Friday, 19 January 2018

January 2018

Hello everyone.

I am sorry to say that this will be my last ever written blog on this site.

But I am happy to let you know that I will now be realizing one video blog every month.
This should be much more interesting and I hope you all enjoy this method of communication more then written word.

You can go to my youtube channel below:

and click on the Jan 2018 video.

Or go directly to the video here:

I will still be posting the links the videos here on this blog for a while ... but if you want a direct update you can rather send me an email on and be put on my mail list.
or you can subscribe to my channel and hit the little bell button so you can be notified when I have placed a new video up.

Thank you all and God bless.

Luke Vandenberg.

Monday, 1 January 2018

December (very short update)

Well it is a new year, and since it has been the holiday season I have not got round to fitting in this blog before December came and passed.

Aggie, Ethan and I are all back in Australia now, and we have enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our family here very much.

I stayed on in Uganda for the first few weeks of December, where I was able to get a lot of work done.

I was able to finish up some work for Wise Choices for Life.
You can have a look at the videos I made for them below.

I was also able to see the beginnings of the slab be laid by the Schoolies team.
The Ugandan builders were then able to finish off the slab, and get it ready for the January Hope Builders team to begin the building of the center.

Our dancing group also ran a fundraiser down at the shores of the lake in Uganda. It was focused around a talent show that had young people from all around come and perform some of dance / song / drama.

All the funds raised from this day went towards buying some soap and rice for the people in the local slum.
This was all done through the local chairperson, and the boys handed out the rice to the neediest people in the slum, so that they would have something to cook for Christmas.

Otherwise I got many things in order before I left, and I feel confident in the team that will stay on behind and run things at YSU.

I pray that you all enjoyed your Holiday break and I look forward to 2018.

I have been struggling a bit with blog writing, and since I have got much more into film making over the last year, I will be starting a vlog (video blog) for 2018.
This way I can be more interactive and show you guys my life over in Uganda through video.

Aggie and I thank you all for the support you have continued to give us, we love you all dearly.

God bless.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Hey everyone.

November has come and gone and I feel like it was a busy month with lots that was done.

We had two guests stay with us, I have been doing some filming work, a schoolies team working on our property, the beginning of the youth center being built, living all alone in my house and more.

Recently I had the chance to do some film work for Wise Choices for Life. This is a program that I have talked about before, as we use it quite a lot here at YSU.
WCFL teaches about reproductive health, basic midwifery, a biblical design for relationships and family, and much more.
The main aim of WCFL is to save women from dying from pregnancy related issues (which happens to be 16 women everyday in Uganda)
They have a training conference every year where they train up leaders in the community to be able to go out and share this knowledge to the people they work with.

I will put a link up to those videos I did once they have been made officially public.

We also had Emily Campbell stay with us here in Uganda for a few days. Emily is very much involved in WCFL and has even been involved in bringing it to the Village of Hope and some of our YSU girls.
She got to join in on a WCFL session with our tailoring girls, and spend some time with us.
She helped sponsor Agnes and myself to attend the WCFL course last year, so it was great to be able to show our gratitude and host her for a few days.

My mother also came and visited us for a week .. and she came and took my wife and child away from me!!

Well, it was planned though.
Due to Aggie being pregnant, and wanting to have the baby in Australia, we had to plan for Aggie to fly back to Australia before she was 29 weeks pregnant, due to a policy that Emirates have.

This was a bit stressful for me because of the timing. Leaving at this time would of felt hard for me because there is lot that still needed to be done before I go.
A schoolies team coming, plus many young people are finishing school and will be coming to organize next years options for them.
I really needed to be around, but Aggie would not be able to fly back by herself with Ethan.

Ethan can be a bit of work, and Aggie's pregnancy often gives her a lot of trouble and pain. So I was very thankful to know that mum would use a free trip that she had scored from emirates, to come and visit us and help bring Aggie back to Australia, while I use this much needed time to complete some tasks.

So they left over a week ago. It was a very strange feeling coming home to an empty house after dropping them at the airport, it is the first time I have been so far away from them. And apart from a camping trip here and there that I have done, I have never spent time away from them.

I was very very anxious while they were traveling, because I know Aggie can get a lot of pain from sitting, she usually can't even last for a church service.
So how grateful to God I was to learn that they had a row of 4 seats to share between them from the 5 hours from Uganda to Dubai, and then Aggie had a row of 4 seats and mum and Ethan had a row of 4 seats for the Dubai to Melbourne flight.
So Aggie got to lay down for the full 15 hours.

Prayers were answered and I was able to sleep easy after that.

Agnes and Ethan before leaving Uganda.

Ethan in Australia checking out the ducks.

Seems like lots of chaotic interesting things this month. Political upheaval in places, a few weeks back the army was firing tear gas at civilians and protesters, I heard gun shots and lots of people running ... felt like a war zone. Although it doesn't take me aback ... I have become a bit hardened by it that I usually just smirk and think 'oh here we go again' .. I have seen it all before.
But instead of being cynical I have to remind myself to pray for Uganda and to pray for its peace.

It seems violence is much more in your face here that you tend to get used to it. A man was murdered and stabbed to death near us a few weeks back. Farouk and a few others found his body in the morning. Again this is not something that shocks me.
At YSU community house the other night, thieves broke into the gated compound at 3 am, and even went inside the quarters where our neighbor sleeps (which is attached to the YSU house) to try and steal his boda. Luckily him and his brother who was staying over woke up, and chased the thieves out of our compound. Farouk woke up as well and joined in the chase but the thieves got away.

Again this is not something that really shocks me. Home invasions are common here. We have had lots of thieves try to break into our YSU house during the night. This is why here at the YSU property (the new place) we have a night guard on duty all night, plus two guard dogs.

It is just the reality of what we live with.

The other morning when I was going on my morning walk at around 7 am, I came to my neighbors house where a group of people were standing around looking shocked but not doing anything. I had already heard the screams before hand and knew a child must of been in the process of being beaten.
Sure enough I came across a grandmother who had tied a eight year old up with rope and was punching her in the head.
Sometimes it is uncommon for people to stand up and do something, they see it as someone else's family business that you should not get involved in. So they just stand around and watch.
I was with one of my friends and by telling the grandmother to stop, the girl was able to escape the grandmothers beatings.
We managed to talk to the girl for a bit, she was a bit bloody, that she should be a good girl and behave but that if she needed a safe place to run to she could come to our property, while we try to calm the grandmother down (it is quite a regular occurrence in this household it seems) . I tried to talk to the grandmother but she had run away. She was obviously scared ... she could be in big trouble and obviously knew she was guilty. They also get nervous around people from other cultures seeing them beat children, as they know that we understand the law of Uganda.

It is one of those things where the law is in place, but is not really implemented. There is no child protection agency. Stuff like this goes on all the time, and it can be hard to know how to deal with it.
There is the balance between always standing up for what is right ... but knowing how to do that in a wise culturally sensitive way, in a community that you are trying to reach.
Intervening does not always win you the favor of the community here.

These are all things you can pray for me about. How Aggie and I deal with these issues of domestic violence in our communities.

Lastly, I am very happy to say that the building has begun for our youth center.
The schoolies team started digging the trenches for the foundation yesterday. After working a very hard day and half in the sun, they have completed.
This means that a slab should be finished by this year, and building can begin next year.

This is very exciting, to see the YSU property taking shape.

I look forward to seeing you all over the summer break in Australia.

Thank you again and God bless.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


Another month has passed since writing my last blog, so I thought I should give a quick update.

Our tailoring girls have been doing very well, and are continuing to learn the skills they need to be independent.
Agnes and myself have also begun running the Wise Choices for Life program with the girls, and their responses have been great.
Although this group is fairly quiet and shy, some of the activities like drama have brought them out of their shells.

We also had Andrew come over, although only for a week, and he was able to get some things done with Village of Hope. We are excited about some of the changes at Village of Hope, and perhaps how YSU will be involved with VOH in the future.

Our dancing group have also continued to be a big part of YSU.
They will often train on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, including a bible study on Sunday. They then also organize some kind of outreach every month.
During holidays this can mean a bigger project like building a house for an elderly women. But during school season, it might simply mean a Saturday morning washing clothes for an elderly disabled woman (which is what they did last Saturday)
The dancing group realizes that these outreach's are just as important, or more important, then their dancing skills and dancing performances.

You can check out a little clip of their building this house here:

We have also been happy to see Allan grow as one of our YSU members.
Allan is a former YWAMER who is now working for us. He helps lead the guys and teach them dancing and performing arts, while also monitoring their welfare and being a bit of a mentor to them.
I have also been meeting regularly with him every Wednesday afternoon.

He is still a young man, but we see lots of potential with him .. and he has a very strong passion for the work.

We want to be a bit more intentional here at YSU, to build up younger people who may be able to take over more and more in our program in the future.

Our young guys also ran in a charity run recently. This was to raise money for more equipment for the local health center, for more maternity beds.
Here are some photos from the run! They did a great job of representing YSU and getting engaged in the community.

Farouk also gave it a go. And could barely walk after he completed the run.

Allan participates in the run. Allan has been helping teach the dancing boys program.

Our boys Lucky and Ofono.

Here Grace is leading the pack. Grace is our boy who had a tumor in his leg. At the start of the year he had the tumor removed and tested to see if it was cancerous (it was not) How great to see him now being able to run on his leg, after many months of being crippled. He has made a full recovery and we praise God for it.

The team at the end of the run.

Personally we are doing well, although a bit tired and looking forward to the summer.
We feel that we have a good local support system in place right now, compared to say a year ago.
We have been starting to attend Calvary Chapel in Jinja a lot more regularly. We love this church, as they seem to be a really great bible based teaching church .. something that can sometimes be hard to come across here.
Aggie also has her weekly women's group that she attends on Thursdays, and we also have a cross cultural marriage group that comes together every month.

Sometimes it can be a bit hard to try and find something interesting or inspiring to write here on this blog. The daily grind and slog of life here goes on ... and sometimes I need to stop and remind myself of the beauty in each day, or the lesson God is trying to teach me.
It is easy to get a bit discouraged. Or sometimes, you may be surprised, it is easy to feel 'bored' here on the ground. Many people in Australia may feel that working in a third world country in ministry would never be boring .. that everyday is a learning curve, and being stretched and challenged. And certainly that can be the case.
It might sound surprising that I would mention being 'bored' at times, because in all honesty ... there would be very interesting things that we observe and see all the time compared to what might happen back in Australia. But I have been here long enough to become perhaps 'desensitized' to the unusual.
So something I often find surprising, is the feeling of being 'bored' .. or missing out on something more. I am learning to deal with his. Perhaps it is state of my own heart ... a feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side. I am trying to deal with this, and learn to be content and satisfied in God throughout all the experiences of life.

But we are trying to learn to stay committed to the people we are serving here, no matter how exciting or not exciting the day may seem or feel.
Our feelings should not dictate how we serve ... some days are amazing and we feel like what we are doing is very worthwhile. Other days not so much. But either way we are learning that God works in both the exciting and what seems mundane.
I have learnt that it is also very important to not rest heavily on getting your meaning and your purpose from your work.
Otherwise every setback will be shattering. Resting in God and putting your purpose and meaning in Him means that no matter what happens .. ultimately you can't be shaken.

Looking back we can also see God's graces in what we have done. Yes there are failed projects that have collapsed. Yes there are people who went back into a destructive lifestyle. There are disappointments and conflicts.
But there are also changed youth, changed people and changed hearts. There is progress, success and hope. We are able to thank God for all of these things.

Personally with health, Agnes is doing well, although she still needs plenty of rest as the pregnancy is hard on her.
She will be traveling back to Australia with my mum next month, and I will join her in December.

We thank everyone for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you over the summer.

Thursday, 31 August 2017


August has been a very busy month for us!

First up, we are finally in our new home!
This is very exciting for us, and the house is beautiful. It is located right on the shore of the lake and so we have great views on our balcony.
We have also noticed that it gets quite cold here by the lake. The wet season has started and so there is lots of rain here at the moment. We also have lots of ants in our kitchen, but we can deal with those.

Ethan is settling in. He seems to miss all the other little kids around and he has been quite clingy to us.
He has done well in sleeping in his own bedroom in a big bed though, and slowly he is starting to explore the place.

I have been a bit sick from a lot of the stress of dealing with many things while moving house. I didn't look after myself and got run down and now I have inflamed tonsils.
A few days rest and some meds should have me good again I hope.

We really look forward to seeing a youth center running on the property here! It may take quite some time till then, but we will keep pushing forward.

Some other news which is no secret really, although Aggie and I have not gotten around to sharing it publicly, is that Aggie is fifteen weeks pregnant.
The first trimester was especially hard on Agnes, and she was on doctors orders to spend most of the three months in bed.
This is due to her having a medical condition that makes it very difficult to keep a pregnancy. We had complications with Ethan as well, and our doctor basically said it was a miracle Ethan made it, due to the severe complications Aggie had.
This time around Aggie has not had as many complications but this is mainly due to her resting in bed for three months.
She is now on the safer side of things and can do a lot more, and the baby growing inside her is looking healthy.
We thank God for keeping us and our child during this time ... it has been hard to have one parent down. Night time duties with Ethan, and early morning duties with him have mostly been given to me!!!

We will be having this baby in Australia, and the baby is due in February.
It looks like Aggie may have to come to Australia a bit earlier, because of her condition, so that she doesn't fly too late.
I may come back a bit later for Christmas, as there is still lots to do here.

We thank you for your prayers and support, and we look forward to a good time catching up with everyone over the summer.

Lastly, our dancing group of young men have had their school holidays. Over the school holidays they decided to build a mud house for an elderly widow. Her house was falling down, and so the group wanted to bless her with a new place to live in that wouldn't get wet from the rain.
The boys (and one very hard working girl) spent their free time laboring all day in the hot sun. This was all voluntarily done, and besides them getting a cold soda at the end of the week, they didn't do this for any payment or wages.
They had such a positive attitude through it all, and really worked hard. At the end of the week they were able to hand the house over to the elderly woman and pray for her and the house.

Throughout the whole week a group of elderly men in the community sat under the shade of a tree and watched the youth work.
These men are the neighbors to the elderly woman, and even some of her relatives. They did not lift a finger to help, and basically got drunk off strong booze the whole time.
I was so impressed with our youth! It should be the men setting an example for the young, but here were the young people showing what an example they were to the community.
There are young Ugandans here who want to make a change for their communities, and want to witness the love of God to others ... without getting any earthly gain in return.

These are the things I always love seeing when working here. I love being able to support a group of passionate young men and women to help their community!
Again we want to thank everyone who has supported us this last month, through your prayers and finances!

Thursday, 13 July 2017


Another long delay in blog writing here in Uganda.
I apologize again for taking a long time to give an update on what is going on here in Uganda.

It has now been almost two months since being back in Uganda and we have seen a number of positive developments.

We have officially started our new tailoring class. This is a group of ten girls from within the community. Most of them are young single women with children who are living in vulnerable situations.
We again pray that this course will help them improve their lives, as we focus on material, physical, financial and spiritual poverty.
This is our fourth class now, and we have a great team that initiates and runs the class. I don't have to do much work in regards to the tailoring class now because our team of four (Douglas, Agnes, Christine and Beatrice) are very capable in running everything.
This has freed me up in focusing on other areas.
The course will go for a full year and covers areas in tailoring, small business skills, English, Maths, teachings on reproductive health and maternal health, relationships, trauma rehabilitation and more.

We still have a passionate group of young men who mainly get together as a dancing group, but who also do a whole lot more.
This group has come up with the idea of setting aside a Sunday each month to do some sort of outreach .. whether fixing the home of an elderly person, or fetching water for an old grandmother living with her grandchildren, or simply cleaning the main trading center here in Wairaka.
The group have a strong passion to display Christs love to the community and this is something that we really want to encourage here at YSU.
Often when teams from Australia, or other countries, come to Uganda and do all these outreaches, there can sometimes be a tendency for the local people to glorify foreign youth as saintly ... while looking at Ugandan youth as no good or trouble makers.
Although we encourage teams to come to Uganda to experience what ministry is like here, and we enjoy hosting teams and having them interact with our young people, our primary passion is to see the youth of Uganda doing these outreaches, and giving a positive message to the community here that their own youth are full of passion and Christ's love.

I also have been successful in extending my working visa here in Uganda for another two years. We also managed to get Ethan a visa that lasts until he reaches the age of 18.
This was great news for us, as we had tried to get this visa for Ethan before but were knocked back by immigration because I as the father to Ethan, am a foreigner. Their justification was a child belongs to a man, so Agnes' Ugandan citizenship would not count.
We actually know other people in cross cultural marriages, but with whom the father is a Ugandan and the mother is a foreigner ... and Immigration has allowed a long term visa for their children based on the father being a Ugandan.
We challenged this with immigration this time around, and with the help of someone within the system, we managed to get Ethan a long term visa as well, all based on Agnes' Ugandan citizenship!

We also look forward to moving into our new house! The Australian HopeBuilders team has been hard at work down at the property, and are in the middle of finishing off our house! We have appreciated all their hard work, alongside the Ugandan builders who have been working on our house the last few months.
The dream of having a youth center in Wairaka under HopeBuilders gets closer and closer.

I have also seen off Solomon who has started his Ywam DTS in Kampala this week.
It will be sad to not have him around for the next 5 months, and even beyond as he will hopefully progress to bible collage. He has been a valued member of YSU, but we see big potential and a big vision over his life .. and so we look forward to seeing what God will do in his life and so have to let him go and say good bye.

This year has seen a number of young men I have been discipling, going off and looking forward to their future. It can be sad to see them coming of age, as they most often go to far away places to study. What was a regular group over the last few years has now disbanded. This is the second group of youth to have done so. It seems I need to start looking for the next lot of young people to take in and start investing in.

Otherwise Uganda is still rather cold and wet. We have been surprised at how long this wet season has been going for! By now it should be well and truly dry and hot, but most days have a chill in the air and there has been lots of rain.

Lastly, I was able to have my sister and mother come and visit, which was a joy for them and for Ethan as they interacted. Ethan is developing more and more each day, and is able to say a number of words! He is quite fast and you have to keep an eye on him.
Where we live right now is not really child friendly. We have caught him on the road twice now since being back, and he has fallen down some stairs a number of times as well. He has a bruised and black eye and wounds all over his head from a big fall the other day.
This is why we look forward to moving into our enclosed compound which will be more child friendly.

Thank you again for all of you who support us. We love you and could not do what we do without you.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Back in Uganda

Hello everyone.

I know it has been a very long time since my last blog. I guess I have just been enjoying my time away.

As you may know I am back in Uganda after a few weeks in Melbourne and one week in Dubai.
Australia was wonderful, as always. It is always very refreshing to be able to relax! Especially because I had been quite sick and so was Ethan. It was certainly a time of resting up our bodies and our minds, due to all the sickness and stress we had been having over here in Uganda.
I had got malaria and typhoid just before coming to Australia, and Ethan had the same as well. Ethan was so sick the day before we were supposed to leave that we had to end up changing our flights … because Ethan was on an IV drip.

The flight over to Australia was great because Emirates really looked after us, giving us four seats with lots of leg room to share between Agnes Ethan and myself.
Ethan slept most of the way which was helpful for us. And I was even able to watch two great films about faith. Hacksaw ridge and Silence …. Both films are worth seeing, and both are important .. one dealing with the victories of faith and one dealing with the issues of doubt and suffering.
Anyway, I thought it quite an accomplishment that I managed to get some movie time in while we had Ethan!

It was a blessing to watch interact with his Australian family as well. His grandparents and aunties love him so much and Ethan took them very easily.
It was amazing to see Ethan’s development over the month as well. He has learnt new words and actions, and is running around everywhere.
But with the development comes new challenges, because Ethan has well and truly learnt how to throw a tantrum when he does not get what he wants.

It was also a blessing to see many friends and supporters.

The wedding of my sister and now brother in law which we come back for was also a wonderful experience.
I was quite busy for the day being film man, doing the prayer and bible reading, driving the brides maids around and taking care of Ethan. Aggie was a brides maid and Ethan was a page boy.
He made it halfway down the aisle before having to be carried by his JaJa (my mum)
My favorite part of the wedding was my sisters very moving speech, I wish her and Patrick many blessings in their future together.

I also got to spend a lot of time with an old friend of mine. Micky is someone I have not seen in a while, and we have spent a lot of time exploring bass coast together. We came up with a little two part film project together of our time over the last month, one showing each of our perspectives of what that particular coast gives us.

You can check out part one here:

And part two here:

I was having trouble in Australia though, I found myself getting very strong vertigo. Every time I would change position I would feel so dizzy like the world was spinning.
After seeing two different doctors we worked out where it was coming from. It was suspected that it was a sort of hangover from malaria, but after getting a blood test it was shown that I was quite normal and healthy, except for a small infection. The doctor wanted to look in my ears and then went on to say “Ahh, Luke do you happen to be a surfer?”
It seems I have a bad case of surfers ear .. where over the years in the ocean the salt water helps create these boney growths in the ear.
Because of the time in the cold cold water over the last month the growths had become inflamed, which was throwing my balance off.
A few antibiotics and I am back to normal.

Time in dubai with my parents was nice .. lots of eating and drinking and swimming and liesuring!! Before heading back here to Uganda.

Now that we are back we hope to see us moved down to the new YSU property and have the new youth center running.
We want to work on the YSU leadership team, and develop a strong team that can put the YSU vision forward and not have to rely on myself.
So moving into the new youth center, working on leadership structures, obtaining my new working permit, plus getting a few projects up and running, will all be our aims for the rest of the year.

Again I want to thank those who have stood by us and supported us. For those who have contributed finances and prayers … we love you and appreciate all that you have done.

God bless.