Mangos and MentorsRich Stigall
by Mike Mitchell, currently in Uganda
Visiting the Father’s House in Lira, Uganda this week we discover that there are now some young men in our midst. Tall fellows that look you eye-to-eye as they offer their customary warm and extended greeting. Engaging with young men of 16 or so can be a different challenge, but one that we are prepared for with an exciting construction project!
You see, there is a problem at the Father’s House in Lira. All the mangos ripen at one time, and the kids and mammas who live there can only eat so many mangos before they spoil (not to mention, bananas, pineapples and other fruit). So our project – building a large scale solar fruit dehydrator – is just the ticket for engaging with these young men, and one that can make a difference in their day-to-day lives.
Starting with battery-powered saws and drills, and a stack of lumber and hardware – we had their attention. They pressed in close as we measured and prepared to cut, and they were anxious – just as any young man would be – to try their hand at the power equipment. They took turns with every cut and screw. They also took the lead in putting the lumber and tools away at night and pulling them back in the morning. They learned a lot about carpentry, and we were all thrilled with the opportunity to engage with one another in a meaningful way.
Dr. Alison worked hard to explain the concept of dehydrated fruit to the committee members, mammas and director of the Father’s House. Armed with delicious samples of dried bananas and pineapples, she carefully explained the merits of being able to eat fruit 3 or even 6 months after the harvest. She suggested that the children could add this nutritious and delicious supplement to their morning porridge. Meanwhile, our team and the young men of the Father’s House labored to complete the project in the allotted time. Everyone from the young men, to the local clergy, to the bus driver, to the committee members gave it their all to build something none of us had ever seen before.
On day 3 of our visit the new-fangled piece of equipment was complete, and just starting to blow warm air across the 11 removable screen shelves when a tremendous rainstorm broke forth, and sent the whole team sprinting to the closest building. As the rain continued to pour, our bus pulled up close and we had to depart, without really drying any fruit. However, we enjoyed warm handshakes and good-byes from some very gratified young men who we now consider both comrades and friends.
The solar dehydrator turned out to be “their” project, so we really believe they will put it to good use. We left the tools behind with hopes that they may even build more units and create some commerce for The Father’s House. Who knows, maybe one or two of them might even gain some job opportunities from this experience. At the least, we shared really valuable and enjoyable time together and gave God all the glory with many Praise the Lords, and Hallelujahs at small victories throughout the process.
We love the Father’s House and how it feels like a family, and we enjoyed playing a dad’s role with these older boys – if only for just 3 days. What a blessing to have a project that allowed us to spend substantial time with these young men, building relationships and a machine that can really help them in their day-to-day lives.