Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update Nine

Last week we got to go on a little getaway and do a safari. It was pretty surreal and I may have squealed when I saw the first giraffe! One of the highlights was seeing this guy and his friend about fifteen feet from our van. 

 Our crazy guide, Farouck, had amazing eyes and found the lions for us. In this picture, he is standing between the lions and the water buffalo, and was actually more scared of the buffalo. He kept yelling "mind the buffalo"!! (not a phrase you hear every day) 

Trying to recreate the into the wild cover photo....we also pretended we were national geographic photographers. 

It was a pretty epic trip overall...couldn't quite believe I was really experiencing it. I am heading to Liberia this weekend, meeting my mama and starting another part of this adventure. I have many more stories and photos, and I'll try post those soon. 

Here's the link to an article I wrote for the gospel coalition while I was here: How God Changes Us While We 'Change' the World

much love! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update Eight

It's been a crazy few weeks around here.... these are a few pictures from the hoopla! 

 Visiting our friends in the village. It's been so fun to know the area and the people as we take walks. It's the time for bean harvest here, so there is lots of activity in the gardens. (I'm pretending that it feels like fall in the midwest, what I wouldn't give for a walk through the leaves with a scarf and a pumpkin spice latte!) 
 This happy guy is Ezra, one of the best reminders of joy. He has severe disabilities and was discovered alone in a corner of a house after his caretakers passed away, basically left to die. Since he has been cared for from some community church members, he is one of the happiest guys around. 
 Meet Esther, who has become a dear friend. She has recently begun a choir at school and has led a fascinating life. She grew up as an orphan and sang in the African Children's Choir from age 4-10. When she was done, she went to live with her very poor grandmother. Although she has the pipes to headline on Broadway (The Lion King is her dream show), she has chosen to provide a home for eight orphans and make them a part of her family. One of my favorite parts of life here is getting to hang out with her and learn from her. 
 Celebrating four years of the church with a huge feast and baptisms last Sunday. What began as a small gathering in a living room has turned into hundreds of believers and a transformed community. There is still much to be done, and much growth needed, but it is evident that God is at work here. 
 Since moving into our house, the kids had been begging for a a party we gave them. It was a "No Parents Party: Superhero Edition." Everyone had to come dressed as his own superhero. Above is Nate, or Underwear Man, whose superpower was to fling underwear at his enemies. 
 I thought my days of face painting were over, but I'm realizing I don't ever want to be too old for a little face painting. We ate dessert first, put a movie on during dinner and screamed our heads off. Not a bad night for anyone. 
 My time is rapidly coming to an end, and if you know me at all, you know what a basketcase I will be as I try to say good-bye to my new friends. I'm so thankful for my time here and a chance to love these people. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update Seven

It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally reading Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen. My brother and sister have highly recommended this book to help me think about community development, poverty and life in general. And since they are both doing amazing work along these lines, I figured I should listen to them.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much further than the first pages without needing to pause and think. He talks about the definition of compassion; to suffer with.

Often it feels like the entire point of life in America is to avoid suffering. This is particularly evident in the SkyMall catalog, which I usually end up spending a lot of time looking at on flights. (It's strangely addicting, and I am obsessed with the wall-size map!) But overall, it's full of completely unnecessary things. For a mere $400, you can buy a window cleaning robot. $160 will get you a touchless sensor toilet seat. We love gadgets and anything that will make life more convenient. But what we don't like is when life is hard, when it turns out that all of the appliances in the world don't erase the difficulties. 

Nouwen talks about how we often take this anti-suffering mentality into relationships.  “We want to forge our identities by carving out for ourselves niches in life where we can maintain a safe distance from others. We do not aspire to suffer with others. On the contrary, we develop methods and techniques that allow us to stay away from the pain.”

I have never liked suffering or pain. By nature, I am the girl who wants everyone to be happy, hates conflict, and refuses to go to the Holocaust museum or watch Hotel Rwanda. I have always wished life was a continuous party filled with glitter and balloons.

One of the hardest lessons of the last decade has been to come to grips that I live in a broken world. Although there shall be a time where there are no more tears or suffering or pain, we do not live in that time. God has walked gently with me, pulling me down the path of suffering, sometimes my own, and sometimes entering the pain of others through counseling and relationships. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I am now much less afraid of suffering and much less shocked when problems appear.

Being in a tiny village here has awakened me to an entirely new kind of suffering than I was used to seeing at home. The general living conditions here are different than anything I've ever seen, and this isn't nearly the worst of Africa. I’m learning that confronting poverty in a community, corruption in a country, and endless amounts of seriously messed up situations in an entire continent is another way I need deal with suffering, instead of avoiding it and pretending it isn’t here. 

I have found I have more questions than answers and I’m not sure how to really suffer with people when I will get on an airplane in a few months and fly away. I promised some of my friends that I would not be the person that would move to a third-world country and lay on the guilt trips about how much we have and how little these people have, etc... So I maintain that promise, this is not a guilt trip.

But I see how it is easy to want to have quick answers to make me feel like I am fixing problems. I also see the temptation to want to throw money at the situation in order to temporarily relieve pain.

Although quick action might make me feel like I am really doing something, I know it isn't sustainable or helpful in the long term. For now, I’m hoping to keep thinking about what it is to be truly compassionate, to sit with some questions, and to be thankful I have had this chance to live here and learn to love these incredible people. 

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

love, jackie 

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