Thursday, December 9, 2010

The JOY of Uganda

It’s hard to believe my time here is ending. I get on a plane tonight! It has truly flown by and Austin, TX is on the horizon. I am excited & scared because I don’t know what’s next. And that is OK. I do not want to go back to the lifestyle that I led, where work is all I do, see, & experience. That is the scary part. I am trying to open my mind to the possibility of anything, I have made a change & the journey that follows is where transformation happens. That is the exciting part.

I don’t know if I can honesty sum up my time here. I have always found that the majority of the processing happens when you step away from a place. Don’t get me wrong; I have worked through plenty of things during my time here. But the real fruit remains to be seen. I have theories on why I was brought to this place at this time. But I am praying that more will be revealed in the weeks and months to come. I could not be more grateful to have had this opportunity. My body & my soul desperately needed to rest and be refreshed.

I sat down the other day to write a blog entry about a little girl I have been helping. I have been working with a friend to get her adopted. I knew it was an amazing story to tell, but as I was writing I continued to get distracted. (Long story short, a family decided to adopt her, we later discovered the father is from Jackson, TN…the Lord weaves all our stories together in such beautiful ways!) My heart couldn’t focus on this one story because I was so overwhelmed by ALL the stories I had seen, heard, & been a part of during my time here.

When you first arrive to a place like Uganda you can’t help notice that you are different. You come from a country of wealth. Your skin color is different. You are educated. You live in a comfortable home. And whether you want to or not, you stand out. And with my bright curly blonde hair, there is no way to blend in!!

But a transformation happens while you are here. You live among all these beautiful people and suddenly all those differences begin to fade away. You see… we are all the same, every one of us. I am becoming more and more convinced of that everyday. I now have to be reminded that I am different, because I am now part of them and they are part of me. From the outside looking in, the disparity between us seems so great. But humanity binds us all…the Lord binds us all.

Africans are the toughest people I know. Yet they have a JOY that radiates from them, a joy that changes you by just being in its presence. They live in and through poverty, war, disease, malnutrition, and yet THE JOY persists. I think they know God in way that we cannot comprehend. Because we have never been where He was literally all we had. I am closer to the Lord just by being near them. And it is the Lord that connects me to them.

We all have a story. While their stories may look completely different from yours, the same elements are there. I will never understand what life was like for Joyce, my sweet Ugandan friend. Joyce had 3 children in the village by the time she was 26, and her husband died leaving her with nothing at the age of 31. She left her children in horrible conditions only to be neglected and abused so that she could move to another part of the country where she didn’t know the language with the hopes of finding work. She squatted for months in an empty building because she had no place to go. There is no part of my story that could ever relate to that.

But Joyce was rescued, given a home, and given love. That is something that I can relate to. And because of that, Joyce has become a dear friend. I can’t imagine a day now without her in it. She clobbers me with a big hug after I have been away for a day or two. And she cried the other day when we were talking about me leaving. (I have NEVER seen a Ugandan cry) She tells me about her life & her kids. She tells me that she loves me & that she will be praying for me. She has THE JOY that I will never know.

You see Joyce is our housekeeper. And while the differences may seem so great, we are forever bound. And when we are cooking in the kitchen in the evening, talking about life…we are exactly the same.

We live in a world where differences are what define us. Republican or Democrat. Black or White. Northerner or Southerner. College Grad or High School Dropout. People will go to the extreme to be different. Now I am not saying that being different is wrong. No two snowflakes look alike & that is how is supposed to be. But if we look past the different & see the similarities at our core, then barriers can be broken, & walls will come down. And there is a beauty on the other side my friends, a beauty that will change you.

Ugandans understand this. They see past the differences and welcome you with open arms. I have fallen in love with these people & this nation. I now have another home here in Uganda. And when I return to Austin, I will leave a huge piece of my heart here, but I will carry these people with me always.

Starting to understand THE JOY!!

My Sweet Friend, Joyce