Catching Up

June 23

In his heart, a man makes his plans, but it is the LORD who directs his path.

I know these words are universally true, but somehow they seem truer in Africa, where people are not encumbered in the slightest by the American ideals of efficiency and punctuality.

Take today, for instance.  Here was the plan we made in our hearts:  eat an early breakfast, transition from Entebbe to Kyenjojo by 1 p.m., eat a light lunch, meet with local health officials, organize supplies and set up for the medical clinic that begins tomorrow, return to the hotel for supper, and have some down time with other members of God’s Care Ministries like Pastor Victor, Alissa, Peter, Godfrey and Moses.

That was the plan.  This is the path God unfolded: Get to Kyenjojo.

The taxi vans that Alissa ordered for 7:30 a.m. to insure they arrived by 9 actually arrived around noon.  The 4 hours it normally takes to make the 170 mile trip then took closer to 7 hours.  One of the vans broke down and required repair, so they took an hour longer.  We stopped twice along the way for restroom breaks, but the ladies just could not warm themselves to using the men’s facility – a wall with a drainage trough.  So, supper came around 8:30, an hour after it was already dark, and the decision was made to try again bright and early tomorrow.

And so we made more plans in our hearts. 🙂

June 24

We had a wonderful supper last night, followed by a good night’s sleep and a breakfast of boiled eggs, fruit, sausage, toast and tea.  So far we’ve had consistent electricity and water, even hot water!  Those who were here two years ago can’t believe the improvements in utilities.  Those who weren’t here two years ago think we were just playing with them when we described bathing with a gallon of warm water from a jerry can.  The ladies joke that they want to be pampered when they get home, so I should not let their families know they’ve been so pampered here.

We’re headed off in different directions today.  One crew left early this morning to organize the medical clinic.  We are to see sponsored children today and tomorrow before the clinic is opened to the public on Monday.  Belinda, Laura and I will be at the clinic today.

Valerie and Kirsten are working with Gene Kifer building a mud house.  I can tell they’re a little tired of all the parental admonitions (“Stay close to Gene.” “Don’t go exploring.” “Wear sunblock.”).  But these are such sweet and good young ladies, they simply smile and say yes to humor us, then give each other that knowing look.

1 p.m.

I was doing so well.  I was strong, I was confident that I knew the score in Uganda and it would not get to me this time.  Then I came to the clinic and God brought it all back to me like opening a floodgate.  I see again, as I saw before, the kind of poverty and despair that boggles the mind.  It’s such a paradox.  How can this land be so rich and these people so poor, so destitute.

Speaking of paradoxes, how can my heart be so broken and so full at the same time?  How can I feel such overwhelming compassion for the plight of these people and be so full of joy?

The brokenness is easy to understand.  I have so much.  They do not have little, they have nothing.  How can that be?  Three times today, I had to step away and find a moment of solitude because I couldn’t keep the tears back any longer and I didn’t want them to think the muzungu had lost his mind.  How in the name of all that’s decent and humane did I manage to push these gut-wrenching scenes somewhere into the shadows of my heart?

The joy?

Part of it is personal.  As I tell the good news to those in our makeshift “waiting room” (a tarp stretched over small poles hacked from the woods), as I pray for the sick and anoint them with oil, as I touch heads with a child and pray for his well-being, I feel so complete, so centered in the very purpose for which I know God deigned me.  As I work my way through the crowds of people, simply blessing them in the name of the Lord or being playful with a child, I have never been more certain that I am, in that moment, doing the will of God.  I am one with the Father and one with my brothers and sisters.

And part of my joy is pastoral.  God allowed me to witness what I believe was a holy moment today.  Greg Chambers looked up between patients and asked Laura, who is doing triage, “Are we making a difference?”  She responded, “Actually, Greg, I’ve never felt so ….”  When her voice just trailed off, he finished her sentence: “Helpless?”  “Yes,” she said, “helpless.”  It may seem strange that this would bring me joy, but the pastor in me rejoices to see God at work, and I am never more sure that God is at work than when He reveals our helplessness to us, when He breaks our hearts so that He can then truly shape us into the image of Christ.  When our hearts are broken by what breaks the heart of God, the potential for good is unlimited.  It is only when we realize our helplessness that we find our help in God, only when we know we are weak that we know His strength is made perfect on our weakness.  “Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

And part of that joy is … well, I suppose it’s pride.  But it’s at least the right kind of pride, I hope.  Watching Pastor Scott speak to children in the prayer tent; watching people pitch in and serve wherever they are needed (cleaning teeth, dispensing drugs, running registration, interacting with children, sweeping floors, moving boxes … whatever) with no sense of self at all, but only a sense of just being happy to serve — that brings me joy.  I do so love seeing the body of Christ be the body of Christ.

9 p.m.

Complete exhaustion and complete happiness.  The clinic today was supposed to be for sponsored children, but others heard and came from miles around.  How do you turn away someone who walked four hours so that a baby with malaria could be treated?  So we stayed late until it was close to sunset.  Even then, we had to take the names of those we could not see and put them in the que for first treatment tomorrow.

Supper was sumptuous.  How do you process working all day with people who are on the verge of starvation and then come back to a buffet of beef, chicken, and fish?  We shared the highlights of our day.  I spoke of two: praying with the sick and taking time hear and there to watch God at work in and through others.  It is so sweet to see Jesus at work in His people.  I love them for it.  I love him for it.

June 25

Today is my grandson’s fourth birthday.  On this same day four years ago, we met our four newest children for the first time (becoming parents and grandparents on the same day!).  Yet here I am, half a world away.  How do I feel about that.  The truth is, I’m fine with it.  I hope they will be, too.  I’m fine with it because I see these children of Uganda as my children.  I want to raise my children to see them as their brothers and sisters.  I don’t want them to think of me as absent from them, but rather present with the rest of our family.

You should have seen them today.  Somehow, they seem to know how I love them.  They come up to me, take my hand, put an arm around me, sit on my lap, make funny faces … they act like my kids.  And it’s not just m, of course.  It’s all of us.  I know we’ve all had that moment when a child (or several of them) seemingly appeared out of thin air and shyly made eye contact.  Then, with the least little encouragement – a smile, a wave, a nod, a look – pressed their way into our arms or laps.  Would that they had stopped there, but they seem discontent until they have squirmed their way into our hearts.

My favorite sight today?  I took a little boy by both hands and danced with him just for a second to some music that was playing in the background.  When I stopped, he kept going.  He caught the eye of Katie Port, who was working with the dental clinic.  She started dancing on the porch of the medical clinic where she was stationed, and he was on the ground below matching her move for move.  She raised her hands, he raised his.  She made a face, he made it, too.  It was sheer joy right smack in the middle of such serious and heart-rending work.  I laughed until I cried.

There are other scenes here that have nothing to do with the children or our work here.  Seeing the clouds before dawn that were not varying shades of midnight blue, but rather deep black and gray with pink highlights; a man transporting a full-sized coffin balanced on the back of his bicycle; four cars in two lanes (and four coming from the other direction!); the black dirt, the green hills … it really is stunningly beautiful.  And there are the smells – the smells of people who have different standards than we do, the fish in the marketplace, the constant oaky smell of burning.  And there are the sounds – children singing in the early morning, roosters crowing, cows mooing.  All of this is a reminder.  This is Africa.

gkr1996 posted at 2011-6-25 Category: Uncategorized