It has been on my mind a great deal that this time last year, I was in Africa.
I just never saw it coming. Nor could I have seen the irony that, in hindsight, I felt more peace in my heart those crazy few months in Africa than I really have since!
My plane arrived in the middle of the night and I was terrified. The months before going to Uganda, I had wrestled with strange fears over everything. I was not prone to such fears. I awoke to nightmares and I wrestled in prayer. But again and again and again, God confirmed that this was His direction and encouraged me to follow Him. But that first night in Africa, I spent in a tiny and sparsely populated airport, afraid to venture out into the pitch blackness of night, having no idea what awaited me outside those glass doors. I spotted 2 cockroaches scurrying around on the chairs near to where I sat with my bags. I wrote Charles a letter, to feel less alone, and I prayed.
An elderly lady who had come in on my same flight sat nearby and in the early hours of morning we exchanged a few words, learned each others stories. She was a German missionary, and this was her 3rd time in Uganda. She was waiting for her pastor friend to come and collect her in the morning. We kept one another company for hours, waiting for daylight, and I know she was God's gift of provision to me. I ought to know by now that He promises to provide when we step out in faith and obey...
Her pastor friend came and invited me to ride along with them to Kampala, where he could put me on a bus toward Jinja, and then have the bus driver point me in the right direction to get out to the village from there. I could have cried in relief, but I was too tired. Instead, I stared wide-eyed out the window of his car at the red dust, banana trees, roadside shacks, free-range goats and chickens, and beautiful Ugandan people dressed in the brightest colours and patterns carrying massive baskets and buckets and general loads on their heads...
What a different world.
And then there were the sunsets. When the sun would start to set on the horizon, it's shape a perfectly massive red-orange orb over the green of the tropical trees, it wouldn't dally. It seemed to take mere minutes to get from the top of the sky to far below the horizon, leaving us in the darkest dark I've ever known. It always mystified me how quickly it happened. And God's grace in keeping us safe and getting us home the nights we didn't make it in before nightfall...
Walking down the dusty streets in Uganda was always an adventure to me, but one I relished so much. In my first month, I would find myself alone to reflect and talk to God and talk to people on these walks about once a week, and I would hop on a boda-boda and direct the driver to take me "home" feeling refreshed somehow. Chatting with the lady in the lean-to shop or laughing with the old man missing his front teeth sitting on the street corner selling fruit on a dusty blanket was somehow... good for the soul. I found the people He led me to there just beautiful souls with so much to teach me just in the way they responded to their lives... And the strange sense of peace which blanketted me those months of facing one unknown after another. I just felt, in a way I cannot possibly explain, as if he tangible "had my back" like never before. And greeted each day with His confidence... It was such a gift.
Mostly, I think of the children.
I think of how my arms just couldn't open wide enough to hold all the little ones I longed to hold, and how every precious pair of big brown eyes that looked up at me incited my heart to grow that much bigger. Walking through the villages and hearing "Mzungu, how are you?" called out again and again and seeing their eyes light up when we waved at them made my heart light. Visiting orphanages where I could literally wrap my arms around as many little wiggly bodies as would fit made my heart dance... And thinking of the babies in Entebbe I cared for and loved on daily makes my heart long to be back, taking in those sunsets, getting covered each day in red dust sticking to my own sweat, and loving the little ones so hungry for attention and a little bit of tenderness. I was made for such nurturing. In that sense, I was made for those few months in Africa.
And will carry Uganda in my heart no matter how many years pass, picturing those pairs of deep brown eyes, sparkling despite being orphaned, abandoned, infected with AIDS, hungry, poor, or homeless. Yet never hopeless.
Oh, the lessons the little ones of Africa have to teach me....
****You CAN make a difference right from where you are! Help families with the heart to adopt by donating to Lifesong for Orphans. Or get in touch with my friends at Sun Shines Hope International and help to improve the lives of villagers in Uganda, send children to school whose families are too poor to afford it, teach sustainable living and sanitation to needy villages, all while sharing with them the love of Christ! Get in touch!! We are His hands and His feet here. Do you ever wonder if when we ask Him why suffering exists in this world, He might ask us the same thing?****