I have been back for awhile now and I am realizing how difficult it is to write when I really don’t know many (most?!) of the details of my next steps. But, enough stalling!
There are so many stories from my time in Uganda (including being featured on National Ugandan News TV!) but, I think the stories can wait for another time; we should talk about what my plans are in light of this trip.
I am learning every person is a story. I met many people on this trip, but one person represented a story that made a distinct impression on me. Stephen reminds me of myself; we are both 26 and we are both engineers. After that the similarities end. Stephen was raised in the shadow of the LRA (Lord’s Republic Army – a rebel army/terror group which infected Northern Uganda until just recently) and the difficulties and horrors he experienced are so opposite my safe, comfortable childhood that it is difficult to believe his story. Statistically, Stephen should not be where he is today. As a orphan, in war-torn Northern Uganda, Steven would have been extremely lucky to have any formal schooling. But, his story is different. In a region where leaders are scarce, Stephen is a leader in his community. While I was spending my early 20’s watching Netflix, Stephen was creating a non-profit construction company that employs 40+ people. Right now Stephen’s company is building a school for 300 primary kids, and his goal is to break even. His next project is another school where his company will also not turn a profit.
What changed? How can someone go from years living as a refugee to being a community leader? Someone cared. In his case, two someones. The first was his uncle who raised him and made sacrifices so stephen could have a chance at a education. The second was a guy named Bob who cared enough to see a need and realize he could be part of the solution.
I really don’t consider myself a ‘bleeding heart’. I tend to be a bit cynical of those who want to ‘change to world’. But, there are stories like Stephen’s which show what can be done just by taking the time to care, and maybe I can play a very small role in someone’s story.
The next pages of my story will be written from a hot, dusty corner of Uganda. Not because I am ‘saving the world’ but because I have been given much and some people are asking that I give a bit back.
It is not my intent to preach, but why did people believe Jesus was God when they saw Him? Because He did not just say things, He did things. He sacrificed. How will anyone today reach the same conclusions? It will certainly not be when we go to church once a week and ignore those around us. How can I say that Jesus loves the people around the world if I view that world through the lens of CNN and turn the channel when it gets disturbing? I really don’t know how much help I can be, but when someone like Stephen or Bob ask for a hand, I have to consider that this might be my Savior showing me my next step in following Him.
So, for the next few months I will be in Petoskey to complete some commitments then I plan to be back in Gulu sometime in November. The current plan is to be in Uganda for two-ish years. But, to be honest, I really don’t know how long I will be in Africa, I suppose until the Lord directs otherwise.
Annndd…I brought some friends home…
Already, Africa has proven to be a difficult place to live. Within four hours of returning home, I started to feel pretty awful and after a few trips to the hospital (which is conveniently across the street from my apartment 👍) they determined I had malaria. This made me first malaria patient in years for my northern Michigan hospital. Everyone there found it very entertaining and interesting-I kinda felt like a zoo exhibit: “so you REALLY have malaria?”. Yup… Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way and my blood decided to experiment with it’s chemistry, which landed me in the hospital again – this time for three days. This continued to add to the ‘firsts’. First IV (followed by many more…) first overnight in the hospital, and the first time ever meeting my insurance deductible. Good stuff! But, I am now malaria free and I am told the first case of malaria is the worst-so I am good to go!
Just kidding! A few days ago I began having fevers and realized this seemed oddly familiar. Back to the ER (where everyone now knows me by name…) and I was told my old friends had returned. Turns out, the medicine (Coartem for those medical people out there) I was given I only completely effective 88% percent of the time… Opps… So, I am on medication #2 (Malarone) and I actually feel great after the first of 8 doses. I may even get to go home today – good stuff. But, I have to admit I was very discouraged when the fevers returned. But the Lord reminded me of when Paul had similar feelings. Jesus reminded both Paul and I that when we are at our weakest is actually when His strength is able to be the strongest in us. If nothing else, this little episode has been a good reminder of that.
All this reminds me that I am truly not yet home.