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Summer 2013 – Lessons Learned

What I learned from the Summer of 2013 – please accept my overdue assignment

  1. While some pray for school vacation and summer to come sooner –  in Uganda there are children praying for tuition to be paid and a uniform to enter the classroom doors.
  2. I’m still not sure what world events occurred in July 2013 beyond the birth of a new prince, and my life doesn’t seem any less full.
  3. Lions when they put their minds to it can climb trees in the Murchison Falls National Park.
  4. Ugandan girls are competitive, fierce, and love opportunities to play football.
  5. Despite my bizarre dream of swimming with hippos they are not remotely like dolphins and a swim in The Nile is not advised, their teeth rival sharks.
  6. The Churchill War Rooms are a must when visiting London.
  7. Headphones at night help drown out the sound of rats.
  8. Mosquito nets are wonderful for keeping out rats, lizards, toads, and mosquitoes.
  9. Even a 5 year old can learn to wash their clothes by hand.
  10. The hand-washing soap OMO is better than anything we have in the USA to get clothing looking bright and clean again.
  11. Though cathedrals are beautiful I’m thankful no one is buried in my church.
  12. White Ants are tastier than eating intestine (though I’m not sure if I ate goat or cow intestine and prefer to skip both).
  13. I would catch White Ants to eat again but leaving the cooking to the 7 year olds as they did a great job.
  14. Americans do not literally use their heads enough to carry water and other items (I think we should all start next time we go to Target or even the Mall – ditch the carts)
  15. The children who are “blessed” (some say spoiled) in Children’s Villages in Africa don’t need to be concerned where their next meal will come from, what they will wear or who will pay their tuition fees.  It brings perspective.
  16. It’s humbling to see men in prison be thankful for a simple bar of soap.
  17. It takes 80 pumps at the well to fill a bucket big enough for a “shower”, a few more if you need to shave your legs that day.
  18. Dancing in Church, including a “conga line” is Worshipful.
  19. Thunder and Lighting Storms while sleeping under a Tin Roof is like God’s Drum Circle.
  20. My friend Jimmey can drive like he belongs in a Hollywood movie.  With no re-takes needed we arrived safely for an airport drop-off.
  21. Despite how much I stay in the sun I’m still a “muno” (white person) and intriguing to the neighborhood children in Lira (please tell this to the student who could barely stay awake in my class last week).
  22. Profound Joy is found in Uganda as people trust in God and hold firm to: With God All things are Possible  (Matthew 19:27)

Finally – I have fabulous and supportive family and friends who I am humbled by as they prayed, encouraged, listened, challenged and gave generously to God’s work in Uganda and my small part in in during July.

God’s Great Dance Floor

Imagine a favorite song playing. Your finger starts tapping or maybe even your toes start tapping. In Uganda very quickly your whole body would start moving.

Dancing – a beautiful Ugandan tradition. There is freedom for the children to dance and they are encouraged. There are girl’s dances, boys dances, and traditional dances. They encourage us (anyone white or “muno”) to join in. After a night at the guest house I moved to the Children’s Village at COTN . I settled in and spoke with the national counselor, Rose, who is a strong industrious woman (she makes and sells beads, employing other women, for extra money). The children presented a welcome and sang songs to the newly arrived Americans (I arrived with the Flood Church medical team). Finally we joined them in dance and laughter which went on for 2 hours. Friday again there was dancing at a neighborhood celebration/”centre day” which essentially was an open house for the children’s parents who attend the school. The children had killed 7 chickens for the meal which served hundreds (there was also goat and the chickens were in an event in themselves for the children). There were sack races, I attempted to balance a pot on my head (attempted is the key word as I didn’t last more than a few seconds each time), class recitations, and “gymnastics.” Finally there was dance, and more dance, and more dance. Again today after a trip to Barlonyo (wikipedia it) where it is estimated 800 were brutally killed in broad daylight in a few hours (2004) we returned to Lira town. Barlonyo is a sad place and the spirit feels heavy as the community members live at is what is now a memorial site. There is not yet dancing.

We returned to Lira where the church community celebrated the master’s degree of their pastor. There were speeches, greetings, and dancing, and dancing and dancing. I danced with Ugandan women who told me I was good dancer and tried to teach me new moves (with laughter on both sides as I’m not a quick learner). I saw children imitating my moves and I couldn’t help but smile at what they should unlearn when I depart. We danced to worship music, songs of freedom and praise to God.

Yesterday I played one of the children the song “God’s Great Dance Floor” by Chris Tomlin. I used to play it with a finger or toe tapping. Now it has new meaning.

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Why am I Going to Uganda?

That was the question asked Friday afternoon of me of a young adult I have known since she was 12. I realized I muddled through. I didn’t want it to sound like a canned church answer “because I felt God asking me to go.” She wouldn’t have understood that anyway and neither would I. What I really wanted to say to this young adult is that I’m going in part because of her. Eventually I did tell her that after more muddling.

As a social worker I’ve heard a lot of stories, and when the opportunity has allowed I’ve walked with people with them for a time as their stories have unfolded. My hope has been that I have walked alongside them as they heal and grow. From my observation there are 2 significant types of brokenness in the world, the injustice kind and the “imperfect world” kind. I believe there is is some much more theological term for the later but work with me here I’m sitting in an airport with sleep depravation.

The injustice kind of brokenness. It’s about war, violence, greed, hate, corruption, meanness, and lots of “uncaring.” Broken systems that don’t hold people accountable for bad behavior and systems that don’t look out for those that can’t care for themselves, that’s injustice.

The imperfect world kind of brokenness. Accidents, sickness, and destructive weather patterns.

If the 2 collide then it’s overwhelming chaos. The Haiti Earthquake was a prime example – a country filled with a government that has historically been injust and people struggling to feed their families and educate their children is further broken by a natural disaster.

Uganda has been ravaged by injustice and the challenges of a developing country. Yet the hope for all of us is brokenness can mend. Often when something like a bone is broken it will heal and actually become stronger than before. That’s my prayer, that’s a bit of why I’m going to Uganda because healing and growing the heart and mind is messy business. It’s the journey I am humbled to take with people.

My Summer Vacation – Uganda Bound July 2013

Uganda Bound, that’s it in a nutshell. The rumblings began along time ago. When they started I’m not quite sure. Seeing a documentary, a National Geographic special, 20/20, reading Kisses from Katie or Love Does I’m not quite sure but in reality I’m not sure it matters as what it all points to is that God has been stirring my heart. When I began working in a school my goal was to use my summers wisely. I began to think of my skills as a social worker with traumatized kids, children in residential care, and my experiences with similar kids in various parts of the world I realized an ideal summer “vacation” would be to use my skills in a new way. Over a school cafeteria lunch conversation with a Gordon College social work intern at my school I learned about a consultant program through Children of the Nations . COTN Uganda has over 60 orphaned children who make their home at the Children’s Village and approximately 200 more who attend school as they also have lost parents and live in single parent homes or with relatives.

For the month of July I’ll be serving as a Social Work Consultant and living in the Children’s Village (without electricity or running water!) in Lira, Northern Uganda. The ambitious goals identified by COTN staff include supporting the “mothers” and teachers in the children’s village, completing assessments, making recommendations for some specific special needs kids, and recommending some “best practices” moving forward. I could not be more excited about what God is planning for this partnership.

Thanks for your continued support as friends and family! My hope and plan, dependent upon electricity and internet, is to keep you informed via this blog and facebook once a week.

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does The Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

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