Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finally got time to blog! :)

It’s hard to know where to begin.  I don’t remember how much I’ve said in my emails and what is just in my journals.  There is always so much to write because even the frustrating things during the day are so endearing and wonderful to me because I love these people so much.  I never imagined I could have felt this way about a group of people.  I absolutely love it here.  I wish the English language were adequate for expressing how much love I have come to know here.  After I was here only four days I thought of my leaving in three months and I began to weep.  Just yesterday at church I stopped singing (the darling worship leader has written the worship songs in Luganda so that I can sing along) and just stood to watch and listen.  My beautiful African friends were worshipping in all sincerity with arms lifted, many of them dancing.  They were singing in African and my students were beating those wonderful African drums.  I turned my face toward heaven and prayed, “God, do you just absolutely love it here?  Is this your favorite place on Earth?  Because it’s definitely my favorite.”  I could feel Him smiling in response. 

A few weeks ago, after my first Sunday service in Uganda, I was sitting in Teacher Eddie’s office (Eddie is a real salt-of-the-Earth kind of guy – he’s also the assistant pastor of the church here and the worship leader) with Teacher Eddie and with Paul, who is one of the Bible students about to leave to study in Nairobe, Kenya.  We were chatting for a while and when Eddie stepped out for a moment, I could feel Paul studying me.  I ignored it because I learned quickly here to ignore people rubbing my skin, tugging my hair, and peering into my eyes to see if they are indeed green.  But after a pause Paul said to me, “I think that God has a purpose for you here in Uganda.” I turned to him in surprise. “Why is that?”  He replied, “I know it is God who has brought you here.  I believe that everyone who comes to us here in Uganda is because God wants them to be here.  It is not easy for you to come to Africa, to leave America.  We could give you any amount of money and it will not convince you to come.  It has to be God who brought you.  I will pray for you that your time here will be safe and you will know why God has brought you here.” 

That evening the missionaries and I went to the airport to pick up two ladies from the United States who stayed with us for a couple weeks.  The drive back from Entebbe to Kampala was hilarious!  It was of course their first time in African traffic and if they hadn’t been prayed through when they landed then they certainly were when we got to the compound!  They kept shutting their eyes and whispering, “Oh Jesus!” every time we hit a giant pothole or dodged a boda-boda or almost hit a pedestrian.

Because there were other women with us, I got to accompany Bro. Tolstad to the villages later that week.  I think I like the villages more than the city.  I’ve never seen worship like that in my life!  I was completely humbled.  One church in particular was my very favorite.  As soon as we pulled up, the people began to pour out of the doors to greet us.  The women would hit their knees in the mud to shake our hands, and they likewise hit their knees when they put money in the offering baskets.  They were SO friendly and welcoming!  They had such beautiful spirits.  A few knew a little English and they would say, “God bless you. You are most welcome!”  After that service was over, I was the last to leave the church building.  As I walked down the narrow center isle, I stopped to shake a kiddo’s extended hand.  But instead he wrapped his little arms around my legs and laid his head on me.  Then suddenly from nowhere all the other kids joined in like a flood.  It was like these children came out of the woodworks from every corner of the little church, literally running to hug me.  They began to cling to me and, when the crowd of children got too thick, the children on the outside just wrapped one arm around another child and then leaned in to touch me with their free hand.  It was like the sweetest, most wonderful group hug I have ever had.  I couldn’t understand a word they said, but they looked up at me with huge smiles and shinning eyes that said, “I LOVE you!  Don’t leave.”  And they would NOT let go!  Their parents were crowding around the kids, trying to shake my hand and hug me, but they had to reach over their kids’ heads.  I started to inch towards the door, but that did not detach the children.  Some would let go and others would latch on in their place.  Then they started bringing gifts – avocadoes!  The older kids came running up, handing me avocadoes over the children’s heads as gifts of blessing and thanks.  I had to pry my hand free of tiny fingers in order to accept the gifts, thanking the people in Luganda.  Everyone else had made it to the car, but the people in the church kept reaching out to me and blocking my exit.  Finally Tonney, our driver, fought his way through the crowd to escort me outside with an umbrella through the African rainstorm.  Tonney was laughing at me, “You have made some new friends!”  The children ran after me all the way to the car and after I got in and shut the door they kept reaching in to shake our hands and to wish us blessings.   They shouted and waved at us until they couldn’t see the car anymore. As we drove away I looked down at my lap full of avocadoes and my arms streaked with African mud and wished with all my might that I could stay forever in that tiny village.  Precious God, thank you for bringing me here.