But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Naye ekisuubirwa ekirabika si kusuubira, kubanga ani asuubira ky’alabako? Naye bwe tusuubira kye tutalabako, tukirindirira n’okugumiikiriza.
Dear Friends –
Our last (and as it happens, the first) newsletter was titled “In the Waiting Room for Uganda”. We’re still in that waiting room. Like so many people in so many ways, adapting to a life of sustained uncertainty as we wait out COVID-19, and its transformative effect on our plans.
We had anticipated beginning our lives in Uganda by now. In that storyline, we would be making a home out of a faculty apartment somewhere on the Uganda Christian University campus. We imagine that we would have been choosing among furnishings for the apartment between chairs and table sets that might be floating around the aftermarket of UCU faculty members and expat missionaries in Mukono or Kampala or even as far as Jinja. We might have decided to commission the making of a bed from one of the many furniture craftsmen in Mukono Town who set their products made from handsome African woods in the hard-pack lots in front of their shops along Lower Bishop Tucker Road, or along the A-109 or one of its side streets. Catherine would be checking which vendors in front of which groceries offered the best produce, and we might even have gutted and cleaned our first chicken from the market.
We would be getting more and more familiar with the walks to and from town, down and then back up Bishop Tucker Road, with its mix of ulcerated macadam, mud, and craters for puddles. Most certainly we would have returned home at least once from such a trip splashed with bright red clay mud courtesy of a passing truck. We would have plugged holes in our screens. We would have been familiarizing ourselves with the news announcers on NTV Uganda, along with BBC, Al-Jazeera, and CNN International. We would have been guided to sleep by the nighttime songs of birds we had not yet seen, and awakened by the splendid sunrises over Mukono’s hills, and the dawn call to prayer from the Mosque down the hill and just past the markets on the Jinja Road.
That is a future we can envision, but it is not ours yet. Uganda is still closed to foreign entry. The principal international airport at Entebbe on the other side of Kampala is open only to pre-arranged charters. There is still an early evening curfew that the Uganda National Police enforce in blunt and uncompromising ways. Gatherings larger than ten are not permitted, and churches, schools, and amusements remain closed. Just as here in America, Zoom has largely replaced face-to-face gatherings, and “Isaac, you are still on mute” is as familiar a watch word as it is on this continent. This month, UCU will observe the transition from the administration of Vice Chancellor Rev Dr John Senyonyi (who has become our friend) to that of Vice Chancellor-designate Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, but sadly without the pomp and circumstance from academic tradition that UCU honors like universities anywhere in the world – a tradition that at least at UCU expresses in ceremony the university’s vision to be “a centre of excellence in the heart of Africa”.
Then, out of the blue in the midst of waiting, Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of June. It was detected at a very early stage, before spreading beyond the prostate. Our first months of retirement in June and July wound up dedicated to the tasks of selecting among treatment options, choosing laparascopic surgery, scheduling and having the surgery, and now recovering from the surgery. Laparascopy is a miracle procedure, an improvement on prior surgical techniques, even so for the first few days, in Richard’s words, “it feels like taking a fence post in the gut”. He’s slowly and steadily on the road back, and adding incremental distance to his morning and evening walks.
The juxtaposition of remaining in a waiting mode in a time of uncertainty, combined with an unwelcome cancer diagnosis, plus the inconveniences of surgery with a couple of complications has driven home for us a lesson worth learning and holding onto. Gratitude and hope are not sentiments. They are disciplines. Yes, it is frustrating to live in our small “it was meant to be temporary” apartment in Silver Spring. It is frustrating not yet to be able to begin the adventure toward which we have oriented our lives. But Richard’s prostate cancer was discovered here, the surgery was performed here by an expert in the procedure, and his recovery is taking place here – where we live within a walking distance of a drug store for the various supplies upon which we have been relying. And he’s cancer free with no follow-up treatment indicated, which will allow us to head to Uganda when the country finally opens.
A scene from a quiet afternoon on the UCU campus. Much more tranquil than Lower Bishop Tucker Road!
So in this time of waiting, we give thanks. And in this time of uncertainty and frustration, we embrace hope. Not as mere sentiments, but as our anchors. We continue to receive affirmations for our call to serve at UCU. We continue to see the Lord’s hand in this adventure, and continue to see him pointing toward the road that lies ahead. We continue to receive support and encouragement from you, our friends, in a multitude of meaningful ways. In one sense, we’re still in that waiting room, but in another that is equally real, we’re on our journey – to the heart of Africa. Thank you for being with us on that journey.
Richard and Catherine
PS: We want to celebrate and offer our congratulations to Dr Roselyn Karagonjo-Segawa on her appointment to chair Uganda’s Leadership Code Tribunal. As Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dean Roselyn was to have become our supervisor once we began our work at UCU, and over a couple of years of correspondence as we have been preparing to serve at UCU, Dean Roselyn has also become our friend. She now has a very important job with the Government. The Leadership Code Tribunal is mandated by Uganda’s Constitution to enforce the Leadership Code, including receiving, examining and adjudicating any breach of the code, and to make formal recommendations on disciplinary actions to be taken against a Government officer under its jurisdiction. And it was characteristic of Dean Roselyn’s generous heart that she set up a Zoom call for us to meet her designated successor as Dean before she left UCU. Prayers and blessings, Roselyn, as you take on this important role. https://ucu.ac.ug/component/content/article/83-updates/171-former-ucu-law-dean-sworn-in-as-chairperson-leadership-code-tribunal?Itemid=437