Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There is a time for everything

I'm fascinated by the changing of the seasons. Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. Although it always feels like summer in Uganda, I’m not letting that stop me from celebrating fall. Last weekend I picked up a pumpkin in the market, and Monday, I decided to set to work on him. I’ve been determined to do some pumpkin-flavored baking, and making my own “puree” seemed to be the only option.

I decided that I couldn’t cut up my pumpkin without first taking the opportunity to carve him. It started as a fun, festive activity, however as my carving began to take shape, shame began to set in. My family would have been so disappointed in my work. It didn’t compare to previous years. In my defense, my knife was dull :) Nevertheless, my pumpkin was carved. Sadly for him, his life didn’t last long. After admiring my not-so-impressive creation, I dissected him and scraped out the goodies. I baked the pumpkin seeds and boiled the meat of the pumpkin.

As I spent the afternoon baking and reflecting about fall, I couldn’t help but think about how typically the season is a representation of things beginning to die. The thought of death also made me think of life and the many things in life I am thankful for. To me, life in itself is a gift. I took the opportunity to spend my fall afternoon celebrating life by praising God for everything I could think of to be thankful for. After thanking God for each person I could think of that I am thankful for, I transitioned to thinking more about death. Seems to me that one of two things can happen after a person’s death. One, people celebrate the life you lived and rejoice because you are with Jesus, or two, people mourn because the afterlife is uncertain and there is sorrow that accompanies uncertainty. I know with certainty that the day my funeral occurs, it will be a day of celebration. A celebration of my life lived for Christ alone. I fear that so many of us live “partially” for Christ, and yet is that even possible?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

What keeps us from believing that? What keeps us from living our lives to the full each and every day?

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction… Now choose life…” Deuteronomy 30:15,19

Every moment of every day we have a choice to make. Now choose life, and take joy in knowing you can live it to the full.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What a person desires is unfailing love.

Although, it is a compliment to be called fat in this country, it is not an honor I’m looking to receive. Therefore, I’ve begun running with Justus this week to get myself some cardio exercise. I’ve somewhat acclimated myself to the altitude by walking a couple miles most days, but running is just a whole other matter. As we were running, I said, “Ah! Justus it is so hilly in Mbarara!” He then felt the need to tell me that Mbarara was indeed the flattest land in Uganda. I said, “Justus, when you can look out for miles and miles and see nothing but land, that is flat. This is not.” As a native Nebraskan, I think I’ve acquired the expertise through life in the Great Plains to deem what qualifies as flat. No run through Uganda is without excitement.

Yesterday, as we were running we came up on a group of P7 students from the local primary school. A few weeks ago, I had asked the neighbor if I could go to the school to observe. She teaches there, so she said she would discuss it with the head mistress and let me know. Thanks to her help, the next Friday I woke up early and made the walk to school. I was under the impression that I was going to simply observe for a couple hours because I had made it very clear that I didn’t want to teach that day.

As I got to the school, I was ushered into the P7 (similar to our 7th grade) classroom. The teacher greeted himself and asked me to find an empty seat. I walked past the questioning stares and found an empty seat near the back. Before I knew it, a student had handed me a notebook and a writing utensil. The teacher looked at me and said, “You will have to turn around to see the book and follow along.” Unsure of what was going on, I did as I was told and huddled with a few other students around the geometry book to follow along. After a few minutes of verbal instruction, we worked through examples as a class. At first, I didn’t write anything down, but the girl sitting next to me softly whispered that I should get to work. It was at this point in time that I began to question what was going on. After about an hour of instruction, the teacher gave us some work to do independently and left. I thought, are they expecting to actually do this? When I set my pen down and closed my notebook, the looks I received told me the answer. Yes, I was expected to do the work. Much to my dismay, I opened up my notebook and copied down the problems. Math isn’t my strongest suit, and I made a couple mistakes on my paper. I scribbled them out and when the boy sitting behind me saw that I had “messy work”, he laughed at me. After two hours of math, I’d had enough and decided to leave. Yesterday, on my run, I discovered the answer. As Justus and I ran by the group of young students, they began pointing and shouting in Runyankore. “What are they saying?” I asked Justus excitedly. He responded, “They are saying, ‘Look it is our classmate!’” In a simple attempt to observe some teaching, I was mistaken for a seventh grader. Nothing like getting an insider’s view on education. Next time, I will have to clarify that not only do I not want to teach the class, but I do not want to be in the class either!

After my all-too-real flashback to middle school, I’ve decided to fully embrace my role as the sixth grade educator of Dara. I feel much more comfortable in the role of teacher than student in that environment. Plus, who wants to relive middle school? One time through was enough for me. Homeschooling has already stretched me as an educator more than I would’ve thought possible. Planning lessons for multiple subjects and of all different content areas has challenged me to be more creative. Not to mention, my knowledge has been increasing due to the amount learning I do alongside Dara. Many things I’m being called to teach, I haven’t been taught since sixth grade! Because I am an English-Language Arts teacher at heart, the poor girl has to read and write continuously. There seems to always be a way to incorporate writing, no matter what the content area, and it gives me great pleasure to tie it in! I just don’t believe there is such a thing as too much writing. Sorry Dara!

In addition to the joys of teaching, I am continually being challenged in my goal to be a life-long learner in other areas as well. Especially, when it comes to language learning. Despite the many frustrations that come with trying to pick up a new tongue, the times spent with our language teacher and friend, Sophie are irreplaceable. Last week, she bestowed me and Carolyn with the great honors of Runyankore names. So, in Uganda, I am now called Ankunda Kelsea. As Sophie sat down to tell me my name, the mood grew serious. She revealed that my name would be Ankunda and explained that it means ‘He loves me.’ Sophie said, “Let me ask you, can you live without blood in your body?” As I sat silently, she said, “No, and love is like blood. You can’t live without it in your body.” The moment was possibly one of my favorite memories thus far and a good reminder about the importance of our calling to love one another.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

If to love one another is one of the greatest commandments given, it must be important. It must mean something to love and to be loved. And, if it’s our command to love, then why do we struggle to show it? If we have the capacity to love others, and it can have influence in their lives, I pray that we take this commandment seriously.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

I think Sophie was right. You can’t live without love.