Friday, September 27, 2013

An African Night

Standing outside my house with my guard under the African sky cloaked in stars, the sounds of shouting, yelling, and the beating of drums and jerrycans drifted through the night air. I had been filled with curiosity when I heard the commotion, and stepped out to see if Enoch could explain what was going on. He said that the people were shouting and beating whatever objects they could in order to scare away evil spirits. The story passed down through the generations is that when someone sees an evil spirit, they must begin shouting and making noise in order to keep that spirit from entering their house and causing harm to them or their family. The spirit will flee from the noise, and enter into the house where it is quiet, unless those people also hear the noise and take up the alarm. In that way, the alarm spreads to the whole surrounding area as people try to protect their houses and families from the evil spirits.

I know that to western minds, the idea is absurd. And even to my mind, it’s incredible that entire communities would be held captive to such fear. If the statistics are to be believed, than a huge 85% of the population of Uganda is Christian. That includes every denomination both Protestant and Catholic,  and those many churches: Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentacostal, 7th day Adventist, Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, all have their followings here. Honestly, it is a bit unusual to find someone who doesn’t go to a church service, mass, or mosque at least once a week. Though for all the religiosity shown, events like these just demonstrate the real absence of the true gospel in Uganda. From that 85%, very few truly understand and believe in the gift of salvation from sin through faith alone in God the Son, Jesus Christ. And of those that claim to believe, even less are knowledgeable about the Word. Because of their ignorance, you will find even those who sit in church every week beating their pot or jerrycan or drum right alongside those that have never gone to church. The spirit of fear that has been passed down from generation to generation still holds them captive.

As I stood next to Enoch, I asked him if he was afraid. 
     He simply  said, ‘No.’
    ‘Why?’ I asked.
    ‘Because I think Jesus can be more powerful than those devils.’
Such a simple answer. But such a powerful truth. Jesus is greater, stronger, and more powerful than any demon. And the weight of that truth is what has set Enoch free from the power of fear that is holding his neighbors captive. No longer does he have to stay awake late into the night, shouting out loud until his voice hurts. Beating his pot until his hands ache. Hoping and fearing lest the demon comes back and destroys what is dear to him. He knows he is safe, resting quietly in the hands of Jesus who will watch over him and guard him from the power of Satan.

So in the dark of night, with the chaos of fear echoing just in the next neighborhood, Enoch and I stood and talked about Jesus. Discussing and proclaiming the truth about who He was and who He is to us now. It was such an incredible contrast, and such a beautiful reminder of why I’m here: To preach Jesus, who was dead but is alive. To proclaim freedom to those who are dead but can be alive. And to do my best to raise these children up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord which will set them free from the fear of everything else.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Budget and a Burial

There are some days when I could even fool myself that I work in an office in the States. This week since the kids are out on the second of their three yearly breaks, I took the opportunity to work on the budget for the school for next year. Buried in my laptop for hours on end, I am reminded of why I wouldn’t gladly choose a 9-5 desk job. This morning found me again at work settling in for yet another marathon day of numbers. I have to admit, it’s not work that I enjoy. When I dreamt of my life’s work in Africa, I’m pretty sure I had something more like trekking through the bush, spreading joy, flowers, and candy to every child that I saw. I definitely didn’t envision a dimly lit office, wooden chair, and lcd screen. But the hard truth of life is that in order to accomplish the vision set before us, we must accomplish even the tiresome, seemingly less important or at least less fulfilling tasks as well. Even though if I had my way, each day would be spent just playing with or teaching the children, I find myself with less enamoring tasks like making budgets, making copies, organizing school supplies, doing inventory, writing policies, and pouring through book after book of school curriculum. But I know how important those things are. Because they enable the kids to laugh, learn, and play even better throughout their school year. I am reminded almost every day to be faithful in the small things now, in preparation for bigger things in the future.

And just when I start to get tired of the menial, the Lord brings in something to remind me of just how blessed I am to live and minister and work in this place. Today, it was through a burial. Let me see if I can set the scene for you: Here, once someone dies, people can wait for only a couple of days before they bury the body because of the rate of decay. And funerals here are a big event. Like 500-1000 people kind of event. The whole community gathers around. As well as every person who could possibly have claimed any relation to that person. So they take a day or two to notify people of the death and burial, and wait while everyone gathers. Then on the day of the burial, they rent tents and chairs, though never enough to seat all of the people present. Today they said the burial would start at 2, but in typical Ugandan fashion, the actual burial didn’t start until around 4. In the meantime all of the people sat and chatted. Men gathered in groups, some having brought their own chair or simply standing together. Women spread Leesus (wrap-around skirts) out on the ground to sit together and talk. Having tied a leesu around my waist to make my skirt the expected length for the village setting, I joined my co-workers under the banana trees on a red and black checkered leesu. Just sitting among the people I have grown to love was so restoring for my spirit. Watching the dark faces gleam with laughter in the bright afternoon sun. Gazing up at the bright blue sky through vivid green banana leaves. Marveling at the myriad array of brilliantly colored gomasi (traditional dresses for women). Grasping hands in greeting, worn rough from digging. Straining my ears and mind to grasp bits of conversation whirling around in a lilting tongue. Even shifting constantly to relive legs not accustomed to sitting fully extended on the lumpy ground. I soaked in the beauty of it all. This was Africa at its best.

And I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful that God choose me to labor in this place. To call a place of such beauty my home. To work among such colorful people (in both the literal and figurative sense!!). It’s really a marvel to me each and every day. As I drive my car every day through the herds of cows, dogging bicycles, people, goats, chickens, and potholes I am in awe. I am in awe at the privilege of serving here. And even if it means spending a day in a wooden chair, eyes made blurry from staring at a screen, it’s worth every minute. Each and every task becomes meaningful when I remember the faces of the children who I serve. And most especially when I remember the voice of my Master whispering, “Well done.”

 A few of my kids....


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miracle and Melani

8 year old Miracle is truly a joy sent from the Lord just for me. Or at least that’s what I’d like to think :) Miracle is in P2 at Genesis, and a truly sweet girl. Each day you’ll find her at school sitting bolt upright on her bench, her eyes fastened on the teacher, and her head slowly tracking the teacher’s movements. Every motion declares the rapture of her attention. You can have no doubt in watching her that she loves to learn!

Last year, she couldn’t go to school because her parents couldn’t afford to send her. Her father, Kenneth, though well-educated and even a secondary teacher himself, was also a drunk. Last year he lost his job at the local secondary school and was left without any income for him, his wife Sarah, and Miracle. So even though Miracle is bright, and did very well in school, she had to stay at home. It broke her parent’s hearts to always hear her asking, “Why can’t I go to school? When will I be able to go to school again?”

After starting to come to church, and because of the testimony of Sarah, Kenneth was saved near the end of last year! He continued looking for work, and things seemed to be looking up when he found a job at a secondary school in January. With great hope in this job, he enrolled Miracle at Genesis again, hoping she could catch up to the place she had left off. Unfortunately, as things often go in Uganda, the school consistently failed to pay him his rightfully earned salary. Each month, as he went for his pay, they would give him a miniscule amount, and tell him to be patient for the rest. But it wasn’t enough. It really wasn’t even enough to pay for his transportation costs there and back each day, and it definitely wasn’t enough to support a family of 3. To make things more difficult, Sarah found out that she was expecting again. It came as a great surprise to them, since it had been all of 8 years since Miracle was born. They wondered how they would manage to feed and care for this one too.

Each month, Kenneth would beg for leniency for Miracle to continue to study even though they had not be able to pay her school fees, and each time our administrator, Bosco would have pity on them. Finally, after some months a sponsor was found who was willing to pay Miracle’s school fees for the whole year. Sarah and Kenneth were ecstatic! Though they might still struggle for their daily bread, at least their daughter would continue her education, providing a hope for her future. Since that time, they have since also been given a small little room to live in so that the burden of rent was lifted off them. They continue to need your prayers for their daily sustenance, and that God would provide a reliable job for Kenneth quickly.

On Saturday, another miracle was accomplished. After threatening to come early, and giving us all a bit of a scare a couple weeks ago, little Melani Nicole was born at 3:30 in the afternoon to a very tired but happy Sarah. Her birth is yet another reminder to this family that God keeps His promises, and hears and answers our prayers. Though we walk through the fire of suffering and trial, He is there. He will never forsake us and will uphold us with His mighty right hand.

Welcome to the world, Melani Nicole, and may you never forget the faithfulness of God to you and your family.


*please forgive the haziness of these pictures taken hurriedly on my phone!