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.