Last week Monday, I was faced with a decision. In the midst of my 6th or 7th ear infection (I honestly lost count), I was debating whether I should participate in the mission to Apac and Lira (both in Northern Uganda).
This trip was to be a long one and I figured if anything bad could happen with my ears to make them worse, this journey could do it. I even got to a point of asking God why he was doing this to me. I haven’t been in that place since 2008 when I found out I had to have my second ear surgery.
I planned to call my director on Tuesday to ask whether I should go or not.
Somewhere between asking God what I was doing wrong or not doing, I started thinking about why I wanted to come to Uganda in the first place. Much of what brought me here was the work being done in ABIDE, but my first knowledge of Uganda came from Invisible Children. Invisible Children is an organization that seeks to not only bring awareness to the many atrocities committed in Northern Uganda (now active in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic) but also to stop the rebel group committing them.
Because of all that had happened in the North, I have felt passionate about social justice. Now the main reason for my passion for social justice is Jesus Christ. However, this organization’s efforts to bring awareness and stop this problem was what really opened my eyes to things going on in the world beyond my comfortable life.
Because of this, my desire has been to visit the North of Uganda. Specifically, I wanted to travel to Gulu, but Lira is a place that was largely impacted as well.
I started to realize that there wasn’t a reason that God would not want me to go on this mission, but I couldn’t see any of the forces of evil being supportive of my traveling to a place that has been such a source of passion for good for me. I was reminded of the where Jesus says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 28:10 NIV). And contrary to many’s views, Satan does not “rule” Hell…he is subject to it and simply seeks to drag as many down with him as he can. God is the only one with the power to destroy the soul. So I then saw this as an attempt to keep me from growing further in my passion for justice.
Whether God allowed this as a test or not, it was here and I knew the right answer wasn’t to stay. So I instead called my director and asked for encouragement and prayer. I also visited a doctor to be safe and find out anything I could do better to care for my ear and he had the great wisdom of saying I should put cotton in my ear when I travel because of how much bacteria is in the soil here…this is likely the cause of my many infections.
God provided so much in this way. There was temptation to stay away from something I wanted to do, but God provided a way out.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)
I went on the trip. The travel was brutal (go ahead and use Google maps and search “kabale, uganda to apac, uganda” then “apac, uganda to lira, uganda” and then “lira, uganda to kabale, uganda” [and use the Kampala Road route for the last one]). Our trip back literally consisted of traveling from 6am to 11:45pm (with only two hour long stops for lunch and dinner). The roads also are not just like the roads at home. Some are nice and well paved, others are full of pot holes, and others still are dirt and completely inconsistent in level. We were also in a 15-passenger van, not the most comfortable of travel.
However, the mission itself went really well. I had great interactions with the students. I saw them minister powerfully, we met their families, and we even stayed in huts (I think that would be the right term…see the pictures at the end). I didn’t see people who had been hurt by the rebel group, but I saw many areas which were very developmentally behind other areas due to the issues that have occurred and injustices.
The main reason this trip was important to me was my interactions and conversations with ABIDE guys (and the mangoes were really good…). This wasn’t why I thought I wanted to go to the North, and it’s something I could have had in a way in the Southwestern region where we reside…but I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything.
Despite my ankles getting crazy swollen from how ridiculously hot it was up there and all the travel and sitting, the journey went as smoothly as it could have for the most part. Through incredibly dusty roads caking our bodies and bags with dirt, driving crappy dirt roads in the dark, and having to take a ferry to continue our journey, it was certainly an experience.
Thank you to those of you who saw my updates on travel that I posted on facebook who prayed for us!
God bless you.