Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Call to the Islands

Asked if I could spare a day to teach at a youth seminar out on one of the outer islands, I agreed. So Thursday I packed up my backpack, along with some equipment they wanted me to bring, and I caught a boda (a motorcycle taxi). There is nothing like riding on the back of a motorcycle weaving through traffic with your arms full of equipment. I waited at the landing for the public boat to come for a couple of hours in the hot sun along with a crowd of people, a goat, chickens and other things not so pleasant. Among a sea of faces, mine was the only white one.
Finally, a man carried me out to the boat. (Everything gets carried out to the boat. The idea of using boat docks doesn’t seem to have caught on here except for the very large seacraft.) Catching a public boat is an experience. They pack as many things and people as they can into a 40 foot wooden boat. I stretched out (crammed between the side of the boat and a woman with a baby) on my comfortable seat (a three inch wide board) and got set for the four to five hour trip. Numerous times I was asked, “Mzungu (white person), where are you going?” They thought surely I must be lost. Very few white people take the public boats and especially not to the outer islands on their own. (Although with fifty other people crammed in the boat I wasn’t technically alone.) I just smiled and told them (those whom I actually understood what they were saying) the name of the island. They would look at me like they thought I was crazy.
When we got to the island I managed to jump to the shore without having to be carried. I was met by one of the SHIM team members. As I was lead to where I would stay for the night, I was told what the plan would be for the next day. Not only would I be teaching in the seminar, but they planned on holding a crusade (an outdoor evangelistic service in the village) in the evening and they wanted me to preach. That’s okay, I thought, I could handle that, but they went on. After the crusade they also planned on holding an all-night teaching and worship service on Friday night and they wanted me to teach at that as well. I can’t say my first reaction was joy. Not only would this mean some fast preparation work on the preaching and teaching I had not planned on, but it had been many years since the idea of staying up all night sounded appealing. I just tried to smile and said a silent prayer for help. It was, after all, a privilege for me to share. At least this night I would be able to sleep, or so I thought. One of the fellows gave up his bed for me which I was grateful for. I had brought my own mosquito netting which worked okay but kept falling down on my face and getting tangled within my feet. The night was anything but restful.
The day started a 6 am with morning worship. After breakfast tea, we took a boat to a different island where the seminar and crusade would be held. The seminar was in a mud walled church where there were about 70 people packed in on wooden benches. After the seminar we moved the equipment to an open area in the center of the village. There the crusade began with music and dancing. My mzungu feet couldn’t keep up with the dancing and I did not understand the words to the songs, but I clapped along and sang my own words. After I preached there was more singing and dancing. The dancing got a little wild. There were around 70 children there besides the adults, and the children began running and slamming into each other, pushing each other to the ground, knocking many of the smaller children flying. I was very disturbed by this but the Ugandans just smiled and said, ”They are playing. “
When the crusade was over, we moved the equipment back to the church and prepared for the all-nighter. We had to hurry for a sudden thunderstorm came up and we had to get inside before we were drenched. The people fed us well with plates heaping with food, only my stomache was not in agreement with the food before me. To be polite, I did my best to eat as much as I could. The all-nighter consisted of teaching, mine as well as others, prayer and worship. As the night wore on, some of the people began to nod off. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open but then the night grew cold. The people put on coats, but I, who thought was in a tropical country, had only the shirt I had on. I shivered through the last few hours, but at least it helped keep me awake.
The all-nighter lasted until 6 am at which time we got our boat back to the mission base on a nearby island. The rest of the SHIM team found beds to sleep on, but I needed to catch the public boat for the five hour ride back to Jinja. This time I shared the ride with another mother and baby as well as a bunch of chickens that refused to be polite and stay in their own area. Finally, I made it back to shore and caught another boda back home. While the trip did not have much rest, I still felt blessed to be a part of what God is doing in the islands.

A "Cool" 72 Degrees

This afternoon, I am not feeling so well for some reason. Some kind of flu bug, likely. But it is certainly not because I am experiencing too hot of temperatures. Indoors, our thermometer is reading 72 degrees at 5 pm. It has been raining here off and on for several days now. While it makes it difficult to get the wet laundry dry, I must admit that I am enjoying it.

Out of the three months' time that we have lived here now, there have only been a handful of nights where I required a blanket or even a sheet for that matter. My resting body temperature just has not needed it. So I have been ever so grateful for the past few days of 'coolness.' We may even have to retrieve the one blanket that we did have in our bedroom from the spare bedroom downstairs (which has been reserved for Andy and Karina Smith actually). Bob tells me he was cold last night. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the one layer I had on.

Somehow today, this has gotten me thinking about God's provision for us. While we don't have an abundance of blankets (because we 'thought' we didn't need them ...), we have just exactly what we truly need. He has continued to show us this each month here in Uganda. We are not living in abundance by any means (especially by American standards), but we continue to be taken care of with just enough. Just enough eggs and just enough flour, etc.

It strikes me how grateful we should be for this, especially when we drive through the streets of Jinja, Uganda, or visit Lingira Island. We have so much more than so many here. I pray that we will not be greedy or selfish, but will listen to His Holy Spirit's leading so that we will know when and what to give freely in His Name and for His sake.