Friday, July 25, 2014

Having The Crud

The Crud finally caught up with me: fever, wicked sore throat, tenor voice, cough, sneezing. It's just fabulous. I've been worn down the last couple weeks, and I assumed that all the sleep I've been getting had warded it off. You know the axiom about assuming...

So this morning, I dragged myself to class, but not chapel, so I could finish my lecture and prepare the students for the exam. The three minute downhill walk about did me in, so I'm going to skip the lecture part. 

I intentionally arrived early so I could catch my breath before finding a way to speak loud enough for 42 people to hear me over the construction next door, and one of the students was already in the room (meaning he wasn't in chapel either). 

He saw me, and a huge smile broke out on his face as he said, "Thank God! We heard you were sick, and we've been praying for you."

That absolutely warmed my heart. My students are fabulous. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I'm tired (and whiny)

I have a couple other posts-in-writing to finish, but a friend reminded me of Mark 6:31 ("And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while."), and I've read a some of the "ten things a missionary won't tell you"-type articles, that note that we don't ride unicorns and live under rainbows (we're far from perfect).  So, in light of that:

I'm tired.

It's mid-July, and the semester can't end fast enough.  Because we have two retreats between the January and April semesters, we really only get just under a week to rest between semesters, and I was sick this year.  I am generally done about this time of year, but this year, I'm ready to run to Mabira Forest and not come back for at least a month.

I'm tired of marking.  I'm tired of student questions and issues.  I'm tired of always being the tutor on duty in chapel (I'd like to actually worship for once without having to supervise).  I'm tired of reminding staff that they are on duty, and I'm tired of going to chapel and finding that the tutor is not there.  

I'm tired of having work dumped on me.  This week is the second iteration of the Uganda Academy of Homiletics, and I really couldn't tell you too much about it, because I ended up doing a bunch of things I was never informed about, and the hits keep coming.

I'm tired of being an introvert in an extrovert continent.  Introverts are in the minority anyhow, but living in a culture that emphasizes community only exacerbates the differences.  I'm tired of explaining that I'm tired (which sometimes, is the only acceptable excuse to get out of yet another perceived obligation).

As we say, "I'll be fine."  And I will.  I just need it to be the end of August.  Because right after exams (and marking) end, the Provincial Assembly is coming, and I'll want to attend much of it.  Then I can run away.  Hopefully.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

They're actually listening; who knew?

Last week in Biblical Interpretation, we were discussing literary devices (parallelism, similes, metaphors, allegories, etc.), and this week we spent what seemed to me to be an inordinate amount of time discussing the basics of a plot.  At one point, I hid my face with my book and exclaimed, “You guys are KILLING me!”

To which someone deadpanned, “Reverend, that’s hyperbole.”

True enough, and it was good comic relief.  I thought, “Wow.  They actually do listen!”

One reason I love teaching Biblical Interpretation is that you have to understand what the author wrote to the original audience (exegesis) before you can apply it (hermeneutics), and so many sermons take a text and jump right to the application, and the results are less than helpful.

After class, one of the students approached me and said that he’s realized that he has been approaching his sermons the wrong way, and he’s rethinking how he approaches Scripture.  Several students have told me this, actually, which is a tremendous blessing.  One of the students from last year still sends me sermons to review, and while part of me is frustrated because I already have a stack of assignments to mark that are THIS HIGH, and he has a supervisor whose job is to do this, I really am honored that he trusts me enough to give him honest feedback.

THIS is what I cling to when I’m tired of being the unrequested substitute tutor in chapel, tired of the dirt/dust, tired of mosquitoes, tired of going to Kampala to get brown (wheat) bread, tired of being far from my people, and just tired.  My students, and the opportunity I have to have a lasting impact on their ministries, are worth the being tired.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to make my students laugh

Two of the rooms in which I have lectures are about 25 yards from the construction of a new lecture block.  While I'm thrilled that the construction is moving on well, it's rather hard to project your voice to 40 students while a cement mixer is churning away.

I took the opportunity to remind my students to use their teacher/parent/preaching voices when reading lessons in chapel, as I could barely hear the reader this morning.  One student spoke up and requested that we request the chaplaincy to purchase a PA system for the chapel.  I countered that we should all master the skill of projecting our voices, because we can't tell the congregation, "oh, I'm sorry, there's no power, so I can't preach."

The same student then said that he thought that one of his classmates, who has a rather soft voice, would be able to project well either when his time comes to serve in the chapel.  The class laughed, and I felt so bad for him.  So I talked in my regular voice, to point out that they couldn't hear me at my normal volume.

Then I had to bring out the teacher voice to point out that naturally, I am rather quiet.  This brought the laughter.  Apparently, not one of those 40 people believes me!  They honestly don't think that my natural tendency is to be quiet.  They don't believe me when I tell them I'm an introvert.  

Keeping 40 adult students on track when there' s a cultural divide takes quite a bit of energy, and when I leave them, I'm quite tired.  I still maintain that I'd rather be quiet, not matter how much that makes them laugh.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Charging to go to church

There is one funny thing I wanted to pass along about my journey to Namuwongo:  my final stop for directions was with some boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers; they know where everything is.  As it turns out, I was at the junction where I needed to turn off Namuwongo Road, but I didn't know that at the time.

So, I was asking these three boda drivers where the church was, and they were telling me, when one interrupted to say, "for 3,000 [$1.20], you follow me and we go."

For the moment, we'll set aside the exhorbitant cost of this offer (if I had ridden his boda, the cost SHOULD have been no more than 1,500), and note that the others were willing to do the properly hospitable African thing and give me the directions.

This one, however, saw the color, not the collar, and wanted a profit.  So I pointed to the collar and asked him, "are you charging a musumba [literally a shepherd; pastor] to go to church?"

Apparently, he was, for he repeated his offer.  I declined.

The blessing of St. Paul's

Since I took the long tour of Namuwongo yesterday, I was late for church.  Apparently, I took the very long tour, because I gave myself an hour to get there, and with the open roads that early on Sunday morning, it should have taken me 30 minutes.  It took 80 minutes, which included stopping to ask directions three times.  I loathe being late, but it was helpful, because the singing let me know that I found the church.

So, since I was late, the warden (usher) let me sit in the vestry while they figured out what to do with me; they ultimately decided that I would sit on the altar.  My student was leading the service, which was a joy to see.

When the vicar, Rev. Canon Hellen, came in (which is normal here; processessions are not a given), she was on crutches, as she'd been in the hospital, and will be traveling to India for surgery.  I realized that we had met at the clergy women's conference here in 2012, so we had a joyous reunion, hugging and sharing greetings.  At the altar.  While the church was singing.  It was wonderful, and it was completely normal.  This is Africa.

After the service, Canon Hellen and I waited in the vestry for our breakfast to come (tea, bread, and bananas), and remember, no one knew I was coming, but I had to be fed.  Nothing beats African hospitality!

I tend to go to the first service during my visitations so as to avoid Kampala traffic going home.  The 7:00 service was packed.  Actually, it was overpacked, because once the nearly 100 children went out to Sunday School, adults came in and took their seats.  The room probably sat approximately 200 people, and they have five services each Sunday.  Five.  Two are in English, and the other three are in different languages (Luganda, Luo, and one that escapes me).

Canon Hellen explained that they were working to expand the church, because the current one is too small.  That was patently obvious, since the first service is overflowing.  Once they expand, they'll be able to go down to four services a Sunday, because they'll combine the English services.  How many of our churches in the US want to reduce to four services?

Then she told me about their weekly programs:  they have a prayer service, a mid-week service, and several Bible studies.  Namuwongo has a slum area, and St. Paul's has two daughter churches, one of them being in the slum.  

They have a large outreach program, and one of the programs reaches out to the sex workers.  Canon Hellen said there are about 150 of these girls, but she is only working with about 63 of them right now because that's all she can handle.  Only 63.  

All I can do is be compeltely awed and humbled.  Canon Hellen is leading a large, vibrant, and thriving church, and her heart, and the heart of the church, is clearly to bring Jesus' love and healing to the community.  It is such a joy to be able to have a relationship with a church like this, no matter how small the relationship is.

Google maps can lie

Yesterday I had to find a student at his placement church in Namuwongo, a part of town I've only been through maybe twice, and Mary Jane was driving.  Everything looks the same there, and your landmarks for where to turn are often signs or painted buildings, like "turn right at the Sadolin building across from the Peacock building (both being paint companies)."  I assumed that my adventures getting there would make for a humorous post.

I'm sure they would, but what i found at the church impressed and humbled me greatly, so I'm going to write about that next.  

All I will say about my journey is that I couldn't easily discern how to get to the church on either of my Kampala maps, so I turned to Google maps.  They can lie.

The top is the "easy" way to get there, but there are two turns after the roundabout, and I thought I'd get disoriented.  The top right was a misfire.  The real directions are at the bottom, and it's worth noting that there are precious few road signs in Uganda, and the ones that exist will look different, e.g., they may be small signs that sit on the ground, or in rare instances, it might be on a pole like we'd expect.  But generally, the way to go is landmarks, so my writing down street names was a bit hilarious, except that it's helpful when asking directions because locals know the street names; they're just not marked.

Since my handwriting is terrible, the big landmark from Namuwongo Road (once I went the proper direction) is a rather large sign for Cheap Prices Supermarket.  It's entirely possible that I would have driven past the church (there is a sign), but I was late because of all my driving around, and I heard them singing.  Hallelujah!