Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Miracles: Big and Small: The Computer Miracle

There are some things that happen that can only be ascribed to God. Last month, one of those situations happened. For months, the charger in my computer had been on and off working. Also, my battery hadn’t seemed to be fitting right. One morning, I woke up to a dead computer because my charger just hadn’t charged all night. That was the start of it all. The timing of everything was impossible but alas, through God, nothing is impossible. I’m putting dates in so that you can see all that happened and the timing of it.

Monday, August 9:
I updated my Twitter at 7:45am:” I think my computer charger bit the dust overnight. Woke up to a dead computer. Um…what to do?”
At 8:15am, my friend Matt, who happens to work at an Apple Store, responded and asked about it. At the time, I thought it was just my charger that needed replacing. That afternoon, Matt happened to be online and we chatted about my computer woes. I told him how my charger sometimes wouldn’t charge when I plugged it in. I offhandedly mentioned how my battery seemed to not be fitting right. When he realized that it wasn’t because of it not being in correctly, he asked if it was bulging. Ah, bulging! Yes, that was the word I had been looking for. It was bulging. When Matt realized that, he got concerned and explained that though most batteries work great, there’s the 1% that are bad. If they’re bulging, they have the potential to explode and ruin the entire charging system. He explained that the situation was urgent.

Tuesday, August 10:
That morning, a woman dropped off a package at the office to send with a woman back to the States. I didn’t know the woman that would be coming other than that her name was Sara.

My battery had been bulging for months. This is probably why I was in such shock that my computer needed repair…and fast. In another conversation with Matt, he expressed that I needed to get the computer back to the States for repair as soon as possible. He meant days, not weeks. Depending on how bad it was, the repair could take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. I panicked. I didn’t know anyone going back to the States anytime soon and even if it got there, how was it going to come back? I remembered the lady that was going to be coming to pick up the box but I couldn’t just ask a stranger to add a computer to her carry on and ship my computer to Matt. Well, until it became my only option.

I knew that I had to hand over all control to God. He’s in the details…right?

Wednesday, August 11:
That day, I turned off my computer and handed my most valuable possession to strangers. Sounds weird, I know. I had talked to Sara on the phone and she so graciously agreed to take my computer and ship it to Matt. Such a huge answer to prayer! She sent some friends to pick it up. It was weird handing my computer over, not knowing how long it would be until I saw it again.

Thursday, August 12-Friday, August 13:
Sara flew out of Uganda and reached Oregon on Friday.

Monday, August 16:
Sara ships my computer to Matt in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, August 18:
Matt receives my computer.

Thursday, August 19-Saturday, August 21:
Matt took my computer in to get fixed. Luckily, my charging system was not affected. Because of this, the repair didn’t take two weeks but two days. They replaced my: charger, battery, top case, touch pad and I feel like something else too. Matt installed the latest software on my computer as well as backing up everything for me and then putting everything back on my computer. He also set up everything on my computer so that literally, when I received it back, all I needed to do was turn it on and all was set up.

Monday, August 23:
Matt ships my computer to Ned and Karen in New York.

Wednesday, August 25:
Ned and Karen receive my computer.

Thursday, August 26:
Early that morning, Karen boarded a flight to Uganda.

Friday, August 27:
Karen was coming with a team to Uganda, Most of the team was staying in a location in Kampala that was about an hour away from my house. However, Karen and two others were staying on my compound, three houses down from me. Friday morning, I walked down to the house and got my computer back.

Literally, there’s no way that this could have happened any faster. If one thing would have gone wrong, it wouldn't have worked out. God was in every single detail and it was stunning to see Him work so meticulously. In the missionary world, we’re used to things not going right and everything taking a LOT longer than expected. I was without my computer for 16 days as it went from Uganda to Oregon to Wisconsin to New York and then back to Uganda. That’s just unreal. That’s just God.

I often forget how detailed God is. It’s such a reminder that though He is the Big Almighty Creator and Savior, He’s also my Abba who cares for every detail in my life. I needed that reminder.

Huge thanks goes to Sara, Matt and Karen. Without each of their willingness, none of this could have happened. It required sacrifice for each one of them (especially Matt, who spent hours and hours working on my baby). You were all a part of God’s story and through that, showed me more about our Abba. I pray that each of you were able to see His work as well.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blown Out: The Bombings in Kampala

It is interesting to write this entry on September 11th. This date is associated with terrorism and now, July 11th is as well. The following is what the day of and after the bombings was like for me as well as some extras.

July 11, 2010
My friend Mary was in town and we joined another group that went to Ndere Dancers, a show that highlights the different tribal dances around Uganda. I had been wanting to go for awhile and Mary coming gave the perfect opportunity. We had a fun night watching all the dancing. The World Cup final was on that night and they were hurrying to finish so that people could watch it. They were even showing it at the place if people wanted to stay. I was almost tempted. I REALLY wanted to watch it and we don’t have a TV at our house. We drove back home. It was about 9:30-10:00pm. The rugby club is a place we pass daily as it is on our way home. We passed it that night. Inside were hundreds of people watching the World Cup final. An hour later, two bombs went off killing many.

July 12, 2010.
5:50am: my alarm went off. I quickly turned off the annoying sound. It was still dark outside. I changed into my work out clothes as Kate and I were going to go running. As I was about to walk out of my room, Kate knocked.

“I just talked with Catharine…there’s been a bombing…”

“…a WHAT?” I interrupted. “Here!? A BOMB? Like, a BOMB? Who would bomb here!?” I couldn’t believe it. We’re in Uganda, not Iraq or Afghanistan.

Kate went on to explain that they didn’t know yet who was responsible. Since we drive to a certain area of town to run, we would be driving right by one of the bombsites. Catharine thought it’d be safe for us to still go but Kate and I decided to play it safe and stay home.

My mind wouldn’t stop going. The rugby club that two bombs went off is extremely close to our church and the Hope Alive! site. It’s also very close to many of our friends and students. Since it was the last game of the World Cup, it would be no surprise if many people we knew were there. There was another bomb at an Ethiopian restaurant about 15 minutes away from our house.

It was a waiting game to find out more details. Until I knew more, I had to tell Mary, my friend and visitor, what was going on. Clearly, we always want our visitors to have a good time and have nothing bad happen to them and it’s the same here. At the time, details were so scarce that I didn’t feel as though there was anything for us to be scared for our own personal safety. It’s hard to convey that though.

We went to work that morning, passing a man selling newspapers with a gory picture of the dead on front. Our route to work passed the rugby club. Traffic was insane. People were standing around watching the police presence that surrounded the area. There are walls around the rugby club so you’re not able to ever see in. That was a really good thing that morning. It was crazy to think what happened there the night before.

We got to work in time for our Monday staff meeting. It was there that we discovered that we had friends that were there. Shammah, my dear friend who is a Hope Alive! mentor and helps lead the girls Bible study with me, was there rooting for Spain. She was with two of our friends. She still came to our meeting that morning. It was crazy to hear her first hand account. They were two rows away from those that were killed. Two rows. The things they saw that night can never be forgotten. One of our Hope Alive! girls who also comes to the Bible study was there. Molly and her sister went to watch the game. Her sister was one of the dead. I haven’t seen Molly since (which, if any of my Ugandan friends are reading this, have you talked with her? I literally haven’t seen her since)

After the bombings, security was extremely tight. To this day, I can’t get into some grocery stores without my car and purse being searched, sometimes being wanded down. Rumors were flying everywhere about other bombs being found in neighborhoods, homes, schools and more. Luckily, none of those ended up being true. Security has lessened over the last few months but the presence of police is still everywhere.

The media coverage here was a culture shock in its own. While in the States, the media often won't take gory pictures of the dead, but here there is no filter. There are many pictures that remain in my mind due to the lack of filter amongst newspapers here. There was a picture of a man going through the pockets of one of the dead. That's apparently a common practice. Can you imagine? It must have been difficult to identify the dead with all of their wallets missing. There are others that I won't mention so that you won't have those mental images. Too much. The media coverage from outside was another factor. It was amazing the amount of misinformation that had come out. My mom e-mailed me at one point with concern that they were targeting Americans. I really don't know where that came from since both of the attacks were at places where Ugandans hang out. If they had wanted to attack Americans, there are definitely places and times that would have been more conducive for that. But, they didn't. They knew who they wanted to hurt and it wasn't foreigners.

I wondered if it was all too surreal for me or if I was just trying to put on a good face for Mary. However, I don’t think it was either of those. Truly, there wasn’t a time where I felt unsafe. I knew that Americans weren’t the target (no matter what was told in the American press) and the military presence after the attacks was so intense that I felt protected. I also firmly believe that my life is not in my hands but in the hands of my Lord, my Protector. And it still is.

Please pray for Uganda. Pray for no other attacks to occur. Pray for the families and friends of those that died. Pray for the injured that are still recovering. Pray for those that were there that can’t erase the memories. Pray for God to be clearly seen, for people to draw closer to Him and to see their need for a relationship with Him.

*Note: Some of my specifics of the bombing may be off, especially about timing. My memory is hazy of what time they went off and my internet isn’t working well enough to research the exact details.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mary's Visit; My Perspective

What? You thought that I had shut down my blog since I haven’t written in forever? I KNOW! While I clearly haven’t been the most consistent blogger, this has been a particularly long absence. I have a reason though! My dear friend Mary was here in July for three weeks, life was crazy and then, my computer was back in the States for repair for three weeks. I’ll be splitting those two up in two blogs. I’m such a tease, I know.

Mary flew into Kampala on the year anniversary of my arrival here. It was fun to go to the airport on that same day, reminiscing of when I flew in. We spent the first week of Mary being here in Kampala. It was filled with trips to various markets, exploring downtown Kampala, Saturday club with the kids, church at our church, tutoring kids and more. She also led a seminar to our tutoring teachers about methods of teaching.

We headed up to Gulu after that for Mary to do another tutoring training plus for our Hope Alive! Senior Staff meetings. That Saturday, we went to the Saturday Club in Gulu. One of my favorite things about Hope Alive! (I have many) is that it’s not cookie cutter. Not all of our sites look the same or do things the same way. Kampala, a huge massive city, will need to do things differently than Gulu, a small town where our kids are scattered in the surrounding small villages. I was excited for Mary to see the differences in the Gulu site and I was excited to be up there again. One of the harder parts of being in Gulu is the language barrier. While the kids in Kampala are pretty fluent in English, the kids in Gulu struggle. This came into play for me that day as I helped Shem, our site director, enroll some new kids.

My heart always breaks when I see new kids come into the project. I’ve now been a part of that process in Masaka, Kampala and Gulu. There’s a shyness and uncertainty that each of the kids have. They know their life is about to change. It’s incredible to see the before and after’s of this. I remember the first day of two of our kids in Kampala. They both had dressed in the nicest clothes they owned, which were close to rags. It’s been a joy to see them open up over these last few months. Their shyness has disappeared replaced by their beautiful personalities shining through.

With these new kids in Gulu, their life experiences were unreal. Since I was filling out the information sheet, with the help of a translator, I had to ask some questions that ended up being difficult. I had to ask who they were living with, if their parents were alive and if their parents had died, how they had died. For many, their fathers had died. Pain would fill their eyes as they shared how he had died. With each child, I would place my hand on their knee, look into their sad eyes and tell them how sorry I was. It was a small action but it was clear by each of their reactions that they had not received such sympathy in a long time. It was hard to keep my tears in.

After Saturday Club, Mary taught the tutoring teachers different methods of teaching. In the meantime, Shem informed me that his youngest sister just died. She was only 15. At that time, they said it was cerebral malaria and TB. Weeks after the burial, it came out that she was poisoned by a friend’s mother. As I had talked with the new students that day, I found out that poisoning was all too common.

The burial was going to be the next day with the rest of the Hope Alive! staff coming in the morning. I had yet to be to a burial but had heard a little about them. I knew that Mary and I were both in for a new cultural experience. We drove out to the middle of the bush, literally. We turned by these bushes in the middle of nowhere and ended up by these huts where the burial was taking place. There were no quiet tears of mourning but instead, loud wailing. It was an emotional service. Her classmates wailed throughout. Shem’s mother put on a strong face but the pain in her eyes could not be hidden. Deaths are indeed common here but that day I saw the heartache behind it firsthand.

The rest of our time in Gulu was spent visiting schools. There was a child headed household in particular that made their way into our hearts. I will save that story for another blog as I would hate to shorten it and this entry is already getting long enough.

We headed to Murchison Falls National Park after our time in Gulu. I had warned Mary that I’m one of those people that everything happens to. So, she was warned, right? I had set up a driver to take us to the park who could also take us on a game drive to see the animals after which would take us back to Kampala. It was a mess confirming who was taking us and in what vehicle. We ended up in a white van that looked as though it could shake apart at the next pothole. We arrived safely in Murchison Falls with all the van parts still on. Amazing. As we were waiting for a ferry to get across the Nile, a herd of elephants came within about 50 feet of us. It was amazing to watch them! Game drives start at dawn due to the activity of the animals at the early morning. However, the next morning, there was a problem with the van and we were unable to go on our game drive. Surprise, surprise. Instead, we went to the top of Murchison Falls and then on a boat ride on the Nile. Our main annoyance while there? Our shaky van had no AC and the front windows didn’t go up properly. That’d be fine and all if a certain tsetse fly didn’t exist. If you’re unsure of what a tsetse fly is, google it. Please. Because, if you do, you’ll understand what we experienced. I had heard that the tsetse fly bites hurt but had no idea how much until it happened numerous times on that trip. Holy. Cow. It was either suffer of heat stroke or get bitten by these torturous flies. Great options. We had a great game drive the next day as we watched a lioness and her three cubs wander around.

Back in Kampala, we had only a few days left of Mary’s trip. We visited some of our kids homes here and fell in love with Andrew and Joseph’s mom. She is taking care of I forget how many children that aren’t her own. The love of God flows through her. Through broken English and mainly Luganda, she expressed how God is her Provider all while insisting on serving us tea and mandazi.
On the day Mary left, I was determined that she experience Lake Victoria. We ate lunch in Entebbe, where the airport is, and then headed to the beach. I love having my toes in sand. With that last thing done, we headed to the airport.
It was so great to show Mary my life here. She met the people I love, went to my church, experienced how I get groceries and more. As much as I can tell people what my life is like here, it was great to have Mary live it with me. It was great to see her fall in love with the people here, just as I have. It was great to see God overflow her with love for the people of Uganda, just as He has in me.

Our God is so much bigger than all us and works His plan in our lives. I love seeing glimpses of it. In the three weeks that Mary was here, we were both able to see many many glimpses of our great God. To Him be the glory.