take a seat on a window-side seat on a nearly empty bus.

The bus, which looks to me to be in better shape (relatively speaking, of course) than many others I’ve taken in the past, smells already of left-over sweat and vomit from the night’s passengers. I can see on the seats, dark stains of unknown origins, and the floor is littered with left-over food-scraps and animal feathers and feces. I open the window as far as I can, trying not to touch some slimy grime on the windowsill and handle because now the Sun has risen and it is starting to get hot. Passengers file in one by one, and we wait patiently until every seat on the bus is taken. There are no designated departure times. The bus leaves when it is filled. After another hour and 45 minutes, we slowly head out of now completely log-jammed Kampala, and it is truly sweltering in the bus. On its slow, traffic-jammed way out of the city, the bus picks up a few more passengers who flag it down on the road, who think nothing of standing the whole way upcountry. The seats are very cramped, even for my short stature. I don’t have much leg room, and my seat-mate and I are in full body contact on one side. My back is sore and my butt, even more so, and it’s only been about 2 hours. I steel myself for at least another 5 hours because I know it will take some time in Mbale, a big town about an hour before Kumi when there will be a large shift of off-boarding and reloading. I see mothers with nursing babies and small toddlers walk in. Having bought only one ticket, she sits with 2 of her smallest ones on her lap the whole way, and the older one is just floating around the aisle, being jostled around every which way and sitting on the floor when too tired.

Completely at the whim of the driver (I’ve never heard a passenger make a request for a stop), we make the occasional ‘pee’ stop (or not, which was the case on the way up to Kumi), or a ‘slow-down’ for the street food peddlers to run up to the slow moving bus and the quick, frantic purchases through the open windows, but we always stop to pick up an additional passenger no matter how packed the bus is. On the way to Kumi, I bought 3 small ‘gonjas’ (roasted bananas) from a street vendor and ate 1 of it before I started feeling a little sick. I felt worse and worse as the journey wore on, and by the time we got to Kumi, another 5 hours later, after having vomited out the ‘gonja’ I ate out the window, I could not keep my head up because everything seemed to be spinning.

And that was just the journey up to Kumi. As excruciating as the journey was for me, I tell it not in order to tell an ‘adventure story’, but to share a glimpse into the lives of Ugandans, and perhaps for only the minutest fraction of life, ponder what it must be like to be that child, peddling a basket of bananas for maybe a whole dollar for that entire basket, or that mother and 3 children traveling for 7-8 hours in a crowded, sweltering bus, and no diaper changes and no snacks! And those children, not complaining at all, but simply sitting with their mother with curiously blank faces. Or the old lady I sat next to on the way down, who at her age, with a hacking cough, sat by the window breathing in the visible dust (I was chewing grit between my teeth, and when I washed my hair that night, I had brown suds) and exhaust fumes the whole way, with her load of food stuffs she purchased in the up-country (because they are cheaper than in Kampala) to feed her many grand children that she has had to take on raising, her children having died of AIDS and malaria. On my way back to Kampala, when I got on the bus and sat next to her, I smelled something that smelled like rancid meat and really ripe feet combined. Having had nothing to eat for 2 days, I was a little delicate in constitution, and started to feel nauseous again. Knowing I’d have to sit there next to her for the next several hours (it ended up being 8 hours because the bus broke down on the way, but that is another long story), I struck up a conversation with her. I saw that the smell was coming from a brown plastic bag that contained some kind of long brown strips. Upon my asking, she told me they were smoked young bamboo stalks (It seemed fermented also, judging from the smell), and she mixed them with groundnuts (peanuts) to make sauce. She asked whether I’ve ever had them, and told me that they were delicious. I imagined similar things in my food culture like, kimchee or stinky tofu, things that taste great but smell absolutely foul, especially if you don’t eat them. I tried to breathe in the smell of the smoked bamboo as I imagined myself enjoying that sauce she was describing. Amazingly, it worked, and I was not so nauseous! I could have remained nauseated by the unknown and misunderstood smell, and perhaps even a little judgemental and certainly distanced from my neighbor. But a little information, a little imagination, a little effort, and a connection is made, and a chance for my inner transformation happens. Maybe an important lesson is to be learned here in our cross-cultural mission/ partnership.

And so I tell this story in hopes that it will help my community learn a little more of the environment and the life context of our YCVM friends in Kumi, to learn a little of their amazing resilience and fortitude, and that their joyous worship in the Lord is by no means flippant, their faith, one that comes with great testing, and their hope, hard-earned.


Emma, Patrick, and Grace give God thanks in praise for our meeting again

I think this story has already gone on too long. So, I will follow with part 2, the meeting with YCVM.

Until then, to be continued…..


More From Aeri, July 8th

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Dear church family,

I am just learning the technicalities involved in inserting pictures into documents and attaching it in email and sending it via my blackberry. So consider this a test. Here I am standing proudly in front of my hand-washed clothes… haha.

By the way, yesterday, I had to take Modeste to a nearby clinic when I found him in his room with not only a swollen foot, but swollen lymph-nodes and a fever. They cleaned his wound and poured some kind of inky purple stuff on it. When I asked what is was, they couldn’t tell me. Anyhow, they gave him some antibiotics to take. He seems much better today and the swelling and the fever is down. Thanks be to God. However, Ndatwa Jean-Claude, another Rwandese student is sick with malaria. I’d appreciate your prayers for him as well…


And this is Susan, who cooks all my meals for me at the guesthouse. She manages to churn out three meals a day using exactly what you see on the shelves for spices: salt, vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and cooking oil. She looks like a young girl, but she is mother to 2 teenage girls and one 5 year old boy. She also happens to be from the same tribe as David Ofumbi.

I have not remembered to take pictures while I’m teaching, but I will send some your way when I can manage it.


Update from Aeri, July 6th

Update Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Dear beloved community,

Classes began since Monday, and though it’s only been 2 days, it feels like I’ve been teaching all day everyday for a while. I taught advanced music theory and musicianship on Monday morning, choir and group vocal training in the afternoon. This morning was Christian worship: history, theology, and practice, and in the afternoon, Intro to the history of western music. Each session lasts from 3-4 hours, so I end up teaching the whole day and spend the evenings marking papers, and preparing for the next day’s classes. I have to get up extra early if I have to do laundry before classes. Hand washing all your clothes takes longer than one would expect. And right now, I am itching all over, I think because I did not wash all the detergent out of the clothes in order to save water. Hmmmm… maybe I should use less detergent next time. I have to use an old-fashioned chalkboard for the lectures, so by the end of the day, I am covered white from head to toe in chalk dust. So it’s a cold water shower every night, the kind where you use a small plastic hand-basin full of water and pour cupfuls on yourself. Even as I am shivering from cold, I am gratefully aware of the fact that it is a luxury and a privilege to have water available for me to wash in the midst of this dry season.

I have 8 students who are in their second year of study and 7 in their first, all together 15 in all. They range in ages 19 – 30. My students tell me that there are 2 more that are yet to come. I have a number of Rwandese students, 1 from Burundi, 1 from Sudan, and of course a bunch from Uganda. It’s remarkable to me that the students who came last year from Rwanda with almost no English skills can now communicate in English with impressive fluency. One of my Rwandese students, Modeste Nzabonimpa, who is on a work scholarship, was locking up the practice rooms late last night as a part of his work duties, when he took a misstep and cut the side of his foot on a sharp rock. Having no resources to get to a hospital or even a clinic, he simply washed it and put some salt on the wound. When I saw him this morning, he was limping and the cut seemed to me more like a large gash of scooped-out flesh about ¾ inch wide all around and just as deep. He persisted and sat in class all day, and by the end of the day, his foot looked like a balloon. When I suggested that he should get to a hospital, all the other students (Modeste included) just shrugged and told me he’d be ok. Please pray for him. Needless to say, I am more than a little concerned.

It looks like I will be visiting our YCVM friends in Kumi this weekend. I will take a bus that leaves Kampala at 7am on Saturday morning, and come back late on Sunday night. Please pray for journey mercies. Out of all of the times that I’ve taken the bus to Kumi, I think there were more times when the bus broke down in the middle of the trip than not. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the trip and our time together after I’m back.

During this morning’s worship class, as I was sharing the African-American gospel song, “Anointing, fall on me”, Modeste, my Rwandese student, sang it right back to me in Kinyarwanda (Rwandese language), and the whole class had a blessed time singing it in the 2 languages and discussing the meaning of the song. Surely enough the song became the prayer of my heart; that God’s Holy Spirit would indeed anoint me , to empower me to do God’s will, both at RTC as I teach, and in Kumi as I meet with YCVM.

Until next time,


News From Aeri

Aeri Lee is currently in Uganda for the month of July, and will be sending updates on her mission trip to RTC, YCVM, and many other friends she knows in Uganda.  Below is the first of several communications from her.


July 1st, Thursday

Beloved church family,

I arrived safely in Uganda yesterday afternoon, as did all my luggage, thanks be to God, via a long 15 hour flight to sweltering, as in, 109 degrees Fahrenheit at 7pm, yet extravagantly opulent Dubai , then another 7 and a half hour flight to Entebbe via Addis Abbaba. Here I am, back in my old room at RTC with my mosquito net that is full of holes, my 2 shelves fashioned out of old vine stalk, my rickety desk and chair, a bed with slats that dig into by back all night long, and occasionally stepping on dead cockroaches and lizard droppings. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my own opulent surroundings, relatively and contextually speaking of course, enjoying the sweet, earthy smell in the air that never fails to greet me whenever I land in Uganda, getting used to the fine brown dust that settles on everything constantly, and enduring the barrage of mosquito bites that have already made their mark on all my extremities.

This morning, I am waiting for the electrician who was to come and fix the electricity on my side of the guesthouse building (there is none at the moment, I am writing on left-over juice in my computer battery), before heading out to town to take care of some errands : turn on cell phone service, exchange currency, and procure necessities like TP, candles, soap, and water, bracing myself for another set of exhilaratingly death-defying boda-boda (motorbike) rides through town, all before the afternoon Sun becomes too scorchingly hot, what with it being the dead of dry season and all.

Last night as I lay awake listening to the eardrum-rattling music of crickets, and the occasional thud of avocados falling onto the tin roof of the guesthouse, I was filled with a sense of grateful wonder at God bringing me here for the 13th time since that life-altering first experience of 1997. Thinking of the depth of human connections in which I was privileged to share here in Uganda, I can only sing along with the Psalmist: ‘Lord, who am I, that you should show such loving kindness?’ This weekend, I will be sharing at a worship conference that my Ugandan musician friend and former student, Bosco Andama will be holding in Kampala. I have no idea as yet what I will say, but as I await insight from the Lord, I expect to witness God at work once again in ways that always capture my imagination anew. So here I go once more, grateful at the chance to practice the always exciting, unexpected, and scary work of trusting in God. As always, I know that I am cocooned in the prayers of my community, without which none of this would be possible. Please excuse my Faulkneresque, stream-of-consciousness style of run-on sentences. I haven’t slept in more than 2 hour stretches for the last 3 days….



Uganda Missions

CCUMC sends its worship director, Aeri Lee, as a missionary to Uganda.  Every summer Aeri teaches music at the Reformed Theological College in Kampala, Uganda.  She also makes a trip to visit Kumi, Uganda, where Youth and Child Visionary Ministries is based.

YCVM is supported by CCUMC through fundraising efforts.  The monies support orphans that are cared for by YCVM, and go towards the construction of a Christian boarding school in Kumi.  Read about YCVM’s ministry at the YCVM blog.

In the summer of 2009, a team from CCUMC traveled to Kumi for two weeks to join forces with YCVM and further their goals.  Find out more at the Kumi Konnect blog.

Farewell to Pastor Peter

June has been a month of transitions. We bid a fond farewell to Pastor Lau and his family after having served at CCUMC for 17 years! The joint worship service was very moving. An impromptu choir gathered to sing a special song (part of it was in the Malaysian language!), and Peter and Jasmine sang a duet to the congregation. The ladies of the UMW presented the Laus with a hand-stitched quilt, a memory book, and a special luncheon. Tears were shed, and many stepped forward to share their fondness and appreciation to the Lau Family. They will be missed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

June Events at CCUMC

June has been a month of transitions. We bid a fond farewell to Pastor Lau and his family after having served at CCUMC for 17 years! The joint worship service was very moving. An impromptu choir gathered to sing a special song (part of it was in the Malaysian language!), and Peter and Jasmine sang a duet to the congregation. The ladies of the UMW presented the Laus with a hand-stitched quilt, a memory book, and a special luncheon. Tears were shed, and many stepped forward to share their fondness and appreciation to the Lau Family. They will be missed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning to Blog

Today is a "learning" day. In Sunday School, I learned a lot about Ugandan history from our wonderful duo, Jenny and Wendy. I now know something about the civil unrest that has been going on in that country for more than 30 years. I now know how much they need the help that has become one of our missions. If you haven't had a chance to attend this summer's Intergenerational Sunday School, I urge you to come every Sunday at 9:30am for the next 6 Sundays. Not only have the classes been informative: they've been A LOT OF FUN (partly because I'm there).

Today I also learned that it's not always the better choice to be busy rather than to let things go and "listen". Today's sermon delivered by Pastor Emily struck a chord with many of the congregants. Brenda stated that the sermon (from Luke 10:27) was directed personally at her; but I felt the same way. Too often I let myself become too busy doing what I think are important things, blinding myself to what truly is important. The characters in today's scripture included sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus' feet to listen and be with Him while Martha busily cleaned and served the guests. Pastor Emily asked who we identified with; and I honestly knew that I'm a Martha. And, like Martha, I'd be critical of my sister for not helping with the busy work because my priorities are skewered. Hopefully, I'll reconsider my priorities and learn to make the better choice from here onward.

And I'm also learning to BLOG. Ben asked me to contribute to this new CCUMC means of communication. I haven't had much exposure to blogging, so this will be a new experience for me. Ben envisions this as an extension of the Messenger/Bulletin which I've been editing for the last few years. My vision of this BLOG is to give you my impressions of relevant news and events of our church community. Please give me feedback on what you'd like to see in this BLOG. I'll plan to write weekly!

Welcome to Chinese Community United Methodist Church!

Chinese Community United Methodist Church has been serving the Oakland Chinatown community for more than 120 years, but we're just getting around to blogging our ministries.  For general information about us, visit http://www.chinesecommunityumc.org/

Come on down to CCUMC - All are welcome!


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