I wake up each school day to the sound of washing at 5am. I’ve never quite sure what is being washed as I lay in bed. I assume it clothes being washed but it seems too early. As the day progresses more washing is heard and the roosters start. Pots bang, birds chirp, and sweeping and mopping are in full swing. It’s now 6am and some mornings I even feel cool here in Africa as I lay in bed surrounded by a blue mosquito net. The sweeping continues and I can hear the water being pumped from the well. The voices of children begin to get louder. A girl sings a worship song as she moves about her morning chores.
Sweeping inside and outside, the floors and the hard packed dirt around each home. Sweeping the road. Washing of floors by hand with towels immediately red with dirt. Floors drying nearly as soon as they have been washed. Red brown dirt at every turn. Always sweeping and the sound of the well, pumping, pumping, pumping. Always children heard at school and here in the village.
A cow mooing. Water being used again, washing, is it clothes, a floor? Always washing. More roosters, chickens and then the bleat of goats, baby goats. Goats galore leaping and playing and seeking their mothers out. I look up and there is a lost goat in my room. Are you here for me or can you catch the rats living in my room which I hear at night? Outside bunnies hopping across the path. Wait now it’s turkeys strolling through the middle of the Children’s Village.
Digging, banging – construction being done for more houses. Children – you can hear them in the school and then clammering for lunch. Laughing, playing games, sitting together under the tree. The smell of fires burning to make food all day long. It’s the end of the day – a school assembly under the tree. A sea of pink uniforms.
School is out and a stream of children in pink uniforms stream home and back to the Children’s Village. Bees buzzing, birds chirping, metal doors and cabinets clanging, blue with color and long in endurance. Boys doing their laundry together, girls as well. Laughter and raised tones from the older children for the younger to behave and act maturely. The clotheslines full of color at every moment. Then I smell charcoal for ironing clothes and newly washed sheets.
Children are sorting beans, finding the rocks, picking out shells. Herbs being dried and nuts being roasted. Children washing clothes, cooking posha and beans, eating with their hands. Football being played, bikes ridden, homework remembered and completed by solar lighting. Singing, a dance practice, washing, bathing, and laughing.
I look hard enough and I see a lizard on the wall in the girls room. Don’t step on the toad as you catch white ants to eat later. It’s a game and our arms hurt from helping children catch them, like money falling from the sky. They’re better than bubbles, grab them and enjoy them later.
Singing, dancing, laughing, playing cards, water pumping, washing, homework and the night begins to wind down.
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.
The snow continues to fall outside the window of parent’s home in Vermont. Miles and miles of white fields lay on the horizon. The night will prove to be brilliant once the clouds clear and the moon shimmers glistening on new snow. Fresh powder always seems to have a mystery of jewels as it sparkles. It’s been much too long since the snow has serenaded us. The world feels expansive with snow covered fields that seem an unending horizon.
In the coming weeks I’ll be moving a couple of towns away after 14 years in the same home. It’s been a wonderful place to live for a variety of reasons, however one reason that I will miss is horizon. Though I live in a town, a village of sorts, my bedroom is on the third floor of a home set on a hill. My bedroom window faces east and the sun regularly wake me up. No neighbors can peak into my windows and my shades are never drawn. Many mornings pinks, oranges, and reds are found on the horizon and it seems the masterpieces have been scripted just for me. I know that just beyond the window lays a village, fields, woods, a beautiful beach and the Atlantic.
Growing up in in Vermont brilliant sunsets are common though were never taken for granted. Whether it is the sun setting over Lake Champlain or settling for the night behind a hill, the canvas is continually changing. It seems it is always improving. Many a day my parents would call to us to see the display of beauty which God was painting. There is also a drive I love to take through the Champlain Valley with the rugged Adirondack Mountains and glimpses of Lake Champlain on one horizon and the soft Green Mountains on the other. Even as a child I knew that this display was magnificent.
On my way to work I drive through conservation and state forest land. Fields lay on both sides with perfectly set trees that solicit dreams of picnics, long walks and carriage rides. Often there are glimpses of deer or in the fall an expansive pumpkin patch. Horses find their way to barns for hay as I attempt to savor a few more minutes without reviewing a list of tasks and crises. My thoughts in the first few miles of this drive typically turn to God who it seems has orchestrated a perfect commute for this girl who longs for the horizon.
When I go too long without a view of the horizon there is something that goes amiss within my soul. My world seems smaller, the possibilities for the future bland, and my restlessness can’t be identified. With the horizon it’s easy to remember there are adventures to be had, relationships yet to be discovered, and a journey that is unfolding. The mystery of horizon is that it is ever changing whether it is jeweled snow, erupting pumpkin patches, dazzling sunsets, spirited sunrises or courageous explorers on a quest. I long to move into the horizon, to take the walks, hike and ski the mountains, kayak the oceans, swim the lakes, and meet those also on the journey. Each day there is new light, colors, people, and beauty to behold. My soul longs for the horizon and what lies ahead. My prayer is to move into the horizon knowing I will not capture it rather allow myself to be captured by the one who created it.
I get out of my car in Boston to attend the Hillsong Concert. I’m with my friend Lyn who is about 20 years my senior. I’ve told her about my friend Joelinda who is not quite 20 years my junior. Joelinda has also heard all about Lyn. Though they have never met they tightly hug each other before I can finish any sort of introduction. Lyn has never been to Chipotle so we venture out for dinner before the concert. Joelinda quickly jokes with Lyn and teases her about this first time Chipotle experience wondering what rock she’s been living under. I can’t help but smile all night as the difference in ages never seems to rise. There is talk about school, worship, family, guys, work, and most importantly Jesus is interwoven through it all. They find other people they know in common and search for connections via smartphones.
My life feels rich as I stand between them in the concert. Joelinda is worshiping with arms wide and heart abandoned. Lyn is learning the words and smiling with joy being in the midst of youth and the Spirit. She’s wearing her Toms, worships with enthusiasm, and fits right in. I smile feeling blessed that my life has become intertwined with these women I admire. Through them I have become a better person. My faith and heart have expanded never to return to the same size.
My thoughts recently have been simple – I don’t want to miss the deep friendship of people at different stages and ages than my own. My life is more complete, deeper, richer, and joyful because of them. If you don’t have a Lyn or a Joelinda in your life I encourage you to find one, two, three or more as your heart and faith will expand, never to return to “regular size.”