Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Here is my number but dont put a zero before the seven like i had it before; oops

Sunday, May 21, 2006

So this is Mary, the little girl I want to steal and bring back to the US with me...along with the six other kids who live with her.

I know, I know, highly illegal. But still. You met them earlier in my blog...part of Jonathan's orphans. I've been visiting them as much as I can and one of the great joys of my life right now is being attacked by a troupe of screaming children in their excitement to see me. Tucking these little girls into bed, helping them say their prayers, and hugging the boys before I go, is what makes me feel alive here. I do what I can, but have a dream of doing so much more. A dream of creating a village with a homey house for them, a school, and teaching them projects like candle-making to sustain them. Right now this is only a dream, but I am praying about that dream becoming a reality. Something community-based and sustainable. Something that empowers and doesn't teach reliance. I have always wanted to build a safe place for those in need, and here in Uganda, women and children are the ones who suffer most. I am trying to plan and put together a proposal. Ideally, I could start my own NGO here with the help of Jonathan and others. But am still waiting until I have a clear vision and next steps because these orphans are here in Kampala and I still want to do so much up North. Needs are everywhere and it is between us and God to figure out which ones and in what way He wants us to meet them.

Mom is sending over some clothes and stuff for them, which will be so fun to see the looks on their faces. I'm probably going to do some speaking and fundraising when I come back to the US, but for now I am content to play games with them and try to "mother" them as best as I can--like reminding them to brush their teeth!

Going up to Lira which is in the north for a few days to look into a sustainable development project run by abundant life and to assess needs so I can know where to help so will be out of commission but please keep leaving comments because they encourage me.

Friday, May 19, 2006

(one of the many beautiful orphans you can come to hold if you visit Uganda)

A lot of exciting things are happening. First of all, I don't want you guys to worry about me, I sort of realized after a mini-lecture by a loving person who will remain anonymous :) you know who you are---that I might be freaking people out with all my talk of "unsafe" activities. I really do try to let God guide me and do try to be safe, so as they say in Africa, Hakuna Matata.

It amazes me when we surrender our plans and our will over to God, how he blesses us, sometimes I don't even really believe it myself. I'm like, am I still going to screw this up? But after the saga of not going up to Kitgum (for right now) which was fairly emotional and hard for me, I really just was like--"ok God whatever you want me to do" and was just living day by day in Kampala, waiting for when God would do something through the ministries I was connecting with. I honestly was not trying to fight my way up there, even though that would be the normal me thing to do--and what has happened is that God has connected me with so many amazing people and opportunities up there. I've been able to interview a journalist and gain info on the North, also I met an incredible young woman named Maresha and her partner Peter who are building a model program in Lira--which is another district in the North which is so safe it'll be like I'm walking around in bubble-wrap and more secure than other regions, so they have begun to let some people filter back from IDP camps. Their vision is to give the community ownership and let the "orphanage" they want to build be that I mean, it will belong to the community and will happen through individual homes and not one big center. She has some other incredible ideas too that I'm going to learn from and try to build on--micro-enterprise, vocational training...really creating an environment of self-suffiency. Because too often what happens is that these big NGO's come in here and establish their little kingdoms and get all this funding and really create a reliance upon themselves, vs. empowering the people. The truth is--the earth begins to be again our source of life and with its resources we can flourish and get everything we need. We need medicine--and there are herbs, we need food, and we can plant. We can use our hands and sometimes that's what we need to re-connect to God's creation. If I ever create my own org, I want it to be radically different and not dependent upon me.

Blah blah blah. It's really an innovative idea they have and I am totally on board with it...yesterday I helped her create a brochure for her NGO. I'm seeing how God can use me to serve others and at the same time learn from them.

I am also seeing how things we didn't think we were gifted at can totally surprise us. Turns out God might be using me to be a not, start the fights, I said, mediate. :) Really what I'm seeing is that people like me, a short-term (for now) missionary comes to the field with all my well-intentioned enthusiasm and want to roll up my sleeves and start changing the world one kid at a time and sometimes don't know how I can learn from all the mistakes and victories of missionaries before me. So really I've been like a little sponge lately. On the other hand, there are missionaries here long-term who sometimes don't know what our expectations are or how to best place us, so we end up feeling disollusioned or we end up causing them problems because of not knowing certain things. Short-terms come to serve but end up not feeling their talents used. Long-termers work hard at making plans for us, but end up feeling frustrated and like it was more work than it was worth. If we could come in and not try to change everything, and if they could understand we came to serve but in our skills (bow-staff skills, num-chuck skills) then things would flow much better. Turns out there is quite a bit of strain between the short-termers and long-termers and if we could just sit down and talk through some of our expectations and what is hard for each of us then we could improve the relationships a lot more. I can really see both perspectives. What I'm working on for the missionary couple I'm staying with who are through Touch the World Uganda, is a series of questionaires and evaluation forms for both types of missionaries so that we can best meet each other's needs.

Whew that was long :) Long story short---I will most likely be going up to the North--to Lira, and then possibly to Gulu to work with another amazing program of a man named Robert who I met and will get to serve the people I came to fight for, after all. We cannot help what we are driven towards. And sometimes when we let go of a thing, it finds us again.

Continue to pray for ending of the war. Much of the agricultural component and other dreamy things I want to do cannot really happen until there is peace.

Oh and if you're interested my new address is
P.O. Box 71515
Kampala, Uganda
(yeah no zip..just uganda, no wonder so much stuff gets lost)

in case you want to um...send me a letter or package or something. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Find a way to get your hand's on The Unconventional War put out by the Sentinel Group. It came out in 2005 on the war in Northern Uganda. It's riveting and reveals the true occultic origins of the war. It's changing my destiny and my whole take on the war and trying to end it. Get it! Enough said.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Girls at an orphanage called St. Mary Kevin in Kampala dancing their traditional ceremonial dance in honor of our coming to visit last week. The orginial rump-shakers. Never seen anything like it. And no ladies, I can't quite move like that. The things attached to them that look like skunks, are part of their traditional attire--makes the shaking look more...shake-tastic. Makes me think of that song.."my milkshake..."

They put on this whole big thing just because we came to play with them. Two girls from the states came out and brought food and toys, which was a huge hit since often the orphanage struggles to feed all the children. They have street kids from Kampala and also ones that they have found from the North. You take one look at these kids and you just want to start throwing money at them they're so cute. And they all want my address in the states.My plans of taking one home with me were foiled when I learned you have to live in Uganda for three years before adopting. Stupid adoption laws.
More to come.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The things I do for internet :) I decided to walk from my retreat center along the Nile--which by the way I would highly recommend. I'm staying in this adorable little hut--straight out of swiss family robinson and loving life. With all my running around like crazy trying to save the world, I really needed this time of fact we all do but don't do it enough. I feel like I'm having all these little Anne Lamott moments...funny things in the midst of trying to be spiritual. I love to read, but I realized after eight hours of it....I get bored. I did two brave things today--both which were pretty stupid. I started to walk to town and about five steps into it, slipped in the mud with my flip flops and got caked with mud on my legs and all over my favorite hippie long green skirt. At that point most people would take that as a sign and give up. But I decide just to change and head out again, this time, on a boda-boda. Now let me explain this, a boda is nothing other than a glorified moped. Couple that with mud and night-time and it's a recipe for disaster. So I'm haggling the guy about the price, because obviously he thinks I'm stupid and white, but when I hop on I realize, I should just give the guy what he wants lest he drive off with me into the bushes somewhere. Town is farther away than I realize. So I close my eyes (and mouth) or I might be having mosquitos for dinner. Miraculously I make it only to find the cafe is closed...but I am on a mission--I find another one and here I am sunburned, but full of all the happiness time alone with God can bring.

The other stupid thing I did which turned out ok was I decided to get in the Nile. I'm writing this so obviously I wasn't eaten by a crocodile, although I did have flashes of that as I entered the water. It took me like ten minutes to gather the courage to get in. I kept thinking some weird african bird or fish was going to eat my toes. But really because these kids on the other shore kept waving at me to get in, I couldn't let them watch me chicken out, even if they were only 5 and didn't have any clothes on. I swam for a good ten minues and then fought my way back to shore. Apparently the current is pretty strong here (more visions of me getting sucked into a whirlpool of death I had to overcome in order to get in.) With each fear we overcome we find most of our fears are unfounded. Don't worry Mom, I'm not looking for more fears to fight.

The thing about solitude is you learn a lot about yourself. I'm finding I could be pretty happy doing what this woman who runs this place does--she counsels leaders, kind of like a spiritual guru, and is opening a dormitory for abducted girls from the North to come down and get counseling and spiritual guidance to heal from their past. She draws people into their own hearts and into encounters with god and that is really what I'm into. Talking. :) I really got a revelation from god today that as Christians we are so broken ourselves and running around trying to help people, when we really need to take time out and help ourselves. This woman used to work with street kids in kampala for years and eventually said she felt worn out and taht the promises of God were not true because she had poured herself out but not received. finally she just told God, ok what do you want me to do because either you are wrong, or I am wrong. God led her to open up this place because he said she had spent a lot of time working for him, but not being with him and he just wanted her heart. Ten years from now, I don't want to be on a road towards weariness. I want to learn these lessons young so I don't have to wait til I'm 50 to realize I missed God in my striving to do things for him.

What we really desire in life is communion= union with--God, ourselves and others. We look for it in everything we do. As much as I love sunburns and solitude, I miss sharing life after a few days.
But I am finding God out here, like the line from one of my fave poems, “Rest in the arms of love,” which seems to take shape out here among the cranes sweeping low over the water, the ashes from small campfires dusting the wind like snow, the boats dropping anchor at midnight under moonlight. Jinja feels like the beach, like a summer without memory, and without regret.
Eden was where God first walked with man, it was in creation that God made himself known and that still stands true. We need more of it in our lives.

God still speaks if we are brave enough to listen. I’ve been reading a lot of Isaiah…of course Can’t get enough of that old prophet.
”I am the Lord who teaches you to profit who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commands, then your peace would have been like a river.” Is. 48

The first command being “love the lord your god.” I know I don’t do it enough.

Keep praying for me—I am still figuring out what to do, but it no longer matters as much. I can’t complain and I’m learning how useless it is to anyway. The words we speak over ourselves do matter. Two thumbs up for positivity. I am learning that wherever I go, whatever I do, God goes with me…like God said to King David, “Do what is in your heart to do, and I will go with you.” ( II Sam 7:3)

I did meet a woman here who reminded me about a woman whose name I was actually given before…she works with child mothers in Kitgum…so it’s a definite option.

Will try to send pictures soon. Until then imagine me in my little hut overlooking a scene probably much like the garden of Eden. Green. Palm trees. And a tropical river.
Mto Moyoni means heart of the river, in Swahili, but I think of it more like river of my heart.
Go get out into the wild. Like campbells' soup--It'll do you good.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ok so I haven’t left to find the source of the Nile yet. But I leave tomorrow to hop on a bus towards an unknown destination (star trek music fades in.)

I finally read the comments you guys have been posting. It’s kind of amazing to me that people actually read this thing. I’m sort of self-conscious now. But don’t stop. It puts a smile on my face on a rather difficult evening in Uganda. So thank you. I’m not just ignoring you, it’s actually next to impossible for me to get time to respond. Or rather, the internet connection will cut in and out like five times. It makes me want to throw things at the techy people and say “boo!” But that’s totally inappropriate in Uganda, probably in the US too. So I guess some things are culturally transferable.

I don’t have much time, but wanted to say thanks for all the shout outs. They help boost my spirits when I want to throw in the towel. The most interesting part about the missions community is the fact that we are all passionate and have to find unique ways to align our passions. I'm realizing not everyone is like me! (ha)
So if you pray, send up one to the big guy for me. I could definitely use it. My plans have sort of been changed and I’m not heading up to Kitgum (ie---land of my heart) so I’m sorting through what to do. I know there is purpose for me here, I just have to find it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The shadow of the banana tree leaves dancing on the courtyard wall, the guitar chords strummed softly in the house, the birds of different colors chiming in with the sound. The sun’s long afternoon rays lazily alighting the tile floors, the brush scrubbing rhythmically the mud away from their whiteness, the water dripping off the banisters, the smell of soap as an African man lays into his work.

I feel a sense of belonging finally. And freedom. I have missed that feeling like I used to feel on nights in Colorado in the middle of fields and sweet-sticky hay barns, a drum circle, and a kind of closeness to God and the earth I could abandon myself to. Isn’t that what we want? To feel alive? I wonder how often we feel it.

A woman strewn on the street with twin babies. Maybe drugged, maybe drunk. Someone had to tap her hand for me to press the shillings into her palm. Their baby faces scrunched in tears and their feet covered with sores. Maybe AIDS, maybe just neglect. I couldn’t talk to her, couldn’t tell her to move her limp body out of harm’s way. I wanted to take those children and put them somewhere safe. Maybe she came from the North, maybe these were the offspring of her enemy. Maybe that’s why she didn’t look at them as they cried. What can we do when there are so many we fail to save? My eyes unfocused with tears on the muddy street in Kampala, the people pushing me, the puddles flicking dirt onto my calves. The overwhelming need. Jesus must have felt it, must have seen the eyes full of demands, or worse—empty.

I think of how Jesus began his ministry. He went to the desert for forty days, alone. I think of the way Jesus used to wander solitary into the wilderness. When the crowds pushed into him too hard, when I imagine he wondered if he was really making a difference, the overwhelmingness of need threatened his spirit, he sought the shoulder of a mountain for refuge. Sought relief of the burden. Can we share in it? Can we leave the confines of church walls and see that we are but a few mis-steps away from homelessness. If we are not called to them—the forsaken of this world, then who are we called to? Jesus came to heal the sick, not to those who had no need of a doctor. There are so many good thing to give ourselves to, but what has God asked of us? That is the question.

We cannot know if we cannot hear. I’ve come to a time when there are so many things I could do, and yet knowing the thing to give myself to is much harder. There is a brokenness that takes place before a building. And building, time.

There is an African man I met. His name is Edgar. And he said he had a word from God for me. It’s not every day someone comes up to me and tells me that, so when they do, I take it fairly serious. That may sound kind of hokey to some, but when you feel your insides leap in response to what someone has said, you know its confirmation of a thing you already knew. He said I was the next. That sounds incredibly vague. But I understood it. Understood that I am next in line for some things God wants to do in Africa, in Uganda. He said a lot of other stuff too about the anointing on my life, which was pretty cool. And all of a sudden, it came to me, what my next steps were. I’m going to Jinja, which is the source of the Nile and I’m going to find the source of my life and to seek out the truth of my future. Because to work without peace, or to travel without fulfillment, isn’t what I came here for. Isn’t why Jesus came.

“You O mountains of Israel shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel for they will soon come home. For behold I am for you and I will turn to you and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. And I will cause you to be inhabited as in former times and will do more good to you than ever before.” Ezekiel 36:7

And just for fun J
Things I’ve learned in Uganda:

If the driver’s don’t kill you the pollution will
Beware of hawks who like to build nests with white people’s hair
Mosquitos are racist—they only like mzungu skin
Using a lantern like Laura Ingalls Wilder is only romantic for the first day
Bring a lot of underwear because its not as easy as it looks to wash it all yourself
I really hate mosquitos, I mean want them to die. All of them. I’ll never get over the sound of buzzing in my ear. I’ve declared war on them. Literally, I just killed one.
Africans have never heard of watches
Apparently my parent’s dial-up connection at home is new-wave technology compared to here

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Oops--I accidentally erased this one that I posted while in Rwanda :)
They really love Shakira here...she's playing again! And Her hips don't lie.
I'm in Uganda now. I left Dr. Lynn's ministry, or rather, was asked to leave due to false accusations she made against me. Ha, guess you either love me or you hate me, butI honestly feel relieved. Wasn't sure if I could handle her for another 3 weeks :) But I feel such a peace that I am exactly where God wants me to don't worry, I'm not on the street or anything. Staying with a lovely couple and will mostly likely go to Jinja (the source of the Nile...super cool) for a few days to a retreat house. So I may be outta computer comission. Appreciate your prayers as I seek God for my next steps. My girl Steph sent me this Rwandan proverb which I just thought was really cool, and well timely--so thanks steph--shout out :)
"When a mountain is in your path do not sit down at its foot and cry. Get up and climb it"
ps--I don't know if you can tell in that mom couldn't, but I got braids :) Such a hippie.
Oh--use my old uganda number to call me (256) 0782265525

Ukuri guca muziko uti ntigushya

“The truth passes through fire and never burns”

This is a saying in KinyaRwanda, the language spoken here by Rwandans. They use it to express the power truth has to heal some survivors of genocide and rape, and the importance of truth in the justice process. In some ways I feel like I have been through fire myself. The last week was very hard and exhausting. Mostly I think we were so tired because of the emotional energy expended to find our place, help others, and sometimes face discouragement and division. We started days at 6:30 AM and didn’t get to bed until around midnight every night. Part of that was because a few of us were trying to interview survivors to get their stories after we ended our counseling sessions.
Because we too believe that truth has power.

I think of 27 year old Grace, who at the age of 14 was gang raped by killers of her family. Not once, but several times. I think of her flashbacks where she cradled her ankle and kept wrapping it over and over as though to stop the bleeding she was seeing in her head. I think of the way she screamed and writhed to get away from us, who in her mind’s eye she saw as her killers. She is tortured by supernatural things, things too dark for us to even see. When she comes out of her catatonic state she can be the most endearing, most beautiful woman, whose emotions often ride the wire of extremes. But somehow she finds in herself the drive to take care of 9 orphans, while stifling with her own pain. Most of what happened in this land, is gruesome, but it needs to be said. Needs to be said because people have no idea of the amount of suffering experienced in Rwanda, or of how it still permeates a society struggling to get ahead. The land of a thousand hills, as they call it, is majestic and full of green, lush leaves but in this ground is the spilled blood of innocents who still cry out for justice and help for their surviving family members. For us, we heard of the genocide but were just glad it was over, but what has been left in the aftermath is a crippled nation that clings to the past and needs the truth and hope of God to move forward. God and His people.

I learned this past week that it is estimated almost ALL the victims of genocide were brutally raped. This being very close to my heart and my calling, I felt overwhelmed to hear that not only were women raped by the killers but also by some of the RPF soldiers who were to protect them. As if rape were not bad enough, countless numbers of them now have HIV, and some of them, children.

We love people. These people loved people too. And saw them murdered before their eyes, and still, and still, somewhere in themselves, or in God, or in the magnificence of the human desire to survive, kept going. But it is not good enough simply to survive. We want to see these people thrive. And it’s going to take the love and resources of people like us.

On the other side, and there is always another side, Rwandans are some of the most hospitable, giving, forgiving people I have ever met. From dawn til dusk they serve us with a toothy grin. My heart was taken by one of our cooks, Pendo. She would get up early to help cook us breakfast and then go to class, but still always looking for ways to help. She is 28 or so but looks like she is 16. There is a love and a grace on her that compels one to tears. Even moreso when one thinks of how her father would beat her with sticks and cut her with knives. How at 12 she could run away in the dark seeking a safe place, but found none. She cried in my arms and I wondered at how such a little body could shake with such grief. Wounds here go deeper, and are locked farther away than anything I have ever seen. But when they break open, they flood the world.

Where is the hope in all of this? We were sent here to be bringers of hope and yet what could we offer them?

I realized soon after getting here that God had really sent us here, that long before he put the burden on our hearts to go, he had been crying from the murders inflicted on and committed by his children. We were simply the conduits for His grace, and the words he wanted to say to them. I literally felt inadequate the entire time. But still God used us.

The testimonies of the women and men during the training were incredible. I think it was because we brought the holy spirit and not just an agenda. Everything we did we did because God told us to. This first training was more about pouring into them as leaders and helping them process their pain then it was counseling skills but now they have the freedom to do so.

I was blessed to have the chance to pray for a few women, including Pendo, and even our young driver Emire, who is such a sweetheart, rededicated his life to God. I think the most amazing thing that happened was at the end we had every person write down a list of their problems, people they are trying to forgive, things they want God to forgive them for and take them to a makeshift cross we made. Then we burned them outside. Everyone started dancing and rejoicing. You could honestly see freedom on their faces. It was one of the most beautiful, unburdened things I have ever seen.

Some of the words spoken by the people were:

By Francis, a man I interviewed who was an RPF (Tutsi) soldier who rescued the people of Rwanda. He said they had to clean up the dead bodies on the streets and shoot dogs who were trying to eat the flesh of victims. He said: “I have not been happy for the last 16 years. But when you came I could see on your faces joy. I have never been to anything like this, but I am happy again. Bring more of you back.”

I am in Rwanda for another 2 weeks working with Rwanda women’s network. Please pray for guidance for me because I am wondering if I should stay with them because today they didn’t have anything for me to do and where we had talked about my working with their program with women and children (they have a village for survivors who were raped, widowed, and have HIV) they are now saying they want me to do data entry. So I am frustrated!

Ps—right now they are playing Shakira at the internet place, which I find funny

I’d like to end with perhaps one of the sweetest things said to me was by our translator Birasa. He gave me an African name which I can’t pronounce and said it means innocence and kindness. That I shine. I carry that with me in the middle of hard times when the things I thought I came to do fall through, when I feel as though I am not making a difference. We just never know who we touch.