Today we wake to a gentle breeze coming through our bedroom window, with the sound of waves coming against the shore of Lake Victoria. It is cool, maybe somewhere around the low 60’s. We wake up every morning while it is still dark so that we can start our day together, as a husband and wife. Usually Staci is up first, but today I walk barefoot on our cement floor to start the water boiling for coffee. We love our insulated french press that allows for two cups of coffee each. In the States we had collected coffee mugs from some of our favorite places, and it is a special blessing to remember them as we warm them up every morning.
The roosters are crowing and tropical birds are making their waking sounds as we join hands in prayer. Sundays we specifically pray for the congregations that hold a special place in our heart, either from our past attendance, or by their support of our friends and/or family. We of course pray for Musana Community Church, and the message that will be brought today. We then open our Bibles to consider God’s word, and today took us to Mark chapter 10. We failed to get up as early as we wanted, so we are interrupted about halfway through the chapter to the loud click of the hallway door. Isaac stumbles out to our position on the couch with eyes half open, but mischief clearly fills the parts we can see. We hesitantly close our Bibles, but turn to see the typically gorgeous sunrise filling the eastern sky over the lake.
We enjoy Staci’s cassava flour waffles for breakfast, with fresh sliced mango and Bagoya (banana) to dress them. Since church doesn’t start until 10:30, we also use the morning hours to prepare our lunch so that it will be ready and waiting when we return home. I cut half of a pumpkin into quarters and add them to a stock pot of water, while Staci chops up onions and tomatoes for ground nut sauce. This morning we still have some electricity left in the solar batteries, which means the electric ignitors work on the stove. We bring both to a boil by 10:00 and turn off the propane burners, knowing that they will be perfectly warm and ready when we get home at 12:30.
Once we are all ready to go, we lock the doors and pile on the 4-wheeler which is parked on our veranda. Kaiya and Isaac sit on the front, Benjamin and Staci on the back, and I drive. I think we’d all prefer to walk, but we usually get out of church well after Isaac’s preferred nap time, and the battle to walk him home just isn’t worth the struggle. We are welcomed to the camp site by a flood of children that run to us from the playground, most of them content to climb onto the 4-wheeler before we can manage to get off. There are big smiles, high-fives, and greetings in Luganda, English, or both.
We walk past the kitchen to the dining hall, which is our church on Sundays. The structure is open to air, essentially just a tin roof suspended over pillars. The view over the lake is incredible, and is a reminder of God’s creation. Should it rain, tarps can be rolled down to cover the openings between pillars, but today there is no sign of rain and the breeze feels fantastic. We arrange some tables to prepare for our worship service, and enjoy fellowship with the congregation as they arrive from the neighboring villages on foot. As is customary, we welcome newcomers and give time for testimony. Today we have several new visitors from the fishing village below camp, and we also have a team visiting from the United States. Thanks is given for the gift of life, for God’s provision, and for several new babies that have been born in the last week or two.
One particular family has come for their first Sunday at Musana Community Church, and they have come to dedicate their twins to the Lord. As they make their way to the front, my Ugandan friends fill me in about how there are strong cultural beliefs that make this act of committing the children to the Lord especially bold. It is firmly held in this area of Uganda that twins could be a particular curse, growing to someday destroy their home, or their parents. There are rituals that are to be performed by witch doctors in order to protect against these spirits, and it is shocking that these parents have elected to dedicate them in a Christian church. As an elder of the church, I immediately look to the other elders as we try to walk through this unexpected turn of events. As each of our eyes meet, we see that we are all thinking with the same concern. We don’t want to turn away this bold step in faith, but we don’t want to lose the opportunity to provide some further instruction and guidance for these parents. We pray that this is the first step for these parents to put away their fear over the spiritual rituals that enslave the minds of so many here in rural Uganda. In the US we lived in a culture that believed everything could be explained away by science and knowledge, and here we are in a culture that believes everything is spiritual, and evil has more power in this world than good.
After the service we pile back on the 4-wheeler and head for home to enjoy the fruits of our earlier labors. Lunch is interrupted by a visit from our fisherman, who has come to drop off a filleted Nile Perch he caught the night before. As with any visit (and there are many every day), the conversation goes on for some time as he shares his struggle to build his family a home on the wages provided by the fish he sells. He has somewhere around 10 children, and several grand children. Most are still dependent on his income for their needs. We are hoping that we can help him to deliver more fish to other families we know in Uganda, which will help to expand his market and help him to generate more revenue.
After lunch, our two older kids sit down to play Settlers of Catan according to their own rules, and they make up some more today. Staci gets a quick nap after putting Isaac down for his, and I start writing an update to our friends at home. Once Isaac is asleep, Benjamin, Kaiya, and Staci all head down to the lake to build sand castles and rest on the shore. I have several things to work on to prepare for the week, and I can get them done in a quiet house while Isaac sleeps.
The lake shore is beautiful. The kids play in white sand with bare feet, and Staci lays out under the shade of the palm trees while listening to birds sing and the waves tumble to shore. Wilbur, our beach grounds keeper, does any amazing job of keeping the sand clean and grass trimmed. The water gets gradually deeper as the kids venture out to swim, and they are free to play within 50 yards of shore with their feet still touching the sand below. This week I was humbled to baptize two young men in these very waters, an honor that I won’t soon forget. During a Bible camp for missionary kids in Uganda we prayed over their decision to be obedient to the calling of Christ on their lives. They acknowledged that this obedience would cause them to become more like Him, and as their minds become more like His, they will act in further obedience. It’s an impossible thing to consider that the more we obey, the more humble we become, leaving behind the pride of this life and pursuing Him, whose greatest pride was in death, because it was only through death that He could be resurrected to His rightful place of glory.
While my family enjoys the breezy afternoon at the beach, I try to keep my thoughts from wandering. I sit out on the veranda looking out over the lake from an elevation high above my wife and kids, and I am surrounded by sounds of birds, insects, and waves against the shore. I have several emails to send in response to those I have received from friends that are steadfast in their prayer and support of us. We are so blessed to be as loved as we are, even over this great distance. I don’t think we can substantiate the value found in these close relationships. I also have some preparations for the work week ahead. We have mid-year reviews waiting to get done for much of the staff. Within the week we should welcome 10 pregnant goats to their new home at Musana Camps, which will help to provide a supply of food for camp, and also provide some additional income to fund operations. We have some budgeting work to do to continue our goal to become operationally self-sufficient within three years, so I’ll need to work closely with our Head of Accounts to create some inventory systems and controls. We will also work on interviewing for a nurse to work alongside our Clinical Officer at the Musana Community Clinic. He has been overworked for some time dealing with everything from Malaria, Typhoid, and Hepatitis, to snake bites, punctured skin, and other wounds. We simply have to get some help for him to run this clinic that doesn’t ever seem to close.
I finish up a few emails and check on Isaac, who of course isn’t sleeping after all. I also go to check the battery levels on the solar system, and I’m happy to see that today’s sunshine has fully charged us. I turn the solar freezer back on, which has been off for the last 24 hours waiting for enough power to run it. I can also go outside to gather all the spare lights and battery packs that have been soaking up the sun today. With some more time to spare before my family returns, I can use this opportunity to dump the dirty sink water down the hill in the back of the house, and start to draw new basins of wash and rinse water in preparation for supper. Benjamin had taken our trash to the incinerator earlier today, but I can go ahead and get the compost bin emptied into the pit that we share with our neighbors.
Tonight we will go enjoy our supper with the Jackson family, just on the other side of our shared compost pit up the hill from our house. Their tradition is ‘breakfast for dinner’ on Sunday nights, and we are not at all disappointed to join them tonight. We are only disappointed that we missed their Friday tradition of chocolate chip cookies! There isn’t a family here that we don’t treasure our time with. These are truly disciples of Christ, and it’s evident by the love they have for one another. The problem we all share is our business, which at times causes us to neglect time together.
Benjamin and Kaiya will likely come home early to get Isaac to bed and finish their game of Catan, while Staci and I will enjoy our time of fellowship. We will likely walk back down the hill toward home at 9 or 9:30, listening to all of the insects while we gaze upon the large Mpuwele tree silhouetted against the light from a nearly full moon reflecting off the lake.
As we settle in at home tonight I hope we remember that in obedience to God we walked away from everything we thought we wanted, and in exchange we have been granted everything that we never knew we needed. I’m not sure I have ever felt as much at home as I do in Uganda, but I’m also completely content in knowing that I’m only here for as long as God calls us to be. Whether it’s a year, or 10, or the rest of our lives, it doesn’t matter. Home truly is where the heart is. I pray my home will never be anywhere other than where God’s will has me.