For the first half of September, I was fondly referred to as 'mzungu' meaning 'white man'. Now, I've never been one too keen on being yelled at through a car window... but when there are dozens of small smiling faces waving furiously and cheering at the fact that you returned their excitement with a small hand gesture... the yells become more okay and maybe even welcomed! So with that, here are 'confessions of a mzungu' featuring my most recent adventure to Uganda.
Seeing as this is my twenty-seventh time sitting down to try and write this post, I think it's safe to say I've had a hard time trying to bundle up my thoughts & experiences into one nicely wrapped package. I can confidently say I didn’t come to any conclusions I expected to (this seems to be a theme of my present season), but I experienced reality in the most beautiful way and for that I am thankful. So I'm not promising brilliance or well-put thoughts... but I hope to give you a small picture of what happened over the two weeks spent in Uganda.
Designing hope. Over the course of ten days, I had the honor of working alongside a brilliant team of design professionals from the US, UK & Canada. We partnered with Michael & Carolyn Guardian Trust to design a conceptual master plan for a transitional home for older orphans who are growing into adulthood. The heart behind this project was to provide a place that allows the ministry to embrace these young adults and equip them with the skills they need to send them into the working world with confidence and full dependence on the Lord. The site 2.5 acre plot consisted of 10 different buildings that supported residents, staff and guests alike. (I'll share more images and details as they come!) While the majority of our days were filled with surveys, site visits, designs & drafts, my favorite aspect was working aside like-minded people and learning how they've put their professional skills to use for the Kingdom. Pure gold I tell you. Here is a short video that gives you a glimpse into the daily happenings of our trip!
Experiencing beauty. The colors are rich, the landscape is vast, and the sounds are unbelievable. But past the physical beauty, the Ugandan people are absolutely precious. There is joy and life present amongst these people. I feel like I so often hear of the brokenness, hurt and pain in Uganda. And yes, it is widely present. But where is darkness not present? It became so clear to me that God has not forgotten is people. They are in His hand and He holds them with the same care and commitment as He does all His children. What blows my mind is how capable He is of holding their hurt, while also giving them abundant life. Having the chance to experience this abundant life was by far a favorite part of our time in Africa. More to come on this in the future!
After the project trip, a group of us went on a good ol' African safari. And holy cow -- God's creation is immense and beyond my imagination. As I sat on that safari van, feet dangling off the back, hair completely ratted from an entire day of windblown driving, body aching from bumping up and down with every uneven jog in the dirt path… I sat in complete amazement. I could look to my left and see the Nile River (THE LITERAL NILE RIVER MOSES WAS FOUND IN BY PHAROAH AND GOD TURNED INTO BLOOD – LIKE THAT NILE RIVER), to my right a herd of elephants settling down for the night. I looked behind me to see the most stunning sunset with huge grassy hills and a watercolor sky. Above me were the stars shining with brilliance. And God didn’t stop there – as we drove back home there was the most epic lightning storm I’d ever seen. Every 10 seconds there would be a completely silent but intensely bright flash of light that put everyone in awe. As the sun finally sunk behind the landscape and the night sky was in full bloom, a light rain started to fall. So there I was, on top of the van, getting more damp by the second, and all I could do was simply look up into the sky and praise the name of God. Praise the one who created the heavens and the earth. Praise the one who delights in showing off His creation. Praise the one who has created me with the same detail and enthusiasm as what I experienced out in that safari van. Praise the one who delights in our amazement of Him. MMMM – All of the praise. All of the time.
Seeing reality. Our time in Uganda was beautiful. But you know what stood out to me the most through it all? You don’t need any sort of epic adventure to find God. God is present. And He is the same amount of present in Uganda as He is in Oxford as He is in Kansas. However, sometimes you have to go on big epic adventures across the world and be standing in the middle of the African countryside to realize that all your heart really desires is Jesus. He is mysterious. He is unknown. There is so much to discover and experience every single day with Him. Yes, He’s created a big wonderful world that is full of adventure and excitement but sometimes it hits you square in the face that you’ve been seeking after it all with an expectation that you’ll meet God once you’re in the middle of it all solving the world's issue of poverty. Surprise -- not the case.
But you know what’s wonderful about God? He doesn’t hold us back. He doesn’t laugh in our face. He doesn’t get upset that we’re completely missing the point. He patiently lets us find our way. He follows us across the pond and sits with us on the 8 hour plane ride to Africa and laughs with us as we bounce around in the crazy ride through the city. He pushes through each long day of design on the project site and focuses with us as our minds are wrapped up in drawings & site surveys. And then, when the moment comes; when we finally realize what our heart is after, He joyfully wraps us in His arms. He picks us up and says, “I am here. I am here. I have been here every step of this journey and I will be with you every step of the next.” Cheers, am I right?
So yes, The Lord is working and I am discovering. He is teaching and I am learning. He continues to flip my perspectives upside down and I'm giddy with excitement when I think of what these next few months will hold!