28 Sep 2010

From Knockpatrick to Kiyinda - A VM's reflections on sometime in Africa - PART 1 - Introduction

“The most terrible of crimes is to collaborate in the uprooting of others in an already alienated world, but the greatest of virtues is to up root oneself for the sake of ones neighbours and of God. “It is necessary to uproot oneself. Cut down the tree and make a cross and carry it forever after.” - Simone Weil, "Waiting for God"

Beara Penninsula Co Cork - Nessa Quille
 Life can often be viewed as a journey with many stops and stages, sometimes with the journey itself being more important as a transforming process then the final destination –often unknown - aimed at. It is hard to believe how fast the thirty months went after I touched down in Entebbe airport in September 2007, where after working for four years with KPMG Ireland, my journey involved leaving Ireland and travelled to Uganda to work as a volunteer through the Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) as the Chief Accountant for the diocese of Kiyinda Mityana (KMD). Well, whatever about the work side of things, I brought home some fond memories of some great times, some wonderful people and a small town called Mityana in a beautiful place called the Pearl of Africa - Uganda.

"But memory is shady, an aspect that only increases with time. At a distance, what we would hold onto, what we would pull into the light, slips from us like smoke through the fingers. In the end, we’re left with shuttering pictures rather than fluid narratives, a stutter-and-stop nickelodeon rather than an arch of seamless progression, five acts and a clear denouement. So we have to make the best of these rough shards, pronounce what seems true of them and move on, accepting what we vaguely see now as the best catalogue of what we truly saw then".

But occasionally, when things settle down there’s the luxury of greater reflection. It may come on long car trips, or plane rides, or waits at the dentist’s office. At such times, we struggle against the truncated, long-seen pictures that our memory trots out for us, like a bad school yearbook; instead, we demand to see something more substantial . And we try to make sense of what has happened.

The following series of short posts are taken from a last letter/email that I sent from Uganda as I approached the end of my time as a VM. Hopefully they will give you some idea about life in Uganda as a visitor, VM, lay missionary and ultimately as a person who feel in love with the country and the wonderful people there.

Part 2 - Presence
Part 3 - Suffering
Part 4 - Solidarity
Part 5 - Friendships and Goodbye

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