Sunday, 28 April 2013

Processing Uganda - The Paradox of it all

The Lord has sent us and He has brought us home again.  Each of us will tell you, we’ll never to be the same.  I have wanted to write about this trip, to help sort things out.  I have been asked to speak a couple of times since my return about our trip.  But I’ve had a hard time with both. To do so requires summing up our trip in a few short minutes and communicate the highlights so the hearer or reader has an idea of what we saw and lived and possibly have an idea of what it was really like.

I’m not sure I can do that.

I’ve been struggling with this myself – this trying to compartmentalize everything into nice neat fragments that fit just so into a box, so I can file it away and carry on.  But it just won’t fit.

How does one take the scars left on a baby who has been abandoned in a pit latrine and put her nice and neat into a box?  And there is the precious baby of only 7 or 8 months old who was abandoned at a prison.  Redemption came for her, and she has been released from M1 into the care of 60 Feet to receive all the love she needs.  Even so, she has the saddest face you will ever see.  I held her and rocked her and sang to her.  And she fell asleep in my arms on Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate redemption in our risen Lord.  Maybe one day she will tell of her story and the wounds of abandonment that Jesus healed.  How do you pass by her on a 5 minute summary of our trip?

I saw so many, and there are so many more.  Hundreds, thousands, millions.  Each of them has a name.  Each of them is formed in the image of God.  Many of them treated as trash to be thrown out.  It’s hard to see, it’s hard to take in.  It’s hard to know what to say.

I saw sin de-robed in Uganda.  Sin abounds in the entire world, but in North America sin is affluent.  It dresses its darkness up so fine, it’s hard to see, hiding behind wealth and smiles and masks.  But sin can’t disguise itself in the midst of poverty; it can’t afford to clothe itself, so it’s open for all to see.  And I truly was not ready for that.

I saw poverty, rampant, blatant, and so ingrained in a culture, its normal. 

I saw oppression and a people walking, yet bound, heavy laden, toiling and reaching for the almighty dollar. 

I saw the raw consequences of coveting the god named mammon.

Yet I saw beauty, in the land and in the people.  I saw what life should be, simple and free to love, really love.  Ugandans have generous humble hearts and are a people unashamed of their Saviour.

We went.  We served.  It was a most humbling experience.  The “I” in this proud heart would like to tell you that we did great things.  That babies and kids are happier, closer to Christ, or somehow better off because we went.  I’m not sure I can say that.

And there-in lays the paradox.  God commands us to go.  God commands us to serve and care for and visit the orphan, the oppressed and imprisoned.  Yet the problem is so enormous, and we are so small.  We can’t make a difference.

But we serve a mighty Lord who can and will make a difference when we obey – even if we don’t see the difference He made through us.  We are not excused to disobey God’s Word because the problem is too big, the need too great, and we’re not sure the difference we’re going to make.

It’s about Him.  Not us.  And maybe that’s why I can’t wrap this whole experience up just nice and neat and stuff it in a box.

If there is one verse I put my entire faith into for our trip, it would be Matt. 10:40:  “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.”

The first three days, we visited places so hard.  And at each of those places – an impoverished fishing village, a government orphanage, and a child prison – we could have been refused just as easily as we were received.  Yet at each place, we were received.

And Jesus promises that in the simple act of being received, these villagers, these imprisoned children abandoned by the world, the staff of the facilities – they received Him who sent us.

It is my prayer that His light will continue to shine in those places so He may be known.

"For in You the fatherless finds mercy."  Hos. 14:3

Monday, 15 April 2013

Processing Uganda - The world goes round just like before

The much anticipated trip to Uganda is now over.  I have absorbed and now I am processing all that I have seen, experienced and lived.  Since the prayerful pen is the way I figure things out, I expect I’ll be posting a bit more than usual over the next few weeks.  It is my prayer that as you read you’ll be encouraged, and maybe even motivated to stand up and go, love your neighbor in the name of Jesus, in some way that you have never done before.
The World Goes Round Just Like Before
It is April 15th, opening day of salmon fishing.  The familiar sound of motor boats, travelling the river, echoes a constant groan from just outside my window.  Geese honk and squawk all about announcing their annual return to a Canadian spring and the beginning of mating season.  The sun rises and sets.  The school bus arrives to pick up the kids at the same time.  My job demands my time, the groceries need to be bought.  The world goes on as usual.
And I stand amongst it all, this passing by of the world, and it seems a blur and is making me dizzy.   I want to yell “STOP!” yet would anyone really hear?  These words of Solomon come to mind as I stand still in a hurried world, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”  Ecc. 1:14
Where are we going in all our hurry?
Two weeks ago today I stood in a tiny, remote fishing village in Africa.  I stood amidst filth and poverty like I never imagined existed.  I took the hand of a young girl as she led me through her village of mud and straw buildings of adjoining rooms, each room a home to a family.  The buildings were separated only by a path big enough to walk through, the path was covered in water containing more than last night’s rainfall.  I stood and prayed as the gospel was shared and then demonstrated.  It was heart wrenching.  It was surreal.
Two weeks ago I stood in the middle of a compound which is home to orphaned children, a government run orphanage equipped for less than half of the children it currently holds.  Our team of 18 were surrounded by 170 children mostly under the age of 12, desperate to take a hand and receive a hug.  I held a 24 month old who had been abandoned by her mother in a pit latrine.  She rested her little head on my shoulder and began to tap a rhythm on my other shoulder.  Then she sang me a song in her language.  I sang “Jesus Loves You” and prayed over her for an hour; because Jesus’ name is power, and prayer is power, but I am nothing in the midst of this vast hopelessness.
I have seen darkness, despair, hopelessness beyond what I ever imagined, beyond my ability to translate into words.
And now I am home.
And the world rushes on, unaware.  I stand still, lost in this rush, dazed by what I have seen, by the contradiction of it all; resisting the push and pull to resume life as ‘normal’. 
Yet I know not how to go forward with the incongruity what I have seen and with how I live, except to cling to Christ; and to go back to where this wild adventure all began:
  • Isaiah 58: where the Lord says, through Isaiah, “Cry aloud, do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Is. 58:1
  • A dangerous prayer:  Where I have prayed once again, “Here I am Lord.  Use me.  Take me out of my comfort zone and put me in over my head.  Then I will know it is you who has done this thing, and not me.”
  • And a new prayer based on Is. 58, “Lord, let this heart that You have shattered never view the world the same way again.  Help me Lord, to love my neighbor and not to turn away from my own flesh.  Show me how to spend myself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed."
For now that I know, I will surely be held accountable.
“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48