Sunday, February 24, 2013

Joys and Disappointments

I know it doesn't matter where you live or what you do, you will inevitable experience joys and disappointments throughout life.

I am not sure why, but if often seems the joys soar higher and the disappointments run deeper for me as I am here - in Uganda. This week certainly contained both, though joy seems to have had the upper hand, though the big "D" tried its best to deliver on discouragement.

Not because the hard times were greater this week, but I am going to begin with the disappointments first because I want to end on a high note. :)

-  Having one of our SHIM family, Mama O, lose a close friend and then be suffering from malaria at the same time.

- In an attempt to finalize my work permit renewal (which I started last May), I went up to Kampala, the capital, on Thursday, only to realize I had left an important piece of paper on the island. Without the needed "slip" the process was delayed and what I had hoped would be a simple procedure became complicated and delayed. I returned on Friday, only to be told to come back next week.

- The inefficiency of most of Uganda. After struggling with the immigration office this week, my frustration has increased toward the inefficiency of most of what takes place here. From my western viewpoint, it seems so much more could be accomplished if things were done differently.

Part of the jam between Kampala and Jinja on Friday evening.
- Being stuck in a traffic jam on Friday afternoon and missing most of a friend's graduation party. Speaking of inefficiency, I cannot understand why the main road from Jinja to Kampala is for the most part only two lanes wide. Thus any kind of accident causes huge delays, like the one in which an empty fuel tanker went off the road and caught fire. The driver of the taxi I was in attempted to go around the accident and so we took some muddy side road, which narrowed to one and half lanes and led to another road and another road. It seems everyone and his brother decided to join us - including those driving fuel tanker trucks and large buses. Several times "someone" would decide we were on the wrong road or there was a better route and everyone and his brother would then attempt to turn around on these narrow roads running through villages that make American logging roads look good. After about 1-1/2 hours on the "side" roads, we made it back to the main road, less than a mile from where we had gone off of it and continued on our way to Jinja.

- Having far too much to do and seemingly too little time to do it in.

- Dealing with "little" frustrations, like loss of power, rain, poor Internet, hot sun, mosquitoes, dirt, bugs, etc.

- Having to constantly "fight" against being white and being different, whether it is bartering for a taxi ride or a better price for a purchase, or enduring stares and know you are being talked about, though you can't understand what is being said, or even being asked to do something (like give a speech) when you know others are more qualified and have more authority than you, yet you were chosen because of your skin color.

- Planning a meeting for sponsored students and having only four out of possibly 10 attend.

- Hearing the testimonies and praises of the four students I was able to meet with on Saturday afternoon. We had a special time reviewing 2012, looking forward to 2013 and talking about how we are to aim for the upward call of Christ (Phil. 3:8-14) and how we can be a blessing to others.

The school choir performs at the Thanksgiving Ceremony.

- The reminder that God does not ultimately want what I can "produce" in ministry, but doggedly pursues a close and abiding relationship with me.

Danze Fred, one of last year's top graduates, right, receives congratulations from our woman Member of Parliament, Nantume Jennifer.
- Celebrating seven years of God's faithfulness to and blessings upon Lingira Living Hope Secondary School last Saturday with a special "thanksgiving ceremony." We also used the day to praise Him for the many new students (80+ as of this week) and the good performance of last year's graduates - the best performers in our entire district.

- Teaching computer classes to three of the four grades at the school. I have especially enjoyed my newest class, the Senior 2 students, which I just began with this term. They are like sponges soaking up knowledge! The last two weeks have been spent teaching them the importance of stewardship ("the careful and responsible management of what is entrusted to one's care") and how it applies to every area of life - including gaining knowledge and even the use of computers.

- Attending the graduation of a dear friend and Ugandan brother Robert Wafula. After two-plus years of hard work, Robert received his master's degree in leadership and organizational management on Friday.

Robert the graduate, center, with his wife Immaculate and myself.
- Attending a graduation ceremony at a Christian university - my first ever! I was so blessed by the focus on Christ that permeated each and every aspect of the function.

- Welcoming visitors to the island - who bring their unique experiences, personalities and gifts and bless those of us on the island by their presence and investments of time and energy.

- Enjoying homemade brownies and chocolate chip cookies - simply heavenly!

- The comfort and blessing of having a "family" here - who always make me feel welcome and wanted, satisfy my cravings for American food and understand my weird sense of humor. :)

I love the Peterson family! They always make me feel welcome and part of their family while I am in Jinja.
- God helped me to work on patience this week with my challenges with the immigration office and the traffic jam from Kampala.

- The knowledge that I am here because God asked me to join in the work He is doing here in Uganda. What a privilege and honor!

- Refreshment found in God's presence and with His people as I worshiped at church this morning, in the sunshine and gentle breeze in our outdoor "sanctuary." Songs like "Blessed Be Your Name," "In the Secret," and "I Will Follow" spoke to my spirit and reminded me that even in the joys and challenges, God is working for my good and He is faithful all the time.

As I reflect on this past week, with its joys and disappointments, I am reminded that God is sovereign over all. Nothing occurred this week without His notice, or even without His permission. And it is because of His great love that I can rest in the knowledge that He knows all of my hills and valleys and is working in and through each one - to draw me closer to Himself and reproduce His image in me. Therefore, I can choose to sing...

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise;
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say -

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name.

You give and take away; you give and take away. 
My heart will choose to say, Lord,
Blessed be Your name!

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Strange Blessings

If the people of East Africa pronounced a blessing on you, what do you think it would consist of?

This video was produced by Lahash International, an organization based in Portland, Oregon that is making a big difference here in East Africa. Incidentally, one of the founders is a woman I grew up with in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Not many of us would wish for the "blessings" spoken of us in this video, but perhaps if we were open to receiving such odd "gifts," we would find God's version of joy and abundant life in a richer and deeper context.

Click below to watch the video.