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..."