Africa

I’ve been wanting to blog about my time in Uganda but it’s been difficult. Mostly because the feelings and thoughts I have for the people there seem so big and the words I have are so small. But here’s me giving it a shot:

Uganda is beautiful. Kampala is a city born from a lush jungle, full of high rolling hills green as the thousands of banana trees that dominate the landscape. The people of Uganda are happy and hopeful, even in the most desperate situations. They carry about them a glowing joy that fills their singing and shines through brilliant toothy smiles. They’re a people who have learned to adapt, and they live and laugh in the moment. Ugandans love to dress up and can be very dignified in the least dignified of circumstances. It isn’t unusual to see a suit clad gentleman trucking through the trenches of Kampala’s dusty red clay on a motorbike, with his woman, dressed to the nines, always riding side saddle.

I met hundreds of children who love to sing, dance, and drum. Children who love to play soccer and dream of growing up to be doctors and lawyers. But children in Uganda regularly die from diarrhea and other conditions that wouldn’t even get an American kid excused from class. Most of the kids I met didn’t know their fathers. Many of the mothers we met were living with HIV and worried about what would happen to their children after they were gone. More than once we ask a child what he/she wanted to be when they grew up and they told us that they’d never thought about it because they had HIV.

My first reaction to Africa was one of awe at the beauty of the people and the land. But following close behind was an underlying feeling of anger and frustration. How can such a dignified people, so rich in grace and culture also be so completely marginalized?

I wish I had a great way to “wrap this one up”, but the truth is that it’s almost impossible to bring any resolve to this blog when I’m totally unresolved in my heart. Meaning that it’s difficult to think about how my Starbucks budget alone can feed a kid for a year, and my car payment can send a young Ugandan man or woman to law or medical school. I guess what I would have to say is that it isn’t the level of poverty that blows me away it’s our level of ignorance.

Don’t feel guilty. Feel informed. Feel empowered. And for God’s sake do something about it.

You can help: Compassion International





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11 comments
  1. Elena said:

    Great stuff, John. As one of your fans and also a fellow advocate for Africa (I'm living & working in Liberia), I had been following your updates throughout your trip. I totally understand the awe, the frustration, the complete inability to resolve it all in your mind. Africa has a way of ruining us in the most intense yet most beautiful way. Thank you for "doing something."

  2. Cali said:

    I wanted to write you & say how glad I am that you went over there. To see the people there first hand was overwhelming on all levels I'm sure. I know a lot of people that share the burden of not feeling informed or feeling guilty for their privileged lives here in the states. But I like your last saying, "Feel informed. Feel empowered." Thank you.

  3. I went to Uganda last year with Compassion. You're right, feelings and thoughts seem so grand but to try and convey them in words is near impossible. I cried everyday I was there – crying at the beauty of a people, the immense love I felt for them and knowing the love our Father has for them. Not that this helps by any means… but a year later I'm still processing.

  4. Tom Page said:

    My two cents: As you process your experience, don't over analyze your feelings, just feel them; let them sink in deep. It's just a hunch, but I think that combination of Love/Beauty/Anger/Frustration is what God feels for Uganda every second of every day, and will continue to until Kingdom come. Welcome to the Father's heart, brother. Yes, indeed – for God's sake, let's do something. "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little Children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:17-18

  5. Kelly said:

    Thank you for shedding a little light on Uganda. This country is near to my heart as i work for a ministry similar to Compassion, but focuses only on Uganda. If only people realized how simple it is to help. Also, i am thankful for your honesty. I understand your dichotomy. Feeling joy and love mixed with anger and frustration. Last month my husband and I were in Johannesburg, South Africa. We met people with unshakable faith, the most genuine of worshipers. We also met children that are hungry, mothers that are weak with AIDS, and families that call a small cold metal shack their home. It tears at your heart, until you are left with only one decision, to do more. Left with a responsibility to do something, anything. For some that is sponsoring a child so they can eat one meal a day and get an education, so their future is brighter. For others is it flying half way around the world to work daily with these incredible people. Both are equally needed. Anyways, I am very thankful for your heart today.

  6. That's exactly right. There has never been a lack of resources to resolve the world's problems. The question is: are we willing to give up something to get it done? And I'm not necessarily talking about giving up things or Starbucks. If we want to change the world it's going to cost us something….mostly time. It's mostly about giving up time so we can invest it in making other people aware of what is going on, to put it right in front of their faces. Because so often in our culture if it's out of sight, it's out of mind and it's easy to dismiss. But if the problem is right in front of you it gives you the chance to see what Jesus came for….to bring justice. There is a anonymous quote that says: “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” There is so much suffering in the world and at times it can be very overwhelming and daunting, but Jesus speaks to us so clearly that we are to be His hands and feet. We get the awesome privilege to give food to the hungry, provide shelter to the poor, and to clothe the naked. This is our act of love to a lost and dying world. Our Father has an amazing heart and He so passionately loves the world that He put us here so we could be his hands and feet to love a world who desperately needs us, and we get to love them back to life. It can be overwhelming, but if you just start with the one in front of you, one child, one person, one village, one country, then it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming.

  7. Awe, I LOVE that little boy in the suit sitting on the ground!!!! I just want to hold him!! Thanks for sharing your experience John… what a world we live in…. extreme comfort, extreme poverty…. We definitely have our work cut out for as Christians… to love, and to give, and to think of others better than ourselves. There must be so many orphans in Africa because of HIV… I hope the adoption movement really takes off the in this generation!! For their sake….Greatest quote I ever heard about poverty:Nate Bacon- "poverty is an issue of love, disguised as an issue of resources."

  8. I know im a little late finding this post, but im so glad youve been to Africa. Ive been 2 times, going back a 3rd in a month, and its the most amazing experience you could ever have. The way you described Uganda is exactly the way I would describe Tanzania and Kenya. THe people are soooo beautiful, and loving, and hospitable. And sadly, it seems that much of the world, including their own governments, dont seem to care that they are in a state of disarray, and they seem to always stay that way. I just hope we dont try to blame other people for not helping them, while we sit on our butts and dont do a thing. Speaking from experience, if you have a desire to go to africa and serve, or help, you can. THere a billions of organizations that will take you on. All you have to have is a desire to help.Thanks John Mark for reminding me why im going back.

  9. I know im a little late finding this post, but im so glad youve been to Africa. Ive been 2 times, going back a 3rd in a month, and its the most amazing experience you could ever have. The way you described Uganda is exactly the way I would describe Tanzania and Kenya. THe people are soooo beautiful, and loving, and hospitable. And sadly, it seems that much of the world, including their own governments, dont seem to care that they are in a state of disarray, and they seem to always stay that way. I just hope we dont try to blame other people for not helping them, while we sit on our butts and dont do a thing. Speaking from experience, if you have a desire to go to africa and serve, or help, you can. THere a billions of organizations that will take you on. All you have to have is a desire to help.Thanks John Mark for reminding me why im going back.

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