Our Ugandan Family

“Hallo my dear dota Morissa”

Receiving monthly emails with some sort of variation of this greeting could not be sweeter. After correcting him once, I didn’t have the heart to go at it a second time. His smile was so colossal and sincere, he could have called me Martha (not my favorite variation of Marissa) and it would have been fine by me. Anyway, people in North America often call me Melissa, so I can surely deal with an East African calling me Morissa.

God bringing me in contact with a person such as Pastor Moses Luzinda has opened my heart and mind to live selflessly. Knowing him and Mama (his wife) has furthered my ability to look outside my severely blessed life here in the West. With their children grown and pursuing their prospective careers, this couple continues to parent the orphaned children they have adopted. They pastor at their church in town and hold marriage counseling classes. Mama runs a wedding catering business out of their home, specializing in ground nut sauce, cassava, fried chicken, and chapati. In addition to countless pastoral and community duties, Pastor Moses has begun a school, Hope Infant Primary School.

Mama Luzinda, March 2012

Mama Luzinda, March 2012. Credit: Stephanie May Wilson

 Hope School is a daytime haven for hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children in the area. Attending a public school includes paying what are hefty school fees for even the average Ugandan. Because of this, many children stay home and tend to their siblings or try to sell things in the market. This is why Hope exists. As expected, the school’s numbers are past capacity and it grows so quickly that the pupils can no longer squeeze on the classroom’s splintery benches. At mealtime, the staff scrapes the bottom of the porridge pot. The teachers have not been paid in months, for there simply are no funds. Still, they keep on showing up, keep on teaching because these children are the future of their communities, their country. The students adore their school! There, they can learn about the solar system, how to write an essay. Most of all, they come to know about Jesus. It is evident they know Him. During times of worship, they close their eyes and raise their hands as if they are reaching for God, Himself. They simply don’t have physical things to distract them or people who love them whom they can rely upon. They need Jesus. I want to need Him like that too. More than needing Him, they love Him with every fiber of their tiny bodies.

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Students gathering water, fall 2014

These children also need water. During the day, students leave the classroom and miss out on instruction to go on water hunts. The results are always grim as they return with murky sludge from holes where animals drink and bathe. Unsurprisingly, these kids are sick. They have seen their friends and family members die and they understand the reason. Friends, they are praying for water. It dawns on me that just this afternoon, I gazed at a lake on the Las Vegas Strip, containing 22 million gallons of water, spewing it all over the place for pure entertainment. Oh, to be able to bottle it up and ship it to the Luweero District.

Morning school commutes

Morning school commutes. Credit: Stephanie May Wilson

I have seen a need, a need more tremendous than I have ever known. Thirst has never overtaken my body to the point of drinking contaminated water and obtaining disease. Three years ago when my friends and I stayed a month with Pastor Moses and his family, I knew this place and these people would be a part of my journey for years to come. I am still awaiting the day I will return to the African sun and hear the flawless melodies of hundreds of children’s voices rising into the heavens in unison.

They are still part of my life, in the greatest way, for they pray for me. And so, I must write this. I’ve got to ask for your help for our brothers and sisters. I would be lying if I told you I’m always hopeful this money will appear. I’m not. My spirit sways and questions, but the love of Christ urges me to hold on to hope. I know His Spirit is more powerful than my words and it is His love that compels His people, you and I. Maybe He will provide through this blog, or maybe He will have the well built in a way my human mind can’t fathom. That’s something I love about Jesus. He is FULL of surprises. As I sit here in the Las Vegas Venetian drinking a bottle of Nice! spring water and staring at rows of colorful pastries, I pray. I pray for those dear children and the plans He has for them as they grow and learn! Tonight, they are why I write. Here it is, I ask you to prayerfully consider joining by giving to this CAMPAIGN to get clean water to these precious kids in Wobulenzi, Uganda. Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus, taking care of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ as we are commanded.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” -I John 3:17-18

World Race mission team to Wobulenzi, March 2012. L-R: Katie, Pastor Moses, Brittany, Stephanie, Natalie, Shay, myself, and Mama

World Race mission team to Wobulenzi, March 2012. L-R: Katie, Pastor Moses, Brittany, Stephanie, Natalie, Shay, myself, and Mama

One Year Past: Uganda.

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This morning, I was thinking that one year ago I was there. This is not too far-fetched, but definitely strange when I consider my current life in comparison to those frightening, miraculous, unordinary, and simply stunning days last March.

Here is a video by Stephanie May.

And here are a few snippets…

His name was Wilfred, I think. Team, please correct me if I’m wrong. This young man was “scrawny.” He was supposed to protect the six of us white girls during the wee hours of the night, utilizing his gargantuan bow and arrow if he deemed necessary. Pastor Moses hired him after a local seized my teammate, Katie’s eye glasses and other critical items. The one minor problem with Wilfred was that half of the time I saw him at his post out front, he was sound asleep in the plastic chair. I didn’t spot a single energy drink during that month in Wobulenzi, so I let the poor guy off the hook.

There was this chicken. It had a combination of black, brown, and reddish feathers. Oh, that chicken. Its preferred nest just so happened to be another teammate, Shay’s bed. More than once, she found an egg nestled in her sheets.

Pastor Moses began a school for orphans and at-risk children. Hope Infant Primary in Wobulenzi. Within the first few moments of being there, I was in shambles on the inside, attempting to keep decent composure on the out. The teachers lacked knowledge on even the most basic subjects. Shoes were a rarity for these precious kiddos. Even more scarce was food. The school provided them with a cup of porridge (basically watery cream of wheat that isn’t as flavorful) during the day. Thinking about this again makes me want to take every Lunch-able I ever ate and….I don’t know, send them to Africa. Anyway, the students brought their own cups from home. Since every kid didn’t have one, those without would wait for the more privileged children to finish. By that time, we were about to scrape bottom. Though the portions were a bit smaller toward the end, somehow there was just enough.

Most days, I would wake up early and run along the main dusty road. The sunrises were so utterly magnificent that I tear up even now, thinking on His splendor. There were scores of children making their lengthy journeys to school, many with Muslim hats and head coverings. It wasn’t a rarity to have some run with me for a few moments until they got tired. The road was so dusty that by the time I got home, my sweaty wet skin had a nice red film. It was super uncomfortable then, but I’d do almost anything to be there, experience it all over. Funny how that works.
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After breakfast, we would usually meet up with our translators: David, Eve, and Eve.

There was this place. It was called the “boozing place.” Yes, the folks drank quite a bit of alcohol here. Ok, they drank more than that. I should clarify that this booze wasn’t a Tusker or Singha. Instead, they would sit around large buckets of a murky sludge, each with some sort of long reed acting as a makeshift straw. Drinking is always an elevated, touchy subject on the mission field. While I believe in good beer and wine, believers over there flee from even a drop of alcohol. I found it difficult to go into ministry with locals who preached that the “boozers” were going to Hell because they drank. There is more to say of course…in their defense and mine. During one of our door-to-door (or bar-to-bar) times, I talked to a man in about his forties who had gone to seminary in NW Africa and used to be a pastor. His English was quite good and we could get by without a translator. Here he was drinking the sludge in a shack in a village, talking to me about his frustrations with the church and its people. I got to share mine. It was a brutally honest conversation. He told me that I gave him hope. I told Him that it was the Father who had orchestrated our meeting. He couldn’t deny and we both basked in that moment.

In Uganda, I was served the best food out of all 11 countries. Undoubtedly, there were beans and there was rice. Chapati, eggplant, bananas, ground nuts, chicken, plantains, and spinach were a few of the other staples. They don’t sound spectacular, but Mama and her assistant, Eve (different from the other two Eve’s) knew how to cook and spice to perfection. Our poor contacts in Tanzania and Rwanda could have taken a lesson, for Uganda had some delectable eats.
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On one of my days off, I was walking into town to get some dial-up internet. All of a sudden, a woman sprints after me. I scream. She chases my teammate and I for a good while, talking to herself and every once in a while, yelling at us. I suppose this could happen in DC as well.

I hope that I never discount the privilege it was to speak to high school students about sex, AIDS prevention, and purity.
I blogged about it.

The most thrilling event of my life thus far occurred in this country. Rafting the Nile and many of its class V rapids produced a few frightening spills, but is something I recommend to the highest degree of recommendation. My body almost exploded because of all the adrenaline.
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There is so much more. There are more stories of miracles, terror, faithfulness, and revelation. This land stirred and destroyed my life for the good…for the pursuit of Love and spreading that Love.

I’m in Washinton, D.C. (or in the vicinity thereof) trying my best to maintain this spirit of adventure, expectancy, Kingdom-mindedness. And while I’m trying so incredibly hard, I’m learning that I simply need to rest and be, for though the culture is drastically different, these experiences are all around.

*Photo Credits to Stephanie May