Monday, March 30, 2015

The Archdeacon

The position of archdeacon is an important one in the church, as the archdeacon is one of the bishop's administrators, overseeing an archdeaconry, or subdivision, of a diocese.  When the archdeacon says jump, you ask how high.

Last semester, the dean made me the archdeacon of the chapel.  I make the rota, make sure the lecturers know when it is their turn to serve as tutors, ensure the students are there, know what they are doing, time the sermons, ensure the students get feedback on their services, and provide correction as needed (to the teams and the congregation, since the teams come from our faculty congregation).  All those years as the head acolyte have paid off in spades!

While we really don't have archdeacons in the US, the dioceses are so large here that they are an administrative necessity.  So, when the dean made me the archdeacon, the students knew exactly what that meant.  I had to grow into it.

Now, the students just refer to me as The Archdeacon.  They don't call me Venerable Jessica, as would be fitting for an archdeacon, but it's as though my name is now The Archdeacon.  Some have taken to calling me Canon (to which I say, "no... my bishop knows I'm the archdeacon, and he thinks it's funny."); some call me Bishop (to which I say, "ohmygoodness NO!").  Most call me archdeacon, and even though I tell them I'm really not an archdeacon, I think we've all accepted the honorific title.

This Mary Engelbreit drawing sums up my view of being the archdeacon:

(c) Mary Engelbreit
I came to realize how seriously they take it on Sunday evening.  The Sunday evening Eucharist is the only time we take an offering as a faculty.  The leader announced that since the offering bags couldn't be found, we would be using the basket instead to receive the offering, so come forward to bring your offering.  I wondered what happened to the bags, but thought it a good solution.  

Then I realized that about a third of the congregation had whipped their heads around to look at me.  I asked Professor Byaruhanga why they were looking at me; I didn't hide the bags.  He laughed and reminded me that I'm the archdeacon, and the students are used to me putting things right.  

Perhaps they expected me to make some proclamation about how the offering was being conducted?  I don't know.  

While it was funny, it also reminded me how seriously the students take my role as the archdeacon.  They applaud like mad when I praise or affirm something that a team has done.  They make notes when I make corrections or demonstrate something that is in the prayer book, but is new to them.  

After being in the classroom, THIS is what I love doing here... guiding, moulding, and encouraging the next generation of clergy.

Abundance of Palms

We may not have ashes for Ash Wednesday, but we certainly have palms for Palm Sunday!  Since palm trees are rather common, Christians bring palms with them to church on Palm Sunday, rather than the church purchasing them and distributing them.

And for those without easy access to palms, they are sold along the road, beginning the day prior.  I went to Kampala on Saturday to speak at a Bible conference, and as I was driving home, I noticed people carrying rather large loads of palm branches.  I didn't quite connect that they would be selling them, though.  

For Palm Sunday, I went to supervise a student "deep in the village," as we say.  When I first visited him in December, I was given a hotel as the landmark for where to turn off Entebbe Road.  I've traveled that road a couple times since then, and still haven't seen the hotel.  However, the road I want is right across from a rather large and well-known hospital.  The rationale behind giving directions escapes me, but I made it well to the church.  On the way, I saw a number of children selling palms on the side of various roads, and even saw cars and bodas with palms attached.

Boda driver with his palms; photo credit to via Mary Jane's blog. 
Naturally, I was the only person in church without palms (I thought I'd find a seller at a place where I could stop along the road, but never saw them in time to pull over safely.  Ugandan drivers aren't bothered with that safety thing, generally.  I'm still American enough to care.).  Thankfully, I don't think anyone passed judgment on me, as they knew I came all the way from Mukono.

The service was in Luganda, and while I could figure out what was happening, and sing the English equivalent of the songs (as many verses as I could remember, and I'm sure I did some creative verse splicing!), then my student asked me to give a word of encouragement to the Christians, as they wanted to hear my voice.  

At our faculty evening Eucharist, a few of the students brought their palms to the service, and the warden went and got palms so that the team on duty would at least be appropriately armed for the day.

The evening closed with Easter carols being sung in Nkoyoyo Hall.  I'm not quite sure what Easter carols are.  I've been told it's like a cantata, but that confuses me even more.  I may have to attend next year to get the full experience.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

CSI: Mukono

CSI: Mukono continued this week, with visiting askaris coming most mornings around 7:00 to inspect the crime scene.  While I appreciate the concern (and the professional curiosity), at 7:00 am I'm still in my jammies and am tying to get ready for the day and it's been hot so the windows are open, so I'm hoping that we can all move on so I don't have to keep hiding when I hear voices, which is a bit awkward.

Tuesday we went to Namugongo for a friendly theology football [soccer] match to prepare for the match with the Roman Catholic seminary at Ggaba on the 28th.  The students asked me to come, and while I wasn't terribly excited about it, I went, and was glad.  Namugongo beat us well in volleyball, but we won the football game 2-1.  I have pictures to post later; bring on Ggaba!

On Thursday, the dean announced that he was happy that I was back after having my flat broken into. Obviously, I had not been at the Sunday evening Eucharist last week, but I had been in chapel from Tuesday on, and I hadn't said anything to the students.  Christopher, one of the students I supervise, rebuked me for not mentioning anything about the break-in at Namugongo.  He was somewhat offended; we had [all] spent the afternoon together, and I had neglected to share something important that had happened to me.  

In Africa, your joys are my joys, and your heartache is my heartache.  In his eyes, I deprived him, and the rest of the students, of walking this road with me.  As an American, and an introvert to boot, this really isn't something that I'm inclined to generally advertise.  However, there are no secrets in Africa, so I reckon I need to get with the program on this one.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The day after the Ides

There’s been a steady stream of askari (security guards) coming by... I vacillate between feeling very cared for and a stop on a crime scene tour.  Last night, another supervisor came by to introduce me to the askari who would be outside my place during the night (he was posted in the Honours College, not at my flat, and he had already been by with another askari to view the crime scene), and at 7:00am this morning as I was getting into the shower, I heard two askari walking around, viewing the crime scene, and talking in their local language (with some English, like “these bars are nothing” and “here’s where he jumped the fence”).

In the clean-up last night, I realized that while all my electronics in the bag had been recovered (hallelujah!!), the thief did succeed in taking my internet modem stick (which I use as a back-up for the wifi) and the salary for my househelp that I had already set aside.  While I do have to replace these, I file it under the extended “day of inconvenience” more than anything else, because they are easily replaced.

Yesterday, when I reported the modem and cash stolen, the supervisor came over with the list of recovered items so that I could report the value, and oh, was I a bit uncomfortable.  I had to report the value of the salaries, and I was wondering what the askari thought of what I pay, and I wanted to defend it, as my house help is not full-time.  Then, as we were listing the value of the items (and I don’t remember how much I paid for the wireless mouse, and I don’t know how much the Flip video recorder costs, especially since it was an office gift to my mom which I managed to convince her would serve me better in Uganda than it would in her desk drawer), it struck me how ostentatiously I live.  On the one hand, I’m an American who uses everything that was taken (the Flip recorder, less so), and on the other, my goodness, I am spoiled rotten.

This morning, the people parade continued, with the welder coming to fix the burglar bars, and the estates manager coming to assess the damage.  I need to file a maintenance request to have the bars upgraded.  He warned me that it will look like I live in a cage, but really, that is the least of my concerns.  Safety first, aesthetics second.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ides of March is overcome by grace

Of course, yesterday was Pi Day (3.14.15... as long as you reckon the date like Americans, and not like the military nor the Europeans nor the Africans (14.3.15)), which means that the day after Pi Day is the Ides of March.

Yes, I read Julius Caesar in high school.  No, I'm not the least bit superstitious.  However,  the ATM ate my card on Wednesday, rendering it a day of inconveniences.  Apparently, we're continuing that theme, because when I came home from church, the askari (security guard) at the Honours College stopped me and asked me to not go in my flat because it had been broken into.

It appears that someone broke into my flat around 10:30, and escaped with my backpack full of electronics.  The askari saw him, and took off in pursuit.  In order to make his getaway, the thief dropped the backpack and ran.

Praise God that the bag, and all the portable electronics that were at home were found!!  He got in by bending the burglar bars on my bedroom window.  He had access to those bars because I leave the bedroom window open when it's hot - that habit stops immediately.  It's been a while since there's been a theft on campus, which is something of a miracle, combined with increased security measures and vigilance.

We had to wait for the police dog to come and see whether they could get a scent on the intruder, but it was too hot.  The askari on duty, his supervisor, and the security foreman were paragons of professionalism and concern; I am most grateful for them.  They asked me to describe the bag (pink) and the laptop (grey), and since I answered correctly, they allowed me to take inventory of the bag.

The thief was rather thorough in his search; part of the reason for typing now is that I put my bedroom back in order, and I'm delaying going into the office, which was totally trashed.  We found the pink bag, the iPad with a pink cover, the pink wireless mouse, and even a pink pen, which prompted the security foreman to tell me he would start calling me Rev. Jessica Pink.  

He also said he'd contact the head of facilities and get a welder to come and fix the burglar bars.  That is incredibly sweet, but it's Sunday, so I'm certain that nothing will happen on that front today.  I'll be a good girl and fill the maintenance form tomorrow.

For now, please join me in giving thanks for God's overabundance of grace.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A day of inconveniences

A day of inconveniences... that's what Brian Dennison called my Wednesday.  I would have called it a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, but Brian's cooler head is correct.

I went to Nakawa (a Kampala-ish part of town) because that's where my favorite supermarket is.  But first I had to go to the ATM.  The ATM in Mukono, wasn't working, and knowing that there are four at the Nakawa supermarket, I went.  As I approached the ATM I intended to use, I had a feeling that I shouldn't, but ignored it.  That was a bad choice, as the ATM ate my card.  

I called the 0800 (free) line for the bank to report this, and the customer service rep informed me that she was terribly sorry that I had this experience, and she assured me that my card would be shredded when the technician came to get it.  I asked several times if there was any way to retrieve the card, and she assured me there wasn't.  I'm a bit dumbfounded by that (and told her so, less than kindly, unfortunately), and tried to cancel the transaction so on one else would get my card.

A security officer was nearby, and empathized with me, and offered me a book in which I could record my complaint.  He also offered that he has ever helped people retrieve their ATM cards from the machine, as the technician is a friend of his, and if I would leave my number, he would call me so I could make the 45-minute trek (sans traffic) back to Nakawa to retrieve the card.  While this seemed shady, I had no option, and left my number.  I did my shopping with the little cash I had, and went home.

Back at home, I asked Brian what he thought of the security officer's offer, and he agreed it was sketchy.  I know that some people are heading to Uganda in July, and trying to figure out how to live without an ATM card for four months was hurting my head.  Brian reminded me that he's going to the US in April, and offered to bring the card.  Praise the Lord!  I scampered down the hill, canceled the card, and requested a new one.

Once I calmed down and realized that everything was going to be fine (I mean, there was neither blood nor fire, so it really couldn't be counted as an emergency), I realized just how well God has taken care of me.  My bank was willing to send the card to me here (not that I am 100% certain it would have made it into my hot little hands).  People were coming who could bring the card.  Brian was coming sooner.  I get paid regularly, and have easy access to those funds.  The wifi has been out all week, but good grief, I HAVE WIFI.

Something like this is a minor inconvenience in the States, and yet, 8,000 miles has a tendency to exacerbate things.  But at the end of the day, Brian was right.  It was just a day of inconveniences.

And my security officer friend never did call.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rejoice with me!!

If it wasn't Lent, this post would begin with a huge "Hallelujah!!"  Yesterday, we learned that the Christians who had to flee their homeland had been granted refugee status!  Thanks be to God!!

I don't know the full details of how it happened, but our liaison student met with the Prime Minister (no, I have no idea how THAT came about), and their refugee status was approved.  The Prime Minister asked him to give his greetings to UCU, and convey his appreciation for us.

Perhaps that had something to do with it.  I don't know.  Historically, Uganda is very refugee-friendly, receiving a large number of refugees from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, and other countries.  Perhaps that was a factor as well.  I'm not really sure I care about the details (other than being insanely curious), but I am absolutely rejoicing over God's care, protection, and providence for this family.

Please continue to pray for them as they adjust to life in their new country, and begin to build afresh.