Uganda

My adventures in the African country of Uganda

The Evangelical Approach to Gay Lifestyle Abroad

If the Church can’t win the marriage rights battle in America, is it right to seek justice and victory in other countries?

Take a look at this video (or read the article):

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/power-players-abc-news/culture-war-film-links-u-s–evangelicals-to-intolerance-against-gays-in-uganda-191437464.html?vp=1

This is my opinion, but maybe this will force you to think…how do you feel about this? How does this representation of the American Church sit with you? Is it accurate? Inaccurate? Is it justified or is it wrong? Are we representing the Kingdom of God the way the Lord would want us to? Is this how Jesus would have acted?

I read this article  before a weekend outreach trip to SF and have just now watched the video.
How interesting this is.
I DO believe that there is perverted evangelism going on (especially in other countries) that are concerned more about political interests and conversion of souls than about the compassion that Jesus modeled for us. At the same time, to put the title “God Loves Uganda” on a movie that is attacking the overall American evangelical church is really jumping the gun and is definitely an attack against the Church. It sounds like this movie is trying to make a statement on behalf of Christians that Lesbians and Gays are good. The Christians is Uganda who have recanted of their LGBT-hating ways must move from believing that Gays and Lesbians are monsters (one extreme) to believing they’re in the right (the other extreme) to finding a balance based on Scripture says:  “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Thus, they cannot be good; no one is good. God hates sin. Sexual Immorality is sin, but there is grace offered for that, along with all sin. Love and compassion is to be had, tolerance is not. It does not surprise me that some evangelical organizations/churches would take this aggressive approach in a developing country such as Uganda. It also doesn’t surprise me that the media would take that and run with it, putting words in the mouth of the Church as a whole.

Fellow believers, we are to be weary of this. One, weary of having a hateful demeanor and imposition upon other culture, being forceful with the gospel and political views at one time while lacking in compassion.
We are ALSO to be weary of the way media seeks to portray us and make the Church look like a full-blown political and cultural enemy, at times.

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Here and there. Then and now.

Sometimes life gets a bit confusing. You don’t know who you are or what you’re really about. Well, you know, but it’s as if you subtly deny it and pretend you don’t know. And an attitude of such, of such mystery, is both fascinating and terrifying all at the same time.

Do I have inspirational thoughts? Sometimes I feel as though I do. I’m glad I got to share these with the world for four months, but now that I’m back, I’m pretty sure many of those readers will stop caring about what I have to say…in approximately one months or less that is. You have to allow that post-travel vibe to die off slowly.

You know, I was nothing special in Uganda and I’m nothing special back here on home soil. My thoughts, challenges, and conclusions remain the same. Perspective? The same. Opinion? The same. Religious views? The same. I am the same….the same, but different. Isn’t that just so complicated? Not really. We are always changing, as human beings in a dynamic world, but our inner us, the “Emily” God created me to be since day 1 of my life…is still the same.

I’m not going to pretend to understand this concept, because I don’t. This is just what they call processing…just processing folks.

Perhaps now is the time to sidestep the abstract and walk into the concrete world. Because, believe it or not, I do have discernible feelings, concerns and thoughts. One of those is, no doubt,  mr. dear muzungu. I’ve stepped back into America and now have left my house. Today during jury duty lunch break, I went walking downtown. I watched people interact with those they know and don’t know. I listened to passing conversations occurring as colleagues  walk down the street together. I observed all the different facial expressions, outfits, self-decor, postures. As I observe and study, I think of Muzungu. I wonder what I would think of his disposition were I to see him just passing down the street. Would he look like he was displaced? I wonder how he would feel. How interesting it is how much outward wear and expression says about a person. I am more or less doing the same thing I was doing four months ago when I first entered Uganda.

 

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Home sweet/challenging/growth grounds Home

Southwest Airlines and I was right back where I started four short months ago. Back on American soil…back to being surrounded by time-conscious people, endless good options, white skin, American accents, controlled roads, commercialism, breaking news, and the list goes on.

I was back… I am back. Back to where I started…or was I? I find myself continuously, “what am I going to do, how am I going to act, how will I think that’s different than the Emily that left Sacramento airport back in August?”

I’ve already been noticing the small differences in my mannerisms compared to the typical integrated American. Greetings are practically non-existent and if they do happen…short and sweet. I found myself lingering when handling boarding passes or signing receipts and those serving me saying something like “you’re good” as if to send me on my way. I’ve yet to find it offensive…just different.SAMSUNG

While I can’t wait to see and be back in life at home and watch how it goes and doesn’t change, I am fearful for myself… I fear reintegration to some degree. I fear pride and arrogance and a self-absorbed attitude…subtly thinking “It’s all about my amazing experience and what I learned. You should be benefiting from my words and thoughts”.

At our debriefing sessions in Entebbe, I took note that instead of expecting everyone to have grace with me in my transition, I need to be having grace with them and meeting them where they are at. It’s a lot easier said than done, however. I pray to God that while I continue to struggle, grow, learn, and be challenged, that this will also be a smooth and loving Christmas season as I reunite with friends and family one group at a time and one step at a time.

To any USPer’s who may be reading this, I will be asking the Lord for the same thing for you.

God has blessed me more than I even know and I owe Him an attitude that brings glory to His name. It’s the very least I can do in expression of my gratefulness.

Tears of joy well up inside me as I realize all of this. I left home, went and live in Ugandan and now I am back. I am home.

From everlasting to everlasting, Faithful is the Lord Almighty.

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Not a Final Goodbye

As I sit here in the IMME room on campus, I am surrounded by luggage and somber students who are quietly shedding tears after having been forced to say goodbye to those that they came to call “family”. All that I have borrowed is checked in, my bags are packed. I have bid goodbye to my siblings, to my Mama, to my neighbors, and soon must bid goodbye to the young man I’ve come to admire so much.

This feeling is so surreal. We always say this wherever we go, but the time went by so fast. Four months seemed like forever when I returned from that first 10-day trip to Rwanda and realized it was time to actually settle down and start living life in this different and new context.

Now, it’s time to depart. This hurts, especially because I know I will come back here someday…someday. So knowing that, doesn’t give my mind permission to start erasing faces, memories, voices… it’s actually easier to try and turn away completely knowing you’ll never see those people again. But I WILL see them again…and I love these people. My heart misses them already.

I love this place. It’s become my second home and I am leaving part of my heart here buried in African soil. Thus, this could not possibly be a final goodbye….

But until that later point, goodbye Uganda…I’ll see ya when I see ya. ❤

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Let’s Call This…”Final Deep-Thinking Thoughts”

This semester has gone by incredibly quickly. It is so hard to believe that four months of my life has now passed and not only passed, but passed while simply living life in Uganda. It is hard to believe that in 6 days I have to take myself and my bags and walk away from my home here and from people that I love, only return to those that love me on the other side of the world. It has been amazing to take time to read back through my blogs, my journal and all of my thoughtful assignments written for Faith and Action class and reflect on where I started four months ago and where God has now brought me along with everything that has occurred all along the way that has affected the growth, joy, and pain that I have experienced here. And while reading and thinking, I think the common theme that I found was how I really am not in control, but rather God is and He has prearranged everything happening in my life to provoke growth in me in different ways. And that’s not all. I realized how far beyond me my God is. Even my intense experience of living cross-culturally for four months is so tiny in His eyes as He looks upon the whole world and sees every heart and life. Nevertheless, my presence and experience here still matters to Him. It continues to blow my mind. At one point I felt my lack of control was a bad thing, bound to have a sore effect on me. As Kevin DeYoung says in his book Just Do Something,

“They refuse to make a decision without all the facts and an almost complete assurance that everything will turn out fine” (DeYoung 28-29).

I’d like to call that a lack of faith and peace at heart. The mere decision of coming to Uganda counteracted that statement, but once I was here, I felt the need for control and knowledge again. Now, I am feeling at peace with it as I have seen God’s hand take every occurrence, both the good and the bad, and mold me through it.

Mama next to me while I'm cooking fried chicken for dinner!

Mama next to me while I’m cooking fried chicken for dinner!

One of the first things this semester that left me feeling as if I wasn’t handling life properly and was completely losing control was the issue of stereotypes. Even that first day walking down the streets of Mukono, being called out at: “Mzungu! Mzungu!” and having all eyes on us, left me knowing that I wasn’t going to get to completely blend in. While I was sitting here complaining about stereotypes that I felt Ugandans had formed for mzungus and even forming my own stereotypes about Ugandan men, I was also verbally disciplining family, friends, and community back home that had implied some of their African stereotypes when talking to me on the phone or email. In realizing this, I wrote in my journal on September 9th, “Stereotypes has become a bitter word on my tongue, a bitter, bitter word.” Then, I had to come clean in confession of my hypocritical attitude, and publicly through my blog. This was a relinquishment of control to be sure. In regards to my developing stereotype of Ugandan males, I wrote on October 9th,

“I have to let God work on me, not make Him work on them. And I just cannot let new stereotypes build while living in the midst of Ugandans while I am preaching against African stereotypes occurring back home…This week I am choosing to take every morning and lay my developing stereotypes about Ugandan males at the feet of Jesus, asking Him to give me strength to set it aside and treat everyone like He would have treated them”.

Ever since letting go of my own thoughts and assumptions and giving that to God, many of those strong opinions went away and opened the door to less stress and more joy in both personal and casual relationships.

It’s not that I can only think of God as a Western god, adhering to American culture in every which way. It’s not that I couldn’t imagine God being sovereign over the lives of Ugandan Christians as well as American Christians. It’s just that it took some effort on my part to be able to honor and respect the way that the Lord is worshipped, prayed to, spoken of here in Uganda. There are some things I found harder to conform to. In fact, I chose not to conform with many things. I remember at one point writing a letter to the Lord in my journal, expressing my need to worship Him, but feeling lacking because of the irregular attendance of church and even spiritual family setting. I wrote,

“Lord, I really need to have my heart opened to different ways of worshipping you rather than just the ways that appeal to my personality and senses.”

eating icecream in Kampala. yum!

eating icecream in Kampala. yum!

My Mom made a good point in one of her emails to me, saying how many followers of the Lord had to worship Him from prison cells with nothing but the spirit to “use” as a resource. They didn’t get their way in what kind of music or sanctuary setting they felt most comfortable in.  I knew after reading her words, that this was going to be a challenge for me as I was, once again, not in control. And I’ll admit, I haven’t faithfully pursued this challenge. I’ve actually avoided it somewhat, by not going to church. My Ugandan Mama doesn’t push the issue, so I just let it slip under the table for the most part.

But for some time, this issue left me feeling rather discontented. Not only did I feel bad about simply not going to church, but I felt as if my lack of designated worship time was creating some sort of barrier between the Lord and myself. It was as if I had complete control over what the Lord did in my life and how He spoke to me and if I didn’t give Him my time in the preconceived ways I felt were right, He was going to let me drift away and leave me be. It was at this point in time that I wrote down in my journal these two verses: Psalm 139: 7, saying “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” and Philippians 2:13- “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” While I was losing control of life situations, certain relationships that weren’t going exactly the way I had imagined them, and even how the Lord and I were “supposed” to connect, the God had His master plan in pending and there was truly nothing going wrong. A certain book that a friend gave me before I left is called Calm My Anxious Heart, by Linda Dillow. Contentment is a key issue that Dillow writes about and one simple phrase of hers left me thinking:

“And when you do learn the secret of contentment, you will see God in a new way”. (Dillow).

A large part of being content was being willing to let go of the need to understand and control every situation and let the Lord work “according to His good purpose”. Often times, that good purpose of His is not in line with what we see as a good purpose to our life situations. But inevitably, the Lord’s purpose is better. And whether or not we are pursuing His will or purpose, we cannot flee from Him and He will be having His way. There is no reason not to be content in that. In fact, being content in that idea allowed my mind to see the Lord as that much more sovereign and in control than I am…very beyond me, my capabilities, my plans.

By October 28th, a certain contentment in letting the Lord have His way in me and not being in control had set in. We were on our way back from rural homestays, spending those last two days of the trip at Sipi Falls. In reflection, I wrote:

                        “Lord, to this day here in Uganda, I do not know exactly why you brought me here. But here is what I do know…you have a purpose in all and there are specific reasons as to why I am here experiencing every relationship and cultural encounter that I am. Even when I don’t understand why I am where I am at right now, it’s truly amazing that you know all of these things in advance.”

Much of this realization and sense of comfort was centered around having those certain days when I honestly did not know what I was doing here. Academically, I often felt what I was doing was pointless. Socially, some days were better than others. Spiritually, who knew what effects I was or was not having on those around me. Some days I realized I had tried to take back control and had to re-give it to the Lord. I wanted to feel valued here, as if my presence was worth something very special to someone. Donald Miller in his book Searching For God Knows What, compares this need for value with oneself and many others being in a lifeboat and if one doesn’t get thrown over, the boat is going to sink and everyone is going to die. Thus, the crowd on the boat has to decide whose life is least valuable:

“I feel like I am in a lifeboat trying to get other people to say I am important and valued, and even when they do, it feels as though their opinion isn’t strong enough to give me the feeling I need…” (Miller 109).

What was I worth to culture, to USP, to UCU, to my Ugandan family? Was I worth anything? Should I even need to feel like I am worth anything or is that me just needing control once again?

Muzungu, his sister Ruth and her daughter Blessing.

Muzungu, his sister Ruth and her daughter Blessing.

Something else hit me. There is very little by which I get to be identified by in the eyes of everyone around me. What they know about me and my life is very limited. On November 4th, I wrote in my journal: “I don’t get to be defined based on what music I listen to, how I sing or play piano, how I cook, and all other things that make me who I am at home in America. I realized that I greatly long to reveal those things to those I have been investing in and be that much more valued in return.” The fact of the matter is that I am, once again, not grasping very much control in the situations where people decide in their minds who I am. They get to judge by my actions and whatever else they can directly see in me, but not by anything that I get to deliberately display to them. Integrated in with the issue of identity and worrying about how I am being seen by others is the issue of displacement. By being okay with being displaced, I can come to terms with the fact that I am not entitled to the same means of identifying myself as I would be in my own comfort zone…and that’s actually okay. In his book Compassion, Henry Nouwen says, “Once we begin to experience our actual physical, mental, and emotional displacements as forms of discipleship and start to accept them in obedience, we become less defensive and no longer need to hide our pains and frustrations.” (Nouwen 71) Pain and frustration come with the territory, but contentment with the situation does not; that is why we have to work toward being content with that which comes with displacement and lack of identifying ourselves just as we might wish. It’s no longer in our control, why try to fight it?

So, the ends justify the means, right? During this time of reflection, I have pondered to myself what exactly I am going to do with all this. How am I going to benefit from all this learning once I return back home to America? The repetitive realization that we lack control over all situations that involve us is good enough advice to give to anyone in passing. However, how this will most significantly affect me will begin with my relationship with Muzungu…the ultimate situation here in Uganda in which I experienced everything not landing within my agenda, plans or control. Not only was I not planning on being in a relationship for a long while back in the states, but I had no desire whatsoever to begin a relationship here in Uganda. But push came to shove, and I found myself in a relationship with a wonderful young man…one that, after I leave, I may not see again for years. How much control does it actually look like I have over this situation? But the Lord obviously had it in His agenda as He brought us both together with a small amount of effort on each of our parts. What in the world am I supposed to do with this relationship once returning back home to the states where I will be interrogated and my good judgment will be questioned? I have an answer to that: I will live within the contentment and releasing of control that I had to adopt for combatting stereotypes, for dealing with identity and displacement, for wondering how well I was worshipping my Lord, and for trying so hard to understand why everything was happening to me the way that it was. The Lord worked according to His good purpose in all these issues throughout the semester and He will continue to do so as I depart back to the states, turning a see-each-other-daily relationship into a cross-continental one.

Doesn’t it come down to faith? Faith is believing what you cannot see…this includes the future. Much of this semester came down to having a certain issue hit me smack in the face and having no idea how to deal with it or how it would play out in the near and far future. Those were the moments when I had to release control and trust the Lord to work it out His way, having faith that what He was going to do with me was better than anything I could plan out. I feel like this is a lesson that will occur and reoccur throughout the remainder of my life. As self-focused human beings, don’t we constantly need reminders that we aren’t the ones ultimately in control? There are so many things up in the air in my life as I return back home. These things include where I will live next semester, if I will get a job, if I will make it onto the ministry team, if I’ll get the summer job that I’ve applied for for three years straight, how my family will take my cross-continental relationship, and the like. But these are not all things that I can simply sit down at my desk, give myself time to think about them and then figure them out. They are perfect practice grounds, in fact, for releasing my need for control and realizing (once again) that God is far beyond my own agenda and plans and that He will put in my path what He so desires for me. While integrating that belief, I want to be careful to still be intentional in my decisions and relationships and constantly move forward in life rather than leaning back and letting the Lord do it all for me. That would be missing the point. I once said in a critical insight,

“ I am curious how much I will be able to bring this newly-grasped attitude back with me to America. I only pray that all I have learned will stay in my heart so that I may glorify the Lord through it.”

That is truly my prayer…that I may benefit from all that I have learned this semester and always be able to reflect back on these times as an example to myself on how to let go of my need for control and understand that no matter what I do or don’t do, the Lord has His hands holding me and molding me all along the way.

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Southern Fried Chicken

Last night was pretty dang lovely. I somehow managed to redeem myself for the burnt pizzas I had cooked for my family last Friday. We butchered that cock that was given me as a gift from my sponsored child and had it for dinner! I had planned on cooking the breasts and thighs in a saucepan with oil…the way I would at home. I don’t know what on earth made me think I would be able have those same tender and well-shaped pieces of meat to cook, but it certainly didn’t happen.

Lilly and I managed to cut off all the meat we could off the bone into smaller pieces, beginning to resemble the size of popcorn chicken from KFC in the states. I cooked this chicken with oil, oregano and flour…fried chicken! The only problem was that this free-roaming cock had way too much muscle and he was quite hard to chew.

Despite the hardness of the meat, it was quite tasty and mixed with fried veggies then served with lemon pasta, rice and cabbage. Tasty stuff! I felt pretty darn proud of my work and everyone enjoyed. Hallelujah, I am a good cook after all!

Today I went to town to buy some lovely fabric with Shanae. We found the perfect pattern and bought without even thinking twice. Then we took it to the tailor in town who knows how to make American-style dresses. She charges a mere 20,000 schillings, which is only $8 to have a dress made! It’s amazing. But ssshhh, don’t tell anyone. It’s a surprise. I’m going to pick it up on Wednesday and wear it to the Thursday night farewell dinner without anyone having seen it beforehand. Pretty stoked. Let’s hope it fits properly!

Our very last class was today. Today I go home to write my capstone paper. And then once I finish that and my religions paper, I am home free academically!

But I have a lovely weekend awaiting me at home, so it’s time to depart. For all you lovelies at home, I’ll be seeing you soon!

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Sweet Children

Little Baby Joselyn!

 

Children have been a wonderful entity of my stay here in Uganda. Even though I know the attention they give me is because they see a white skinned young woman and desire some acknowledgment, they are precious and sweet and melt my heart every time they call out or wave innocently to me! I very much wish I could have taken more pictures with them, but part of the authenticity of some relationships formed here lies in me abstaining from tourist-like actions. The camera is a perfect source for being “touristy”. However, babies can’t observe that! Our family friend Paul and Damalie, recently had a little girl, Joselyn. Here I am holding her!

What a contemplative face

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Then and Now

Some days, when walking to school alone, passing each good-looking Ugandan, greeting excited children, dodging bodas and just treading Ugandan soil, I think of that excited moment 3 1/2 months ago when our plane was about to land in Entebbe. I remember looking out the window, seeing Ugandan land with my own eyes and realizing that the wheels of our plan were about to touch down. Thus began my journey here.

The excitement was overwhelming. I remember contemplating the concept of the next 4 months of my life being spent across the world from the place I had grown up. I pondered how I got here, what urged me on, what the Lord had planned, how I would be able to cope, how well would I fit in, and the like. Endless thoughts were speeding through my mind; imagination gone wild.

Now here I am with less than 2 weeks left in this beautiful country with these wonderful and unique people…both USP and Ugandans. This week consists of typing up my last papers and doing minor readings to top off classes. Next week is a week of free time, more or less. Final days and hours counting down…last chances to spend quality time with all those I have come to love so much here. And then once turning away from these wonderful people, I will get to turn back toward all those I love that I left in America. Torn between two worlds. What a strange concept…and so mind-boggling.

Anyway, there’s really not much to say. I am only so thankful for the smooth beginning, middle and ending the Lord has granted me here in Uganda. And, unlike before and during the beginning of this trip, I know for a fact that my life here in Uganda is not a separate chapter set aside or to be forgotten once I return to my homeland, but rather, an integrated learning experience that has sincerely shaped who I am and who I am becoming. Nothing in my life could ever allow me to set this time I’ve had here in its own box, put away in storage to get dusty and forgotten. There is no way on earth. The Lord has been too present here and life has been too real for it to become its own separate story not directly related to my life before and after.

Does that make sense? Who knows. It does in my mind. Sweet Lordy, I feel so blessed.

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Loving, Hoping, and Being Faithful…somehow…

During this semester we have discussed the concept of “Faith, Hope, and Love” in the context of different trips, unit studies and general concepts that we’ve been learning. In every context, discussing these three concepts tends to provoke the question of how can we still behave in this God-honoring way despite the ugly and hurtful things we see, hear, and even experience.

I’ve realized that due to my living situation (which includes my family, our neighbors, the nearby hostel and shop-keepers, etc.) I have seen and experienced both a lot of love and a lot of mistreatment.

One particular concept that I owned in my heart before I came to Uganda but has been strengthened since living here is that the hurt, messed-up, people that are screwing their lives up, are the ones that need love the most…not punishment. I have even told one individual:

“The moment you see punishment and disdain provoking repentance and conviction from one of those screwed up people, you let me know. I will assume I have somehow managed to escape to a different world.”

This realization began with Ugandans’ views toward homosexuals. How in the world is a homophobic society that will do nothing for the gay community except for seek to kill and torture them, supposed to help this struggling minority make their way out of their sinful habits, reflect on why they are the way they are and then move forward into a new and refreshing style of living? Their hateful attitudes only hurt the homosexuals more. It is some love that they  need. Love, in this context, does not mean acceptance. But even acceptance, temporary acceptance, plays a part. These people need to feel less threatened and hated and need to see that someone can understand that what the way they are living is not just a mere rebellious choice, but a result of something that messed up their lives early on…most of the time this leads back to some form of messed-up family life or even sexual abuse. Where on earth is the empathy that Christians should have? Did not Christ come to earth, as a perfect man mind you, and love the screwed up people?

Now the above issue, as passionate as I can be about it, is not even personal. But you know what is? My Ugandan family and their issues…that is personal to me. My little brother Mark, who is 12, has been having a lot of issues. He is making poor choices and then staying out late, afraid to come back home for fear of being disciplined. But just last night, I discovered a good amount of money missing out of my wallet. The last two times this has happened, I have reported to Mama but there has been no proof one way or the other who it could be and, of course, no one will confess. Thus, it puts utter stress on Mama. As frustrated as I was that I had to keep things so secured in my own house, I wasn’t about to tell Mama about it again. But apparently Mark’s friends had seen him spending money aimlessly on sweets and other things and reported this to Mama. So now there was proof and when Mama questioned me about it, I confessed of my missing money. Mark didn’t come home last night…at least not while we were all awake. I saw him sneaking around the house and so I called my brother David out who went to search for him with Jenniffer. We ended up locking and up and going to sleep and somehow found Mark in the house in the morning…no idea how he got inside.

Mama told me last night that although I didn’t want her to, she wanted to pay me back for what Mark had stolen and also that she was sending him away. She knows how I feel compassion for Mark, but she told me I needed to trust her in this decision and not oppose it.

You know what hurts my heart? My protection and even my money is being held at higher value than Mark’s well-being. I know it is perhaps the wise thing to do. But everyone knows that whether Mark goes to his mother’s or his father’s house, he will be not be properly loved on. That kid is MESSED UP…but what he needs is for someone to love on him, to have faith that he can change, to be hopeful in his future. At this point, I don’t think there is a single individual who feels anything but resentment about him.

It’s not necessarily their fault…it’s culture, somehow. But I was even telling Muzungu that the same way that homosexuals, prostitutes, pimps, thieves and the like need some form of compassion and care to show them they still hold some form of value and ARE capable of changing…in the same way, Mark needs that love. If I were here for a longer period of time I would try so badly to take time and invest in Mark. I even have tried to some extent when he’s been around, but his heart is so hard and that hurts mine so badly.

In a similar way, both the USP student who has been treating me poorly and my Ugandan sister who has been mistreating me do not need my punishment or anyone else’s. I am the victim here. I have done nothing wrong. Thus, their actions must spur from different things in their lives that cause anger and frustration and they obviously need someone to let it out on. Me trying to punish them with guilt or frustration-expression or anything of the sort would help neither them nor me. They just need to be loved.

While I feel so extremely loved around my house, there are times I feel so mistreated. But that is why these wonderful concepts that Jesus displayed during His life on earth: Faith, Hope, and Love… are so pertinent. It is what gets me through day by day, what gives me hope for others, for myself. All I can do is try to live by them and hope one day those who I see hurting and hurting others because of their own hurt will also see and experience these things for themselves.

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20th Birthday in Uganda

So, I mean, my day of turning 20 years old starting out like crud, but turned pretty darn good! My family, Ugandan friends and USP friends were all together. There was coffee, s’mores, soda and cake… (Sugar Overload!)… lots of laughs and of course, water poured on my head as tradition dictates. But really, pictures say it all, so have a look!

My USP best friends/sisters ❤

parrrrrtay!

The lovely Ugandan tradition: birthday head water!

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Resident Alien in this Wonderful Place

So yesterday was basically the best day ever.

To start off with, I didn’t have any classes because our lovely African Lit professor bought into the “It’s an American holiday, please cancel class!” plea. This allowed me to make plans to go to Kampala and finish my shopping. Since no other USP students were able to accompany me, I asked Muzungu to come. There were some other plans up in the air for him…tasks that he potentially had to accomplish for his cousin in Kampala. On our way out though at 8 am, I asked him about those plans and how they would coincide with what I needed to get done. His response? “I’m all yours for the day”. That made me smile. I don’t know what it is about people saying that, but it’s always made me so happy! I’m guessing this is because I come from such a busy society where everyone always has their time limitations for coffee or shopping dates and there always seems to be something else on their plate that they know they have to get done soon.

So we hopped on a taxi around 8:45…rush hour. I think it took us almost 1 and a half hours to get to Kampala. Eww. Luckily, though, my set meeting time with my sponsored child was pushed back until 1 o’clock. This gave us just enough time to hit up the bank and go to the craft market. I spent another hour and a half strolling around and finishing up all my Christmas shopping.

This gave us just enough time to get to the World Vision national office. Unfortunately, the child sponsorship place is actually at another location. This made us rather late and communicating with Katie (the WV rep that had been working with me) was getting stressful as she emphasized how it was getting late, they needed to eat, etc. The plan was for us to arrive, meet Dillish and then go out to lunch. Thankfully, Katie held out for us even though we arrive 45 minutes late after walking to the other World Vision location and finally meeting up with her.

Me and my litte girl, Dillish.

After sitting in a conference room and going over some protocalls and signing some protection documents, I finally got to see my little girl. She had traveled all the way from Gulu with her father and two World Vision reps. They had left at 6 am that morning and she was obviously tired. She does not speak any English since she is not in school yet and neither does her father. Nor do they speak Luganda. There was an interpreter around, ,but Dillish was very shy and obviously not up for doing a whole lot of talking. I found her looking at my face when I was conversing with the WV staff. A few times she just stared into my eyes and I had to wonder what she was thinking.

I asked the interpreter to ask her father if I was the first mzungu she had ever seen and he said that I was. It’s no wonder that, even after seeing my picture, she was shy around me.

In the office at World Vision, I got to give her the small gift of a hello kitty backpack, some bouncy balls and a plush peacock. She seemed to like it as she put on the backpack right away. She is entering school next year, so that was a good gift for her. Staff told me that she had a gift for me too but that it was in the car.

It got to be around 2:30, so we went down to the local Canteen for lunch. At this point, Muzungu also got to greet Dillish. Before, Katie said only I was allowed to see her in the office. We all went down and ate lunch together. We were kind of dispersed amongst different tables since there wasn’t one whole table open. So Dillish sat with me and Muzungu with Katie close beside. I think she was truly fascinated to watch a mzungu interact so socially with a Ugandan. Even Katie said she was probably wondering how and why the white and black persons were so friendly with each other. It’s sort of funny to think about, but I was obviously much more in my comfort zone than Dillish was…even though I am the foreigner. Even using a fork was foreign to her; not to mention she couldn’t easily make her way down the stairs. They just don’t have utensils and stairs where she resides.

After finishing lunch,we took a few pictures and then Dillish and her father went to find a bathroom. While waiting, Katie bid me goodbye. She thanked me for my support and I thanked her for her hard work in arranging all of this. She also bid Muzungu goodbye, thanking him for taking care of me. Which, I then put on my perplexed face. “Making sure she doesn’t get run over or lost in the streets of Kampala”. Katie knew I had been in Uganda for a long while, so she was obviously provoking and teasing and it was small snickers that she managed to get from Muzungu and the two other male staff around. I was, once again, the butt of the joking. It’s become a daily occurrence now, though, so I don’t mind. I get my fair share of laughter as well.

Dillish and her father returned and we hopped in a car to take Dillish, her father, and staff to the hotel they would be staying at. I had to pay for this arrangement, so they also took me and Muzungu to swing by a bank so I could grab the appropriate amount of money. The fit was squishy. Dillish sat between me and her father. We were actually in the car for a while because there was a traffic jam in the streets of Kampala. During that time I got a few laughs and smiles out of her. I loved seeing her pretty teeth.

By the time we had to depart, she shook my hand nice and hard (unlike at the very beginning) and smiled at me. Then she gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe that I had just gotten to visit the little girl that I sponsor. I felt more privileged than ever before. Parting ways wasn’t painful, just surreal. It was so weird that I was on her soil when, before, she seemed so far away. Now, this was partially my home…. I am a resident alien here. I left knowing though that one day I will be back and will get to see this precious girl again. In a few years time, likely, when she will have learned English from school and hopefully I’ll be able to see her in her home context…eat the way she eats and meet her entire family. What a day that will be!

You don’t know how many people were staring at me when I did this.

When we parted, my gift from Dillish was revealed to me. I had been expecting a cute drawing from her or something like that. But it was nothing of the sort. There, in the bed of the truck we had been driving in was a rather large and live rooster! Having come from Soroti, I knew what a precious gift this was, but Muzungu and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! We knew he had to carry this thing…alive…through Kampala and back to Mukono. I kindly thanked her father and Dillish and grabbed that rooster by its tied up legs, carrying him upside down through the traffic-jammed streets.

At first we tried to put the rooster in a plastic bag so it could be more subtle, but it head and legs poked through as I was holding it and it finally fell all the way through; I then conveniently let out a short scream, which, of course, attracted endless attention and laughs from everyone around and watching.

I marched through the streets of Kampala with this rooster in my hand. The comments, the laughter, it was crazy. I think Muzungu and I laughed the most, though, knowing how ridiculous we looked. As if a mzungu girl and Ugandan guy walking together doesn’t get enough eyes, the mzungu girl was carrying a live cock. Wow. Muzungu joked that we were going to attract the paparazzi and find our picture in tomorrow’s newspaper! That would have made my day!

We managed to grab a taxi and Muzungu held this flapping thing down with his feet all the way home. Getting out in Mukono was even better as there are people around that know both of us. The laughter just couldn’t stop. At one point I just laughed and sighed, saying “Oh Uganda”, thinking about how I would never be walking down the road holding a live chicken if I were in America. Now, the Ugandan national anthem begins with “Oh Uganda”, so after Muzungu said the second line of the song, I just started singing it straight up. No dignity left to uphold after all. I was four lines into singing this lovely song when I slipped in the dirt, fell on butt and the rooster crowed loudly at me. Muzungu quickly grabbed the chicken, then me, but couldn’t say anything because he was laughing far too hard. Just about the most embarrassing yet best moment I have had here in Uganda. I have never seen two people laugh harder than we did.

We somehow made it all the way home and I felt like I had done 100 crunches because of how much my abs hurt. Once we entered the front yard, I proudly called out to Mama: “Mama, I brought you a gift!” as I raised the chicken high in the air for her to see. It was that moment when I felt the least bit American. Oh my.

I changed my clothes, washed well from carrying that smelly chicken and proceeded to sit and tell Mama about my day before going to campus for our American Thanksgiving dinner. I was late by the time I arrived, but everyone knew I had been visiting Dillish and was all too excited to ask me how that went.

Thanksgiving dessert and coffee to top off the wonderful day!

I scarfed down dinner in about 10 minutes and then dessert 10 minutes later. This obviously left me feeling ridiculously full. I went home in the most jolly mood ever. I could not possibly wipe the smile off my face. I don’t know how that day could have gone any better. It might be the most memorable day spent here in Uganda.

A resident alien…that’s me. There is no doubt about it. I will be leaving part of my soul here in Uganda and I will have to return someday to retrieve it…only so that I can leave even more here the second time I depart. I love you Uganda!

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A joyous surprise!

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving! And although I am not currently in America, all the Americans on campus are celebrating together by playing football and eating Thanksgiving food. Students were told to sign up to make desserts. I was originally going to make a chocolate pie from my Grandma’s original recipe. Since mine and my Grandpa’s birthdays are around Thanksgiving, it is this chocolate pie that we consider our “birthday cake” and we traditionally fight over who gets the bigger slice. I simply could not forgo this tradition of eating this delightful dessert so I was planning on making one for all of USP to enjoy! HOWEVER, something that I am totally thankful for has gotten in the way…….

*drum roll please*

I get to meet, greet and visit the little girl that I sponsor here in Uganda…Dillish Angom…tomorrow! What a perfect day for both her and I to show thankfulness. She lives in Gulu, Uganda…. at least a 5 hour drive away. But World Vision has worked it out that she will be in Kampala for the day and I will get to meet her. I am so stoked. I was starting to think that this opportunity was going to fall through after I heard about what arrangements to go to Gulu would cost. But they made it happen. Praise God!

This was such wonderful news and much needed to lighten up my day. Earlier that morning I was shedding a few tears (something I have learned to control here in Uganda because of their great dislike for crying) in Mark’s office. Between yesterday afternoon and this morning, I was just feeling straight up mistreated. Details really aren’t necessary, particularly because it’s all tolerable. It was just one of those moments where one feels like it’s them versus the world. There were a few family members that things were awkward around last night and then a USP student this morning who, once again, just treated me like crap. She’s been mistreating me all semester in subtle, but hurtful ways. And somehow the Lord has given me enough patience and grace to not just tolerate her, but love on her instead…knowing that it’s no use for me to try and put her in her place and even expressing my pain to her would not help. I’m actually rather impressed with my ability to bite my tongue and withhold resentment, but it’s all because the Lord has been carrying me through on His strength not my own.

I am approaching the ending 3 weeks of my time here in Uganda and it’s truly a disheartening realization. I have come to love this country, its people and culture so much. There is no doubt I will have to return someday because I will definitely be leaving part of my heart here in Uganda.

On the flip side, I hear in my family’s voices how much they miss me and I can’t help but miss them too. There is going to be something so special about returning to them, as the first family member that has been apart from the family continuously for this length of time. And there is going to be something very special about returning in the midst of Christmas cheer. The day I leave will hurt so badly but the day I return to home will be the best thing ever.

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Suffering By Choice

It was Saturday morning. Mama, Lilly, and the kids had gone to the garden for the entire morning…leaving me behind because they decided for me that my rest should be valued over awaking me, as I had requested, to go to the garden with them. But I wanted to work! So, my entire morning was spent cleaning the house, sweeping and mopping the compound and doing laundry. My inner industrious self needed to get down, dirty and sweaty. The most fascinating part was watching Ugandans drive by on a boda boda with their mouths practically hanging open…as if they had never seen a mzungu girl with a broom in her hand and sweat on her brow. All I could do was stare back at them, chuckle to myself and do my best to withhold sassy comments.

I wanted to “suffer”…I wanted to sweat and pant and be exhausted in the name of helping out my Mama and Lilly with those chores they would have had to do later that day after returning from the garden. But suffering goes far beyond that.

While putting the finishing touches on the last chore of laundry, Muzungu came over to give me some company. After he gave the typical Ugandan word of encouragement, “Jeballeco” meaning “well done”, we began discussing our plans for the following day in which he, my sister Lilly and I were going to hit up Kampala for a day of church, university touring, eating, and shopping. Push came to shove, though, and we began talking about some cultural things I had learned in regards to my issue of spending money in front of him and Lilly and feeling like I am making myself appear rich. I spoke of how I felt poorly for seeing days when Mama didn’t have enough money to get gas in the car to go somewhere yet I can just head to Kampala and spend “extravagantly” on Christmas gifts. Muzungu suggested then that if it would make me feel better that I help Mama out fiscally when she needs it. This then led into the topic of creating a hierarchy through giving of money, even when it’s not intended. Push came to shove, again, and suddenly I was flowing out all my thoughts about giving money versus giving time, that cultural differences and the like.

I could tell Muzungu wasn’t really wrapping his mind around it. I didn’t expect him to; he is not in my shoes, not an American and hasn’t been sitting through Faith and Action class. All these things combined created what he could see was a manner of suffering. His comment was along the lines of, “Wow, you really have been suffering while you’ve been here”. I said yeah I guess I was…but it was the kind of suffering that was learning…the kind of suffering that was causing me to grow…the kind of suffering that God had placed in my path so that I could learn to see and think outside the small realm that I grew up within. It was a good kind of suffering.

In Mere Discipleship, by Lee Camp, there is an inserted quote that says,

“The believer’s cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the baring of which is demanded  The believer’s cross must be, like his Lord’s, the prices of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost. It is not…an inward wrestling of the sensitive soul with self and sin; it is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come.”

In short, suffering from taking up our cross must be a result of choices we make, and not unavoidable bad situations…otherwise, it has to do with luck and social location rather than to do with following Christ. – a quote from Mark’s power-point in F&A class.

We make a choice to suffer. It’s not us being victimized…and suffering by way of chance does not count. If we are victims of suffering, it’s because we victimized ourselves…and we should own up to that choice with confidence, knowing it’s in the name of expanding the Kingdom of God and glorifying our Lord.

Later that day, Muzungu and I went on a walk up the hill. Our conversation on suffering and burdens continued. He seemed worried, and as one might expect from a young man in a relationship, he clearly wanted to help take some of that burden off my shoulders. But I just told him, this sort of suffering (with growth through culture, through relationships, through learning) wasn’t a sort of burden or suffering that I could dish off onto anyone else, even if I wanted to. It was something I chose to take on and that I have peace with because I know the Lord is growing me through all of it. Sure, it hurts at times, but you can’t expect to serve the Lord and live a happy-go-lucky life.

What a concept. It left me really thinking…how often do I go seeking out the insufferable situations versus suffering? Do I choose when and where I want to suffer or do I keep my mind focused on where and when the Lord gives me those situations. Do I try to decide when the right time is for me to carry a burden and decide at other times that I’m simply not ready? While I make the choice to suffer, my heart ears should be listening to the Lord and seeking out what His plans are. After all, I have chosen to suffer for His sake, not my own.

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My Fabulous Weekend

I never did like the sound of my siblings getting spanked in their bedroom and crying out in pain. Here, my little brother Mark is always getting into trouble. He deserves to be “beat”, as they call it here, but it seems as if every time he is beat, I am conveniently not in the house. This morning, the sound of Mama speaking sternly, beating him, and Mark crying out is what I awoke to. I’m glad it was Mama though… many times she will call over Junea, a neighbor and one of her catering workers, to do the beating. Naturally, Junea is more harsh with the switch. I’ve even seen Mark running away across the yard with Junea chasing him down with the stick. It’s often too much for me to bear and if I am with Muzungu he can read that all over my face. I don’t disagree with physical discipline, but it doesn’t benefit Mark anymore…it only causes him to rebel and run away more often. That kid needs some love. I feel like he forgot what love is…

On a better note, this weekend went wonderfully. Saturday I was supposed to go to the garden with Lilly and Mama, Mark, and Eveling (a 12 year old orphan girl that Mama found at school and decided to take in for now). But Lilly and I watched The Proposal on Friday night and we were up late; I was sleeping when they left in the morning and they didn’t wake me. So, instead, I spent my morning cleaning the house, the compound and doing laundry. I was feeling pretty proud of my grungy-look, the sweat on my brow and my hard work well-accomplished.

Later that day after eating, resting and bathing, Muzungu and I took a nice walk up to the top of the hill…again. That view is so great. I love sitting up there and talking about this, that and the other. There’s nothing but a wonderful breeze and all of Mukono and the surrounding cities to look at. You can even see soccer games going on down below.

The beautiful view from the top of the hill.

When we got back, Lilly and I watched 17 Again with the ever-beautiful Zac Efron. A short, but delightful call was made to my parents thereafter which left me in peace for the evening, setting me up for some good sleep. Unfortunately, my room was too  hot that night to get some real rest.

So on Sunday, Lilly, Muzungu and I went on a trip to Kampala. We were trying to get to the 10 am service; we made it by 10:15, but it turns out the service started at 9. So, we sat down when the sermon was about half way through. Lo and behold, the pastor was preaching on marriage….most awkward thing of my life. I’m so glad Lilly came with us! We went to the next service just for praise and worship…very western, thus I enjoyed it.

After that, we toured Makerere University where Muzungu graduated from and then had lunch. Makerere was beautiful, but it was so outside. Later was the craft market and then we got home by 6.

Lilly, Muzunugu, and I had so much fun in each other’s company…teasing, singing. It was great. I am going to miss those two plus Mama the very most.

We walked back from Mukono and picked up rolexes (breakfast burritos) on our way home. We ate then I bathed the hot day away and thus ended the great weekend.

 

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And Life goes on…

For a good two weeks now, my body has not allowed me to sleep past 6:30am. I don’t even go to bed early, but somehow my body has been functioning off this amount of sleep quite well. Regardless of whether or not it is noisy outside or within the house, I  tend to awake before my alarm. No need to Ellie Goulding to sing me awake anymore! I arise even before Mama at times, which is saying something!

But I like getting up early. I have always wished that I was an earlier riser, like Daddy…finally I get my wish! I doubt this will remain once I return home though…boo.

Getting up early this morning meant taking my time getting  ready, fetching water for Mama, letting Lilly (my sister) do my hair, slowly drinking my coffee, and leaving for school an hour before class even started. On my walk up the small hill to the main road, I saw my little friend Claire with the sun shining behind her. Jenna made friends with her while she was here and I hadn’t seen her since. But she obviously remembered me as she stood there waiting for me to approach her. I came up to her and gave her a hug and I thus diverted my route to take the back roads to school, which I knew Claire walked along to get to her primary school.

Time was of no essence, so we waddled along slowly. Claire held three of my fingers. She doesn’t know much English so we couldn’t talk, but such slow walking was so refreshing. I got to greet everyone I passed along the road…”goodmorning” in English, and “Wasuzotya? (How are you?)” in Luganda. Claire and I parted ways where I had to pass up the hill and she continued along the back roads. I gave her a hug and wished that little sweet thing a nice day. She is precious.

Walking up the hill, I met a girl who was in secondary school (similar to high school) and headed to UCU as well. I told her my name and she was so excited because that was her sister’s name. I have yet to meet another Emily in Uganda! Her name was Irene. She told me I looked smart too (a nice compliment on my attire). We made small talk while walking onto campus and also parted ways, wishing her a nice day.

Yesterday was internship and today is the same. We went to Katanga again, the slums of Kampala. These kids are dirty, gross, unclothed…but happy, cheerful and full of smiles. They always melt my heart. Today we will go to the mission and be with the kids who live there…all 17 of them. Giving off this love to these kids is a wonderful thing.

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