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Monday, July 12, 2010

D-Day, described

Though we've been counting down to DEPARTURE, a few hours before we left Bundibugyo there were three tragic bomb blasts in Kampala, killing (as of the count on Monday 4 pm locally) 74 people. So we left Bundibugyo only to land right in the middle of Kampala, a city sobered, with talk of who is responsible and why. One of the two sites was a restaurant frequented by our team, which we had to pass as we did some errands today. Riot police lined the road, but we could see little of any damage inside. But that's the nature of terrorism, killing only a few people terrorizes the rest because it is cowardly, unpredictable, random, final. Our hearts are saddened for Uganda, yet another strike against peace and normality. Our hearts are saddened for African World Cup fans, who were the victims, in a place where TV is not a private in-home affair, gathering to watch the finals and see Africa lifted up in front of the world as hosts. Our hearts are saddened for the family of a young American who was killed, and others injured, here on a short mission trip. Why? No easy answers to that, and none will be given this side of eternity.
In light of this, our Departure-day seems much less important. But it was important to us, and to hundreds of other people, and the reality of the beauty of it should not be overlooked because of nearby evil, which would give evil too much of a victory.
So, the party . . the whole day Sunday was amazing. Church attendance was somewhere between double and quadruple normal. Like Christmas, people decked out in their best, standing room only. I was so happy to see an entire row filled by my Nyahuka Health Center friends who do not normally worship there with us. And to see at least three men from other faiths who would not normally come inside a church. And a politician whose conversation with Pat gave us hope that he's Kingdom-aware. And a couple of people who have fallen away. And a woman who became a Christian early on with us but had not been there in a long time. Musunguzi gave a rousing Gospel plea. A delegation of faithful leaders from Fort Portal drove all the way to Bundi just for the day. We knelt in front of the congregation for prayer. So my first thanks is that the gates of the church were opened more widely, and many were welcomed, and the day was centered on worship.
After church we went down to the tents set up on the CSB pitch. Our committee and team did a wonderful organizing job. Pat could make this her next career. Imagine hundreds of people, sitting in shaded tents, flowers and music. Unlike any Ugandan function ever, we STARTED with food. So everyone lined up to wash hands from cups poured out of jerry cans and then fill plates with mounds of steaming hot food: beef pilau, rice, beans, matoke, cabbage, and beef stew. We sat eating lunch with our fingers, then walked around greeting our guests. Many smiling faces. I was overwhelmed by all three of our med students coming, at great personal effort and cost. And another nurse friend who had gone back to school but came home for the day. We felt very loved.
By 3 the program began. The day was divided into about 6 sections for testimonies of God's goodness and power in the way we've witnessed changes in education, health, Bible translation, church growth, marriage and family life, and individual hearts over the last two decades. And in between each set of testimonies, a choir. Three of our "boys" spoke, including an original goodbye poem.
The good: I think many of us were encouraged to recount, again as God tells HIs people to do, the things God has done. This is a faith-building and community-building exercise of celebration. Many past missionaries were remembered with gratefulness as stories were told of Alan Lee, Dan and Betty Herron, the Learys, the Barts, the Fillyaws, the Grays, the Tabbs, and on and on. The New Testament is 89% complete, and the idea of identity as a people coming from this written language was powerful. Young men who were students, and not always obedient, were called out now as teachers and leaders. The Bible teaching was seen to have spread revival in many denominations. One of the best speeches was given by a nurse whom we later told should run for office, she was so inspiring! Our Member of Parliament, the Hon. Jane, came and joined us. But there were also many widows and orphans, people who don't normally get served.
The great: Alpha Nursery and Primary came in force, and the sight of these 3 to 8 year olds dancing the most traditional of Babwisi dances, the muleddu, set the crowd wild. I loved it because this school is an example of a WHM-indirect effect. By sponsoring the founder (Melen) for a certificate in early childhood education and recruiting a small start-up investment, the school is off and running and self-sustaining in a way few projects are. Plus of course it is our dear friend's work. And many of the students are the children of our friends. Who will one day be our CSB entering class, and much better prepared than the kids we get now. The CSB choir also did an incredibly creative dance/drama, wordless, drums beating, two kids clearly playing Scott and I, with a public health message about clean water and disease. It was fascinating and so unlike the usual, something new.
The not-so-great: It was a LONG day. Though we asked for short testimonies, people came with prepared speeches. And there was too much praise-Scott-Jennifer-Pat, though Scott made clear statements at the beginning and end that it was about GOD not us. I know that the intent was good. Poor Travis did not need one more person to exhort him to take up the challenge of replacing us. Though I have to say that the one speech by Ndyezika showed that he "got" it on Friday . . that Travis and Amy CAN do all that was spoken about and more, because it is not them, but God who works through them. We allowed too many choirs. By the end darkness was creeping in, and more than half the crowd had drifted out the gate. From church at 10:30 a.m. to departure at almost 8 p.m. . . it was quite a marathon.
All in all, though, it was a once-in-a-decade kind of day, of huge effort and huger grace. Amy pointed out a muted rainbow on the mountains towards sunset. For us, maybe, but moreso for them. Hope after sorrow, beauty after loss. At the very end, in the dark, kids dancing on the field, and many, many hugs, and tears.

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