Often when you move into a house here, it’s painted. John and I certainly didn’t mind this. Our house was kind of a light salmon, from the pictures. Hmm. So we decided to go with yellow on the outside, like our house in Little Rock. (That one used to be olive green, and we couldn’t believe how much more we liked it and wanted to care for it when it was a color other than baby food.) We were a little surprised, then, when our new abode was painted orange. We’re still not entirely sure what went wrong, but lesson learned: There can be a lot of communication problems even when both parties speak English. We were a little more surprised when walking around the house, we discovered that the other side was kind of a vibrant pastel peach. Hmm. At last, we are satisfied with the entire house being one color of orange. Sure, there was a swipe of it on the white garage door and a lot of drips on the brick that no one thought to wipe off. Sure, when they touched up the trim, they used a different color of paint. But you know, there are worse things.
On the inside, we offered to pay the difference between painting the house economy white and painting it colors that we’d picked out. In fact, we altered the colors we’d originally chosen upon the advice that we choose something darker than the color of red Ugandan dirt. (John’s mom is rumored to have gone into a carpet store once with a bag of dirt, saying, “I’d like something this color.) This has paid off. Now only the floors show the dirt, not the walls! Progress.
In Uganda, friends and connections are very important, so the painters were selected for us. Kindly, they decided to give us a little extra: on the trim, my cupboards, the ceiling, the tile. When they asked for more money to buy more paint, later I had the inappropriate little thought that they might take some of the paint from those locations.
Yet to their credit, they did attempt to remove some of the paint from the trim. Uh, some of it. However, this was done by sanding. Therefore the finish was also removed. Therefore the finish was also reapplied by said painters, subsequently dripping on the floor to stain the tile, being removed with one of my bathroom’s washcloths, or even being removed from the trim by my children’s hands and on one occasion, wiped on the walls (a color I did not plan for).
I lack the words to express my inner reaction to what happened next. When the painters were asked for their estimate to finish the job, they gave a figure that was three times more than what we eventually ended up paying. Outwardly, my eyebrows merely raised. I asked the landlord’s representative privately if it would jeopardize his relationship if I declined to let them disfigure the rest of the house for an exorbitant fee. (I was more tactful at that point.) He did not feel any obligation. I was relieved.
Thankfully, eMi had a painter that did a wonderful job on the rest. He even happened to be somewhat of a jack-of-all trades; Godfrey has been here every day this week fixing the weird things that we’ve needed (creating L-shaped shower rods, installing a plug on appliances that whoops! didn’t come with one, putting down some cement where all the cars were bottoming out on the driveway, or installing a circuit breaker because our clothes dryer blew out the power, etc.). Godfrey was discipled and trained by a missionary years ago.
And that’s probably our take-away from all this, even as we look for house help here (—another discipleship opportunity that’s been fun so far). So many of the Ugandans that we see succeeding professionally and spiritually are those who people have taken the time to invest in personally and develop intentionally, one by one. That may sound like some kind of God-complex, but in reality, it’s true for every one of us who have had the power to beat poverties in our own lives. It’s people coming alongside us, showing us Jesus. This week and its bizarre fiascoes and painting chaos have reminded me that what John will be doing in construction management, and even what I’ll get to do in my learning-and-teaching relationship with house help, is a really powerful thing. It’s not just because we found someone who knows how to get wall paint only on the wall and has proven trustworthy with our cash. It means that someone has been empowered to be the fullest version of God’s workmanship to do the good works He’s prepared in advance for him to do.
Guess you could say that’s a house of a different color.