Chapatis

So far on this blog, I have tended towards a more philosophical interpretation of life, giving few concrete details about the events behind these musings…

Well, as I sit here ready to write, I think that I will change my style a bit, and share with you the stories that I am living, and allow you to make your own interpretations.

Today I returned to Kampala after two weeks of travel.  A large part of what we are doing here in Uganda consists of moving around the country to gain a sense for the different regions, specifically the TASO centers and the work they are doing in Sustainable Livelihoods.  We began by driving north to Gulu, where we spent a few days.  It was amazing to be in this region, and interact with these beautiful people.  This area has seen a generation of war, and I went not knowing what I would find.  What I discovered was a tenderness in the people there, a soft, gentle spirit that captured my heart immediately.  One of my favorite memories of this trip (and of life!) happened the day we were leaving Gulu as we were introduced to a group of three ladies who have been a part of the Sustainable Livelihoods Program at TASO Gulu for the past few years.  We walked through the hallway, down the stairs, outside, and through a maze of people in colorful clothing until we reached the edge of the compound. Nestled between a building and a fence on a narrow strip of land they had set up shop, and were busy rolling chapatis and frying them over a charcoal heated pan. They smiled and lept up to greet us with a warm Ugandan welcome, inviting us into their shop.  Excitedly, we walked in and sat down on the cement next to them.  I felt like the list of questions I had for them was out of place, and instead, learned to make chapatis and listen to that which is spoken in  silence.  This moment was a privilege- and a window into a different world.  A sub-culture of resilience and overcoming in a wave of hardship and war. The amazing thing is, this is not unique; it is the norm.

The thing that continues to amaze me as I travel, meeting many people, is the consistent smile.  The welcome that is wholehearted and unabashed.  The uncomplicated acceptance, and the willingness to share time, space, stories, successes and challenges with humility.  There is no pretense, people don’t keep you at a safe distance- they invite you in.

Outside the gates

Outside the gates, life was happening.  It was a vibrant cacophony of noise, color, and activity.  Potholed dirt roads leading in many different directions, small chapatti shops, fresh milk, God’s Mercy Grocery (literally, that is the name)… I took the same path I had taken earlier that afternoon and walked until I couldn’t walk anymore, relieved at the fresh air and sunshine.  The people I passed greeted me, some calling out Mzungu.  After walking as far as I could go, I came back to the same place that I started, and found a little kid staring at me.   I smiled back at him, crouching down on my knees.  He stared at me, trying to communicate something, but not finding the words.  He was so cute- huge black eyes and shaved head, a bright blue shirt.  The chapatti man behind us said, “He wants to communicate something with you, but he doesn’t know how to talk!” He spoke to the child in the local language.  The child then turned to me, and his communication was to run towards me full tilt and give me a huge hug. I was so touched and happy, I just hugged him back.  He took my hand and, and led me towards a newly formed group of kids.

As I sat there with them for the next few hours, I think the entire village walked by, their hospitality to a foreigner undiminished by the randomness of my being there.  They just waved, saying Agandi (hello) in reply to my own greeting. Some, (many), laughed when I spoke, kind of snickering at this mzungu hanging out in office clothes next to a bunch of kids.  The girls started playing hand-clapping games, and I tried to play, but obviously did not know the song.  A group of older girls appeared, and started to teach me.  They laughed and laughed (at me I think) and I laughed with them, transported into the moment.  I think it was a spectacle, but I was past the point of really caring, and decided to embrace it.

It is so easy to watch something from the outside, and form an opinion without gaining an understanding of what is actually going on on the inside.  These kids brought me, for a moment, into the heart beat of their community.  Everything about it looks different when looking from the inside out.  I feel like I could have sat on that cement block for a long, long time, just watching, and learning to see.

 

 

conspire to inspire!

I have been struck of late at how many false impressions I had regarding humanity.

For some time, the lines of race, nationality, experience, and class seemed to have become opportunities to embrace division, and the false belief that they are greater than love, greater than common humanity. I felt myself as awkwardly situated, having the desire to know my neighbors to the south, east, west, and north, but feeling as though there was too much difference to do so, and moreover, too much difference to engage in a meaningful way.  All of the stories of things which have gone wrong rung in my mind, and I found myself caught in an inner contradiction.  The desire to hear people’s real, true stories, however, was more than the suspicion that it was impossible to do so, and so, in an act of mercy, the door was opened for me to step into a new world, and learn to hear and see a new reality.

What I am hearing, seeing, and learning in this new reality come as a great surprise; I am learning that when someone is engaged in a work whose origins are in love, compassion, and mercy, that work is somehow available to all who would share in that.  Partnership in the great reversal of hatred, fear, and self-love belongs to us all, and can be engaged in from any and every corner of the globe.

What I am learning is that each of us has a distinct part to play in this great reversal; and no two parts look the same.  Furthermore, no two parts can exist in isolation, and no part is necessarily greater or worse as measured by externals.  For example, consider the role of communication in every process that occurs in life, from the transcription and translation of DNA, to the execution of transnational organizations and governmental bodies.  Communication is an enabler which facilitates a process, and is thus critically important.  And, as in transcription and translation, communication happens as a result of many different organisms working together.

Consider the receptionist who sits in the office of an organization.  She, or he, may often be considered to play a less important role than the director of that organization, but, what would happen to every process which she affects if she were not there?

And yet, she is no less, and no more important than the person who empties the trash, who brings tea, who does the seemingly insignificant work that often goes unappreciated.  As Mike Bickle once said, love and servant hood is what, at the end of the day, equalized us all.

These are my reflections for the day!

Thanks

 

divine chaos

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Cars jut in and out of flow, their rhythm in total synchronicity yet without rhyme.  Total chaos, I think, as I sit in the taxi-matatu, how can this be?

People dart in and out of traffic, selling mangoes, fried chicken, baskets, chicklets…boda bodas with entire families sitting side saddle fly through the empty corridors of space between oncoming trucks.  I saw a car yesterday that was offering driving lessons; as we sat with the taxi’s engine turned off, bumper to bumper traffic, the jam, 1.5 hours into our commute to work.  Driving lessons? This is ironic.  I remember thinking in that moment that all of my own driving experience would be more of a hindrance than an asset were I to learn to drive here, because rather than prepare me for this system, I would have to unlearn everything in order to re-learn this vehicular language.  The same rules don’t apply.  Yesterday, as we were taking the taxi home, to save time, the driver took a side street composed primarily of enormous potholes, small shops, and homes.  Then, as we were stuck in a long line of traffic, he simply turned to the left, and started driving on the sidewalk! I distinctly remember thinking that I, having lived all of my life (almost) in a certain context, could easily think that he is a terrible and irresponsible driver, because in Canada, it would be true.  But somehow, here, he is amazing! Rather than being a bad driver, he is incredible well versed in the invisible rules of the road, skillfully weaving in and out of madness without ever missing a beat.

Layers of complexity can easily offend the mind which has grown accustomed to another way of processing.  On the surface, everything is foreign and strange, and seemingly disorganized.  I am learning, however, that it is not at all disorganized; it is like a intricate symphony, with the smallest to largest of instruments orchestrated according to an unseen music, everything moving in a delicate flow caught in the tension between harmony and chaos.

On the edge of chaos lives a miracle.

Turn Around

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LIFE.

Life is a treasure. Life is a mystery. Life is long. life is short.

I am realizing that to live, really, truly, LIVE is the essence of life. So simple, yet somehow the logic of this world, the wisdom of prudence, false responsibility, and commitment to our own personal advancement and place in the world can stop the flow of life, leaving it as a drizzling, stagnant mud puddle rather than the rushing, roaring rivers of the Nile.

Oh, to lose the sweet love of life and gain the world…a tragedy of tragedies. To lose my soul- worse off, to exchange richness of spirit for worldly success, is something that I cannot bear.

I sit in a mosquito net hovel, writing with my headlamp, somewhere in Uganda. What I am learning is that life is not really about geography; it is a strange blend of becoming, where past melts into present which invokes future. Where I am is merely the pages of the story, but the essence of it, the ink, comes from the inside and dances upon the empty pages, filling it with meaning.

Life is both the longest thing we will ever do, and simultaneously, a fleeting shimmer in a timeless galaxy, a vestibule for eternity, a moment which passes in the blink of an eye.  How do I want to live? How do I live? Give it all away.  I want to lose my life; to lose any self-conscious, restrained caution and jump fully and completely into the freedom of finding it.

We all pay a price to live according to a certain reality; to accept certain rules of being, laws of gravity, and codes of conduct… I’ve been told that I think too big- imagine too much- that I am too heavenly minded, and no earthly good. And, for a time, I think that I began to stifle this, allowing the end of my journey to justify the means, even if this meant that I was not being the truest version of me.  The sad thing was, I thought that I was-and it was not until I realized that the truest part of me is quietly handcuffed in the corner while the false self, the practical, reasonable, and boring me, is miserably getting things done. 

What if the whole reason that we are born is not to do something,but to become someone? And, what if, that person that we are to become is not someone random, someone that we create and design, but is a dream that has existed in the mind and heart of the Master Artist since a timeless era?  And, what if the key to that becoming was to let go totally and completely of who you think you are, an old, un-renewed version, and step into that dream? Something, Someone, has forever altered reality by ripping through the cosmos and destroying death.  What He did forever changed the deck.  It is always available. Just say Yes.

Kanyanya

Paradox upon paradox.

I am here.  The journey has taken a new turn and I have landed in a new land; in every way.  It is a paradox, because despite the external differences in most elements of this new geography, there is a sense of deep recognition that I am starting to feel.  The best way that I can describe it is this; I feel as if I have been corresponding with a friend in a faraway place for a long time, without having met them in person, and now being here, I feel as if I am face to face.

I landed in Entebbe Airport two weeks ago today, after a two day journey from Eastern Canada, passing through Toronto, London, and Cairo.  It is a journey, this is a theme that has long been repeated of late; journey. I am here in Kampala, Uganda to be a part of somethings great- relationship, learning, and serving.  About a year ago I was reading a worn, ragged copy of a book called The City of Joy, something I snagged from my dad’s bookshelf.  From the first moment that I opened the page, I began to see dreams of mine spilled onto the yellowed pages- yet not yet lived.  For as long as I can remember, the desire to leave my own familiarity and venture into the life lived by 80% of the world has been mine. By the way, just because we hang our maps with North America on the top doesn’t mean its necessarily true- the world is stretched across a globe- global citizenship? I am looking for an inside out upside down kingdom where the first are last and the last are first.  Does this kind of a geography exist anywhere? Can it be formed in me- to become a living geography of another reality-

The kingdom of heaven is like something buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls, who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.

I am here- Uganda- the pearl of Africa.

I am looking for an even greater pearl, hidden, buried, precious.