Monday, August 21, 2006
They say animals become restless before birth. There doesn't seem to be a soft enough space to lie or right enough place to make a home. Everything is uncomfortable, wrong, and the places that should feel familiar don't offer the reprieve they used to. When I was retreating in Mbale I saw the most precious miserable dog whose stomach was so heavy with pregnancy that her stubby legs could barely carry her weight. She shied away from me when I tried to pet her to relieve a little of the discomfort she was literally lugging around in her aimless pacing. The world had been unkind to her and she was a little afraid to be disappointed again. When she looked up at me with her sad eyes I thought I was going to lose it right there over this small, fat, hot-dog dog. It made me more sad than seeing some of the gross crimes of inhumanity I witnessed in IDP camps and I was more than a little ashamed of feeling that way. But something about her brave helplessness and determination to bring those little pups into the world really broke me.
In a lesser way I think of that moment now and understand a little how she must have been feeling. I didn't think I would feel this acute lostness in coming back home. Returning to the arms of my loved ones and to the foods I missed so badly was just as good as I thought it would be. I think I've already gained back the ten pounds I lost over there. :) Being able to attach a photo into an email in under two hours is good in a "pinch me so I know this is real" way. Nothing can replace being surrounded by people who know you and love you. Not even my precious Africa. But I feel like a weird alien landing on planet Earth. Everything is just a bit off. Out there I was a fearless adventurer doing what I wanted, over here I'm just another broke girl without a job but with a dream. In my head I know this is only transitional. But I'm having one of those-I'm 25 now, shouldn't I be doing something grownup to earn money and buy my parents that bedroom suit they wanted-moments.
I've had two mini emotional breakdowns, one in the parking lot of a mexican restaurant, both for no apparent reason whatsoever. I oscillate between feelings of guilt that I'm not accomplishing more, to utter uselessness, to sheer thankfulness towards my pillow, towards ice cream, and towards wireless internet and generally anything else that is convenient here. I've watched about twelve movies, ridden three roll-a-coasters, rented a cracker box room in an apartment with girls I don't know, bought a book called Non-Profits for Dummies, and signed up to be a substitute teacher...again. But nothing can make me feel any better about the fact that I feel farther away from my goal than when I started. I feel unhappy which is a strange thing to feel upon returning from the journey that was what I wanted to do. I've gone through the list of what I "should feel" and feel guilty that I'm not feeling what I should. When people ask me, "How was it?" I feel paralyzed to offer a response that in any way encapsulates my experience. "Good," or "amazing," I often respond, both of which are true but pretty lame in comparison to what I might be able to say if I weren't so muddled. If there were a way to describe it at all.
I do have a plan. Sort of. I want to go back, maybe within the year, and build something. Something beautiful and real, loving and welcoming, something in which child mothers and young prostitutes alike can feel at home in, something that will take a long time and be nearly impossible, but with God guiding it will somehow graciously come to be. It sounds crazy and maybe a little naiive, but I don't think I'm being too idealistic. I know what it takes now.
I'm in that pregnant phase. I know the ending and I await it, but in-between I feel bloated and off-kilter with only the hope of the goal in mind. Like the lines in one of my favorite poems, "a pin-hole of light that softly hums and murmurs, whose blurry edges beg to come into view," I can barely see the blessing of light but it has not yet touched me.
The thing that makes it all seem worthwhile, makes all the ideas seem real is the smile of a 10 year old girl in Uganda. My little Ugandan family. They make the purpose, the thing, out there somewhere, fuzzy, come into focus. I got an email from Earnest, the man/saint who takes care of them, saying he had to take Mary and Rachael to the hospital for some sort of stomach virus and racked up hospital bills he can't pay. This month they've run out of food. They still need a bigger place to live. And all of a sudden all the scattered pieces of me converge into a single mass of sadness and determination. Now I kind of understand the paniced helplessness of a mother whose child is sick on another continent. The thing is we can help anyone out there, but we are moved to help the ones we are attached to in some way. I'm hoping that through this litany of the tiniest heroes you've met through me, you've found a connection and that the connection compels. I know it compels me. It reminds me of a verse I read again as if it were the first time the other day:
"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them doth not leave the ninety nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost until he find it?" Luke 15:4
I cry a little. I pray more passionately than I have in the last month. I'm reminded of the fund I want to create for these kids to finally live in security. I'm reminded that the way I feel about them is the way God feels about me, only about a billion times more unconditional. And the God who has felt very far away in all my wounded wandering seems a little closer.
I fell in love with this book, The Zahir by Paulo Coelho (what a name.) I leave you with these lines:
"History will never change because of politics or conquests of theories or wars; that’s mere repetition, its been going on since the beginning of time. History will only change when we are able to use the energy of love, just as we use the energy of wind, the seas, the atom."
"Do you think we two could save the world?"
"I think there are more people out there who think the same way."
"Will you help me?"
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I relate to you Sarita. So little makes sense to me apart from helping suffering people in this land of plenty. My coworkers blather on about their latest couch for their newest paint color for their condominium, while Africa burns and people scream. I am here to help. And I'll leave you with my own ideas of what to do next.
As usual, it has to do with empowerment. I want to know if it matters to focus on empowering apathetic people on this side of the world after what you've seen, felt, heard, experienced??? I really wonder. http://compassionateaction.org/CA_heart
You are experiencing culture shock to the nth degree! Having experienced it myself, I encourage you to continue expressing your feelings to all who will listen.
Please know that you cannot save all of Africa or even Uganda for that matter. Be thankful that God has allowed you to see what matters to His Heart and has trusted you to go forth and bear fruit. You have done that! You will never know how many lives you have impacted for eternity. You have touched the future of Rwanda and Uganda! Your fruit shall remain and will testify that God is real! He lives!!!
I can so relate to what Israel said. We pick paint chips and curtains, and buy bigger homes to house all the worthless trappings of affluence--while destitute women and children in war torn countries wander aimlessly, yet purposely in a quest to survive and count for something. God help us! Deliver us from the church of no world impact, deliver us from our cushiony chairs, chandeliers, and fancy stained glass windows, deliver us from a feel good gospel that stays in our living rooms and fails to produce fruit that will remain.
Sarita, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and fasting and let God speak to your heart. Ask Him what does He want you to do with all you experienced. Ask Him how can you make a difference? Ask God to help you process and let go. Write down the positive things that happened.
Dear One, I am praying for your transition home. I am going to send you some material to help you through this difficult time. I love you and have been "feeling" you.
Good luck, your life seems interesting!
Peace and Love!
I can relate so much to you words. I was in Uganda for only two months this summer, but really found a home in the people I knew and the places I saw. It was terribly hard to leave and I have had more than my fair share of breakdowns after my return. I too feel pretty useless almost everyday. Here I'm living in nice apartment, getting and education that I don't deserve and have a plate of food in front of me at least three times a day, with virtually no effort put into getting it all. I know the Lord has us away from the places we've come to love and hold dear because He is giving us the chance to help the needy and suffering right where we are, and to give me the chance to get a good education so I can actually be useful one of these days. I trust that He has me where I am supposed to be, and I know the same for you. Know that people are praying for you and praying the Lord will give you a true, concrete purpose you can work toward. You've really done a lot and that's been so encouraging to me over the months. The Lord will do great things through you, this I know!
You did an awesome job in Uganda and that makes me proud of you. May all the glory be to God. He only requires a willing heart and the rest he will do. I am reminded that it is God who works in us and wills us to do the good that we do in his name.
As you seek his face, he gives you his hand too. That is all you need to do and he will do great and amazing things through you and for you.
As an african, i am glad that our faith in Christ unites us, but more than uniting us it shows that we serve an awesome God. It encourages me to read about your exploits for the sake of advancing the kingdom of heaven.
It is truly sad when we see people are pursuing earthly treasures instead of heavenly ones. As you share your testimony with others, there are those that will be touched. God tells us that his word never returns to him void but it always accomplishes that which he sent it out to do.
I admire and love the vision and plans that you have ahead of you. In the book of Ezekiel, it saddened God that he had searched for a man to stand in the gap and he could not even find one. As you allow God to let you stand stand in the Gap, what he will do through you will be so great that people will have no option but to say, " only the great, mighty and living God could have done this.'
May his provision be with you and his hand be upon you. He who called you is faithful and he will accomplish it.
As you settle back into your life, give thanks, the internet here in Africa is still the same ol'.
With love from Kenya. Having read about your time in Uganda, i have no option but to sing, 'He hath done great things.'
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