Monday, October 27, 2008

"All the love in the world is right here among us, and hatred too..."

For our short Fall Break the two other VIA (Nick and Christina) and I took a trip. There’s a town in south west Uganda called Mbarara where WGM is thinking of starting a site for planting churches. Our job: to scope it out. It’s a short 4 hour drive from Kampala, so we left early on Thursday morning excited for our travels. On the way down, I saw so much beauty. At one point when the car jolted forward over a pot hole Nick crossed his arm to keep Christina from jerking too, which reminded me of my Grandma. She was a huge part of my life growing up, and I was saddened at the thought that she never knew I was called to go to Uganda. I started to cry after being overwhelmed by the beauty of the rolling hills and this thought. To quote Beth Moore from the bible study that I am doing with the girls at KIU (To Live is Christ) “the mark of the Maker was most assuredly engraved on the countryside.”
At one point along the way, Christina thought she saw a Kangaroo. We both told her that despite what she thinks, we were not in Australia. The next week at school my teacher assistant, Agnes, told me that there are actually two kinds of kangaroos in Uganda! Crazy!
Something I’d never done before this trip is been on the other side of the hemisphere! The equator was neat with a line drawn down the middle of the road and some facts like how we were actually lighter than we were before!
After the half-way point of driving down there we came across some sort of celebration on the side of the road that we figured was a football (soccer) game, so we pulled in to see what was up. Turned out it was an Independence Day celebration. We asked some men if it was alright to be there and they told us to drive on up. We got out of the car and walked up casually just watching when people started to notice these three Mzungus in a village. The MC quickly saw us and ushered us “honored guests” to the tent to sit down. I got separated from Nick and Christina and was rather confused for the hour that we were sitting there listening to a celebration in a language I only know 10 words in. It was a joy to see the people dancing, and a guy in a funny hat speaking a poem that people were cracking up at.
Once we got into Mbarara we found our way to the hotel we were told about and checked in. Then we hopped back in the car and went back into the city. Surprisingly, it’s the second biggest city in Uganda in terms of population, but doesn’t have high rises or anything. It was a really neat place. We parked and wandered around for an hour or so. We found this little market that was in between buildings and talked to some random guys. One of them asked for my phone number, when I wouldn’t give it to them, they asked Nick for my number. His response was “You want her phone number? Ok, here it is. Ready? It is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. You want mine too? It’s 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.” They all laughed in good fun. We wandered through the alley ways and saw some neat things. We even found huge Ugandan flags for super cheap. We started to get hungry so we made our way to a little resturaunt Nick had seen. On our way there we passed by Mbarara University and saw an MTN (one of the phone companies) Independence Day celebration on the lawn so we stopped in to watch for a while. It was really funny some of the stuff that was going on.
We went to a little roof top resturaunt with no menus and got some dinner then made our way back to the hotel.
Then next morning we drove our car to a man’s house that we had a connection with and left it in his garage. He dropped us and our bags off at the Total station where the Jaguar buses stop on the way to Kigali, Rwanda. We were so close to Rwanda, that we decided this would be a good time to go. Christina and I wandered around some more before the bus came while Nick sat and read. We had bought very cheap bus tickets (less than $15) the night before so when the bus came we got on and found some seats, and luckily got one with a window so we could breathe.

Rwanda was a beautiful, beautiful country. I only saw the country side from a crowded bus on the road from the boarder of Uganda to Kigali (the capital city). However, that was enough to see that the steep rolling hills are covered with lush greens and waterfalls running through out them. The only sad part about it is that I didn’t get to go out and walk in them and capture them more clearly in photographs.
We arrived in the city at night (after 6 hours on the bus plus boarder contol time) and escaped the tight bus to a chaotic taxi park and found a private hire to take us to the home we were staying at. The group of us got in and went to a house filled with young men. Nick has a friend in Kampala who hooked us up with their mission branch in Kigali, so we got to stay there for free. That was quite an experience in and of itself ☺ It’s a home for boys that are going to University, but can’t afford it and are in need of mentors. So there is a Ugandan who lives there and mentors them, and they are sponsored in a sense to finish university. They are a fun bunch. The second night we stayed there we stayed up and hung out with some of them. We taught them out to ballroom dance, and they taught us a traditional Rwandan dance! It was hilarious. Then they got out 2 guitars (one for Christina to play), a keyboard, and a Rwandan drum. One of the boys, Bosco, taught Nick how to use the Rwandan drum. We sang worship songs until midnight and then turned in. At 5 am we were awakened to the sound of singing in the living room. Every Sunday they get up early for morning fellowship, then go to church at 7am. It’s hard to fathom, but amazing that they do that! What devotion.
On that Saturday, we slept in a little bit, then caught a private hire to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. That place was something that I will always remember. It was so well done. It started off with the history of Rwanda, and now the Belgiums were the reason behind the split. I’d known a good amount about the history, but it was great to learn more. I hadn’t realized that there were originally over 40 tribes in Rwanda, and when the Belguims came, they wanted to give them identity cards. So in order to better classify them, they split them up socio-economically. The people with more than ten cows were Tutsi, and the people with less than ten cows were Hutu. Craziness. I won’t bore you with all of the history, but that was one thing that really stuck out to me. There were also other small exhibits there. One part of the museum had stories of Hutus who hid Tutsis. One of them that I found amusing was this old woman who had a reputation for being crazy. She hid a whole bunch of Tutsis in a hut and told the Hutus that if they went in, they would be possessed with Demons. She saved like 17 peoples lives! The room that I really struggled to go into was a room full of bones. I had to stand outside of it for a moment and pray for strength to go in. I was able to go in, and I’m glad I did despite the smell of death. I’m just happy there were no skulls of little kids. Later I walked through an exhibit of huge pictures of kids. Under each photo was a summary of who they were, their favorite food, their favorite game, their last memory, and how they died. One was 4 years old and was stabbed in the eyes. It was so moving, and hard to fathom.
After walking through the museum, I went outside and walked through the gardens there. It was so beautiful. I just soaked in the beauty of the water falls and the flowers, and embraced being a photographer.
After the museum, we took some bodas down to the taxi park, bought our bus tickets home and ate lunch at a little buffet near by. Then we found our way to the Mille Collines, or better known to many as “Hotel Rwanda”. It was not where the movie was filmed, but this was the actual location. The hotel was under construction, however it was still neat to go in the gates and look around some and talk to the guard about his experience. It was wild to think that almost everyone we passed went through that experience.
We walked down the road from there to find a huge Kenyan grocery store and a sweet coffee shop where there was amazing hot chocolate. We found an incredible water fountain near by and hung out there for a while. There was this dude standing near by that saw us looking at it, then ran down and turned on the water for us! It was really cool. We went back after going to a craft market and the lights were on because the sun had started to set. It was SO beautiful. We took some striking pictures, which are up in my new photo album.
While Rwanda was a beautiful country, and the city of Kigali was remarkably less insane (both trash wise and traffic wise), it was not near as friendly as Uganda. When I returned home, I watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda” again, and from this I could really see how people in Rwanda would seem cold towards white people. We deserted them in their greatest time of need! Did you know that with the amount of UN troops sent in to get the white people out, they could have stopped the fighting all together!? It was not the most friendly city, but being only 14 years after a massacre that left 1 million people dead all over the streets, it is understandable.
We got up early in the morning to get the bus back to Uganda and quickly discovered that we had been cheated. We had made sure the bus home was the 2x2 bus, paying an extra like $2.50, and when we got on, it was a 2x3 bus and had added an extra 20 or so people to the bus. We were cheated, and not happy. After some finagling, I convinced them to let us move at least to the seat of 2 people where Christina and I were sitting on top of each other, but at least we were not doing that with someone we don’t know for 6 hours.
We made it back safe and sound to Mbarara and were so happy to get back in the car. Then a most exciting thing happened. On the road in between Mbarara and Msaka I looked out my window at some point and saw Zebras! I screamed and got Nick to turn around and go back. I quickly grabbed my camera and we hopped out on the side of the road. Imagine…wild zebras!!!!! We were not in a zoo…maybe on the edge of a game park, but we were not on safari. The three of us hiked down the hill and I kept snapping away. There was a Shepard boy near by that nick tried to see if he could give them 100/- ($.06) to run and scare the zebras on the other side so I could get some shots of them running towards us, but they didn’t comprehend. Oh well, I got some pretty good pictures of both the zebras and the Shepard boys.
We arrived home late to a new guard at our home. We were not too happy about his because he is our 4th guard in the course of 2 months. We found out this week that our latest guard’s wife was sick so he left to care for her, which is a good reason to not be there. However, our landlord is a slum lord and it’s just been a tough situation living in this apartment building.
All in all, it was a great experience of inexpensive adventure, exploration, worship, learning, and true non-refundable God-crafted beauty.

Here’s the link to the photo album corresponding with this trip:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"I don't want to gain the whole world and loose my soul"- Toby Mac

People might think I’m crazy for choosing to spend 2 whole years of my life in Uganda teaching at a Christian International School. It may seem crazy to some, but take into mind Noah. He’s been on my mind the past couple of weeks since that was the theme of my bible lessons one week. He spent 120 years of his life with people jeering at him thinking that he was crazy because he chose to build an ark so big that it would take 120 years to build. Now, Noah did live a lot longer, but does that make it any less of a big deal? No. It was still 120 years! Gen. 6:22 says “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Building an ark when you are 500-600 years old can’t be a small task. On top of that, he lived on that arc with hundreds of animals for a long time. It’s not like those rains disappeared after the 40 days of raining. The days of comfort were no where to be found. There was no where to escape. Living in close proximity with that many animals, feeding them, and scooping their poop (trust me on that one) couldn’t have been a vacation. Then after the water subsided, they had to start a new life. But Noah was faithful, and so God was faithful to the covenant He made. This past week I saw the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen. It was the FULL arc, vibrant with color, and you could even see the faintness of another rainbow just to the left of it! This helped to imbed these ideas even more into my brain.
While it may not be easy for me to be here away from the hands of my loved ones, I do have the internet. I am also reminded of the hardships of missionaries in the past. I’m not sitting in a mud hut in the middle of no where with no connection to phones or the internet. Even 10 years ago, it was $5 a minute to call the United States from here. What a blessing it is for me as a single missionary on the field to be able to talk with family on the phone for as little as $.13 a minute! True, I grew up in the age of technology where things come to us when we need them, and have become demanding of things when we think we need them. So this may make it harder for us, but the resources are available.
I’m not crazy. God has called me here. There's no doubt in my mind. I may not understand, but if I trust in God, there's nothing to fear. 2 years may seem like a long time on a day to day basis, but doing what God has asked of me is worth my whole life in a zone where I am out of my element. It’s surprising what a lesson from a 1st grade bible curriculum book can teach this 23 year old teacher.

We must choose what our hands will do- David Crowder

Prayer requests and Praises:
-My students: Ali (Ugandan Muslim), Shanil (Pilipino), Kieun (Korean), Julia (American), Daniella (Ugandan), Jana (Pilipino), Matthew H (Chinese/ Ugandan), Alex (Ugandan/ Kenyan), Adam (‘American’), Davina (Ugandan/ British), Ashley (American), Annie (British), Maraika (Kenyan/ Canadian), Ruben (Dutch), Wasswa (Newly adopted Ugandan), Ward (Dutch), Miriam (American Ugandan), Joshua (‘American’), Nancy (American), Matthew T (‘American’), and Harim (Korean).
-The other missionaries and our relations to each other and the nationals.
-The KIU discipleship group girls. My roommate and I have a discipleship group that meets once a week in the evening for a bible study time. There are around 10 girls who come (Lillian, Clarice, Lois, Monica, Franklyn, Sharon, Lucy, Lucy, and Jacinda are the names that I remember). We have met 4 times so far, and it gets better and better each time. Pray that our relationship deepens and that our words are able to touch their hearts and turn them more toward Christ.
-Other ministry opportunities opening up, especially with young national children.
-Understanding in all situations, and the chance (and willingness) to see all things through God’s eyes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Photo Album!

I've got my eyes set on what happens next-Switchfoot

It’s hard to believe that it has been 2 months that I have been here. SO much has happened. When you think of 2 months as a time period, you wouldn’t think of it as any impressive length.
It’s hard to put a time on what I have done here. If I asked myself “Have I had an impact in the last two months and I left today would I be satisfied with what I’ve done?”, I wouldn’t know how to begin to answer that.
If it had just been two months, it would have been a far different trip. What I have done is far is only begin to establish the relationships that I will build on for the next 22 months. Now that is a long time to think about. What impact could I make in that amount of time? Not to say that the last two months have been a waste, but rather the setting of a beginning. I have established relationships in a few different venues.
I am really starting to get to know the kids in my class as individuals. Yes, I do wind up reprimanding them quite often with the words that fly out of their mouths, and the wild punches they throw, and even the non-stop chatter. However, I am starting to see who God has made them to be, and I pray that I can be a blessing in their lives daily, and not just an adult who ‘flips their sticks to yellow (my discipline system)’. I put a few pictures of them up in my new photo album, whose link is down below. My wonderful cousin Elisabeth sent me a kids parachute from the US, and you can see evidence of the enjoyment that we have all had from it.
Outside of class at school, I have also gotten to know some of the teachers, workers, and other students. There are some boys, Angelo and Lino, in the high school who were child soldiers in Sudan and one of the other missionaries here has been taking care of them for a few weeks while their guardians are in the US. They are really cool boys, full of laughter. Christina (my roommate, and the 6th grade teacher) and I have gotten chances to hang out at the beach with them and at each others places. Even though their pasts are full of unthinkable things, they never cease to put a smile of my face :)
I have also begun relationships with 10 girls at Kampala International University (KIU). Christina and I have started a Discipleship group there. A few years ago a man from Kenya who was trained in the Africa Gospel Church (AGC), which WGM started, came to Uganda as a missionary to serve at KIU. He has done an amazing job with the church at the college. Hundreds of students come each week, and so many ministries have grown out of that. The girls and I meet every Wednesday night to sing, pray, read, and talk at ‘The Palace’ (a compound across from the college that WGM owns and is used solely for KIU’s AGC ministries). For the first two weeks, Christina and I gave our testimonies. Last week Christina was away and I spoke with them about joy. That was really a great time, they finally started to open some and talk about how they find joy in tough times, and I learned that many of them struggled with the Kenyan conflict this past year. This week Christina spoke about worship. I am really excited to see our relationships grow in and outside of the palace. A week and a half ago I went to their church and it was African Woman’s Sunday. They were all dressed up in their traditional clothes from their country and more specifically their tribe. They were beautiful. I have a few pictures of that in my new photo album.
There are even more relationships to come I am sure, and I am so excited for that.