Thursday, November 24, 2011

Luckiest Girl In The World

God gives us far more than we deserve.

More specifically, God has given me far more than I deserve.

It’s been a ten-year journey that God has brought me through to get me where I am now. While those ten years are dotted with specific steps towards my journey, God began this far before I even knew.

In June, I went to WorldVenture headquarters for my final interview and training. My first day there I met with a counselor to go over the results of the 5000000 psych and personality exams that I had taken (they seriously don’t joke around with who they accept). One of their goals (beyond confirming that I’m not crazy which, officially, I’m not. Whew) is to make sure that my personality and gifts match up with what I’m going to do overseas.

When people would ask me what I wanted to be some day, I never knew what to say. I was never especially good at anything. I definitely had no athletic ability (my brothers stole every gene for that). I wasn’t especially good at school. I’ve always loved music but lack any kind of musical talent. I always liked reading and writing but I wasn’t good enough to go for a career opportunity in that. Because of this, I didn’t have a clue what I would major in at college or what job I’d have some day. I often felt discouraged and lost.

As the counselor was going over my exam results, she made a startling insight:

“Sarah, with your personality and gifts, you are exactly gifted for what you are going to be doing.”

My eyes filled with tears. How long I had waited to see how God would use me. How long I had wondered what I could possibly be gifted for. How long I had wondered what would fulfill and excite me.

This means that when God was forming me in my mom’s womb…not only creating my physical attributes but my personality and talents…He had a plan. This was not just any plan. This was a specific and beautiful plan that would take 29 years for me to see what was happening. God has been putting this puzzle of my life together and I had yet to see what the picture could even begin to look like. It has been this last year of pieces that I’ve at last been able to glimpse at what the final puzzle could look like. The puzzle is just beginning, really. There’s so much more that He will add. And it’s stunning. It’s more beautiful than I could have dreamed.

I am humbled.

I am unworthy.

I don’t deserve this.

I know so many people that have desires, gifts and talents that they want to use for God but for some reason, the door hasn’t opened. They’re in places that they don’t understand. I’ve been there and it’s beyond painful to watch my dear friends go through it. My heart aches. I feel the excitement of seeing God’s puzzle for my life and I desire that for all of those around me. I want them to have that peace. I want them to have that joy. God's plans aren't my plans though. God's timing isn't my timing. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what God is doing.

I don’t deserve this.

When people tell me that they can’t believe that I’m going to move to Africa forever, I want to tell them that, really, I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I get to do what God has put in my heart to do…and what could possibly be better than that?

There’s nothing better.

I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sensing Memories

I told you about that wretched drive down to Atlanta this past weekend. Despite the frustrations, there was a positive.  It was the perfect time of year to take a road trip. The whole drive, I was enamored by the gorgeous trees that lined the road. Bright yellows, reds and oranges. It was downright distracting. I often caught myself smiling at the beauty, praising God for His beautiful display. He was seriously showing off...and I loved it.

So much of memory is in our senses: the smell, the taste, the touch, the sight, the sound. Fall is such a distinct season that all of these memories have been rushing back. The smell of cinnamon and apple pie. The stunning sight of trees changing color. The sound of leaves crunching beneath my shoe. The taste of pumpkin and apple cider. The feel of cold against my skin. I feel like I’m experiencing them all again for the first time with a child-like wonder. These were the kinds of senses that I missed while in Uganda.

Oddly enough, I was able to experience a sense of Uganda this past week. I stopped by my Kenyan parents (translation: a couple who are like my parents who are Kenyan) house for a quick visit.

Sidenote: It’s so weird how we’ve changed places. I first met my Kenyan parents when they were still living in Kenya on my first trip there. Now, I live in Africa and they live in America. Weird.

My Kenyan mom mentioned that they could buy cassava in Lynchburg. Cassava is a root that tastes like mashed potatoes but has a different texture. Very distinct. Very starchy. Very African. 

She went right away to the kitchen to make some for me. With my first bite, the memories came back. I was immediately transported back to Uganda. 

There I was in Gulu at our feeding center eating cassava with the kids.

There I was in our office eating the fried salty cassava that Francis brought in (which, to this day, was the best cassava that I’d ever had…probably because it was fried and salty). 

While I can’t say that I’ve been craving Ugandan food in the States (starch starch starch starch and more starch, anyone? Although if you put a plate of matooke with gnut sauce on top, I'd be all over it), it took me back to that place that I love and made me feel a little sense of home here.

What are some senses that bring back memories for you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Control Issues

You know those days when everything goes wrong? That was my Friday.

I planned to drive down to Atlanta yesterday at noon. I had reserved a car with a certain car rental company that rhymes with "Schmenterprise". After waiting 20 minutes in line behind some (shady) guy (who was getting asked about his full background info, making him seem even more shady), I was informed that they had no cars to rent. 

A car rental place. 
That I had reserved a car with. 
That had no cars. 

Something is very very wrong with this picture. They offered no help after that so I drove to another rental place (Hertz to the rescue!) and finally got on the road.

With an hour delay to my trip, I was ready to get to Atlanta. Sadly, Atlanta was apparently not ready to have me.

There was a major accident right before Charlotte. Major as in the entire interstate on the other side was completely blocked off. Three ambulances. One firetruck. Many police cars. Lots of stopped traffic. Once I got through that, it was all stopped again. Due to my numerous delays, I ended up hitting rush hour evening traffic all throughout South Carolina.

Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

I was really really ready to get to Atlanta.

I got to my friend’s house over two hours later than expected. We had decided to wait for dinner until I got there. Needless to say, we devoured dinner after 9pm.

I hit the point before I even left Lynchburg where I just gave up. Not in a bad way though. It was a giving up of control. I knew that I could do nothing that would change the situation so I just resolved that I would get there when I got there and not stress out about it. 

There’s so much in my life right now that I have no control over. Perhaps God was giving me a hint for everything else: “Give it up. You’re not in control. I AM.”

Easier said than done, right? 

What’s something that you’ve given up having control over?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkins and Witch Doctors

For many, Halloween conjures up childhood memories of dressing up in costumes and traversing around the neighborhood to get as much candy as possible. My childhood memories of Halloween are more along the lines of hiding in our basement with all the lights off. Halloween was the big no-no holiday. Our church didn’t even have any kind of Harvest Festival. It was the devil’s holiday and we steered clear. It wasn’t until college that I attended some Halloween costume parties and dressed up. I never carved a pumpkin until my first year in Uganda.

We expats on our compound celebrated Halloween and bought pumpkins to carve. Pumpkins in Uganda are green and much (much) harder to carve than American ones. I didn’t realize how much harder they were until I carved an American one this year. Adding to the difficulty in carving was that our electricity was on and off the entire night. We kept our headlamps on during carving and turned them on when needed.

It added to the adventure of it all, don’t you think?

I burned some pumpkin scented candles that my friends had sent me and we all tried to pretend that we were in the States for a night. Once we finished carving, we lit them and set them out on our porch.

We left them on the porch for a few days but with the Ugandan heat, it didn’t take them long to rot. My roommate tossed them near the wall of our compound to get them out of the way.

A couple days later, our day guard Biajo approached my roommate in concern: “Your neighbors have put a curse on you! They have taken these pumpkins, drawn horrible faces on them and thrown them over your wall. You have been cursed!”

We laughed and explained that silly American tradition to him which, I’m sure, still made absolutely no sense. Why would we carve such faces into pumpkins? And, actually, why do we? I should probably look that up.

It reminds me of the stronghold that witchcraft and spiritism have in Uganda. When I first studied Animism in my graduate program, all that I researched told me that as people moved to urban areas, their belief in the traditional religion decreased. Living in the capital city of Kampala for two years taught me that this wasn't true. Witch doctors are active. The beliefs of traditional religion seep into the church. Child sacrifice is growing in Uganda. I heard about it often while being there but news has been spreading thanks to the BBC highlighting the business of child sacrifice in Uganda, which has now spread abroad. The BBC went undercover in Uganda to show what a money maker killing children has become (read and watch here) but also that this has spread to England as children are abducted, smuggled into the country and sacrificed there (read and watch here). 
Crazy, right? It's so far out of what we think is possible in America. It's too horrific to even imagine. Not only is it happening but it's increasing and spreading. The spiritual battle is raging in Uganda. It confirms to me that where God is leading me is the right direction. More than rice, clean water or shoes, Uganda needs Christ.