Dry season has failed to blow in in Bundibugyo. Usually right around Christmas a hot wind heralds a departure of the daily rains and begins a multi-month stretch of scorching sunshine, turning the grass a crunchy brown. This year we've continued to have frequent clouds heavy with moisture, and almost daily outbursts. Yesterday for the second morning in a row our morning walk left us damp with misty cloud and dripping rain. As we turned back towards home, the rising sun behind our backs peaked over the mountains with enough sparkle to form a ragged little patch of rainbow ahead of us. If an arch is 180 degrees, this wasn't more than ten of those, with indistinct tattered margins. It wasn't much of a rainbow.
In my head I heard the scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" where Jimmy Stewart meets Clarence, whom he's just rescued from drowning, and the pudgy little nobody with outdated clothes claims to be his guardian angel. Jimmy Stewart says "well, you look just like about the kind of angel I'd get." That was what I thought about the rainbow, just the sort for us in 2024. It only lasted a minute, and was so partial and subtle and early that I doubt anyone else remarked much on it. But it was there.
Such is hope these days. A muddled, scraggly sign more than a stunning, admirable sight.
One month into the year, and the way ahead feels foggy. School started this week in Uganda. As always, we have lots of competition for the OVC scholarships but it's more challenging to get paying students to enrol (even though every student is subsidised about 50%) ... our niche is families with capacity and will to invest a very modest school fee into their kids' education, but without the capacity to send their kids out of the district (the dream of anyone with an upwardly mobile life plan and a steady government salary). Part of the challenge of living in a marginal place is that everyone deeply believes that outside is better. Slowly we are giving the confidence and pride in the performance of the poor, but every year it's a struggle of prayer. The cloud here is a life of poor nutrition and substandard primary school and undependable subsistence, but the sunrise ray that lights a rainbow was the staff prayer walk on Saturday night. 25 years into this project, the 25 or so teachers KNOW HOW TO PRAY, they see the needs and have the vision for academic excellence and servant leadership for the good of Bundibugyo and the glory of God. For an hour or two we went from class to dorm to office to infirmary to kitchen to chapel to lab to pitch, praying for 2024. A ragged rainbow glow.
Half of January we were in the USA for a Serge leadership annual "objectives" meeting, putting practical plans onto the strategies we formed in September. More cloudy days of discerning the spiritual and physical needs of the world and our people, and debating priorities and praying for grace. We dashed around multiple states before and after that week to touch base with both moms, my sister, and each of our kids, for a day or two each, plus visited two of our supporting churches on the two Sundays we were there and a third church for a midweek lunch. The ray of rainbow-producing hope in all that non-stop interaction was the beauty and strength of relationships holding onto us over decades. Within Serge, within our church, and particularly within our family. Another Wonderful Life line fits here: "no man is a failure who has friends .. . a toast to my brother, the richest man in town." Amen.
Now we are back in Bundi, in all its murky dampness and heavy responsibility, three multi-country many-leader zoom meetings in the last week-plus as well. The complexity of partnerships, the health challenges of isolated families, the inescapable reality of illnesses and injuries not easily fixed, the scramble to meet deadlines and write teaching and pay attention to everyone here, made cloudier by the inevitable trials of people we love on the other side of the ocean too. Both of our moms are plucky and independent, but both have had a harder time in the last few months. And all our kids seem to be approaching transition in 2024, the one first on our heart is the eldest who has several job offers, none quite ideally clear. Carrying the weight, asking God to enlarge our hearts. Then one day last week a shockingly large gift to BundiNutrition from the estate of a person we don't even know how we are connected to. The fragmented light assembles temporarily into bands of colour and beauty.
Here is a ragged rainbow recap of the opening weeks of 2024 . . wish I had a pic of the actual ragged rainbow, but this will have to do:
Then it was back to Uganda . . . .