Friday, November 28, 2014

The struggle with two homes

I am so, so grateful for the people in both my countries who love and accept me as I am, even especially when I'm pining for the country I'm not in at any moment.  This blog post sums up my heart well.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Going for supervision

In their final year of their studies, our students have two pastoral placements:  Sunday placement, where they are placed in churches in Mukono, Kampala, and Namirembe Dioceses, and block placement, where they are placed in churches for three months prior to their final semester.  When I was a student, my Sunday placement was at the Cathedral next to UCU, and my block placement was at Christ our Lord, in Lake Ridge.  In both cases, the students are supervised by staff who drop by to observe them and see how they are doing.  I’m inferring that I caused a bit of a kerfuffle because no one supervised me while I was on block placement.  Clearly, UCU wasn't going to send anyone to the US to supervise me; I didn’t know I was supposed to find my own supervisor!

Block placement runs from October through December, and since there’s really no point in supervising the students in October, as they’ve just begun at the parish.  I take my annual leave in October/November, so I am falling into a pattern of doing my visitations in early December.  We try to sort our discipleship groups geographically so that we will supervise the students who we disciple.

I’ve been assuming that I would return to Soroti this year to supervise my students, and I was quite looking forward to it, as I’ve had those students in my discipleship group for two years, and know them well.  I was very much looking forward to meeting little Luke, who was born in June, and for whom our group had prayed.

When I returned from the US, I learned that I’m not going to Soroti; I’m visiting students who are near-ish to Kampala.  To say that I’m disappointed is a great understatement.  Apparently, some of the students had to be shuffled.  It happened while I was gone, so I don’t fully understand.  I had tried to lobby to have this settled before I left; I’ll try harder next year.  I really want to be in Soroti to see my students be ordained.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be careful what you talk about

In my sermon at All Saints’ earlier this month, I made a comment along the lines that my students think that one doesn’t have time to do an exegesis when you’re asked to preach the night before a service, and that I disagree.  Little did I know that I’d have the opportunity to prove that point...

I knew that I was on the chaplaincy schedule to preach at Community Worship on Tuesday, 2 December.  I began thinking about the topic and text assigned while I was in the States, and then began preparing in earnest on Monday this week.  Praise God that I did, because at 5:30 Monday evening, I got a call that since the scheduled preacher was out of town, the chaplaincy wanted me to preach the next day. 

This is quite a normal thing in Africa, to be ambushed either the night before, or even as you enter a church, with “oh, since you’ve come, you must bring the Word to us!”  I beg my students to be the generation that ends this practice; when you ambush someone, they’ve not had time to prepare anything.  Yes, the Holy Spirit can, and does, bail us out, but the point I make to my students is that the pastor’s responsibility is to feed the sheep, and when you ambush a preacher like this, you are likely sending your sheep away starving.

I don’t quite consider myself to have been ambushed, and thankfully, the Lord bailed me out (yet again!) and my sermon was well-received.  And no, I didn’t do a full-on exegesis of the text.  But I did enough.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The world's most ethnically diverse country may surprise you

I thought this was interesting... "Uganda has the highest ethnic diversity rating" in the world.  The Daily Mail (UK) has a similar article, though they said South Korea is the least ethnically diverse.  The Post lumps the Koreas together, which I think is probably a bit more accurate (who goes to North Korea?).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful for fairly uneventful travel

It’s 4:37 am, Thursday, and I’ve been awake for two hours.  I think Thursday will be a long day.  I had planned to go to the office and be somewhat productive in the morning, but I think I’ll just stop by and say hello, then do more sorting and organizing because I shall be a bear of little brain.

I am so grateful for a fairly uneventful trip back to Uganda.  When I checked in online, I couldn’t change my seat for the Amsterdam-Entebbe leg, and the gate agent at Dulles had to “go check on something,” which is only slightly unnerving to hear.  He told me that the system was having problems, and I could change my seat at Schiphol.  Fine.  After an uneventful flight to Amsterdam (save the lack of movies that appeal to me), I found that the self-help terminal to be not at all helpful, and I had to see an agent.  So I went to the agent at the transfer desk, who referred me to other desk agents, even giving me a numbered ticket as one would receive at the DMV.  That agent was able to fix things, after telling me that something was wrong with my record, which is rather more unnerving to hear when one is sleep-deprived.

During the uneventful trip to Entebbe, we were given the usual customs information to complete, as well as a health data sheet to complete.  I know that Uganda is the model for how to contain contagious diseases like Ebola, and I suppose this is one of the ways they do it.  Among other things, the sheet asked where I’ve been in the last two weeks, and whether I had any number of symptoms.  We proceeded to the team of nurses who took our forms and our temperatures before we could proceed to the Immigration officers. 

Entebbe has apparently continued to increase their security posture, because after retrieving our luggage, we had to have it screened.  In principle, I have no problem with this.  I am assuming that there was no room for the x-ray machine where the bags are transferred from the plane, so they had to put it where it is.  Fine.  (I’m beginning to whine here.)  However, this model is similar to ones that airports have at the gate for screening carry-on luggage, meaning it’s waist-high.  So we have to hoist our suitcases up to be screened.  Not the carry-on luggage, just the big suitcases.  Then haul them down once they got spat out.  This isn’t exactly my idea of fun after not sleeping on two flights.

However, if all I have to complain about for an international trip is not easily choosing my seat and having to haul luggage around, I think I’m doing rather well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Welcome back to Uganda!

Any time you return for some place, even if it's local, you either say or hear, "welcome back."  So welcome back to Uganda!

I am quite tired, but am thankful for fairly uneventful travel. For now, I will trust that everything I put in my suitcases is still there, take a shower, and head to bed. Unpacking can wait until tomorrow. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Different Worship

This weekend I spent the weekend in Charlotte, NC to visit with family.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship and reconnecting (and determining that Bruce and I are indeed Dolley Madison’s first cousins, six times removed; thank you Bruce!).  On Sunday, I went to church with Bruce and Paula at their church, Myers Park UMC.

And what a Sunday it was!  The church more resembles a cathedral to me, with the Gothic architecture and Norman tower.  The interior is absolutely stunning, and the service fed my high-church heart to overflowing.  How have I lived my entire life without knowing that Methodists do “smells and bells” too?  Since it was All Saints’ Day, they had pulled out all the stops.

The music and the worship were truly divine, and the sermon began with the phrase “I love Jesus for….” As I was looking at the surroundings and the congregation, who were clearly the upper echelon of Charlotte, I felt certain that this was an image of how the Church of England had to be when its mission work was in its heyday.  Though the esthetics were phenomenal, what truly made the church beautiful was the love for Jesus, expressed in the ornate stained glass windows, the exquisite music, the orthodox preaching, and the warmth of the congregation.  Their love for Jesus is palatable, and is seen in their outreach.

As I was thinking of this, I thought of a church in Kampala I’ve visited several times while supervising a student.  Though it’s not in a slum, it’s quite close to one.  The church is a Compassion site, and it is teeming with children.  The church is humble, as are the overwhelming majority of the members. I have wondered why the song leader is the one with the microphone; surely someone else in the choir can stay in key better…

But once I get past my judgment, the worship in that church is just as exquisite as the worship at Myers Park, because it is fueled by an intense love for Jesus.  Though the differences between the churches are many, what unites them is of the utmost importance.  Whether the worship is led with a pipe organ and a brass band or a synthesizer and a drum kit, it is offered with a pure heart.  That purity and single-minded devotion ushers us right to the throne room of God.  And both are exquisitely beautiful.