Edwards’ Marty Jones recounts Uganda mission | VailDaily.com

Edwards’ Marty Jones recounts Uganda mission

Alex Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyMarty Jones of The Wildflower Farm stands behind flowers at his shop Thursday in Edwards. Jones' accounts of his recent mission to Uganda will run in the Daily over the next seven days.

EDWARDS – Marty Jones wasn’t quite expecting his life to change when he heard a presentation by David Mporampora at Gracious Savior Lutheran here last year. Mporampora, a Ugandan native and missionary, is the founder of Denver-based ChristAid, an organization that helps people in Uganda with donations of clothing, money and other humanitarian assistance.After describing how people as far away as Edwards could help those in Uganda with as little as $30 a month, Mporampora asked if anyone wanted to go to Uganda to assist him.”It struck a chord with me,” Jones said, seated at his desk at his nursery and landscape business – The Wildflower Farm in Edwards. “I’d wanted to give back like that for a long time. It seemed like a calling for me to go to Africa.”And go he did, for about three weeks in early 2004. He went again this January, spending four weeks in Uganda. There was a significant difference, he said, between the two trips.”The first time was just such a massive culture shock,” Jones said. “You’re seeing all these single moms with five, six, seven kids living in extreme poverty. It was hard to deal with on an emotional basis.”

Catching up with ‘the container’This year, Jones said, he was better prepared for the realities of life in Uganda, and he had a clearer sense of mission: ChristAid had sent a container to Uganda in late fall full of clothes, books and computers. It was due to arrive in December, and the missionaries would help establish some new libraries and a computer lab, as well as distribute clothing. There was only one problem: The container was nowhere to be found when Jones arrived with his party – which included Lisa Efraimson, also from the Gracious Savior congregation. The container, with its cargo of 7,000 pounds of clothes, 9,000 pounds of books, 30 computers and other items, wound up in Kenya. When it finally made it to the Ugandan port city of Kampala, Jones said there was still the issue of getting it on a truck to travel the 300 or so kilometers of “horrible” roads to ChristAid’s Ugandan base in Fort Portal. “They wanted $4,000 tax for the clothes,” Jones said. “Then the guys who were going to load it on the truck wanted bribes. The police threatened David, then several of us got malaria at the same time David was diagnosed with diabetes.”Mporampora was able to get treatment for his diabetes and get the tax issue resolved, but there was more: The truck got stuck en route to Fort Portal, then it broke down. When the container finally made it to Fort Portal, they discovered government “inspectors” had lightened the container by about a dozen computers. Still, the group pressed on, dedicating the library and getting the computer lab running.

‘A collection of houses’Jones and Efraimson started traveling to outlying villages to distribute clothing – an experience he says was “incredible.””These were villages that were just a collection of houses,” he said. “No stores or post office or anything like that. And they were places where the people just don’t see white people. They were amazed to see us come all the way from America, and they very much appreciated the clothes.”Jones said it’s hard for Americans to comprehend just how poor these people are, maybe owning one or two sets of clothes that they wore all the time. At a prison in Fort Portal where they went to distribute clothes, he said, they saw inmates wearing girls’ dresses. “It’s just all they had,” Jones said. The experience of going to help people in Uganda has left him humbled, Jones said. And he says he’ll probably go back again next year if he thinks he can make a significant contribution.

“It was life changing,” he said. “To be able to help these people, to give them hope. It was incredible.”Jones said anyone interested in helping with the mission to Uganda – be it to donate money, clothing or anything else – can call him at 926-6029 or e-mail him at coalpines@hotmail.com. For more information about ChristAid, go online to christ-aid.org.Assistant managing editor Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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