Tuesday, March 27, 2012
One of my favorite things about living here are the mornings when I pad out to sit on our porch in my PJ's. On the best mornings, I bring a warm cup ofcarefully-rationed Starbucks Via that some adoptive parent blissfully, blessedly left behind for those less privileged. I walk out to witness that green, fully-flowering quiet that is our backyard: roses, bougainvillea, impatiens, and curious-looking plants I can't even name yet. More than once, there has been this staggering tangerine sunrise that neither John nor I can capture with our camera lens. The birds, and even the monkeys next door (not talking about neighbor kids! Real monkeys!) seem to love chittering and laughing with each other in the morning. And there's something about the birds here: I can hear their wings beating from my wooden chair on the porch as they lift into flight. There are even some African eagles that I watch dip and coast on their hunt for breakfast.
But even in that damp, captivating square of creation, settling down to talk with God can feel...distracted. Sometimes with all of the noise inside of my head and out, not to mention my emotions during such a mind-boggling little strip of life, I have to keep a little notepad nearby so I can save to-do list thoughts for later.
It got me to start a list: What practical things can I do if my brain just doesn't seem ready to be still and know? I even posed the question on Facebook. Of course, so many lists just look like little baby blog posts to me waiting to find their way in the world. So I did it. I posted it: 28 Ways to Connect with God When Your Brain Won't Quiet Down. And may someone benefit from my struggles for spiritual discipline.
Africa, turned on its side, looks like a rhinocerous! The "horn" of Africa, on the east/right side of Africa (around Sudan) when it's right side up, is also the "horn" of the rhinocerous. The "eye" of the rhino is Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world--only Lake Superior is larger--and source of the Nile River.
...And we can see Lake Victoria from our backyard. So if you can zoom in on the lake on a map, you'll probably see the capital city of Kampala. So we are on the side of Kampala that sees the lake (click to see a closer map), right there above the equator.
|Map of Africa from www.freeworldmaps.net|
While you're looking at the map, if you'd like to find the seven countries eMi East Africa serves, they are Uganda (of course), Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, and Kenya.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
- provide someone a job in a tough economy.
- develop someone in-depth: professionally, spiritually, and even relationally as we draw her into our family.
- make it sustainable for us to be here, so that I can focus more on the kids, have a home that is functional, get a little more sleep at night, and ultimately reduce a whole load of stress--sometimes in the form of neatly folded piles of lights and darks. The housework load, like mopping the red-dirt covered floors every day and handwashing all the dishes, is fairly heavy.
- learn Ugandan culture and language as a family. In fact, our kids are starting to pick up Luganda! She's a great teacher, and has no problem giggling as our mzungu tongues try to wrap themselves around the words.
- someone--because they are actually staff with eMi--two meals a day, medical benefits, transportation costs, education benefits, etc. This means that after years of putting her siblings through school, Oliver may be able to pursue a degree in counseling soon.
- transfer my energy from an area of weakness (can I get an amen?) to areas that are much more my strength, and hopefully fruitful areas of ministry and time for relationships--particularly with my kids.
|Oliver in traditional Ugandan dress clothing, called a goma|
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
It means that home is elsewhere. And it means that He will give me what I need to plunge forward through this marathon, with Him taking my hand each morning when I get out of bed: Good morning. I’ve been waiting for you, and we’re going to do this together. Just get on my back. It means Him carrying me through moments when tears blur my sight, through moments where I realize that things—that I—will never be the same now...not wanting things to be the old way, but just not completely able to digest the new way, either. It’s loving that I can make fresh fish tacos, but realizing that I’ll probably never have the crispy taco shells at the same time to go with it.
My heart hurt last night when my oldest expressed that he just wasn’t thrilled about being here, in those words. It’s not because he wasn’t expressing something that each of us all feel from time to time. It’s more because it’s one more little scrape that I need to pray for, to bandage and prevent scarring by gently talking with my son, and to patiently allow God to heal in His way, in His time.
This is what it feels like to always be a little out of your element; to always be learning, to wake up every morning a foreigner for the sake of being forever at home in the place where it really counts. It means accepting from God’s hand the things that just don’t feel right, like your electricity or water pressure going in and out with all the fickleness of a toddler--and I’ve seen a few of those. (Last week the power went out after using the clippers on only half of a coworker’s hair. Nice.) It means embracing the beauty—the “God-ness”—that you just don’t find in the place you came from, because your country of origin had its own display of "God-ness." It means being a stranger, and trying to look at the world with gratitude while still being honest about the things that, to be fair, just chap your hide or rattle you to the soul.
The lyrics of "10000 Reasons" keep tumbling through my head, and I think I want them to stay there awhile.
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning;
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may come, and whatever lies before me,
let me be singing when the evening's done.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul...
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Yes, I'm still new enough to be counting. But in those eight weeks, we've accrued quite a list of little illnesses to mark our way. Grant it, these are little illnesses (see our last post for comparison!). We are tremendously thankful that malaria, giardia, TB, etc. have been far from us! But let's see. There have been the ear infections. Severe colds. Migraines. Flu. Restless legs. UTI. Weird rashes. Diarrhea (of course). Fever. Conjunctivitis. Ringworm (don't worry. That's actually a fungus). And now, I must confess that I have a chest cough that's kept me up for about an hour for the last three nights.
Would you pray for us? We'd love a reprieve from the sickness, small as it may be. It's the small stuff, you know?
Monday, March 19, 2012
Take yesterday, for example. Oliver, our house help (a female), asked me if I knew anything about treating tuberculosis. Uh, no, that's a good jump from my life experience. But I can Google! And if that doesn't work, I have a brother-in-law who's a doctor!
Oliver explained that a friend of hers has a sister with TB. The sister was told by a doctor that she would need a series of 60, count 'em 60, injections to treat her disease. This would obviously come at a significant expense to an impoverished family. When the girl showed no improvement after 45 injections--which would mean that tuberculosis is continuing, likened to coughing with razor blades in your lungs--the doctor gave up and told her he wouldn't do anymore. He was afraid of catching the disease.
Compare this with a simple Web search, where you can find that the World Health Organization, or WHO, has a 95% effective treatmeant plan called DOTS (Direct Observation Treatment, short-course). It costs $16-35--still pricey for an impoverished family, but usually not inaccessible--and it requires swallowing three tablets a week. It only took a telephone call to find a hospital in the girl's area that carried the DOTS treatment. Oliver's friend was, she reported, tremendously relieved, and couldn't believe that Oliver had cared that much about his family.
I marveled that God would be able to use something as simple as an internet search to make a difference like that. It also meant that without simple resources like a search that any American might do upon a diagnosis, such circumstances would cost a girl her life. Please pray that this treatment is actually effective, and that it allows this girl, Oliver's friend, and their family to witness and accept the power of the Gospel and God's hand in their lives.
John and a coworker had a similar situation a couple of weeks ago. Checking out the work of a potential construction team, they walked into a library that held 80 students, sitting there watching a movie. But looking above, they discovered that the trusswork was actually completed in such a way that the roof could feasibly collapse at any time. John and his coworker were able to discuss this with someone who could let the schoolboard know--and hopefully prevent a disaster.
Watching God work in ways that are more life-and-death is more humbling than a blog post can communicate. It reveals life for the tenuous gift it is, and God for the powerful master Builder and Healer that He is. I wanted to tell you about it not so that you get some glorified idea of missionary life, but rather so you could give credit where credit is due, and hopefully pray along with us. After all, are not each of us here for such a time as this?!
Author's note: See the follow-up to this post here!
Corinne told me, "I'm going to be like a Ugandan, Mom! I'm going to make an airplane out of things I find in our yard!" A friend later told us that she saw some Ugandan kids make a toy airplane propeller out of a leaf stuck on a thorn.
This morning as I was cutting up pineapple for breakfast, I was pleasantly surprised to see how this is rubbing off on our family. We'd popped the top off of the pineapple. If you have a pineapple that's been harvested in the last few days, pop off the top and you'll see roots underneath: You can plant it in your yard (well, a yard here) and you'll grow a pineapple bush. So then, I'm boiling the pineapple rind, to which my friend told me you can add a little sugar if you want (optional: four tea bags and some fresh ginger) and have your own juice. Then, we compost the rinds. And of course we devour the middle.
We've got a lot to learn from these people.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Razor wire, cement walls studded with broken glass, etc. are common around here just to avoid theft. We, for example, personally feel like our car runs more efficiently with tires and a battery. So don't get yourself in a tizzy. We feel quite safe here. The concern increased somewhat with a few brave and remarkably effortless forays by our neighbor kids over our wall to "steal some mangoes," or so the story goes. Note, we are definitely trying to build relationships with our neighbors, and met another this morning. We are, however, under the conviction that our relationships can improve in the absence of petty theft.
Point of interest: Godfrey and Lamik insisted that they install the razor wire without gloves.
They kept trying to explain that the gloves got caught in the wire. But I'm thinking, doesn't that mean that your hands get caught in the wire instead? (Silly mzungu.)
But real concern gripped me when B. ran in from outside just before lunch. "Mom! Come quick! Lamik's hurt!" I abandoned the cupcakes I'd been making with Oliver, our female house help, for a baby shower, and ran out wiping my hands on my apron.
"Godfrey, is Lamik okay?"
Godfrey, who characteristically has a mysterious smirk on his face, was eerily calm atop his ladder. "No."
"He fell on the other side," he quietly continued, indicating the vacant lot next door. I noticed a brick missing at the top of our walls, which are so formidable that if you push on them, they wobble. Bananas or matooke from the trees on the other side were peeking over the top. That kind of height was quite a drop.
"Can he get up?"
Godfrey shook his head. "...No."
I ran inside to grab the gate keys, then booked it up the hill to eMi for Godfrey's instruction to grab Stephen, the human resources manager of all our local staff. When we both arrived, out of breath, Stephen hefted another ladder over the wall. I was amazed and relieved to find that after a couple of long minutes, a wincing Lamik appeared at the top of the wall. He had fallen on his back--a good five or six meters down.
Once he was finally laying on our side of the fence, trying to gather his strength to go to the hospital, I asked if we might pray for him. I swallowed tears, then brought him a basin to wash the blood from his hands. Eventually, we got him into Godfrey's car, now loaded down with a bed pillow, whatever I could scrounge up for lunch, and strict instructions to get Lamik whatever care he might need.
After a long afternoon, the three men returned to drop off Stephen. I was terribly relieved to see Lamik gingerly emerge from Godfrey's Caribe. He'd had two injections and some medication, he explained.
"And when you prayed for me, I felt instant...." His hands formed fists in a gesture of strength and fortitude. Relief, Stephen explained later. He told me that when you prayed, he felt relief.
I felt so many emotions in that moment: I was humbled, thankful--amazed, in awe. Later, I was also sheepish, because I don't recall intentionally praying filled with faith that God would take Lamik's pain and completely heal him on the spot (which He didn't choose to do, but obviously could have). Here I am, a "missionary" (ooh, aah!), and still mildly surprised when God does remarkable things because I ask Him, and despite who I am. May God increase my faith!
Godfrey was back to cracking jokes. "He missed the coffin today!" he laughed.
Today, when Godfrey and Co. arrived, I smiled at Lamik. "God certainly has a purpose for you, Lamik!"
He nodded, back to his easygoing grin and ready to go have some more fun with razor wire.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
John's been reading these books about basic structural/architectural/engineering principles, and with the way B. is wired--some natural architectural and engineering abilities--I'm hoping this is the first of many conversations where they can learn together. Later that night, I found that the guy who had written two of the books John's reading has actually written a book for kids on basic architecture. I was disproportionately giddy.
It spawned a blog post for MomLife Today on helping your kids grow in the way God's crafted them. I thought I'd pass it along in the event you would be interested.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
|You know you want one, too.|
|What one guy and a hand planer can do|
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Red dirt, you are on everything;
My floors, my feet, my driveway.
And after children take a bath
It's red mud that whirls away.
Stuck beneath their nails
And ground so deeply down the hall,
I never actually feel
that I am rid of you at all.
Though you are mopped away each day,
My children's feet are colored rust!
In just a few small seconds
Our house is recovered with dust.
Muddy footprints in the bathroom,
And fingerprints take over too.
It's a good thing our house is orange
And not the yellow we did choose.
So even if my children are only clean
For ten minutes out the tub
At least it means I won
One small vict'ry against the grub.
I'm still processing so much of what I have seen last Sunday, so maybe blogging it will help, as it so often does.
You may remember my friend Lizzy, from this post. I am so delighted to tell you that her adoption of her first daughter, sweet Zoey, was completed a week ago Thursday, and both were our dinner guests the next night! Nothing went as planned, of course—to the tune of us finally getting a call at 5:00 about our car being ready downtown, the power going out as we were sitting down to dinner, etc.—but it was a truly beautiful time.
[Side note: I have got to get more photos on here, I know. Though in the States I could hardly pry the camera lens from my eye socket, here it often seems inappropriate or even to further separate me from a world that basically could see our camera—nothing special in the States—as a few years' worth of income, I'm guessing. So I'm getting out of a habit that I may need to climb back in!]
Lizzy's connections to Kampala began through her church, which also has a church plant in what I am assuming can be considered the slums here. So last Sunday morning, we swung by in our rockin' minivan to pick up Lizzy and Zoey to visit the church. We weren't completely sure that we were on the correct pock-marked dirt road at first. You can imagine it a little, perhaps: shacks and concrete abodes and small shops of all sorts lining the road with tin roofs, tarps, cracking paint, hand-painted signs. The medical center's narrow door was a thin drape of dirty fabric. Everything is tinged the color of rust by the dust. Chickens, goats, and cattle are wandering around, maybe in and out of houses. Children—most with shaved heads, for purposes of school, hygiene, and lice. Adults on their haunches cooking there on the side of the street, all wearing curious faded combinations of clothes that Goodwill would have discarded where I come from. People eyeing one of the only vehicles on this crowded stretch of the city that aren't taxis. Ugandans walking with all manner of things on their heads, some covered completely by the wares they're selling as they walk. (Last night we saw another guy whose job was a walking luggage salesman. Picture that for a minute.) I am not amazed by these sights as much as I used to be, as there are so many versions of it around the city. I am still struck by it. My children have not seen as much of Kampala since we have only had a vehicle the last two days. It was interesting to hear what they pointed out or observed, or simply to wonder what they were making from the mélange of sights in their passenger windows.
Lizzy directed us to a spot we could park. It was strangely only the size for one vehicle. We of course figured out quickly that in this church, we would be the only family driving a vehicle there! The service was on Ugandan time, which meant it started maybe a half an hour later and lasted as long as it needed to—especially with the translation of the sermon from English—the national language and language spoken in schools—and Luganda, the language of the tribes in this region and the language many speak in their homes or among their peers. Not all speak Luganda here, because there are seventeen tribes in Uganda; and not all speak English—at least well. The church was of partially-roofed concrete room, with a gate that opened to the community's bustle, cooking fires, and traffic. People filtered in during the service to sit on the basic benches.
As the music started—voices only except a jimbaye—I was reminded of Isaiah 57: ""I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit." I looked at these brothers and sisters around me and felt grateful that I could be with God's people. My kids munched on some fried cassava that one of their new acquaintances shared with them. I moved with the kids into the Children's Church that met in a small concrete surround. It eventually became packed with children as one of the biggest happenings in the neighborhood.
I watched my kids: This was one of their most extensive cultural interactions since we'd been here. Kids touched their hair, stared at them, or tugged at them. The songs were lively, and although there were no illustrations in the bilingual kids' lesson, the Gospel was fully intact. There was even a kids' offering and a time to pray for the sick. My kids grew restless with the longevity of the service, and I was wondering if I was souring them on the whole experience, just overwhelming them.
But by the end, my kids were teaching the neighborhood kids kung fu moves from their Kung Fu for Kids DVD! I doubt I'll forget the image of all of them lined up there along the dirt road outside the church, passersby gawking, doing kung fu together. My oldest was even using an African accent to more clearly communicate. When he finally climbed into the van, he exclaimed, "Mom! I just made about a billion friends!"
And that was yet another grace-full moment that morning. Despite all their discomfort, my kids ran headlong into a cultural interaction with kids who were almost as different from them as we could find. God was so gracious. He was here, dwelling with these people—just as He'd be there with the rising of the sun in Little Rock in several hours as His people there readied for worship. Seeing His Body in its form here on the other side of the world just increases my worship. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.