After seven months in the US, I was more than a little concerned about how my reentry to Uganda would be. I’d become pretty Americanized; I even learned that I could run errands at night (something I wouldn’t dream of doing in Uganda)!
Thankfully, my reentry has been incredibly smooth. Even while we were leaving the airport, everything felt very normal, even if I was sufficiently exhausted from little sleep on the airplane that I slept most of the way home over roads that have been ravaged by construction and rain.
I switched to driving on the left easily, though I am still confusing the turn signal and windshield wipers sometimes. I very much miss Waze. Google Maps knows many shortcuts, for which I’m grateful, but I cannot tell you how much I miss real-time reporting of traffic jams. That would have kept me from sitting on Jinja Road for over an hour on Thursday, in one spot, just because. One newspaper has even started a hashtag: #KlaTrafficFrustrations and it is so appropriate. We have always talked about the jam, but now it is beyond epic: I will visit a student in a couple days, and I would normally allow 25-30 minutes to get to his church. He told me to allow 90.
It’s a bit hard to adjust back to a cash-based society. Yes, many merchants accept debit cards, but there are still instances of debit card numbers being stolen, so I try to not make this a habit. It’s also much easier to budget when one is operating from cash.
Most of all, though, it is so good to see people, especially supervising my students. I love seeing them in the field and hearing about their ministries. At one parish, I happened to meet two of our graduates who have been posted there, and it was a delightful reunion.
Thank you for your prayers as I traveled back to Uganda, and please continue to pray for us as we wrap up the holidays and prepare for the students to return in January.
I recently saw this posted on Facebook; it’s a fabulous aerial tour of UCU, showing how beautiful the campus is. As I watched the first time, I was struck at not only how gorgeous the environment is, but of the memories it evoked, both from being a student, and a member of staff.
I have a confession to make: when I’m in Uganda, and I see a post from the US about power being out and people are weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth, I think, “Wow. Y’all can’t deal.” Because power going out in Uganda is a given, and while we have an incredible generator on campus (#mostspoiledmissionary), power goes out. And you deal.
So, here I am, in the US, in Virginia for my sabbatical, and an incredibly strong thunderstorm rolls the through. The power immediately goes out. I think, “It’ll be back in a minute.” Except that it wasn’t.
Y’all, I couldn’t deal. No wifi meant I couldn’t send the email I’d drafted. I was using the data on my phone, but to be honest, my 3G in Uganda is better than my LTE here. There was no A/C; thankfully, it wasn’t hot. I couldn’t cook dinner because my gas range needs the electricity to start. The microwave wasn’t an option, obviously. I couldn’t even go out for food because my car was in the detached garage, and I don’t know whether the motor has a battery back-up. For some reason, not being able to use the elevator didn’t bother me, though I wasn’t looking forward to climbing the steps when I returned.
Praise God, after about three and a half hours, power returned. Hallelujah, and thank you Jesus (and the power bank for my phone that now needs to be recharged).
This little episode really showed me a lot about the state of my heart, and has given me a lot to repent of. So Americans, I am so sorry that I have judged you. Please forgive me. Perhaps now I will have much more charity and grace.
In February, I wrote about an unexpected ministry when I went to supervise a student who was serving as a chaplain at a large school. A teenage girl had asked how it was possible to forgive someone who had hurt her terribly. We talked for a while, and I prayed with her. We exchanged phone numbers, but since the students are not allowed to have phones in school, I wouldn’t be able to talk to her until she came home on 4 May.
I just called to check on her, and not only did she remember me (one never knows!), she was bubbling over in excitement to tell me several testimonies. The main one surrounds the person who had hurt her so badly; that will never happen again. Then she shared several stories of how she has been walking in grace and healing this term.
Praise be to God!! Rejoice with me! This precious gem is shining so brightly! She has wisdom beyond her years; she recognizes that she has suffered trauma, and that it still affects her. But she is no longer willing to be defined by it. She is walking in light, and clinging to Jesus. This precious child reminds me of the woman at the well in John 4, with her exclamations of “Oh! Let me tell you what the Lord has done for me!”
Please continue to pray for this pearl of great price, that she continues to seek the Lord and His healing. We may stay in touch over WhatsApp during the term holiday, and we will talk when I return to Uganda.
To say that I am amazed, grateful, and honored to be a small part of her story would be a gross understatement. To God be the glory!
I bear several titles in Uganda; Reverend, Archdeacon, Auntie, and sometimes Mama. The latter two sometimes come from my students, who sometimes see me as a parent (and it’s an incredible honor, though I feel my age!).
Over the last few years, I’ve grown closer with a couple of the women students, and at different times, two have stayed with me. We’ve had many long conversations and shared several times in prayer, all of which have been precious to me.
Last year, Esther became engaged to one of her classmates, David. I was thrilled for both of them, and hoped to be invited to the introduction and wedding. Esther did me one better: she asked me to be a ssenga, or auntie, for the introduction. The ssenga is the paternal aunt, and since I’m certain that Esther has paternal aunts, I’m not quite sure how she was able to bestow this honor on me. The ssenga has a number of responsibilities culturally, and I think I fulfilled none of them.
In Uganda, there are two ceremonies. First is the introduction, which also doubles as the cultural marriage when it is registered with the government. The introduction is when the bride introduces her groom to the community, and the groom brings the dowry and other gifts for the family. While this is enough for a legal marriage, Christians then go to be wedded in church. Esther and David had their introduction on a Saturday, and the wedding on a Sunday. Though exhausting, I think that’s the way I’d do it; I’m not sure I could handle being married yet not being able to live as though I’m married.
I love the concept of the introduction and how the whole community is involved. Of course, it’s a very long day: both the bride and groom have emcees to carry the day along. The bride’s side sends out several iterations of ladies (often beginning with young girls) from which the groom’s side is to “find” the bride. She is not among them, obviously, and they are given gifts as they go back.
Finally, the bride comes with much pomp and circumstance with her aunties. She walks around the venue a couple times to much ululating from the crowd. When I asked Esther how many people would attend, she casually replied, “About a thousand.” As near as I could tell, that’s nearly how many people were there.
Then the bride and aunties kneel for some of the speeches and prayers. When the groom’s emcee asked the bride’s emcee to ask the priest to bless the lunch, he asked, “Which one? There are like a thousand here.” And it was true.
This is when the groom’s entourage brought the gifts for the dowry, and had he not brought all that the families had agreed to, there would have been trouble in paradise. Thankfully, that was not the case.
One of the things the ssenga is to do is to “find” the groom (he had been sitting in the back) and present him to the bride. I didn’t fully realize that this was my duty, and when another woman came and took the little basket I was holding, I chose to not make a scene.
I wish I had. When it came time to pin the corsage on David, since I didn’t have it, Esther took it and pinned it on David herself. The emcee was quite surprised, and recovered nicely by exclaiming, “Esther! You have taught us something new today!” David said to me a bit later, “Reverend, I thought it would be you [to pin the corsage].” I am utterly heartbroken about that.
We had another gomesi change, but I don’t have pictures of that because the person who had my phone completely depleted the battery taking many photos. Since the function was running late, we opted to remove one gomesi change and moved to the last costume change for the presentation of other gifts. For this, we were seated on a mat in front of the gazebo, and as people brought gifts, we’d rise to our knees to greet and shake hands.
The church wedding was the next day, and I was honored to serve as part of the officiating team. My role was quite small, but clergy have the best seat in the house.
In addition to having the privilege of serving as ssenga and an officiant, most of the groomsmen were David and Esther’s classmates, so I rather felt that my children had come home from university.
Since this is the dot-com generation, photos of the functions were flying around WhatsApp, and I received several photos of myself from students who were in Mukono, as they were unable to attend. That was a riot. Yet the fact that they wanted to show me that they had seen me blessed me tremendously.