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Sunday, February 03, 2019

Can you go home again?

Without a doubt, the 17 years we lived in Bundibugyo were the core years of our life: the longest we've lived any one place, more than half our marriage, the bulk of our child-raising years, abundant milestones and memories, deep friendships, the most near-death experiences and crazy views of God's mercy, a lot of grief and more joy.

So it is with not a trivial amount of trepidation that one goes back.

Yes, we've been here regularly for a few days or a week, but this stint feels different.  This time we're based here until at least May, and possibly longer. We're back to marathon pace not sprint, taking time to settle and ponder and pray. Changes abound.  The population has more than doubled since we came 25 years ago.  The town of Nyahuka is sprawling and increasingly urban. Traditional compounds have subdivided into smaller and smaller plots with home after home, almost all now with mbati (corrugated metal) not grass roofs, local-brick walls about to surpass the traditional mud-and-wattle construction.  Motorcycles galore buzz and swarm, piki-taxis for short trips. The road is an obvious game-changer, having made the rough places plain, leveling mountains and filling valleys and tying the district together top to bottom with a dignified strip of pristine pavement. Truck after truck, sedan cars, and the aforementioned clouds of pikis, pedestrians, cows.  Then there is the electricity--power lines infusing sound systems with pulsating music all night long echoing up the once quiet river ravine. Today Scott went up to our roof here to check the solar panels, only to realize there are none--the team now depends on the national grid electricity. With urbanization comes a shift towards anonymity, though we still get called out regularly by name. Economically the shift to a cocoa-economy means less food production, more importing of staple foods and market dependence. With cocoa-money and rising population, the number of schools has increased at least ten-fold. Former teachers from CSB started another secondary school, and former teachers from that school another one. The bedrock network of public primary schools seem to be dwindling in students as privately run primary schools also proliferate, many with fewer resources than the old government institutions but selling hope. A few years ago everyone ran to Super Primary; now it's Babungi's Primary, next is anyone's guess. And the cell phones! Passing young people holding their hands over their screens for shading the display in the 95-degree blaze of sun is a common sight.

And yet . . if we get off the main road, so much is the same. The musical rhythm of the tonal Lubwisi feels familiar even if meaning is just out of reach. Women still sit around three-stone fires cooking or peeling matoke, talking about what passes by. Children still yell "Mujungu mujungu mujungu" in a frenzy, or "I am fine I am fine I am fine", then quietly stand and reply when greeted.  Banana trees and cocoa groves, goats staked to graze, the jagged outline of the mountains, the powerful pounding of the sun, the fermented whiff-of-chocolate smell of drying cocoa beans, the background trills of a plethora of bird species.

And the people, the generational continuity of familiar faces, that is the main thing that makes this place home. Can you go home again? No, if by home you picture the place that was in your heart. We have changed and so has everything around us, and going backwards is not the trajectory of pilgrimage. This world holds no lasting home for any of us yet . . . but we are all creating truer and truer shadows of the ultimate New Heavens New Earth reality of home. So paradoxically, the other answer is yes. You CAN go home again to people in whom you have invested life, to a place which you have fought for, as long as you are willing to press on in that pilgrimage towards the next stage in making it more like Heaven rather than dragging it back to more-like-memory comfort.

It's harder to be a learner and off-balance in a place that was once your base of stability. But it's not impossible. So here's to a 2019 of walking by faith.  Prayers welcome. Enjoy the collection of snapshots of what it's like below.

Dr. Ammon worked closely with us for many years as a Clinical Officer, then received a scholarship to medical school in the fundraising done after Dr. Jonah's death. He is now medical superintendent of the hospital, and he and Dr. Marc have been working on this about-to-be dedicated newborn unit!

Basiime one of our foster sons, now with two lovely daughters, librarian at CSB!

Evening pizza at our old house with the team.

This oven is still going strong after 15 years of countless pizzas.

Another foster son John, on his son Jeremiah's 4th birthday, with wife Paula.

Team and CSB staff beginning a prayer walk, circling around to every area of the school to pray over it for the year about to start. We sang as we walked between prayer spots, and it felt like the Israelites marching around Jericho! 

Newly painted classroom block, thanks supporters!

How we spend most of our time, visiting people and showing pictures of our kids whom they know . . this is in Chris Kenobwa's home

Our old house is still the team meeting spot.

Another happy reunion with Juliet, who married another foster son, so thankful for her thriving children.

Stopped in the market by a former CSB classmate of Julia's.
Thanks for welcoming us home Bundibugyo.  We're in this together.


Lyds said...

So crazy to read about the electricity and cars etc in a once basically cut off from the rest of the world village that I grew up in! Glad you and Scott get to be back for a time period.

Unknown said...

Great works. We thank God for the lovely hearts he gave to you. May God bless you dearly.