Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rain? Yes, please. Apwoyo Matek [thank you very much].

Right before I wrote this entry, I heard a car alarm go off and then frantic, heavy-footed running. Still not certain on what happened, I hope what I heard wasn't someone running away from a car they had just broken into. TILB? For clarification, please proceed :).

[Outside Ron and Joy's house--a striking sight]

I've been up since 3:15 AM, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I'm not sure how soon i'll switch back to U.S. time, but I'm thankful school doesn't start for another few weeks. Since I've been home (a whoppin' two days), I've been experiencing a pretty consistent nausea between the hours of 4:30 and 8:30 PM CA time. I'm pretty sure it's the Malarone (the preventative Malaria meds we have to take)--good thing I only have a few days left of those things. They certainly won't be missed. As I was sitting here reading the awesome blog posts that Tim and Tracy Taber posted for us while we were away  (, I was welcomed by early AM rain so soothing and rhythmic--the perfect backdrop for some not-so-random but not entirely structured reflection.

[A must-have: mosquito nets around our beds]

An ongoing joke/mantra we had during our trip to Uganda was TIA...This is Africa. Basically, that just meant that regardless of how much planning and prepping there was, there's a pretty good chance that plans would change and that we shouldn't be thrown off by it. Roll with the punches. I'm seriously debating making T-shirts for future teams :). I'm almost certain we heard the acronym thrown around at least once a day. We all said it in good spirits and, most of the time, found much humor in it. We often live such structured lives, and the flexibility that a "TIA" attitude can hone in a person is quite valuable. That's definitely something that I loved about being in Uganda. I completely lost track of the time; most of the time I had no idea what day of the week it was. The days were long, and I felt that they were lived in full. With the exception of one day (where we basically experienced a sample platter of various ministries), I never felt hurried. The idea of a hectic lifestyle seems to be completely nonexistent in the African culture. Giving it more thought, i'm sure this idea doesn't exist in most places outside of the United States.

[Left to right: Margaret, Betty and the amazing Evelyn
(hands down one of the most anointed interpreters I've ever seen in action)]

[Our sweet ride for the time we were there. It was amazing the amount of stuff/people
we were able to fit in that thing. Moses, the driver, was remarkable! The 15 years of
 experience was evident.]

[An aside]: The rain's coming down hard now. Buckets full :D! I just love how cleansing it is--especially when you live in Los Angeles. Clean slate. Fresh air for a few hours. 

TIA, indeed. A country the size of Oregon. Over 20 dialects. Though I was constantly reminded of my love for languages on this trip, I was met with an equally deep frustration when I experienced but a glimpse of the diversity within the country of Uganda. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the diversity. I can just see how both natives and non-natives alike can experience discouragement when it comes to the communication barrier. It's apparent that the beauty and challenges of culture are often manifested in language--knowledge of the language or lack thereof.

One experience in particular led me to learn the language of the people in Gulu with greater fervor. Our first day doing Medical work in a village, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I felt so much love, yet I experienced this great burden of not being able to communicate to these beautiful people I was walking by--wordless yet with so much to say. In ways, it was hugely debilitating. After some tears and some prayers by amazingly supportive and understanding teammates, the gentle voice of the Lord reminded me that His love would break any barriers--communication or otherwise. Until I was able to learn more words and phrases, I was able to laugh, cry, dance, pray, and smile with the people--all of which are completely universal.

While in Gulu, I did my best to learn Luo (the language of the Acholi). After asking "How do you say ______?" enough times, our friends at GBCC (Gulu Bible Community Church) caught on and realized that I wasn't just asking to ask--I actually wanted to learn. My excitement was met by theirs, and a beautiful language-learning experience blossomed. I was even gifted a Luo Bible (Baibul). Learning the language added a much needed layer of depth to this trip. Even a simple greeting in a person's specific dialect would break the ice. Knowing just a handful of words speaks volumes. Each word learned meant another layer of commonality established between the "us" and the "them." By the end of our time in Gulu, I was getting a hang of some of the basics.

Ideally, I'd like to tell you that I was able to implement what I learned in Gulu, but in actuality, it became null in void everywhere else we went. A large number of Ugandans, including Michael (our partner from Africa Renewal Ministires) and Moses, our rad bus driver, speak Lugandan.  The minute we were out of Gulu, I'd have the urge to say words and phrases I knew to everyone I came into contact with but quickly remembered they speak a whole different dialect. Apwoyo (the broad greeting of Luo had to be quickly replaced by the Lugandan Oliotye. After some wrestling thoughts, I came to the conclusion that rather than dwelling in the angst of the various languages spoken so geographically close together, I knew that I would find more rest in celebrating the diversity than mourning it.

Time and time again, i'm floored by the massiveness and the universality of our God. His body is diverse, but yet also created for great unity. Talk about a powerful image! He is the most universal you can get, but he is also the best representation of intimacy that we could ever see or embrace. He is truly Lord of all.

I leave you with this: proof that dancing and laughter are universal:

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