Friday, December 23, 2011

Road Trips and Hedge Fires... the excitement lives on.

After waiting 7 hours for a bus (Check out Carolyn's Blog for details on that experience) to show up and take me to Kigali, Rwanda on Monday, it finally came. Except, instead of travelling to another African city, I ended up in America.

Okay, totally kidding.

But you could’ve fooled me. Time and time again, I caught myself staring out the window with my mouth wide open and questioning where I was. Some of my initial observations were:  
  • The roads. They were paved and smooth and had lines painted on them! But, it didn’t stop there. Reflectors. Reflectors lined the streets, street lights shined on the sides of the roads, and curbs existed. Stop signs, yield signs, and traffic lights were not only present, but obeyed.   

  • Traffic. Cars drove on the right (appreciate the pun? :) ) side of the road.      Boda Boda! Also known as motos in Rwanda, could only have one passenger. ONE! And, they are required to wear helmets. I didn’t see anyone riding side saddle, carrying a goat, or loaded down with a pile of 2 x 4s headed to a construction site.

  • Cleanliness. The streets were clean. I saw hardly any litter and observed women and men cleaning the streets and picking up any litter. Not to mention, the “Keep Kigali Clean” trash bins around the city. Absolutely, stunning.

And, those were only first observations. Observations made late Monday night, after waiting all day for a bus to arrive, a dark and somewhat sketchy walk across the border, and a bumpy, bus-rocking ride through hilly northern Rwanda. However, I feel the need to insert some disclaimers. First of all, I mean no disrespect to the missionaries in Kigali. I understand that there are many deeply rooted issues that go on beneath the surface. I believe missionaries are called all over the globe. And, I recognize that each of these individuals has made sacrifices and has had to make extreme adjustments in order to obey their callings from God. So as I go on raving and ranting about how much Kigali felt like America, I know I was only a 3-day tourist in the country, observing only the surface, which included tasty restaurants, new shops, and sidewalks.

One of the first places the girls and I hit up was the coffee shop, Bourbon. It was beautiful. From the finely furnished décor, to the smooth espresso and perfectly steamed milk it surpassed all expectations for a coffee shop experience. And, it was only the first.


We then wandered wide-eyed through the new Nakumatt, also known as Africa’s Wal-Mart or Target. We browsed the shelves of Mr. (High) Price, which contained new clothing. Yes. New. Clothes. Even though no purchases were made on my end, the smell of new clothes filled me with the same pleasure as if I had actually bought something worth being excited about.

After waiting out the rain (which proved we were still in Africa) we got in a taxi, figured out our bus tickets for the way back and then hired our first set of Rwandan motos to take us to Heaven. As if I didn’t already think I was there. At Heaven, we were treated to appetizers, a fine meal, and blankets to warm us from the chill of the Rwandan night. Heaven, indeed.

Wednesday, we had the opportunity to tour the Rwandan Genocide Memorial. The guide said it could possibly take an hour and a half. Three hours later, we made our way out, emotionally exhausted and teary eyed. I’m going to have to write about the experience in a blog by itself. In short, it was well done, very informative, and extremely moving.

After enjoying another café dining experience that consisted of a white mocha and vegetable Panini, our lovely hosts, The Gaskills, picked us up to take us to their house for the evening.

As we pulled into their neighborhood, once again I was in awe. Their neighborhood is part of a development plan called Vision 2020. Wow. There were street signs. There were other things, too, but that’s what I remember. Street signs. Are you getting the picture of why this so closely resembled America?

Finally, we pulled into the Gaskills’ compound. When we walked into their house, I cried.


Reverse culture shock? I don’t know what was going on. The emotions of the day, of feeling like I was in a place close to home, topped off with walking into a home that felt, smelled and looked like a home was just a little overwhelming.

Fortunately, I was able to compose myself so that we could walk to Kigali International Christian School, where the Gaskills and many other missionaries work. Beautiful. The kindergarten through 12th grade school is home to many local missionaries, international students, and members of the Kigali community. Seeing an educational facility where God’s hand is so clearly at work was such a joy.

It was a well-spent three days of vacation, visa renewal, and ministry touring.

We arrived home Thursday afternoon, exhausted from the bus ride. I was napping in my room, when I heard Carolyn shout for us to come outside. Much to our surprise, our hedge was on fire. The neighbors were all fetching water and trying, unsuccessfully, to put it out.

“Oh my gosh! Call… ummm who do we call?!”

There’s no 911.

So we called everyone, and then Willis, our neighbor and local chairman. He’s the man with power in our community and luckily, our friend. He came marching over, very unhappily, at the situation. At this point in time, I was extremely thankful none of us girls were responsible for the torched fence line that used to be our hedge.

Since yesterday, we’ve had policemen, photographers, and the man who supposedly lit the flame in and out of our compound. The whole mess is still “under investigation” due to some similar events that have happened recently. However, currently in place are some mats hanging along our fence to ensure our sense of privacy. As I walked out of the gate yesterday to go for a run, the neighbors along the burnt fence were all waving at me. Yes, I miss the hedge.

Needless to say, this week has held many moments worth remembering, and we still have a few days before Christmas. Oh, Nkokonjeru, what will happen next?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's all about relationships.

 I know the best people in Uganda. And, every day I become a little more convinced of it.

Our Favorite Boda Drivers – Godwin and Charles. They constantly provide safe treks for us all around Mbarara while sharing their knowledge and friendship with us!

Scovia – who takes such great care of the mail at Posta, and always makes sure it gets to me!

Bright, Doreen, and their baby girls, Sheila and Sheba. They not only own the coffee shop and cinema in town, but they also have become dear friends to us. Sharing time with Doreen, and their employee, Edith, while watching the girls grow up has become such treasured time. 

My girl friends and small group from university. Meet Primrose, Gigi, Shamime, Aidah, and Julian - some of my best friends. 

 My dear friend Sylivia.

The neighborhood kids. Our closest neighbors and friends are Docus and Willis and their children Faith, Patience, Junior and Marvin. What joy they bring to my heart when they greet me as I come home each day! 

Language teacher Sophie, who has become so, SO much more than just a teacher to me! There hasn't been a time in her presence that my stomach hasn't hurt from laughing.

Dade and Dara. Could we ask for better students? I don’t think it’d be possible.

The rest of our team, except that this picture is missing two very important members - Martha and Connor.  We are family, co-workers, friends, and mentors. 

Our own little constructed family. We continually give thanks to God for brother Justus, who watches over our safety, rescues us from lizards, and provides great moments of laughter and shared wisdom.

I know there are many more that I've failed to mention, who mean such a great deal to me. However, this is a snip it of some of the treasured people in my life that make living in Uganda such a joy. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The LORD Almighty - he is the King of glory.

This is who I am.  A mess.

Most of the time, my thoughts are ambiguous, unconnected, contradictory, and on a roller coaster ride through the scale of emotions.

I have many thoughts I can’t put into words.
I have many ideas I can’t put into action.
They spin around in my head looking for a way out, and all too often they fade into the recesses of my brain.


The whole of who I am often questions who I am.

I have likes. I have dislikes. But, even those change.

I have goals. I have desires. But, most of them are selfish.

If you asked me what I wanted in life, I might say to take a nap.
Ask me on a different day and the depth of that question leaves me staggering for words I can’t quite grasp.

If you asked me Today, “Who are you?”
I’d have to tell you I don’t know.

But, I do, on most days, at least know why I’m alive.

My purpose – my only purpose – rests in bringing glory to God.

What does that mean? What does that look like?
Sometimes, I don’t know.

I don’t always know how to glorify my God.

And, then I realize again that the thoughts stirring in my head to try to answer that question, and so many others, are more than I can handle, and to try to write them down would be butchering the depth of how I really feel.

So, can I do anything worthy of glorifying God?
Can I give any answer to satisfy the thoughts of my head and of my heart?

I don’t think I can. Not on my own. And, that’s why I praise God, whose love is more than I can bear.
Whose love has delivered me from my meaningless wanderings.
Whose love now gives my wanderings purpose.
Not a purpose that I can always see,
But as a daughter of the King, I can know I’m where He wants me to be.
His love not only covers my inability to speak,
But intercedes for me in the many moments where I don’t measure up.

It tells me that I don't have it all together, I never will, and that's okay.

His birth, life, death, and resurrection didn't end His story thousands of years ago. 
It only opened a new chapter.
One that He allows me to be a part of by living and breathing in and through me. 
One that allows Him to bring glory to Himself through me even if I don't understand what that means.

So who am I?
I don’t know.
I guess it depends on who God makes me to be today.

" should do so with the strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." 
1 Peter 4:11

Monday, December 12, 2011

I am my Beloved's, and He is mine.

Mondays are my Sabbath days. A day of rest. A day of celebration. A day of intimate time with my Lord and Savior.

A friend of mine from home, Brooke, shared this song with me (well not exactly with me, but via facebook… it still counts I think). The lyrics are singing the song of my heart today. And, I thought, as I meditate in the sweet presence of my Lord, I’d share them with you, too.

Where I Belong by Cory Asbury

Your presence is all I'm longing for here in the secret place.
Your nearness is all I'm waiting for here in the quiet place.
Here, in the secret place.

My soul waits for you alone,
Just like the watchmen wait for dawn.
Here, I've finally found the place,
Where we'll meet, Lord, face to face.

I’ve finally found where I belong.
I've finally found where I belong, in your presence.
I've finally found where I belong, Lord,
Just to be with you, to be with you.

I am my Beloved's, and He is mine.
So come into your garden, and take delight in me.
Take delight in me.
Delight in me.

Here in Your presence, God, I find my rest.

A verse that continues to speak to my heart in this season of life:

'Be still and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46:10-11

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My hope is in you.

The rain is pouring down.

“I’ve never lived in Uganda before this,” said my roommate Martha, “but I feel like this is an excessive amount of rain.”

It’s like clockwork. Most days between 2:30 and 5 p.m. the steady sound of rain pounds on the rooftops.

Rain is like snow in Uganda. Most people, including myself, don’t have the means for traveling in it. Therefore, I get my fair share of little mini-snow days for a couple of hours many afternoons. Some days it provides the opportunity for an extended conversation with a friend. Other times I get to be productive and get some lesson planning done. There are the afternoons where it makes for a soothing lullaby to nap. And yet, many times it’s a great chance to just meet with my Savior for a little extra intimate time together.

Some things, like the rain, can be inconvenient, disheartening or discouraging, if you choose to look at it that way. Or, it can be a meeting place for growth and an opportunity to be stretched.

It’s just when I think it can’t rain any harder, that it seems to pick up. And, isn’t life that way sometimes?

Yet, Romans tells us, “… we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We have hope in the glory of God. That a future glory awaits us, and now, even today, we can take joy in whatever it is that opposes us. Whatever it is that is stretching us and causing us no other option but to call out to our Savior, who not only answers us, but brings glory to Himself in our constant transformation to be more like Him.