....I wake up after two very vivid dreams and hear Kevin singing Barbie Girl in Luganda.
Thursday, October 22
Wednesday, October 21
Last night I went with four IMME girls to Mary Jane and Brian Dennison's home. Hands down the best meal I've had here so far. Lasagna, warm bread, apple pie (for all my gluten needs), chicken/pepper kebabs, real ice cream, crystal light lemonade. I haven't had any of these things for quite some time. The conversation was good too.
Mark Bartels, our program's director, invited me to help with a presentation he's working on concerning North American study abroad students and they can work toward a global identity versus a mere sense of adventure. It'll be an extra commitment but it's a very interesting topic.
Friday we leave for Kaptchurwa (sp?) for rural homestays in the mountain regions of the east which border Kenya. Apparently it's incredibly beautiful. I will be out of contact for ten days starting Friday.
at 7:49 AM
Monday, October 19
Friday, October 16
I forgot to mention that two nights ago thunder struck and literally shook my bed. It was sweet. Whenever I wake up at 5 or 6 I can't get back to sleep cuz I'm too busy listening to beautiful rain on our roof.
Last night I made the best two omelets that I have made thus far.
I have no idea what's going to happen this weekend. It might be slow. it might be hectic. Who knows?
at 8:19 AM
Thursday, October 15
Micro-financing in recent years has proven to be one of the most effective methods ever in pulling people out of poverty, especially those who lack capital to set up their income earning operations. Brian told me to check out www.kiva.org and I randomly came across a group from Mukono. They were on the first list I saw. I encourage you to check this out. For as little as $25, which can be reused over and over again, you can support those just about anywhere on earth who are working in their communities to move out of poverty. Average money that eventually comes back to you is over 98%.
at 3:55 PM
I'm not even going to comment on last night's dinner. I'll keep this one to myself. It was too good to be true.
at 8:04 AM
Tuesday, October 13
Yesterday was Canada's thanksgiving, so we celebrated it on monkey hill with Silver and Suzan also. Suzan gathered firewood and we made smores, which neither she nor Silver had eaten before. It was great cuz we just chilled. Then afterward, we went all the way back to campus, then Suzan carried a jerri can of water from there to my house, at which point I sent Kevina to get all of us sodas from the supermarket. Then we talked for a long time. Suzan went out back to help Toto cook. I read the Qur'an and then sat on the porch to play my Adungu and sing When I Survey the Wonderous Cross. Some students stopped in the dark to listen from the path, and I was glad I could entice them. Suzan was told to stop helping cook (because Toto is so free and hospitable haha) and came to sit with me. She said she was going to go back to her hostel but Toto said "You can't prepare fish without eating it" - so yeah, then Suzan stayed for dinner. Then me and my siblings gave her a "push" past campus and we got back around 11. So yeah, it was an awesome day, and I am hoping today will be equally as good seeing as I might have an exam in Old Testament this morning. It's kind of random though because no professors know anything about it but all of the UCU students have some kind of sixth sense or something about when tests are going to occur. Some days I feel out of the loop, but it's all good. Today I also have to take one of my adungus back to the maker and see if he can fix one of the string's vibrations. So that's my random incohesive summary of the past day and today and stuff.
at 7:31 AM
Sunday, October 11
This weekend we ventured to Luweero, a town north of Kampala. We stayed at yet another diocese (I love how churches here have sites for visitors to stay).
Saturday we played with children at a Compassion International site. Suzan used to work with Compassion and told me how NGOs can be pretty corrupt about hoarding money and stuff, including this one, so I came in being fairly skeptical. I think all of the sponsors were local though and the workers seemed very legitimate, so the skepticism went away. The kids were eager to be with us and we led them in songs and games and planted a tree with them. I didn't want to get any pictures with the kids because every college kid that goes to Africa has thousands of pictures of them with kids and I never really get it. Yeah, the expected age of death is much lower in this continent, but that doesn't mean kids are the only reason westerners go to Africa. So my desire not to conform has spoken.
After the rain passed, we went back to the Diocese where a Catholic Priest spoke to us. He was awesome and brutally honest. He talked about his struggles with God's goodness and injustice and we asked him tons of questions.
After that, we were invited to the local Anglican bishop's home. I feel like he and I shared so much of the same theology (faith without works is dead, jesus can overcome religion, we must work together in love, etc). Then again, he did live in Pennsylvania for some time. He was very vocal about inter-religious matters and the idea of possessions, two things I will never grow bored of thinking about. He said any of us were welcome into his giant home at any time (but really, it's the church's property).
We woke up for a 6 AM breakfast today and then went to a three hour Catholic church service. It was all in Luganda, and the preacher spoke on the rich ruler. I thought it was awesome that he spoke on that topic in front of dozens of mzungus. Many churches here do this cool thing where they auction off fruit and vegetables. I liked that part.
I forgot to mention that Friday night I had horrible stomach problems that came out of nowhere. I was out in the toilet for half an hour, then I got in bed for five minutes and said to Sam, "Okay time for round two." So he took me out and waited another 45 minutes outside while I used the toilet. He said in exchange for taking me to the toilet I would have to help him look for Samantha, who is his future wife that he has yet to find.
We were in Kampala for a few hours for lunch today and now we are back on campus.
at 2:43 PM
Friday, October 9
Last night Suzan and I went to the poetry club thing. It was awesome because many people presented poetry, stories, etc. We were enticed. Here is the poem that I presented under the introduction that I think Ezekiel (chapters 16-18) would have this to say if he were alive in my home country:
Therefore, O whore, hear the word of the LORD:
Because your lust was poured
And your nakedness uncovered in your whoring with your lovers
(Like daughter, like mother)
My fury shall be discovered
Whether Hittite or Amorite or Americanite
You have prosperous ease, submission to greed.
So if God's hand withstands from bringing wrath on this land
Then I'll try to comprehend and understand what happened to Sodom.
Oh, I know your ears are closed, I know that you know that I know a prophet is never embraced in his native sands
So land of the "free" - awaken to see God's merciful hand
Come and witness the Great
But don't overdose on His grace
God's word came to me:
Speak an allegory -
This vine which bears fruit will be pulled from its roots
Unlike the seed from the shoot made fertile by abundant waters
And the Father simply speaks:
To the peaks I take my seed.
I will treat it so you may see
That I make dry the green
And flourish the deadest of weeds
God says 'All lives are mine:
The person who sins shall die,
But he or she who is lawful and right -
Not lifting idolatrous eyes,
Nor defiling a neighbor's wife,
But giving bread to the hungry
And sight to the blind -
Shall find eternal life.
I gave them my name, but my name they have profaned.'
The lame may be crippled, but I'm the one who is maimed.
I AM THE LEPER
And I have shed blood on the beautiful
Casting blame upon victim!
God, save us from the clenching fists of our abyss!
To the narrow way; rebuke the broad-road lie.
Repent, for Yahweh pleasures none to die.
The MC commented that my poem reminded me of Ecclesiastes and earthly things heaped up being done in vain.
It also rained a lot yesterday. It rained hard. The sky was pure gray, something I had yet to experience this semester.
Today we are watching a movie for Independence Day. We have postponed the smores party until this coming week. In the evening Jenn and Suzan and I are going to the craft show where artists from countries all over bring their goods to Kampala. I hope to find some good instruments. Tomorrow we leave in the morning for a weekend in Luweero. It is our main opportunity to interact with the Catholic Church in Uganda and be involved with their community dealings.
I am grateful to experience an Independence Day that I believe so strongly in! So happy independence day (many east african countries were also british colonies like my own country)!
at 8:29 AM
Thursday, October 8
So yesterday I had four classes. In one I presented the history of Christian-Muslim relations in East Africa. After my classes, I got phoned by my Old Testament group and met up with the Ugandan students to continue to draft our answer to one homework assignment question. Ugandans find it necessary to define every word in the question even before brainstorming the answer, at which point all opinions are considered and heavily argued over. So what is 5 minutes of work for an American is an hour and a half for Ugandans. Not to mention, I ended up typing for a Ugandan girl that I didn't know. She couldn't type well, like many of them, and asked me to type her paper. Did I mention she is taking the IT course? I'm not making sport of her though, she's a very nice gal.
Sam came home in the evening with Malaria. He asked me while I was brushing my teeth what it meant to kiss a girl's hand. I asked him why. He said he saw it on a movie and because he was feeling like crap today, he tried it out as he met a new cute girl. He said he needed something to laugh about after feeling like crap all day. I told him next time he even had a remote interest in a girl he should just try to kiss her even before talking, that way he will know if she likes him back. Oh yeah....Kevina seems to have recovered from malaria after one day. Well actually, once you have it you always have it, but it only shows up at certain times and stuff.
Tonight Suzan and I are going to the poetry night. I might share something. I remember the spoken word nights at Messiah at the Southside Cafe and how many Africans recited their works about identity. So I'm hoping for something equally as good, but it's a lot to ask for.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that yesterday in our African Religions class, a guest speaker came three and a half hours from the Bagisu tribe to describe the Gisu process of circumcision. The teenagers are to stand completely still, unblinking, as their foreskins are sliced away. He was fully equipped with visual aids.
at 7:52 AM
Tuesday, October 6
The past 24 hours has provided me with some of the best conversations I've had with Ugandans yet. Yesterday I was reading/napping at Zion Hill in the shade and a random guy (still don't know his name) sat and talked with me about God, friendship, economics, etc for over 2 hours. We did a lot of laughing and I felt less tired when we got done.
Then Silver walked me home, at which point Toto welcomed him for tea. He stayed for over an hour asking about my homeland and telling me about his. We also had ground nuts which makes the experience all the better. Silver is a good friend that will walk miles with you just for the conversation. Then he'll turn around and walk back alone in great spirits. He's one of the youngest guys on campus - a first year law student admitted early to University.
Suzan and I went to community worship and then lunch together and had long discussions about cultural marriage policies and community development and the like. We stayed long past the time everyone left from lunch. She imitated how she would act if she had to tell her father she was pregnant. I have just been loving the presence of Ugandans these past few days. It's refreshing.
I'm coordinating a smores party on Monkey Hill Friday (independence day), followed by a journey to the craft show where artisans come from surrounding nations to sell their products. Trying to get some more sweet instruments! Which reminds me: I gotta take my Adungu (African Bush Harp) back to be fixed.
at 3:26 PM
Monday, October 5
So this was our weekend to act like we're not really pilgrims and that we are tourists. You know, those selfish weekends that all expats must indulge in themselves.
Well, Friday was graduation and there was tons of traffic jamming in Mukono. Regardless, a field trip got canceled, so some of us went to Kampala by taxi. I had the most delicious ice cream I've had maybe in a year. We also went to the market. It was busy in town. We were there for a few hours only.
Friday was Sam's birthday so when we came back home, I bought sodas and biscuits/nutella for the family. That was fun. It was our last day to see Papa for several weeks. He's now back in Gulu teaching.
Saturday morning we had to get to the Colline Hotel by 7:20. So Drew's mom drove me, Dean, Jill, and Drew into Mukono town. A coaster picked us up and we rode to Jinja. The rafting resort was kind of a culture shock for some of us. It was the only place that we saw all caucasians in awhile. They were smoking and drinking and whatnot. So anyway, we boarded our rafts (Drew and I pulling the weight from the front) and prepared for takeoff. The Nile River rafting is intense - many class 5 rapids, a waterfall, etc. We flipped on the first rapid (deliberate move by our guide), and the water was so warm. It felt good to be in it. The trip was over 30 km and very intense. We dominated the waterfall, but some rapids dominated us. By the end of the trip, though, we got pretty good.
On the bus ride back I met a guy from England that was on vacation with some others. He was manager of a supermarket, gone for a few weeks. He was very nice, but I was totally playing pilgrim vs. tourist in my head the whole time and feeling superior. He told me it was interesting to see all of the open-window butcheries. Then he went on a rant about how in the western nations we are so concerned with health safety that when our bodies encounter even the slightest wrong thing we will get deathly sick. His insights were very good.
The next day was bungee jumping. It was the hugest adrenaline rush. The drop was about 15 stories, and I got my head to my knees dipped in the Nile. Locals gathered at every hillside to watch from the cliffs and shores. I wished they could have the same fun as us.
After that, I didn't want to buy food from the rafting resort because it was expensive, unhealthy, not many options, etc. I walked several miles in hope to find food. I came across many of the roadside stands which provided the basic vegetables and fruits. I bought airtime from one stall, mostly out of will to support the people, and kept walking. Eventually a boda boda driver stopped me and asked me to come in and praise the Lord who made and created me at the church. It was loud in their, and I knew that if I came in I'd probably be expected to deliver a sermon or at least give a testimony, so I told him to send his greetings from me to the church. He pointed me to the direction of the marketplace, about another 2 kilometers away. I passed open fields and children yelling "Mzungu" (I never know whether to wave, because I don't want to be God to them like they think I am with my white skin, but I also don't want to be impolite - I've created a method of the smile-and-show-the-palm-of-my-hand-but-quickly-turn-around combo move).
The market was sweet. Everyone was in good spirits. I bought two samosas at 100 shillings a piece (10 cents total). They had rice and beans in them and the lady at her stall wrapped them in an old newspaper so I could carry them as I walked. I went to a gas station mart and then got a candy bar and cookies so I could finish the nutella when I got back. A biker picked me up because I was tired of walking in the hot sun. He drove me a few kilometers closer to the rafting place. On the ride, as he was pedaling, he asked if I was an explorer and I took great pride in having that question asked to me. It made me feel like a tough guy. He showed me a small fruit and asked if they had it where I was from. I asked what it was and he said it was an orange, which to me was weird because it was green-yellow and the size of a kiwi. He put it back in his pocket. I asked about his family. He is 28 and married with two kids. I asked how old his kids were and he replied, "They are doing fine." I gave him a small coin payment for the lift and continued my walk back to the resort. I met many people who asked for money from me, so you know that tourists are used to giving their money away to get kids off of their backs or something of the sort. One 16 year old even came by boda boda to the resort a few hours later to try to convince me to give him money. I said when he traveled to Mukono on his trip back home I would get him a meal on his way through.
That evening we returned home with a cake for Joshua's birthday. He is 16 now. The cake was so delicious, handmade, one of the best I've ever had (beside ice cream cakes). Kevin has malaria. I have been sleeping through the nights on a consistent basis now. My body has adapted to drinking large glasses of water right before bed.
Another week of school. Friday is Independence Day.
at 8:57 AM
Friday, October 2
Okay, so we just finished reading an entirely controversial anthropological/theological/first-person account of the African worldview and its compatibility with the Gospel.
I could talk for hours about the book, but that would be boring and stupid. I will mention something that has challenged me theologically and something that challenged me practically.
The author John Taylor mentions how God became a human and a Jew. Dare we, he asks, follow Christ into cultures as He becomes a Hindu, Animist, Muslim, etc? I say we should dare to do so. Like St. Paul, we must become those people in order to win them. We must lovingly and intimately experience their presence and know them. Otherwise, we are simply defending Christianity in the way that Pharisees have defended Judaism.
The practical dimension is that Taylor suggests discipline rooted in science is based on possession of the world. Why then, do I value my intellect? What is my motive for gaining knowledge? Is it loving other people or provision of luxury for myself? Is my progress in the eyes of God based on what I know and learn or how I love others in word and deed?
at 9:43 AM
Thursday, October 1
The other day in our missions practicum class, we discussed missionaries and money and eventually got on the topic of the question, "Should missionaries live exactly like locals?" Popular opinion stated that it was okay to live in better conditions from the native people. You have white skin, so they expect you to have more wealth. (To this I ask, does that expectation permit your wealth?) Many of my fellow USPers even suggested that it was okay to lock one's personal possessions in case of thieves (which are common - some of our Bibles have already been stolen in church).
I was talking to Drew about why that class discussion was so difficult and stressful for me to have. He agreed with me, suggesting, "Sometimes it seems like people are saying, 'I know the Bible says this, but considering the circumstances we can act otherwise'."
I renounce wealth. I renounce possessions. Are we going to get back to the early church, where the believers shared all things in common? From now on, every time I use the word "my," I am going to do ten, no, twenty push-ups. The scenario of true discipleship is what? Nakedness. We are to walk in the greatest and lowliest humility. We are to follow Christ with our lives, and that means death. There is nothing we are to do apart from Him, for we do all things for His sake. He will look back at me in my ascetic poverty and ask, "Phil, what do you lack." I cannot say that I will tell Him, "I lack nothing," but I know I can tell Him I lack the strength to follow Him. But I will know that my renunciation enhances my ability to cling to His strength.
So what? We are no longer living in harsh desert cultures where sackcloth is our costliest treasure. As this may be true, the cost of discipleship stands firm. We can live in bigger homes, we can eat more creative foods; but we cannot HAVE bigger homes or HAVE more fancy products in which we indulge. If our partaking in something is lacking the fellowship of the Church (or of a part of the human race), we shall journey long and hard until we discover that fellowship.
So why? How is this even applicable to me? I have amassed thousands of dollars in college debts (thankfully less than others). This frustrates me. God uses the foolish to shame the wise, and yet I pursue a formal education in a society where science has blinded the minds of millions (I am not saying science is inherently bad). I feel as if I went into college being led by the notion that I would get a degree which would earn me a job which would in turn pay my debts. How many have fallen into this trap (and along the way developed the "I'll pay for it later" attitude of purchasing (multiple) vehicles and buying large suburban homes)? What things of these are necessary? I am all too often told by adults that I love that it is possible to follow Christ while owning a home, a vehicle, even having a career....you know....American Dream stuff. My response is that yes, it is possible, but why bother? Statistically and just as I look around: the American Dream has only made us lonely and unhappy. ($50000/yr is not the poverty line. Walking 4 miles twice a day for water is the poverty line.) With less attachments, I seek greater joy in Christ. Label me what you want for that. I don't know about you, but in this life I am looking for the real thing. And the only way I can do that is by losing my life for His sake.
I am not unthankful for education. I wish to continue with it in a formal manner, as it has in many ways benefited myself and ultimately, others as well. But from the looks of it, staying at Messiah will not be possible. If I can "drop out," go to class and not receive the "credits," and not receive the "diploma," I will be quite happy. But I'm sick of relying on my reason to establish how much I am valued. I hate letting down my parents, relatives, friends (I have to a great extent appreciated all of their direction) - but in the end I know that they will be grateful for my decisions, however seemingly incorrect and revolutionary and from an outside perspective - unnecessary. Some say, "Phil you have the potential for great things - so go get your degree." It is true that all human beings have a great capacity for both good and evil. I want to use my capacity for good. Good is not spending the rest of my life in debt. Good is not hoarding wealth from the homeless man or single mother on my block. Good is not neglect of the rural poor of Southeast Asia by blowing off world issues that are "beyond my control." Soren Kierkegaard tells us that we know how to read the Bible, but we pretend we can't understand it so we don't have to follow it.
For you, it might be good and fine to possess some material things, but stop telling me that's what I must do (for these things will pass away with moth and rust). I understand you want the best for me, and the best for me is the ability to cling to Christ. The way of gaining this ability is by renunciation of my self. Renunciation of my will. Renunciation of my things. Renunciation of "my." Let me live simple so that others may live. If you truly care for my wellbeing, you will supply for my immediate need (bodily, emotionally, spiritually, etc), but more importantly, you will keep me in check, you will keep me accountable for making my things not my things. You will make sure I am loving my neighbor as myself, always knowing that there is someone somewhere who needs what I currently have more than I need what I have in that moment. I am no longer looking for the easy love from my neighbor that says "all is well with you, keep going as you are." I am looking for the hard love from a neighbor who boldly directs me to drop my worldly ties, education, money, and selfish ambitions in pursuit of the only real God, the one who walked in search of a place to lay His head, preaching good news to the poor, and causing political and societal and religious uproar everywhere he stepped (bare)foot. I am looking for that brother and that sister that will read these words I write and not just appreciate, but believe that this is truly me speaking, that it is truly possible and inevitable for me to become this seemingly-deprived disciple of which I speak. These words are not a mere challenge to the reader, but also a call to you!
The Jesus Africa has been asking for has in many ways not come. But it is only the communal organism of the African people that can invite Him. The African must be a self theologizing person and be able to see that cultural condemnation from Europe and the west does not override the similarities between Biblical circumstances and his modern society. Elaborate on the good. Not everything I have gained has been bad, but everything I have renounced has been good. So let me not give the devil a foothold. Help me give. It's going to be impossible to do so with the debts I have. So I must stop compiling these debts. I must work my way back up to the world I knew before which was apart from indebtedness. A world in which I could be free, unbound to the prison of owing to the wealthy so that I could give to those who are in need. And don't give me the whole "well you can still provide for them now," the whole "well it's not just financial needs they have," the whole "it's okay to keep some for yourself and ten percent to others as long as you aren't greedy." No! The Bible speaks of economics. I am rich, and world statistics indicate this. Jesus tells the rich man that he only lacks the selling of everything for the sake of the poor. He is telling me the same, and if I have to be one of the first of my culture to step forward and say "okay," then I will simply acknowledge that suffering is part of the Spirit's fruit (read Galations 5 if you must). Suffering characterizes the Christ-follower, and it is his joy. If I perish, I perish. So what? That shall be my joy. It's no longer okay to compromise. Give all: everything you have. Please friends, boldly help me say to others to follow such a path. I am weak, completely unable to do this, but nevertheless I tell you that I have the faith to cling to Jesus so that it will all happen. His Kingdom is not be advanced through justification of our subtly selfish lifestyles. His Kingdom is moving forward through those who are not lukewarm, those noticing their endless flaws and passing them off as crumbs which God walks upon with joy, those taking the step of complete and holistic self giving.
Danielle just gave me a pixie stick and I ate it.
at 3:59 PM