2017: New Year, Same Crazy

Life in these mountains is never boring or predictable…. and I think you’ve heard me say that before. I can’t even mentally prepare for the adventures that come my way; and as a result I’m faced with a choice: become frustrated at “interruptions” OR open my fists clenched tight around my schedule and choose joy. I’m interrupted and delayed constantly, people. One of the greatest cross-cultural tensions I face is deciding which side of that emotional coin I’m going to claim each day. Good news: I’m finding less of my identity in my work performance than I ever did in college or post-grad employment. With each diversion from my schedule, Jesus is reminding me that my identity is secured in Him only. And only then am I able to take a deep breath and joyfully open the door to find the 15th friend or neighbor waiting to greet me on any given day.

Lately, I’ve been carrying a lot of excess weight from realizing deep and dark brokenness here. It all stems from knowing and loving so many people here, which leads to heartache as I hear and see more problems up close. I intend to write more on that soon. Until then, I wanted to give a brief update on my day-to-day schedule and then give you a million pictures to give you the highlights. More often than not, I can’t think of a better way to invite you into this journey with me.

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Christ School kicked off a new academic year (school years run from Feb-Dec), and I am back in the saddle. Everyone’s back in the saddle. New routine, people! I spend two-three days a week up at the school in meetings and working on stories/pictures for the website and social media. It’s never not crazy. High school students hanging out in our offices between classes to greet, tea time with staff at 10am, trying to schedule precious time with the headmaster to get a couple quotes for a new story, worshipping in chapel on Wednesdays and Sundays with the entire student body. Staff fellowship on Tuesday nights means I get added friendship-building time with the teachers and leadership team. Pretty soon football (soccer) season will start, which will mean cheering on our boys’ and girls’ teams to regionals and hopefully nationals!

My ministry at CSB is relational in nature, which is where I thrive. I love this place. Pray for relationships to grow there as the school year continues?

I spend one day a week studying/reading/in class as part of the Serge Apprenticeship Program. Each class is taught by dear friend and teammate Ann Kieser (sometimes by guest teachers from the local community), and is geared toward cross-cultural ministry in some capacity. Some classes I’ve had so far have been on discipling, interpreting the Bible, cross-cultural tensions and how to maneuver them, evangelism in Uganda’s context, and history of African religion.

I meet with Clovice twice a week for language/culture lessons. Clovice went with me to a language intensive week in November, and he’s been teaching me ever since. He’s very patient with my confusion (ex: Lubwisi has NINE different noun classes and I won’t even try to explain what that means) and loves teaching me about Ugandan traditions.

And then I also spend one additional day a week with Ann working through Sonship, which is a 16-lesson mentor/mentee program. As a girl born and raised immersed in reformed theology, I’ve often struggled to connect my heart with what my head knows to be true. This program has helped me bridge the gap beautifully, especially in this unique context. (Read more about Sonship here.)

And once all of that is accounted for, I sure do try to rest. (I promise, Mom.) Sometimes it’s fleeting, other times I feel well-rested. Depends on the week. Pray for my Sabbath to be protected from visitors, crises, work anxiety, and expectations? That’d be a huge gift.

But regardless of what’s going on, I’m almost always laughing and taking pictures to send to my ginormous family back home. See below.

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*~Things That Happened After Christmas, A Large Picture Collection~*

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Friends and Elders from Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham spent the holiday with us! They came to lead a seminar on vulnerability and fostering intentional community, which is a vital skill for this context. Our team benefitted greatly.
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Then I took a little vacation with these girlies to explore Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania! We spent a couple days learning about the history of Stone Town…
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…then went on a tour of a spice farm, made possible by our fearless tour guide Mumu. He’s as ridiculous as this picture portrays.
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And we wrapped up with a few days on the beach. For those who know me well, you know this is the best way I can relax and reset. Bonus: no stingrays in sight.
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Then we went home to Uganda to stock up and prepare for a new year of ministry. Here we have Kathy (roommate, fellow Apprentice) showcasing the receipt from one of the three grocery stores we hit up every time.
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Here we are making the full-day journey from Kampala to Bundibugyo, donuts (!!!) and pizza in tow. We’ve learned how to stretch the good stuff, people.
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Thanks to a wonderful supporter who loves to knit, I’ve been able to give the cutest little newborn gifts that are always well-received. Which is how I got to meet Trisha! (I promise I have friends other than Katherine Thomas.)
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LOOK AT HIM. Tell me his entire outfit doesn’t scream “Justin Bieber wannabe.” I tell him that often to keep him humble, but I also tell him how proud I am of him. This is Charity, and we celebrated 17 years of his life right before sending him off to his first year of secondary school at CSB. He’s a brother for sure.
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Mugisa: actual neighbor, dear friend, landscaping extraordinaire, father of eight. Always giggling. He’s been working for us for a few months now, and we never want to know what life would look like without him. He’s the person I could run and find in the middle of the night if we needed anything and he’d come in a heartbeat. He got a new uniform last week, and he wanted to show it off.
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Since our front porch has such beautiful views of the East African sunsets, it’s become a popular place to hang out in the evenings. Thankful for sister teammates.
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I also picked up a new skill! Look out, people of Uganda. Ashland is on the roads once again. (When I’m able to borrow Brent and Alisha’s tank, pictured above.)
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My beauties Ash and KT. This was on our roomie day-trip to Fort Portal, which is about 2 hours from Bundibugyo. We celebrated a new freedom that came with my Ugandan driving permit!
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Speaking of Ashley Patterson….. this woman showcases resilience and care unlike anyone I’ve ever met. She’s a loyal gem who makes me laugh and is the first to come to my defense. She teaches elementary school for the children of our missionary families, and she does it with lots and lots of grace. The best part of living with her is shouting at each other from across the housing complex: “AAAAASHEYYYY!” Because it works both ways! 🙂 So, so thankful I get to live with this sister.
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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention the Rat Pack – the kiddos that come by every day to dance and color and ask for things. I can’t think of a more telling picture of their personalities than this one. Best Face Ever award goes to Chauncey, front and center.
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And then my 25th birthday rolled around! These girls spoiled me. Check out this breakfast spread.
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And THEN… they coordinated a surprise dress-up theme for Team Meeting featuring all my favorite characters from LOST. Left to right: Russo, Kate, Shannon, Jack, Hurley, Claire and Aaron, Bernard, and Rose.
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Fellow Lost fans… you will appreciate this incredible attention to detail.
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The most popular birthday gift I received: a cutout of Gage on a stick made by Kathy. This thing has since traveled with many people to many places….
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….. and it’s especially enjoyed by my Ugandan friends. Say hello to Gonja and Geoffrey.
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Teammates also took me on my favorite kind of African drive: roof rack riding through the real Animal Kingdom. 🙂
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My team knows me well.
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Then we had the rat pack over after school to watch The Lion King for the first time, which was hilarious to witness. Plus grown-man Clovice decided to stick around after a language lesson to watch as well. His favorite was “Hakuna Matata.”
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I got to lead an icebreaker game at CSB staff in-service (dusted off my Belmont Orientation Council hat), which was basically a rousing rendition of “stand up if.” The objective is to come up with scenarios to get to know your colleagues: Stand up if you’ve ever traveled outside of Uganda, stand up if you speak more than three languages, etc. If the scenario applies to you, you stand up and swap seats with someone. There’s one less chair than players, and the one in the middle tries to steal someone’s chair. Whoever is left standing comes up with the next scenario. It was a HIT.
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And the most recent celebration? The very first birthday of precious Viann, son of Vincent and Ann (yes, they combined their two names to get his). This family has been near and dear to our team for a long time.

Aaaaaaaaand there ya have it, folks! As you can see, I often find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Routines and schedules are good, and definitely ideal to aim for. But I have learned the beauty in not knowing what each day will hold: undeniable trust that the Lord is writing this story, and joy in knowing that He’s invited me to participate.

I can’t express enough how much you guys mean to me. I love getting to tell my friends here about my “big American family” back home who make this possible. It’s understood that I wouldn’t be here without you guys, so now my friends here want to make sure I thank you on their behalf as well. You are loved by many.

Next up: thoughts on cultural brokenness and hope found in waiting for redemption. Buckle your seatbelts.

Until then and with all my love,

A