Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a few more pictures


Our last picture before I left for the airport

baby Silas rocking my shades

View of Kampala out my church window

My Friend Maria and I at Church

Baby Silas and I

Saying good-bye to the kids

A typical Ugandan meal....heavy carbs, lots of them.

my Boda Boda driver and I. This is how I got to and from work everyday.

thoughts at 30,000 feet

This was my journal entry from May 13, 2011 as I was on route from Uganda to Nebraska. I'm still adjusting to life back here and I still have a lot to process, but I figured I would go ahead a share a little bit of it now. 

Somewhere over northern Canada.

Surprise. I guess Africa time saved the best for last. My itinerary was completely wrong and instead of having a 27 hour layover in Amsterdam, I only had a 3 hour layover. So I will arrive home a whole day earlier then we all thought. In Uganda it was the day Musevini got sworn in for another term so my taxi and I were pulled over on the side of the road and searched and I had to get out and go through a metal detector that was set up on the African roadside. I almost missed my flight out of Entebbe since my itinerary had the flight time listed a whole hour later then it actually was.

B and Jules came down to Entebbe to see me off. We finished this journey (at least my part of it) they way we had started, together. Saying good-bye to B and Jules was terrible. I couldn’t get a single word out because I knew if I tried to talk I would just completely lose it. I couldn’t tell them how much I loved them, how much their friendship has meant to me these past few months. I didn’t get to tell them how incredible I think they are, or how much they made this experience so much more then it would have been. I couldn’t say that they are always in my prayers or that the thought of not seeing them every weekend was just the most surreal idea in the world. I like to think it was one of those really epic moments in life when you don’t have to say it aloud. A moment so perfect in its silence because I knew and they knew. A moment where no words are necessary because you didn’t live for that last moment, you had told them all along through all your words and actions how valuable they were too you. You didn’t save it up for the last moment-so when the end of all things comes there is a trust and understanding that moves beyond words.

Maybe this is a great metaphor for how we are all supposed to live, now, not storing everything up for the endings that always come to soon.  Maybe that is what I learned in Africa. That the pulse of life is now; that we should celebrate and be thankful that we “survived where we were” ( a Luganda way of saying welcome back). We should celebrate that God breathed life into our lungs to exhale His glory. Perhaps I learned how rare and special unconditional love between fallen humans is and how kindness really does transcend all cultural barriers. At the end of the day, despite our native tongues and different shades of skin we are all longing to be reconciled with our creator. We all ache for more Jesus-even if we don’t recognize it. We all struggle to make sense of a really big God and a world with suffering and injustice. Our hearts all swell when we make a true friend or experience the holiness of the sunrise bringing new mercies every morning over the hills of Kampala or the Nebraska prairie.

I learned that community is imperfect people enjoying being imperfect together. There is no power struggle-just a mutual abandon to love and serve one another because we have all been there, we’ve all had bad days, and we are all in this thing called life and humanity together.

I learned that in spite of the fact that I’ve traveled almost half-way around the world today, that the earth is really small and we are really not that different from each other after all. America isn’t number one (whatever that means). There isn’t even a ranking system because we all have so much to learn from one another. It is not about good, better, or best; but instead it is about using whatever gifts God has given us, wherever He has put us to glorify Him and show the world a glimpse of His love.

I’m learning what true faith is. It is not that you have it and life is always great after that. It’s the peace and assurance that at the end of a really long, hard day that a new day is coming. It is remembering that God was right next to you during the bad day, He’ll renew you while you sleep, and when you wake up to do it all again He is still there, constant, always faithfully with us.

I’m learning it is not about me. It’s about Jesus. God was at work in Africa long before I got there, and now that I’m stateside His work there will continue. He never asked me to feed thousands by myself. He just asked me to be willing to lay down my loaves and fish at His feet and trust that He can do a mighty work through that. God is God and He’ll do what he wants with what I gave to further His kingdom. It is not about a tangible result of my time in Uganda, but rather about the obedience and trust of laying it all down and letting God be in charge.

I’m learning just how loved I am and just how the gifts and talents that God gave to me can be used for the kingdom

I learned that I’m a lot braver then I thought and that even when my courage faltered that I was never alone and that God would provide strength and courage for me.

I learned that it is in giving we receive. I received so much more then I ever gave here-I never knew my heart could contain such joy, such love, so many amazing memories and people.

I’m learning that is ok to still have questions for God. We’ll never get to the end of Him, we will never comprehend Him and that infinitness is a good thing, it is a gift that draws us to a place of deeper longing, deeper trust, and deeper intimacy.

Overall, when I look back this was an epic experience of Love, in everyway and between all parties involved. Pure love flowing down from God and saturating me, Uganda, the entire earth. The God who is love flowing from me and also into me from the people of Uganda, from the other AIMers, from back home. I am humbled and honored to have been able to stand in service to my King alongside such incredible warriors. To Him be the glory forever and ever.


Friday, May 6, 2011

camp, riots, and the beginning of the end

Mekwano! (Friends)

So sorry I have not updated in a while. I have been out of town at an AIM short-term retreat and then youth camp. I know many of you heard that last Friday there were riots all over Kampala. There were shootings, tear gassings, and spontaneous fires all around the city in response to the arrest of the opposition leader. My friends and I were grabbing breakfast at a shopping center and ended up hanging out there for about 6 hours until we got the all-clear to head back to my flat. I am so grateful for God's protection for all of us, but I still grieve that those kinds of things happen to the people here that I care about. Eventually we made it to Entebbe for the AIM retreat to a beach resort on Lake Victoria. It was beautiful and secluded and stood in such sharp contrast to the chaos we left about 30km behind in Kampala.

It was a wonderful weekend of encouragement and fellowship-but it was also bittersweet because it was the last time I got to see many of the other missionaries who came from other areas of Uganda and the Central Region.

Monday was the start of youth camp and I got home about 8pm last night and crashed by 9. I slept for a good 10 hours and it was glorious. Overall I think the camp went really well. I know the kids really enjoyed themselves and they wanted to spend all of thier free time swimming. I asked a few of them if they had ever been to the beach before since it is only about 40 minutes from Kampala but many of them had never seen Lake Victoria so I was glad that we were able to give them a new experience. After a health talk many of our kids requested to get tested for HIV which was encouraging. We had about 85 kids total-most of whom I had never met until Monday. There were some challenging moments for sure; some of the kids had trouble with English so some sessions were held entirely in Luganda so I just sat there and tried to pretend like I knew what was happening. Whenever I spoke I usually had an interpreter just in case. I also didn't realize what a challenge it would be to come into this context as a leader from a different culture. There were many times when I had to ask myself "ok, am I upset because this is a cultural difference and I just need to be a gracious learner" or "am i upset because teenagers will be teenagers and they just need to do what I ask them".  Beyond the cultural differences and frustrations sometimes I felt like the kids learned a lot and that I was able to learn a lot from them as well.  I had to remind them a few times just about being respectful and responsible (but I have had to do that with american teens before too, teenagers will be teenagers everywhere:)) But I was also so encouraged when Bethany and Carolyn came to visit camp for the night and forgot pillows two of my girls gave up their pillows without being asked. I also had girls volunteering to sweep out the restaurant where we had been eating-it always makes me happy to see God at work in creating servant hearts in our teens.

This is my last weekend here. I leave for home next Thursday night. There is a lot to think about, a lot to process, to many good-byes for my liking, and still a lot to do. I hope to be able to write again soon when I have had time to work out this whole experience in my head but its all jumbled and overwhelming right now. I can tell you this for sure: God is moving in Uganda, I have recieved far far more then I have given here, I have made friendships that I will carry with me forever, and this has been the greatest experience in my life thus far. I am so humbled by all the prayers and support, encouragement and love that I have been given by you all.

A few last prayer requests and praises:
1) Thank God for protection during the rioting. Please just pray that peace would come to Uganda, and to Africa in general. There is so much unrest, so many people who feel like they have no voice and no hope. Even when I return home please keep Uganda in your prayers.

2) I got a new roommate! She arrived from the States on Friday and joined me at youth camp for a day. She'll be taking over my job in the exit program at DP. I am really grateful God provided someone to continue the work I was doing. Please pray for her (Carolyn) adjustment and her time here.

3) Please just pray as I prepare to leave, for all the emotions, all the good-byes, for the entire jumbled mess that is my brain right now.

4) Please pray for safety as I travel home.

5) Praise God for a great week of camp, for the 85 kids we were blessed to get to spend time with, and for Gods provision and protection during the week (we left Kampala with 85 and we made it back with 85!).

6) please pray for direction as I come home and for the re-adjustment back into our culture and my life back home.

Love you all, be seeing you soon!