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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Going home

Tomorrow we're heading back to Uganda for the week, the place we called home for 17 years. It's actually the longest we lived anywhere in our lives, where all our children took their first steps and said their first words and grew to be who they are.  Yet we've been away now for 7, and life has moved on.  Bundibugyo has a paved road and electricity, a published Lubwisi-language New Testament, and exponential increases in college graduates, health care workers, cash crops, water projects, cars.  In these 24 years child deaths in the world have been cut in half and if the improvement is not quite that neat and stark in Bundibugyo, it's at least going in the right direction.  There are more churches and schools than one could count.  Still, change comes slowly across generations, and the people we love face stiff challenges.  Malaria is still rampant.  Girls are still lured into early sexual relationships for survival.  Corruption and injustice still take a toll.  Fear and gossip still undermine the freedom of living in the love of God.  Politics still play out in a way to enrich the winners at the expense of the losers.
our yard, about 1999?

Christ School Bundibugyo has been right at the heart of our team's strategy to incorporate Kingdom values on the real-life soil of a place steeped in violence.  Now in it's 20th year, it is a boarding secondary school where (to the best of our ability) girls are safe from exploitation, sit in the same classes with the same opportunities as boys, even travel to national sporting tournaments.  This alone has the greatest impact possible on child survival; so much evidence that the best public health intervention is to educate girls.  Boys as well learn to respect others and themselves, to work in a system based on merit and kindness rather than corruption and grabbing.  There is a focus on science, a computer lab, a strong math program.  Students compete in music and dance that preserves cultural traditions.  There is a library, with actual books.  Through small groups and chapel, young people encounter the good news on a daily basis.  A long strong line of Sergers have invested significant parts of their hearts in this work. We now have a Ugandan Head Teacher, Kenneth, whose work over the last couple of years has resulted in the best performance of any school in the district.  We'll be celebrating that news with the staff, and congratulating them.  We'll see some of the graduates who are thriving.
One of the reasons we believe in this school--all our kids attended.  Luke with his class about 2005.

And yet . . . every year, from the first to the twentieth, feels like a year-long struggle against ever-present evil.  This year of drought the cocoa harvest dwindled at the same time that world market prices fell, so parents who almost universally rely upon the crop for money for school fees defaulted on payment.  For the first time we were late with teacher salaries.  Rumors swirled, violence was threatened.  At another point, there was a massive cultural consternation about our response to a teacher whose physical punishment of students was both illegal and unconscionable.  And on and on.  We still need to subsidize the school to keep it affordable.  We still need Serge workers who can walk a delicate balance of encouraging the staff and managing a project that is largely in local hands.  Both the funds and the personnel have worn thin.

So the next week we'll be listening to issues, looking at budgets, strategizing with the leaders, to move into this 20th year of operation and dream of the future. We'll also be visiting with our team who do many other things in Bundi:  water projects, church leader development, nutrition and agriculture, children's literacy and evangelism, physical therapy, sports ministry, medical care, community health.  We'll see the kids with whom we've had long relationships as something like foster parents, many now launching their own families and careers.  We'll see old friends who walked with us through some of the hardest days of our lives, and new ones who carry on in fresh ways with their energy and vision.

It feels intimidating.  It's hard to go home.  It's hard to absorb change.  It's hard to confront suffering.  It's hard to help untangle problems that seem intractable.  It's hard to have faith that we have anything to offer.  We're walking into this trip after a pretty trying week.  We've lost some patients, and beat our heads against the passive-aggressive wall of inaction, or the impossibility of sparse staffing.  I really like my team and have enjoyed several teaching opportunities this week, but giving multiple lectures while also managing patient care takes time. We've had visitors.  I had a bug that knocked sent me to bed early with aches and exhaustion.  That's life, but we're depleted. 

So it's good to remember this isn't about us.  God can reach into our weakness and pour through us something good for our Ugandan friends and our teams.  Prayers appreciated that we would bring a sense of God's presence and blessing.

1 comment:

Ethan said...

Have you ever heard of the Timothy Leadership Project? It was developed in Africa to transform cultures to a Biblical worldview and has been very useful in many areas. They are now using it in Myanmar and China,too. Check it out on line if you are interested.