Early last week we marked a month back on the ground at our home in central Uganda. The process as a whole has proved relatively seamless. Except that it seems like we've actually been here for months already!!!
|Navigating traffic on our way to Entebbe recently. Gotta love the free-for-all driving style!!!!|
We fluidly jumped midstream into a swiftly advancing school year and active community as we greeted friend after friend and children dear to our hearts. Less than four days following the opening of our front door, plastered with welcome back signs, we celebrated our annual New Hope Uganda Thanksgiving service with hundreds in attendance. Indeed, we are thankful.
Even the unpacking of our guest room where we had stored various items, combined with the emptying of our trunks and suitcases took only a couple of days. Apparently, we have finally become adept at this transcontinental shuffle. Miracles abound.
But, so what! Are we settled?
Answering requires deeper examination.
It is difficult to fathom that is has been about five weeks since placing our feet firmly again on Ugandan soil. Our activities have already been enough for five months as, among others, we helped ready and take Nabukeera to her apartment near her new university which she will call home for the next three years. When we were still stateside we encouraged her regarding her need to search for and secure a room for rent before we arrived back. Last Tuesday we loaded up all the furniture she recently accumulated and the rest of her belongings and moved them and her into the newly found 10x10 space—AFTER we thoroughly cleaned it out because the landlady, knowing she was to arrive, still hadn’t lifted a finger to dust a cobweb, clean the bathroom or empty the storage area of a bazillion spider and roach squatters or old tires, suitcases, broken shoes, open paint cans, tools and abandoned motorcycle parts. Two hours later we took her 5 km further down the road in Entebbe for some KFC lunch. Thankfully, she is now settled. But, are we?
|Nabukeera on the day we loaded up her things and headed off to Entebbe|
Sam’s birthday was last Monday. We attempted to shower him with the traditional New Hope dousing, but he cleverly begged the kids to let him change his school uniform first. Against my urging to ignore the uniform change request they allowed him to enter his bedroom where he quickly locked the door and proceeded to take a nap. Mr. Clever avoided the soaking tradition this birthday go-round. I promised him that next year we will throw water on him fully dressed! We had started the morning early by decorating the house with special lights, singing Happy Birthday and sending him off to school (and an exam—bummer on your birthday!) In the afternoon I spent most of my time preparing his favorite chicken pot pie and preferred lemon cake. He was all smiles and joy as we sang to him, ate cake and opened presents. This past weekend we went to Entebbe to enjoy some time out and to treat him to a movie.
|Nabukeera joined us for lunch and the movie last Sunday while we were in Entebbe for Sam's birthday!|
|overlooking the botanical gardens while we waited for the movie start time to arrive|
|We loved celebrating Sam's life!!!|
Already in our short time back, we have ferried Toby back and forth to Kampala twice to spend a few days with his friend Joel Brown whose father helps run the Investment Year program piece from town. Toby has most definitely not settled yet and these visits have helped smooth some of the rough edges of him not even wanting to fit into a circled hole when he feels like a square peg. Joel’s family arrived in Uganda in 2006 within two weeks of us and though their friendship has waxed and waned over the years, it seems they are again picking up ties that bind those who navigate the challenges of two worlds. Toby is not yet settled and truthfully neither are we.
I have picked up again with the young ladies that I mentor and Geoff has also begun to meet with the young men whom he mentors. Many evenings are spent hosting others for dinner or being hosted. We’ve celebrated staff birthdays and hosted department fellowships. We’ve begun a new year of homeschooling, launched 14 of our young adults into the next stage of their lives and have already navigated some big job position changes—Geoff and Uncle Mulu stepped in to share the responsibilities of overseeing the ChildCare Department when the previous head needed to step down. We’ve welcomed new babies to the community and are gearing up for weddings in the next few weeks.
|Geoff entertains sweet little ones who came to celebrate staff member Kate Tolhurst's 40th!|
|Kate, Reuben and Mary Tolhurst on Kate's 40th|
|David Family launched Mabel, Agnes, Kiweewa and Justine. Here we are with those four plus Kakande and Uncle Clive.|
Amidst all the activity there remains a peace that we are where God has ordained for us to be at this moment in history. But, are we settled?
Is a journey without ripples possible? in many ways an emphatic, no. At the very heart of our existence is relationship. And regardless of the continent, we miss loved ones. Never able again to be fully at home in the states since we began ten years ago to find God’s place for us among the people of central Uganda, we still find ourselves missing U.S. family when in Africa and missing Ugandan family when in the U.S.
|My sister Amy with Kevin and me during our last weekend in the states|
However, is there any common denominator to be found, any true peace to be had? Relationally, yes—but, for Christians only.
A vibrant, thriving relationship with Father God and His Son, Jesus, is the ONLY relationship available everywhere in this vast world, admittedly made smaller with airline travel and communication technology, but still not close enough for real human intimacy. God alone fulfills us. As long as you permit me to loosely paraphrase C.S. Lewis, let me offer his thoughts that the very existence of our longings that can’t be filled by this world proves we belong to another world. And might I add that only our current and active connection to the world in which we truly belong is the Author Who cultivates within us a living relationship with Himself thereby offering real fulfillment.
So, settling has more to do with our God inside us working out toward the world around us than the environment which surrounds us working anything in us of fulfilled longing. Is it a statement then against us that I say we are not settled? Perhaps, but we are on a journey and though our relationship with our Father God ultimately fills and saves us we still are a work in progress. And often this work is painful.
“Be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6) And this man he speaks of includes ME. When I long for something other than what I have am I not settled? It is true that when I am in Uganda, when I am in the U.S. and anywhere in between God is with me. He is my helper and my remembrance of His constant presence crushes fear.
But sometimes I let my mind wander to places that stir fear. What if I don’t have anything to say to the one who comes to me for mentoring? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I fail my kids in their homeschooling? What if I offend someone culturally and it pushes them away from God? What if God has something for me to do and I’m not hearing His direction? What if God moves us away from Uganda—will I be ready to go? What if we’re to stay here FOR-E-VER — will I always be willing to stay? This is just a small representation of the things that run through my mind in a day. These things come when I allow myself to believe that I must always be ON. They come when I fail to remember that God is God and I am not.
When I find myself too often churning “what if” thoughts, one of the passages I challenge myself with is I Peter 5:6-10, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
I think it is fair to say that living in this imperfect world is suffering. And also fair to say that this suffering, whatever shape it takes, moulds and changes us—we become either closer to or farther away from our Creator.
So, when I say we are not yet settled it is because we are in process of moving ever closer to the One who is our ultimate lover. As He works in me I become able to “settle” though things around me are imperfect and not yet complete. The results of my mentoring others? Will I ever fully know how I’ve done? No. But, I can be settled knowing He is establishing and strengthening me along with them as we walk together.
|praying a blessing over the young people during the launch service|
I live in this imperfect world, but I am settled within its imperfection because God never leaves me and has called me to “His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This side of Heaven is not eternity—Thank God! But He is this side of Heaven and He is grace, strength, security and settling.
So, are we settled? Yes and No. Is that unsettling? I aim to keep an active hunger for the next world as I maintain connection to Him, ultimately looking forward to being forever in the next.
|Acacia and Kambo with her new goat, Mohi. Mohi is the granddaughter goat of our beloved Holy who died just a couple of weeks before we arrived back in Uganda. Mohi came from Kambo's flock.|