Tuesday, August 23, 2011

See I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction... Now choose life.

After the long wait, I’m finally here!

Last Friday, I finally was able to make the 4 ½ (ish) hour drive south to my new home in Mbarara, Uganda! Along the way, I was blessed with some memorable moments.

First off, to get to Mbarara you have to cross the equator! So, to any of you who watched the movie A Walk to Remember and fell in love with Shane West when he took Mandy Moore to the state line so that she could fulfill her bucket list goal of being in “two places at one time”, I did it! Except I happened to be in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time!

A few hours following that we entered an area where I’d heard rumors that it was possible to sight zebras along the way, and much to my delight, we did! Our driver had quite the eye and was able to spot them even though they were hardly visible from the road. Luckily, zebras are pretty calm animals (that’s what they told me anyway), and we were able to get out of the vehicle and go have a closer look!

Although I have wonderful memories from Kampala and the trek down to Mbarara, it is so good to be settled. Carolyn and I moved into our house on Sunday and have been enjoying the task of making it our own. When you look at the pictures down below, please don’t mistake that I really am in Africa. I’m extremely blessed to be able to live in such a beautiful compound during my year here.

One of the many perks in this beautiful compound is the basketball hoop in the driveway. I haven’t told my brother Levi yet, but this is fair warning that I’ve already been practicing my jump shot. When I come back in a year, he better be ready to face a new and improved basketball player here!

I think I’ve already briefly mentioned this, but as of right now, power is kind of hit and miss. I don’t really understand the whole situation, but what I do know is that sometimes the light switches work and sometimes they don’t. Last night, they didn’t. While Carolyn and I managed to buy lanterns, with a lot of help from our team leader, Jill, we forgot to pick up the kerosene. It was a funny moment when I mentioned to Carolyn how excited I was to write a letter with only light shining from the lantern and we both realized that wouldn’t be happening. It turned out even better though, when I took a blast to the past, and wrote my letter by candlelight. I’m fulfilling years’ worth of daydreams here people!

Time has always fascinated me, but as of lately, it’s become an even more interesting concept to me. I truly can’t fathom it and have stopped trying to understand how it works, especially in a new culture. It seems to me that just when you think you have it down, you figure out you don’t. Anyway, my days are a mixture of slow and go. I really don’t have a set schedule yet, which has been so amazing to just enjoy my quiet times of reading and resting. However, I’ve found that the quiet times have been much needed because when we are out and about it just so quickly drains me! The amount I have to learn is just overwhelming so I guess it’s a very good thing I’ve committed myself to being a life-long learner.

One thing that has been heavy on my heart lately is how valuable our time here on earth is. Nowhere, have I found, in the Bible does God guarantee us tomorrow. So what does that mean for us today? It means that we are not to live in fear, but to live in boldness. To live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) everyday.

It is so straightforward in the Bible.

“Therefore, GO and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Whether, I am in Uganda or Nebraska or anywhere else on the face of the earth, I pray my life reflects that and yours too. What else are we living for, but to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of Him? Is there anything more worthy of living for than that? Regardless of skin, occupation, social class, location, nationality, reputation… anything, we are all broken and lost without a Savior. Everyone needs Jesus.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Search me, God, and know my heart.

"I wanna feed the hungry children and reach across the farthest land. And, tell the broken there is healing and mercy in the father's hands." - Britt Nicole''

That's my cry today. The last few days have been filled with lots of different emotions for me. Moments of laughter and moments of tears. I'm perceiving that life is going to be that way quite often this year.

Flexible is a term that I've been well-aquainted with my first week here. Last Thursday Carolyn, Cassandra, and I were transferred to a differnet inn because more missionaries came in to stay at Matoke Inn. I don't try to understand African logistics, and instead, just do what I'm told.

Moving to the inn up the way was definitely good for my legs in the multiple times I've had to walk from there to Matoke over the past few days. The first time I rode up there in a vehicle I was literally a bit scared that the SUV would topple over backward. The slope was that steep. This morning I was also reminded of how steep the hill was when I slid down it, injuring my purple painted big toe and giving me the first strawberry on my knee in a long time. It wasn't pretty. A local man walking up the hill at the same time had to have had a good laugh.

After settling in to the new quarters Thursday evening, Carolyn brought to my attention the slight slope in my bed. The bed legs at the head of my bed were a good 3 inches taller than the ones at the bottom.

The elevation ended up being good for my allergies and a nice little incline for bedtime reading! As we climbed into bed that night, I thought I heard the sound of rain outside. I thought to myself, what a joy it would be since I sleep so well during storms. However, with a little exploring, Cassandra discovered that it was no storm, but rather the leak of the water tower outside of our room. Not a good thing when you have a limited water supply. I kind of wonder if that directly related to the trickle that flowed from our shower head the next few nights...

Friday, we went through some more inland orientation and spent time in fellowship with the other missionaries staying at Matoke Inn. Since we girls were staying at the other location up the hill, we were instructed to make the trip back before dark. One thing about being near the equator is that you pretty much have a consistent 12 hours of sunlight a day. 7 a.m to 7 p.m. It gets dark early and when you have inconsistent electricity, sometimes when it's dark, it's dark. At about 7:30 Friday night I had to have an intervention with Carolyn and instruct her to get out of bed.

Language learning began Saturday morning and the rest of the day was truly full of rest. Good African Coffee is becoming a place I dream about during the day. I miss Scooter's, and it's the Scooter's of my African living!

Through orientation and language learning I've had the blessing of making a great friend in a local Ugandan woman. Sunday she invited us to go to church with her, and what a blessing it was! University Community Fellowship made my day. I was blessed with great fellowship and solid Biblical teaching.

Sunday was also my first day of learning how to ride the boda side saddle due to my skirt. The local girls make it look so elegant and easy. In my head, I looked that way too. Don't listen to any other stories. Fortunately, I was able to effectively communicate to my driver to drive slowly. He listened and it made for a delightful little joyride! After a very nice lunch at Javas, we had to leave Kampala and head back to Lubowa. The best and safest way to get back is by taking a taxi. However, in order to get to the taxi park, you have to make your way through some of the lower parts of inner city Kampala. A taxi in America looks much, much different than a taxi in Kampala. It's not a private hire, but a public taxi.

The sights at the taxi park are unbelievable. Yesterday, it was the sight on the way to the taxi park that continues to haunt me. There are some things on earth that can break your heart at the sight of them and I experienced a little bit of that Sunday afternoon. What breaks my heart break even more is the fact that I've seen such a small percentage of hurting and suffering in the world. It's everywhere. And, if you think America is exempt from that, you are living in a lie.

By the time we got to the taxi park, I was a little shaken up, and the taxi park isn't the ideal location to catch yourself in when you're feeling that way. It is mass chaos. If there are any traffic laws down there you wouldn't know it. It's a bump and grind of multiple taxi vans. Bumping the vans into each other is really no big occurence. Just keep moving. It's the motto for the vans, and what I have to tell myself when I'm down there. As a muzungu (white) in the inner city, people fight for your attention. It's a little sickening, which didn't help how I was already feeling. Thanks to the two teammates we were with, Carolyn and I were able to safely make it back to Lubowa.

Last night contained one of my favorite moments. When it was time to clean up after dinner, Jacob (a fellow Nebraskan!) and I took on the dishes. I'm not exactly sure what spurred the conversation on, but for some reason Jacob asked if I knew of the "Tush Push". For all of my country line dancing friends reading this, can you guess what happened?! Jacob and I broke out into the tush push there on the kitchen floor. Another missionary, Harrison commented, "Now this is the kind of thing I was talking about when I asked what you do in Nebraska!" Ah. It was definitely a moment I needed and am cherishing that I got to experience on Ugandan soil.

Another comical moment from last night happened back at our lodging place up the hill. Carolyn and I were having some quiet time in the room, when we heard Cassandra on the phone on our balcony say, "Okay, I'm going to have to let you go. There are bats flying around my head." With the door open, I am praising God that one of those creatures didn't make its way inside.

We happen to be settled back in at Matoke Inn now due to a few other reasons, and it's nice to have a generator, consistent shower and internet access.

In spite of all the light-hearted moments including one like the sign below,

the past few days have been a strong reminder to me about how no matter where we are in the world, we are all hopeless without a Savior.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6

Jesus is the only hope for the world.

"I am the vine; you are the branches If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Of this truth, I am constantly reminded. Apart from Jesus I can do nothing.

This week will be my last in Kampala and on Friday I will finally move to Mbarara. I'm so excited to begin what will be my life there for the next year. I would definitely appreciate your continued prayers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rejoice in the Lord Always


It's a greeting in what will (hopefully) be a language I can speak or communicate in sometime during my stay here in Uganda! This week has already been full of adventures as I began going through inland orientation. Saturday will be the beginning of another one as I engage in language and begin learning Runyankole, the local language in Mbarara. Thanks to a couple of local Ugandans I've had the pleasure of picking up a few words!

Yesterday I had the crazy experience of learning how to hire and ride on a boda boda. After catching the first boda down to the end of the lane to Entebbe Road, Carolyn and I were smothered by the other boda drivers waiting for their next riders. It was truly an overwhelming site. Carolyn and I were the only muzungus (the local word for "white") which made us quite the attraction. As the boda drivers continued to block the two of us in, preventing us from walking away, we were definitely praying for our other companions to arrive at the spot to meet us. The scene only escalated as one boda driver took the keys out of another boda and threw them across the ditch into the grass on the side of the hill to prevent him from being our driver! Thankfully, the others showed up soon and all order was restored.

Carolyn and I reached a new level of comfort with each other as we squeezed in tight to ride the boda together. It felt good to get out of the compound and see some of the Ugandan scenery. A few of the places we were able to visit included Dwelling Places and Reformed Theological College (RTC). In both locations there are wonderful Ugandans and AIM missionaries working. It was so fun to see the Kingdom work others are involved in here! As we left RTC, we were reminded of our ultimate mission no matter where we are in the world!

Today, we also had the opportunity to venture out into the city and navigate public transport. We were led by a couple of young women who were so patient with us in teaching us the necessities to getting in and out and around Kampala! What a joy it was to be in their company! We caught taxis into town, walked some of the inner city streets, and hired bodas! Among the sites we were able to see was the hotel Carolyn and I stayed at our first trip to Uganda, the post office (a necessity for me in mailing letters back home!), a bookstore (another delightful encounter in which I found one of my favorite authors - Charles Dickens), and Garden City (where we enjoyed a delicious lunch)!

Lunch was another experience worth sharing with you all. The food court operates very differently here. 1. They personally guide you to a "recommended" seat. 2. Every choice of food vendor personally brings you a menu. 3. They proceed to stand over your shoulder as you read the menu waiting for you to place your order. Talk about pressure! I ended up bailing and ordering the same as the woman who was mentoring me along the way. It ended up being a good choice :)

Overall, my day in the city renewed my heart for this country. The last few days at Matoke Inn have been wonderful, and I've had the very best accommodations! However, it felt so great to be amongst the people. It was worth the headache.

After the crazy day in the crazy city we returned to Matoke Inn. Not long after our arrival back, we were greeted by new guests who are coming on the mission field to do long term missions. Among them were a fellow Nebraskan and a man who will be a team member of mine in Mbarara! What a breath of fresh air it was to hear about the city that will soon become my home! Not to mention, a couple of days ago the same girls who were in Carolyn and I's stateside orientation made their way to Matoke Inn after six weeks of serving here in Uganda. What fun it was to be reunited and this time in Africa!

To top the day off, some of us were able to engage in conversation at Good African Coffee, a coffeeshop down the road. It wasn't quite Scooter's, but it will do for now! Being in the coffee shop environment renewed my spirit! :)

Today I received a word of encouragement from my dear friend Alicia,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:6-7

Little did she know I would need this word at this moment in time! What a great reminder to us all that God is in control of all and to consistently go before Him!

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

And, God is faithful.

Lesson of the Day: If you are in the presence of a lion, don't run. Stay where you are, grab a stick, and hold it on your head.

I don't know if it'll work, and I'm praying I won't have the chance to find out.

Life in Kampala is just beginning. I have a feeling that it'll be just in the time that I feel well-adjusted that I'll be moving to Mbarara. And, I'm okay with that. From what I've been hearing, life in Mbarara is going to suit me well. Maybe even too well. I'll save details for when I experience them myself.

I have to thank the wonderful Stacey Walling for the devotional she gave me as I was leaving Omaha. It has been a steadfast resource for me to stay in the Word amidst a crazy transition. On Wednesday when I left, the verse of the day was, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem." Well, I wasn't leaving for Jerusalem, but the depth behind the verse served the same purpose. Something the passage said was, "We have no conception of what God is aiming at, and as we go on it gets more and more vague." Interesting, but it makes sense doesn't it? As I left for Uganda, and now as I'm here, I don't know what God is shooting for in most areas of my life. Nevertheless, I am more confident than ever that I am right in the middle of His will for me. All I am called to do is follow Him, and to be obedient in the things He calls me to everyday.

Today's verse is John 16:26, "At that day ye shall ask in My name." It's so funny to me that that is today's verse. I was just discussing prayer, and the amazing qualities of it. "The idea of prayer is not in order to get answers from God; prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God." It's all interconnected. God commands us to pray, not because He doesn't know what we need, but because He wants to be one with us. When our desires and God's desires align, and I'm going before God with those.... wow. Powerful.

Let's see how God continues to turn our desires into reality!