thank God for delays

Keeping up with a blog is more difficult that I thought.  I’m sure you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing lately.  When things get hectic it’s really challenging to find the time to sit down and type something that makes any sense.  Right now I’m supposed to be on a plane heading home for a visit.  I came to the airport in Entebbe last night to catch my 11:59 PM flight only to find it cancelled due to mechanical problems.  Once I accepted the reality that I’d be leaving 24 hours later than expected, things actually went really smoothly.  I went straight to the Brussels Airlines office and within 15 minutes I was booked on my new flights and headed to a complimentary hotel room nearby.  When I arrived at the hotel, check in took no time at all and I soon found myself in a super nice room that would easily cost a couple hundred dollars if I was in the States.  In Africa, nothing is simple, nothing is quick, and not many things are clean or fancy.  I think God had His hand all over this one. 

I was disappointed to be delayed, but I have thoroughly enjoyed having a day by myself with nobody else around.  I haven’t had a minute like that in SO long.  In a house full of 10 – 15 people every day, it’s rare to get even a moment of peace and quiet.   Things that I need to do that should take 30 minutes take 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Anyone who has been to Africa knows what I mean.  The thing called “African Time” really does exist.  It’s this slow pace of life that sometimes has you feeling like you’re in the twilight zone.  Adding to the disorganization of life in a foreign country is the challenge of transportation.  Back home I had a Jeep I could hop into any time of the day and go anywhere I wanted.  Here, it’s a different story.  If I want to go anywhere I have to wait around on a driver for forever, or hop on the back of a “boda boda” (motorcycle) with an unknown Ugandan man and trust him to get me where I need to go.  Like I said, nothing is really simple here.  So that’s why today is great.  I’m all alone in a place where I don’t have to go anywhere, I don’t have to talk to anyone, and I can just focus on putting my head on straight before I come home for a short visit. 

I’ve had mixed emotions about coming back home.  One day about a month ago I was talking with a lady that was visiting with us from Roanoke.  All of a sudden I just burst into tears thinking about home.  It was totally unexpected, especially since I didn’t really think I missed home.  That’s when I started really looking forward to this visit.  I’m looking forward to hugging my parents.  I’m excited for my best friend’s wedding on Sunday.  I’m ready to visit my partner churches and Bible Study groups and tell them all about the work God is doing in Uganda.  On the other hand, I’m really going to miss my new Ugandan friends and family.  I’ve become really attached to some of these people over the past few months.  

One I’m especially going to miss is Brian.  The kid is really special.  I’ve never been attached to a child in my whole life, so this is a totally new thing for me.  Despite the sadness of leaving him for a month, I couldn’t be happier with the way God worked everything out.  My precious friend Phiona and her husband, Pastor David have opened their home to receive Brian as one of their own.  This couple currently has a few children of their own as well as some adopted children that they rescued from the streets.  Pastor David and Phiona are true servants of the Lord.  They were once street kids themselves, so they have a huge heart for helping children that are in similar situations.  This young couple doesn’t have an easy life, as they have a lot of responsibility in the church and even more at home.  Even though they struggle, they have never once asked me for anything.  They are humble and thankful, and praise the Lord in all situations. 

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(Brian looking a bit annoyed with his grandfather in the village and his new Mama Phiona)

God put Phiona in my life at just the right time.  It was only a few weeks into my new life in Uganda when I met her.  From the beginning I just loved her.  Her sweet spirit brought peace and encouragement into my life.  As we developed a friendship, she was the one who was there for me when Brian was in the hospital.  I relied on her to stay with him during the day when I had to work.  During that time at the hospital Brian and Phiona developed a special bond.   He had been abandoned by all the women in his life, and this one was there to pick up the pieces for him.  She prayed with him, talked with him about Jesus, and just held him when he was sad or afraid.  Even during that time, I think Phiona knew she was supposed to become Brian’s new mom.  It was a while before we finally talked about it and agreed that it was the right thing to do.  God had been planning it from the beginning. 

In the time since we decided Brian would be going to live with Pastor David and Phiona, we had to start working with the local police and government to go through the proper procedures to hand over custody of a child.  One of the things we had to do was go with Brian to visit his family in the village.  We all needed to get the real story of what happened to him.  Without going through all the details, it ended up being a really good visit.  Brian reunited with his grandfather and his aunt, and we could see that at one time the family did actually love him.  Because of circumstances before he ended up in the hospital, the family had pretty much given up on Brian and didn’t want him around. 

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About a year ago the Auntie took him to Nairobi to be with the mother that abandoned him.  The mother, Irene, didn’t want anything to do with him and sent him back to Uganda.  The rejection he felt began to contribute to naughty behaviors.  He began stealing and costing the family a lot of money and stress.  The disabled, alcoholic grandfather wasn’t able to properly deal with Brian, so the family just gave up.  Brian would roam the villages during the day getting into trouble, and at night he would sleep on the front porch of the family house in a little dirty concrete corner.  The next day he would get up and do it all over again.  The community began to get annoyed with him and when he stole food from a shop one day, that’s when he was beaten into the shape he was in when we found him. 

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(The corner on the porch where Brian was sleeping)

During our meeting in the village that day, quite a crowd gathered to hear the story of what happened.  Brian didn’t say a word the whole time, but admitted to Phiona that the things they were saying were true.  He also promised her he would never do those things again.  We believe that God has already helped Brian to change his ways.  As a result of the investigation, the probation officer agrees that there is a really good case that Brian is not safe in his village and would be better off with a family in town that loves him and cares about his future. 

So, this is the end of the story of Brian’s former life, and the beginning of a new story.  It amazes me how many people God has brought into Brian’s life.  Before, he was abandoned and forgotten.  Now he has this huge extended family of people from all over the world who love him and want his future to remain bright.  Sometimes we call him President Brian or Pastor Brian because we know God has big plans for his life.  God’s ways are never easy to understand, but He always has a way of rescuing us from horrible situations and turning them into outcomes of goodness and love.  If those terrible people would not have beaten Brian that day, it’s very likely the kid would still be stealing bicycles and sleeping in that concrete corner every night.  Now, thanks to God’s mercy and a group amazing people, Brian has a warm bed to sleep in, a family to love him, a church that he loves, and a future of possibilities in front of him.  

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Now I am here in a hotel room reflecting on my first four months in Uganda and trying to put all of these feelings and experiences into a package that makes some sense. Then I have to figure out how to bring that package home and share it with everyone who will be asking what I’ve done so far in Africa.  I still wonder: why did God want me to give up my life to come here and what does He want me to do next?   I have to learn to take it one moment and one person at a time and not get to far ahead of the plan, but not fall too far behind.  I know in my heart that even if God sent me here to make a difference in only one person’s life, it would be worth it all.  If the only reason I’m here is to learn to rely on Jesus and grow in my relationship with Him, then everything else is just extra.  Before I came here I just wanted to go somewhere and love God and love people.  It’s easier said than done.  It’s easier hoped for than actually lived out.  To truly love, it cannot be accomplished within ourselves.  The One who is Love must love others through us.  May that be our prayer in all that we do, no matter where we are in the world.  

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