It's 5am EST Thursday morning as I write this letter, still fairly tired from the flight, but mostly tired from the constancy of a busy schedule. It is early afternoon in Fort Portal, and I wonder what the friends we made are doing, and whether they were as encouraged by our time together as I was with them. I think about whether or not our paths will cross again and if so, if I will remember any of the Rutooro phrases that I learned from Akikki Kristine. Or, perhaps our reunion will be further along when Christ returns and language barriers cease to exist? (What a wonderful thought.) I think about my friends returning to work today and how their strength holds up on such little sleep after such a long trip. I give thanks for the ways our team worked together in service and reflected Christ’s love to one another. I think about my friend Jenna and give thanks for her obedience to God’s call as a missionary. She has truly embraced the people of Fort Portal and it was an honor to see her work, her home and her friends.
A lot has happened since our last update and we can’t wait to share our stories with you, but as I return my mind and heart are fixed on something else.
One of the many ways that we asked for prayer was to ask God to show us how we are blinded from our sin by our culture. Some of the ways we saw this were obvious, others not so much and required thoughtful prayer and processing with one another and still other sins are yet to be uncovered. One of the obvious ways that I sin is by placing my trust in the material world. Things created by man that I can touch, taste, and feel. It gives me a sense of control and power to know that I have ownership over something. It's so much easier to believe that my job, friends, food, car, money or even the ways that I serve can offer me deliverance. I can see those things and they seem real and secure. Spending time in Uganda has helped me see more clearly how wrong I am, particularly around the idea of time. As Americans we want things immediately, but things take a little longer in Uganda. For example, our drive from Fort Portal to Jinja, roughly the distance from Richmond to Blacksburg, took 15 hours. Just about everything in Uganda takes longer and is not instant (except for the coffee which was surprisingly delicious). Cooking, buying groceries, transportation—they all take a really long time by American standards. For me, I often believe that my time is my own and am offended if some circumstance or person takes it from me and when this happens I sometimes am left believing that God is not good, doesn’t exist or is cruel. It was refreshing for me to be in a culture where the pull to believe those lies was not so great. Thinking and grumbling less about how long something is taking me to do frees up my mind to ask the question where is God in this? It frees me to enjoy the journey and to love the people that I encounter on the road.
While in Uganda we talked a lot about being pilgrims and on a long journey that is heavenward. Our hope was not that we would have a great trip and do great things, but rather that our God would shape us together with Jenna and her community to hope in his return and to work to bringing his Kingdom to earth. That we would press on further by the power of his grace to trust that he is good and that he loves us. Returning to Richmond after the trip to Uganda, I am fearful that my eyes will be clouded once again by the lies of our culture and sinfulness in my heart and that I will forget the ways that God has been faithful to our team and Jenna. It is almost certain that at some point I will forget, but I give thanks to God that in our pilgrimage towards heaven, we are not alone.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
(Psalm 121: 7-8)