2 months in Africa
We are now almost two months into our six-month-long adventure in Uganda. Initially I intended to post to this blog weekly about what was happening. Surprise, surprise...that hasn't happened! I have been much more disconnected from technology, accessing the internet once or twice a day. Honestly, it has been a welcome change to not obsessively check my phone every five minutes to see if someone has tried to contact me, or wasting time going down web-based rabbit holes. There is so much more to life than being tethered to a phone!
We are comfortable in our rented space here in Wakitaka Village, outside of Jinja. The house has served as the office location of IKOOVA Ministries since April and now we are living in it. It is an extremely nice place for the area, and the Lord really blessed us with a landlady who was willing to rent it to us for less than some people pay for their monthly cell phone bill back home. Last week Jeff repaired a leaky roof on a simple mud hut that an elderly widow has been living in for 40 years. It measures approximately 4 ft. x 6 ft. and she sleeps on a tattered foam pad on the ground. We are living the "high life" compared to many around here, and I try not to take that for granted.
It's been so fulfilling to spend time here and get to know all of the children in the neighborhood. I went from struggling to distinguish between the faces I saw in Jeff's pictures from his trip in March, to knowing each child by name. We have had fun playing Red Rover, Red Light, Green Light, tackle football, and any other variation of 40 kids + 2 Muzungus (white people) + a ball.
As much as I have enjoyed playing with the children, they have no concept of personal space or rest. They ALWAYS want to play.
When we go to town they follow us and scream, "Uncle Jeffu, Auntie Jenique." They literally climb up the walls and hang from the bars to stare in at us as we try to relax on the porch. We've resorted to retreating to the backyard if we desire to have time outside--at least back there the walls don't have eyes (save a few holes the neighbor kids have bore out to peer through).
I've never desired to be famous or well-known, but being here is giving me a tase of what that might feel like. Anonymity is not possible here, as we are the only white-skinned people living in this town. But, as much as this has been difficult to adjust to, I try to remember the positive aspects of our popularity. Alternatively, people could dislike us and shut us out with mistrust and prejudice. I am grateful that most people are extremely warm and welcoming. Also, with every challenge we face, God gives us the strength and ability to overcome it.
In Colorado, we live somewhat isolated on a ranch. We must drive 10 minutes to reach town and our social interactions are planned and intentional. Here, we live in the middle of the village and social interaction is constant and unavoidable. I believe God is growing us through this experience, as I think we were created to be in community and part of one another. In the U.S., I would venture to say the majority of people live selfish lives. It's about "my" time, my job, my family, my friends, my kids, my hobbies, my plans. Here, we are part of a community, whether we choose it or not. We can't easily withdraw and isolate. It's possible to do but it would probably make us appear haughty and strange to the villagers. Jesus said the second Greatest Commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." How can one love their neighbor if they 1. Don't know them and 2. Don't spend any time with them? I know "neighbor" is meant to encompass all humanity, but in the inclusiveness of that term, people have mostly excluded the specific definition of it. How many people have lived in a location for years and have never so much as greeted their neighbor or learned their name?
So, in adjusting to the differences in our new lives, I am trying to look at what God is trying to do in us and around us. I have to look beyond tattered clothes, pungent body odors, rampant fungal infections, and unkempt living spaces. "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7).
I am feeling His great love for these people. I am seeing how special and precious they are to Him. I am seeing what's in my own heart as well--which can be bent towards selfish desires and vain pursuits. I'm seeing the value of relationships and spending time with people, rather than being alone and trying to keep my house clean. I can't be "too busy" to stop and talk with an elderly man or pray for the woman who hasn't been able to walk for an entire year. When children with snotty noses and ringworm clamor to hold my hand and touch me, I remember that Jesus has given me authority over "all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm [me]." Luke 10:19.
I hope what I am writing doesn't make me seem superficial in any way. I am trying to be "real" about what it is like living in Africa. Going from a clean and sanitary environment to one rampant with disorder and contagions is certainly an adjustment. A germaphobe would definitely be challenged here. But, the Lord gives us strength to overcome all of our obstacles and fears! I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity. I feel at peace, I feel fulfilled, and I look forward to our remaining time here to get to know the people of this community and to love and serve them the best we can.
(My friends Florence and Ngobi. When I met Ngobi he was unable to walk due to extreme pain in his feet, which I presumed to be neuropathy due to his diabetes. We prayed for him and immediately he felt a significant reduction in the pain. The next time I saw him he was walking around, without any issues, and was praising God for his healing. Afterward, I learned that Ngobi had been an alcoholic and unable to quit drinking. He is now celebrating 6 weeks of sobriety and is drawing closer to the Lord. Praise Jesus!)