Monday, December 7, 2009

This is it.

Day 124. Guys, this is it. This is my last week of my semester in Uganda, Africa. I don't have words to describe it. I don't have words to contain it. How Christ's love has worked through me. How friendships have strengthened me. How new family has formed me. This is life. This is hope. This is God's Will. This is it. I don't know where it will lead. How things will change, for my life surely will. I don't know how God will use this, though I know He will. This is it.

Rather than restating a lot of ideas from this semester, I've decided to post my Capstone Paper, which is my final paper for my main USP class: Faith & Action. It sums up a lot of what I have learned here, and a lot of how I think it will affect me. It's long. You don't have to read it, but I thought I should make it available. Enjoy.

The Life of a Pilgrim, Citizen of a Backwards Kingdom, in a Fallen World

Efficiency. This word, this idea, a key foundational aspect of western culture, defines how and to what end one should live life in this clearly broken and fallen world. This stepping-stone is what the nation of the United States of America uses to propel itself to become the giant it is, standing tall above the nations it and other efficient nations have declared inefficient, or Third-World. This is my background, the foundation of my education, my desires, my telos, and my praxis. Throughout the experiences and teachings I have been exposed to this semester, this word has appeared again and again, staring me in the face, telling me subtly, yelling at me aggressively, and clinging to me. With each instance, myself growing more aware of its influence, I find that living out the life of a pilgrim, communal engagement in the call of Christ to live out a backwards kingdom in this fallen world, requires stepping off the stone set before me, and humbling myself out of the prison of efficiency into the freedom of the Righteous One.

This question of what this life of a pilgrim, disciple of Christ, actually is and looks like has been one of major focus and influence for me this semester. The first and most prominent, which I have learned academically as well as socially, is summed up by William Cavanaugh, in his article “Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age,” “Pilgrimage was a social event, during which many of the ordinary rules of hierarchy and social structure were suspended” (350). Speaking of medieval pilgrimage, Cavanaugh relates this type of pilgrimage to the role the Church should play now; mobility in a world we live in but are not of, in which the rules and roles set by efficient nation-states are forgotten, and journeying through life becomes a communal act. This relational atmosphere of pilgrimage, and its fight against western efficiency, has been increasingly apparent through focused relationships with fellow Uganda Studies Program students, the program’s staff, and local Ugandans such as my homestay family. Interacting relationally with fellow students has probably been the most influential and most obvious in this light. In the Intercultural Ministry & Missions Emphasis group, a solid foundation for growing relationships was formed early on, as many of us, if not all, came from very similar backgrounds with hopes of achieving very similar goals. Many of us, influenced heavily with the western idea of efficiency, came romanticizing the African culture and seeking a clear telos for our life’s vocation. This, and the quick realization of unmet expectations, drew us together in such a way that we could grow and learn together that this idea of efficiency is not always foundational and important. For instance, while at the Kibaale Community Center in the Rakai District, we simply enjoyed each other, playing games, conversing, and sharing stories. While travelling away from what we have considered home for the past few months, Mukono, we found growth and a pull towards each other, as we stopped worrying about what we needed to learn, or what we needed to get done, which often occurs in the IMME Quarters. The more trips we took, the more time spent travelling together, it became incredibly obvious that lifting each other up and setting ourselves humbly before one another allowed for us to grow relationally as well as in our own spiritual lives and vocational identities.

Another relational interaction, which has encouraged this pilgrim life and fight against the western-influenced drive for a need of efficiency, is with my Mukono homestay family. While I have learned much about East African culture in classes such as African Traditional Religions, Christianity, & Islam in Contemporary Uganda, Faith & Action, and Survey of the New Testament, the majority of this cultural engagement has been done communally with my homestay family. This, in its true essence, is pilgrimage, communally engaging culture rather than simply individually consuming the exotic essentials. On a daily basis this semester I have grown relationally with my family members, Mama Harriet, Jennifer, David, Lillian, and Mark, as well as learned their cultural foundations, which often differ significantly than my own. Efficiency is one of these major differences. In the beginning of the semester, I often found myself commenting how inefficient a typical process of their daily lives were, or how better and easier something could be done in America. For instance, washing clothes is a painstaking process here, where one must spend at least an hour for every eight or so items, which need washing, and that doesn’t even account for the several hours they take to dry. Back home, however, one could throw in almost twenty items into a machine and wait hardly two hours for them to be both washed and dried. Immediately upon witnessing this my mind raced to its efficiency mindset, longing for a quicker and easier method. After experiencing this for a semester, however, I have realized that the time spent with my family, washing together, has been one of the most important relationship growing times, as it has both given something for us to do together, as well as provide time that would probably have been spent elsewhere. This relationship as a community, travelling together, growing together, and engaging in this fallen world together, is an important aspect of this pilgrimage I will certainly be focused on continuing in my life hereafter.

As a result of these relationships, which are a major part of communal pilgrimage in this fallen world, another response to living in this backward kingdom Christ calls us to be apart of, includes truly understanding and practicing the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love. In light of my western demand for efficiency, and my Ugandan experiences, which have revoked that demand, these virtues and the practice of these virtues have been revealed in a whole new way. Henri Nouwen, author of Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, explains how backward this kingdom that Christ calls us to actually is,

Therefore, we can say that the downward pull as we see this in Jesus Christ is not a movement away from God, but a movement toward God: A God for us who came not to rule but to serve. This implies very specifically that God does not want to be known except through servanthood and that, therefore, servanthood is God’s self-revelation (26).

While kingdoms of this world are continually striving to be a leading power, a ruling force, the kingdom of Christ is one that thrives on servanthood, a true humbleness visible in the life of Christ and His disciples. Understanding this vital concept inevitably leads to understanding the importance and the reality of the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love. Faith in Christ, in the context of this distinct and new culture found in the midst of a fallen world, has a whole new meaning. Without the foundation of western efficiency, one no longer relies on oneself, but rather must trust in the supernatural to provide.

For the African person, this is not a problem as religion is such an essential part of life. In a lecture, Rev. Dr. Sam Opol described this relationship using the imagery of a prism. With the African person in the middle, God is at the peak of the triangular prism, while the three sides include mystical powers, divinities and spirits, and ancestors (see figure below).

With this African ‘Prism’ Worldview, it becomes clear how crucial faith is when efficiency is put aside. Hope, too, is found true and inescapable in this awareness of citizenship of a backwards kingdom in this fallen world. Nouwen, in his discussion of what compassion is, states, “what really counts is that in moments of pain and suffering someone stays with us. More important than any particular action or word of advice is the simple presence of someone who cares” (11). With this in mind, Nouwen refers to the hope we have as disciples of Christ,

That is the good news of God’s taking on human flesh… ‘The Virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel,’ a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’ (Mt 1:22-23). As soon as we call God, “God-with-us,” we enter into a new relationship of intimacy (13).

In the same way, John V. Taylor speaks of presence in the African perspective stating that “The God whom, all along, Africa has guessed at and dreamed of, is One who is always and wholly present for every part of his creation” (138). This presence of God in our very being, as we communally journey together in this fallen world is the foundation of the hope we have as Christians. Lastly, love becomes something new and radical, something to be sought after, and something that is freely given. Acknowledging that in this backwards kingdom Christ, the ruler and king, sets himself down in complete humbleness to serve the kingdom rather than egotistically govern, love becomes what it is truly meant to be, selfless. Though these virtues seem to fit so much more snugly into African culture, they are truly transcendent and though it will take effort to seek out back home, that is what pilgrimage is all about!

Though relationship and these virtues are truly critical to the life of a pilgrim, who denies imperialistic cultural foundations such as western efficiency, pilgrimage without a telos and praxis to reach that telos is aimless wandering. Mark Steele, a film director, author, actor, and president of Steelhouse Productions, states bluntly, “So many wander aimlessly because they never embrace who God made them to be. Instead, they attempt to be like a dozen others who seem to have the life or calling most desired” (9). Our telos is what drives us, what carries us forward, and what gives us direction. Cavanaugh identifies the broad telos of a pilgrim as “not constantly seek[ing] difference for its own sake but mov[ing] toward a center, which, for the Christian pilgrim, is communion with God…an eschatological movement of the pilgrim toward the One who calls him home” (352-353). This telos excites me as it identifies those virtues faith, hope, and love, through its identification that to find communion with God we must move towards the center of ourselves, and his following praxis for the pilgrim focuses strongly on the relationships aforementioned as crucial. “To welcome and revere migrants as Christ, to feed them, pray with them, and wash their feet, is to turn migrants into pilgrims, and thus to turn fate into destiny” (355). This telos and praxis for the pilgrim, identified by Cavanaugh, is a great starting place for the Church, and for the disciples of Christ, but as Steele continues, “unique works of God—historic works of God—can only happen through people who accept what sets them apart and who work to refine their gifts so that when God comes calling, they are ready to act” (9). Christ sets us individually apart. Even though we are communal pilgrims in search of the center, in search of communion with God, He has created us in such a unique way that our praxis of the pilgrim’s telos must match our gifts, which He has given us to set us apart. In knowledge of this, my heart is set on carrying forth the telos of reaching communion with God, which in effect includes communion with those around me, through the praxis of my unique gifting of servanthood engineering. Following Christ as He washes the feet of His disciples, my praxis is to serve others through the skill of engineering in such a way that community results, relationship is formed, and the telos of communion with God is achieved.

As a pilgrim, citizen of a backwards kingdom, living in a fallen world, focused on the telos of communion with God using the virtues of faith, hope, and love, and a unique praxis that relies on relational community, one’s identity begins to be much clearer. Disciple of Christ. Follower of the Way. A component of the body of Christ, the Church. These phrases so commonly used begin to take form and make sense in the light of a community searching and journeying jointly. Unfortunately, this is not the identity I have always held onto as an acclaimed Christian in the Bible Belt of the United States. Holding onto the essence of efficient living, my identity has often been found as one who is continually seeking the most efficient way to reach the end, to reach the goal I assume is set before me. While this is probably the case for many in my region of this globe, and is not necessarily horrible as it does attribute to the telos, it does not leave room for a communal praxis, a way in which relationship can grow in presence. It is this new humanity which Lee Camp, author of Mere Discipleship, discusses, “an astonishing reality: all the division, all the social groupings, all the forms of identity that serve to categorize, divide, estrange, and alienate one from the other—these are broken down” (140). This is our new identity of pilgrimage in Christ. In the words of Jon Foreman, lead singer of the band Switchfoot, our “new way to be human.”

Works Cited

Camp, Lee. Mere Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Brazos-Baker, 2003.

Cavanaugh, William T. "Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age." Theological Studies 69 (2008): 340-356.

Nouwen, Henry J.M., Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison. Compassion. New York: Image-Doubleday, 1982.

Opol, Rev. Dr. Sam. "African Worldview." African Traditional Religions, Christianity, & Islam in Contemporary Uganda. Uganda Christian University, Mukono, Uganda. 01 Oct 2009. Lecture.

Steele, Mark. "Personally Chosen." Set Apart: God's Steadfast Pursuit of You. 'Comp'. Daniel McIntosh. Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 2009.

Taylor, John V. The Primal Vision: Christian Presence Amid African Religion. London: SCM Press, 1963.

For those of you, who read this, I appreciate you taking the time. I would love to hear your comments, insights, criticisms, etc. I also thank you for reading this blog, staying updated, keeping me in your prayers, supporting me, and encouraging me as friends, family, and fellow followers of Christ. See you all in a couple weeks!

Peace be with you,

Joshua 'Mubiru' Weed

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ultimate Frisbee!

Day 118. Most of you know, if not all, that I am a frisbee fanatic. Aka I love to play Ultimate any chance I get. This was something I thought I would rarely get to do, here in Uganda. To my surprise, I have played probably more this semester than I did all of last year! There are, in fact, several local teams that play quite regularly. Almost every other Thursday, several of us have gone to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and played with locals, having tons of fun and forming great relationships. So, all of that to say, this last weekend was one of my favorites. I played in my very first Ultimate Frisbee Tournament! (how cool is that!?! first tournament, and it is in Africa!) 11 of us (as seen above) had the chance to go play against 6 other teams in a Round Robin Tournament (aka, you play everyone and the top teams play in the finals). All but us and one other team were locals. The other bazungu team was actually a team consisting of Peace Corps in Uganda, and apparently they were the champs of last year! (we dominated them by the way.) I was very impressed by how good these teams were. It was so much more structured than I could've imagined, plus we got awesome t-shirts! We played exceptionally well with a result of 3 wins and 3 losses, though we only lost by 1 point to each of the 2 teams that made it to the finals. It was so much fun, and I am so very glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

For those of you counting down...I have exactly 2 more weeks in Uganda, and exactly 3 more till I am home sweet home. It is crazy how soon I will be seeing you all again, and am looking forward to it!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

IMME group, aka "my family"

I have so much to be thankful for that it would take me so very long to type it all out for you guys. But one thing is for sure. I am so very thankful for this community pictured above. This family has been one that truly matches all of the characteristics of a family: Loving, caring, supporting, encouraging, challenging, strengthening...I could go on, but I think you get the gist.
For those back home, the same is true, but I am so thankful for these beautiful men and women, who are here with me by my side.

Happy Thanksgiving all,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remember that roller-coaster?

Day 110. It's pretty incredible how fast those loops are. How slow it takes to get to the top, and how quickly you fly down. At the end of the track, you realize that you had so much fun, it was truly a thrill. But when you first start to fall, all you want to do is scream.

Last week was very much a week of work and planning. School is wrapping up here. I've got a gajillion papers due in the next couple weeks. Over 30 pages of writing. The way grades work here, those papers pretty much decide my grade in the class. Wasn't to worried though. I worked semi-diligently (I mean lets be honest, there was plenty of talking, facebook checking, and listening to Switchfoot's new album Hello Hurricane in the midst of it). I also planned out days to work and finish the papers. For those who know me, you can push your jaws back into place now. I was also super excited to go to the Rakai District this last weekend. Friday, we were to leave for Rakai at 2pm, so my mom was really excited to take Drew and I to our brother's boarding school in Leweero in the morning to pick them up for their holiday (this is like summer break for them). To avoid traffic we took the side roads for like 2 hours. Talk about a roller-coaster. I thought I was going to throw-up. Their school was pretty cool though, and it was good to see them again since we haven't seen them since August. (I don't remember if I have posted their names before, so here we go: Joshua and Jonathan. Jonathan follows Joshua in age. This is a fact my mama loves. She cracks up everytime she thinks about how ironic it is that in my family back home Jonathan follows Joshua.) Right after we got home, we left for Rakai on a bus crammed full of IMME students (21 in all) and rode for 7 hours!

We ended up spending the weekend in the Kibaale Community Center (Chi-ball-ee) in Rakai. It was probably one of the best, most encouraging weekends here. Mostly because it was incredibly relaxing. We got there and found an incredible pasta dinner awaiting us, served by an all-Canadian crew. The Kibaale Community Center was founded by a Canadian church and then sponsored and eventually taken over by a private school in Canada. After taking a tour the next day, I was amazed to see how through the financial support the community was actually developing and taking ownership. Through most of our learning and experiences here that hasn't always been the case. More often than not, financial support has led to more oppression and dependence than development. The key I think is something that one of the missionaries (the director), Jeff, said to a table of us during dinner Saturday night. He said that he was slowly working himself out of a job. How incredible/ridiculously humble is that? Slowly working yourself out of a job. Not only does that take such trust in God to provide you with work later, but a servant-like attitude to allow others to take over your work. Anyways, this place was pretty incredible. It had 2 primary schools, a secondary school, a health clinic (which was by far the best we have seen in Uganda, even though it was so incredibly simple), and a football (soccer) field. Another great aspect of the trip was that it was so very relaxing. We weren't consumed with trying to learn all about the place, but rather just enjoyed the weekend. Many games were played, including cards (I taught some people Spades), which I have missed oh so much. On Saturday afternoon, some of us hiked up this awesome hillish thing, where you could see Tanzania! Sunday morning we went to one of my favorite church services here (if not my absolute favorite). It was a blast and full of excitement. Village services are always so much more fun, and seemingly more real. Then Drew, I, and the guys played the story game with the girls on the 7 hour drive back home. For those who don't know what the story game is, basically, Drew and I (along with the other guys) wrote stories for all of the girls, and they have to guess them asking yes or no questions to find out who they are, their location, the conflict, and the resolution. It's a lot of fun, and tells a lot about the person. We are finishing up today, and then will explain their stories on Tuesday during IMME class. For those who want to know more, ask Brian.

So we've made it up another hill. This morning, I did what every person shouldn't. I looked down.

First, a few things are just in the back of my mind and kind of worrisome. I haven't been able to find my wallet. Don't worry too much yet mom and dad. I haven't completely scourged my room yet. But it has some things in there that I kind of need. So be praying that I find it. Also, I still have to write those papers, as well as fit in the remaining things on my list to do here. Such as play in an Ultimate Tournament next Sunday. And if there is any part of my body which I hate having wounds, it's in my mouth. Currently, I have 3 cold sores (apparently they are a side effect of the Malerone), and they hurt really bad. Then I read the Palmers' blog. For those not staying updated with them, they have been living in Jinja for quite some time now adopting a young boy, Sterling, from the Amani Baby Cottage. If you haven't read their last post, you probably should. They aren't going to be able to bring Sterling home with them. No, I don't know any more specific details, and they have requested not to ask Why? or What happened? I'm sure they'll explain in due time. But be praying for them. Only spending a weekend with them, it was obvious how much love has filled that family. I can't imagine the pain they are feeling, though I certainly feel pain for them. Pain for the struggles of this world we live in. Pain for the orphans of this country. Pain for the goals set and the goals unachieved. I don't really know how to describe it, but the hope I saw this weekend seems like such a small sliver amidst a fallen world.

As of yesterday, Drew and I have a month left out of the U.S. Thank you all for your continual prayers. Please keep praying that we seek out that sliver of hope Christ brings wherever we are. I love you guys, and my heart burns to see you all.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 100.

Guys, it's a day for celebration. Today marks day 100.

I'm not really sure if there is any significance to that number, but it's just a typical milestone, i suppose. Statistically, it marks over 3/4 of our trip. 39 days till we come home. 86 days longer than I have ever been out of the country. And it's Friday the 13th.

Last couple weeks have been semi-hectic. By semi, I mean they should have been ridiculously hectic, but my impeccable laziness suppressed them. In all I had 6 papers due. They were probably the worst papers I have ever written. But hey, I figure 1 bad paper in each class out of the whole semester isn't horrible. Rather than working stressfully on turning in great papers, I spent a lot of time relaxing with friends and reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and The Bible by, well, a lot of people (I just finished Psalms, I really like Asaph's psalms). And due to the reading/enjoying life, the last couple weeks have been an awesome time of reflection and listening to God's call. I would say that a majority of my life has been me attempting to do what I think God's call on my life should be, not necessarily simply following Christ, as He leads me into God's call. Cool things.

Yesterday included a great evening of Ultimate except for Andy, who was supposed to come with didn't get a ride, and I jacked up my toes hard core (they still hurt a lot). But other than that, I greatly enjoyed getting to play again. Ultimate communities, regardless of where they are, are just such a great example of what a community should be like. Caring, supporting, excited for life. Next weekend (not this one, but next) I am going to Rakai with IMME. Pretty excited for our last trip. Kinda sentimental I suppose. Weird how we have such a short time remaining. Anyway, the following weekend, there is a big ultimate tournament with people from all over East Africa, and us bazungu have a team that's going to play in it. I'm super excited. Today, I'm going on a field trip to see a Martyr's Shrine in Kampala, that'll be interesting.

Welp, this is kind of a short post, but i'm trying to stay present here while my Western mind is reminding me that time is running (which is NOT a concept here). Love you all. Celebrate with us. Soon I will be with you all again.


Monday, November 2, 2009

A Week in a Rural Village: Kapchorwa, Uganda.

Day 89. Hey guys, once again, sorry it’s been so long. This last week has been incredible. A friend of mine from the Uganda Studies Programme, Danielle, and I lived with a family in a rural village called Kapchorwa, which is on Mount Elgon, in Eastern Uganda. Knowing that it is impossible to truly relate to you all what I have learned and experienced here, I have decided to just give you a fairly detailed account of the week and let you take from it what you will, enjoy!

Friday: The drive to Kapchorwa was full of nervousness and excitement, awe and wonder, both corporate and personal. My excitement all of last week grew stronger and stronger as the realization of wheat was to come draw nearer. On that Friday, on the road through Jinja and Mbale, my desire for the week to begin was at its peak. It wasn’t until we reached the base of Mt. Elgon, however, that the butterflies entered and took flight in my stomach. Upon first sight of the majesty of the mountain, I was filled with awe, as we passed waterfall after waterfall, and fear, as we passed family after family, that I would not rise to the role of man on this Great Mountain. Its intimidation humbled me as I sat in my seat anxious for what was before me.

Danielle and I arrived at our new home in the midst of a torrential downpour. We were rushed inside without really much bearing of our surroundings. We were told that our mother did not speak much English and that our father was in town and should be back soon. Upon sitting down on the couch in the sitting room the motor roared and our tie to Mukono, the home we had grown to love, disappeared from sight. Shortly following, our new mother, Lydia, bringing us milk tea, she too disappeared and Danielle and I were left sitting in this dark sitting room lit only by the several eyes of school children peering through the door and window and the bits of sunlight that were able to seep through the gaps of the children’s heads. After what seemed like an hour of this, the initial excitement of the new presence of bazungu (plural of muzungu, which you all know what that means right?) faded and the children went back to school. Danielle and I were thus left in the darkness of the room laughing hesitantly at our strange predicament. It wasn’t until after what felt like eternity (there is no time keeping here other than the sun and the occasional mobile phone) that the rain stopped and we dared to go out and explore a bit of the estate. After another hour or so, our father, Yovan, arrived home greeting us and introducing us to the whole family. We were introduced to two older biological sisters, Stella (23), who we would spend much time with over the week, and Betty (27?). They are the only biological children of Yovan and Lydia home during this school term though we were told there are actually ten of them in all! Our father and mother are also ‘caretakers’ of children in their clan, including Faith (7), Hosea (4), Nomi (2?), Emmanuel (1), and Ruth (9 months). Betty then led me to my place of rest for this week and believe it or not I stayed in a traditional grass-thatched-roof hut made out of mud and cow dung! It was so awesome! After getting all my things arranged, we met back in the sitting room and had a feast of a dinner before going to bed. Walking to bed I was forced to stop halfway as Mars and thousands of stars, radiating their beauty, pierced the dark sky. Crawling into bed, I was renewed with excitement for the week (along with freezing my butt off!).

Saturday: Once again I am reminded of how glorious the LORD is and how beautiful is His Creation! Rising early at 5:45 (I brought my travel alarm clock due to the need to wake up early for beautiful sunrises) I exited my hut to find how incredible both the compound and the surrounding views are. First, let me describe the incredible battle in the sky, which I witnessed that morning. Upon first look into the horizon I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the fog that covered the savannah, which stretches out greatly to the North and West. Then I witnessed the incredible standing of a giant, the neighboring mountain in Karamojo, the land of the Kiramajong, which was faded lightly grey by the clouds that covered it. Vearing my eyes up, I found an incredible battle raging in the sky. Dark clouds covered the Southwestern Sky, fighting to maintain its control over the Great Mountain and its young brother, the Savannah. But from the East came a great storm of color: pink, gold, and bright blue, which fought with great courage and strength as it pushed back the darkness. At the heart of this army rose the Great Source. The Source of all light and color. With the coming of the Source, the enemy of Darkness was finally conquered and the neighboring mountain and savannah were restored to their glorious origins, full of color and majesty. At this time I heard the cracking and splitting of wood. I tuned away from the splendorous view to find Betty had awaken and with axe in hand was preparing wood for the fire. Following this, father came out and gave me a tour of the estate as well as introduced me to the morning routine of caring for the animals. The estate consists of the main building, which houses the sitting room, Yovan and Lydia’s bedroom, and a room for preparing the food to be served. Behind, there is another building which houses the kitchen, where all the food is cooked and prepared, and another room I think is for storage. To the right of that is the girls’ compound, where Danielle stayed, and the o the left is the cow unit as well as chicken coop/goat house. Behind the house is a massive, matooke (banana) farm, where coffee, avocado, and passion fruit are also grown. Lastly, they have a field to the Northeast of the house where the cows and goats graze, as well as, 3 other ‘gardens’ spread in different parts of Kapchorwa. That morning father took me to cut elephant grass and a matooke tree down to feed the cows and then we took a cow and the goats to graze the field. Following a tea break, Danielle and I went ‘digging’ with Stella, which is essentially weeding. Hard work. We ‘dug’ for a good while and then had tea, and after playing with the kids, which was a continuous event, ate dinner, said our evening prayer, enjoyed the beauty of the stars and slept deeply…well actually, I was told the next morning, Danielle was up a good part of the night with a queasy stomach, as she had had several cups of milk tea though she is lactose intolerant (woops).

Sunday: I got up a little bit later than the day before, and by that I mean 6:30, and found mother preparing to milk the cow. I watched her for a bit and then asked to help, but told me that Danielle could, but not me. We would find over the week that the roles of men and women in the rural setting are quite specific and followed closely. In fact, I often found myself worrying that Danielle was feeling degraded. Anyways, I watched the gorgeous sunrise over the mountain and savannah at my usual spot at the entrance of the estate, and then got ready for prayers (church). Church was fun, a lot of singing and dancing, more so than other Ugandan churches even. Afterwards it was good to talk to fellow USP friends. It is crazy how close we have become. Abigail and Hanna came home with us and we had a chance to have tea and talk and enjoy the views with them (which including our turkeys mating right in front of us!) as well as play with the kids. Near the end of the day (no working on Sundays), we went to Abby and Hanna’s house to enjoy their equally gorgeous view, which included the peak of Mt. Elgon as well as another incredible mountain in Karamojo. We had some soda and then Danielle, Stella, and I headed home to have tea, dinner, and end the day.

Monday: I woke up even later, aka, getting a little bit more comfortable around the family, and also just plain tired. After much playing with the kids in the morning and breakfast, Danielle and I went out and ‘dug’ some more with Stella. Then Seth, and intern at USP, and Vincent, our driver, came to visit. We took tea with them and hung out for a bit. Then Seth recorded Danielle giving a tour of the estate and I of my hut, as well as Danielle getting to milk a cow for the first time! Those videos will possibly be on the USP website someday. We had a lot of fun just goofing off with Seth and Vincent. Then we ate. Oh boy, we ate. Throughout Monday, we had five massive meals! Danielle and I thought we were going to explode. Father left with Seth and Vincent into town not to return until midnight. After their departure, Danielle and I played with the kids the whole rest of the day. It was a lot of fun, and definitely made it feel like we were a part of the family. Stella taught me how to make a football (soccerball) out of banana leaves, though I pretty much failed at it. Regardless, I played football with my brother Hosea and his friend for a good hour and then took pictures of some neighborhood kids and the sunset.

Tuesday: Once again I woke up later, around 7, and after breakfast, etc. we went to one of the gardens, which is like this place where they grow all of their maize, cabbage, beans, etc. It was a good two-mile hike towards the forest (national forest on Mt. Elgon) in the Southeast with beautiful views (where are there not beautiful views here?) We explored a little bit while Stalla, mother, and mother’s cousin, cleared and dug a huge plot of land with incredible speed. We didn’t help this process due to the lack of hoes, not the lack of willingness… While exploring, Danielle and I found a miniature waterfall as well as a great view of the forest. Anyhoo, upon coming back, Stella showed us how to dig holes for planting, and then we planted cabbage for a couple hours. We got back home and fetched water. Then as we were having tea, Brian and his neighbor friend, Andrew, showed up, and we got to talk to them about life so far that week, which was great. Following Brian’s departure we took baths and had lunch incredibly late in the day. Tea followed and dinner was not much later. Ooph. Between lunch and dinner, Stella and father were sitting with us in the sitting room, and we went around sharing stories. I began by turning a poem I had written in like 7th grade, “I Am 1 of 3” into a story, which worked out ok. Stella followed with an Africanized Cinderella, which she claimed was passed down from her grandmother. It was hilarious to hear all of the ways African culture infiltrated the story. I also don’t even think she knew it was not original. Danielle then shared a scary story about a murderer loose in Georgia, followed by father, who shared a traditional story about why the hyena is a friend of the hare, but not the goat. After dinner, Danielle and I finally escaped to our beds, exhausted.

Wednesday: Woke up very tired and exhausted from events thus far. Noone seemed to be really doing anything that required assistance, so after fetching water, I took a good couple hours writing in my journal and reading my missionary biography of Vincent Donavan, after having finished my African Lit book Upon This Mountain, which is actually about Mt. Elgon, the previous night. Anyways, following morning tea, Stella told us that she was going to the garden for just a short while, so she could prepare a few holes for mama to plant more cabbage and would be back soon. Danielle and I were pretty excited to hear this, because we were both very tired, so we sat in the sitting room reading and talking about the week so far, including how she felt about the degradation of women, especially herself. After awhile, we went outside to play with the kids. Around then, father went to town leaving us alone with the kids at home. Let me tell you, this was not a day of relaxing, which both of us envisioned. Shortly after father left, chaos broke loose and the kids went crazy! Hosea, the oldest there at age four, is often left home alone to care for the children, so he took control, and as father calls him, became ‘the prefect’ of the other children. Danielle and I were on our toes keeping Hosea from beating up his siblings and vice versa! Danielle said it best, “No rest for the weary.” It turned out that when Stella said, “a short while,” she was speaking in African time, which I definitely learned in Kapchorwa, so she didn’t get home till much later. When she did come back, we took a break from babysitting and we went into the sitting room journaling/reading/and talking some more. It was nice to just chat alone for a bit. We took tea and then had lunch amidst the daily rain. Directly following our late lunch, Stella, Danielle, and I walked quite a ways to a primary school where ther was a Primary 7 farewell party (P7 is like our 5th grade), and we were the guests of honor! We even had to speak some words of encouragement over them! The event was pretty cool, except for in the middle of one of the head examiner’s speech, he told the P7 candidates to ask Danielle and I (his words were “our friends the White Man and Woman!”) for money to sponsor them in Secondary school if they passed their PLE (Primary Level Exam)! Danielle and I just looked at each other stunned. No wonder that kids here are always asking for money, their teachers tell them to! Luckily, we got out of their before any awkward situations came up, but were pretty surprised. The walk home was some of the most fun we had had though. It was dark and kind of sprinkling and we just goofed off joking, skipping, and having fun the whole way home. At home we were super tired waiting for dinner and tea, and Danielle, Stella, and I just talked for awhile. After dinner, tea, and prayer, I rushed to my hut both tired and cold. As I arrived to my hut, I found the door was no longer latched and the lock was gone! I opened the door finding the lock on the floor as well as my clock, but the only thing that was taken was my Ziploc bag of toothbrush, sunscreen, and bug repellant. Strange. I crawled into bed and froze all night long, waking up at least three times to use the restroom. But I did have a sweet dream about parkour, heh.

Thursday: Last full day. Crazy. Waking up, I searched my heart for a desire to stay or a desire to leave, but was left only finding joy in the moment. If there is one thing I had learned this week, it was that time is found in the moment. Not in the future. Not in the past. In a place where the clock does not tick, where an event is not limited to a certain hour, but is done when needed to be done, Time exists solely in the moment. A friend of mine, Cameron, wrote an incredible poem about this very thought, which he shared with us on Sunday. Hopefully I can get it from him to let you all share in his insight. After breakfast, Stella asked Danielle and I to plant onions with her, so we spent a couple hours in the morning planting what? planting onions. (sorry, that’s kind of an inside joke…Ugandans LOVE to throw “what?” randomly into sentences) While we were planting Danielle lost her balance and started to fall into the dirt, so I reached out my hand and she grabbed arm, but by then it was too late to save her, she hit the dirt. It was kinda funny, not gonna lie, so yeah, I laughed. Then out of nowhere Stella started condemning me for pushing her in! Danielle of course took advantage and was like, “yeah! Why did you have to go and push me in?” It was clearly an opportunity to get back at me for having the superior role of man. Following this planting of onions, I was introduced to the art of picking coffee. Basically these trees grow what look like red berries, and you just pick them off and put them in the plastic basin we have all grown to love here in Uganda until you fill it and start all over. I recently had a conversation with Hannah Starke, and I think I summarized my reflections on coffee and those who grow it the best I have yet, so hopefully she won’t mind, but I’m going to put it here:

Hannah started by asking, “what is something you think of when you see somebody drinking a cup of coffee?” Thus here is my answer.

well...after last week (i picked kilos and kilos of coffee) i think of rural Africans toiling away under the hot sun with hands that can't open all the way because they have been picking all day everyday.

i think of my friend's dad [Drew] who has to work each day on his coffee plantation to pay for his 9 kids to go through school.

i think of the single pulper [don’t judge me for making up that word] that is shared with the community to pulp (peel the outer berry-like stuff off and release the actual beans) all of the coffee picked.

i think of roads covered with tarps which hold hundreds of kilos of coffee beans drying in the sun.

i think of the women who spend entire days roasting said dried coffee.

i think of the community that is formed by everyone in a clan pitching together to meet and fill orders.

i think of the joy that escapes their lips as songs are sang and stories are shared while performing that mindless task.

I have a very new perspective on coffee now, to say the least.

Of those, I would say that the last two are the most important. The community and joy that arises amidst the mindless work is incredible. And this is certainly not to make you all feel bad about what they do. But maybe you should feel bad about paying $4 for coffee…jk, well, not really. After picking for a little bit, Danielle and I went with Stella to another family garden we hadn’t been to yet, and was pretty far away, where we cut down (when I say we, I mean to say Stella) some matooke and Danielle made a little hat out of a banana leaf and carried some on her head. I got to carry the panga (machete). heh. When we got back, I went back to picking coffee intermittingly through the rain. It pretty much rained the rest of the day. Near the end of the day, our father told us that we were invited to Reverend Canon Kissa’s house for tea that evening. Rev. Kissa turned out to be the “grandfather” of the community. Apparently this is his 50th year of service, so his Golden Jubilee is in December, which is pretty awesome. It was a really funny tea session, because our little sister Faith came with us and Danielle kept shoving her tea and biscuits down her while Rev. Kissa wasn’t looking.

Friday: I woke up early to catch the sunrise at my house one last time. It was kind of a sad thought, not gonna lie. Then I slaughtered a chicken. No big deal. Ok, so Stella held it down while I cut half of its neck off, but it was still kind of fun. Then Danielle got to pluck out all the feathers, because that is a woman’s job. I failed to mention throughout this post just how much Danielle was told that she was a woman so she was lazy and was limited to what was considered “women’s work,” which honestly is a lot more than the work of men. But she’s pretty much awesome and took it way better than I would have…had I been a woman…which I’m not…so no worries. After we took care of the chicken business, Stella took Danielle and I on a Lord of the Rings adventure. It was awesome. Basically we hiked through cornfields and matooke trees amongst incredible rolling hills on this mountainside with our awesome staffs. If you could see us from above, we would definitely have looked like hobbits on an adventure. Anyways our mission: waterfall. Mission successful. The waterfall was beautiful. And pretty incredible. We came home with enough time to pulp the coffee we had picked and take some pictures with the family. Finally around mid-day the USP van returned to pick us up, we said our sad goodbyes and left family number 3. It was pretty sad for both Danielle and I to leave our family, but it was great to see our friends once again. Plus, our next destination was Sipi Falls. Sipi Falls is a location on one of the sides of Mt. Elgon where a series of three incredible waterfalls are created from a single source. We met up with our IMME friends as well as our USE friends, who had stayed in Soroti (more central Uganda), and stayed at this resortish type thing across from Sipi Falls, where we could see the beautiful waterfalls. We spent the rest of the day catching up with friends, debriefing, and just relaxing. We also stayed up super late playing Mafia and just having a great time with each other.

Saturday: Saturday was an excellent day. I went on what was called “The Epic Hike” through Sipi Falls. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on. Reminded me a lot of the Smoky Mountains actually. We took a coaster (bus) up as high as we could, and then hiked a good hour or so along the forest (which I was really excited about walking to and seeing) and then reached the top of the first waterfall. A group of 13 of us, including Mark Bartel, our program director and mountaineer, hiked from the top of that waterfall all the way down to the bottom of the third. At each waterfall, the glory and power of God was just overwhelming. We walked under a couple of them and were overpowered by their strength. At the last one we crawled into some sweet caves and then saw a beautiful rainbow at the last waterfall. The hike took about 5 hours, and was full of glorious views. When I got back, I took a long shower and just relaxed, talking with friends and playing cards. That evening, after dinner, I had the strangest emotional reaction though. Everyone was having a good time partying (it being Halloween and all) and just enjoying life, when I found myself incredibly lonely. Amidst the joy of those around me and the majestic mountain and waterfall before me, I felt the most lonely I had felt in a long while. I couldn’t understand it. I walked back to my cabin and just sat on the porch looking at the waterfall gleam in the starlight, and prayed to God, pleading for a reason for this loneliness. None was given. No answer came. I don’t know what happened. Everyone went to bed early that night since we were all tired from our separate hikes and the week as a whole.

Sunday: The next morning we woke up at 730 to climb to the top of this cliff and have praise & worship and simply honor Jesus on top of this incredible creation of His. It was a very cool corporate worship moment, as we all sat in a circle, but rather than looking inward symbolizing the community of believers worshipping the LORD, we were all looking outward symbolizing our call to worship Him outwardly as we spread His light throughout His Creation. It was beautifully poetic, and several students read verses from the Bible, His great poem, and a friend, Cameron, who I talked about earlier, shared his poem about time, and it was glorious. After packing and snagging some lunch, we headed home, to end a long, but incredible week of learning and soaking in that, which is the Ugandan rural culture.

I applaud all of you that finished that whole thing. Hopefully it makes up for not posting in forever. I love all of you guys, and wish that I truly could communicate my experiences here with you, but it seems so impossible.

Peace be with you,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Day 69. So today marks Drew and I's halfway point. Is that crazy or what? We were talking last night/this morning about how it feels like we are way farther along. We concluded that Europe felt like an entirely separate trip (which it was), and it should've pushed us considerably farther along in time. Regardless, for those of you in anticipation of our return home, you've made it halfway, congratulations.

As I type this, I realize that I haven't posted in over a week. Sorry about that. To be honest, though, in terms of what has physically happened...not a whole lot. We went to Leweero this last weekend and met with the Anglican Bishop of Leweero and also a Catholic Priest, whose church we went to on Sunday (bomb!). Other than that, nothing crazy exciting (oh yeah, Uganda had its independence day celebration, but no one really celebrates too much, because there is still so much corruption.)

What has been going on is a truck-load (I was gonna say butt-load, but then realized my mom was probably gonna read this) of thinking/pondering/discussing with Drew/reading about poverty/simple living/protecting those we love/Jesus. The slashes indicate just how straightforward this last week has been in terms of thinking.

I read The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and enjoyed it so much more than the first time I read it. (I had a little bit of a pride complex the first time.) This time, I saw so much humility and love in Shane and his ideas, that it spurred me on to continue thinking what it means to follow Jesus. Specifically, how to follow him when he goes and hangs out with the poor, and still be an engineer.

I also watched The Mission with Robert De Niro, which is an incredible film, and Brian, you should get the missions class to watch it. The movie is a true story about some Spanish Jesuits in South America, who start up a mission amongst this Indian tribe, and when the Portuguese are given the territory by the Spanish, the Jesuits have to decide how to protect the Indians. It's a beautiful story that really captures my dilemma of late, aka is fighting to protect those you love ok? I poured over the Scriptures, specifically the Gospels, to find out how Jesus protects people. Guys, he doesn't talk about it, hardly at all. Really the only instance I could find is in John 8, when Jesus protects the adulterous woman from being stoned by the Pharisees. So here's what he does: he draws in the dirt. Really God? That's what you got for me? I'm not even any good at drawing...Brian isn't either ;). So, this adulterous woman is about to be stoned, and Jesus distracts the guys, (probably because they were just really confused) and then he calls them out on their sins. And they walk away. I'm pretty sure God was saying to me, "Joshua, they saw Jesus. He veered their eyes away from the woman and towards him. In sight of him, they recognized their sin." Immediately I was reminded of Father Gabriel's decision in the movie. I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it...but I think he was right. He presented Jesus. That's all we are told to do, when protecting those we love, show your enemies Jesus.

That's probably all the detail I'm going to get into it. But when I come home, or if you wanna pay a lot of money to call me...I'm open to more discussion.

Peace my friends, Happy Halfway Day!
Joshua "Mubiru"