Friday, October 19, 2018

October Reflections

October. It’s my birthday month—a time I look forward to celebrating. For me it is usually a month filled with anticipation, wonder, joy, excitement and celebration. (Yet, in a month which ushers in the festive holiday season, why are the October calendar pages always drab brown, pale orange, filled with dead leaves and sparse landscape? For once I’d like to see a pretty October representation grace a calendar page. If you’ve seen one, please share it!!!!) 

Last year, just a few days after my birthday, Geoff and I were awakened at 4:30 a.m. by an insistent Uncle Mutaka knocking and pleading on our bedroom window, "UNCLE GEOFF! WE NEED AUNTIE MARY TO COME QUICKLY! AUNT SARAH IS DELIVERING HER BABY RIGHT NOW AT UNCLE OPIO’S!!"

I included a short snippet of the delivery on Facebook, but I never wrote about the balance of that day. (Geoff wrote a bit about it in one of our e-newsletters which you can read here.)  https://us10.campaign-archive.com/?u=ff941d7dddc933fea5b364f87&id=494d9144fa )

Every once in a while I have contemplated blogging, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even now I still feel the reeling emotions. In fact, every single day since October 22, 2017, I have reflected on that day and its far reaching ramifications for my life and those around me. 

That day sobered me in a way from which I have never fully recovered. And yet, though life goes on, of course, I don’t want to fully recover, but stay VERY aware of making each and every day count for HIM. I am hoping that sharing the events of that day, and the numerous challenging losses we experienced that month will deepen and further the needed processing.

The last blog post I wrote in 2017 was in October on the 21st, the day before fresh reality of our own mortality arose and pummeled us. Little did I know, the title of that blog, “The Blink,” was to be a precursor to the blow we would receive on the 22nd. In it I spoke about death and life and relationships as I lamented the short life of an infant son of dear friends—he had been born October 5, and died October 15th, 2017. The deep anguish and loss in just ten short days was profound. Even more so, after the 22nd I just couldn’t put words together for quite awhile. In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog again until the following February, and even then I kept it lighthearted in comparison to what was going on inside of me. 

The opening of “The Blink” blog ( http://brittonsinuganda.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-blink.html ) was this:

“‘Surely the lowborn are but a breath, 
the highborn are but a lie. 
If weighed on a balance, 
they are nothing;
 together they are only a breath.’
Psalm 62:9

The days. In single form: some drain, some energize. As the sum of hours: culminating in weeks, months and years hopefully a rich, rewarding blink.”

Our friends Steve Brown and Wanda Martin concluded their “blink” on October 22nd. The understatement is that it was a surreal day. From about 7:45 a.m. onward I moved through most of it numbly.

We returned from Kiwoko hospital about 7:30 a.m. that Sunday after taking Aunt Sarah and Uncle Godfrey to the hospital to make sure Mama and baby were doing fine. We were so thankful to have been a part of the joyous and very unusual birth!

We were only home about 15 minutes when Geoff answered his phone and gasped, “What? Uncle Steve? Isaac, what are you saying? NO!” With a horrified and panicked look he hung up and said, “I don’t even want to speak what Isaac just told me. I have to verify it.” He would not speak the words, but we all knew what we spent the next 45 minutes frantically trying to verify. I immediately texted Kathryn Brown stating that I’d heard Steve was very sick and asked if she could please call. No response. In fact, somehow we had received the news within moments of Steve’s actual death and Kathryn, alone at Rubaga Hospital, was herself shocked.

In Kampala, news spread quickly. Meanwhile, Kathryn picked up the kids and our IY house coordinator Rachel, and took them to the hospital. Even before they arrived back home there were people gathering at the house to mourn in the traditional Ugandan way—to flood the home and sit is a sign that we are with you in your grief. 

Out in the village we gathered our kids in our living room, confirmed the unreal news and sat, wept, prayed and wailed as a family. Then we coordinated who would go to town with us to comfort Kathryn and the Brown kids. It was decided to take Uncle Robert Ayola, who had worked so closely with Steve in the IY program, and Uncle Stu Dendy, a fellow English staff member and good friend to the Brown family.

The journey in was a mixture of silence, heavy sighs, tears, offered up memories, chronicles of recent conversations and plans made with Steve, repeated statements of unbelief as to what had been told us and where we were going as we rolled down the road together. 

It was one of the longest trips into Kampala EV-ER. And not because we hit jam in unusual places, had to take pot-holed side roads, made a wrong turn and hit more jam, but because we couldn’t believe where we were going—to mourn the loss of a dear friend who had been so full of life and passion, who was fun-loving, animated and a friend to all. Even today, I can hear his spirited laugh ringing in my ears. Throughout this past year since Steve’s death, whenever I am at the Brown’s house I can hear his common expression, “Come On!” 

As Geoff drove we contacted as many people as possible to get the news out, but most of them already knew. The speed of the grapevine here is nothing short of miraculous. I was able to get ahold of someone at their church as they were gathering together for service, so they sent quite a few of the Brown’s closest friends to the house. When we arrived Kathryn fell on me and wept. My insides wrenched and tears streamed again down my face, a path already wetted many times that morning.

Most of that day, surrounded by friends, she was a picture of strength. Taking what had been delivered and moving forward to what needed to be done, talking quietly with various ones of us about details of travel to the UK, the need for decisions about the body, the burial, service, timing, flights, etc. But, each time friends entered the house she hugged and cried again. Seeing people who loved Steve and had been such an integral part of their life together opened up the well of grief with each arrival. And each and every time as I watched my tears began again to flow.

We saw friends we hadn’t seen for years, and given the reason we were seeing each other we vowed to be better at getting together. It was a time of reunion for all and for those of us from New Hope Uganda, meeting some for the first time. Steve’s life was intertwined with a diversity of people. In addition to his involvement with IY, he’d played in a local Kampala football league, participated for a number of years in the Kampala Amateur Dramatic Society, worked with the youth at their church, and served in parent leadership groups at their kids’ school to name some of the activities to which he gave his best. The impromptu gathering of an estimated 200+ illuminated the testimony of his love for all people. 

At some point around midday, with a friend from the Brown’s church, Geoff and I accompanied Kathryn to the mortuary appointment to make arrangements. I could NOT believe we were actually driving to take care of the paperwork regarding Steve Brown’s death. 

On arriving back it was immediately apparent that the house had continued to swell with people so Kathryn asked that someone announce that at 6 p.m. the visiting conclude and she and the kids be allowed to be alone—something they had not been afforded since returning from the hospital that morning. As Geoff took time to make it known, he also began the process of informing how the honoring of Steve would take place and where. There needed to be an understanding of how things would be handled differently than the usual Ugandan approach. 

We had spent hours moving from person to person and group to group sharing memories, speaking disbelief, comforting each other—it was exhausting and yet, Kathryn’s and the kids’ grief far surpassed any one of our experiences. When it came time to leave the shock was still so fresh. We had been jolted from “normal” life and throttled with mortality and the fact that ANY of us could be gone from this life in an instant.

A powerful awareness of our fragility has followed me daily this past year.

The drive home was mostly silent. We were spent, yet suspended in overwhelming disbelief.

Upon entering our house I deposited myself on the dining room bench immediately inside the door and just stared. No thought of what to do next, but sit. A musical ringtone broke up the nothing that I was doing. I had no energy to even move to pick up the phone to answer, so Geoff responded. Another call, this one from the states and the same gasp, but this time from me as I heard my sister tell me that my long time friend Wanda had died that morning. I crumpled in a heap on the bench and began to wail again. It was too much. It was more than surreal. I couldn’t process! God, what are you doing? Steve had been sick for only a few days with a seemingly normal, run-of-the-mill illness. Wanda hadn’t even been sick!

Realizing again that my next breath could be my last, I cried out to God to help me make my life count for what He’d created it for! A plea I have made countless times this past year.

This month, October 2018, I am continuing to process intense loss amidst the desire and privilege to LIVE. I vacillate hourly between being lost in thought over the death of Steve, Wanda, and baby Jessy, an infant whose life began and ended last October, and swept by devotion to endeavors that I hope will make every moment count for His kingdom.

I spent the anniversary of Jessy’s life and death with his mama reliving painful, breath-stealing, heart-shocking moments. I wonder if the 22nd will also find me in emotional suffocation. 

But, I have to keep living. I can’t stand still, I can’t wallow in mournful memories or get swallowed by what-if? or why God? I can, however, let Him encourage me with the truth. The Bible is truth and He Himself is wisdom, ever present, good, faithful, forgiving, just, true and sovereign. I trust Him with my life and the lives of those around me. As much as I don’t understand the losses we’ve experienced, I know that I can trust Him with both life and death.

My time was set before my life began. My time will end according to His good plan. Though I have plans and desires to accomplish much in this life, I trust Him with its length and breadth. And, though I do not want to experience loss, I trust Him with the lives of my family and friends because He is trustworthy. Ultimately, this life is a short breath, yet an eternal gift. 

I don’t know why I am sometimes suddenly arrested by memories of my friends, reflecting on times with them, things they said or did and then getting lost in the muse. It most surely is a stage of grief. Without doubt denial rises frequently as I catch my breath and realize afresh that I will never actually hear Steve’s voice again or laugh out loud with Wanda or watch baby Jessy grow through childhood. 
Steve, 2009

Wanda and her husband, Bruce

Irene, Sam and their son, Nissi

But, another deep breath and I move forward seeking to make the most of the moment I’ve been given.

God, let me honor you in the days You’ve ordained. And let me encourage others to seek You, for in You is true life. 

Thinking back on the 22nd again I recall that I managed to quickly type out, in the 15 minutes of calm, the announcement of the 4:30 a.m. baby arrival. Shortly after it posted on Facebook, I received this text from my fellow staff member, “Okay. Let me hope the drama and excitement of your day are over.” WE HAD NO IDEA THE STORM THAT WAS TO COME!

And honestly? We never truly know what is coming. Only God knows and controls our destiny.


Praise Him.
Steve, Kathryn, Mary and Geoff, 2012, Kampala

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Thank You for an Inch of Snow Over Night!!!

108. Thank you for carpet! Warm, supportive, shock-absorbing.
109. Thank you for instant fire at the flick of a switch!
110. Thank you for decaf Verona (Starbucks) on sale at King Soopers for 4.99! 
111. Thank you for cuties! (Clementine Oranges)
112. Thank you for central heat.
113. Thank you for an inch of snow overnight.
169. Thank you leggings and long, warm sweaters.

Wait! What? Where am I, you ask??!!?? 

Basking in memories of Christmastime in Denver.

 My Journal of Thanksgivings fell open this morning to December 2017. I teared up. I felt the pangs of missing home.

It was the second time in a few days that emotions swelled to longing pangs and tears.

From this recent Friday until yesterday our New Hope Uganda foreign staff were off-site at a retreat. We joined Kasana and Musana Camps staff together to glean the good, process the bad, hear encouragement and teaching from the Word of God, worship, rest and relax as a team.

On Friday evening we played, “Have you ever?” and “Would you rather?” We laughed while learning more about ourselves and each other with questions we could all relate to, “Have you ever eaten white ants?” “Have you ever vomited in a pit latrine?” (And, by the way, those two questions were surprisingly NOT related.) “Would you rather have a jigger or a mango worm?” “Would you rather sit on a taxi holding a live chicken or a holding a bag of mukene?” (Mukene is a VERY stinky dried fish.)

Here’s a little quiz...what were my answers to the above questions? How well do you know me? (Answers will appear at the end of this post.)

Also on Friday evening, Josiah, our New Hope Uganda Ministries director of member care and development, asked us to turn to Proverbs 25:25. 

Go ahead and get your Bible and look up that reference.

I read it and was momentarily caught off guard; I wondered what would come next. Our sessions were based in II Corinthians for the weekend, and this Proverbs passage seemed to come out of left field.

He began to explain, as he pulled out a bag full of Manila envelopes, that he had sent messages to our families and friends and asked them to send us letters of love, appreciation and encouragement. “So, these are for you! Each family has a packet of handwritten, (and some typed) letters from a far country.”

My heart got caught in my throat. Tears blurred my vision. Geoff asked if I was ok. I shook my head, yes! Before I opened the first envelope I was so anxious to see everything at once! Who were they from? What did they say? How many were there?

Sniffles, rustling papers, giggles, sighs and quiet comments between spouses filled 15-20 minutes of bliss as we all eagerly read news from Home. 

There is no possible way to say adequate thanks to those who wrote; you will never know how much your words impacted us. I wish all of you could have seen heads bent into cards and letters and families huddling around to read together.

I can feel pretty tough some days as if I can withstand anything—having to make a way in a foreign culture for years can do that to a person. But, I melted when I read the letters and cards. 

What a gift Josiah gave us by making Proverbs 25:25 come alive!

I have MUCH to record in my Journal of Thanksgivings!!!!!!!

For all of the joy I felt last December while writing thanksgivings #108-113 and #169, they pale next to #379, “Thank you for good news from a far country!”

So, how did you fare on guessing my answers?

1. Yes, I have eaten white ants. One evening I took chocolate chip cookies over to the David family kids. Uncle Mulu said he would eat one of my cookies if I would eat one of his cookies. I agreed, even though I detected a hint of ornery in his smile. He brought out a container of freshly roasted white ants. I garnered two or three, swallowed and laughed. They weren’t horrible, but I wouldn’t go looking for them to stave off hunger! I was really glad to chase the taste with chocolate chip cookies!!!!

2. Thankfully, NO, I have never had to use a pit latrine when I was sick enough to vomit.

3. I would rather have a jigger, even though they can make you itch a crazy amount. They burrow under a toe nail usually and must be dug out. However, if you do it yourself it is not too painful. The biggest issue is to get the whole thing out without leaving remnants! Not an awesome experience, but better than a mango worm in which you must either suffocate it with Vaseline and then grab it with tweezers when it comes up for air——gross(!) or wait until it is large enough to squeeze in order to pop it out, again, GROSS!

4. I would rather sit on a taxi, in the front seat, by the way, holding a live chicken. The smell of mukene is nauseating! At least you can put a plastic bag around the chicken’s hind end to catch any poo and keep the claws from scratching you. And why would I prefer the front seat? Even though taxi drivers are often crazy risk takers, I would prefer a front row seat to the show than be squeezed in the back with no way to get out unless anywhere from four to six people have to move to let you out!!! (Taxis are 14 passenger vans with sometimes 18 or more squeezed into it.)


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cloth Napkins

Last night and this morning I wasn't feeling very well. One of those lovely intestinal experiences we credit to this exciting bush life we lead.

I was awake most of the night and was so tired this morning, plus still not feeling great. Everyone else went off to church and I stayed in bed. 

I had a lovely, quiet morning--windows open, birdsong abundant, a cool gentle breeze and QUIET. This is a rarity here in our community. With my brain able to reflect without interruption I remembered some little things that in culturally stressful times can become very big. 

Recently I have lived in a tiny amount of rebellion. When there is little time to spare and yet the demands keep coming (albeit in the beautiful form of various members of our New Hope Uganda community) I can tend to tighten up and grab for something of my own culture comforts. In the past couple of months such rebellion took on an extremely subtle form as I refused to date my journal entries DD/MM/YYYY and instead pressed in the ink to paper a little more firmly in MM/DD/YYYY. This is undoubtedly getting lost on some of you. 


In the United States I grew up writing the date month first, then day, then year as it is the American way. When I lived in Germany in the 80s, I relished distinguishing myself from the norm as I learned to present a date not only with the day first, then the month and year, but also crossing my 7's. What fun to be different!!! 

Now? Sometimes I grow tired and weary of being different. (dates are also written here in Uganda as DD/MM/YYYY)

Such a very small thing that grows to an annoyance when I'm feeling stressed.

A couple of years ago I went through a fairly stressful period and purged a bit of the pressure by writing down some thoughts. I was reminded of that journal entry today and decided to share it. 

My dear friends and family, please don't get too worried about me. I (and the whole family) am doing well, but sharing some of the struggles as silly as they seem in retrospect, keeps this thing we do real. Perspective on this whole cross-cultural adventure is healthy.

Here is my journal entry from 2016:
"As I fold clothes this morning in Uganda, memories rise then settle, a thin skim on cooled, boiled milk. In my hands, another cloth table napkin whose only current purpose is to host breakfast bread or protect rising bread dough from preying insects, but at one time actually sought to serve its intended design. Honestly, the napkin never held any sense of its destiny, it was me, who so desperately sought some sense of what I deemed to be propriety amidst overwhelming cultural shift.

I painfully remember my eyes welling up when sternly correcting my laundry helper concerning her failure to properly iron said napkin, "How am I supposed to present that on my table with a creased, crooked fold?" The impasse of looming exasperation folded me to tears as she stared at me and I at her. I tried to hold the gaze, but gave up and huffed down the hallway. 

In our early years here in Uganda, I honestly would frequently reply that I didn't experience much culture shock to speak of when asked for advice from newbies or queried by compassionate oldies. I believed that I, except for a minute bit of frustration, sailed through those first few years.

It is amazing what we can convince our minds and hearts of in an effort to cope.

Seriously? I squirm with embarrassment over sharing that little bit of emotional breakdown. And there are PLENTY of others. Yet, I continued to genuinely feel I wasn't suffering much cultural stress. (today's interjection, "HA! HA! HA!")

For crying out loud, who needs cloth napkins in remote Africa?  They were a gift from someone and I convinced myself of their merits by the savings we made on not buying paper napkins (we were a 5 person family living on about $300 dollars/month) but, they became a visual reminder of what I didn't have. Fresh from America's excess of the non-essentials, with magazine covers of beautifully set tables flashing through my mind I must have thought I could create some semblance of peace and "normal" in my new and unfamiliar environment. Yet, I completely believed I wasn't in culture shock, no sir. 

And today? I have chilled out a bit, truly I have. Haven't I? I am not so sure. This morning my house helper told me at 9:30 that we had no beans for lunch. In the past ten years I have lost count of how many times I have been told we have "tewali" (nothing) and in turn how many times I have asked to be told ahead of time, instead of when it is too late to have lunch ready in time. It has happened with charcoal, dish soap, laundry soap, posho flour, sugar, and salt to name a FEW. I still get my feathers all in a knotted tuft when face to face with someone's failure to plan that then affects the smooth running of the day ahead."

And so it goes. I wonder what will catch me off-guard this week. 

Thankfully, God never changes and I have found great strength through reading and studying His word through scripture. Wherever we are He is there. Whatever culture we live in, His is the ultimate guide.

I felt a little bit better around noon and was able to get some of the lunch prep done before everyone returned from church. It's a little more noisy now that the community has returned from church and the nearby kids are playing outside, but I am thankful for my quiet morning spent in the books of Daniel, Ezra and John. 

At the end of this week we will embark on our annual foreign staff retreat and I look forward to the teaching we will receive from Josiah, our member care coordinator. We'll be looking at II Corinthians in light of our unique community and all that means for us as expats.

I hope your day and week is filled with peace and joy.
Blessings, Mary


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Listen

I know that most of you that read our blog are not missionaries, nor do you live overseas in another culture. However, this is what is on my mind today so it is a “Britton Current Event” for me.  

I have spent a mere 12 years on the field and yet I have something to say to you all—oldies, newbies, wanna-be’s.  LISTEN.

Listen, just disengage your mouth and engage your ears. 

Listen to the one that you think is crazy that right now, without hesitation, you want to give a piece of your mind to, but Don’t you Dare! Just listen.

 Listen to the culture. Look in the eyes. Listen to the stance, listen to the furrowed brow. Listen beyond the smile. Listen to the words, even. You don’t know. YOU don’t know. You DON’T know. You don’t KNOW. You don’t. Even when you do, you really don’t. 

Grace.

Give it and keep your mouth shut.

If you feel your panties bunching up in a wad, relax and listen. It is probably not as you assume.

How many times have I hauled off with my mouth because my first impressions led me to assume I knew what was up in a situation? Too many. Way too many. 

Those times got me labeled by the casual worker hired for a short job in our compound, whom I NEEDED to direct, uh huh, as “tough.” In a culture where women are not at the top of the totem pole that was not a compliment!

Those times have earned me the ability to slow down the progress of work by our daily compound worker because when I ask him to do something it only garners inactivity—12 years later and I haven’t yet learned to just listen when my husband directs him. When I think I need to give instructions regarding work in the compound they are cast off because they came from me, a woman. 

When will I learn to just be quiet and listen?

 It doesn’t matter if you are reading this and getting angry at what I just said about the status of women in this culture. This isn’t your culture or mine. It is theirs and in order to function gracefully in it I must not only understand it, but move humbly in it. When I don’t, I create walls and distance.

Newbies on the field—listen. No matter how much you’ve prepared yourself you don’t know it all. Listen to the natives and assume you have something to learn, not something to teach or prove. Oldies, regardless of how long you’ve been there, listen before you speak or act—you can still learn something new every day! And guess what? You also can still be wrong, you really don’t have the market on cultural awareness. 

Above all, even above listening, humility.

Humility. Listen. Give the other one(s) a teachable friend, acquaintance, neighbor, co-worker, visitor, even boss. 

And when someone speaks or acts who is of the native culture or someone who has lived in that culture many more moons than you advises you, remember that your best response is to be willing to adjust your perspective and follow their lead. 

I think about all the times I rashly did what I wanted to do casting off what guidance I’d been given as irrelevant and ended up either embarrassing myself or those I was actually intending to serve. 

I remember being bent on buying a blanket for an older woman in our community. She had been admitted to the hospital and was recently discharged. I had heard that she was feeling chilled and I wanted to bless her with a blanket. So, I went to the open Saturday market with a seasoned missionary. I saw a beautiful red, yellow and brown striped “blanket” and decided it was the one. I barely heard the fellow missionary telling me it was the undergarment to the local traditional dress. I presented it, proudly I might add, to my new friend who graciously received it and to this day has never told me to my face what a blunder I’d committed. 

I wouldn’t listen. I was sure the seasoned missionary was mistaken about the use of the “blanket.” Instead, I should have allowed her to direct me to the usual type of blankets everyone here considers nice (it didn’t matter that I thought they were ugly—the blanket wasn’t for me it was for someone else for crying out loud!) My headstrong ways didn’t provide my new friend with a new blanket when she needed it, but it does provide her with a chuckle every time she puts my “blanket” on underneath her traditional dress!!!


I am not exactly sure why this all is on my mind today. Maybe instead of trying to analyze to death why, I should just LISTEN and be aware of my frequent tendency to reject a humble stance, embracing pride of my own understanding. Instead let me humbly trust the LORD who brought me to this place to be with these people and let me not lean on my own understanding, but acknowledge Him and let Him lead me. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Ground

Geoff’s out in the living room as I type. He’s listening to and talking with one of our current IY students. Tomorrow is the beginning of the 2nd round of internships for this year’s group. There is fear and trepidation, butterflies, nervousness, excitement and elation all mixed up together. 

The one-on-one that’s happening down the hallway at this moment excites me beyond what I can find words for! It is a heart-to-heart the young man desperately needs. I LOVE that it is occurring. The privilege we have of walking with young people through this major transition in their life is energizing!

Last night I met with one of the young IY ladies I mentor. She left around noon today so she could be ready to be at work tomorrow at 8 a.m. at a tour agency in Kampala. She didn’t know until about 7 pm last night that she was to leave today. The tour agency owner had emailed about 5 pm and included a detailed plan for the internship to begin on Monday. When we walked over to tell her the news she smiled, but with shaking voice admitted to “butterflies” knowing the newest challenge in her life would begin in less than 48 hours. Then she requested to meet with me after supper so that before she left we could read another chapter together in a book we’ve been studying. 

The hunger of some of these young people to glean from their mentors encourages me. Sometimes during a time of mentoring there are a lot of silent moments, pregnant pauses that I am so tempted to fill. But, I am finding more and more during IY that the young people have a great deal to share. Yet, I wait and when they speak I hear exploration and growth.

And that is what I am hearing as the voices lilt through the house — much of the words spoken are not Geoff’s. Filling the environment are questions, musings, observations and appeals for help by the young man leaving soon for a new experience. There is an accounting firm at which he knows no one. This next week he leaves the safe confines of New Hope and enters a world where he is not yet known. Such produces fear and excitement. An opportunity to shake off the labels that have followed him from primary school refreshes. But, our expectations for him to step up and give all of himself to this internship frightens. I am thankful he asks for help and I am grateful God has placed us here to be a help.


Please be praying for our 45 IY students this week as they all embark on new ground.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Speaking of Beer . . .



 I called a kid on his audacity the other day. (Not that he would even remotely know what that word means, but he experientially knows it now!!!) He has a t-shirt that he wears any chance he gets—even to worship nights and church services. The phrase emblazoned across it in large, bold letters is, “I like beer".

Now, I like beer, too, but I am not going to wear said shirt or broadcast my impeccable taste to a community in which the vast majority believes a Christian should never drink or endorse beer, or any kind of alcohol for that matter. 

So, when he came after school the other day to meet with Geoff (who wasn’t here) I invited him to sit on the front porch to wait and I got him a glass of water to drink. When I handed him the water I apologized that it wasn’t beer. He jerked a double take and choked, “What? Beer?” I repeated that I was sorry I didn’t have any beer to give him as I knew how much he loved beer. Talk about someone squirming, but trying to maintain composure.

 “Aunt, what do you mean?” Oh, now there’s an invitation to be ornery! I accepted the challenge--I just couldn’t resist! 

“Yeah, I know you like beer because of your shirt you wear all the time." 

“My shirt?” 

“Yeah, the one you always wear when you’re not wearing your school uniform. It says, 'I like beer' on it.”

 "Oh, I didn’t catch the meaning.” 

“You didn’t?” 

“Yeah, I thought it was BEAR.”  He is not an accomplished liar.

“Right, you knew what it meant. Just watch what you have in there (as I pointed to his heart).  

“Yes, aunt.” 

"You’re a good kid.”

No response.

“You are, aren’t you?”

“Sometimes.”

I love that kid. He’s had some struggles the past few years and has hit some hard times requiring discipline and repeating a grade level, but his heart is available, honest and moldable, and I love that. And I love that he keeps seeking guidance from Geoff. 

However, that day he gave up waiting on the porch and decided to seek Geoff out at the office. Now, before you think it is because I made him uncomfortable, stop your thought train. Almost every secondary student that passed by our house on the way home from school was razzing him about sitting on Uncle Geoff’s porch—"surely you must be in trouble," they jeered!!!! The constant comments built to a level he wasn’t willing to withstand and he sought Geoff in a “safer” place.

Honestly, in the long run, wearing a shirt with a message that runs cross-grain to what you’ve been taught isn’t a HUGE deal, though it can be indicative of an appetite for rebellion. It is a small degree change off the intended path that over time can develop into a large, off-course trajectory. If I hadn’t said something I’d be wasting an opportunity to show the kid I care about him and his choices—small as some of them are.

When I googled images to include in this post, at first I chose a simple shirt that looks almost** exactly like the one the young man chooses to wear any chance he gets. Once I clicked on the image, do you know which site it linked me to? 

Parenting.com! 

Ever wonder exactly what we do down here on the Equator at New Hope Uganda? We simply parent. And all you parents know that is not a simple task. So, sometimes, apparently, there’s been a perceived need to market said shirt to parents.

**With more searching, I found the above image--the exact shirt he wears!