Grace upon grace

So, while my Sunday started off like a normal day, it certainly did not end like one. I supervised a student at his church. I came home, had breakfast, then rested a bit before our evening Eucharist.

About five minutes before my alarm sounded to remind me to go to chapel, a student knocked at the door. He was out of breath, and informed me that everyone was fine, but there had been an accident. It took my mind a few minutes to catch up. I had lent my car to a friend to go down into Mukono town to go to the supermarket. The student indicated that the accident was just down on the road. I surmised that he had run up the hill to tell me to come.

When I went down to investigate, the car had indeed jumped the curb and gone down an embankment, resting on its side next to the Noll block.

That’s my car, just taking a nap next to the Noll block. The splatter on the inside of the windshield is yogurt.
I’m assuming that the passengers got out by climbing out the window.

Despite the car being injured (and the handrails), I see so much grace in this. Thank God that no one was hurt: there had been four people in the car. Thank God that neither the building, nor the retaining wall, was damaged. Thank God that the askaris (security) were super helpful. Thank God that the traffic police officer was willing to come to campus to take the statement and start the report so that we didn’t have to find our way there. Thank God that the crane operator was close, and came in about 20 minutes. Thank God that the UCU mechanic and the askaris insisted that the car sleep (stay) at UCU at Tech Park; who knows what would have happened to the car if it left campus.

It was quite fascinating to watch the crane lift the car out of the embankment. They started to secure the car, then waited for the traffic officer to grant permission. Then when he was ready, he was complaining that the crane operators were delaying. It was actually somewhat comical.

Thank God that it was a Sunday afternoon, and there wasn’t much traffic on campus, either vehicle or pedestrian. Naturally, the students who were around were posting about the accident on social media. #whatevs. #nothelpful

Naturally, this happened right around the time of our Eucharist, so I kept sending my students to the chapel. We were nearly finished when they were done, so the wave of students on their way to the dining hall stopped to check on the progress and express their condolences. I felt obligated repeatedly point out that 1. no one died, and in fact, no one was injured, and 2. I was not driving. #Ihavetoomuchpride

I’ve inferred that the accident was mentioned during the announcements in the service for the few souls who were unaware, and I have also inferred that we were included in the intercessions during the service. The students’ condolence messages have been pouring in. I’m immensely touched by that: they’ve been very concerned for me, my car, and that I’m enduring this trying moment. The askari were so helpful: I thanked them profusely, and pointed out that in times like this, the bureaucracy can be painful, but their help brought healing. I sent an email to my insurance agent, and she replied.

I’m so grateful that we have a way forward. I don’t really know all that it entails: I think there have to be two or three estimates for the insurance company to choose from. I don’t know how long repairs take. I don’t know if they provide a rental car. But we have a way forward, and I have a number of people to consult when my myriad of questions grow.

But most of all, I’m thankful for God’s grace upon grace. If something like this had to happen, this was the best possible outcome. No one was hurt. That astounds me. My friend has a small, superficial scratch on one arm, and a bunch of yogurt on his clothes. That’s all. Aside from the handrails, there was no structural damage. The car landed in the best possible position. Everyone was amazingly helpful and supportive.

Please join me in praying that this grace continues, and that the integrity and helpfulness of the people involved will also continue. The semester is nearly over, for which I’m grateful, as I don’t know what it will take to bring all this to a conclusion. I really don’t know the steps ahead, and this is one part of living in Uganda that I never wanted to experience. And yet, God’s grace abounds.

Retreat, retreat

At the end of February, SAMS hosted a regional retreat for the missionaries serving in Africa at a conference center in Cape Town. Not only was the setting gorgeous, it was a wonderful time of rest, relaxation, and fellowship with members of my tribe, and it was deeply restorative.

My soul breathes easier just looking at these pictures and remembering the tranquility that we found. Such a gift!

It was a joy to meet missionaries I’d only heard about, and to spend time worshipping, praying, sharing, and just having fun.

Our sessions were the perfect balance of teaching and contemplation, and the Lord showed me several things that continue to ponder and process with Him.

Some of the book recommendations for you to add to your To Be Read pile are Sealed Orders, Healing the Purpose of Your Life, One Minute Wisdom, and The Cloud of Unknowing (Amazon affiliate links for SAMS).

Since I was in South Africa, I decided to pop over to Pietermaritzburg to meet my online Bible study leader, Kelly, and her mum, Karren. When I first joined that study, I feared that I would be the outlier member in Africa, and lo and behold, the Lord gave me an African for a study leader! Over the years that I’ve participated in the studies, Kelly has become a dear and precious friend and sister in the Lord, so there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to meet her in person.

Kelly and Karren were fabulous hosts, and in my too-short visit, we found time to enjoy a great deal of fabulous coffee and time with Kelly’s very cuddly horses.

Kelly and Karren live near Indlovu, which is were Nelson Manela was captured and arrested. There is a small museum and a sculpture at the site, as well as a Long Walk to Freedom, which notes the highlights of Mandela’s life as you walk towards the sculpture.

The sculpture is best seen from one certain vantage point; otherwise, it is difficult to see what it is portraying. It was unveiled in 2012, exactly 50 years after Mandela’s arrest.

I am so grateful for this time to retreat and relax. It came halfway through the semester, and became the perfect spring break. In college, I never took a spring break, as I always had work to do, so this trip helped to right that imbalance. This semester is rather hectic, so this retreat gave me much needed breathing space so that I can try to finish the semester well. Thanks be to God.

Called to Serve at Uganda Christian University

Called to Serve at Uganda Christian University

We’re beginning our SAMS blog with these photos from our October trip to Uganda to show the place to which we have been called to serve and that we look forward to as our next home: Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. 

While in Uganda in October, Catherine and I each accepted invitations from the Faculty of Law at Uganda Christian University to join them in their mission to educate Uganda’s next generation of leaders – me to participate in growing the natural resources and environmental component of the Law School’s curriculum, and Catherine to serve as an administrator with the John Sentamu Institute for Human Rights Law. We will live on campus, and participate in the academic, social, and spiritual life of an institution committed to serving as a “centre of excellence in the heart of Africa”, and to equipping “students for productive, holistic lives of Christian faith and service”. You will learn more about UCU at www.ucu.ac.ug.

We’re very, very excited about this opportunity. It was not something we ever planned. It came about through an invitation to consider the idea over a year ago that we kept exploring. It came about because we opened our home to some talented, inspiring young students from Uganda and have maintained our friendships with them, and those relationships came to the attention of the university.  It came about because we received the encouragement and support of certain friends as we gave thought and prayer toward taking this step. It came about because the God that we believe in is capable of of offering surprises bigger than we can ask or imagine. With UCU’s invitation, we are being given an opportunity to put our two lifetimes to work, to serve the mission of “equipping students for productive, holistic lives of Christian faith and service”. Why would we respond with any other answer but ‘yes’?

So, while in the words of the Jimmy Cliff song, we have “many rivers to cross” to return to Uganda, returning there is now our journey. We will be deeply grateful for your support, whether in contribution, pledge or prayer.

 
 
The Bishop Tucker Building at UCU

Sermon fun

I’m Jessica Hughes, an Anglican priest serving at Uganda Christian University through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS). “Here I am” is both an answer to the geographical question “WHERE are you?” and a nod to my favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 6:8.

read more about me

Supervision surprises

This morning I went to supervise Geoffrey, a student who saw that a large school in Mukono lacked a formal chaplain, and asked the school if he could come on Sunday mornings. There are two services: one for the Catholics, and one for the Protestants. I haven’t been to this school in a while, and as I climbed the hill, I wondered which building it was in. I asked one of the elementary students where the Anglican service was, and she wrinkled her nose at me and reframed, “Do you mean the Protestant service? I’m a Protestant.” I estimated that there were around 600 students in the Protestant service; there were at least as many in the Catholic mass in the next building.

We do not tell students that we are coming to check on them, so Geoffrey was pleasantly surprised to see me. I was pleasantly surprised to see Rev. James, his parish supervisor, with him; as it turned out, this was a Holy Communion service.

Geoffrey asked me to read the Gospel, which was Matthew 5:43-48, about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. With at least 600 students from the entire education spectrum with very few adults, you can imagine that the service was a bit hectic. I was certain that no one was paying attention.

However, I was very wrong. As we were preparing for the Eucharist, the warden [usher] handed me a note from a student. She asked me how to love and forgive someone who had hurt her. She included her phone number, but the students are not allowed to have phones, so I wouldn’t be able to call her until she gets home in early May.

I asked the warden if it was possible that the student could meet me after the service, and she said she would try. Happily, she succeeded, and the student was waiting for me after many of the students dispersed.

This precious and delightful child of God shared her story with me, and it broke my heart. I wanted to bring her home and protect her. I wanted to pray so many healing prayers with her. I wanted to right all the wrongs that have been perpetrated against her. But I only had a few minutes after church to talk with her.

So I did pray with her, and talk with her. She now has my contact, and has said she will check in with me when she gets her phone back. She’s also going to send me the first 25 (!) chapters of a book she’s written. I’m hoping this is a productive way of her to process all that’s happened to her.

Please pray for this precious gem: that the Lord continue to heal her heart. I’m so grateful that she chose to seek help, and humbled that she chose me.

An update on the political situation

Though a little long, this article gives a good overview of what led to the unrest this week, as well as an update on where we stand.

While things are diffused at the moment, unfortunately, this is is far from over, particularly since court cases can drag on for months and months because of many becauses.

Please continue to pray for peace and justice in Uganda.