Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poverty and Abundance

I heard the dog barking and went out to see who it was that was coming from behind the house. Sheepishly, the boy who worked hard for me but stole our fruit, got off his bike and walked slowly over to me. I welcomed him and was genuinely glad to see him since I thought I would never see him again. He immediately apologized and handed me some money. He told me he had worked for another of the staff and the staff member had told him to bring the money to me to pay for the fruit. I had asked this staff member for advice since he knew the boy.

As I talked with him, encouraging him about his hard work didn't seem to be lifting his spirits at all. I told him I would like to have him work for me again. My heart broke, though, when, as he walked away, he turned and said, "Uncle? Am I forgiven?" I then knew a bit more of Jesus' heart. "You are already forgiven."

I was struck by 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 as the Apostle Paul essentially told the Corinthians to give out of their abundance not their poverty. I'm realizing how I need to keep receiving from Jesus in order to give/sow generously.

With all that in mind, how do I pray for the workers building our house who have not worked the last two days because someone stole the concrete bags left at the sight?
Only by God's grace, Tim

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When Helping Hurts

Walking through Kampala on Thursday sparked a conflict in me that has always been there but just got more pronounced. I walked by two men both sitting on the ground, both without legs. They had their hand out. No question in anyone's mind, they were begging. I have often walked by situations like that without a glance. My heart was torn by the disparity of my life. I was walking by with four bottles of soda for my family to enjoy for our family night together along with well over one million shillings, a small portion of our monthly salary but far beyond a years wages here in Uganda.

I had no doubt I would encounter this dilemma but it has been compounded by a book suggested to me by both Keith McFarland (principal of the Institute of Childcare and Family) and Jonnes Bakimi (co-director of New Hope Uganda). It is called "When Helping Hurts-How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself" by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. I understand that material poverty is not the only poverty and in fact, as a westerner, I struggle with, what they would call, "poverty of being." Essentially a "god complex." Admittedly, my heart can think, if I have money or possessions, I can alleviate this person's problems because all they need is a little financial boost and their life will be better. When, in fact, I don't have a clue what they need. Does that excuse my need to get involved? On the contrary, it forces me to get further involved.

I haven't gotten all the way through the book but am only 1/3 through but facing the paradox in my life and situation. How do I help? Truly help without going deeper into poverty myself or sending someone else deeper into poverty. There is no question I must help and especially help the poor and needy but how? My favorite interrogative. How?

Case and point: a young boy from the village came to ask for any small job I might have. I gave him some work and he worked very hard for over an hour. When he was done, I asked him to take the tools to the shed. I kept an eye on him since I didn't know him very well. Unfortunately, he came out with my machete, walked over to one of our fruit trees and cut down a rather large fruit, went into the bushes and began to eat it. I was very disappointed and went out to talk with him about his hard work, the fairness of my wages I had already paid him, about trust and relationship, and about stealing. Poverty. I have it. He has it. Just in different ways. How do I alleviate poverty without hurting both of us. Any ideas are welcome...
Only by God's grace, Tim

On Sweet Potatoes, Grubs, and becoming 'Madame Muzungu'

It is not common, after reaching adulthood, to acquire a new name. I suppose marriage might be the exception for a woman, but nicknames and new names are generally in the past. However, here in Uganda, I have received a new name. Benevolently bestowed upon me by shopkeepers, venders and generally anyone trying to sell me something. I am, to them, 'Madame Muzungo' (Mrs White Person). Possessor of limitless amounts of money and obviously being in the need of everything from produce, clothes, sheets, dried fish and even a young white crane. I cause quite a stir when I walk through any market, a trying experience for one never liking attention. I have always preferred to blend into the background. I found out quickly that blending in is a bit difficult here. Although I do it better than my husband and children. Micah's white blond hair in particular is like a flashing neon sign 'MUZUNGO, MUZUNGO, MUZUNGO'.
Speaking of the market, that is where people sell and you buy sweet potatoes. A simple proposition. On my first market trip, after tagging along with a more experienced Muzungo, I decided to break out on my own and buy some sweet potatoes. After considering the number of people in my family, I decided 3 large sweet potatoes would suffice. After approaching a friendly looking lady who unfortunately spoke as much English as I spoke Luganda, I asked for 3 sweet potatoes. After looking puzzled for a moment, she brightened, said something rapidly in Luganda and began filling the largest plastic bag she had with most of her sweet potatoes. After trying various words and gestures to communicate the idea that I did not want kilos of sweet potatoes, I gave up and watched her fill the bulging bag. After the bag was full, she smiled and said "three Thousand" holding up 3 fingers as I had previously done to ask for 3 sweet potatoes. It was then I realized I had ordered three thousand shillings (1.50 $) worth of sweet potatoes instead of three. I also learned that three thousand shillings buys a bag of sweet potatoes big enough so that it is difficult to carry. After smiling weakly at her cheerful face, (she had just sold almost her entire inventory of sweet potatoes to one Muzungo, why shouldn't she be cheerful?) I staggered over to Tim to deposit the bag in stronger arms. To his amazed expression, I said, "I just found out how NOT buy sweet potatoes." I must add, however, that the workers helping us were very appreciative of my mistake as we had several meals of sweet potatoes and beans. Quite good, actually,
Another thing we learned the hard way was the fact that papaya go too ripe very quickly. Which is NOT a good thing, as I will explain to you. Tim and I have enjoyed the ripe papaya here, the kids not so much. I hear it is an acquired taste. Since the kids have not yet acquired the taste for papaya, despite their mother's efforts in that area, we don't eat papaya very quickly. We were told chickens like overripe papaya, which we found odd, but decided to test the theory. I happened to have a VERY overripe papaya on my counter that I decided to cut into pieces for the chicken. I quickly found out why the chickens like overripe papaya. As soon as I cut into the papaya, Juice and bits of the papaya began to fly out at me. Thinking I was being very messy, I cut again very carefully with the same result. Bits of papaya were flying all over, including on my shirt, arms, counter, floor, etc. It was about at this time that I realized that these bits were not papaya at all, but jumping grubs that were rapidly vacating the papaya. It was that point that I realized why the chickens liked overripe papaya, it is because it comes with lots of yummy grubs. (from the chicken's perspective, of coarse) I however was not as appreciative (who knew grubs could jump, anyway?!!!) and my remarks brought Tim and the kids running to the kitchen, well within range of the acrobatic grubs. Before the kids could realize what was happening, I threw the cut papaya into a bucket and yelled at the kids to run it out to the chickens. So the chickens got their papaya and the kids didn't learn what the little flying yellow pieces were until after they came back into the house. Which was good, because they would have never taken the bucket out if they knew. After all, we certainly didn't want the chickens to miss some perfectly good papaya grubs! Kim

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh, rats!

Oh no, you say! Oh, yes. Kim went out the the storeroom last night at about 10:00 to put the dog in her kennel for the night. All I heard was, "Oh no, Tim!" As I got up quickly and said, "What's wrong," (I knew by her tone of voice it wasn't pleasant) she responded, "That was NOT a mouse, that was definitely a rat. It was too big to be a mouse. I just saw its back end and tail disappearing over some of the things on the shelf."

There was a brief moment of silence...then over the top of the items on the shelf came a small (5 inches + tail? I know small is relative but when you've seen the Chicago river rats as big as a cat, 5 inches is small) RAT. I expected a battle and pictured in my mind, grabbing the baseball bat that was near at hand and smashing every item on the shelf and the shelves themselves before I got the little turkey (or RAT as the case was). But before I knew what was happening it scurried over things as fast as it could and made for its only SAFE exit...the way it came in.

Houses here have vents near the roof that are no more than a foot long hole framed with wood and covered with screen. Here in the storeroom, however, the wire from the solar panel enters the vent leaving a small gap in the screen around the wire. Apparently this little (or large if you don't believe in Chicago river rats) invader had pushed it's way through the screen to access a veritable smorgasbord (okay, Sven, we aren't in Sweden anymore) of storage food from powdered sugar to other grains. Though Ugandans have made it a rule to be very hospitable to visitors, I have to put my foot down here. How does one say, "You are NOT welcome" to a visitor in Luganda?

I realized duct tape and baling wire is probably as useful here in Uganda as it is in the States. I read Ephesians 3:2,3 this morning, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." I KNOW Paul wasn't talking about RATS!!
Only by God's grace, Tim

Friday, June 18, 2010

Having a good time!

Being in Uganda for about a month and one day, its been really fun. On Thursday we went to Kampala for Kara's birthday to the Fairway Hotel and swam in their pool. Friday night we went to the Samuel family for their family gathering.
In the past few days, I have been making a lot of friends that I did not think I would be friends with. In the last month we have been getting more and more used to living in Uganda. Only one month out of a few years and we have been having a really good time with our friends.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New house

Construction crews continue working hard on our house and they are moving along quickly...so far. Actually we are planning on clearing our garden and planting some fruit trees within the next few weeks. Their amazing work digging the huge cistern by hand impressed me not only by the difficult, labor intensive job but the precision with which they dug it. Thank you for your prayers for this place. We pray it will be a place of joy and peace for all who enter and we pray it will be built with integrity, quality and efficiency. Please pray for the workers and their hearts, also. Our Luganda is so limited and their English is so limited right now, we don't have an opportunity to talk with them with much. Pray God works in their hearts through His hand and His Word.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ugandan Wedding

Yesterday (Sunday-it has taken me three days to try and download a video from the wedding) was a new experience for us. We attended a Ugandan wedding. Actually it began during our Sunday morning service. Normally the service starts at 10:30am and gets over at 1:00pm. The wedding began during the service that was also Family Day at New Hope. It was a perfect setting especially since the couple were not believers when they got together and had never had a wedding before God and His people.

What a celebration! After the church service got over the couple took pictures and everyone that was from the New Hope community went home to get their plates and forks then came back. The wedding "reception" got under way and it was interesting to see some similar traditions but also the Ugandan traditions. We were pretty hungry by the time we had lunch at 4:00 and the wedding was still going on. Unfortunately, being the green westerners we are, we didn't make it all the way through. It was still going strong when we left at 4:30.

The family is so important here at New Hope. From the nuclear family as a core (parents with children) to the larger family (all who believe), the family is core for understanding our relationship with our Father but also in relating to each other. This wedding was a good example. The nuclear family wasn't the only important relationship in this wedding it was also the larger community including the church but also the village. Wow, what a difference than the States. We very rarely have community involved unless it is smaller towns.

Kim and I are looking forward to our five months in the Institute of Childcare and Family where we live family and learn family from a biblical worldview rather than our western or Ugandan point of view. We have already experienced the love of the family here in the dinners we were invited to when we got here, in the greetings that are part of the culture and also in the friendships we have grown even since we arrived. God gives us love, security, patience, grace, wisdom and joy when we submit to Him working through family. I hope I'm learning and receiving these.
Only by God's grace, Tim

Friday, June 4, 2010

What it's like

I've had a lot of people asking what it's like here in Uganda. To tell the truth, apart from the humidity, heat, and vegetation, it doesn't seem much different than America. Yes, always wearing skirts and the food and such is different, but it doesn't really feel like I'm half way around the world. It seems like such a small world sometimes.
Here are some pics of our "pets" right now. We are getting fresh eggs every day from the chickens. Mounty, our rhodesian ridgeback, is a great guard dog. She is shy, but is very affectionate when she gets to know you.
Right now, some of the American kids here are shooting a video, sort of professional. Most of the American and English kids are the actors. So far it's been fun. I'll let everyone know when it's been posted on YouTube.
Thanks for everyone's support!

With love,