Monday, May 26, 2014

A Not-So-Poetic Update on My Life: A Blog Post for Mom & Dad

I FaceTimed my Dad last night. “Things that have become very normal to you are still new and exciting to us,” he said, then commissioned me to write a blog post about what life looks like for a twenty year old Natalie living in Uganda! So let me obey the man, and tell you about my life…

I live in Kampala, capital city of Uganda in East Africa. The Pearl of Africa, it’s called. I’m a big fan. The language of the tribe of the central region is called Luganda, which I’m slowly learning. I go to language class every Thursday where I study with a French girl and a Uruguayan dude. It’s kind of what I imagine The Tower of Babble scene looked like.


I live on the tippy top of a hill in an area called Makindye, where I can see the beautiful African sunset over all of Kampala on my boda rides home in the evening. 


Oh yeah! That’s a fun twist…I ride a motorcycle everywhere I go! I even have a Harley Davidson helmet…wut. Never saw that one coming! Boda bodas, motorcycle taxis, are the fastest public transportation here, and not to mention super fun! I have a few trusted boda guys who drive very safely and don’t overcharge me. Otherwise it’s

“You give me 12,000,” to which I reply
“Eh! Ssebo that is TOO much. I’ll give you 6,000,”
“You make it 7,000”
“6,500”
“It’s okay. We go.”
“Kale, webale.”

I stay in a house owned by a safari guide, where I rent one of the rooms. The guy brings home all the bones he finds on game drives, so it’s like I live in a science museum! 


There are three dogs, Luka, Trousers and Biscuit. One of them sleep walks, I swear. I can’t tell Biscuit and Trousers apart, but my sister, Victoria, says she would like to think it’s Trousers who sleep walks, so we’ll go with that. We have a huge avocado tree, a jackfruit tree (rubbery weird fruit that tastes like Juicy Fruit gum! So fun!), and flowers everywhere. 

My friend, Hannah, stays here as well, which is such a huge blessing. Let me stop and tell you that to have a friend who makes me love Jesus more and follow Him harder just by the very nature of who she is and how she carries herself is one of the greatest things on earth. 


I wake up to birds chirping outside my window every day at 6:23 on the dot, crawl out of my mosquito net and go sit outside in the cool of the morning. It’s usually raining, since it’s wet season now.This country shuts down in the rain. You would think in a place where the seasons are determined by rainfall, people would learn to endure a little shower, but that is not the case. These people do not like being cold or wet! My favorite boda guy, Sylvester, was wearing four jackets the other day. FOUR! True story. 


I am working with Uniquely Woven (www.uniquelywoven.org), and my Jesus-loving friends in Texas, starting up our ministry projects here in Uganda. 


We have big dreams of working with pregnant mamas, giving them Jesus and equipping them to rise from dark places. I’m visiting slums, medical clinics, other ministries, even other parts of the country, gathering information and really discerning where God would have us plant ourselves. I am learning how to follow The Lord one faithful step at a time, trusting Him to provide the right place and the right people to work with. 

If you learn nothing else in Uganda, you will definitely learn patience. I wanted to mail a package to my family a couple weeks ago, and I was at the post office for over two hours. Two HOURS, friends! Life just takes a long time here. Day to day it seems like things are moving very slowly, but then I look up and realize I’ve only been here for a month and a half! There are breakthroughs every day. Sometimes they’re small, like taking a taxi from the scary taxi park downtown all by myself for the first time, or adjusting to cooking with a gas stove and lighting the oven with a match. I’m learning to be okay with whatever critters might be living in this house with me, and I’ve learned to sleep through the mosque’s broadcasted prayers before sunrise. Sometimes breakthrough comes in the form of a day well spent laughing with friends who have become family, pronouncing a Luganda word correctly or successfully bargaining with a boda man and not getting overcharged.




But sometimes the victories are bigger. On Easter morning I was praying, asking God to give me a family here. That night I was in a room full of believers, singing and worshiping, and one man prayed, thanking God because “today I met a sister I didn’t know I had.” I spent one day at the hospital awaiting the birth of a sweet baby girl, and was put in charge of monitoring her little life in the incubator while the nurses took care of mama in the other room (“You make sure she’s fine and breathing.” …scary!) Another day was spent celebrating pregnant mamas on Mother’s Day, sharing The Gospel with them and rejoicing over new life. One woman even named her baby girl after me!


So what does life look like for twenty year old Natalie in Uganda? Some days it looks like a girl on her patio with a cup of tea, reading her Bible and trying to become more like this gracious and loving God, trying to hope against hope that He will fulfill this dream. Yesterday it was an hour long ride in a taxi with a chicken by my feet the whole time. Some days it’s walking through the slums, being welcomed into houses smaller than my bathroom, coming home muddy and heartbroken. There are days I grocery shop or go to the bank, meet friends for dinner, clean my room. I hold newborn babies and pray that God will write a story of redemption with this tiny life bundled up in my arms. 


Some days are hard and some are joyous. Some are tears of defeat and some are breakthroughs and “thank you God”s. But every day God is good. Every day He is faithful. And every day He brings adventure.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Anything

Jesus, I will do anything.



Sitting here on this rock in Karamoja, I hold out my two dirt-caked hands to Your throne. As my mzungu skin burns under the African noonday sun, I surrender it all, Father. This life is not my own. My lips form three syllables which I think could hold the weight of my whole life. With all the breath in my lungs I pray this word:

anything. 

I will do anything you ask. I’m offering You all I can hold in these weak arms. Take all my plans for this life, my desires, my passion and my frustration. Have my waking up to singing birds and my falling into bed after long days of defeat. Have my boda rides and my market shopping, my broken Luganda conversations and my tears when I think the world couldn’t be any more broken. Have all of Natalie, who I am and who I hope to be. I don’t even know what else to pray, but here under droopy green trees and crystal clear sky, I feel that this moment is somehow significant. This matters. This breath I’m using to pray these words is sacred. You’re here and you see me and this prayer of anything is more real than the bugs crawling on my toes or the mountains gracing the horizon. You’re right here, and I’m at your feet offering all that I know how to give. Have Your way in me, whatever that means. Anything to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ, Savior of my soul. You are my love, you are my heart, you are my life.



*I just finished reading Anything by Jennie Allen…you need to read this!!! It rocked my world over here in The Pearl of Africa, and I’m sure it will convict you and move you to surrender in your place, too! Maybe people think I’m already living a sacrificial life of surrender by moving to Uganda, but I’m a normal, selfish sinner, and Jennie Allen’s words have stirred in me a deeper surrender and a conviction to offer all of myself to The Father.