Our last evening was spent with the CSB staff. On the way into Bundi I bought ten chickens, and arranged with new Headmaster Isingoma to share them in a staff meal. There is so much symbolism and humanity in shared eating, it is often the picture of redemption and the kingdom, for good reason. We wanted to thank those who had persevered through transitions yet again, congratulate them on the best O and A level results ever, greet the newly hired and re-emphasize the vision. Mostly we wanted to make it clear that Scott stood behind Travis in changing the administration, and fully behind Isingoma as God's provision. I reminded his wife Christine that our first real Ugandan feast was Christmas 1993, spent in their staff housing at Nyahuka Health Center, when we were very young missionaries left alone for the holiday. Neither of us dreamed that nearly two decades later we would be eating together again, with Isingoma leading a school that WHM started, and Scott bearing responsibility as field director. But looking back God's hand is obvious: all Isingoma's medical and business training, his experience as the moderator of the Presbyterian church, preaching, healing, and equipping others, come together in this job. His work and Travis', and the good spirit among the staff, leave us very encouraged about the future of CSB.
On Friday we gathered four of the young men whose lives we have invested in for a lunch in Fort Portal as we headed out. Richard is the top student in a technical school electrician program; Kataramu in his first year of medical school; Nuuru in his first year of training as a clinical officer (PA); and Birungi just completed A level with grades that will possibly qualify him for medical school as well, if we can manage the funding. In the context of a week of being confronted with the spiritual battle that is Bundibugyo, spending time with the future is a good antidote. Even as I visited with the leaders of the health center, who bemoaned every aspect of how inefficiently and poorly the whole system runs, we reminded ourselves that in five to ten years this will change. The long view is essential. Dr. Jonah's death bears life. He was being crushed by the injustice, but now with 4 and potentially 5 doctors in training, we have great hope that a quorum of righteousness will sweep in.
Five days in Bundi, short, inadequate, like the five loaves, but we pray that there was some miraculous multiplication that will bring blessing and life. The role of "used-to-be-present-so-understands-but-is-now-removed" is a new one, and in its own way opens doors. Some greetings are superficial, but more than I would have thought involved conversations about marriage strains, miscarriage, alcoholism, hopes for children, fears of discrimination, evidence of corruption, the sadness of ongoing broken relationship and the expectation of change and renewal. We also got to step into some of our team's work, tromping around the goat pens and cocoa farms, stopping in at the health center, touching base with a village-health-team meeting, participating in an RMS field day. I'm thankful for that privilege, for the opportunity to break the meager gift of time and prayer, listening and bearing with. But those two mites were costly, and we left the district pretty tired, and in need of renewal ourselves.
And for renewal, we take a page from Job and Jesus. The wilderness. There are few places to go in Uganda that are devoid of stares or demands. Campsite 2 at Queen Elizabeth National Park has long been one of our favorites. The five of us, three small tents with sleeping bags and mats, two pans, five spoons, a bag of food, firewood, and pretty much nothing else. We arrived and set up camp at sunset last night, cooking as darkness settled, gathering around the fire, Caleb playing his guitar. At dawn we went game-driving in a light rain at times, one of our best ever, with two hyenas posing unhurried right by the road, spotted and powerful. Then we came upon three male lions, resting, shaking manes and barely deigning to glance at us, unconcerned, dominant, also right by the road. Not another vehicle in sight. We stayed by them a long time, watching. When we returned we were damp and shivering, cooking bacon and French Toast, and wondering if the whole camp-out idea was workable. But the day gradually dried up, allowing relaxing hours of just hanging out in nature. The scarlet-red gonolek, shrieking fish-eagles, chirping weaver birds. The breeze in the cacti. Open sky. No people. Reading books, dozing. Peace interrupted only by a herd of elephant passing through, which was a bit unnerving as I happened to be in a rather compromised position in the bushes as they approached. We stood quietly by the car, ready to dive in and drive off if necessary, but they merely sniffed with their trunks and flapped their ears, gliding, massive, graceful, pulling at the vines and grass clumped around the bushes, eating. They gave our camp a berth, moving to both sides while we watched in the middle. One mother acted a little perturbed when her baby trotted too close, and we could hear their rumbling growls as they moved away together. The only thing better than a game drive, a game-camp, where the animals come to you. At least in the daylight . . .
The rest, the beauty, the quiet, the sunshine. I think the game park also renews as a picture of parallel reality. God's world, God's timing, God's rule, which coexists on earth with places like Bundi where humans have marred everything. The dimension where elephants take no notice, where our control is minimal and our problems not the center of perspective, where life in fullness is passing along as it was created to be, good.
We long and wait for the day when God's rule and power and glory will be as evident in us, and in Bundi, as it is at Campsite 2. Until then, we'll keep running here for doses of the "dangerous beauty" that points us onward.