Christmas, Dry Season, A New Year, All the Things

As I’m typing this, roommate and fellow Serge Apprentice Katherine (forever known as KT) is dancing around our living room to the newest Bruno Mars song. “Trying to stay hip with the kids these days,” she says. As she’s moonwalking.

Just a little glimpse into my day-to-day life to kick off this post. I’m rarely bored around here.

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Today–the day I became a big sister 23 years ago (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AK)– is apparently the day I decided to be hit in the face with an absurd reality: There are only 3.5 more days left of 2016. The year that has simultaneously dragged on for about a million years has in many ways flown by. I guess that’s the way things tend to go, but this year feels a bit…. more so. I guess.

More trying, more exasperating, more desperate, more lonely, more painful, more joyful, more cultural, more confusing, more humbling, more redemptive, more beautiful. More hard and full of Jesus all at once.

I used to think that wasn’t possible; that there was no way he would allow such profound paradoxes to exist together. On purpose, no less. But it turns out that it’s in the middle of that confusion and missing puzzle pieces that Jesus has met me and taught me in the most profound ways. What? Yes. Which brings me TO…..

A Grand List of Things God Has Taught Me This Year, Especially in Bundibugyo:

  1. Truth: I don’t drink nearly enough water. I never have; but as dry season is pretty much upon us here on the east African equator, my body is learning how to make SURE I remember to drink more water. I’m walking through 90º heat at the end of December. Whoops…!
  2. Turns out I’m way more pridefully independent than I thought, and I’m only okay trusting God after he lets me in on what he’s doing. Doesn’t matter if I’m trying to cook dinner or spend time with neighbors or foster a long-distance relationship. I’m pretty quick to believe that I can prepare/love/protect/do better than the creator of this universe; and he’s pretty quick to show me otherwise.
  3. Number 2 is dramatically emphasized when I’m taken out of my home culture and dropped in the middle of a foreign one. Tends to manifest itself in disproportionate levels of frustration, which I tend to take out on the neighbor’s goat simply for bleating. Or whatever sound they make.
  4. I’m much more compelled to learn a complicated language as soon as friendships depend on it.
  5. Nothing has ever/will ever make me feel more helpless than trying to reroute a migrating colony of safari ants away from our house. They bite like H-E-L-L and fear nothing.
  6. The rigid and intense pressure I put on myself in the context of work has no place in God’s economy or his Kingdom. Or his Gospel in general. I am not how much money I raise for Christ School or what I do/do not accomplish. (Take that, Western world!)
  7. Discipleship tends to happen outside my own intentions; and it’s by God’s grace alone that hurdles are jumped for cross-cultural relationships to thrive at all.
  8. Teenage boys do not change no matter what country or culture they call home. I don’t care what anyone else tells you. The frustration, laughter, arrogance, hugs, tears, prayers, Soulja Boi references and inappropriate jokes are all the same, especially when you’re trying to love them well and show them Jesus.
  9. Uganda is beautifully broken; but I am not called to fix every problem that comes to me in the form of a knock on the door, nor am I a walking ATM. Wisdom comes when I ask God for it, most times revealed through the context of relational integrity.
  10. I rarely feel like I know what I’m doing, which has become supernaturally comfortable within the context of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
    "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

    If it wasn’t for that passage, I’d  succumb to self-deprecation and doubt. Instead, I get to embrace the awkward and use it as a way to point to Jesus instead of myself. Heyo!

  11. Sometimes really good relationships pop up at the least-opportune times (like 5 months before I leave the country); but it turns out God can work in many realms of life at once and maintain all sovereignty and faithfulness. The last date I went on with Gage? He pulled up the new Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls on his laptop, then FaceTimed me on his iPhone. He propped virtual-me up on a pillow facing his computer and we watched the Gilmores banter back and forth for 45 minutes like I wasn’t 7,000 miles away. It was amazing. He’s the absolute best.
  12. And for the most important lesson God’s taught me through Uganda in 2016… Prayer. I’ve realized lately that I don’t think I’ve ever had a healthy approach to prayer, you guys. Not consistently. The whole concept used to intimidate me, like God was expecting a certain order of agenda with the right tone and heart posture. Sure, I always knew it was a gift to approach the Lord in prayer, but it really didn’t mean much because it’s not like my prayers are actually doing anything. Thy will be done anyway, right? I rarely approached the throne of grace with an honest and vulnerable heart, bearing all desires and emotions before a Father who created and loves me. In other words, I rarely came to our God with bold asks as his beloved daughter.”Why should he give me what I want if I’m so broken? What if my motivations are flawed? What if I’m missing his bigger picture and my prayers aren’t whole or well-rounded?  I sound whiney. What if I don’t like the answer?”

    As part of my weekly apprenticeship classes here on the field, I recently read a passage of a book written by Paul Miller on prayer. An excerpt from that passage goes as follows:

    "Our dislike in asking is rooted in our desire for independence. Reinhold Niebuhr, a leading post-World War II theologian, put his finger on the problem: "The human ego assumes its self-sufficiency and self-mastery and imagines itself secure... it does not recognize its contingent and dependent character of its life and believes itself to be the author of its own existence." We don't like being contingent, completely dependent on another. The little child that Jesus urged us to become is completely dependent on his parents for everything.
    
    What do I lose when I have a praying life? Control. Independence. What do I gain? Friendship with God. A quiet heart. The living work of God in the hearts of those I love. The ability to roll back the tide of evil. Essentially, I lose my kingdom and get his. I move from being an independent player to a dependent lover. I move from being an orphan to a child of God."

    My world was rocked. I’m learning how to pray without fear, inhibition, guilt, or shame. I’m learning that rambling is okay (yes, even in corporate prayer), that God uses prayer to increase our faith, and that I was never created for independence. It’s completely altered the way I pray about my own heart, the way I lift up those around me (no matter what language they speak), and the way I spend regular time with the Father. It’s brought new and deeper understanding of the freedom we have as children of the one true King.

And the very best part of this list is that it could keep going. I know that for every lesson I’m aware I’m learning, there are ten more I don’t have the eyes to see yet. That may be the coolest thing I’ve typed so far. Thank YOU for being an integral part of it.

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Want some work/life recaps real quick before I picture blast you right into 2017?! Great!

The first 3.5 months of my time here saw the launch of the new Christ School website, quickly followed by the success of a $15,000 fundraiser for construction on campus. I was able to play a part in each, and I praise God every day for the progress being made in the furthering of Christ School. I’m genuinely excited and thankful to be a part of this team.

It also saw a move into the brand new apprentice housing complex, which then turned into the location of our team’s Christmas Eve dinner and gift swap! More on that below.

Most of my relational ministry has come by way of fellowship with neighboring compounds and a group of teenage boys who call me their sister. They’re near and dear to my heart, but I constantly see the ways they struggle with societal pressure to be married and produce sons yet don’t have money to pay bride prices (mandatory here to be recognized as a legal marriage in the eyes of the church). Let alone school fees to finish their own educations. Also, they’re still boys…. They express hunger for the Gospel yet lack spiritual maturity to prioritize the pursuit of it. There are plenty of dynamics going on in their worlds. Prayers up for C, G, and J. 

Year-end giving season is upon us! Here’s where I humbly yet honestly ask you to explore all the opportunities to partner with us at Christ School. All donations are tax-deductible for 2016 as long as they’re completed online/mailed and postmarked by December 31st. The website has a section dedicated to detailing our tangible needs! Check it ooouuuuut: http://christschoolbundi.org/get-involved/

Alright, alright, alright. Thank you for your patience. It’s picture time.

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Sarah Crane hosted and facilitated the first ever Christmas party for the sponsored students (orphans and vulnerable children) at CSB  + their families. It was a highlight for sure.
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LOOK AT HER. Gentle spirit with a heart for all of her “babies” — the sponsored students call her “big mama” because she’s the only lady around with 56 kiddos. 🙂
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Spent about 5 hours shopping in Bundibugyo Town with Sarah so all 56 sponsored students would have a Christmas present to take home for the holiday break.
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Then ran home and changed to take pictures of each student with whatever family they were able to bring with them. Prints were made to deliver to each student at the start of the new term. (You know what’s hilarious? Explaining Christmas props to sweet Ugandan mamas and aunties.)
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Brenda (sponsored, right) with her big sister Rachael (left). Beauties.
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The Serge OVC crew + the local CSB staff who invest countless hours into the lives of these kids. It’s always an honor and a privilege to work with these people.
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Quality lesson to learn if living in Bundibugyo, illustrated by KT: Gotta go with the flow, people. Always.
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Brother Brent (I call him Chief) got a motorcycle in Kampala and brought it home. I have found my new favorite way to decompress.
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This was the hardest I’ve laughed since being here. Ladies and gents, I give you: The Rat Pack + Flat Annabelle. My favorite posse who loves to dance and is always asking questions about America. So when a supporter mailed me a “flat” version of their niece to take pics for her elementary school project, I jumped at this opportunity. Zero regrets.
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Some of the Serge crew at our team tacky Christmas party!
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Fast forward a week, and here’s the whole team + visitors from America in our house for Christmas Eve meal! (The one in the crazy kitenge button-down on the left is team leader Joshua–faithfully praying for our team this season.)
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Team Bundibugyo! Just missing a few in the states for the holiday.
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Christmas morning was spent with the singles on the team–Luke 2, coffee, and brunch to kick off the celebration!
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Then worshipped for a few hours at Bundimulinga Presbyterian Church with this sharp lookin’ bunch. Webale Christmas!
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And wrapped up Christmas Day with a cookout at Josh and Anna’s (with their precious baby Daniel). Complete with a grill, an above-ground pool, and 90º weather.

Phew! This was a long one. Sorry about that. Rest assured: Good, good things are happening here in Bundibugyo. I know I’m not the only one anxiously waiting for whatever comes in 2017, so keep this place in your prayers! Specifically pray for the Gospel to be proclaimed in all that is said and done, really and truly as far as the curse is found.

As always, you have all my love and prayers of gratitude. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from west Uganda!

-A