"Before I came to UgandaSaying goodbye is never easy. The pain of parting is hard, but grief and loss are parts of the human condition. From the moment of birth when we are wrenched forth into the world, the experience of loss is ours to bear. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary was that she would experience suffering too for having brought this child into the world, but what mother does not experience suffering from the moment of birth as her child grows further and further away from her into their own person and ultimately journeys back to the God that made them?
…I did not know earth. Earth so dry and red, baked hard by the heat of the day. Earth that holds that heat like kiln-burnt clay, warming weary feet as they journey home from a long day's work.
....If I hadn't come to Uganda I would not know dust. Dust as fine as sifted flour, terracotta red. Dust that finds it's way into your hair, clothes, shoes...that settles into every nook and cranny, every crinkle and laughline. Dust that needs o be scrubbed off at the end of each day before you can enter your bed to sleep.
...I did not understand the importance of Education. It is the only hope for a future - a hope so strong, that whole families will work so that their brightest child can go to school. The child carries the hopes and dreams of their entire family...ALL of their futures depend on his or her success. Busy brains hard at work day after day. Dedicated, devoted, passionate about learning. Absorb, understand, conceptualize. Hoping for the future, striving to make their families proud.
.......I had never seen bugs! Had never really known BUGS! Bugs so big and ugly - they scare each other! Bugs that eat walls, eat beds, chew through clothing. Bugs that demand, by their mere presence, that you step over - not on - them as they cross the footpath. And, amazingly, Bugs that can be welcome guests at any meal - as tasty, crunchy, roasted treats! Bugs that can bite and sting causing disease or possibly death....and bugs that can fill an empty stomach and nourish a tired body.
...I did not know generosity. Generosity that welcomes with wide open arms , open hearts open minds and open homes. Generosity that flows like a river from a v\neverending source. Generosity when there seems to be nothing to give, from a bottomless well of hospitality. Generosity in it's truest form - expecting nothing in return. Generous understanding and kindness, generous acceptance, guidance, faith and love.
Before I came to Uganda I did not know traffic. Had never really been in a true traffic jam! Countless vans, cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, and motorcycles converging on a single, two-lane, one way street. No order to the chaos...no lights, no signs. Pedestrians weave in and out between the maze of vehicles. Motorcycles and bicycles squeeze through any tight spot. Inch by inch, slowly by slowly...and then FULL STOP - BRAIN JAM!! Nothing moving. As far as the eye can see, a mish mash of people and vehicles, angled, criss-crossed, a scrambled mess that looks to me like a 1000 - car - pile - up!! People jump out of cars and chose to walk - it's probably faster!! Amazingly, in this mess of metal, flesh and frustrated, aggravated mentalities...NO ONE is yelling, NO ONE is cursing ,NOT ONE rude gesture or raised fist. Everyone understands "THE JAM" and so, they patiently ride it out. And, very slowly, surely and definitely LATE...You will arrive at your destination.
....I would not understand TIME. Or rather, that being on time does not matter. Everyone is always late for everything!! As a result however, there is no stress, no one is frantic, impatient or worried. There is always time to do one more thing, time to wait for one more person, one more minute, two, ten, twenty....and hour! No one is rushing, no one is concerned....Usually because the event you are going to will start late anyway and you won't miss a thing! Time here in Uganda is spent living, loving and learning. Time is too precious to spend it stressed- out , worried and rushing through your days. Time is LIFE!
Before I came to Uganda I did not know freedom. Freedom that springs from the knowledge of the eternal soul. Freedom from the fear and bitterness of death. Freedom from the trappings of material gain - the freedom to use only what you need. The freedom to shout your faith from the curb -side, to say what you want, when you want. The freedom of affection between men, between women, and towards children. The beautiful freedom of two men walking hand in hand in platonic companionship through the streets. The freedom from prejudice and from things like worrying about being "politically correct". The freedom of laughter and of tears. The freedom to be who you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.
Before I came to Uganda, I thought my eyes were open...they are open now. Open to the needs in my world. The need for health and security, medicine and aid. The need for compassion and the need for everyone to get involved. The need to put right inhumanities around us...the need for survival. The need for even the smallest of us to know and be aware of suffering, to have faith, to show joy and above all the need to LOVE. The need for all of us to open our eyes....and then....to act.
and have to say goodbye. Whereas the traditional missionaries would not only unpack their bags but rather throw them away when they arrived, as a VM you go for a short period to try and share what you can as well as learn from those you are living with. The level of difficulty of leaving will be as great as the effort you have made to become part of the community and sought to be really ‘present’ to them.
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 4 - Solidarity