My time in Uganda taught me so many valuable lessons that have affected me personally and spiritually and will stay with me forever. The new and foreign cultural experiences, rough times, classes and new relationships taught me three things, the importance of presence, poverty, and that God is truly my rock.
In Uganda, presence is a very important thing. You know what we Americans call awkward silence? That doesn’t exist to Ugandans. When you sit with someone in silence it’s not awkward, because their very presence speaks volumes. Though a person could choose to be anywhere, at that moment they are there with you. That is a huge blessing even when no words are spoken. I loved the culture of community where presence was such an important thing, and I have learned that we miss a lot here because we are so distracted with our technological worlds and digital lives.
Poverty. I know you expect me to talk about how poor Africa is, however, that’s not what I learned. Uganda does have a large population of people living in poverty, yet that is not the whole story. In the areas I stayed and visited, no one starved and everyone was clothed decently. Some were clothed nicer than many Americans and they definitely ate a lot more than we do. Here in America we get a single story of Africa: disease, poverty, and a wild place. However, I got to experience the real Uganda. It wasn’t like this at all. Yes those things exist, but there is much more to Uganda.
Seeing Uganda this way helped me to look more critically at our own country. America, while being materially rich is relationally poor. Before you get offended, consider that I am saying this from the perspective of a culture where everything is about relationship. A culture where there isn’t as much materialism and where building relationships is unhindered by distractions of modern technologies.
I came to see Uganda as so much more than the single story Americans are fed about Africa as a whole! It is a place where those who are medically trained are doing the best with what they have and doing a pretty darn good job too! It is a place where there are rich and poor just like anywhere else. It is a place where a University Honors College and International Students Association sponsor a nearby orphanage and school for the visually impaired. A place where music and dance are highly valued. It is a place where just the sight of a camera somehow signals to all bystanders that they must also be in the picture. A place where children, walking home from school, will randomly start a conversation with you. It is a place where young adults dream and plan out a future in which they can inspire others. It is a place where friends, of same and mixed gender, hold hands because they genuinely love each other. A place where looking “smart” (looking good) is highly valued. It is a place with people who will steal your heart and a place that quickly becomes home.
While I was there I experienced so much spiritual growth. I learned that I need to stop living in the future. God’s kingdom, and the unity and community that will be found there is something I look forward to a lot. However, I realize I need to stop waiting for heaven. Jesus already came to establish God’s kingdom and it starts now. My eternity began the minute I received Christ into my life. When I wait for the future, I miss out on the work God is doing now.
The most important thing I took away from the experience, pertaining to my spiritual life though, would be that God is my rock. It was hard being away from everything and everyone I knew. I was thrown into a different world, where I didn’t understand everything and felt so out of place. I wasn’t in my comfort zone anymore. In fact, I was far from it. I was an outsider and had no one who knew and understood me, except there was one person who did. It took me a bit to realize this. Around the halfway point I started leaning on God so much more. I did morning devotions with a Ugandan friend, Martha, played worship each day, found a spot and time to meet with Jesus and just talk to him. The results were wonderful. After this realization, the transition from homesickness and loneliness, to joy and a thirst for adventure each day became automatic. I felt loved and understood.
Through this, Jesus taught me that He is my sustenance. He will provide. I have told myself so many times knowing in my head it was true. But this was the first time I was really forced to deeply rely on Him and only Him. I now know it’s true. Not because it’s what I should believe or because it’s what I read in the Bible, I know it because I experienced it. Jesus is the oil that never runs dry. He is the meat brought by ravens. He is the manna from Heaven. He is the bread of life. He will sustain me and give me strength for each day.
These are just a few of the things I learned in Uganda and just a few stories. There are many, many more. I was there for four months! If you want to know more, please email me. We can meet up sometime and I can share stories and pictures. I obviously love talking about my experiences. If you are thinking of studying abroad, I strongly encourage you to do so. Especially if you think you might want to go on the Uganda Studies Program. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding. So what are you waiting for? Get over to the PFB and check out the study abroad options!
To read a bit more visit http://lovinugandadays.blogspot.com/