Monday, July 11, 2011

Goodbye to Kampala: My Home Sweet Home

I knew the day would come when I would write about my goodbye to Kampala. It was hard enough to experience and writing about it is even more difficult. In the past two years, Kampala went from an unknown city to my home.

In ways, my first weeks in Kampala seem like yesterday. The city was full of dust and overrun with taxis, motorcycle taxis (boda-bodas), people, animals and more. The roads seemed a maze of confusion and as we drove through the madness, I wondered if I’d ever be able to get around on my own. The thought of driving scared me to death, not to mention navigating my way around. Familiarity came with time. I remember the moment when I realized that I could navigate my way to the grocery store by myself. It was such a relief. In ways, my life was quite normal. Every day, I drove to an office, worked until 5 and came home. And yet, living in Africa is anything but normal. However, it became my normal and I loved it.

My goodbye to Kampala was overwhelming. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more loved in my life. The Hope Alive! Kampala site put on a talent show for me. It was more than I could have ever dreamed. The kids performed skits, sang songs, performed a fashion show and danced. I loved every second of it. I love watching them perform. I always feel like a proud mother in the crowd cheering them on. The joy in their eyes shows how much they love it as well.

I took a lot of video that take in order so that I would never forget it. The following are two videos that mean the world to me. The first is my girls singing a song together. They added a verse that made me cry. The second is a poem that my sweet Brenda wrote about me. Again, another one that makes me cry.

Aren’t they gorgeous!? I love these girls so much and am so proud of them. We got some fun group pictures of that day as well.

I had my last Bible study with my girls. It was so hard to think of ending what we had been doing for so long. Looking into each of their beautiful faces, I wanted them to know who they were in Christ. Not who they were according to what they thought of themselves or what they had been told by others. No, they needed to know what Christ thinks of them and to find themselves in Him. These girls are hard and rarely show emotion. It was because of this that I was surprised at how many tears were shed by many of the girls.

My last couple weeks were full of a lot of “lasts”. My last home visits: visiting the families that I had come to know and love over these two years. It was not only hard to say goodbye to the kids but also to their parents. I visited Monica’s house for the last time. She made an incredible meal for us and spoke truth from the Word of God. My last trip to the market. My last trip to downtown Kampala (I can’t say that I’ll ever really miss that insanity). My last service at Lugogo Baptist Church. The last dinner with my roommates.

My friends threw a goodbye party for me on one of my last nights there. It was wonderful having so many that I love in one place. It still seems surreal that I can’t call them up and see them.

I’m a long processor. When I left Uganda, it didn’t seem real. It was such a hectic time that I wasn’t able to process that I was actually leaving. I didn’t cry at the talent show (I teared up but no tears). I didn’t cry at the last girls Bible Study. I didn’t cry at my goodbye party. It all was so surreal. The only time I cried was when I read a letter from one of my girls. Her words humbled me completely and left me amazed at how God has worked in and through me. Besides that…I was tearless….until it all clicked in a few weeks ago.

I was in Colorado for long term training at WorldVenture. I was about to go into the biggest interview of my life. This interview would determine if I would be accepted as a WorldVenture missionary. It was extremely stressful as well, they could say no. I knew how God had specifically called me to this and the thought of being told “no” at this point? It scared the mess out of me. God kept reminding me that He had truly called me to this and that He wouldn’t stop it now…but my nerves were taking over. It was at this point that it finally hit that I was gone. I wasn’t going to be seeing my girls for a long time. I wasn’t around my kids. I had gone…and the tears wouldn’t stop coming. And they haven’t really stopped since then. Every time I look at my pictures, read the incredible book that my girls put together for me, read the dozens of letters that the kids wrote to me…I can’t stop the tears from coming.

Awkward side note: the tears started approximately one hour before my massive interview. It was like a perfect storm of stressful insanity. For those that know me, you know that I’m not one that cries. I don’t really process by crying and I definitely don’t cry in front of people if I can help it. Tears are literally streaming down my face 5 minutes before my interview. I get it together right before entering the room. First question to me? “Sarah, tell us what you love about Uganda.” Did I mention that I’m an ugly crier? Oh my gosh. It was OUT OF CONTROL. Luckily, they didn’t see me as a psycho emotional crazy girl and still accepted me. Whew.

Goodbye Kampala, my home sweet home.

Goodbye familiar dusty pot-filled roads.

Goodbye morning traffic jams into work. I won’t miss you.

Goodbye to my compound and home. You were such a calming retreat to come home to.

Goodbye to Biajo and Juliet. I always felt safe and cared for thanks to you two.

Goodbye to those creepy men at Nakawa Market that would yell crude things to me. I also won’t miss you.

Goodbye to my sweet Hope Alive! kids. I love each of you deeper than you could ever know. You are in my heart and in my prayers…always.

Goodbye especially to Emma, Joseph, Andrew, Prossy, Dora, Agnes, Kevin, Benard, Lovin, Comfort, Justin and Flavia. Each of you specifically has a special place in my heart. I love each of you so much and hope to still be involved in each of your lives for years to come.

Goodbye to each of my girls: Esther, Emily, Rita, Shamila, Agnes, Brenda, Hope, Dutchess, Sandra, Sarah, Ruth, Jean, Lucy, Joan, Brenda, Jillian, Nancy and Paula. I always felt that I could never fully express exactly how much I loved each one of you. I felt like my heart was bursting every time we were together. You all are my inspiration. I see so much in each of you and cannot wait to see how God will use each and every one of you. I love you from the bottom of my heart. I miss you more than I could ever put into words. My tears come whenever I think of you.

Goodbye to my most amazing friends. I always felt like I didn’t deserve to have such incredible friends there. I am forever grateful to you all for your encouragement, love and support. You shared your culture with me, explained things numerous times and were so patient with me. There is no thanks that could ever be enough. I am so grateful to have each of you in my life. Special thanks to Georgina, Lonnah, Dorothy and Shammah. I would have been absolutely lost without you girls. Nkwagala nyo nyo nyo!

Goodbye to Hope Alive! and to Catharine. It’s been my honor to work for you these past two years. I've learned so much from your wisdom. I can only pray that I made some sort of organizational difference. But, more than the database and paperwork, when I think of Hope Alive!, I think of the people. I think of the site managers, the mentors and the kids. There’s been exciting moments and really disappointing heartbreaking moments…and we’ve grown together through them all.

Goodbye to my roommates. Ugh, do you know how boring my life is without you two!? I miss the laughs, the Mexican fiesta nights, the Alias marathons, the road trip adventures, and really, watching you two shine in what you’re doing.

The good thing about my goodbye to Kampala, and Uganda, is that it is not final. I praise GOD that He is sending me back to this country that I love so much. So, really, this isn’t so much of a “goodbye” as it is a “see you later”. For my sake, I’m hoping “later” is actually “really really soon”.