We are sinking deeper into December and I don’t see one sign of commercialized Christmas. I had to leave the country to find freedom from the obsession with more and more and more at Christmas. Usually I am working out ways to keep it simple when I am in America for the holidays, but when I am face to face with the salesmen of Christmas every time I leave home, turn on my computer, check my email or fetch the post I get sucked into the craze. Coming here has given me an escape from it all. I haven’t even bought a gift for my kids yet and all I can say is, “hakuna matata”. There is a buzz in conversation that they are thinking and preparing for the holiday but there are no signs of it anywhere. Can you imagine?
Craig left this evening to return to America. He doesn’t have much vacation time left so he hurried back to work as much as possible before he brings Donny and Jordan here for the experience of their lives: Christmas in Uganda with their new sister. I feel sad to let him go. He enjoyed himself here so much. We had long talks in the mornings with rich black coffee while the house slept. We processed our experiences together and shared our learnings. We discussed the differences between lifestyles at home and here. We tried to understand why there are so many single mothers here, and why people in America are so stressed most of their time. We wanted to know how being the land of plenty has been good for us. We wonder how we can adopt the’ living in the moment and flowing with life’ the way the Ugandans live life. We appreciate the way people here accept hardships without complaining or whining. They rise above it and experience great joy in relationships and community. In many ways we want to live with an attitude more like theirs and less like our hurried, stuffed, over stimulated life.
We brought more in our suitcases from around the world than most of the people we meet here own all together (and don’t laugh, most of those suitcases were full of gifts, books and school work!). I wonder do we really know what the essential things are. Can we tolerate being separated from the excess? We aren’t having any problems, except for the few days with cold showers that were challenging. Simple is often a great idea, but application gets clogged with reluctance to ultimately let go. I am personally enjoying the freedom from the maintenance of all that stuff back home.
We went to church today at Miracle Center Kawempe. This is the church we worshipped in last year when I was with Omar Garcia’s team. Pastor Robert and his wife Rose have become my friends this year so it was a wonderful reunion to hug them and spend the day with their family. Church in Africa is something that I believe every Christian on earth should experience. The music is lively, it has rhythm and before we realized what we are doing we found ourselves dancing in the sea of swaying and bobbing bodies. Pastor gave a strong message challenging us about the sort of legacy we will be leaving when we leave the earth. Are we doing God’s work or are we serving ourselves?
At lunch yesterday Jack pulled out the box of questions our family likes to do when we have a meal in a restaurant and we’re waiting for the delivery of food. One of the questions was “what souvenir would you like to bring back from a trip”. Kevin said he’d like the souvenir of knowing how to dance like they do here. I teased him and said I’ll hire a dance teacher for you while you are here and call it your gym class. Later that night Emily asked if we could really get him the teacher. I laughed and said, tomorrow at church will be the dance lesson. And so it was. During the praise music I glanced around and Kevin was grooving, Emily was freely, loosely swaying her arms and body, I was bobbing and Jack stood still with his dad. My mom had her arms so full of the children who flocked to her within minutes of her arrival that she couldn’t dance. Though I think I did see a little twisting of her torso going on with the kids.
At the end of the service Pastor Robert asked our family to come up to the stage and say a few words to his congregation. My mom cried as she shared it’s been her life dream to come to Africa and now she is here because God answers prayers. Kevin said he’s enjoying learning about their culture so much. Jack said he is blessed to be here. (Can you believe he spoke into a microphone to a crowd of people he didn’t know?) Craig said he loves Uganda and hopes to develop a lasting relationship with the people here. I told them about my prior visit and how it inspired us to adopt a child from here, and now one year later I could hold up our sweet baby for them to see. They cheered when I told them we will raise her to know she is both Ugandan and American, and I promised to bring her back so she can know her people. Emily reminded everyone that we all serve the same God and with his love we can love each other no matter where we are. We are all tipping over into the sea of love with the Ugandan people.
After church we had an excellent lunch at the Garden City mall with Pastor’s family. She has invited Emily and I to teach purity and sanctity of life to the girls in their church, and to meet with the women’s bible studies. During the second service at church Emily and Jack were asked to go out into the open lot where they taught the children songs and a lesson. They happily went out to tell the story of Moses, as they acted it out with Kira as the baby to hide from the soldiers. Then they sang a few songs with the kids. And then some of the children came up to give their testimony of how Jesus is working in their lives. These children are so formally dressed for church. It reminded me of how Kira’s Auntie insisted I put her sandals on for church when I said” I think barefoot is so cute”. She then told me, “a woman is a flower and she must be beautiful ”. I realized that bare feet was a sign of extreme poverty and no one chooses to go to church like that, not even an infant. Everyone will think we cannot provide.
Early in the morning I dressed before the kids were awake so I could go get Kira. I actually found myself running up the hill I was so eager to see her. It was great to arrive just after she woke up. She was sunny as usual, and happy to see me. I got permission to take her to church with us. So we rushed through her bath time, dressed her, gave her a bottle and packed her to go bag. That’s when I had the great privilege of walking out the gate with her and down the road with her on my hip. This might be a walk that I’ll never forget (partly because she’s a heavy girl!). It was just the two of us alone walking along an African road and we were beginning to realize we are going to be together like this for good in just one more day. There’s a settling of peace that I enjoyed all the way down the hill. Many motor cars with finely dressed Ugandans on their way to church stopped to ask me if they could give me a lift. I thanked them and said I was enjoying my walk. They also thanked me for looking after their babies. I was thinking, “our babies”, they just don’t know how committed I am to their cause for the fatherless. I remembered how nicely society treats mothers with little babies. I think I look forward to receiving open doors again and offers of kindness. I especially appreciated the hospitality toward a foreigner they showed me.
Arriving at church was a celebrated reunion for myself and Rose, Pastor Robert’s wife. We met last year while I was here. Afterwards she began reading my blog and through this connection have become dear friends. I love her family and hope to help their ministry. For all of you who sent donations I will tell you she choked up with tears when we told her we had a substantial donation to give their ministry. Thank you for supporting the beautiful, hard working, deeply loving people of Uganda. Their children’s lives will be better because of your help and prayers. Jack got to meet the mother of a boy who will be able to go to school because he raised the money for him. She was overwhelmed with joy. We told her we’d give one year, but their school costs less than we thought so we will give him two years, and then when that time runs out I am sure more pumpkin bread will be sold to keep him going. God provides.
We had Kira with us from nine in the morning until 4:30. She was passed around from person to person all day. She drank a bottle in church which Craig and Jack took turns giving to her. It was the first time for both of them to feed her. There’s just something about the sucking sounds, the relieved look in her eyes and the chubby hands embracing her bottle that can’t hold back a warm feeling of protection and love. Even a nine year old can appreciate her vulnerability. She’s so alert and interested in everything that is happening around her. Would you believe me if I told you in all those hours she didn’t cry once? She sat for three hours of church without a peep. My dear friend Rose held her while she slept. I am really thankful she’s such a calm peaceful baby. It’s going to reduce the amount of stress I will have on the long airplane ride home to America. We really don’t have to think about that yet. Kevin said, “mom it’s been a week and usually that’s when a vacation is finished but I just realized how much more time we get to be here, and I’m so happy about that.” I asked him what has been his favorite thing so far and he said, “the baby home”. Me too. It has an atmosphere of love, I swear a halo hangs over the entire home and it glows a warm soft light on all who participate.