Shem holding Kana Joy and Catherine holding Kakai
(taken in 2005 on Lingira Island)
I don’t know what it takes to be a good missionary, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have it. Not in my own strength at least.
When I first came to Uganda, umpteen years ago, I thought I was going to save the world. Wow, what a mistake that was. Contrary to this photo (taken in 2005), Uganda life is not always photogenic and neither am I. Two problems that made me dig deeper.
Maybe the problem was, I never really loved Uganda. I loved the idea of Uganda. Slashing through the jungle in a pith helmet, conversing with the natives in their “more difficult than Navajo” language, sharing the Gospel as they sat around the campfire in wide eyed wonder. It was so not like that.
Uganda and God’s Anvil
God uses all things to bring us to Himself
Uganda hammered me over the head with my own inadequacies, then squeezed me with such longing to be a better person that I thought my heart would burst. Then Uganda broke my heart and ground it to dust with all the things I just couldn’t change about this country and about myself. I helplessly watched people die when I had spent so much time studying medicine. Not bad people. Not old people. But real people that I knew and loved. I watched them bleed to death, or suffocate, or writhe in agony or just plain stop breathing.
I couldn’t stand it any more. People were dying like flies. My super hero ego died as well. I realized I had nothing left to give.
But I didn’t leave Uganda, I couldn’t. By now I was married here and my children’s faces looked like those I was ministering to. I stayed, but I walled myself off and slowly became very, very angry. The offense at this country left me with a wound that wouldn’t heal. And because I couldn’t help it, I began to bleed on those around me.
I would love to tell you that after many tears, the day finally came when I received a moment of clarity and shed all the pain instantly. I’m sure we could all use a lightening strike of revelation. But that only happens in movies. What I can tell you is, there is a God bigger than I am. It’s not about trying harder, it’s about surrender. I also learned that it’s not all about me. What a relief that was.
I’ve had to forgive Uganda, forgive myself. Of course all this began with the forgiveness only made possible through our Lord Jesus Christ. It was like an onion that just kept peeling off sorrow, anger, self pity and regret. But unlike an onion, as I finally draw close to the center, there really IS something there – someone. A heavenly father who loves me unconditionally. His idea of success is faithfulness. When I stand before Him, I want Him to say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That’s true success in any definition of the word.