Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fun Times

So time here has begun to fly so much faster- as of today I only have 6 weeks left in Africa, and only 2 official weeks of class after this week. And the way classes work here, it is a much lighter course load, so I really only have one presentation and four big papers really left to do. That leaves us with not much else but making the most of the rest of our time here, which we fully intend to do. Four weeks from today we leave for a trip to Rwanda, thereby really ending our life here as we know it. So we plan on spending as much time with our Honors College friends as possible, in between all of their course work. But even on our own, we manage to have some fun. Last weekend we went white water rafting on the Nile, and a couple people even went bungee jumping. I have also spent the night at Chain, the orphanage I volunteer at twice and got to spend a lot of time talking with some of the older girls and playing games with the younger ones. So it has been good. And yet, already the good-bye’s will begin soon. Next week, I will go to Chain and TLM, a fellowship I joined for the semester, for the last times. And in the next couple of weeks, I will be visiting my Mukono home stay family to say good bye to them as well. But it has been a great time, and even as it seems so close to ending, it is still a little over a month to enjoy and continue to learn.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


For one of my classes, we have been reading Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison. The book is a reflection on compassion and Christianity based on the model that Jesus lived out. Much of it is truth that I have already heard, but looks at different aspects from a slightly different perspective. On the second page I already knew that I would be challenged and like the thoughts and discussions that would come out of reading this because I could so directly relate to one of the statements, “we have lost the simple but difficult gift of being present to each other. We have lost this gift because we have been led to believe that presence must be useful…Meanwhile, we have forgotten that it is often in ‘useless,’ unpretentious, humble presence to each other that we feel consolation and comfort.” So often I say or think that presence and relationships are the most important, but have really found that more difficult to live out since being here. And I think it is very directly related to the need to useful. In the context of being here in Uganda, it is even related to the implicit desire and expectation that I am here to serve. And in fact, I have been served most of my time here by learning and by being a guest. All I can legitimately offer is my presence. Later on, it discusses the servanthood that Christ modeled for us, “Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God’s compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation.” After talking about poverty, we had already discussed how the Bible talks so much about the poor and underprivileged and the need to be WITH them. After all, James 1:27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to VISIT orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” It doesn’t say to send money and solve all their problems, but instead calls us to be in relationship and offer our presence. So this is something that God has already been convicting me on and this definition of compassion and serving just added to that. So often, it is easy to give money and not have the relationship or offer my presence. I want to feel good but stay comfortable, and that is NOT what God has asked of me. It just shows how easily my selfishness wins out, and I’m not okay with that. It takes sacrifice and humility and it will be hard. But only then will I feel true compassion, and out of that love, I will be able to truly serve others. And I really like what they go on to say, “Radical servanthood is not an enterprise in which we try to surround ourselves with as much misery as possible, but a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood.” No it won’t always be easy or fun, but I’m not trying to suffer, and I get to live a life with God’s joy which is way better than anything superficial. So right now, I’m just working on how that will look practically in my life. I know it is something that I am not doing, but I want to. Good intentions and all of this learning are not enough, though, so figuring out how to act on these lessons and convictions once I’m back in America is becoming a big focus now. As all of this was in the back of my mind, I had an interesting conversation about “typical Christians” with a Ugandan friend. One of the stereotypes of American Christians that she mentioned was that we ignore parts of the Bible that don’t work for us, and just listen and talk about the passages and theology that we can follow. I gave a noncommittal agreement, something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m sure some do” but moved on to asking what the faults were of the typical Ugandan Christian. Later, as I was reading for class, I realized that even though I didn’t want to admit it, I fit the description of the “typical American Christian.” By tithing, praying, and occasionally doing different community service or giving money, I thought I was loving and serving the poor as God would ask me. But Biblically, I’m not. And then I read about obedience. The authors mention that this is a word that often has many negative connotations because implies an imposition of authority, but then they redefined it “Obedience, as it is embodied in Jesus Christ, is a total listening, a giving attention with no hesitation or limitation, a being ‘all-ear.’ It is an expression of the intimacy that can exist between two persons. Here the one who obeys knows without restriction the will of the one who commands and has only one all-embracing desire: to live out that will.” What a great description! To someone who has a strong will, I very often relate to the negative connotations of the word obey, and prefer to act out of my own free will. But this definition makes it so much more attractive- a loving listening and then acting upon that to please the other. So needless to say, I have been learning and convicted of a lot. But one of the best things about God is that He still loves me and offers me mercy, forgiveness, and grace. I love Hosea because it is such a beautiful portrayal of God’s love and have been taking comfort in Hosea 2:19-20 “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I've finally been able to upload some of the pictures from my rural home stay, which include my hair braided, African style :)  Soon I'll also have some from the weekend at Sipi Falls hopefully, depending on internet speed...

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Today has been an amazing and relaxing Sabbath, even though I did not go to church and have not yet had my quiet time. But in the midst of the day’s activities, all that I could do was praise God inside with all of myself, and I’m positive that I could not keep the smile off of my face. My life is indeed blessed and God is indeed a great and loving Father!

This weekend my mom and grandparents (Mimi and Papa) travelled across the globe to visit me! Saturday morning I took a taxi in to Kampala and met them at a shopping center before we returned to their hotel for breakfast. It honestly felt very unreal as two worlds were meshed, but at the same time it was so good to hug them and realize they were really here! We spent the majority of the day simply relaxing and talking and it was so great. For a day, I felt like I was back in America almost while we were at the poolside at the hotel talking with them. And one of the coolest parts of my day and a half with them was the opportunity to introduce them to my rural home stay “mom” as well as my Mukono home stay “family.” Even though I did not talk as much, it was cool to see them interact. It was a little hard when it came time to say good-bye, but it helped that as they were driving away I was with several USP friends who I am nowhere near ready to part with. It was such a blessing to have that short time with my family, in the midst of the amazing blessing of even living in Africa! Sometimes I have a hard time fully realizing that this is really happening and can’t believe how incredible it has been so far…

The afternoon was spent laying outside in the shade and listening to a friend playing worship music on her guitar while a couple of us sang along. During the whole time of worship, all I could do was marvel at God. It has not always been easy here but God continually shows me that He will provide and does love me deeply. Even when my plans don’t seem to go accordingly, God keeps showing me that He has something better in mind. I may not know what that will be or what it will look like, but I am more fully learning to wholeheartedly let go and let Him have control. Jeremiah 29:11 has always been one of my favorite verses, but I don’t think I always completely trust what it is saying “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and NOT for evil, to give you a FUTURE and a HOPE” (ESV). My life is truly blessed, and I have faith that no matter what happens, God is still in control and will take care of me. I am trusting Him with more and working on laying down ALL of my life and surrendering to His will and control. It is not always easy or comfortable, but I believe that it will be worth it. And ultimately, no matter how comfortable or challenging, smooth or painful my life ends up being, I get to spend eternity in heaven with my God, so I’d consider that a pretty blessed life!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ugandan Farm Girl

I just got back on Sunday from my rural home stay in Kapchorwa (a district in Eastern Uganda) yesterday. I spent the week with one other American girl, Erika, but it was a fun chance for us to get to know each other because she lives with a family in town for the entire semester and so we didn’t know each other very well. We lived with Miria and Felix right on the edge of a cliff. Kapchorwa is very mountainous and has many waterfalls, including Sipi Falls which are the largest waterfalls in Uganda. The cliff that we lived by happened to be near a smaller waterfall that we could see from our yard. We spent the week walking around some of the nearby terrain because what isn’t cliff is mountain farming, which is also very beautiful. Ugandan women are incredibly hard working and Miria, our mom, was no exception. She taught us how to milk a cow, feed chickens and gather their eggs, cook over a fire, roast coffee, cut dead leaves off matoke (banana) trees and cut them down to harvest matoke, and even carry matoke on our heads for about a half mile on a dirt path down the mountain to our home. Felix, our father, was able to be home for the week for a funeral we went to on Monday, but spends most of his time living in Kampala because he works as security for Museveni, the Ugandan president. Their eldest daughter, Lillian, is 24 and is living at home. Her other 5 siblings were all away at boarding school, though we did get to meet 2 brothers, Andrew and Mark, because they came home with their father for the funeral. Church was an interesting experience and we got an authentic example of the Ugandan perception of time. We were told that church started at 10am but we didn’t leave until shortly after that to hike up the mountain. When we arrived, though we expected to be late, we were actually some of the first to arrive. The service probably started about an hour late and then lasted for a mere 4 hours, which we were told was actually shorter than normal. The entirety of it was translated from the Sabine (the tribe we were staying with) language to English which made it slightly more tedious, though the subject matter did not help. The pastor was turning the parish over to another pastor and so most of the service was spent giving an inventory of every single material object that the church possessed, as well as all of the pastoral responsibilities and committees that the new pastor would be taking on. The next day was then the funeral, which made for another long afternoon. We went to a 2 hour long funeral service followed by an even longer burial service. Though it was long, it was interesting to see how much of that really was the same as funerals in America.

Over all, it was a great week to get to know the family and just see a different way of life. Though I do not prefer using a pit latrine or a bucket to bathe, we were very comfortable the entire week. It was interesting to see how helping to wash dishes by hand just felt normal and routine, and even the longer time to cook over a fire wasn’t really that big of a deal because there was normally multiple people in the kitchen so it was a chance to spend time together as well as cook. Miria was very proud of her kitchen and showed us how her “stove” was modern. This meant that instead of just having a fire or a charcoal chimney to cook over, she had a dirt “stove” in essence- it had a place to make the fire and then three holes on top to place pots over. Before coming here, I would have thought something like that was an example of poverty or primitive even, and now I have realized how nice and convenient it really is, in this setting. Even our meals were an example of a different lifestyle. Everything we ate was extremely fresh and straight from the garden or farm. We had eggs and milk tea every morning for breakfast courtesy of our cow and chickens only an hour before we ate. One night we held a chicken and then a couple hours later it was on our dinner plates. We often had bananas with our afternoon tea, which were carried from our family’s fields only a couple days beforehand. There is so much real poverty in Africa, but living like that is not an example. It was another good realization of what simplicity and comfort can look like, even if they are living like that out of necessity and not by choice.

The importance of community is something else that was emphasized in my mind over the past week as well. Beyond the experience of living in a small community in which my family knew pretty much everyone, we had one article to read while we were there. It was about homelessness vs. homemaking and illustrated how our university education system in some ways educates people to leave home. This in itself is not the problem except that in some ways the goal has become for people to travel and work towards an upward mobility, so that they are in some ways almost vandals of communities and places because they only consume. It was a very interesting article and made a lot of good points that I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly thought or discussed before. It was really good to consider, because after college I always think about how cool it would be to live in different places but in actuality I don’t think I really want that or realize fully what that would look like. Whether I return home or move somewhere else, I want to settle in and become part of the community there and really engage. And even more than that, it makes me appreciate even more the fact that I have grown up in the same area and that I have such strong family ties. I think I could be completely happy living near my home or somewhere across the globe, but it is good to know that wherever I end up, I will still have a home and community to visit in Cincinnati.

I have also been reading a book, The End of Poverty, written by Jeffrey Sachs, an economist. It has been interesting because I’ve realized that I really enjoy the subject of economics when it is practically applied rather than just the basic theory that I’ve learned in my introductory classes. But beyond simply an interest, it has helped me think about how not only do non-profits and charities play a role in solving world problems, developed governments and economies will have to play a role as well to make a significant difference. It is really encouraging and frustrating all at the same time, because I have realized that I really could work in corporate America and do business more than just with integrity, but really try to make a difference in regards to global issues. But at the same time, it is overwhelming and frustrating to see all that America alone could be capable of and isn’t doing. So more and more I still don’t really know what my life will look like after I graduate and still am okay with that, but excited to see where God will open doors because at this point I’d be open to pretty much anything and know that God could use me in different ways, depending on the setting. We are also reading part of Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution for a class and that has been challenging and encouraging, thinking of how even right now I can start changing my lifestyle in practical ways, not just in thinking about the future.

From our home stay, we were picked up and spent the weekend in the area along with several Honors College students. It was good to be reunited with all of my USP friends to talk about our weeks and have a debrief session. We spent pretty much all of Friday talking about different things, just happy to be back together and then even more excited to be back with some of our Ugandan friends as well. Saturday we had a couple groups go hiking, I chose to go on the longer 6 hour hike with several friends. We saw the tops and bottoms of 3 waterfalls, as well as enjoying hiking around the mountains and cliffs. It can also be fun and adventurous because it was very muddy and slippery and some of the bridges definitely looked rustic. We even climbed on some rocks and stood under one of the falls. It was absolutely gorgeous and was definitely one of those times where I was just overwhelmed at how amazing the whole situation was- hiking around mountains and waterfalls with Ugandan and American friends I was just meeting a mere two months ago. And then Sunday we came back to Mukono and reunited with the rest of our friends. It was so good to be back and we stayed up late catching up and hanging out with people. Life here is just amazing and I’m trying to enjoy every moment because I know this will always be a special and important time in my life to remember all that I learned and experienced.