Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What I Learned in Uganda

So, some of this I already knew well before going to Uganda, but confirmation is always a good thing.  Other things were brand new to me there and it is incredible to be constantly learning more about yourself and others from around the world.  Some parts of the trip were hysterical; other parts as serious as it could be.  Here’s what I learned (or learned more about):

1.  Taking photos of the bridge that crosses the Nile River is illegal.  And even if you are taking a photo of the rapids and are not interested in the bridge whatsoever, you will still be pulled over by crooked cops if they see the flash of your camera.

2.  I am not above paying $10 to keep my camera and avoid any type of conflict with said crooked cops despite how much I protest paying bribes in other countries.

3.  Learning how to work the camera properly BEFORE arriving in Uganda would have prevented the problem.  So would listening to the driver that said taking photos of the bridge is illegal (but still, I wasn’t taking a picture of the bridge!).  Lesson learned: know your camera and even if your driver is “off”, pay attention.

4.  As afraid as I am of creepy, crawly things and most things with scales, I can sleep when there is a mini dinosaur of a lizard under my bed.

5.  Some guys are more afraid of mini dinosaur lizards than girls are.

6. Team leaders are not super humans.  In fact, they are just regular humans.  Like me.  It makes me feel better to be reminded of that.

7.  I can go MUCH longer on a LONG drive than I ever thought without stopping to use the restroom.

8. Gas stations are few and far between when riding to North Uganda.  And those that exist usually do not have toilets (the ones we found anyway). 

9.  Latrines are no big deal.  They serve their purpose.  So does the side of the road.  Because sometimes there is no latrine to be found.

10.  Lights out by 11pm.  Maybe before if the generator stops.  And I mean out.  For the whole town.  Until the next night when they come back on for a few hours.

11.  I can be in total darkness by myself for hours without having a panic attack despite being afraid of the dark.  God likes hanging out under mosquito nets in the middle of the night, too.

12.  There is a hospital in Arua.  If you’re dying, just suffer through it at home.  If you’re not, suffer through whatever it is that’s wrong.  Because if you go to the hospital, which appears to be the only medical care in the area, you probably won’t make it out alive.  The closest decent medical care is 7 hours away in Kampala or a short flight to Nairobi. 

13.  If you must be sick enough to require being flown to Nairobi, try to get sick during the day.  The tiny airport with the unlit dirt runway is not open at night.

14. People are human no matter where they live.

15.  Being the only girl on a team isn’t bad at all. 

16. Mosquitos will find the smallest hole in your hotel provided mosquito net and attack when you least expect.  And some of them obviously like the taste of deet.

17.  I can live on chips (french fries), toast and pineapple for 10 days.  And sometimes I prefer goat to chicken.

18. Being close to the (White) Nile River was as exciting as I thought it would be.

19. Having a fan in your room is pointless when the power is out.  You eventually get used to sleeping in the heat despite being used to having your thermostat set on 70 degrees or lower at home.

20. I enjoy cold showers.

21. Every country is not as full of stray dogs as Guatemala.  In fact, I only saw ONE the whole time I was there.  But just like in Guatemala, there are cows and goats and chickens that wander around all over.

22. Darkness is everywhere, but so is the Light and I know what wins in the end.

23.  Malaria really does kill a lot of children under the age of 5 simply because there are not enough mosquito nets being distributed.

24.  Even if people have access to clean water, they often do not use it for drinking just because they are not being educated on the importance of drinking clean water.  People are DYING from diseases caused by dirty water when they have access to clean water because how can they know if they are not educated?  And we all know that many still do not even have access to clean water.

25. Missionaries usually rock (the Taylors do!) and are totally human.

26.  Some people get it.  Most still do not.

27.  There are clothes and shoes and soccer balls and every thing else you might consider collecting and bringing over already in Uganda.  Buy it there.  And if you won’t take my word for it, find a missionary that “gets it” and talk to him or her.  They will tell you the same thing.  Let’s stop crippling already broken communities with our handouts.

28. After day 1 of any trip, especially this one, I do not care how much texts and calls cost and will pay anything to have access to my family and dearest peeps whenever I want. 

29.  God really does care about the seemingly small things that matter to you.

30.  Praying helps settle your stomach.

31.  Lost souls stand out more than poverty.

32. We need to rethink the way we think about short term missions and realize that we do not need to fix everything because not everything is broken despite what we think.

33.  Tukuls (hut houses) are NICE.  Really!  I WISH the poor in Guatemala could live like that, but hurricanes and earthquakes make it impossible.

34.  African tea is not bad, but my favorite wake me up drink will forever be my Guatemalan coffee.

35.  African mountain dew looks like a glowing toxic chemical and may very well be just that.

36. Coca Cola Light bottled in Kampala is better, yes BETTER, than Coca Light in Guatemala.

37.  You can fall in love with a place quickly.  And you can fall in love with the countries that border it without even going there.  I always thought that you could love a place and the people that live there without ever having visited.  Now I KNOW you can.  And that makes me pretty excited since I am still totally in love with the people of Southeast Asia (and maybe even India…we’ll see soon enough) and I have never been to that part of the world.  Yet.

38.  White people freak a lot of people out. 

39.  Muslims want to win Uganda.  It is coming across borders from all sides.

40.  I am loved.

41.  You can feel the prayers of your friends and family when you’re on the other side of the world.

42.  My husband rocks.

43.  So does our kid.

44. Flying still freaks me out.  I guess it always will.  And that’s OK since it’s never going to stop me from getting to where I have to go.

45. Being in Uganda makes you stink different than your typical “I’ve been sweating in the Louisiana heat stink” and it. is. BAD.  But it’s OK because everyone else around you smells the same way or worse.

And the biggest thing I learned….

46.  Guatemala is just a part of the story God is telling with my life, but it isn’t the biggest part or even the overall theme.  A new chapter is beginning.  I do not know what will be written.  Guatemala will definitely be in it, but so will some other parts of the world that until now I have only dreamed of.  And some country in Africa, maybe Uganda, maybe the Congo, maybe Sudan or maybe another part of Africa altogether may possibly (I will even say likely) be a part of it.  Every thing seems to be changing and because I know it’s Him turning the page and starting this new chapter, I like it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


We got back from Uganda two weeks ago and ever since I have been waiting and waiting for the words to really talk about the trip.  I’ve been able to sum up what we did (and didn’t do) easily enough, but going beyond surface level chit chat and answering, “It was great!” when asked, “How was your trip?”  hasn’t happened.  The words still do not come no matter how much I think about what I should say or write so I thought I would just start typing and see if anything starts to flow.

In the words of a friend that came to help me out the day after I got home, I’ll give you the basic, not “big God stuff” details first.  That’s the easy part.  It’s always the “big God stuff” that is hardest for me to describe.

We had no idea really what we would be doing during our time in Uganda other than meeting up with a missionary in Arua (we LOVE the Taylor family and I would go back to any country in Africa time and time again just to work with them…check out their blog HERE), getting to know our new partner pastor in Koboko and spending some time with the Uganda Baptist Seminary president in Jinja.  We knew this wouldn’t be a “work” trip, but we thought we would at least get to do some evangelizing.  Wrong and that is totally ok.  This was an assessment trip of sorts and even though we learned things that we aren’t very happy about(ministry…it’s never easy), we found out all we needed to know and jump started some serious and necessary training/mentoring/discipling after days of tough questions.  Basically, it was what I think a typical first mission trip to a new area should be.  Get to know the local leadership a bit.  Do nothing in the town/village other than meet people.  Pray and decide where to go from there.  And that’s what we did.  That may sound like a wasted trip, but trust me, it wasn’t.  It was a necessary trip.  We did what we set out to do and returned with the information we needed to move forward.

That’s the church answer.  The basic summary.  That doesn’t answer the tough questions I’ve been asked.  They don’t sound like they would be hard to answer, but for reason they are this time.

“So, did you see God’s hand in every part of the trip?”

“Was it life changing?”

“Will you go back?”

“How was it really?”

“Was it hard to be there?”

“Aren’t you glad to be home?”

As it so often happens, I think I can answer all of the questions that are still being asked much better here.  I have had two weeks to reflect and the longer I am here (away from Uganda), the more I can see God in every detail of the trip, from years before until now.  So that church answer, the basic summary above, is what we did and did not do in Uganda.  Next comes fun details about LONG van trips and almost getting arrested (not really, but we did have a scary incident), life without power and sometimes water and being the only girl in the group.  More importantly, how God brought me to the other side of the world to answer prayers up close and personal and what He is stirring in my heart now is coming soon…