August 16, 2016

Reflections on a Recent Events

The end of July, on Jia's birthday, the Steiners and I went out the village where Hellen, their foster baby's family lives.  It was a wonderful day despite falling sick with malaria that afternoon.  haha!  

We visited with Hellen's dad and watched as Hellen was carried all over by the many children running around.  She screamed most of the time--even though she wasn't necessarily enjoying herself, it is somewhat comical to watch her feel more comfortable with white people than with her own African family.  Measures are being taken to rebuild her relationship with her family and people.  It was beautiful to see a widowed father with ten children so desire to keep his baby girl.  It is  wonderful to see the process of the reuniting take place!

Soon after we arrived in the village, we all went for walk with a large group of kids while Hellen stayed home--out of sight, out of mind.  We walked to the top of a large hill made of rock piles where we could look out over the area.  It was so beautiful!  (And I forgot my camera) :(  We walked to the top of another hill made of rock and on the other side of it was a crevice in the rock where water collected in a small pool.  This is where they go to bathe rather than drawing water and bathing in a basin.  

Most of the day was spent visiting with Hellen's dad while sitting in the shade of the trees in their yard.  Just before we prepared to leave, they served us chicken and rice and millet bread.  Millet bread isn't actually bread, it's like posho made with millet flour.  I felt so bad that we weren't able to eat very much of the huge meal this poor family so generously offered to us!  They butchered two of their chickens for our meal and made a huge platter of rice that wasn't even half gone by the time we finished.  I can never truly understand the cost of such a meal for a family like this.  

There are so many people here with which I have encountered extraordinary generosity.  They give and serve and support each other and seek to honor their guests in ways that many of us Americans know little to nothing about.  In the midst of it all, I have a great internal struggle going on in regards to money and giving and trusting the Lord.  It is a good struggle but a hard one to remedy fully both with a heart condition and actions that glorify God.  Where does money fit into the life of a missionary is something I constantly find myself asking?  Not only in the area of fundraising but in giving and supporting people on the ground in the midst of living on a tight budget.  (seriously, if anyone has any thoughts in regards to this issue, please write me!)

I hinted at an incident in a recent post that relates to this issue that I'd like to share with you.  Please know that I have great respect for all persons mentioned in this story and I do not share it to put anyone down.

I recently learned that a boda driver died as the result of an accident he was in.  I didn't know him personally but Dominic was known by the group of boda drivers who cluster and wait for customers at the end of IHOP's road and often drive me around town.  One afternoon last week I learned that he had died but didn't think too much of it after that.  It wasn't until Friday during lunch hour that the full situation hit my heart like a ton of bricks.  The lead pastor at House of Prayer shared that he knew Dominic and back when the accident had first happened, had received a call from him.  

The young man was in the hospital as a result of his accident and was calling the pastor to ask for financial help so he could get treatment for his wounds.  The pastor didn't have money to help and was in the midst of moving a couple of hours away and so spaced out praying for Dominic.  We have all known about someone who needed prayer and because life is busy we don't stop to pray for them.  Dominic got tetanus and died last week.  I know the pastor has struggled with this situation feeling that if he had even prayed for healing, Dominic might still be alive.  When I learned of this and that Dominic needed only $20.00 to receive the treatment that may likely have preserved his life, I was so deeply grieved by all the factors that played into this situation.  

I am grieved for my friend and pastor who perhaps feels responsible in some way; I hope very much that he is allowing the truth of Christ in this to penetrate his heart and mind.  I am grieved for all who knew him and were helpless to do anything for him.  I am frustrated that I didn't know of the need that could have made a difference.  The Lord knows the day and time of our deaths but is it really His will for something like this to happen?  He know is it will happen and He allows it to but does He want it to?  I have really struggled to know how to handle things like this and what to think.  

What is Daily Life Like in Uganda? Part 2

Don't:  The other day, I was walking towards home and eating an apple as I walked.  A middle aged Ugandan gentleman walked up beside me, pointed at my apple and said, "That is very un-Ugandan of you."  Apparently Ugandans don't stand or walk to eat.  You must be sitting down.  I stopped eating as we walked along together chatting.  After a little while he said, "it's ok. Eat.  You are Mzungu not Ugandan."  Oh the things we white people can get away with just because... haha!

Food:  Posho and beans is the most common Ugandan meal I have had here.  It is served every day for lunch at the House of Prayer.  I will definitely not miss eating Posho... It is water and corn flour boiled until it's one big pile of white food.  It is so filling and has no flavor and gets somewhat slimy when mixed with bean sauce.
However, rice, matoke (cooked, mashed plantains), beef with soup (beef stew), various greens, G nut sauce (peanut sauce), chicken, and anything else I've eaten so far is unlike anything I've ever tasted despite the ingredients not really being so unusual; and it is so delicious!!!  Flavia and her mom, Matron Lucy are amazing cooks and I hope to learn from them so I can share the pleasures of Ugandan cuisine with you all!  Completed by eating with your fingers!

Church:  I have been attending a church called Generation who's pastor is also the pastor who recently took over leadership at the House of Prayer.  It is a small church with more than half the congregation made up of kids but it's like going to church with family.

Worship/Prayers:  The worship style is a mixture of traditional African songs, westernized songs that are still local, and American praise songs.  Everything is LOUD!  I am often tempted to wear ear plugs at church and lunch hour at HOP because it's so loud.  I have loved learning the local songs even though most of the time, I have no idea what's being sung about.  The enthusiasm with which people worship is just awesome!!

One thing that I have struggled to fully embrace are the LOUD vocal prayers that are spoken all at once within a group or congregation.  There is power for sure in speaking prayers out loud and proclaiming what's in your heart to the Lord.  I find it so distracting in the midst of my own prayers.  The most powerful times I have spent with God are in the mornings when it's quiet in the House of Prayer and just music playing and people quietly doing personal devotions.  When everyone is praying out loud though, I find myself unable to think or know what my thoughts are in order to voice anything.  I find myself flip flopping between loving the power that comes from community prayers lifted aloud to the Lord and wishing for silence so I can hear the Lord's voice and not just hear myself and everyone else's words.

Bodas:  I have written about bodas before but I tell you, they continue to be a regular part of daily adventures.  Recently, Flavia, Jia, and I all rode on one boda.  I don't expect to ever ride a small dirt bike sized motorcycle with four people on board again!! hahaha!!

When you tell the driver where to go, you can't tell fully if they know where you've said to go or if they are just going to fudge their way there; sometimes it's not until a wrong turn was made that you realize he has no idea where to go...

They fly by you so close you could reach out and touch you; usually in order to avoid other bodas who are avoiding massive potholes in the rode.  And they will not stop for you, if you're crossing the road, be alert cause you might be taken out...

Mzungus:  I haven't taken on the challenge of counting how many times in one day that some one says, "MZUNGU HOW ARE YOU?!"  I did all caps cause people yell out to you from all sides.  Kids, adults, teens, babies, doesn't matter.  Most of the time I either acknowledge them or casually ignore it and don't let it bother me but some days, I just want to be able to go somewhere unnoticed... Impossible.  I feel like there's a lesson in here, probably related to my heart's response to people who aren't necessarily doing anything wrong.


August 14, 2016

"Divine Interuptions"

I'm going to take the liberty of sharing a "thought for the week" that my pastor, Jeffrey Evans sent our congregation recently.  It resonates a lot with a recent situation that happened in Tororo--not to do with trafficking but concerning the needs of others in life and death situations that we, in our ignorance or lack of compassion and action, fail to bring the Gospel.  I was deeply affected by the incident here and felt a sense of grief for my own ignorance.  I will share the story in a bit but here's the thought:

    "I found myself speaking at a conference in Greece around the time that a little girl named Madeline went missing in Portugal. Her picture was plastered across the TV, in airports, and in magazines. Interpol was searching for this little girl everywhere. I was, of course, very saddened by the disappearance of this little girl, but I didn't know her.  I hadn't met her... Then I saw a second poster for another girl that was missing. This child was named Sophia -- the same name as my second daughter... Suddenly these missing children weren't numbers. They weren't posters and they weren't statistics. They were real -- someone's daughters. Someone's sisters and classmates. I stopped and began to wonder if that were MY Sophia on that poster, what would I do to find her? What wouldn't I give up to see her safe? 

    I later found out that these children were the alleged victims of human trafficking, something that at that time I didn't even know existed. I assumed that the slave trade was abolished with William Wilberforce, but I was wrong. On my watch, in my generation, the current state of slavery has been flourishing in the dark rooms of the world.  With all our great Christian gatherings, our tremendous churches, our wealth of worship songs and resources, right now in the 21st century, there are more slaves on earth than ever before.  It was incomprehensible to me.  How could this be true? How could this happen in our day?   Yet it's true. During our day, more people are being trafficked and sold for labor or sex than ever before in human history. This is unacceptable not merely from the standpoint of human rights; it's unacceptable from the standpoint of the teachings of Jesus...

    With knowledge comes responsibility. We know the slave trade is alive and well right now. We know this, and because we do, we are responsible to do something about it... We might be tempted to equate compassion with getting sad watching a movie or hearing a story. That's not compassion; that's sentiment.  Compassion isn't compassion until you are actually interrupted. It's not real until it inspires you to action.  It was the action of the Good Samaritan, not his sentiment, that separated him from the others that walked by the beaten man on the side of the road... In our choice about whether to cross the road, we must begin by realizing that at one point or another, we were the one lying in the ditch and Jesus crossed the road for us.

     I am a rescued person. I did not discover I was adopted until I was thirty-three years old. Though our parents never told us the truth, on a single day we discovered this family secret and the truth was jarring to say the least. Suddenly I didn't know who I was.  I didn't know whether I was conceived in an adulterous affair or a one-night stand. I didn't know if I was the result of a rape or an underage pregnancy.  But as the panic set in, the Lord reminded me I didn't have to know the specific facts to know who I am... I may not know who I was, but I know who I am; I have been rescued by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Jesus walked across the road between heaven and earth so that I might cross the road for the sake of others.  I was saved by grace that I might walk in the way Jesus did in the world. This is the plan of God -- to use rescued people to rescue people... Jesus has set us free so that we might set others free. He rescued us so that we might rise up, reach back, and rescue others... It could be any one of the twenty-seven million slaves in the world right now.  But that twenty-seven million must cease to be a number.  Just like you and me, these people are living, breathing human beings created in the image of Almighty God, full of God-given destiny and God-given promise. The same Jesus who set me free can set them free, but how will they hear those words if we do not go tell them? How will they ever know the truth if we, together, don't raise our voices and declare that we will not allow this injustice to prevail? The Apostle Paul said that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), and we must take that declaration to the world.

     Not long ago I was sitting at one of our shelters with Sonia, one of fourteen rescued victims. One of these young women, one that wasn't a statistic anymore, began telling me about how she was shipped to Istanbul in a container with sixty girls. During the trip, the oxygen tank broke, and when the crate was actually opened, thirty of the girls were dead.  The ones left alive had no passports because the traffickers had taken them. They were locked in an apartment and raped several times a day by men wearing law-enforcement uniforms, so the girls would not trust the police. Then, they were put in a little rubber dingy to be taken from Istanbul to Athens through the Greek Islands. While en route, the traffickers were spotted by a coast guard patrol, and so they threw the girls overboard. Keep in mind that these girls were from villages and had barely seen running water, let alone been in a body of water to swim. Only five survived. Sonia was one of them. 

    She was eventually brought to our shelter when police raided a brothel in Athens. It was about that time in this unbelievable story that a Russian girl sitting near us (who had been rescued only one day before Sonia) began to ask me loudly in broken Greek: "Why did you come?" As best I could I began to tell her about how Jesus had rescued me and so I wanted to help her. I told her that God has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for her life; that it didn't matter what she had gone through -- God was big enough to redeem her past. But it's what she said next that I'll never forget. As I was telling her this good news, she yelled back at me, "If what you are telling me about your God is true, then why didn't you come sooner?"

     Why didn't I come sooner? Those words are haunting. What is so important in our temporal lives that will distract us from the eternal purpose God put us on earth for? What deserves more attention than the very people Jesus died for?  Safety, comfort and security are NOT the goal of Christianity; freedom is.  And because it is, we must rise together to declare that this will not happen on our watch.  Not today.  Not ever again." 

                                         ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "I have heard many sermons on the Old Testament passages which speak of the "watchmen" posted on the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Men who scanned the roads and dark outlines of the surrounding terrain all day long, and all night long, watching for danger or any signs of the approach of invading armies. But Christine is right. As Christians we are to do more that simply watch out for threats to the people of God, or the Church. We are to watch out for evil and injustice wherever it occurs, and sound the alarm for other's outside "Jerusalem" who are being mistreated, abused, or are victims of the new forms of human labor or sex slavery.  Many of these victims who are forced into labor or prostitution are children as young as 11 years old (some younger). The question is what are we doing to stop it? To use her words, "we must rise together (as the Church) and declare that this will not happen on our watch."  We are placed on the walls to ensure such things do not go unnoticed or unaddressed. "


    "The question facing the Church in every generation is: Will we speak up?  Will we somehow get involved?  Will we take the necessary risks and make the necessary sacrifices? Or will we turn a blind eye, and like the majority (at least here in the States), pretend it's not happening around us so we can continue to pursue the three gods of our culture -- "safety, comfort and security."  If it were your 11, 12, or 13 year old daughter (or son) would you simply express your sad "sentiment" or would you be "moved by compassion" to do something to put an end to such evil -- even if your part is to rescue just one of the twenty-seven million slaves worldwide?  God has placed you as watchmen on the walls -- will you allow such a thing to happen on your watch without lifting your voice, or pen, or hands to do something to stop it? As the old Christian hymn declares: "Rise Up Oh Church of God..."  Will we?   Will we think, "How sad..." or will we be,  "moved by compassion...""

August 2, 2016

What is Daily Life Like in Uganda? Part 1

What is daily life like in Uganda?  This is a common question I have received from many of you.  It's certainly a hard one to describe because there's almost nothing the same about living here compared to living in the US.  But here's a few things that a part of daily life that will hopefully give you a glimpse.

I sleep under a bug net which is weirdly romantic!  My bug net is huge and long; it is ruffly at the top with sparkly palm trees woven into the netting and there is lace trim both around the opening and along the bottom.  It's like a functional canopy bed or something like that!  The worse is when a mosquito gets in the net and I sleep paranoid that it's going to bite me but it's impossible to find one single mosquito.  Oooorrr, even worse is when a cockroach gets in the net and darts all over the bed frame hiding and crawling and oh my goodness it is terrifying!! Thankfully, my lovely Ugandan friend Flavia was staying over night and she bravely took care of it for me!

In the evenings when we are sitting in the living room hanging out, we swat mosquitoes both for survival from malaria and as a "sport."  Dustin and Moriah have electrified tennis rackets that we chase mosquitoes around with.  It is amazingly entertaining!  But I suck at it.  I have realized the full extent of my terrible hand-eye coordination, I can't hit a mosquito with 10 inch wide tennis racket!! Oh dear!

In addition to basically always having dirty feet, the floors are always dirty!  Even after they are freshly swept and mopped, I can walk around my house barefoot and the bottoms will turn a lovely shade of reddish brown.  I had a revelation a while back... Most often the floors of houses are painted brick red.  It's not a bad color but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized it's a functional color. It hides the dirt that would stain any other color.

I have started walking everywhere I go which means my feet are disgusting!!  Unless you wear close toed shoes, if you walk your feet will be a different color by the time you get home.  The red dirt is really fine and when mixed with sweat and oil on your feet, well they are always in need of scrubbing in the evening.  Sometimes I get excited thinking that my feet are getting tan but no, they are just dirty.  haha!

The roads are always busy with people walking, bodas zooming around, cars speeding by, taxi vans, bicycles carrying unbelievable loads.  I think that crossing the street is the most terrifying thing that I face on a regular basis.  I usually try to time it when someone else is crossing so I can "follow" them. I seriously feel I'm going to get hit one day but people just drive around you.  It is similar to crossing the sometimes 7 lanes of traffic in Egypt except there it was all going the same direction.  Here, I get myself confused because people drive on the left instead of the right so I always get confused which way people are going to be coming from, when.  It is just hard!

It is so so sunny!!!  Unfortunately the sun is incredibly powerful that I can't be out in it too long without getting scorched but I love it!!  I am resisting frequent urges to go sit out in the sun and soak it up cause I know my skin will hate me for it later... It's so beautiful outside though! The world always looks so alive and I feel like I can appreciate it more when it pours and gets all windy and stormy!

There is a pretty diverse range of what people wear.  There is definitely a more socially acceptable way of dressing depending on where we are.  In Kampala women can get away with wearing much more western clothing.  In Tororo it's pretty scandalous for women to wear long shorts or pants; I tried it once last week.  Never again! I felt so scantily clad! haha!  But most commonly we women wear skirts and short sleeves or tank tops or dresses.  African women really like to wear fitted clothing!  The more it accentuates the hips the better!  I feel like I can't get over my constant trying to hide my hips as much as possible so this style is a hard one for me to embrace.  I love wearing skirts all the time though!  It reminds me of my childhood when I hated wearing pants and wore dresses everyday!  If you look nice people will respond and say, you are looking smart today (said with a british ish accent).

I'll do a few more posts like this so stay tuned....