Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chase

We head out of the church with a list, 50,000 Shillings and one hour. Babirye and her family need a mosquito net, dishes, soap and food and the best place to find all of that is the market in downtown Kampala. I’m thinking this is no big deal…after all, I’m African at heart. I’ve got this. We walk for a bit, cross a few roads as boda bodas zoom past, just inches from making me roadkill. Just keep walking, I’ve learned. Don’t stop.

“Here we are!” David says, as we approach the busiest street I’ve ever seen. There are shops lining both sides of this red dirt road, huge trucks trying to push through the crowds, and people are everywhere. I mean everywhere. Imagine Black Friday on crack…with chickens running around. People are approaching me, trying to sell me toilet paper and raw meat and pencils. “Sagala!” (I don’t want it!) I’m starting to realize I’m not so African. People bump into me and I’m getting a little lost in the crowd as my Ugandan friends press on. “Alright,” I think “Green stripy shirt. Dreadlocks. Follow the green stripes.” I fix my eyes on David and push through the crowd. No, I don’t want to buy a chicken. Green stripes. “Aaaayyy mzungu!” Nope, green stripes. I’ve never chased anything this hard in my life. We cross a busy road, and I don’t take my eyes off David to look both ways. I’m telling myself “Natalie, don’t stop. Green stripes.” We make our way into another section of the market, this one more daunting than the first. There are more people, the terrain is muddier and bumpier, it’s darker and there is less room to walk. (For a laugh, imagine my dad’s face right now as he reads about his 19 year old daughter trekking through a dark market in downtown Kampala!) We fill our bags with passion fruit, beans, rice, sugar, and other things to make Babirye well. I stop when David stops. I nod and smile when he does. When the green stripes are walking, I’m walking. We cross off the last item on our list: a cabbage that is bigger than my head. I tuck it under my arm and we press on. We have fifteen minutes to get back to the church. We pick up the pace. Green stripes. I jump over the mud when David jumps. I run up the stairs when he does. When David says “Wait,” I listen. When he says “We go,” I chase. Don’t stop for the boda bodas. Don’t get distracted by the pretty dresses in the shop. Don’t pause to readjust the cabbage. Don’t turn when someone yells “Mzungu!” Chase the green stripes. As I’m weaving through people and past goats and over mud, I’m completely fixing my eyes on the stripy green shirt, and I’m thinking about Jesus.

Oh, if my pursuit of Jesus could be as focused as my pursuit of the green stripes. If I could take up my cross like I picked up that cabbage, if I could follow Jesus as wholeheartedly as I followed my Ugandan friend through the market. My prayer is to chase Jesus like my life depends on it. Don’t turn to the left or right. No, I don’t want to buy raw goat meat, or get rich and famous or have lots of friends or build up my little life here on earth. I want to follow the green stripes. I want to chase Jesus.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
-Proverbs 4:25-27

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Smiling Baby & A Miracle

My friend Cathy is squeezing my hand tightly as we walk, a six foot deep gutter on our left and boda bodas zooming past on our right. We’re on our way to a miracle.

As we arrive in the slums, Esther tells us to meet back here in an hour, and we head further in. We are split into two teams, and our mission is to find a family to minister to for the next five months. There are mud homes and open sewage and barefoot children playing everywhere. I’m praying as we trek up the red dirt hill that God will lead us, that he will take us to the right family. My team stops in our tracks as the rest of the group continues on without taking notice. We’re all looking around wondering where to go or what to do. We literally feel stuck, like we can’t keep walking. Our feet will not move. We join hands and I’m praying God’s power over us. I’m praying that He will move through us. I’m praying that He will carry us and lead us. Amen.

I open my eyes and standing in the doorway of a tiny mud home in front of me is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen, looking right at me and smiling. I’m thinking “God, I don’t know if I just really love babies, or if this is your way of leading me.” My feet start walking. My good friend, David goes up to the door and begins speaking Luganda to the baby’s older sister. David motions for us to come. I duck under the doorframe and enter a home that is smaller than my bathroom. As my eyes adjust, I see a frail woman lying on the cement floor, using a small pile of clothes as her pillow. She welcomes us and I sit down beside her and pray as my Ugandan friends talk to her. The smiling baby grips my finger as Babirye tells her story. She’s been left alone with her three children and has lived in this slum her entire life. Her parents died when she was young and was forced to raise herself. Sometime after child number two, Babirye fell sick. HIV. And the smiling baby has it, too. She shows us her medicine and explains that she’s not getting better because she cannot afford to buy food.

Despite her current circumstances, today Babirye is joyful. She says this morning she woke up to chicken and pineapple in her home and she doesn’t know where it came from. She says God gave her a vision of visitors coming to encourage her, and now we were here. God is providing for her and she can’t help but smile. She says she’s feeling better just from spending time with us, and next time we come, she’ll be walking. She calls us her angels.

I am praying for Babirye, and I hope you will join me. I am believing that a miracle will happen for Babirye, because I believe in a great, big Jesus. I believe in a Jesus who loves Babirye more than she will ever know, a Jesus who heals, restores, redeems. I believe in a Jesus who leads me to a miracle with the sign of a smiling baby.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Things I Love

· Hank the Chicken who wakes me up long before the sun rises (his crow sounds like a man yelling until about half way through, so you’re like “What’s going on?!” then he sounds a little more chicken-like at the end, and you’re like “Oh, it’s just Hank.”)

· The red dirt that covers the soles of my TOMS

· Walks to the Nakumatt (the supermarket near our house)

· Tucking myself into my mosquito net, feeling like a princess in a canopy bed

· Waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of the local mosque, being reminded to pray for all the lost people in the world

· The weather…crazy hot sunshine one minute, pouring rain the next

· The mysterious animal next door...bird or monkey, we don’t know!

· The muddy footprints I see when I step into the shower after a long day

· Drinking an ice cold Stoney as a treat

· My thought-a-day journal that Mel gave me, wondering what will fill the pages five years from now

· The stars

· Having Mukwano hot tea with every meal, even though it’s scorching outside

· “This Game,” our creatively named favorite game in the house

· Esther, our beautiful house mom, who calls me Tallia

· Kevin, who cooks all of our meals and said she will teach me how to cook like a Ugandan

· Solomon, who lives nearby and keeps watch over the house in his stylish flip flops and popped collar

· My classmates, who are hilarious and love Jesus with all their hearts

· Watoto Church and their passion for Jesus and His children

· The bottles of Rwenzori water that weigh down my backpack

· The constant Hillsong that plays in our house

· Wearing skirts and dresses every day

· Waving to our tiny neighbor friends as our bus struggles to get up the giant hill

· The fact that I have no idea what the date or time is right now

· My sweet family and friends whose pictures and letters are taped on my wall

· Our wall of family, where we each hung profiles and folders for ourselves and leave encouraging notes for each other

· The smell of Uganda that I cannot describe to you

· Peter, our coordinator who mysteriously never takes off his beanie (which Canadians apparently call “tooks” and Ugandans call “head socks.” We’ve decided head sock makes the most sense!)

· Sweet texts from people at home, that I read and appreciate, even though I can’t always reply

· My parents who let their nineteen year old daughter move to Africa! They must be crazy or something…

· Chapati…mmm :)

· Moments alone with God

· My tiny Ugandan friends who try so hard to teach me how to dance, and laugh hysterically at my attempt

 · The fact that I now respond to “Mzungu! Mzungu!”

· The Jesus who bends down to hear the prayers of a girl in her mosquito net somewhere in Africa in the dead of night

· Feeling completely exhausted and crawling into my bed at the end of the day, at peace knowing this life is not my own

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Faith Like Becky

What I know about Becky:

19

Has four siblings, three sisters and one brother

Overflowing with joy, has a contagious smile

Fearless (she drives a boda boda*!)

I walk into the sanctuary scouring the room for which wooden pew looks most inviting today. I see Becky giggling with her younger sister, Rita, and her friend, Fortunate. “Can I sit here with you?” I say, to which she responded “Yes, you are most welcome.” I sit down next to her and she holds my hand in her lap as we exchange stories of what our lives are like. She grew up in a village near Kampala, Uganda, I grew up in a neighborhood near Corpus Christi, Texas. She wants to be an accountant, I want to be a missionary. She loves to dance, I am mzungu* through and through. We are both nineteen. We both agree “God rocks.” We talk and laugh until the service starts and a pastor starts welcoming us to church. He tells us to turn to our neighbor and pray with them. I grab Becky’s hands and begin praying for her, that God would give her courage and strength to do all the things he has called her to do, that she would fall more in love with Him every day. I am praying and squeezing her hands, hoping that she will come away from this prayer feeling empowered and encouraged. The pastor begins praying for everyone, so I wrap up my prayer and open my eyes. I see Becky, eyes shut tight, hands clinging to mine, praying for me. See, to Becky, it didn’t matter if I could hear her prayer for me. It didn’t matter if she sounded spiritual or used eloquent words. She didn’t care so much about what her words could do for me, but what God could do for me. Her main focus was the God of the universe who would so graciously bend all the way down to a dot on the map in Africa and hear her prayers. The God who says what we ask for in His name, we will surely receive. My prayer is to have faith that moves mountains. Faith like Becky. 

*boda bodas are motor taxis that weave in and out of crazy Ugandan traffic

*mzungu is Luganda for white person

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Journal Excerpt

Sitting here in the African sunshine, hearing the scary storks and the honking cars and the constant music, I’m wondering if Uganda sounds a lot like my heart. Cluttered, filled with distractions. Noise. Where are You? Are You resonating in all of this? Or are You fighting to be the loudest? Oh, Jesus my prayer is that you would be the loudest thing in me. My desire for the next five months, and for the rest of my life, is that every day there will more and more of You in me, and less and less of me in me. Jesus, make my heart look like Yours.