As I try to organize my thoughts, recollections, concerns, and emotions from this recent journey I find a gap between what my heart intends to remember and my minds ability to map out, in some sort of order and detail, the experiences I’ve found myself gratefully existing smack in the middle of, as well as those that are yet but dreams. This particular journey to Uganda began in several places, each influencing me toward this most recent set of experiences in separate and surprising manners. Unbeknownced to me, these experiences would be a sort of colander sifting from me parts I thought would remain and allowing portions of me (characteristics, thoughts, dreams) to journey to places even now I can only imagine… These dreams may be mapped out later but for now let me simply enjoy reminiscing on the simple things God has done during this short and recent journey, apart from, yet surely tied to, both past adventures and churnings in my innermost being for things yet to come.
Glory to God! Oh, that my heart would never cease to grow in understanding that He not only saves but also offers a life filled beyond the brim! None is exempt from this offer, no not one.
In this moment, I sit with my sweet, tender-hearted, caring friend Ashton at my side on a ten hour flight loaded with people each beginning or ending a certain chapter of their own. I’m assured, though, that we had the most beautiful time of any in view. Why? Our time was marked with laughter, being called “muzungu” over simple giggles from the very lips of young ones who have overcome more in their few years than I may ever, adventure, growth in cultural experience, looking into the eyes of many cut off from society and realizing their connection to us to be strong as One with the ultimate healing power had grafted me to them and them to me with a drop of blood prized beyond compare, new foods and new words, working side by side with ones who have diligently committed themselves to a life of service, and the rubbing off of rough edges as we sharpened each other in love and truth. Surrounded by what some may view as poverty, our experience was rich. Rich in love. Rich in friendship. Rich in community. Rich in worship. Rich in prayer. Rich in God!
Within an hour of exiting the Entebbe airport in Uganda, we pulled into CORSU, a heavily grant funded hospital seemingly serving primarily children needing musculoskeletal reconstruction and rehabilitation. We were here as Francis, my dear friend and leader of Wells of Hope whom we had come to partner with and encourage, had recently found a young boy in his village who would ultimately need help from CORSU. See, Francis’ lifesource is God and has a heartbeat for those in prison and has a mighty strong pulse for their children. He found Brian, who I would lay my eyes on as my heart would melt, when he had been asked by a prisoner to please help his family. When Francis arrived at the home to assess the need, the most notable finding was that Brian, a small in stature 5 year old boy, laid outside unable to walk with a partially attached piece of gauze marked with oozing and thick yellow drainage covering his tiny right upper leg. Inquiring further, Francis discovered this boy had been hit by a bota-bota, one of the many motorcycles dangerously yet commonly used for taxi services all over lush Uganda. The boy had been hit and the help he had received included a surgical repair of his femur. The surgery was ill performed and not only did not correct the problem but also are way for infection to attack this babies body. Francis is not one who can easily turn his back on a need, even when provisions seem far from him, so he continued to assess the situation to discover that not only did Brian need to come to WOHA, but he also needed medical attention, and fast. Thus, we met this bright eyed young one here at CORSU with rods in his leg post an external reduction internal fixation corrective procedure and a clean dressing atop cool skin, a beautiful finding to the eyes of this nurse. Even more beautiful was the opportunity that Jesus provided to walk sweet Brian’s mother into the Kingdom of God as she invited Him into her heart at this very moment. I’m assured that Brian has a strong hope and future. Surely, his tiny wooden crutches and his smile bigger than Uganda will be used by God in this sweet boys life. He is to begin at WOHA in January where he will get close care, education, knowledge of King Jesus, and relationship with his imprisoned father and continued involvement from his thanks filled mother. This was a beautiful start to my time on ground in Uganda. Be sure we did not leave that place without offering sweets from America to the little mouths of that hospital prior to our exit.
Sweet Francis was efficient and on task as I had expected, handling the situations before him with great love and focus on the one at hand then moving purposefully onto the next piece of kingdom work. This was evident as we moved from Brian’s bedside to the WOH office where the strong team would meet and pray with us prior to explaining the many processes of WOH to my inquiring mind and Ashtons attentive ears. I was more than delighted to sit and be introduced to the staff of WOH who I hadn’t previously met. To see the organization and unity brought a sense of pride to me for WOH and a longing to continue knowing and loving this very humble but very intentional group of lovers of Christ.
The gathering of supplies for the week would lead us to the heart of a Ugandan market. Fresh produce surrounded us, including avocados the size of butternut squash, and people engaged in their daily activities and roles only to be quite surprised to see a couple of muzungus and hear poorly emphasized Luganda greetings fall from our lips. We tried to engage in the market life for a bit. A memory which won’t escape me is seeing several large cases of soap we bought for prisoners stacked to the sky atop a simple bicycle for transport.
My friend struggled for sleep this night as she was in a completely new environment and would spend the night thinking on what stepping foot into a maximum security death row prison in Africa would entail in a few short hours. Understandably, sleep seemed far from her. The concern coming from beneath her mosquito net upon my awakening was thick. Little did she know, though, that she would look back on that time in the highly secured walls of Luzira Condemned Men’s Prison as sweetness beyond compare. Is God good or is God good?
I awoke with a powerful strength that washed over each fiber in my being. It was God. I learned of his beauty and strength this week. The concept of Him becoming greater as I simply said yes invaded my thoughts and continues to. How does it work that God, Yahweh, Jehovah, King of all kings, the Only Source of abundant life not only save me but also allow me to be part of his work? A tool in his kit? A brush on his canvas? A string in His symphony? He…uses…me?
I had been told the night before that I would have the opportunity to teach in Luzira Upper Prison for condemned male inmates followed by afternoon teaching at Luzira Women’s Prison, a place I remembered from a few years back with fondness. Throughout the short time between God inviting me on this journey and actually boarding the plane to come I knew I would have opportunities to teach but felt strong that I was to wait to see what message He would pull forth. That being said, I’d thought thru some favorite scriptures in preparation but just struggled to pin down exactly what was to be said. That experience, like many, was beautiful to me, looking in the eyes of inmates who may very well have had a past quite similar to Paul’s in regard to zealously promoting Godless feats. Those same eyes stared back at me, set by set, as though to say, “He chose him, maybe he would choose me as well.” My love for God and what Christ has done with this “least of these” welled up as words of the passionate pursuit of the shepherd who searches a thousand hills for the one gone astray overtook each of us in that room: me as I spoke, the hearers as they heard. Among these men were surely plenty of situations that were no less than devastating, no less than dark, no less than unjust. For God though, there was full attendandnce of hearts that were no less than hungry for truth and no less than ready for liberation. Entwined in each situation was a set of eyes staring back at me, eyes that Jesus would gladly let scales fall from. And let scales fall He did! Oh God, the God of all that is love let love come down in that moment and all I had to do to experience it was just show up and ask to be filled up.
Delighted to have stood in the presence of God with brothers in the family of Christ who surely knew what it was to have a debt paid I hear in my spirit the word “asobola,” God is able! The men in this section of the prison wear white symbolizing their status as “condemned” but on this day and forever more the multitude of them who have called upon the One Name worthy of being called on stand in their white uniforms reminding me that they too have been washed and have shifted from shamefully walking under the label of “condemned” to boldly accept their new name of “redeemed.” Forever and ever amen!
As though I could handle experiencing any more of God’s own goodness in one single day, He had arranged to bless my heart and mind with sweet time spent rejoicing with sisters in Christ and calling those who had not yet let King Jesus onto the throne if their heart into the family. Oh the joy that fell as though from heaven as God used even my mouth to declare his compassion for each woman. Even now, two weeks after being home I am vividly remembering face by face the ones God broke through to that day, the sweetest day of their lives thus far. The scripture that poured into my mind and out of my mouth was that of Jesus’ sweet yet strong defending nature in the biblical recall of the one who was hurled at his feet for judgement who instead received the complete defense God would give her!
Sleep came and was needed indeed. I recognize the need for sleep as being a consistent reminder that our strength must not come from us but we must rely on the One Who does not tire. He does not grow weary. His strength does not run out. His breath, His life, His energy do not expire! The well of His wisdom does not run dry. He is good. Amen? The needed sleep was sweet, strong, and short for me this night. Why short? Well, the day had come when I would lay my eyes on the land bought in faith, place my hands on the very bricks we had prayed for God to provide, put my nose to the air in the place id wondered many times if it would in fact ever even be, and wrap my arms around those who God has done it all for: the beautiful, partially broken and partially restored, purpose filled, dream having, cut off from society, bound to the priceless family of Christ if they so choose children of prisoners from no where else but all over “the pearl of Africa,” Uganda! Sweet Ashton slept soundly and I’m convinced she remained lathered in the peace that had washed over her in no other place but a prison labeled “condemned” filled to the brim with souls labeled “redeemed.”
Part 2 Coming Soon 🙂 Thank you for reading and I hope you got to experience a snippet of this prized piece of my heart. Until then, look forward to more of what God is doing and enjoy a few more pictures: