Monday, September 30, 2013

Differences Between East and West

The differences between cultures go far beyond how one lives, eats or dresses. Most of the differences are rooted in a very different way of thinking.

I enjoyed this graphic depiction presented between "western" and "eastern" cultures, presented by a Chinese woman, Yang Lui, an artist and visual designer, who was born in China, but has lived in Germany.

As I looked at her comparison, presented in contrasting red and blue graphics, I couldn't help but smile - a knowing smile. Uganda is definitely an "eastern" culture. And I as a "westerner" struggle almost daily with interpreting and understanding what is said and done around me, as well as trying to figure out how to respond from my different cultural mindset.

As someone commented on Lui's work, the differences can be "amusing." :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Counting Jelly Beans

I saw this video this morning on Miss Jennifer Dukes Lee's blog  (I am a regular follower) and was so challenged and blessed that I wanted to share it with all of you.

Who would have thought that jelly beans could help put life into perspective? ;)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beauty Discovered, Part 2

(The first post of this series can be found here.)

I initially met Stella in February 2011 during her first brief visit to the island. Within a short time of talking, we learned we had much in common - similar names - Estella and Esther (my middle name), our birthdays June 9 and July 9, respectively, that we are similar in age (sorry, won't reveal those numbers!), have similar interests, that we are older young women and actively involved in ministry, and lastly that we were each patiently waiting on God to bring just "the right man" for us to spend the rest of our lives with.

We also learned God had answered our individual prayers for a friend - I for a Ugandan friend and she for a non-Ugandan friend. I cried that night - tears of thankfulness to bring such a new friend who would become a dear friend.

Stella and I on the island in November 2011.

Since then we have visited each other, texted, called and e-mailed. Almost two weeks ago, I wore a traditional Ugandan gomas and attended Stella's introduction, where she formally "introduced" her fiance Ronnie at her parents' home and gifts from the groom's family were presented to the bride's family.

Me in a traditional gomas on the "big day."

Ronnie and Stella at their introduction in Jinja on August 31st.

Stella with her "maids" at the introduction.

Later the same day, I sat in the beautiful Victoria Baptist Church to witness Stella and Ronnie exchange their vows and rings. I couldn't help but beam with pride and pleasure as I witnessed my beautiful friend, who had saved herself for this special day, marry a man who is such a perfect fit for her and will support and lead her in so many ways.

Ronnie's family & friends bring in the gifts...

...including live chickens.

Stella's story is unique, even among her own culture and family. For a young woman to reach her early 30s and to still be a virgin is remarkable.

Unfortunately, cohabiting is all too common here - on the islands, in the villages and in the cities. People either can't wait or the costs associated with an introduction and wedding, as well as the dowry are just too great. This is also common among professing Christians. I know of Ugandan couples who have lived with one another for years and have multiple children finally and bravely take the step to "sanctify" their marriage before God, the government and other witnesses. It is not easy because of the costs and cultural expectations.

I am indeed very proud and very happy for my dear friend. Stella is a beautiful woman who kept her beauty for just the right time and for just the right man.

This is beauty preserved to be beauty discovered. 

Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Kakaire!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Beauty Discovered, Part 1

A brilliant island sunset.

Even after living in Uganda for three and half years, I am still astounded by the beauty I find here.

This small country, tucked inland on the eastern side of this great continent was nicknamed the "Pearl of Africa" by Sir Winston Churchill after his visit in 1907. He was so impressed by the country's landscapes, wildlife and culture that he compared Uganda to a jewel.

Uganda's sugarcane and tea fields.

On my first day in Uganda in 2006, I recall being in awe of the lush green landscape, which reminded me so much of my home state of Oregon. The sunsets here are indescribable and I have tried and failed multiple times to capture them with the "sunset" setting on my camera. The huge puffy clouds that dominate the bright blue sky, the amazing animals and flowers, the red soil, the dark faces with bright eyes and wide white smiles...I could go on and on.

This is real, genuine beauty. You can't manufacture it and it is impossible to copy.

I have also witnessed and heard of much ugliness and pain and shame. After being "sheltered" for most of my life in a loving family and a quaint hometown, I have realized this world is really big and is filled with millions and millions of people who have endured and are enduring what some cannot even fathom.

At times I have a hard time comprehending or knowing how to respond when such atrocities are no longer just stories in a newspaper or posts on a website, but the realities of dear friends.

The other day I wondered how the Heavenly Father must grieve the pain, injustice and sin that is represented in just one city in the world. And I can't even imagine how He, Who sees it all, must ache at the wretched effects of sin seen in every corner of this depraved, decaying earth.

And yet He still manages to bring beauty out of darkness, out of ashes, out of dust.

Last week I helped with a women's seminar for ladies from two of our island villages. Their faces shone as they shared of how God is working in them and in their families.

Slyvia of Katonga, right, shares a testimony during the women's seminar last week.

These beautiful women, who have little if any education and are rarely esteemed by their men, are the heart of the villages. They prepare the fish caught by their husbands, they cultivate the gardens in back-breaking labor, they keep the mud-walled, grass-thatched homes, they bathe, dress and feed the multiple children, they send the young ones to school, often being the ones to pay their fees from what little money they have. And yet little respect and care are shown them, even by members of their own household, community and culture.

Yet, we affirmed to them, they wield such power because they can be godly influences to their husbands, children, neighbors and villages. They can show the love of Christ, even in love-less places.

Aunt Catherine, right, prays with women who recommitted their lives to Christ.

I was excited to share with these dear women the parables from Matthew 13 about the men who found hidden treasure and then sold all they had to obtain it. I explained they are the hidden treasure that Christ searched for and gave His own precious life to redeem.

They are the treasure, the fine pearls. They are beautiful and valuable because God says they are - they are His creation, bearing His sacred image.

Only the Living Redeemer can extend His matchless grace and relentless love to the most lost, lonely, rejected, despised, maimed, wounded and helpless, bringing them new life and new hope. He is the Miracle Worker and the Source of True Beauty.

Yes, this world can be very dark and very ugly, but when Christ miraculously brings beauty out of it, I am left speechless. And He invites us to discover beauty as He does. If He can bring beauty out of darkness, then we can look for it and celebrate it.