Hannah and Misha are having all sorts of fun with Phiona and the children in our programs at Kirabo Seeds in Uganda. I come alive when my mail box fills with current event photos of the children there. My happiest moments are when I cross a quiet house to my writing spot with a cup of hot coffee early in the morning and find new photos of their smiling faces.
Yesterday my good friend Erica arrived from Arizona. Naturally she found me in my home office finishing up the details for our trip. It took me all day to grasp how I was going to travel with ten people from Texas to Africa and tote an ornery two year old on my back. My conclusion was eight helpers with her is better than no helpers! I set all my mental abilities on what to bring in her personal rolling carryon that would delight her in cramped, controlled quarters for twenty four hours. The usual: books, dvds, playdoh, coloring, a purse, some small hand toys, and her soft white blanket. And a lot of prayers tucked into the spaces.
Erica’s arrival was a signal to me that the really hard work is finished. It is time to go to the party! A friend of mine at the barn is planning a wedding at the same time I’ve been planning this mission trip. In over one month thirty people will come and go to Uganda. I’m not sure which is harder to do, it feels oddly similar. When I’m at home for months coaching the team in Uganda from my computer, and managing all the many projects for Kirabo Seeds that help us support our children I spend more hours before a computer screen than I ever in my life would have imagined. (I’m an outdoor on the move sort of girl.) But I get through all of that knowing soon I will be there with them, and that’s a goal that motivates me without much trouble.
Today we pack up the vehicles and head to Katy to celebrate the beginning of our journey. Friends will gather tonight and we will share a meal, pray, laugh, encourage one another and simply marvel at God’s hand in this journey from beginning to end. It started with God, we go with God, and only God will receive the praise and recognition for what might be accomplished. This is His work. If you’d like to see me shrink try to congratulate me for this work. I won’t accept it. Glory to God. Period.
And just look at these children! I count myself the most blessed girl because I GET to work for them. Their joy and peace inspires me. It pokes me a little in the hard places where I like my comforts and reminds me that the things I like in this life don’t come with me. Those smiles on the children’s faces, they last forever in my heart.
That’s not to say I don’t take my pleasures. I skipped off to the barn yesterday morning for one last ride with my mare. I really needed to have had a successful experience cantering her before I disappeared from the barn for a while. I needed to know in my head, “I can canter her.” And I did. She’s a great challenge, she’s my friend, and I’m going to miss the big head hugs she gives me as she presses her head into my body and I rub her face with a soft brush. The only one who gets new shoes any more is her. I lost that loving feeling a while ago. I mostly wear really dirty barn boots now. And flip flops. Shrug. It’s the new me. Gwinny is four, and hopefully she’ll live a good long thirty years in all. Even though she gives me pleasure, helps me reduce stress, I can’t take her with me.
The treasures that go with me into eternity are the things that matter to other people more than to me. And these are the details of life that have more purpose for living than living for myself. I understand when someone says, “it’s my calling”. I have one and walking this road, following the lead of a sovereign God gives me the greatest sense of security I’ve ever had in my life. So much of my searching, waiting and wondering for this opportunity was spent feeling insecure. And everyone knows what we do when we feel insecure, we grasp anything that can make us feel good. Now that I know my calling it is as if I’d held my breath all that time and finally I can let it out.
To the party! There’s going to be a celebration. There are fourteen new children who call me “Mama” and I feel I know them, and they feel like they know me. But we have yet to look into eachother’s faces and share the love. Honestly, I feel like I did when we were about to go meet Kira. And there’s nothing in my heart that regrets I can’t bring them home. I wouldn’t want them to experience America. They have a sort of manna in Uganda that we don’t have in America any more: community. They share their lives together, the good, the bad and the ugly, they share it. We isolate ourselves here, build walls, communicate using screens,and move in a bubble of our own vehicles. And the pressure of our ambitions are eating us alive with stress related maladies, addictions, obesity, and sleep deprivation. We DON’T have it figured out.
The manna they receive from living life together in Uganda is perhaps one of the reasons I made a strong heart connection on my first trip. (this will be my sixth trip to Uganda!) Community is something churches here in America are trying so hard to incubate. We have programs that teach us how to develop community. And there in Uganda it is the way of life.
Do you want to know what I’m really tired of? Our western viewpoint that we’ve got what they need, and we’ll bring it to them. Here’s a secret: the members on the team joining us at Kirabo Seeds in Uganda, they are going to take back so much more than they can give. The question remains: what will they do with what they learn? How will they respond? All of you who know and love someone traveling with us I’d like to challenge you to ask them : “What are you going to do with what God taught you on this journey?” Continue to ask them until they have an answer.
To go on a spiritual journey, a mission trip, to learn and serve and have a good time and then return unchanged is almost unforgivable. We’ve got to process the experience and with face on the floor ask God, “What do I do now?” The challenge will be to stay in that prayer with tenacity until the answer is certain.(and personally I prayed that prayer until I got the answer at age 42, so don’t get discouraged waiting on the Lord)
I’ve asked all team members to prepare for this journey by reading the book, Toxic Charity by Lupton. And I’ve asked them to bring a fresh journal. Each morning I’ll ring the “wakey-wakey” bell so there is plenty of time to search God’s word for wisdom and to record in the journal what they are learning on this journey. And to answer the question: What do you want me to do for you God? It might be hold the hand of a child. It might be dig a hole to plant food. Could be open the bible and teach the truth. Could be sit and listen to someone’s story. It could be….
After team members return home, and that’s never easy to do, the reverse culture shock is a lightning bolt. I am asking each member to write me a summary of their experience in Uganda. I hope to get a glimpse into each heart to know what permanent change was made there in the vulnerable places where we are human. There will be times on this trip where each and every one of us will come face to face with our ugliest self. That’s not easy to do. Some circumstances will bring out the worst in us. And really, the point of it is to “bring out” the worst in us, and get rid of it.
We’re going to step into each day learning how “in Him we live and move and have our being.” acts 17:28. And Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith will show us how.