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.

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