Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Peter Pan

Last month my family went to Disney World.  (I know... Africa and Disney are two totally different worlds.... don't get me started!)  It was the first time for my niece, Hannah, who's two, and my nephew, Zeke, who's three.

Right before we left for Florida, Zeke watched Peter Pan, and he became a huge fan!  He started watching the movie over and over, and he rode the ride at least three times at the Magic Kingdom.  The boy even renamed his sister "Wendy-bird"!

On our last morning at the park, the weather was pitiful... misty, overcast, and pretty dreary.  We were hoping to see the "Dreams Come True" show in front of Cinderella's castle, but when showtime came, they made an announcement that the conditions weren't safe for the performers... I guess dancing on slick pavement in high heels or big Mickey shoes is a bad idea for anyone!  Instead of the performance, there would be a meet-and-greet with the characters from the show.  About this time, I saw Peter Pan and Wendy walking out from the castle.  Zeke was standing right next to me.  I said, "Zeke, look, it's Peter!"  I scooped him up and we took off running.  We were third in line.  Turns out, Peter eats ice cream for breakfast.  Let's just say, it was the highlight of a little boy's day.

Some people have no idea what they're missing.  They can't imagine what life can be like if they have a relationship with Jesus.  They can't see the potential.  But we can.  We see it.  And we know just how great it can be for them, if we can just get them to meet Jesus.  So that's our job:  to see Jesus coming toward them, take them by the hand, and start running. To stay with them the whole way.  Sometimes it's a long run.  And they might even turn around-- and that's their choice.  But we have to at least try to show them Jesus.  Point Him out.  Go with them, if that's what it takes.  The experience will be one that we both remember forever.

And who knows... we might find out that Jesus likes ice cream for breakfast, too.

5 Most Common (and Most Frustrating) Questions

Since I've been home, it's funny how the same questions keep coming up over and over and over again.   Most of the time, I don't mind answering.  But, every now and then, I get really frustrated with these questions.  And I know a lot of other returning missionaries get frustrated with them, too.  So please hear my heart in this... we aren't the same as we were when we left, and we don't see things the same way, either.  All that to say, here are the answers to those oh, so common questions....

5)  How was your trip?
This question drives me crazy!  It wasn't a trip-- it was a life.  I lived there, bought groceries there, paid bills there, had a phone number there, and made friends there.  When I moved there, I left behind a life I had built here, but when I came back home, I also left a life behind.

4)  Did you learn to speak African?
I know this may be difficult for our English-speaking minds to wrap around, but everyone in Africa doesn't speak the same language!  There are over 50 "local" languages in Uganda alone.  A lot of the time I did speak English, but English there isn't like English here... "African English" has different phrasing, vocabulary, even a different cadence.  I honestly had to re-learn how to speak English there!  (And please don't be surprised when African English works its way into my American conversations... it happens!)

3)  What's next?
I have no idea.  I feel like God's calling me into some kind of missions work, but from the US-side of things.  My heart is to help believers get involved in both local and international missions.  Right now, I'm just looking for someone who wants to pay me a salary to do it... any takers???

2)  Do you miss being there?
Power outages, dirty water, wandering livestock, and body odor?  Absolutely not.  Precious friends, piki-piki (motorcycle taxi) rides, hot tea in the shade, and ripe mangoes, passionfruit, and pineapple?  Every day.

1)  Are you glad to get back to real life?  
If there's anything I've learned, it's how this life we lead here in America really isn't all that real.  I don't say that to sound pretentious or judgmental.  I know that people here have real, day-in, day-out struggles.  People here are hurting with real problems.  But, in the big scheme of things, we have no clue what survival looks like to people outside these United States.  To live in abject poverty, not always sure where the next meal is coming from.  To choose between paying school fees for one child and buying life-saving medicine for another.  To walk a mile each way just to bring home 5 gallons of water.  Or to simply sit under a tree with a friend and drink tea.  That is real life.

Yes, I'm home...

I know.  It's been a while.  And I have to say, I'm a little embarrassed to get back on and admit that in the 4+ months since I've been home, I haven't been doing a whole heck of a lot of writing.  But hopefully, that's going to change.  There are a few things that have already gotten themselves down on paper, and I think there are more to come.  So no, I didn't get stuck in Uganda.  I just fell into the hole that is America.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Beginning of the End

The end is near.  My time in Uganda is rapidly drawing to a close, and I have to say that it's pretty strange to pack up the last two years of my life.  My clothes and other things not worth bringing back to the land of plenty are walking home with friends.  The "last hoorah"s have been planned.  The goodbyes have started.

This whole thing is bittersweet.  On one side, I am so ready to go home.  To see friends and family I've missed so much.  To get back to "comfortable" life.  To have a conversation and know I've been understood.  But then I think of all the precious people I've come to know and love here.  Women who have become good friends.  Kids who make my heart smile.  Girls who simply radiate Jesus.  Young men who have let Him get a hold of them and who will not be silent.  The simple truth is that most of these ones who are so dear to me, I won't see again this side of heaven.  I am reminded of this fact every time I see them, and they are well aware of it, too.

Which is why I'm so very thankful that this is not the end.  I will see my Ugandan brothers and sisters again, even if I never make it back to Arua.  And when I do see them, it won't be just them; we'll also be face-to-face with Jesus.  As much as I've truly loved worshipping with them here, I can't wait for us all to praise Him when He's physically with us.  Oh, what that day will be like!

And, as I think that though, God reminds me once again: this is only the beginning.

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 
And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, 
who sits on the Throne,
and to the Lamb." 
Revelation 7:9-10

Open House

Jack and Lawrence have started a new story group at a home in the Awindiri community. They were very excited about how the first fewweeks had gone, and asked me to come along, just to see how things were going.

When I got to the home, I was a little surprised that we were meeting on the narrow little porch in front of the house. Usually, people meet in places where they can spread out, preferably in a circle. But this porch is barely three feet wide, so everyone just sat in one long row and looked toward Jack and Lawrence, in the middle.

The other thing that stood out to me was how many kids were around the place. Now, children are one of the few things there's an abundance of in Africa, but there seemed to be more than usual here. I asked the father of the home how many children he had. As it turns out, he and his wife only had five children.   But there were many children in their extended family who had been orphaned or abandoned, and he and his wife saw they needed homes, so they took them in – ten of them!  In all, there were fifteen children in this home. The man and his  wife didn't expect any pats on the back or handouts from the government. They just knew that God said to take care of children, so that's what they did.

There are lots of problems with Africa, and many of them will never be fixed. But, at least in this area, they've got it right. They take care of each other. Their doors are open. We are "all most welcome." I hope I can carry just a bit of that back with me when I leave this place.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

Monday, September 13, 2010



My bucket list is just a little shorter today.  We made a surprisingly short drive from metro Cairo to Giza to see the Pyramids.  The whole thing really just blew my mind—it's just surreal.  You're driving down the freeway, you look over to your left, and there they are.  Right there.  And just as massive as you expect them to be. 

When we got into the "park," I just stood there, completely stunned.  A little overwhelmed.  I mean, what else can you do when you go to the pyramids but just stand there in awe?  I was dumbfounded—emphasis on the "dumb."  And I'm okay with that.

The pyramids at Giza are over 4000 years old.  They are massive.  Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, they're the only ones left.  Looking at them, even in the "ruined" state they're in today, it's easy to imagine how magnificent they were in their heyday.  Even the huge stone blocks that were the base and sides of the structure fit together meticulously, and each pyramid was completely covered in gleaming white alabaster to reflect the desert sun. 
We descended into one of the nearby queens' pyramids.  The (backwards) climb down was awkward and pretty claustrophobic, but well worth it—I mean, I've been inside a pyramid… and I have the pictures to prove it!

The Sphinx is nearby, and we totally could have walked to it… but why walk when you can ride a camel?  Again, it's one of those things that's awkward and not exactly comfortable, but absolutely worth it!  My camel driver, who led my camel on foot, tried several times to climb up and ride with me, but, um, no such luck.  He asked if I had a husband, and I said yes without batting an eye.  (I think of it as less of a lie and more a statement of faith.  I have a husband—I just haven't met him yet!)  Our little caravan of 13 camels went around the back of the 3 famous pyramids and came out just below the Sphinx.  He's a lot smaller than you'd expect… but he's still stinkin' cool.
I know the pyramids and the Sphinx were man-made.  And they were built as part of a totally pagan system of worship.  Which makes me sad.  But the truth is, these things are mind-blowing.  And even more mind-blowing is the thought that ancient people created them with very primitive tools.  Even today, with all the resources we have, it would be nearly impossible to recreate these structures.  And yet, they did it.

Almost as astonishing to me is the idea that God gave the ancient Egyptians the knowledge and skills they needed to create the Pyramids.  No, they didn't worship Him.  They didn't even acknowledge Him.  They took the knowledge and understanding of the world around them and worshipped people and false gods instead, just as He knew they would.  But He gave them these breath-taking skills and ideas anyway.  He didn't have to.  Knowing they would worship the sun and everything else under it, the Creator God could have chosen to vastly limit what he Egyptians could do.  But He didn't.  It's the definition of grace.

Rules of the Road


In Egypt, people drive on the right-hand side of the road. That doesn't sound like a big deal, because it's pretty normal. Except that I've spent close to two years in Uganda. In Uganda, we're supposed to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I say "supposed to" because, when you account for all the pedestrians and bicycles we pass, and all the time we spend trying to dodge potholes big enough to swallow a small car, we spend as much time straddling the middle of the road as anywhere else. Even after all this time, I still have moments when I think, "Now, exactly where on the road am I supposed to be?"

One thing that Uganda and Egypt, and India, and Kenya, and Zambia, and Thailand, and Tanzania all have in common is the general disregard for any traffic laws. You drive as fast as you can, wherever you need to, to get where you're going. You drive until a police officer forces you to stop. Whoever is biggest or in front has the right of way. Horns are the accepted and expected form of communication. Four lanes of traffic can accommodate at least six cars across. The number of passengers a vehicle can carry is only determined by how many people can fit inside. You do what you gotta do to get where you want to go. It's often breath-taking, sometimes scary, and always an adventure.

There's just one problem with these adventures in transportation: In six weeks, I go back to America. In America, people expect you to pay attention to the red lights. They want you to take turns at a four-way stop. The lines on the freeway are there for a reason. And you sure as heck better stay on the right side of the road.

I can drive in Africa. In Africa, I'm a great driver. But I have to admit, with good reason, I'm a little concerned about my driving habits once I get back to the States. I'm sure I'll have no idea where my car is supposed to be. I'll probably run a few stop signs. And I can't promise I won't try to make my own lane on I-85.

I say all this as a disclaimer. I'm sure that, in time, I'll be a good American driver again. I have no doubt I'll be an excellent defensive driver, since all the maniacs on the road here have given me plenty of practice. It just might be a good idea to give me a few weeks to get used to following the rules before you ride with me.   Unless you want an adventure. Let's just hope the police have some grace for a girl who's been driving in Africa!