Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Weekend and a Half

As I wait for the slow Internet to load my web pages, I’ll fill you in on the last few days – which have proved to be a “weekend and a half.”

One of my Ugandan co-workers, Papa O, coined this phrase to describe something that goes beyond expectation. Like a long meeting would be a “meeting and a half” or a large dinner could be a “meal and three-quarters.”

The last few days have been challenging, including getting caught in a storm and walking barefoot up and then down a long, muddy hill. But there have also been good highlights like joining 70 women in a time of sitting and learning at Jesus’ feet.

Maybe your week has also had its ups and downs with some needed EGR – “Extra Grace Required.”

Welcome Home!
I was so happy to welcome the Petersons back earlier this week, after their four-month furlough. After spending a couple of days with them in Jinja, I prepared for a return to the island. Before I hopped on the boat, though, I stopped by a mosque to observe one of the five-times-daily prayer sessions. I am winding up an online course on Islam and the visit was required to help me gain a better understanding of Muslims and their beliefs and practices.

Upon entering the mosque’s compound, I struck up a conversation with Isabirye, who I assumed worked there, but later learned had just arrived early for the prayers. A bit reticent at first, Isabirye warmed up to me, especially after learning my visit had no ill intentions, and I wanted only to observe the time of prayer. Our conversation ranged from the Muslims’ daily observance to politics in America. A few minutes later, he gave me his seat as he entered the mosque to pray, and I watched though the large open doorway.

I’ll try and write more later about my observations and what I have learned during this very interesting course.

Caught in a Storm
Getting from here to there in Uganda can have its challenges. After hopping on a motorcycle to head to the lake shore, the driver and I waited for a break in traffic on Jinja’s Main Street as large trucks, filled with people shouting and waving branches, passed by. Yep, we are also in election season here, which often means various demonstrations and posters and advertisements - EVERYWHERE.

I reached the landing site and was carried to the boat. It’s wise to arrive early, because once in awhile the boat leaves prematurely, as was the case about a month ago, when I was left at the shore watching it motor away in the distance.

Having arrived early, I grabbed my favorite spot, near the front and on the left side of the boat (away from any usual wave action), on the six-inch deep wooden bench seat. I waited…and waited…and waited. About an hour and a half later, which is the usual time for the entire journey, we pulled anchor and headed out. Seeing looming dark clouds overhead, I had been afraid rain would find us, but rather it seemed the sun was shining on our journey. Until…we reached about halfway.

The coming storm, but with the hope-filled promise of a rainbow.
Approaching dark clouds and rain could be seen from the east – my side of the boat. I silently hoped the pilot would pick up the speed, but he didn’t, and eventually the rain found us. It started out gentle, but within a few minutes, was coming down heavy. Then the wind picked up. And, we found ourselves in a storm – so bad in fact, we couldn’t land at Kyoya, my home village. And, you know the storm is serious when your fellow passengers are repenting and praying aloud. I hunkered down under my wind-beaten umbrella, praying we would finally land.

The pilot, trying to control the rocking boat in fierce wind, waves and rain, took us to the next village where there was a mad dash to get off the boat and under shelter.

Within a half hour the storm had slowed enough so my friends and I began the 20-minute hike to Kyoya. The path was muddy and the rocks slippery, so I carefully picked my way along the muddy, puddle-strewn rock and dirt path. About three-quarters of the way home, I realized I had left my phone in the other village, in the house where I had taken shelter. Reluctantly, I headed back.

This time I picked up my speed and just as I reentered the village, I slipped and fell in a nice muddy patch. God has His ways of humbling me. Walking through the village with a muddy back-end and shoes covered in brown goo caught the attention of everyone I passed and earned me some laughter from the children. I quickly retraced my steps, found my phone, and headed back over the rocky path, falling once again, and reaching SHIM soaked and tired, just as it was becoming dark and the rain had resumed.

How thankful I to be back in my nice, warm, dry home. :)

I arrived safely on the island, but it seems my computer didn’t. When I switched it on that evening I was informed my hard drive was "AWOL." Oops. Though I had clutched my backpack, containing my computer, my camera, and tablet, through the storm, it seems my computer had not fared well. I suspect the kind man who help me off the boat, had quickly and perhaps forcefully set my backpack down on the land. Thankfully, SHIM has other computers, so I am borrowing one as I wait for a return to a Jinja computer store to see what can be done. I am praying it can be repaired quickly and easily.

Gathering in Galigatya
I rose early the next morning to catch a boat to Galigatya, an island village where a women’s seminar was being held. About four hours after my expected pick-up, the boat arrived. I climbed aboard, squeezing myself among the 30 or so women also headed to the seminar. After another stop to pick up more attendees, we headed to Galigatya, about an hour from my home island.

Women on the boat headed to the seminar.
Galigatya is nestled in a beautiful valley, requiring about a half mile walk from the landing site, up and over a hill or a small mountain, as it is referred to here. The small, mud-walled church tightly held the 70 or so women who gathered from at least 10 different area churches for a time of fellowship, praising, and listening to the Word.

Climbing the hill/"mountain" to Galigatya. The village where we landed can be seen in the distance.
As is common here during “overnights,” our gathering rolled through the night and ended around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Seeing the women joyfully and freely worship their Creator, share testimonies of God’s work in their lives, and watch them intently and eagerly soak up the Word of God and the event’s practical teachings, made my heart swell. I was reminded no place or person is ever overlooked by our all-seeing God, who intimately knows our hearts and lives.

Praising our God!

Galigatya Deliverance Church - host of the women's seminar.

Aunt Catherine, seminar organizer, shares with the women about being salt and light in the world.
Women listen intently.
Just as the sun was rising this morning, we gathered our things and returned to the boat, thankful for how the Lord had met each of us in the previous hours. The night and early morning rains had turned the mountain path into one long mud hole and eventually I took off my shoes and went barefoot, not trusting my dress shoes to carry me safely up and over the hill.

Once again, I caught the stares of passersby as they saw the shoe-less “mzungu,” with brown mud encasing my soles and toes. Washing our feet in the shore waters, we again boarded the boat, squeezing ourselves, tired, yet happy, for the journey home.

After pulling the all-nighter, I snuck in a few hours of sleep today. The rest was a bit fitful, though, since only a few feet from my door is a "construction zone." Two hardworking carpenters are pulling 12+hour days, installing screens in our buildings’ windows and vents. (Yay! I am so happy for this development as it will mean fewer bugs inside my home.) The roar of the generator, the power tools, and the workers’ banter stirred me. Two cups of coffee helped to lift my mind fog, though I still feel like I am rocking in the boat.

And to top off this interesting weekend, the island is hosting the seasonal “convention” of lake flies – large, innocent, but annoying gnats. Attracted to light, they rest on anything they can find – walls, windows, desks, floors, and are especially obnoxious after the sun has set. And, due to their short 24-hour lifespan, 15 minutes after you sweep the floor, you find more recently deceased flies have fallen. (Read these blog posts for more about these frequent island visitors.)

Though the last few days have had their ups and downs, there has, for the most part, been an abiding peace in my heart – knowing all along God is in control and will continue to be. I have so much to be thankful for, and the "hiccups" of the last few days are truly minor in comparison.

As the song says, “With Jesus in the boat, you can smile in the storm.” :)

I am thankful today for God’s “extra” graces, just when I need them most.

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