Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Subject Dear to My Heart

  I truly love and value friendships.

 I think God wired me this way, but I also attribute this affinity for friendship to my name - Ruth, which means "friend," "companion" or "compassionate friend." I, of course, didn't choose the name and for a long time I did not value it. But, when I learned its meaning, well, my name "took on a whole new meaning."

 I was named after the Biblical character of Ruth, a Moabite woman who demonstrated great loyalty to her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. (By the way, the book of Ruth was a great influence in my mom agreeing to become the lifelong companion of my dad - more than 30 years ago.)

 This weekend I have been reminded of the value of friendships and relationships. During the last two days, I said goodbye to a group of five girls, whom I had never met before they came to the island one month ago. This diverse group of college-age young women hail from the state of Wisconsin. They came to the island to do a variety of projects, like re-start girls' football (soccer) teams, demonstrate farming methods, and teach in the island's primary and secondary schools.

 But, there was also lots of time for good conversation and fun as we washed dishes together, shared meals, and coversed and ate popcorn and drank tea in the evenings.

 For so long I wrongly believed that friendships took years to form, but that is not always true. Friendships can be forged in a month, week, day, or even in a short hour.

Me with members of the EDGE team from Wisconsin.

 Thank you, EDGE team, for your friendship and for blessing the island and those of us at SHIM during your stay in Uganda! You are always welcome to return. : )

 This evening, Amanda and I enjoyed a really good time of fellowship at one of the monthly gatherings of our fellow Global missionaries who are serving in the Jinja, Uganda area. I am so blessed as I see the love and dedication that each missionary has for the work and ministry God has called them to here.

 I was excited this evening to meet a young woman who came to Uganda in June to teach missionary children for two years. I became acquainted with Amanda K. via her blog, which I found through the Global website. We then became friends on Facebook and chatted back and forth. So, it was a delight to finally meet Amanda in person and to hear more of her story and calling to Uganda.

 Speaking of Facebook - I know different ones have varying opinions on this social network, but, I am honestly grateful for it. That gratitude has increased since I have been in Uganda. Facebook helps me stay connected with family and friends back home. I have also reconnected with old friends whom I had lost contact with and it has enabled me to stay in touch with new friends as well.

 I believe friendships are like gardens - they require tending and good proportions of time, energy and giving of yourself. If you are not purposefully investing in a friendship, then it is probably not growing and flourishing, but rather fading or dying. The Bible has good advice along these lines. Proverbs 18:24a says, "A man that has friends must show himself friendly."

 God certainly created us - His highest creation - for relationship. First and forement, we were designed to be in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father and Creator. But, secondly, we certainly need each other. We need people in skin who can encourage, counsel, mentor and love us.

 Here in Uganda, relationships are the highest priority. They trump time (thus the reason that most everything is late), any claim of personal space or possessions, and a person's assertion of independence. This, of course, has good and bad implications. But, I believe Ugandans could teach a huge lesson to those of us from developed and industrialized countries, that in the end, friendships and relationships are what really count.

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

"Strangers are just friends waiting to happen."

"Friends are the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life."

"A good friend is hard to find, hard to lose, and impossible to forget..."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Birthday Post

 Friday, July 9th, was my 30th birthday. It was my first ever birthday to be celebrated away from home, so I didn't quite know what to expect. But, the day far exceeded any expectations! I am so grateful to Amanda who planned each and every detail and managed to keep it all a surprise. : )

 To make sure I remembered every detail, I kept a log throughout the day. So, here is what my special day looked like.

 5:08 a.m. - The birthday greetings began at this early hour when I received my first text. I wasn't actually awake at that time, but saw the message when I woke up a bit after 6. My first birthday phone call came in at 6:36 a.m. and was made by the same person who sent the early text message. : )

6:39 a.m. - I spent some time in God's Word, reading in II Timothy.

6:55 a.m.-7:47 a.m. - I was delighted to receive a phone call from my mom and dad wishing me a happy birthday.

7:48-8:20 a.m. - Getting ready for the day - getting dressed, making my bed, etc.

8:21-8:32 a.m. - Amanda graciously let me use her Internet modem (mine was loaned out to someone else) to check my e-mail and Facebook. And, I found some more very nice birthday wishes. This day was starting out so nice!

8:39 a.m. - Amanda and I headed off to town, via a boda-boda (motorcycle).

8:48-9:50 a.m. - Our boda-boda driver dropped us at one of my favorite places to eat in Jinja - Ozzie's Cafe, which is on Main Street in Jinja and is owned by an Australian woman. I enjoyed a delightful breakfast of fried eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, toast and coffee - yum!

At Ozzie's Cafe on Main Street, Jinja.

Amanda and I enjoying a delicious breakfast at Ozzie's.

 9:51-10:31- After breakfast, Amanda and I wandered down Main Street and stopped in a couple of bookshops. I was looking for a Lugandan-to-English phrasebook, but failed to find one in the two places we visited.

10:32-11:44 a.m. - Crossing the street, Amanda informed me that I would be getting a pedicure and a manicure at Destiny's - a nice place in Jinja that is popular with mzungus (white people). I learned something new, too, that my right foot is more ticklish than my left foot.

Receiving my first-ever pedicure.

 While we were at Destiny's, Ron and Darlene, an American couple from Ohio, wandered in and started chatting with us. Amanda nor I had ever met them before, but we enjoyed visiting with them. We learned that during their approximately six-week stay in Uganda, they are working with another missionary couple, incidentally some other Smiths, in their local ministry, including on a neighboring island to Lingira.

The result! Before I came to Uganda, I had painted by toenails maybe three times. But, I have done it quite frequently since I arrived here - it helps cover the dirt! ; )

Getting a manicure. I chose an iridescent polish for my fingernails.

11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.- Upon leaving Destiny's, Amanda and I walked to the Peterson's home. Bob and Michelle Peterson and their four children moved in May from Dufur, Oregon to Jinja, Uganda to work with Shepherd's Heart. We had to pick up Amanda's camera and while there, we enjoyed a glass of cold water. I hung out for a bit, while Amanda left for a bit to go to a friend's house and "check on the friend's cleaning lady." (I learned later that this was just a concocted story, but I explain more in a bit.)

1:01 p.m. - Upon leaving the Peterson's place, we ventured to our next stop - lunch. Our eatery of choice was The Keep, a new restaurant in downtown Jinja which was recently opened by a Christian couple. The decor resembles a castle (something new for Jinja) and it is a very comfy, inviting place.


Enjoying a delicious lunch at The Keep.

A closer look at my delectable taco salad.

  After lunch and just as we were ready to leave The Keep, I received a phone call from my dear sweet sister, Leah. She wished me a happy birthday and we chatted for about a half hour. I dearly love my sissy!

3-4:09 p.m. - I know I am a bit crazy, but Amanda confirmed it by taking me to play "Crazy Golf," Jinja's version of putt-putt golf. The 9-hole course was located at 2 Friends Restaurant, a bit of a distance from downtown. We had the place to ourselves, so had fun pretending we were "professionals" - right! I am not sure why I am disclosing this, but Amanda beat me by three strokes. She should have let me win since it was my b-day, don't you think?

Me at the 9th hole - the most challenging one. I exceeded the 7-try limit on this one and didn't even make it in. We had to hurry to our next stop...

But, before we did, I requested a couple of fun photos...

Trying my best to keep the croc's mouth open at the 7th hole.
Look ma, my new boyfriend! : )

Still young at heart...

4:23-5:50 p.m. - Remember that earlier in the day we had stopped by the Petersons to pick up Amanda's camera? What I didn't know was that Amanda was also picking up my swimsuit, which had been brought to the island that morning. Incidentally, we had locked up our room before leaving the island on Thursday. And, since Amanda and I had the only keys and we were both on the mainland, someone graciously climbed over the wall to get my suit. So, we enjoyed the pool at The Paradise Hotel - all to ourselves. : )

The pool at Paradise.
Enjoying a refreshing swim.

6-7:39 p.m. - After drying off, Amanda and I were off to the next stop...dinner at Jinja's Chinese restaurant, Ling Ling's. I was expecting a quiet meal with just the two of us, but boy, was I wrong! We walked through the restaurant toward the outdoor seating in the back. As I rounded the corner, I heard "SURPRISE!" and was so blessed and shocked to see members of my SHIM family, as well as other friends, who had come to join us. : )

At Ling Ling's - this is right before I was surprised!

 I was so blessed to see this great group of people gathered to spend the evening with me. We ate a delicious dinner, which was sprinkled with laughter and good conversation. Then came the lighting of the candles on my birthday cake...

Blowing out the candles. Okay, so I think we miscounted the candles and there were more than 30. ; ) Yes, I did manage to get them all out in one blow.

Giving a speech, thanking my friends for such a great birthday. (Unfortunately, it was becoming dark, so most of the photos of the party didn't turn out so well.)

  After dinner, we enjoyed a delicious chocolate cake, made by my friend Teresha (and picked up by Amanda earlier in the day, when she was "checking on the cleaning lady") and frosted by Janae Peterson. My first love language is gifts and I was so blessed to receive some very nice gifts - coffee, earrings, a couple of books, 19 packages of Mentos (one of my favorite candies here - thank you, Amanda!), and more. One of the most special gifts was when Gloria blessed me with a new name - "Kwagala," which means "Love" in Lugandan. The surprise dinner with friends was such a special climax for a fun-filled day!

Being carried as the "baby" by Uncle Samson. Here in Uganda, when it is your birthday, you are christened the "baby." : )

7:40 p.m.-1 a.m. or so - After dinner, we returned to the office and prepared for a "dance party" that night. This was a pre-party for an engagement party/introduction party happening the next day, Saturday. So, starting at around 10 p.m., Amanda and I danced the night away with a bunch of friends. (Let me reassure you who may be raising some eyebrows at the words "dance party." It was held at a very safe location, at a friend's home in Jinja and all of the music I "think" was Christian. I felt very safe and had a lot of fun. : )

 I had a very full, but very special day, to mark the beginning of my 30th year. Thank you, to my family and friends, for blessing me on my special day! And, thank you, Lord, for blessing me with 30 years of life!