Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Miles Upon Miles - Uganda

After we landed at Entebee International Airport we quickly loaded up into 3 different taxi's and begun the trip to our 'African hotel' where we would be staying for the next 2 weeks.

Like I mentioned before, I thought I knew what it would be like.
What it would look like. What it would NOT smell like.

I clearly had no idea.

For the next hour we drove through town-after-town, passing
village-after-village straight into the capital city of Kampala.

My mind could not accept all that I was seeing.

For miles upon miles, as far as the eye could see:


100% poverty!

Aside every dirt road
Behind every "house"
 Up every hill
Around every corner…

Miles Upon Miles … 
complete POVERTY all around.

Little toddler children alone next to extremely busy roads.

Dogs wondering the street. Sleeping anywhere they could.
(Some piled 3 high, dead on the roadside,
waiting to be burned.)

Goats roaming the streets looking for anything to eat.

Mopeds called "bota-bota's" (taxi's) coming within HAIRS of slamming head-on into your vehicle.

People everywhere.

Dirt everywhere.

No running water.
No trash system.
No plumbing.
No sanitation. 

The ‘homes’ are mounded together by cardboard boxes, brick and mud.
Children everywhere.
Babies with no diapers.
Toddlers with no clothes.
Shoes? You tell me. 

My mind was spinning.

Miles upon miles.

Endless poverty.

I believe it was at this point that my spirit
and my heart went into a bit of a shock.
I truly had no clue how to process or make sense
of much of what I was seeing.

Maybe it was just me. Perhaps everyone expected it to be like this…
I sure didn’t

My spirit was paralyzed.

As bad as it may sound (and at times I admit it sounds negative)

it is truly not the case...

I fell in love with Uganda.

In all the chaos, in all the filth,
in all the pollution, in all the need,
the Lord was revealing Himself to me
in ways that only He can
in a situation like this.

To the average Joe, it looked horrible.
It smelled horrible.
No one in their right mind would bring their family
here for a vacation. 
This would be absurd.

However, as my spirit went into shock,
my God was there ministering to me.
It was as if He was sitting right next to me
in the taxi whispering in my ear.

It was as if I could hear Him say,

“These are my people.
The children represent me.
What will you do? 
Will you humble yourself and love my people
or will you turn your heart against them?
I did not call you for your own selfish gain.
I called you to deny yourself,
pick up your cross and follow Me,
no matter what it looks like.
I am calling you.
What will it be?”

The taxi ride to our hotel was a great trial for me.
Every ounce of my spirit was tested
in ways I could not explain.

However, I can tell you this,
I weep now at the thought of going back.
I would leave tomorrow if I could.

The smells, the filth, the poverty,
the hunger, the needs… the children… the people…
they have stolen my heart.

I asked the Lord months ago
to break my heart for what breaks His…

I believe He has started His work.

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
    and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?'
    declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 22:16 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Unfolding of Memories - Uganda

Here I am finally sitting down to write about my
experience in Uganda. Its about time, right?
I know.

To say it's been hard to download all that I witnessed and had the privilege to be part of is an understatement. Little did I know that the days following my return would be some of the hardest of my life. I'm an emotional mess person anyways and thus
"coming down the mountain," coupled with severe jet lag,
nearly put me over the edge.

I found it difficult even to verbalized to my husband many of the experiences. The suffering I witnessed has left a scar that will forever hurt to touch.

Much of the sorrow I internalized and shoved down into my heart. I realized later this was not good. For several days I found it hard to leave my house. I dreaded seeing anyone I knew for fear I would just collapse in tears when they asked, "So how was your trip?" I had no way of answering that without crying. So I basically went into hiding. (note to self: don't do that again.)

It's been a little over a month since I have returned and I feel that I am ready to start writing. Many times I sat down to write and had no idea where to start. A part of me still feels that way but I realize I must start somewhere, right?  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." This is what I am telling myself anyway.

I have 900 stories I want to share with you but I need to do it one at a time. Please join with me on this journey as I re-live much of my trip and journal it; not only for my friends, but also for myself, my husband, and my children. This trip was beyond precious to me, life changing and faith building so I need to do 'this' right.

While we were in Africa, my friend Jessica said:
"God knew what He was doing when He created Africa.
And God knew what He was doing when He created America." 

WOW! It's so so true!

My friends, Africa has become the center of my heart.
I have fallen in love with a nation, a people and a culture that is simply breathtaking. I am exciting to walk through this journal of memories with you as they unfold in my mind.

Many people have asked, "Was it just what you imagined?
Was it everything you had thought it would be?"

The best way I can answer this question is like this:
It's like that person on the phone who you have never seen in person but you have talked to several times. You have created a picture in your mind of what you think they look like but you really have no idea. Then the day comes when you get to meet face to face. When you see them, you are taken back because they look totally different than you had imagined. There is nothing wrong with how they look, it's just different than what you had in mind.

That is how Africa was for me.

I pictured it a certain way. I looked at many pictures and surrounded myself with different stories and faces. I thought I knew what it was going to be like....but I had no idea.

I had no idea that the poverty would be so appalling.
I had no idea that the smells would actually be a stench.
I had no idea how many people I would see in dire need,
I simply had no idea!

I walked into the unknown of Africa as a girl who had no clue of anything outside of the comforts of my American lifestyle.

(I quickly came to realize,
I've never been in need of anything a day in my life.)

Today, I walk as a woman who knows.
I have seen. I have touched. I have smelled. I have loved.

Stay tuned...

"Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered."
Proverbs 21:13