Uganda: Part 4; III’s Perspective
I can’t believe he’s finally here!! Our trip to Uganda was life changing and I can’t imagine spending sharing it with anyone else. Let introduce my amazing husband, III!
**Words written by III, pictures inserted by me :o)
. . .
It is so easy for me to do something that might result in physical pain, but there is something inside of me that wants to keep my heart safe: safe from the pain of others, safe from the knowledge of poverty, safe from the pain of meaningful relationships, safe from orphan children, and most importantly safe from the danger of experiencing God. That is a very effective tactic for a comfortable life, and I’ve numbed myself for a while now. My medicine of choice oscillates between work, friendships, sports, etc, but it’s always something. I have wondered what it would take to pierce my heart and get past the numbness of complacency.
There is a school outside of Kampala, Uganda where Jesus is taught, kids are developed, hearts are changed, and hands are bloodied. The Jesus teaching, kid developing, and heart healing are the goals of the ministry, and they excel at it. Hand bloodying is not their goal, it is just a certain occurrence when Mzungu (affectionate term for white people) accountants and businessmen bust up concrete with rudimentary pick axes and shovels. My hands and my heart experienced both firsthand.
When I was told that I would be busting up concrete at a school that Sozo partners with, my first reaction was ‘sweet, this is something I can actually do.’ No emotions, or interaction required, just a task that needs to be accomplished. My position quickly changed when I actually saw the floor we were busting up and the tools we would be using. I wasn’t expecting a jackhammer, but I thought we would at least have sledgehammers. Instead we had just a few pick axes and some shovels. Jeff, Luke, and I aren’t the kind of guys to back down from a challenge, so we rolled up our sleeves and started swinging away! We worked hard, really hard, and by lunch our hands (especially mine) were ripped to shreds. I had at least 10 deep blisters on my hands!
We bandaged our hands the best we could right before lunch, and were ready to get back to it after we ate at a local pizza restaurant (I even eat Pizza in Uganda!). When we returned the Ugandan man that was supervising us looked at our hands in disbelief.
“What is wrong with your hands?”
“Blisters, from the pick axe.”
(1 minute of hysterical laughter)”Mzungus aren’t made for hard work (said in between the laughter); they are made to preach the gospel!”
It was the quote of the trip! And as funny as it was, there was an element of truth to his mockery. My soft hands were ripped up, but I was determined. My body might not have been prepared, but my mind definitely was. So, we keep breaking the floor up. Once we were finished, we started mixing concrete for the new floor. My hands kept getting worse, and at the urging of seemingly every person I saw, I quit with an hour or so left. By this time, every guy was helping, the rain was pouring, and we were getting another much needed shipment of sand. It hurt my pride to have to sit out the last hour or two, and watch others working. I am the typical prideful man, who doesn’t like to give up, or get pity. I’ve become a doer as I’ve gotten older. I used to be more laid back, some would even say inclined to laziness, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve changed. I become almost obsessive about completing a task, whether it’s running a marathon, completing work at my job, or anything in between. So, it is really a struggle for me to give up on anything. But God taught me a lot by ripping my body up. It’s not always about doing, it’s about being there. God didn’t call me to Uganda to accomplish tasks (as Allen said, the Ugandan people can lay floors better than we can!), he called me to love and to partner with Him in what he is doing; to teach, to be taught, to love, to be loved, and to grow. Having to stop was a blessing in disguise, because I got to meet Tracy, a beautiful little girl that LB and I will be writing on a consistent basis going forward.
If I wouldn’t have had to stop I wouldn’t have gotten to meet Tracy, which I would have definitely regretted. I wouldn’t have been able to remember that smile and the way she said ‘Uncle Trey’. I can visualize her which is worth the whole trip’s cost in time and money! I wouldn’t have gotten to high five and hug the kids as they were leaving for school. My hands would have been hurt, but that piece of my heart would have stayed in tact.
My hands are almost completely healed and calloused, but my heart is still wounded. I’m hurt and ashamed at my selfishness and lack of empathy; the way I have lived my life when I have such an opportunity to help others (from Atlanta to Uganda). I hurt for all those in poverty that no one is helping. I hurt for George, who is deaf and can’t communicate because the resources to teach him aren’t available. I hurt for those of us in America who have never known joy like the joy that I saw on some of those faces. But my heart was pierced the most by the love that was shown to me and the love that I felt for my new friends.
In Andrew who had a smile that shined.
For Julius, the future martial artist, who would strike a serious karate pose, and chop me 3 times before I could react.
In Ronald who stayed home from the weekly soccer game so that he could be there when I returned.
For Mato (the house dad) who told me it was a sad day because we were leaving!
In Sarah’s friend in the slums of Kabagala (I don’t even know her name) who felt the urge to pray over LB and I in a shack in the slums, even as her family was getting threatened by witch doctors!
For Esau who showed me how a 13 year old can be a better leader than a grown man!
In Enoch who cleaned up behind his brothers muddy footprints without being told and with no expectation of praise.
For Mary who hugged with reckless abandon.
In Daudi (16 year old version) who was the life of the party.
For Victor who danced for God!
In Ibram who dedicated himself to bracelet making so that LB’s wrist would be covered.
Embodied in Alex, the Sozo driver, who came to know Christ and was baptized in the Nile River.
I may never see my friends again this side of heaven, and even though I’ve only known them a short time, I miss them. My preacher said this morning that ‘once you’ve really encountered God you walk with a limp!’ I haven’t experienced anything traumatic but my wounded heart is a result of an experience with God through these people. My limping heart will eventually heal stronger than ever, better equipped to love, and to be loved. And my friends and Uganda will be a part of me; scars to help remind me of how God loves me and how he loves everyone from Atlanta to Uganda to the Philippines.