I’m not really sure how to efficiently talk about my time here. It’s just so much and I honestly don’t know where to start, so bare with me. My mind is one that so desperately wants to show people what I see, help them feel what I feel, walk them through experiences that I now have tucked away in the deepest parts of my heart. Sometimes I’m able to paint pictures with my words, other times I’m not. It’s pretty much always a gamble.
I’m only able to call Bundibugyo home for two short months, so I’ve chosen to accept the challenge the Lord gave me from the beginning: “walk with me (not ahead of me), open yourself to the possibility of the growth that only comes from discomfort, and let me show you the things I’ve wanted to show you.” Which means that I’ve been a sponge for three weeks, trying to absorb and process as much as I can.
A song that I’ve always loved but has been on repeat a lot lately is one by Green River Ordinance. It’s the shortest track off their newest EP, if only because it paints a picture of a life-changing gospel in the deepest yet most concise way I’ve ever heard. (My kind of lyrical approach.) Today’s Uganda update is brought to you by “Better Love”. I encourage you to listen to it first, then keep reading.
“Faith is not an idle grace. Guide my fears and lead my way.”
As a relational person, I’m driven by a desire to know people around me. And I’m frustrated by any obstacle that prevents relationships from forming the way I think they should be formed. Since multiple people have asked me my biggest struggle since I’ve been here, I give you the mzungu syndrome: (n.) a seemingly eternal separation of the foreigner, the “mzungu”, and the local babwisi villager; anything that emphasizes my easily-sun-burnt super white skin. I expected to stick out and look different. I anticipated a language barrier. I even expected people to look at me like I have dollar signs tattooed on my forehead. But for some reason I did not anticipate how hard it would be to love through it when I already have a hard time finding ways to relate to the people here. It’s something this team has experienced since day one, so I’ve been fortunate to learn from people much wiser than me. Doesn’t always make it easier, but I’m learning to be comfortable in my discomfort. While I’ll always be different to the people here, it gets much easier to pursue relationship every day.
“Darkest heart that you have saved. I can’t find a better love.”
My eyes have been opened to a new understanding of the broken world we live in. I see it manifest in innumerable ways around me on a daily basis, but I’ve seen it even more so within my own heart. It’s easy to be prideful when Americans are viewed as having all the answers to life’s problems. It’s easy to become frustrated when the same kids come to your door every day asking for the same things that you still aren’t able to give them. It’s easy to feel worthless when you sit before 20+ community kids who don’t speak English (or at all, if they’re hearing-impaired), trying to create fellowship through a translator. Or helpless when children are screaming in the pediatric ward while you’re doing inventory in the storage closet. Even with all of this uncertainty, I’m still convicted almost daily of arrogantly assuming I know what I’m doing. That I got this all by myself. It’s the biggest joke ever. But it reminds me that I cannot find a better love than the one who remains constant in spite of my faults. I’m not called to fix Bundibugyo, I’m simply called to be the hands and the feet of Jesus.
“When I set out from ruined lands, shadows everywhere I stand, you took death and called me friend. I can’t find a better love.”
While I may not be able to give people what they ask for by way of tangible goods, I’ve been able to offer friendship. Jesus has shown me the ultimate love by taking death in my place, and then by being my friend. According to this world it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a humbling truth that will spill out into my interactions with people if I let it. I’ve been silently celebrating every friendship that’s slowly taking root, either with girls at Christ School or girls who come knocking every afternoon just to sit and color on my couch. A lot of them don’t understand why a random mzungu would come to their tiny destitute village and be interested in friendship. It’s a pretty a cool testimony.
“Oh, you take me as I am. Oh, now I understand: the greatest gift to give a man is to give him grace to live again.”
This summer is allowing me to experience a life outside of my own in Nashville. I’m seeing more forest and less trees. I mess up every day. I have always messed up every day, and I’ll continue to do so. (Last weekend, I singlehandedly messed up the processional at a Ugandan wedding reception. Holler.) There will always be hurdles to jump and things to clean up, but I’m enjoying every second here. Lots of gray, not a lot of black and white. Lots of laughter and do-overs. I’m so used to devoting all of my time to cleaning up after myself that I often forget how big Jesus is. I lose sight of the gospel doing work in the far reaches of Uganda. Lately, I’m thankful for a God who takes me as I am by giving me grace that never runs out. And for a team that keeps my perspective in check by preaching that concept to me over and over again.
Shout out to GRO for helping me streamline a lot of thoughts. If you made it this far, you have a super special place in my heart.
Keep those prayers coming! Love you all!