You think you stand on solid ground…

The whole weekend started on a positive note. We had the day off because it was Good Friday and had decided to go to the craft market in the afternoon. David and I only had two weeks left and the two of us in particular were interested in picking up a few souvenirs. The craft market was beautiful! I particularly liked the woven baskets and the paper beads; the women sat among their work under makeshift tents and were making them right there. We decided to head on foot to a nearby grocery store before taking a ‘matatu’ home, and while I was walking and doing perhaps too much talking and looking around, I stepped right into a hole in the road. Down I fell with my right leg, and my other leg twisted to the side, catching me at the waist. I sustained a knee injury that currently seems to be on the mend, but I will forever be more cautious walking down the street in Kampala.

Photo by Katherine McCourt

Besides my typical absentmindedness, this is an example of how life in Africa differs from that of North America. Yes, we have the money to live comfortably here in Kampala, – we have access to electricity and can filter our drinking water, if we spend the extra few dollars we can even cook or buy fairly international meals – but what is different is that these provisions aren’t dependable. Every other day the power goes out; the city water occasionally gets turned off days at a time; sometimes there is earth beneath your feet and sometimes there is not. These factors are often beyond our control and all we can do is be cautious and make back-up plans. We have a stock of candles and flashlights and cook with gas; we store large jugs of water in our kitchen; we look at the ground (or should be looking at the ground) when we are walking down the street. Even in business and daily life Ugandans live one day at a time because it is very difficult to plan for a future that is so uncertain and often unattainable.

I have been going to church at Calvary Chapel in downtown Kampala, and one Sunday I heard a sermon that really struck a chord with me on this same comparison. In North America we learn to be independent. We control our environments to such an extent that we can so easily feel as if we have no need for God. In a way we even become our own gods. In Uganda this is not the case at all. Because of the great uncertainties and the poverty that exist here, people have a genuine and much stronger faith in God. They depend on him almost for necessity because He is the only thing that is certain and unchanging in His promises.

I am an outgoing person and I love traveling and experiencing new and exciting things; however, I have discovered that I like to be in control, especially in situations under pressure. I rarely get homesick, but when I do it is usually because I am either injured or sick. Likely this occurs because I’ve lost control of the current situation, can’t do what I would normally physically do, and therefore want to go back to a familiar place. Going back to the story of the weekend, the interns had made plans a few days back already with our friends from the other ministry to go on Saturday and visit Ssezibwa falls, a small waterfall about an hour away between Kampala and Jinja. Even though I had been injured the day prior, I decided to go along because there wasn’t a lot of necessary walking involved and it was the only opportunity I would have to see the falls. Our whole group got a special hire to get there as it would be a lot less arduous than trying to take public transportation. It was only about two-and-a-half hours into our journey however, that we discovered that our driver did not know where he was going, or more likely that he was taking us to a different place than we thought we had specified. At this point I was in a pretty sad state with my fatigue and throbbing knee that was only made worse as our driver took on a few extra passengers along the way. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Africa and that I had to let go of the reigns and just ride things out, maybe even enjoy the detour. That’s exactly what happened and four hours later we arrived at the destination it only should have taken an hour to get to! It was still worth it however because the falls were beautiful. While everybody went up and hiked to the top of the falls, I sat contentedly and painted the scene. It was actually nice to be forced to slow down a bit. I certainly believe that God has wanted me to learn about slowing down and surrendering control to him. I’m the kind of person who is always running a mile a minute and I certainly don’t take as much time as I should to talk to God and reflect on His word. Ironically enough I just recently received a care-package from my parents (who know me all too well) with a card that said, “If God expected us to get everything done today… He wouldn’t have made tomorrow!” and quoted Psalm 84:9,10, “O God…Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Photo by Erland Mowinckel

As my time here in Uganda comes to a close, anxiety for the future is beginning to build up. In only a few weeks I will be returning to school to finish my last term of my undergraduate studies. I have no idea what God has in mind for me next, but I know that He is first asking me to slow down and give up these troubles to Him. He wants me to remember that it’s not what I do, do, do, do, but it is what He did that matters. On the previous Thursday, the day before I injured my leg, I led morning devotion on the story from the book of Luke when Jesus heals a paralytic.  I would actually prefer the subtitle to be different, because Jesus does not address the physical calamity first; rather, he addresses the real issue: the necessity for the man’s sins to be forgiven (Luke 5:17-26).  This is what he did for this man and what He came to do for the whole world.  On Easter Sunday many of the staff from eMi along with their families came to a sunrise service to celebrate and commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul writes,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

And because of God’s great gift, we do have something that remains constant and unmoving if we but trust and follow the words of God:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  -Matthew 7:24,25

Photo by Katherine McCourt

3 Responses to “You think you stand on solid ground…”

  1. Lise:
    You have been on incredible journey. And it will probably be the foundation for many life lessons God wants you to remember.

    And one also that as friends we read of and God gives us some lessons through your experiences. Life is relational. We learn from the experiences and relations we make. You also have a relationship with God that few your age have.

    You lament sometimes in your blog about your lack of studying Gods word or focus on him. I think that reading your blog has made this contemporary of your Mom’s feel that I need to be more on track in that department.

    You talk about being unsure and a little anxious about your future. This will be with you all your life as this is the urging of God to evaluate what you are doing. Without it we would blindly head off into doing what we want to do on our own.

    What a great lesson to learn from your trip that although we can plan things can change in an instant. That is why God tells us not to worry about anything…but to turn to him in prayer.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us back home. May the time you have left on your trip be a blessing. And we look forward to welcoming you back home.
    Jo Vandermey

    PS… I am a little envious of one the safari trip and the awesome Lion picture and the trip to a store with African fabrics…
    but instead I will live joyously through your blog . lol

    • Hi Joanne,

      Thank you so much for your prayer and encouragement. The time that I had left on my trip was indeed a blessing and I had a safe journey home. I look forward to seeing you and your family sometime soon when I come home to visit the parents. I brought lots of African fabric home and you’ll have to take some off my hands!

      Lise

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