Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Surreal. That’s how I’ve been describing my time so far in America. It doesn’t seem real that I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing. This is seriously a different world than what I live a continent away. Did I really get to hold Hudson and kiss those little cheeks? Did I really get to awkward side hug Marsico? Did I really get to sit in small group again and laugh at Chris’ endless jokes? Did I really get to eat yum yum sauce again? Did I really get to eat a ridiculously Southern brunch with Jill?
What’s not surreal was the blast of frigid air that hit me as I exited my flight in Detroit from Roanoke. I’m sure the Iowa air will feel equally as “real”. (Another unreal thing is how insanely short the skirt of the girl that was just sitting across from me. She just stood up and I looked in surprise at the um, “length”. She must be FREEZING!) As we were flying into Detroit, I noted all the perfect little grids of neighborhoods below. As Mrs. Reesman drove me to Roanoke for my flight this morning, I noted the well taken care of road with no mountain sized speed bumps, “diversions”, oversized trucks stopping traffic, car-sized potholes, boda bodas weaving in and out, taxis recklessly cutting everyone off, etc etc etc. It was so calm. I’ve adjusted pretty quickly to driving here again. Parking lots are seriously the hardest (think right…think RIGHT). It was almost boring at times. It was so easy. I had zero near death experiences. I mean, what a yawn. The “order” of America is so planned out, implemented and obeyed. Truly amazing.
Right now, I’m looking forward to getting off my flight in Moline and hugging my parents. I can’t wait to go to Michigan to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I look forward to seeing my brother Matt and his wife (and eating the blizzards he brings me…butterfinger? Pleeeeease? J). I am so excited to hug my grandparents, especially with my grandpa’s health not doing well. I am so anxious to go to my home church and just feel…home in the family of God that has cultivated my relationship with Christ for so many years.
Right now, I’m also missing Uganda terribly. I miss the people. I miss my friends. I miss those kids so much. I miss those hugs and smiles. Oh, those smiles. Nothing in the world like those smiles. I miss the music. I miss the dancing. I’ve even kinda missed the food (I seriously craved posho the other day. Whaaat?).
Before my flight from Kampala, I had dinner in a coffee shop in the airport. In typical Ugandan style, I sat at a table with two other men who I didn’t know as there was a seat available. One was a Ugandan headed to Kigali, Rwanda and the other an Indian from Nairobi who’s flight had just been cancelled. I ended up talking to the Indian man for about 20-30 min while I ate my meal.
Here I sit prior to my flight to Iowa. Everyone around me is absorbed in their cell phone, iPod or just their own world. There’s a low hum of conversation but most sit silently like myself.
Oh the contrasts. I feel like I’m living in two different worlds and it’s weird.
The arctic air is seeping through an open door for another flight. Brrrrr. Why did I come back in winter again?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Tomorrow, I fly back to America. Whoa. I’ll be there for three weeks over Christmas but in ways it seems like forever. I don’t know if I’m ready for America yet. So, here I sit, the night before. We’ve been listening to old school John Mayer while making an impromptu Mexican fiesta. His music is nostalgia and greatness mixed in one. This is seriously the most organized I’ve been before a flight in my life. It’s probably because I’m barely packing any of my actual stuff. I have no clothes that I’m bringing besides what I’m wearing on the plane. I will pack my one sweatshirt that I brought to Uganda. I’ve yet to wear it here.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I know what you’re thinking: “Sarah, how obvious, we’ve always known how ridiculously attractive you are.” No no, I’m referring to something else (but you can still keep that above thought. I won’t stop you).
My whole life, I’ve been the one that’s always cold. At work, there was a sweater that I would put around my legs for warmth. I lived in my cardigans and jackets. Liberty DID have a tendency to freeze us out but I was always especially frozen. The guys that answered my work orders for freezing temps started getting sassy as they heard from me so much. At any home I’ve lived in, I was always the one covered in blankets and sweatshirts as others walked around without such heavy covering. I have ALWAYS been the cold one…
All this to say, I am most likely going to die when I’m back in the States for Christmas. I’ve gotten more used to this tropical climate and I cannot imagine what cold feels like anymore which, frankly, is an awesome thing. For those that I will see in Lynchburg and Cedar Rapids, get the warm blankets ready. I’ll bring my own socks.
I was thinking today of how insane the last year of my life has been. Last June, my life was thrown a part. I cancelled my plans to move to Thailand and wondered what in the WORLD God was doing. July and August were spent searching various organizations to see where God was guiding. I had many long conversations with different organizations and friends. I remember when God had closed doors so that the only two options left were missions organizations. Missions!? Lord, are you serious? Raise support? Be dependent on people?...and even more, be dependent on You? Missions was a big one to swallow but even after that, I had to make a choice. I was getting antsy. I just wanted to GO into the world and serve Him but I was stuck. I had to choose an organization to go with first. This decision was the hardest for me. As much as I would open my arms wide and shout to God, “I am willing to go ANYWHERE for YOU!”, He would whisper in my ear, “I have put specific passions and desires in your heart for My glory”. Oh, but I was willing. I got a gold star in willingness. Unfortunately, in that willingness, I threw aside all that I knew God had put in my heart to do.
I remember the conversation clearly. I was talking with Jeremy at WorldVenture. Jeremy still deserves a huge raise for dealing with me during this time…or at least some kind of extra cool jewel on his crown in heaven. We had many conversations on where God was leading me and why him and his wife had chosen WorldVenture. I always knew that WorldVenture was the best organization, I just wasn’t sure if it was best for ME. In that conversation, Jeremy asked if I needed options to see to help me decide. I emphatically said “YES!” and he sent me about six options in Africa. I read through the descriptions and stopped on this option with an organization called Hope Alive! I went to their website, read what they did and…stopped. I got this weird feeling in my stomach. Chills began on my arms. Everything they did fulfilled the passions and desires that God had put on my heart. It was almost too good to be true. I quickly sent the link to Maria and called her.
Me: You need to go to the website I just sent you…like, now.
Maria (while reading): Sarah, this is everything you’ve ever prayed about. This is YOU!
Me: I KNOW! Isn’t it SO SCARY!?
That was…September, I think? I started the application process for WorldVenture in which they searched every nook and cranny in my life to see if I was normal. Officially, I am normal. Whew. I didn’t find out those results until late December/early January. The pressure of knowing if I was normal or not was overwhelming. Ok, not really. Those months in between were so up in the air. I just kept thinking, “what if I’m not accepted? What if God has something else up His sleeve? Could He? This seems so perfect.” I wondered if I should have some kind of cool back up plan if this didn’t pan out. I remember being at the Catalyst conference, exactly a year ago. As I wandered the arena looking at the different booths that were set up, I wondered if I should even stop at any. Should I talk to other NGO’s? Missions organizations? Step by step, God kept the door open. Step by step, I passed the different tests until I found out that I was officially accepted. God had paved the way.
Once I had been accepted, life went crazy. The thought of raising support with the addition of the unknown timeline of when I’ve be moving thousands of miles away to another continent made me shake. While God provided friends who came alongside me during my church visits (Mary!!!) and those who prayed for me during that time (You!!), He was paving the way. Step by step.
In ways, I still can’t believe I’m here. In ways, I can’t believe HE did it. Wow. I am blessed in more ways than I could ever deserve. This past year has been insane and I could never imagine all that He would do.
And step by step He leads me, and I will follow Him all of my days…
Thursday, October 1, 2009
This past Tuesday, we had our monthly Fun Day as a staff. We went bowling at this huge mall, Garden City. I was nicely reminded how poor my bowling skills are. Despite my skills, or lack thereof, it was a blast! We all had fun together! For some, it was their first time to bowl. I’ll insert here something I’ve referenced before. The most random music from America makes its way over here. Much of it, I want to apologize to Africa for. They deserve better American music than this. In the midst of our bowling, “Barbie Girl” came on. That took me back to high school where I remember never wanting to hear that song again. Hope it now gets in your head all day as it was in mine. "I’m a Barbie giiiirrl…in a Barbie wooorld."
Anyway, back to happy thoughts. Catharine started not to feel well during our bowling time and thus asked Kate to drive her car back. With us taking everyone different places, that meant that I was taking a Prado full of people to various locations. With my comfort ability higher in driving these days, I was only slightly nervous. This was mainly due to the part of town we were in (traffic!), the time of day it was (traffic!) and the fact that any error on my part would hurt not only me and the Prado but everyone else that was stuffed into the Prado. Details like that. It all ended up being fine. At one point, I remembered that Kate and I had talked about our need to pick up things from the grocery store. Tuesday is the one day that we go into work and leave together so it’s most convenient to grab things on those days. I called her at one of the stops (because it is SO illegal to talk on the phone when driving here and I have no urge to meet with the traffic police again) to ask what we needed and told her I’d pick it up on my way home. When I parked in the ShopRite parking lot, a memory came to mind.
My first two weeks in Uganda were busy due to that I had come at the same time as a team from the States. They were from Holly’s church. Holly had been here for a year last year and came back for over a month this summer. One day, while we were in the midst of getting something done, Holly left to drive to the grocery store to get things needed for dinner. I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until I’m adjusted enough to do that.” Adjusted enough to know where I was going to even get to a grocery store. Knowing which grocery store is best to go to. Knowing which one has what and which one does not. Not to mention the biggie; feeling comfortable enough to drive there all by myself. Those details seemed unfathomable.
I smiled as I parked the Prado thinking, I did it! I’ve at last gotten to the point in living here that I can get around, do things that I need to do and…LIVE. I am LIVING in Kampala. When people ask what I’ve learned here, I constantly say how much different it is to live in a country than it is to just visit one. The differences are to numerous to count but perhaps the above story sheds light on that.
On another Sarah is LIVING in Africa note, I got an African dress made! I bought the material a few weeks ago and took it to this tailor in the Nakawa market, one of the closest markets to our home (is that right? I actually think there might be another....somewhere…closer?). It was definitely an adventure trying to tell the tailor what I wanted when she spoke only Swahili and French with very little English. I had been to the Nakawa market a few times but definitely didn’t know my way around. Since I’ve had to go back for different revisions to the dress these past couple weeks, I’ve really gotten to know the market better. There’s so many stalls and twists and turns that confused me before. Now, I feel like I got the layout somewhat down. Down enough that I feel like I could go and buy whatever I need. I feel comfortable enough to negotiate for vegetables. I mean, people, I have an AFRICAN DRESS now. I can do anything! (you can laugh at that) I’ll try to get pictures of the dress up here at some point.
Home…what and where is home? Kampala is becoming more like home. The insanity that was once intimidating now has a sense of normalcy to it. I often wonder how it’ll be to be back in America for Christmas. Will I have a hard time adjusting back to my own culture? Will I remember to drive on the right side of the road instead of the left? Will I die once the frigid air hits my tropical climate adjusted skin? Will I gain 20lbs by eating all the Mexican food I can get my hands on? You know, important things like that.
So, where is home exactly? Help me figure that one out…
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
I realize that the amount of blogging I’ve done has slowed down a lot. Why? Well, the answer perhaps doesn’t make sense: Internet. Not less access to internet, but more access. I know, confusing. We at last got internet at our house (YAY!) which means I don’t have to go all the way to a coffee shop to get internet. When I did, it was this focused time of internet where I had to do everything I needed to do on the internet at that specific time. Now…not so much focused. Anyway, I’ll try to pick it up!
Last Tuesday, we had some errands to run in downtown Kampala. It was three days after the riots and we expected the effects of the chaos to be everywhere. Oddly enough, you couldn’t tell that just a few days prior that it was a free for all of insanity. Everything was back to normal, including the roads filled with cars and people trying to get to where they needed. A few days prior, the only ones that dared to go down these streets were the rioters themselves. Life has gone on…but everyone is talking about “next time”. Encouraging, right? With none of the issues resolved, all the anger that spilled out on the streets two weeks ago is shoved just under the surface. Everyone has their own opinions and thoughts about what happened and what will bring.
When I see someone for the first time since the riots, I always ask if they and their families were safe. In my last appointment with my chiropractor, the riots were an obvious topic of discussion. Him and his family were safe but they’re also Bagandans (Bugandan? I still get confused with Baganda, Buganda and Luganda all meaning the same group of people but in different ways). It was fascinating to hear his side of how it all went down. He obviously wasn’t out there rioting but agreed with the frustrations that took place. His most interesting observation (for me, at least) was why the Kabaka, king of the Bagandans, did not answer President Museveni’s phone calls in the past two years. I had heard that fact earlier and had wondered why the President’s calls were ignored. My chiro compared the situation to the Queen of England. If you wanted to talk to the Queen, you would not call her directly but present your concerns to the Prime Minister. Therefore, one would not contact the Kabaka directly but the Prime Minister. Not being from a monarch, this whole concept is foreign to me. I also disagree with his comparison since the Kabaka is still subject to the President here. Since he was adjusting my neck at the time, I just made comments like, “interesting”. J
Last Saturday we had Saturday Club. It was so great to see the kids since we’d cancelled the Saturday before due to the riots. I had been dying to know if they were all ok in the riots. Two different situations came up with these questions that highlight some insane cultural differences. For privacy reasons, I’ve refrained from using names of kids on my blog and will continue to do so until I’ve gotten it cleared that it’s all good to do so. Even so, I probably won’t for their sake. Onto the stories. One of the girls I had talked to on the Sunday before so I knew she was safe during the riots. On Sunday, her face was beat up. There were obvious scratches and some other wounds that I couldn’t identify what had happened. When I had asked her about it on Sunday, she explained that her mother had beaten her. When I asked why, the answer wasn’t completely clear. On Saturday, her face was still looking rough if not worse. I asked her about it again and she replied that her mother had beaten her again. Another girl that I had yet to see since the riots was there. I asked her if she kept safe during that time and how her family was. She said that a policewoman came into their home and beat her and her family. Both stories shocked me. I mean, there are huge debates on spanking in America going on…beating? Out of the question. Could the girls have been lying? Making something up to cover for something else? Exaggerating? Of course. I have no idea what was behind both of these situations either. There’s much that was not said in both situations. Both situations are culturally normal though. Another child was brought up in a meeting that isn’t doing well in school and doesn’t want to go because her teacher beats her on the head every day. The suggestion was made that perhaps the teacher could beat her elsewhere so it doesn’t affect her head. It’s culturally normal here.
You can insert a big dose of culture shock for me right here. In all the above situations, I’ve wanted to be like, WHAT IN THE WORLD!?!? I’ve yet to process my thoughts on all of this. Does the normality of domestic violence and in school have any connection to the insanity of the riots? Thoughts like that…still in process.
I’ve had various conversations here about the cultural differences that we all have between us, which can be some funny and interesting conversations. There are commonalities though. I was reading in Philippians today about how we need to stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27) and “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2). Chapter 2 continues to talk about how we are to follow Christ’s example and humble ourselves. I can be as prideful as I want about my American values, priorities and culture and it will get me where? Nowhere…well, maybe back to America. I boast in Christ alone, unite with my fellow believers to strive for the faith of the gospel. This requires following Christ’s example by emptying and humbling myself “by becoming obedient to the point of death”.
“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil 2:13-15).
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
As some of you know, Kampala has been a little crazy these past few days. For those that don’t, let me inform you, American style. I say that mainly because the complexity behind all of the violent riots isn’t understandable by American perspectives. Though there are protests in America, rarely do they get violent especially violent enough for deaths. There’s rarely that sense of chaos. The thought of being so upset with our government that we would take to the streets, burning buildings, police stations and killing people? Unthinkable. Why? Well, I have many thoughts on that. Perhaps because no matter what, we have a government that we know we can trust. No matter what decisions they make, we can trust they are making decisions for the betterment of our country. We can disagree with them but can trust them. For example, I believe that Obama thinks that this form of health care reform is the best thing for our country. I can’t believe that he would purposely want to mess up our country. In his heart, he believes this is the best option. Do I disagree with him? Yes, but I don’t doubt his motive. We can trust when a police officer stops us that it is to protect us and those around us. Here, you try to involve the police and government as little as possible. Why? There’s no trust…and for good reason. Feel free to read my previous post on getting pulled over for further justification.
Onto the story…
News is slow here, mainly done by word of mouth. Therefore, almost all of my information was found out through other Ugandans and Ugandan news websites. There’s different tribes in Uganda and the Buganda tribe has their king, the Kabaka. The Kabaka wanted to visit this area, Kayunga, where part of the tribe was. That part of the tribe that he was going to visit wants out of the tribe and didn’t want him to come…or something like that. The government, ruled by President Museveni, sided with that part of the tribe and wouldn’t allow him to go. Why? They said it was for “safety reasons”. The Kabaka said that he was still going and the Buganda were mad that the government was getting in the way of where their king was going to visit. Hence, the Bugandans took to the streets to show their anger. The government brought in the military and they both battled the streets of Kampala. If any Ugandan would like to correct me on my details, please please do. I have enough confusion in all of the details. (Sassy Andrew, I’m talking about you here.)
Thursday was a normal day in the office. I got a lot accomplished including finishing a project I’d been working on for weeks. Around 4:00pm, Kate came into my office to let me know that our co-worker, Richard, told her that he thought we should go home early. I went into the main office to inquire further. Richard mentioned that there were riots in town and that it might be safest for us to go home now instead of later. He went back and forth on this decision until finally deciding that yes, we should leave now. Right before we left, another co-worker, Francis, came in. He had been attempting to go into town but things were too crazy and he had to come back. That solidified our decision. As we were about to drive out, Richard came running to the car and asked if we wanted to see what was happening downtown on TV. We agreed and huddled around the TV in Francis’ office.
It was unbelievable. The screen showed piles of tires being burned on the main streets of Kampala, people getting caned by the police, a body laying on the side of the street, heavy military vehicles, people throwing stones and more. I felt like we were watching scenes from a country far far away instead of streets that were a 20 minute drive away. It felt unreal. We left and headed home where we would remain for the next two days. With fears of the riots spreading, we were told to stay in the compound. I made all sorts of comments about being “compound bound” which is seriously not exciting, perhaps even the opposite. It’s one thing when you want to stay home all day, it’s another when you’re forced. Details. We were blessed with safety. We kept up with our friends that we knew were close to the riots. Their stories made it all seem real. Knowing that my friends were close to this chaos was frightening.
News websites were showing pictures of burned out cars, flames from burning tires, relatives mourning their dead and more. News reports differ on how many were killed. The last I saw was 14. 14 lives taken away and for what? It’s amazing all that can happen in three days.
Now, it’s over. The riots have stopped. Life is back to normal…for now. Nothing has fully been resolved. The Kabaka has postponed his visit but for how long? No matter what, the underlying issues are still there. It’s hard for me to understand the tribal differences, as, in America, we’re all Americans. We may think differently, disagree and argue but we’re all Americans.
I had pictured a situation like this prior to coming, more as a “what if?” What if I’m in Uganda and things get crazy? What happens then? Will I be safe? Will I be cowering under my bed fearing for my life? Running for the airport? So many what if’s. In this particular instance, I was completely safe. I had absolutely nothing to fear and didn’t fear at all for my personal safety. I had more concerns for my friends and the kids. The thing is, no matter what, God is still control. My life is still and always will be in His hands. Please, continue your prayers for Uganda. It’s much needed.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Day Three: Saturday Club! We woke up earlier this morning as at every Hope Alive! site Saturday is Saturday Club! Things are a little different here in Gulu. The kids show up early and clean the place. Yeah, seriously, they do. There were so many times today that I thought, “kids in America would NEVER do this”. When we arrived, they were mowing the grass, Ugandan style. I need to remember the word for it but they pretty much take a machete like thing and cut the grass with it. Others were washing chairs with many more doing other various tasks. I got to know quite a few names and to my happy surprise, many knew English! It was this that made me realize how incredible Hope Alive! is. The other kids in the IDP camp don’t have their education paid for thus, they didn’t know English. The Hope Alive! kids are able to get an education through sponsorship and thus are educated and know English not to mention have knowledge in so many other subjects. Life change is an incredible thing to see. The kids were then all gathered together for a time of praise and worship. None of the songs were in English and at one point, I closed my eyes and praised God that He doesn’t just hear in English, but also Acholi, Lugandan and every other language in the world. Catharine spoke to the kids about how they have a HOPE in Christ and encouraged them to have good influences in their life that encourage them to continue their education and focus on God. Many of the kids have little encouragement from their families and friends to get their education but instead to get money by farming or doing other small tasks. The temptation to receive money instead of an education is high. The long term is given up for the short term. Heartbreaking doesn’t quite cover it. After Catharine spoke, everyone divided up in age groups and had Bible study. I joined the little kids. It was all in Acholi so I mainly played with the kids. After that, we all joined together again where the kids did different presentations. There was a play, a couple songs and a lesson. All from what they had just learned. Amazing. Their retention is stunning. Lunch was served afterwards. There was cassava, cabbage and tea. The cassava and cabbage were delicious! Oh, please, let me tell you about this tea. It was like hot sweet tea, like Southern sweet. (Nikki, I think you would have approved. Yeah, that’s how sweet it was). We left Saturday Club around 3:00pm and headed back to the hotel. We walked around the streets for a bit to get some things and stopped at a bakery Catharine had showed us earlier. I had some of the best samosas that I’ve ever had there. Mmm. We relaxed this afternoon, watched an episode of “Chuck” together, ate dinner, watched another episode of “Chuck” and here we are. It’s currently storming outside which will probably translate into the power turning off tonight. We’re actually currently running on a generator as the power went off earlier. Here’s to hoping that no matter what, my fan stays on.
Since I’m posting this later, let me add some more details. The mowing the lawn deal is called slashing. Kate and I talked about it later and she noted how crazy it is that these kids use such sharp machete like things to do this and how again we’d never do this in the States. Kate also mentioned how the genocide in Rwanda took place with these such every day materials. Insane. The storm that night was pretty intense and the power was off almost the whole night. I thought we’d be eating dinner in the dark until the generator at last kicked in. That night, little worked in the room. I know the fan stopped working at some point and I praised God for my battery powered fan and my headlamp.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The morning was relaxing…besides my first glance into the bathroom. I had closed the door the night before to prevent any friends joining me in my sleep. I turned the light on…creaked open the door…whew. No bugs. I’m still wary of the bathroom. Breakfast that morning was nice. We sat outside on the veranda, drank fresh juice, ate my Spanish omelet and enjoyed the cool breeze. God and I continued our conversation from the night before, mainly with this verse: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). Huuuah. One more sucker punch from God. The sucker punch was finished off with v14: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. I wondered what it looks like when the world has been crucified to me. How is that fleshed out? And what does it look like to boast ONLY in the cross? Wow. Imagine…
Catharine had a meeting that left Kate, Calista, Stephen and I to our own fun. We decided to walk around Gulu and explore. Kate thought that I could maybe find some mascara somewhere. I was glad at the thought but had already worked through not finding my identity in make-up the night before so I was good without finding it. We wandered through the streets of Gulu and ended up at the Gulu market. It was so nice to experience a smaller town market! The Kampala markets are so chaotic and insane. The Gulu market was so nice and calm in comparison. The night before there was a horrible storm and the mud on the streets and in the market still showed evidence of it. Our search for mascara took us to a few places and landed us back at the market at this random stall. Where else can you pay $0.75 for mascara?
We then decided to just walk…and walk. We went through parts of town, got to a roundabout listing various NGO’s and followed the signs. I’ll interject here to say that I, Sarah Pisney, have renamed Gulu. Gulu will now and forever be known as Gulu: NGO City. Our first morning here I attempted to count the number of NGO vehicles that drove by our hotel. I lost count after 10 minutes and gave up. Back to the day. We followed signs for the UN and WHO as Calista wanted to see their offices. We followed the arrows to the street and walked…and walked…and walked. We past their offices and hoped that we would happen upon some awesome short cut back to where we wanted to be as we were meeting Catharine and Alfred for lunch soon. The hope of a short cut kept us walking along with Kate’s somewhat certainty that “at the next street” there’d be one. No such short cut came and once we stopped for directions, we realized that we would have to retrace all of our muddy tracks to get where we needed. The cool morning had turned into a very very hot day. We were all pouring in sweat and getting tired. Kate called Catharine to see if she’d be able to pick us up and (praise JESUS) she was! We started the trek back and met up with Catharine along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated an air-conditioned car as much as I did when we entered. Ahhhh, it felt amazing.
We had lunch with Alfred and then headed to the Hope Alive! Feeding Centre (not a misspelling, things are spelled British style here). We met up with Shem, the Assistant Site Director whom we had met the day before. We checked out where they’ll be raising chicks in order to make the center have income generation making it all less dependent on Western money. There were some kids from the IDP camp that came in. They spoke zero English so we communicated in other ways. Tickle spots are great ways to communicate, I’ve discovered. This also reminds me of when my brothers (read: Jeff) would tickle me until I couldn’t breathe as I child and I hated it. I hate being tickled to this day. Hence, I feel kind of bad about this form of communication but it gets smiles out of these kids and it’s fun…and I don’t tickle until they can’t breathe. I’m kind and merciful unlike some others (read: Jeff). After that, we headed back to the hotel. Catharine had a meeting at the hotel and though Kate and Calista joined, I opted for a nap. Mmm, it was nice. When I awoke, I joined everyone in card games, dinner and our nightly watching of an episode of “Chuck”. I had never heard of it but Kate got a season for her birthday last week so we’ve watched that every night here in Gulu.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
We arrived on Thursday afternoon due to a verrry early morning wake up call to leave. Catharine had a meeting with Alfred, the Gulu site leader in the afternoon. We all squeezed (literally) into Catharine’s car for the ride. My anticipations were high as I’ve wanted to go to Gulu for so long. Soon after arriving and checking into our hotel, Hotel Roma, we went to lunch at Diana Gardens. The Rome themed names humored me as northern Uganda has no resemblance to Italy. Calista, Kate and I sat in on Catharine’s meeting with Alfred. It was interesting to hear of all that a site leader has to deal with and amazing to see how Alfred’s mind worked to solve many of these problems. That night we all played card games. Everyone else satisfied their stomachs with cookies while Stephen and I ate at the hotel restaurant next door. I thought that prior to coming to Uganda, I would escape the Obama-mania of America. Ah, but to no avail. The hotel restaurant had a huge Obama calendar proclaiming “It’s Time For Black Power”.
That first night I realized two discouraging things. First, I had forgotten my make-up bag. Not a HUGE deal but the realization that I’d be officially looking like trash for our entire trip was an annoyance. The second was higher on my annoyance list. When I was getting settled in my room, I noted and killed quite a few little baby cockroaches. They were little so it wasn’t the hugest deal but I wasn’t exactly excited to have them in my room. It was when I entered my room that night that it became a problem. I opened the door, turned on the bathroom light (the closest switch that actually worked), glanced in the bathroom and saw all sorts of movement. Big cockroach movement. I’m not a verbalizer during times like these; I’m a soundizer. No words came out but this loud moaning scared whine noise came instead. I had already warned Stephen that if there were any more bugs, he’d get a knock. I’m glad he was prepared. I think it was my soundizer that clued him in as apparently even Kate who was two doors down heard my noises. She thought it was someone speaking in another language. Nope, just one really freaked out American. I waited in the hall with Kate as Stephen killed everything that moved in the bathroom. He wouldn’t tell me exact details of all that he killed so I’m waiting until we leave the infamous Hotel Roma (now referred by me as “Hotel Roacha”). I carefully walked back in the room and quickly arranged my mosquito net over the bed. Inside the mosquito net, I put my battery powered fan, headlamp, cell phone and book. The power had already gone out a couple times so I was happy for my battery powered fan and headlamp.
God and I had some time to talk after I settled myself in (and tucked in the mosquito net to make it roach proof despite the large holes in the net). I explained to God how we’d just gotten here and these two discouragements had done just that: discouraged me. I don't think God needed my explanation; it was pretty clear. I was frustrated. Annoyed. Not wanting this trip to be like this. These weren't what MY plans were. I then realized that I hadn’t really hardcored prayed over this trip to Gulu. I started praying for the people that we had met that day, those who we would meet and more. It then occurred to me: this trip isn’t so much about me. I know, real shocker, right? You know when God just kind of sucker punches you to put you in your place and you feel like “huuuuaaah”, big punch just took the breath out of you. Yeah. That’s what it was like. God knew I needed some kind of smack in the face. He’s a good face smacker. I started listing off what I had instead of what I didn’t. The bed I was in was actually really comfortable. The power was on and a fan was blowing on me. I was secure and safe. I had a bathroom in my room. I had a shower with hot water. Most of the people in Gulu have none of the above. Who am I to complain about no make-up and roaches? I mean, REALLY. I’m currently sitting here in my hotel room, fan blowing on me, typing on my laptop. I have more than I have not. I’ve learned a lot more about what true necessities are and what luxuries are. I live a luxurious life compared to so many…and I complain!? I know that God must just shake His head at me and wonder when I’ll actually get things instead of relearning and relearning. Good thing He’s patient...
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
One of the coolest things that God’s been doing is providing computers for Hope Alive! Before I left, I heard that the IT department at Liberty gives their old computers to the mission field. I got in contact with them and they’re donating 20 computers to us! With that, I’d like to give a HUGE shout out to Jonathan Lesley, Jonathan Gilbert and Ron Banks. Liberty is great because of employees like these. When I told Catharine of these prior to coming out, she mentioned what an answer to prayer it was as they’ve been praying to have a computer lab for the Kampala site. Incredible! The question then became, how are we going to get these computers out here? Shipping them is too expensive and the amount of custom and duty fees that they would charge us here would be ridiculous. I brought two with me when I came. God has provided two amazing friends, Patrick and Maria, to handle the rest of them. We’re shipping them to people as they come to Uganda to bring them as luggage.
Ok, that’s the set up. Wait, you thought the computers were the whole miracle? No no, God’s doing even MORE.
Catharine’s niece and nephew arrived on Tuesday. They got the four computers on Friday to bring with them for their flight on Sunday (Thank you, Patrick!!!). They checked in for their flight and the airline sent them on their way to the gate. Calista, the niece, realized that she hadn’t paid for their extra luggage, the computers. Being $175 per box, it was going to be quite the sum. She turned back and asked them about it. The Emirates representative told them that their travel agent had taken care of the fee.
They booked their flight online and had no travel agent.
This past week, I got another e-mail from Jonathan asking if we needed video projectors out here as well. God just keeps on giving…and it’s incredible.
A couple prayers requests come with this miracle:
1 First, that we’d get all of these shipped easily. There’s a team coming out next month that could take the rest of them. We just have to see if they’re able to do it. That would keep us from having to drag out the whole shipping process.
2. Second, space! The computers were obviously unplanned and we’re in need of a space in Kampala to have a computer lab for the kids. Pray that a space opens up that’s close to where the kids are, that’s reasonable in rent and has everything that we need.