Friday, October 14, 2016

Journey Home Part Two

As much as I enjoyed the smells, tastes, and sights of my Uganda home, what really makes a place a home is the people--the relationships that one has built. It was great to reconnect with David, our driver and his wife and beautiful children. We all went together to Kampala Church of Christ in Old Kampala. Unfortunately, this was the same weekend as the National meeting for NTC leaders and many of our dear friends were not at church. However, we were able to reconnect with several members that were there. It was good to see and hug several of them. After church we met Areyantu, a friend of ours for lunch. She treated us to a Ugandan buffet---the food was delicious but the rich conversations were priceless. She uses to be the editor for Relate magazine but now holds marriage and family seminars. It was good to hear about what was happening in the churches in Uganda, both the growth and challenges they are facing. I enjoyed hearing her and Dave dream about an online Christian East African newspaper….maybe someday in our next chapter….
Jeff Cash a missionary serving in Fort Portal, Uganda for over 20 years came with his 14-year-old son to pick us up and take us to their home for a couple of days before we went on to Rwanda. I can not tell you the joy that I had seeing and hearing Dave and Jeff talk and solve all the world problems!
Hearing them tell stories and laugh together and process common ground was a treasure!It was also breathtaking watching the view of the Ugandan countryside.
As we were driving, hearing Dave and Jeff's visit made me think this is what it is like to live in the same town with someone, go to the same church, being lifelong friends and sharing similar life experiences. Living a life as a missionary has a lot of blessings, you get to have many rich relationships with people from all over the world. The negative is that friends come go. I remember on furlough, about 6 really good friends moved away from Rwanda while we were gone. Several new families moved to Kigali, so as expiates do I made a new set of friends. Your relationships tend to build deeper fast because you both are experiencing being stretched in a new culture and in life there you tend to be very interdependent on each other.  For example, many times you spend holidays together like family.
I was getting eager to see Cheryl and the rest of their kids. Even though, we had not lived in the same country for many years, we kind of grew up together in our time in Uganda. We had overlapped with the Cashes, 10 of our 11 years in Uganda. These were the best of times and the worst of times, and they did life with us. We have a similar journey and as we moved to Rwanda we still would visit each other and would pick off where we left off. Thanks to FB , blogs and phone calls over furlough we had kept up. This had been the longest time since we had shared the same space. Sitting at the dinner table that first night was so rich. Hearing how their kids were turning into young adults, so wise beyond their years, and seeing the unique friendship that missionary siblings develop, warmed my heart.
Although our time with the Cashes this trip was brief, only two nights and one full day, we soaked up our time together. I enjoyed sitting on their porch and visiting with Cheryl.
I love her wise counsel and enjoyed catching up with more details of their joys, struggles-- both their victories and trials. We also laughed a lot! Remembered good times and not so good times…. But could both bear witness to God’s hand through it all. In the evening, we went to a beautiful lodge that overlooked one of the many breathtaking crater lakes that surround Fort Portal for dinner. After dinner we sat by the fire, we were the only ones at the lodge that night… it was good to visit and hear about all the things that God is doing through Jeff and Cheryl and their family. They have been a presence of light in and around this region for over 20 years. They are recognized in this community for doing good, as community leaders, wise teachers, and evangelists. We are so blessed to call Jeff and Cheryl our friends!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Journey Home Part One

They say home is where the heart is but I am afraid my heart is broken into pieces because I have several homes. We were blessed last month to travel to a few of my homes. We arrived at 3:00 in the morning to Entebbe International Airport, I was greeted by the fresh night air with a bit of asphalt and exhaust fumes...such a familiar smell. We were one of the first off the plane as we were seated on the back row. This was nice as we were able to rush through the immunisation check and onto the visa office. It was nice to hear a familiar accent and kind welcome from the officer as he perused through our worn passports looking for an empty page. “ We would like an East African tourist visa” we asked, but he answered you are not tourists...Dave shared, “ Yes, we use to live here for 11 years many years ago”. He quickly gave us our visas and we moved to get our bags. Thankfully all 6 were there and we left the airport with ease but as we glimpsed the crowd of taxi drivers we did not see our friend, we called him on the phone and realised he was on his way. We quickly found some seats with a table in front of a coke kiosk.
      As we sat , we all committed that we had that feeling of belonging and that sense of home that we had not felt yet since moving to Chicagoland. It is funny how when you have not felt a feeling for over 4 years and you feel it again, it is kind of a surprise….a nice surprise...we knew exactly what to do in this situation. There was no thinking or guessing what the crowd was thinking or how we should respond was second nature to us. We felt very comfortable even though everyone was staring at us. Many were asking at first if we wanted a ride but when we sat down they left us alone. Dave went into the shop and bought some chapatis (flat bread) and some passionfruit juice. Now we were really feeling at home! Such familiar sensation in our taste buds.
  Our friend that use to be my taxi driver but now has his own tourist business came and picked us and drove us into Kampala. It was now about 4:30 A.M as we drove on the airport road into Kampala. My mind drifted back on that first drive over 24 years ago when my sister had picked us up at the airport and we had driven this road for the first time. Back then the thing that had jumped out to me was all the coffins that lined the roads from the coffin stores. This was sadly due to the Aids epidemic that was at its highest point , where one in every three people were HIV positive. This time, I could not even find one coffin shop. What struck me, this time was all the houses and businesses that lined the road… and lights, lots of light.

We were being dropped off at the old American Club, which was one of our favorite haunts that we frequented often. Every Monday like clockwork our family would spend our day off at the club. Swimming pool, playground for the children, gym, and American food was such a special treat. It was also a fun social time as many other missionary families would also be around. Even missionary friends that lived up country would come and stay in the guest rooms. This would be our treat for our first day back in Africa to stay one night at the American Club which is now called the Makindye Country Club. I had sent an email requesting an earlier than usual check in of 5:00 AM. We found that the room was all ready. After unloading the car which the staff generously helped us with, we collapsed into our beds.
I was the first to wake up at about 9:00. I was eager to look at everything in the light of the sun. Everything was much as I had remembered with a few renovations and additions done over that years. The breakfast was one of my favorite things that were served at the club. I went and sat in our usual spot, comfy chairs that overlooked the pool area.
As my coffee was brought to me , my mind was flooded with all the memories of conversations that had taken place in this same spot. I was glad that I was up alone. I was able to have some sweet fellowship with the One who had drawn near me all these years and who has been my sweetest confidant these last 4 years in our transition.
As I was sitting there I could almost hear my kids laughing and playing with their friends. As if 20 years ago had not happened yet...I could see my three toe heads bouncing around with little Ruthie running after them ….and later Timothy would be on my!... Time had past and we had moved to Rwanda after 11 years in Uganda and then had moved to Chicagoland , where we have been living for the past 4 plus years. My oldest daughter had graduated from college and wedded, my two older sons are finishing up their university time, little Ruthie is now a junior in high school and baby Timothy is turning 14 years this month...I reminded myself. No these were not my little kids I saw swimming and laughing in the pool….time had passed...but I could remember and savor those sweet memories...I could be thankful and rejoice that God had allowed us to journey in this land for a season. I was thankful that we had been given a chance to return and to be reminded again that this life happened and it was real!