Thanks to Timehop and Facebook I’ve been reminded lately that a year ago we were headed off to Uganda. I’m trying to remember the emotions I had back then, if I was nervous about the unknowns or just excited to let the adventure begin. I’m betting it was 90% the latter and only 10% the former.
Crazy how fast a year flies, especially when you’re spending time giving time to others. Now that I’ve been home for 4 months I’ve had time to sort through all the feelings I had about living in the pearl of Africa. There were a lot of positives and some negatives and I’d love to do it all again, but I’m not sure that I will. Random thoughts follow.
We were very much living like locals. Our place was small and not very comfortable. When we arrived we were okay with it because its what we expected. But the longer we spent there we realized that some of our return visits and bible studies were living better than us! We missed having a sitting area that wasn’t a bed or the floor. We missed having a kitchen inside our house, and hot water. After walking for 10+ miles on a hot dusty day, expending yourself in the ministry and talking yourself hoarse, we realized how much we missed comfort. But despite what you might think about one of the poorest countries in the world, you can be comfortable and at a price much lower than anywhere else. We met brothers and sisters who had beautiful furniture custom made for them – beds, dining room tables, couches – all for the price of IKEA furniture at home. We met a couple from England who were basically living in my new world house, and they had built it for pennies on the pound. So lesson learned. When you are in an assignment, small things like comfort matter and go a long way in helping the adjustment to a new place.
I miss the ministry so so so so so much. So much I don’t even like to talk about it when I’m here because I feel like I’ll be discouraging in a territory that is less than fruitful. A circuit overseer in Germany told us to be happy in whatever assignment we find ourselves in at the moment, and I’m starting to see how wise and true that advice is. But back to the paradisaical ministry that is Uganda. If ever you’ve wanted to preach to people spiritually thirsty, learn and use your bible backwards and forwards, wear out the spine on your Bible, fall in love with the Good News brochure… fly, don’t walk to Uganda. With a ratio of 1 publisher to 6,000 Ugandans, you have your work cut out for you.
All three of us left full time jobs to go preach, something that might seem crazy to anyone that doesn’t know our God. Because life was cheaper, we were all able to live off our savings for the most part. But remember that watchtower about seeing Jehovah’s blessings in your life? We saw them there and we saw them when we got home. We all returned to either the same jobs or better! My old company emailed me and asked if I would come back and help during the busy season. I returned to work not a week after our #worldtour, and then just last month traded up to a new part-time opportunity that works a lot better with my service schedule. Truly amazing.
We were in a congregation that only recently started having need-greaters a year before, while other congregations in the area were used to having brothers and sisters from England, Scandinavia, Canada on a regular basis. That was a challenge and a blessing. I guess you could say we broke them in to the ways of foreigners. While it helped open our eyes to the worldwide organization, I would venture to say it did that on even a larger scale for our beloved Southwest congregation. With only 30 publishers and 12 of them pioneering, I loved the zeal they all displayed. They had over 100 bible studies, so clearly the work was great. But despite oppressive weather in the dry season, and muddy condition during the rainy season they maintained their industriousness and ministry. All after waking up at 4am to do laundry and they somehow managed to be on time for the meetings for service! There were many examples of faith that I can imitate in that congregation. Sometimes I think we were sent there to help mellow them out and show them how to have a little bit of fun. And to teach them patience when we ran late for …. everything. Let’s call it balance. Because the truth is so new to the country itself, I think it is something they are still learning. Thankfully I’m able to keep in touch with quite a few in our congregation on Whatsapp. They all keep asking when I’m coming back.
Which, amusingly, is the same question everyone at home keeps asking me – when am I going back? (Are you guys ready to get rid of me already?) I wish it was that simple. If money wasn’t an issue I’d be there in a heartbeat. But I’d also be in Namibia, Congo, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador….you get the idea. A blessing to have so many places to go and preach, but difficult at the same time to choose one. I would like to make a more permanent move somewhere, but in a place where I can support the congregation and myself. I think I could commit to long term stint in East Africa if I were married, but as it stands I’m not, and you can’t ask even the best of friend to commit to whatever I want to do for the rest of their lives. (I checked. She said no.)
So for now I’m home, practicing contentment and wishing away Winter. I’ll never regret even a second of anything I was able to do this year, and as far as years go, that is as good as it gets.