A few days ago marked six months since I arrived in Uganda this year. In some ways, that number feels accurate—small-town Texas life and plentiful Starbucks and “fitting in” to a sea of faces seems very removed. In other ways, it doesn’t seem like half a year at all. Wasn’t it just recently that I was a weepy mess with a 50-pound carry on in line for the security checkpoint? Time…what a strange phenomenon.
Only two and a half weeks from now, I will be making a return trip to the States for a six-week home assignment over Thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel very ready (and increasingly excited) for that visit. In light of the upcoming departure, I think I’m also feeling tired—as if I’m preparing to let down and have some serious spiritual, physical, and emotional rest. In the meantime, I’m striving to continue to be engaged with my students as we finish this term. Now more than ever, my two lives seem to be competing for my attention. Pray that the Ugandan one wins out for the next two weeks!
While Thursday marked my 6 months, it was also another day at school. In the morning, I headed over to the “baby” class—our four-year-olds! These kids might have me wrapped around their collective fingers. I love the enthusiasm of these little ones, their pure wonder at the ability to create, and their ecstatic hugs and shouts of “Auntie Beth! Auntie Beth!” as I arrive. I had recently been given some art and craft supplies from a visiting team, including a large bag of multicolor beads. So I pulled out some string, set bowls of beads on each desk, and told the kids (via translation) that today we would be making necklaces.
The response was extreme excitement, and there was loud chattering in Luganda as I distributed the materials. When the kids had gotten started, I retreated to the class teacher and asked what they had been saying.
She smiled. “They have said, ‘Auntie has made a miracle!'”
While there’s probably a bit (lots?) of theological error in that, I so enjoy seeing the joyfulness of their response to a seemingly simple activity. Every time I am with those kids, I catch another glimpse of Jesus’ heart in calling us to become “like little children.” How simple, and yet beautifully profound.
This week, I am thankful for miracle beads. Miracle beads, and eighteen kids in bright-colored necklaces.
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 18:2-4
This is the stunning rainbow that appeared after Wizeye’s burial. Another reminder of hope and promise. (Photo credit.)
Jesus promised to take Wizeye home.
He’s promised all of us, of course. All of us, his children. But Wizeye is a child of God whose physical body, although young, had serious problems. My first meeting with him was just last month, when he joined David Family and I met him over our dinner together.
“Wizeye,” someone said, “How are you?”
“I am fine,” he replied, although he wasn’t.
“How can we pray for you?” someone asked.
A pause. “Pray that God would increase my fine,” Wizeye said.
And now, Wizeye’s ‘fine’ has been increased beyond imagination.
Last week, we took Wizeye to the nearby village hospital. And for the next six days, there were many drives to and from, many visits, many prayers, many songs sung, many good-byes that could have been the last. I don’t know Wizeye nearly as well as many others, but on Tuesday of this week, I had the honor of sitting with him in his room. That morning, he was weak. But his eyes opened, he greeted me, and when I asked if I could read to him from the Psalms, he wanted to listen.
I’m not sure I have ever felt God’s presence as intimately as I felt in that hospital room. And in those hours, all that really mattered was that the Jesus we both loved was preparing to bring Wizeye to Himself.
“Wizeye,” I asked him when we had finished reading, “When you see Jesus, will you greet him for me?”
“Yes,” he said, and that was that.
A few hours later, he went home.
God fulfilled all of his promises to Wizeye. He healed him, made him whole, and brought him home. I can’t imagine a more beautiful conclusion to the earthly side of Wizeye’s story.
This week has been full. There has been physical death, and the knowledge of glorious new life. There has been mourning, and there has been celebration. There has been family, friends, and community, coming together to honor a life. And there has been Jesus, in and around and above.
Today, I praise the God who fulfills his promises—the God who is even now holding Wizeye close to His heart.
8/21/14 – 5pm Greenwich Mean Time
Having just walked over a mile from a cafe near the Glencoe bus stop to our hostel, I can definitely say I’m glad we packed light! The bus ride from Inverness was incredibly scenic; especially once we neared Fort William. The mountains are stunning. Oh, Scotland. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.
I have felt the slow creeping of fern-like things budding in my mechanical heart.
and the streams I see tunnelling under Scottish roads; they flip over themselves in haste for the sea…
I have felt the slipping streams tunnelling through me.
8/16/14 – 12pm Greenwich Mean Time
We’re on the train to Hexham, bound for Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve had this line from W.H. Auden rolling about in my mind since I saw it in York: “And down by the brimming river, I heard a lover sing; under an arch of the railway: Love has no ending.” I guess the trains keep it fresh in my memory. If I have any money left when I get home (doubtful), I want to buy Auden’s ‘Age of Anxiety’ with intro and annotations by Alan Jacobs.
The landscape is fantastic. And varied. Right now there are hugely tall pine trees looming over the fields, and horses with oversized feet grazing the hillside. And now there are ancient oaks and slender aspens with ferns going crazy below. There are hills green with grass and fields yellow with wheat. Several kinds of purple flowers- some with long rush-like fronds and some with small round petals and white centres- follow the track. And when we pass a village there are always brick houses (with the inevitable white window frames) and a church spire looking extremely historic, but the details of which I’ll never know. Incredible, the surplus of history that is packed into this island. And the surplus of blackberries is also ridiculous. =D
8/11/14 – 9:43pm Greenwich Mean Time
With extreme skill at research and bus-schedule-memory, Dad saw to it that the bus which took us to Blenheim Palace today also made it possible to visit Tolkien’s house and grave. We did a lot of hopping on and off buses today. =) I sang ‘Into the West’ at Tolkien’s grave, which simply felt like the right thing to do.
Blenheim P was huge. Not just the palace, but the grounds! We didn’t even see everything. It was very impressive. The room where Churchill was born was less ostentatious than the State Rooms, but its significance made up for the lack of grandeur. “Here’s where the 20th Century was saved,” said Dad.
Back in Oxford, we spent some more time in Blackwell’s, ate dinner (steak, ale, and mushroom pie) at The King’s Arms pub, and did some more wandering around Oxford. I’m growing more and more fond of this city. Its streets form a labyrinth of treasures waiting for me to stumble upon them.