The One with Thanksgiving & a CSB Website

Well, friends. This blog really serves two purposes:

  1. Show you more pretty pictures of Thanksgiving here with Team Bundi.
  2. Celebrate with you the launch of Christ School Bundibugyo’s official web presence!

Three months living out here, and so much has happened. So much transition, so many new friends, so many exciting projects tackled for Christ School. And even though we weren’t able to have turkey like you guys (chicken with gravy is essentially the same thing), today I’m thankful for all of the crazy that accompanied the last month and a half. Here we goooooo..!

— Thanksgiving in Bundi! —

Such an odd concept, celebrating an American holiday focused on quality family time while living very far from my own. It definitely brings new ways to practice thankfulness, that’s for sure! There is much to be thankful for in this place. I tried explaining Thanksgiving to my friend Gladisi one day last week. Her response basically went like this:

“So… In America, there is an entire holiday… Just for thanking God? And for having a meal with family?” 

Her confusion made sense, honestly. Here, everyone thanks everyone for everything. Thank you for greeting, thank you for coming, thank you for cooking, thank you for working, thank you for carrying, thank you for appreciating, thank you for worshipping, etc. The list goes on. People walk down the street thanking perfect strangers for doing whatever task they may be doing. Community is at the heart of this place. And sharing meals with family (even with as many as 15 people gathered in one location) is so commonplace that I found myself stumbling through my explanation when I realized what she was processing. Of course she was baffled! She practices thankfulness daily. Such a neat perspective and reminder to take home with me to a country that often struggles to remember the good. Webale kwegesiya, Gladisi! Thank you for teaching.

After that, I walked down to team leaders Josh and Anna’s house for the team meal. And let me tell you. We ate food.

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This is the view walking from my house to Josh and Anna’s. Those Rwenzori mountains will never, ever get old.
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The BEAUTIFUL table arrangement thanks to sister Sarah Crane!
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Baby Daniel Dickenson posing with all his Aunties. This is his happy place.
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Look at this beautiful team! (And some visitors from the States.)
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Aaand the beautiful roomies. We watch a lot of Lost, eat a lot of nachos, and chase a lot of goats off the front porch. Solidarity at its finest.

All in all, it was a wonderful holiday with this pseudo-family of mine here in rural Uganda. Got to FaceTime with all my closest people in America to remind them of my thankfulness, even when I’m 7,000 miles away. And I slept for 12 hours when it was all over, partly because of a food coma but MAINLY BECAUSE…..

— CSB WEBSITE LAUNCH!! —

The Christ School website is finally LIVE, people! I’ve been waiting to show this to you pretty much since late September. It’s something Sarah Crane and I (and countless others, make no mistake) have been dreaming of and talking about for years. A place where people in America can get a firsthand look at what Christ School is and what we’re all about. A place where pictures and videos are easily accessible, ways to partner are easily grasped, and two-way communication can truly begin for financial partners.

Sarah Crane rolled up her sleeves and completed the grunt work to get the ball rolling ages ago; I jumped in with both feet when I got to the field. Copy writing, copy editing, meetings with local CSB board members for approval on phrasing and terminology, organizing pictures taken by friends at The Archibald Project, communicating with Serge staff stateside, communicating with a wonderful web designer steadily for weeks, communicating with a graphic designer, and digging through archived CSB documents written by founding members two decades ago. Most importantly, praying MANY prayers for the Holy Spirit to carry the message of Christ School through this site in ways that bring dignity to this people group, honesty to friends in America, and glory to Jesus. God knows I could never accomplish that on my own.

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Early Thursday morning: here I am in all my sleep-deprived glory. Clicking the live link for the first time. (Photo cred: roommate Ashley Patterson)

This CSB team has worked so hard. We’re proud and excited! Sarah and I both cried happy tears when it was finished (on Thanksgiving Day), just in time for Serge to launch its 2016 Giving Tuesday campaign benefiting CSB. Sarah also wrote a beautiful blog post that went live on Serge’s site this past Friday. Check it out here!

Lots of blood, sweat, and tears, friends. Tweaks will be made and growth will come from here, no doubt. But I can honestly say that I’ve never been more thankful to be a small part of something so beautifully foundational. Check out the website here:

www.christschoolbundi.org

Grace for completed work, faith for a million unknowns. Thanking our God for all of it and everything in between. And specifically thanking our God for each of YOU, because this would never be possible without you guys. The realization humbles me every time I think about it, which is often.

I always end like this, and I hope it never loses its truth: Thank you for walking with me to the rural East African jungle in the name of freedom and truth.

All my love,

Ashland

Lessons in Comfort, Controversy, & Communication

Today marks 9 weeks living in East Africa, and you guys. What a month and a half it’s been since we last talked. I apologize for the communication hiatus that’s resulted from someone hitting the crazy switch over here… We’ve been running and gunning nonstop for the last 3-4 weeks!

Of course, as things are happening I’m making mental notes to tell you all about them. Standby for MANY pictures. But before I upload all of them and talk about what the Lord is showing me along the way, I thought I’d bullet-point the big ticket updates below:

  • Successful completion of my first Kampala stock-up trip! Eight hours in the car followed by a week in the big city buying things to bring back home to Bundibugyo. Things for a brand new home, more groceries than I’ve ever bought at one time in my life, voltage stabilizers, power cords, all the things.
  • I also spent some quality time with the Ugandan Immigration Officers finalizing my work permit paperwork. Yo girl is a legal temporary resident of Uganda!
  • I returned from Kampala to a week of temporary living while the work crew finished up the new Apprentice house.
  • I then left district again to spend a week learning the Lubwisi language retreat-style in Fort Portal, which is about 2 hours from Bundi. Serge Kijabe team member Karen Masso flew over from Kenya to teach our local language helpers how to teach the Americans their heart language, which only became a written language this past August. Yes, it’s confusing. Better believe my brain was fried and I went to sleep at 9:30 every night, but we started each morning praying as a group that the Gospel of Jesus would advance through the study of language. Out of that came the most grace-filled week of learning Lubwisi under the teaching of our closest Ugandan friends and neighbors.
  • I watched Donald Trump be elected the next president of the United States all the way from Uganda, and have found myself engaging in many conversations with local friends about it. It’s been interesting, enlightening, and definitely prayerful on all sides.
  • I then returned to Bundi yet again, and officially MOVED into the new Apprentice housing here in Bundibugyo! After living out of trunks and suitcases since July 31st, I have to admit: unpacking for good was such a tangible relief.
  • And in the midst of all that moving around (shout out to the iPhone hotspot and literally anyone’s wifi I could find), I’ve been working alongside precious sister and teammate Sarah Crane, a web designer in Nashville, and a graphic designer in Nashville to build Christ School’s first ever website geared towards partners in the West. It’s been quite an endeavor to live in a Ugandan culture so vastly different than America’s, while working alongside people still living in America to tell the story of your friends living in Uganda. On American deadlines. Based on American holidays and year-end traditions (Thanksgiving/Giving Tuesday). All exciting steps being made in the world of Christ School communications, no doubt! But you see the struggle.
  • And I’m also trying to stay on top of my cross-cultural ministry classes that happen once a week, my Sonship lessons that also happen once a week, while settling into my 4th and final new living environment in 3 months.

Those are the highlights. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO: A chronological picture account of the last 5 weeks. Brace yourselves.

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Leaving district the first time. Here a picture of the Kampala-bound crew.
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And here’s a picture of our pitstop for chicken on a stick, of course.
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Here’s a picture of me and Ashley shopping for our new place, which can be a little daunting when you live 8 hours from anything close to a Walmart.
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And here’s a picture of so. many. things. We are forever indebted to Kampala for all the stock-up needs.
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Marathon work days in the city aren’t so bad when you get to post up at a coffee shop. Here’s a picture of me feeling like I’m in Nashville.
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Here’s a picture of the view from our Kampala guesthouse every morning.
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Back in district. Here’s a picture of the roommates watching Stranger Things for the first time while I worked.
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Then left district again to head to Fort Portal for language week. Here’s a picture of the view I saw every morning en route to the intensive.
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Five days of language study… Here’s a picture of my brain exercising like it’s never exercised before.
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“Ashland, keep going! You can do this!” – Karen Masso and Clovice, probably. Here’s a picture of me struggling.
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Here’s a picture of my language helper Clovice receiving his Lubwisi teaching certificate from Karen! I’d be lost without you, Clovice. Literally.
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Here’s a picture of everyone at the language intensive.
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Back in district. Here’s a picture of Ashley hanging our laundry line. Channeling that inner girl scout.
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Here’s a picture of our living room. Home sweet home!
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And here’s a picture of me doing my favorite thing: GETTING MAIL! Best way to end a long month.

Conclusion: I’m tired. I’m happy. I’m transitioning. I’m thankful. And I’ve re-learned things.

The biggest takeaway? Even though I’ve laughed a lot, I have had many, many conversations with Jesus about frustrations accompanying these last few weeks. In more ways than one, I feel like I’m moving too quickly to catch a good, deep breath. That I hit too many conversational walls when talking with friends here about America’s election. Because I can’t even FIND the words to talk about it most times. That I’m uncomfortable because I “haven’t been able to settle anywhere.” Because I can’t speak the language. That I’m sick of fighting acid reflux because apparently I struggle with that here.

And while there are real elements of truth that speak to my very real human limitations, I’ve realized that Jesus is also teaching me something about being uncomfortable.

Sometime before Kampala happened (timelines are hard for me now), I was walking and talking with a friend who relocated with her family from Bundibugyo to a coastal town in Kenya. They had returned to Bundi briefly to finish packing up their house and then move it all with them to Kenya for good. I asked how they were doing with the transition (most common missionary question literally ever), and she said the following.

“I mean this is life, I guess. Isn’t it? This coming and going and discomfort and not really knowing where home is anymore. Ashland, we’re exhausted. Thankfully Jesus modeled this life for us so we don’t have to forge ahead out of our own strength.”

I constantly fall into the trap of believing that I deserve to be comfortable and content. I’ve worked too hard and sacrificed too much already to not have that comfort. But as Christians, we’re actually called to a life of discomfort. This world is not our home, and thankfully so! The discomfort keeps my eyes on the true and better Adam, come to save the hell-bound man. It keeps my perspective in check. Our comfort comes in the promise fulfilled by Jesus. That’s it. And when I remember that, the laughter comes more quickly in the midst of the madness.

Confident in what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, we keep stepping faithfully in whatever direction our good Father leads us.

A-men.

Pray for: continued adjustment into this new home, and for continued solid roommate bonding between the three lady millennial missionaries. For my relationship with Gage, and that it’d be strengthened and used as a testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness and grace for all who see it. For time management and focus as I continue working on the Christ School website – deadline for launch is quickly approaching. For relationships with my new neighbors in the community to form, despite my struggle to practice my Lubwisi. And for diligence in practicing the language regularly without fear or shame. For the community to receive the Christmas story in new and deep ways – this is the first year they get to read it for themselves in their heart language!

Praises: It may not be going as quickly as I want it to, but I actually am learning Lubwisi pretty well. Ashley and Katherine are the best expat roommates a girl could ask for. Gage took me on a virtual date to Target a couple weeks ago and walked up and down every aisle so I could see everything; so you could say we’re discovering new ways to tackle long distance successfully (he even wrote about it). Wifi has been amazing lately, so I’ve been able to screenshare and collaborate hands-on with a web designer in the States. It’s been insane. And Jesus is showing me new things about himself every time I’m forced into a new season of transition. He’s walking with me closely.

Webale kusaba! Thank you for praying! Thank you for following along and for encouraging me every step of the way.

All my love and all my crazy,

Ashland