I want to speak freely about how it is we have purchased twenty acres of land in the Luwero area of Uganda. Luwero is two hours outside of Kampala if we don’t get crunched in traffic jams, and it requires travel through the most congested area of Kampala, which is Kawempe, and there are always holdups in traffic when passing through that way. I would never have chosen land so far removed. Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder how did this happen? I’ll start from the beginning.
Last Christmas when we first met this group of children in Kyengera we were so disturbed by their living arrangements that we couldn’t possibly turn away. We committed to helping the “orphans” have food to eat, beds to sleep in, an environment that was safe and healthy for them, and opportunity to go to school. With the matter of finding suitable living conditions we began with the plea from Adams to help him be able to purchase the land where they were already living for 20,000 dollars. If we were able to do this then they wouldn’t be under the oppression of the evil landlord who they feared would see improvements and send them all away to keep the place for him, or increase the rent for no other reason than he could. That’s what we were told.
But the place is small and uneven and needs to be torn down completely. So we thought, for that kind of money can’t we go somewhere very close and start new? We could have a couple acres, grow a garden, keep our chickens, cows and goats (all of which Kirabo Seeds arranged for them to obtain) and build some small houses and a church. That was a better idea. We wanted it to be close so they could walk to school and be a part of their community.
The next thing we know Adams is suggesting we consider buying two to five acres. Then he says the price per acre is too high we need to go a little farther out, and maybe we should really think about getting ten acres so we can grow a lot of food and sell it to feed the bunch of kids. All this time Adams is the only one reporting to us about the cost and availability of land. These email exchanges took place between February and June when we arrived in Uganda with a mission team prepared to help the children.
During the week of the mission trip Craig was meant to travel with Adams to visit pieces of land that Adams thought would be a good place to move the children and build. We aren’t sure how it came to be that Adams was interested in talking to us about buying 50 acres! I personally was offended that he had escalated this project towards his own agenda for growing his personal ministry. We only wanted these kids to have a suitable, simple place to live and thrive.
Meanwhile, Craig had opportunity to talk with Herb about buying land and finding better living situations for the kids. Herb and Ellen run the guest house where our team was staying. He believed we didn’t need to go to0 far, nor did we need so much land, and we could do it in a fair and modest budget. This news made us very happy. But this isn’t what we were hearing from Adams. So, Craig and I were hoping to bring Herb’s wisdom and experience into the project. Adams refused adamantly to allow Herb to have any input, and this confused us as well as disappointed us. We believe it is biblically correct to seek wise counsel.
On Craig’s last night in Uganda we met at a restaurant with Adams and Elitia to discuss our vision and financial commitment for building a better place. Craig and I had prayed and sought wise counsel and decided on an amount of our own personal money we were willing to invest in this project. During this dinner Adams had invited his architect to come show us his own vision for how he would use fifty acres and it was like a whole community. We were offended and reminded them we only feel called to help this group of kids have a better life, and we aren’t interested in partnering with them in all of their own plans for their ministry. I really didn’t want to build a school or start a guest house with them. In fact, I was beginning to think I didn’t want to partner with them at all anymore. But I knew I was stuck with them because I loved the kids, and he had convinced us he had the authority over them all. So we would have to figure out a way to work with them.
During the dinner Craig said, “let’s discuss the amount of money we are bringing to this project”. Adams got very excited like a little boy about to open big Christmas presents. He escorted the architect away and sat down again with us eager to hear. When we told him the amount, which was double the original amount of money he said would be needed to purchase the land where they live, his face fell. I think he trembled, he grew silent and withdrew completely. He was clearly disappointed in the amount. I remember feeling awkward and so uncomfortable. As we left the restaurant Adams walked in front of me and as I followed him I watched his body language. What I saw was a man who was controlling his anger and disappointment with every shred of his ability. His head had that certain tilt of disbelief, his hands clenched and his elbows were cocked just at the right angle that I’ve seen a boxer take before a strike. The way he walked was slow and deliberate showing he was holding back a flood of emotion. There was no doubt in my mind that we had not come through for his expectations. And frankly, I was offended. He barely said thank you.
We agreed he would go put an offer in on one of the properties. We would use half the money to buy land and half to build. I continued to say to our group: “ I don’t think we need 20 acres. Let’s look at a few acres that are more expensive and closer to the community.” My comment was always dismissed and ignored as if it had fallen on deaf ears. I felt disrespected. I was trying to reign this project back towards the original goals and prevent all the escalation towards dreams of grandeur. We just need a simple and suitable home for this group of kids.
Some time after the mission trip Adams asked us to wire the money to purchase the land, because he was ready to put in an offer on one of the pieces of land that Craig had seen and liked. This occurred during our move to San Antonio and our life was insanely crazy and overwhelming. Adams told us that in Uganda all purchases of homes and land are cash transactions, which we verified with friends to be true. I can’t imagine the truck load of bulky cash required to travel to make the deal. So, we wired the money. The next we hear, the seller would not cut twenty acres out of his block of fifty. No deal. Craig and I thought, “oh no, they have all that money, we need it to be set aside for land purchase only so we asked Adams to pass the money to be held by a third party, Herb Cook, until we were able to agree on the next piece of land to buy. Adams said we hurt his feelings, we didn’t trust him, and he had an account to put that money into until we needed it. Basically, he refused to comply with our request.
The next week or so we hear, “we bought a piece of land and it is so wonderful”. We weren’t consulted nor did we know where it was. We were not happy, and not sure what to do next with this development. And there were other problems, he was rejecting Phiona, and refusing to give us receipts for purchases so we said, “It is time for me to go there and find out what is really happening.” So I booked a flight and showed up.
Wouldn’t it seem right if we were buying land together and partnering that when I arrived he would be over anxious to show me the land? He barely greeted me when I arrived. And he didn’t mention the land at all. I had to ask him about it. I requested to see the paperwork on it, and there was nothing. He said he sent it all to the lands office to receive the land title, and he didn’t make copies. He had no copy of a survey either. There was no statement from the seller. What was I to think? Did we even have land? Did he pay someone to show us land pretending it was ours? Did he pocket that chunk of money? Did the land really cost what he says it did?
I was after the truth, and tired of all the lies. So we paid to have it investigated at the lands office, and guess what we found? The plot of land he said we bought doesn’t exist. He made up the plot number. Now what?
We are waiting for further investigation results. And we are sure that God has something to say about this manner of business Adams has been conducting. I was reminded of the story in Acts of Ananias and Saphira…
Pastor Robert asked me at dinner, “What do you plan to do with the land?” I said, “Probably sell it and use the money to help the kids”. He said, “You might consider keeping it. What man intended for evil God can use for good.” Hmm. That’s good advice and wise counsel. I suppose first we ought to find out if there is land that was purchased, or was the money pocketed. We will find the truth.
One more funny little bit about this land and I’ll close with it. Some of the children were taken to the land to help harvest sweet potatoes and imagine their new home there. When they returned they reported to the adults at the church that they didn’t want to be so far away, it was really like going way back to the bush living, and they were afraid they would be buried there! Some said they would run away before they would go live there.
I guess no one ever asked the kids what they want.