These are just some of our pictures. I didn't take very many because I was frustrated by my ancient camera (Thank God for sharing pictures with people who have amazing cameras!!). So probably... more to come once I get everyone's pictures. There may be more I want to show you!!
I know (and hope) you are going to ask me about Africa. But I want to request something of you before you do.
Be patient with me.
I'm one who knows she isn't the greatest with words. I don't think putting outreach into words is even a possibility at this point. It's too big, too much, too holistic and too profound. I think I've done a pretty good job telling weekly on here, but to fully embody... oof, it's just too much. I think this blog has been more of a telling of events and immediate responses than of lessons learned. Be patient if I haven't processed or reflected on a certain part when you ask me a question.
What did that mean? What do I think about that? How did that really affect me? What am I going to let that teach me? What now?
I have so much to think about now. I understand that when I'm telling you something face-to-face you may not get as excited or passionate as I do. You weren't with me in Uganda or maybe you've never even been to Africa. It would be unfair to expect you to understand everything. So I don't expect that from you. I'll be patient with you, and promise me you'll do the same for me.
And if I word vomit on you, I promise I'll try to clean it up. LoL.
The stories may come out slowly. I want the telling of my experience to be slow. Natural. A conversation even. As I think of them.
Another thing - please don't ask if you don't want to know.
I don't want "How was Africa?" to be like the way "How are you?" is these days. Be sincere when you ask. Or don't ask. It's ok if you don't. I was prepared for this by Fishy, one of the leaders at the YWAM Jinja base. She's from the UK and whenever she goes home, she finds that people will ask, but will turn off or zone out after a minute. I don't expect to talk your ear off (unless you really want me to) or bore you (Africa? Boring?). But trust that I will speak if you ask. I will speak. I will tell. And if my words fall on deaf ears, I will be hurt. I'm trying to prepare myself for that happening, trying to get ready for it. Because it could happen. Despite my attempts to prepare myself, it will still sting. Be honest with me. If you don't want to know, aren't that interested, I understand. Let's be honest with each other.
When do you ask "How was Africa?" I may only say "Good. Really good." I'm sorry if this is not enough. It will be hard for me to know what else to say. So think about what you really want to know. Like I said, I will tell you. But I can't say it all. Especially when I don't know what you want to know about. I don't think my Ugandan experience is for me alone. I want what I say to be for you, too. God can make this go SO far.
Go tell it on the mountain...
And thanks for reading. Sometimes it feels like I'm talking to a screen. But I've gotten a lot of feedback, so I know you're out there (LoL)!! You have all been very supportive and throughout DTS, it was so encouraging and uplifting. Thank you.
I plan to still post. Probably not as often, or as exciting I guess you could say. Just updates on me and stuff I'm thinking about. Things God is challenging me with and new revelations on where I'm going in life. So I'll be here and you're always welcome to keep on readin'!
So DTS is winding down. Just this morning, Mike, Jas, and Carolyn headed out. Oof, the initial sting of that is intense. I miss them so much already. But I realize that this last week of debreif was perfect. Full of laughter. And good moments.
Mike, Carolyn and I decided that we didn't need the whole of Wednesday afternoon to get ready for the banquet/graduation that night. So we went out on the town!! We headed downtown to Starbucks. We had had a discussion during outreach about which drink at Starbucks I would choose for each person on our team. We made some pretty detailed drinks in our minds. The one I picked for Mike was the Java Chip Frappuccino (can I get an AMEN?!), so we bought a venti and sipped on it. We just enjoyed each other. Laughed. Played. It was what I needed. Then we ran around downtown for a bit and headed home. On our way, we were walking along Portage (one of the busiest streets in W'peg) and our arms were all linked. Mike kept kicking me in the bum, so I finally stuck my leg up under his ankle (I'm praying that this word illustration makes any bit of sense) in order to make him stumble a little. But since he had big boots on, he put his leg down, trapping my ankle in between his. Then we wiped out. Biffed it. Fell right over in the most ungraceful way. Ha!! When things like that happen, I need to linger and laugh my butt off because of how FUNNY it is, even if I'm laying on the ground. Since I was on Mike's legs, he was trapped. So we just laid on the sidewalk, laughing SO hard. Carolyn didn't go down with us (I'm not really sure how - she's a clutz!!) and just stood there laughing at us. Yup - lots of people saw, especially because hysterical laughter tends to draw attention. So funny. Good, lasting memory.
This week has just affirmed how amazing each of these people are. We're all so different, but it fits. Yeah, we clashed sometimes. But the way we complemented each other was even greater. The way we challenged each other to be better people was even greater. I have been so unbelieveably blessed by this family these last five months, and I will never forget it. Pretty sure part of me is with each person. That's why it's so hard to leave and why I've been an emotional basketcase all morning.
Carolyn, Jas, Mike, Crystal, Devon, Jamie, Kim, Michelle, Lindsey, Brennie. I love you all so much. I'll see you soon. Know how great I think you are.
I am currently sitting in the Amsterdam airport on my way back to Winnipeg.
So our last few days...
Saturday we had the day in Jinja. We met up with the UK team at Flavour's, a very delicious restaurant. After that, we branched off and went to the Source of the Nile!! The beginning of that experience was actually pretty sour. You have to pay to get into the area (and more to get a boat ride to the actual source). Ugandan adults: 1,000 Ugandan Shillings. Visitors: 10,000 Ugandan Shillings!! BAH!!
We got a boat ride to a little Island right at the edge of the River Nile and Lake Victoria. It's this dinky little thing, but right next to it is a bubbly pool. The source!! I was a little confused - it looks like a jacuzzi, but it supplies a HUGE river. Very cool.
Personally, one of the hardest things for me to see and experience is kids begging in Jinja. YWAM Jinja advised us to not give to beggars, but to give YWAM money to distribute to who we please. There's a stigma that white people are rich and they have money. My hardship is - is that far from the truth? We spent thousands of dollars just to get to Uganda and the cost of living in the West is higher, so we have higher incomes. Do they have the wrong idea? Or are they just gripping opportunity when they see it?
There's so much meat to this. Are the kids sent by their parents because they look more desparate and kids always get more sympathy? Should I honor YWAM or do what I think is right (silly question, but VERY hard to implement)? Is it up to me to change someone's mind about white people or to decide if they're legit or determine what they should spend the money I give them on? And usually they ask, "Muzungu, give me 100 [Ugandan Shillings]." That equates to about... a nickel. It breaks my heart. I wanted to give this one kid in particular something sooooo bad. He just worked his way through our team and the UK team and just stood there, I'm sure desparate. I felt so much for him, but couldn't have (or chose to not have because of what trouble I might get into) any action for him. I hope acknowledging him, looking him in the eye and apologizing, was enough.
Sunday, we went the Kangulumira Pentecostal Church again. I gave a little devotion, a recap, of what Mike talked about the previous week (acting out our faith/serving those who need). We then split off into groups to go out and serve people!! It was definitely approached differently than we're used to. The pastor split the congregation into groups (basically, if you were there for church, you're stuck for the afternoon!). And if you couldn't stay to serve, you had to go up and ANNOUNCE your reason before the church. Woah. We were like really? But if you think about it, in the West, we excuse it to quickly. Oh you don't sacrifice yourself for anyone? You're not willing to serve because you don't feel like it? You're too busy? Oh that's fine. I'm sure Jesus served whenever He could because He always felt like it. Mmmhmmm. How about a balance in the middle? I don't think we should condemn people for not serving, but I don't think that we should tell them that it doesn't matter either.
My group walked and walked and walked through Kangulumira to an old blind woman's house. Her house needs work, a lot of work, but we were unprepared for such work. So we just kept her company, which is something I think she also really needed. She was SO sweet. It was kind of nice to not be known as a muzungu at first. She could see us, and she didn't speak English so we didn't really say much to her, so how could she know? When Fred, who was talking to her, said muzungu, she got really excited and started to feel my and Mike's arms and hair (although, mine's not really muzungu hair anymore...). Even though we couldn't directly communicate with her, it was so good to be with her. We got to pray for her and hug her and just be with her.
Tuesday was packing day (so much to organize!). But Sarah, Sam's wife and our mother for our stay, escorted us into town for a surprise that Sam had for us. Surprise, eh? We ended up at Paradise Hotel in Jinja. Next to a pool at a very nice table. With dinner prepared for us by the hotel staff. In the presence of most of the YWAM Jinja leadership staff, simply there to appreciate us. Oh, and overlooking the Nile. Wow. We talked about our experiences in Jinja. The leadership actually wanted to hear what we learned and what God did in us. They wanted to understand what they could do to improve their ministries. Now that's humility. They took time and money out for our team. To honor us and learn from us. It was very cool.
We spent a little time in Kampala before flying out of Entebbe. We visited Watoto, a children's home started by the Pentecostal church there. So many babies. 110 to be exact. We got a tour of their building and how they care for the kids, and then we got to play!! As soon as we walked into the play area, toddlers ran up to us with open arms. They would just crawl all over you and soak you up. Cuddle time : ). It wasn't unusual to be holding three babies at once. I was holding Izzie for a while - I've never seen so much joy from such a little package. And then Angel came and latched on. When someone came to get Angel to feed her, she came running back a few minutes later, crying, and latched on again. I guess she loves me : ).
So ends outreach. I'm a little pressed for time, so I may process more and let you know. Of course. Stay tuned!!
Can you believe that? We leave Jinja in four days to fly back to Canada. Then a week and a half after that I'm back in good ol' Minnesota!! Every time I realize that, I'm just like, "Crazy!!" All of my emotions are so mixed. I'm sad to be leaving Uganda, but then again I'm ready. I think you unintentionally set a clock in your head for how long you'll be somewhere. And then your mindset reflects that. I'm sad for the end of DTS. How do I even go about saying goodbye to everyone? I don't even want to face that. Oh, and I'm happy and so excited to be home and see my family again. Oh to be home. I'm sad, I'm happy, I'm content, I'm anxious. BLEH!!
Last Saturday was a good day. Very good. Saturdays are our days off, so in the morning we went to Kalagala falls. Beautiful. Large stream with rapids, waterfalls, rocks for climbing... sigh. We kicked off our shoes, set down our backpacks, and climbed. Over rocks and through forest. It was tiring and intense, but then we sat on big boulders in the middle of the stream. Can you imagine? I don't think you can - good luck!! The water was so intense that you could barely hear anything. If you know me well, you know that sitting by a body of water is one of my favorite things to do. RHAH!! The falls just drowned out so much noise. So great.
We took motorcycle bodas to get there (even better than bicycle bodas!), and on the way back, we had to squeeze Mike, Jas and me on one. Four people. One motorcycle. Heck yes.
Later that day we all headed to Jinja and had chocolate cake and milkshakes at Ozzie's for Lindsey's birthday (which was the next day). Yummmmm. Jinja is just a great place to hang out. And get a few marriage proposals. And say no to every single one of them. LoL.
Sunday we went to the same church - Kangulumira Pentecostal Church. This time around Mike spoke about acting out our faith in terms of responding to the needs we see around us. Jesus was a servant - we should seek to be servant-hearted as well. The congregation split off into discussion groups to talk about what they can do to serve their community like Jesus would. Great discussions. I really like how they went because it wasn't about us Muzungus. It was them - discussing, brainstorming, planning for themselves without us telling them what to do. It was great.
The whole time, there was a boy sitting in front of us. I'd say he was about 5ish. He was facing backwards, just looking at us. LoL. So I invited him onto my lap and held him for a bit. Then he started to get more relaxed... and his eyes started to droop... and soon enough he was fast asleep. Complete with drool (yup, all over my arm ha!), twitching and light snoring. Don't worry - we got pictures!
Some time this week we were riding back in a taxi talking about Mount Rushmore (not really sure how that conversation started...) and we were arguing about which state it's in. I thought it was in South Dakota, while both Michelle (also an American, and who's actually been there) and Mike though North Dakota. Since the odds were against me, I gave up. Gosh, some American I am, I don't even know where Mount Rushmore is!! When I got out of the taxi, I saw a man with a "Mount Rushmore, South Dakota" shirt on. I went AH! and used him as proof that Mount Rushmore is indeed in South Dakota!! LoL - yup. I definitely freaked the man out. Oops!! It was hilarious anyhow.
Tuesday, Crystal, Carolyn and I (C Squad!) worked with MCH, Mothers' and Children's Health, in a village. Since I've done it before, I was starting to get the routine. Mother comes in - blood pressure, palpation, someone who knows what they're doing with the chart and how to speak Luganda does the rest. Off to HIV testing!! All tests were negative that day, thank the Lord!! MCH also does immunizations for children, so I weighed lots of babies for that part.
I wanted to punch myself this week. I don't think I mentioned this in my last post, but a couple weeks ago, Carolyn and I spoke at a Spring of Hope clinic about child abuse. It was the topic they had asked for and God put it both on our hearts. We talked about the effects and how scarred it can make someone. For the rest of their life. But then we turned it around - God is good and He can work good out of any horrible circumstances. He is a Healer and He can restore.
A few days later, Crystal, Mike and I were walking on a side road to get back to Sam's house. This is from my journal, I don't think I could word this again:
"We were walking home from town and along that road, there's a BILLION kids and they all scream MUZUNGU and sing and dance and go WILD! In midst of that, I saw Mike looking back, disturbed. 'That guy just hit that kid.' I looked around and saw a man standing over a hysterical kid. Screaming. I only saw him grab the kid's arm and whip him around a bit. Enough for a protest, I think. But inaction gripped me. Inaction. It was all so fast and I didn't know what to do and Mike and Crystal kept walking. So I went with the flow.
"Who do I think I am? I talk one day against child abuse and I proclaim the healing and wholeness and restoration that God can give. But then I just let it happen. I just let it happen. Hypocrite.
"But then I think, what could I have done to stop it, really? The effects would seem only temporary, if anything.
"But then a voice answers, Something. Anything.
I prayed that God would give me another chance. But I hate that, too!! What are my motives in that? Excusing myself for the first time. Redeeming myself and proving that my default isn't indifference. I think it's ok if that's my default, but I can't let that grip me. I have to work against that and friggen do something!!
I'm ok. And I hope he is, too.
A group from the UK flew in on Sunday. They're on their gap year (in between high school and university) and plan to work with Spring of Hope for 6 weeks before heading to the southwest corner of Uganda. A few of us worked with them Wednesday and Thursday starting to paint the new SOH office in Kangulumira. This group is so fun!! While painting, it's easy to talk and get to know each other. Jen from their team was asking me about school and large cats and whatnot... and since I'm such a good painter, she decided that my calling is to paint large cats in churches. Wow!! I'm so glad I finally know what I am meant to do!! LoL - thanks Jen. What a lifesaver.
From the paint, my feet are now even dirtier than before. Imagine stepping in oil-based paint (not easily removed in the slightest) and then in dirt. That's what my feet are right now, LoL. Diseased looking.
Today we are heading to the Source of the Nile. Woohoo!! So next week, I'll let you know how devastatingly beautiful that was!!
We're staying with a guy named Samuel and his family. Since I last posted, I've been able to hear a bit more of his story and I am amazed by it. Sam is the oldest of seven kids and his dad fell ill while Sam was young, so he had to go to school and work full time to support his family. Yup, 6 siblings, mom, dad, and yourself. I think it happened sometime during high school, so we're talkin' 17-hour days between work and school. Oof. He still supports his family (his dad has since passed away) and some others - mostly kids from people he knows. Not even relatives!!
Monday Mike, Carolyn, Lindsey and I did an outreach with Spring of Hope. SOH is a ministry of YWAM Jinja that addresses the needs of disabled children. They do home visits to see how the kids are doing and to do excercises with them. They take care of the logistics when it comes to schooling - aka they try to get kids educated and developed as members of society. The list goes on and on. Basically, SOH tries to fulfill needs where they see them when it comes to disabled kids in the Jinja and Kangulumira area.
There are some hard truths about this that I've seen. A lot of the time, disabled kids are abandoned by their fathers. The mindset is that there aren't any disable people in my heritage, so this can't be my kid. It's my wife's only. G'bye. Lindsey and I went around (on motorbike taxis woohoo!!) with Charles, SOH staff, to visit a few kids. I didn't see one father.
We visited Fred, who is lame after he caught malaria when he was young. I never knew malaria could do such terrible things. If you can't get treatment, you could end up lame, deaf, blind, dead... But Fred was awesome. He starts Secondary One (Freshman year of high school) on Monday!! And in primary school, he was the top student in his class. He gets around using his hands dragging his legs underneath him. But I could see incredible diligent and strength. Wow. Then we visited Ruth and Ferruck, two kids who are deaf. We drew words in the sand and practiced sign language!! A lot of the signs of the alphabet are the same as ASL, but a few were different. So fun! And oh my goodness, Ruth? Absolutely gorgeous. I think she was around 10 and she just had the biggest, most beautiful smile I've seen in a while. And she was such a ham!! I whipped out my camera and she immediately posed, pulled people into pictures, put on that huge smile of hers... I'll put up photos later.
I've found that I'm not heartbroken. I'm not. I will be comeplete honest and admit that I'm not broken to the point of needing to come back, needing to do something more. At first this was so upsetting. BLEH!! How could I not feel much when holding a baby with HIV or seeing a starving kid to skin and bones?
But what I am getting? Their beauty. I've seen SOO many ill, hungry, hurting people that are still so beautiful. Helen at Amacet in Soroti had a feeding tube through her nose and was soooo small. But she was gorgeous. Ruth can't hear a thing, but she is so beautiful!! I'm seeing such beauty in peopole who've had ugly things happen to them. It just transcends.
We four got home early in the day, so we explored the land around Sam's house with Sarah (Sam's sister), Peter (his brother), and Ivan (one of the kids he looks after). Behind Sam's house there are a bunch of crops, a grazing pasture with cows (moo), and the best climbing tree ever. Vines, vines, vines. We were like little kids running around back there - so fun and freeing!! Sigh. I took a picture sitting in front of a bunch of cows holding a vanilla leaf and some coffee beans. Vanilla latte, anyone?
Wednesday we all worked with Spring of Hope again. They have a new building that needed to be cleaned out, so we washed the walls and floors in preparation for some painting!! Yay, pretty new building!! The Jinja area definitely has more Muzungus (white people) than Soroti did, but we are still feeling like spectacles. As we worked, we had kids peeking in at us through the windows and door. There comes a point when you just don't know what to do because you're being intensely stared at. So I just kept washing per usual. Mike cracked a lame joke and so I cracked some fake laughter, and the kids copied my laughter!! It was so stinkin' hilarious!! So then we decided to milk it and started to make noises and say phrases that the kids would imitate.
"Oh my GOSH!!" (A common phrase of mine)
"Elmo loves you." (Complete with high-pitched voice)
"RHAH!" (From Chad - our Prayer & Worship speaker LoL)
and the list goes on...
We had a morning tea break and sat outside for a bit. Naturally, the kids gathered 'round. I hadn't yet had a touchy feely experience, but I definitely had one then!! All the kids were fascinated with my skin and hair and face... my arms were every which way. They were playing with my hair and touching my skin. It was overwhelming, yes, but I loved it. I almost suffocated, but it was wonderful : ). And then they handed me a baby. Yeah, a random baby. So I held it for a little bit and then handed her off to Crystal. Then they... handed me another random baby (named Julia). Where are all these children coming from?? Ha! When it was time to get back to work, we gave the children back (while hoping we were handing them to the right kids...). I stood up and they were on the ball on getting me back into the house. Immediately, they wiped the dirt off my butt and held my arms to help me up the stairs. Wow. More hospitality. Mike kind of had to peel them off me. Intense!!
I've begun to start thinking about what it is that I'll do when I get home. It's down to weeks and I feel the need for a game plan. I've been spending time away with God just asking and asking and attempting to listen... I was brought to Psalm 139 and was sooo encouraged by Him. Read it. Love it. God's just kind of reiterating "I love the way you are, the things you love. Just do what you do because I'm pleased with that. You know what you love because I've told you. Your effort in pursuing that matters." Pheeeeeewwww. Siiiiiiigh. Breathe in. Breathe out.