Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Miss...

Everyone who moves to the mission field experiences some sense of loss. There are things that we all miss and give up to be here. Some things are more significant, like the birth, death, or marriage of a family member or close friend. Having your children grow up near their cousins. Participating in family reunions. Other things are much more trivial. It's not unusual for people to move to Uganda and crave things like Chick-fil-A and Dr. Pepper. Some miss the fast internet speeds and unlimited downloads. 

At this point, my list of things that I miss looks a little different:

One stop shops... specifically, Target. Yes, Uganda has some very creative convenience combinations, like a car wash with your dinner or a pedicure at the gas station, but it's just not the same. On average, it takes three locations, two phone calls, and one boda ride to get all my shopping done for the week.
Being anonymous. This is a big one for me. I miss being able to blend in and go unnoticed. As soon as I step out of my compound gate, I have to be "on" and aware of the fact that I'm always being watched, often being singled out, and sometimes being followed. How do I cope? It involves a combination of sunglasses to give me a sense of privacy, an ipod playing to drown out the comments, and an umbrella to block the stares.

Sidewalks. I appreciate the pedestrian culture in Uganda, but there are no official provisions made for it in Mbarara. Sidewalks can only be found in town, and even then, you have to watch out for the bodas that drive up and down or park in the middle of them.

City noise ordinances. There's a sports stadium (a.k.a. grassy field with a set of bleachers), a large boys' boarding school, various bars with huge loud speakers, and an event grounds right at the bottom of our hill. Because of science and the incredible amphitheater effect, we get all sorts of music blasted right up the hill and into our apartment building all hours of the day and night.  And then there are the neighbor dogs... I listen to this soundtrack on repeat every day.

Customer service. Now, this can be deceiving on first appearances. In your average grocery store, there's usually a 1:1 ratio of workers to aisles. They sit on a stool in the aisle or walk behind you, at close range, as you shop. It does seem like it could be helpful to have so many employees just hanging around waiting to help. Sometimes I can't find the product I need, and sometimes I ask an employee if they know where it is, and I always regret this. 
The truth is, though the employees are more than willing to help, they don't usually know what it is they're looking for. To their credit, they've probably never tried or heard of many products the store stocks, and the stock is constantly changing. Since many of the products are imported from China and Dubai, the purchaser will bring over a few of each item to see how they sell. This means a constantly changing and always random assortment of products that don't have an official spot in the store or known use to the employees. So when I ask for "ginger ale" or "brown rice," they'll make a valiant effort to search the whole store. But if I couldn't find it on my own, it's not there.

Seasons marking time. While I don't particularly miss scraping ice off windshields or the suffocating humidity, I do miss the changing of season and how they help mark the passage of time. Is it July or December? It all feels and looks the same here!
Outdoor baptism in December? Why not!
4th of July picnic

Systems and structures that allow for productivity. I don't tend to think about things like road maintenance, quality control, law enforcement, and general organization until something goes wrong. I didn't realize how much predictability and comfort these systems and structures provide for the average citizen until they were severely lacking. Apart from high school government classes, I'd never spent much time thinking about what it would be like to establish a country, create and enforce laws, build and maintain infrastructure that serves its citizens, and ensure that everything flows well and makes sense in the bigger picture. And then I moved to Uganda and starting thinking about it all the time.  

A vehicle and the freedom it brings. Though driving here brings its own set of stresses (see "systems and structures," or lack thereof), it's great to be able to pop into town or over to the grocery store without too much hassle (see "being anonymous"). On rare occasions, I get to ride in a friend's air-conditioned vehicle and put all my shopping bags in the trunk rather than walking in the hot sun and then calling a boda to help carry my things home. Those rare occasions are a real treat!

In Luke 14, Jesus tells his disciples to count the cost of following him. He describes our Kingdom work as being like building and battle. He says, "Sit down and see if you can afford to follow me." Living in Uganda has certainly caused me to count the costs of following Jesus numerous times, yet it always comes down to this: He Is Worth It.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fifty Years of Faithful Ministry

It is okay if I take a moment to brag a little about one of our AIM teammates here in Mbarara? His story deserves to be told.

Dr. Keith Waddell came to Uganda in 1964 as a 27 year old newly-qualified medical doctor. Now, 50 years later, we have the opportunity to celebrate his life of faithful service and ministry. Over the weekend, Africa Inland Mission, along with the Ankole Diocese, had a thanksgiving service and celebration to honor Dr. Keith.

>>He's lived in Uganda for 50 years, 30 of which have been here in Mbarara.

 >>He's a gifted ophthalmologist, specializing in eye surgery, and is regarded as one of the world's leading experts in the field.

>>He set up an internationally recognized eye clinic in Mbarara as well as a mobile clinic which travels throughout rural areas in Uganda and East Africa.

 >>Though he's never had a family of his own, he's supported, discipled, and loved nearly 400 disadvantaged boys (and a few girls, too) who now call him "daddy."

>>Dr. Keith believes in reproducing himself so the work can continue far and wide, so many of these boys have come under his wing, and he's trained them to be skilled medical professionals.

 >>He has become a leader in the research and treatment of retinoblastoma, a pediatric eye cancer, which is so prevalent in this area of the world. His research is making large breakthroughs which might have great impact on treating other types of pediatric cancer, as well. 

>> For those in the medical profession, he designed this revolutionary surgical clamp for "bilamellar tarsal rotation for trachomatous trichiasis." 

 >> Once a month, the Mbarara eye center has a week of free surgeries. Last week, he completed 350 surgeries, and now 300 people can see again or for the very first time. If he changed the lives of this many people in one week, can you imagine how many have been saved or received the gift of sight over the last 50 years?

Of all people, Dr. Keith has some room to be proud of his life's work and accomplishments, but he is one of the most humble men you'll ever meet. Throughout this celebration ceremony, as people were praising the way God has used him over the years to touch lives, he said, "I keep trying to figure out who this fellow is you're all talking about." At one point, while someone was rightfully praising his incredible, God-given intellect, this very dignified man pulled his suit jacket up around his head and hid his face! He adamantly and continually gives all the glory back to God.
Waiting outside the cathedral for the church service to start.

Dr. Keith receiving a gift goat from one of "his girls" and her mother.

Just a few of "the boys" Dr. Keith has loved, supported, and trained over the years.

He was honored with many gifts. These were two of the three goats he received that day.

Everyone wants a "snap" of Dr. Keith before his speech!

There are at least four blind men and women in this dance circle, 
enjoying the celebration as much as any sighted person.

Today, at 77 years old, Dr. Keith continues to pour out love on all those around him, giving sight to the blind, help to the disadvantaged, and hope through the gospel of Jesus.

We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Gift of the Table

Food is not fast in Uganda. 

Every meal is cooked from scratch and takes significant time and preparation. 

Even something as simple as a green salad begins with calling "Vegetable John" the day before you want to have the salad. Once you get your lettuce, picked fresh from the ground, the next step is thoroughly washing it, removing all the dirt and insects and slugs that hitched a ride. There no such thing as opening a bag of pre-washed, pre-shredded lettuce. I'm absolutely not complaining about getting locally grown, organic produce delivered to my house at a steal, I'm just saying: food takes time and effort.

In Uganda, kitchens are not the central gathering place that they are in the American home. Normally they're found in a separate shack behind the typical Ugandan home, or it's simply a small charcoal stove sitting on the ground behind the house. Though the kitchen doesn't play the same role that it does in the States, the principle is still the same: food brings people together.

Within our mission community, we spend lots of time each week preparing food and hosting people in our homes. Some weeks it feels like a full time job. Always thinking about and shopping for the next meeting or potluck gathering. Making sure there's something sweet in the freezer or fruit in the fridge that I can pull out on short notice when a friend stops by. 

But it's a frequent topic of conversation that the longer we live here, the more we see the gift and value in hosting people and sharing meals with one another. We understand exactly how much time, effort, and resources go into preparing even the simplest of meals, so we have a deeper appreciation for the generosity. Sharing meals is so central to our lives here that one of the families in our community decided to collect our favorite, most-shared recipes and put them into a cookbook.

The inscription in this cookbook states:
"There is something sacred about sharing a meal together - may the practice of the communal table continue to bless and be a blessing to the furthering of the gospel in Uganda and beyond."

— Cesar ChavezThose words explain so much. They touch on how important hospitality is in our lives. It deepens relationships, creates vulnerability and trust, makes room for laughter, invites others into our homes and lives, and refreshes our spirits. Breaking bread together is something holy.

This cookbook is special because it's not just about the recipes but about the people behind the recipes and the times we've gathered in someone's home to share these foods. Below are some of my favorites and frequents, and my encouragement to you is to invite someone into your home this week for a meal. Remembering that it's not about the presentation...It's about the people.
It's not about the recipe... It's about the relationship.

Homemade Granola served with plain yogurt and/or diced mango

Photo: Salad
My opinion on the basic rules for a delicious salad...
Base, herbs, colour, sweet, crunchy...
Base- Chinese cabbage, lettuce, finely chopped kale, spinach.
Herbs- as many as you like...basil, coriander, mint, parsley...
Colour- grated carrot, grated beet root, capsicum, red onions...
Sweet- dates, apples, orange, pineapple...
Crunchy- raw cashews, pine nuts, almonds, walnut, pecans...
For something special you can also dry fry some halloumi or tofu or add your favourite cheese.
Dressing- Extra Virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey and a dash of salt.
Shake and pour.
Lentil Curry with Rice (vegan, gluten free)
Thai Chicken Roll-Ups with coconut rice (vegetarian option)

Chickpea Pesto Toss (vegan, gluten free)
Photo: Chickpea Delight
Soak, then boil chickpeas (2 C when dry).
Add 4 fried onions, 1/2 C chopped sundried tomatoes, 1/2 C olives of your choice, then add 1 C homemade Pesto. Absolutely delicious! Serve either cold or hot.
Blend-basil, coriander, parsley, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, goats cheese, raw cashew nuts and 2 tomatoes.

Brownies (option: sub half the butter for coconut oil)
Fudgy Brownies

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Who will you share a meal with this week?