Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
So we finally have a way to do blogs again!! Happy day! (We have missed writing them, and hope you have missed reading them).
So to start the cycle again I (Kristin) wanted to share with you some of the things I have been reflecting on recently. Jon and I share a lot in here about what we are learning in study or what God has shown us in our time here. Well this month God has been showing me what prayer looks like. This is also a blog about the struggles we sometimes face. Kent once said the phrase “it isn’t the elephants, but the ants that kill a missionary”. This is not talking about literal ants or elephants (obviously) but that it’s the little things that wear us down the most.
Some folks know that we have been trying to get Jon a work visa so that we can stay in the country legally and without having to border jump for new stamps in our passport. We have been working on that since we arrived in October. It has been an incredibly long process, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration and much prayer. We finally got the approval letter and were told to go to the Immigration office near us. A week after returning from Kampala we went to the office and found out that we have to go to… KAMPALA. That is a 5 hour drive (and once you get into Kampala it is NOT easy driving).
So. We are on our way to Kampala and I was explaining to Jon how I had been praying since we found out the night before that we needed to go down. I talked about how I had long had a habit of trying to bargain with God. The “God if you… then I’ll” prayer. We talked about how God has been teaching me to approach Him as a father, my father, and to ask the way I would ask my daddy here on earth. So I told Jon that I had been praying for God’s favor on the situation because that was a way to ask for what I wanted without demanding certain outcomes from God. It is a way of saying “Thy will be done” while still approaching Him confidently knowing He loves to pour His favor out on His children. So. I prayed for God’s favor as we tried to get Jon’s visa.
At our first break in the drive we called our friend, Joe, who lives in Kampala and graciously found us accomodations at the last minute. Joe paused part way through the conversation and said “you know it is a public holiday right?”. Fun fact: I did not. There are several public holidays in Uganda that the US doesn’t have. So we decided to press on and hope that people showed up to work the next day (a Friday) instead of taking a long holiday.
The next day they WERE open. We got there right at 7:30 so we were first in line. We approached the window at 8:01 and handed them our paperwork. And the man working the counter looked at us and said “did you pay?” The answer was no, because the e-mail from Immigration had said to pay at the immigration office. We explained that and he told us in no uncertain terms that we had to pay at a bank off site before they would help us. So we walked the block and a half to where the bank was. They were open and willing to help us (this was at 8:30). But then tragedy struck again as they told us that even though we were paying in USD (not an easy thing to get here) we would have to wait for the exchange rates to be published at 0900. So we waited.
Jon got the money exchanged and we went back to the Immigration office. We went to see the man who verifies payments and he asked when we had paid. We told him and he looked at us sternly. “You only just paid? Oh it will not be posted. No no. You’d have to be very lucky. It takes all day, all day.” I can tell you that at this point I was honestly almost in tears. I did not want to spend the weekend in Kampala, and I did not want to have to fight traffic again to get back to the office on Monday. I was fairly stressed and a bit flustered at the seeming lack of favor from God. He muttered about how lucky we were that it posted and sent us on our way. We got Jon’s visa from there without much trouble.
We got in the car to leave and Jon just stared at me for a moment before he said, “the battery is dead, the lights are on.” At this point we actually started laughing because OF COURSE the lights were on.
Now, I’m going to tell you parts of the story I left out. I left them out because it wasn’t until we were on the road that I saw the pattern: the pattern of favor.
The day we arrived in Kampala we got to spend the afternoon relaxing after a stressful drive instead of fighting through crowds at the office, only to be sent to the bank likely to late to finish that day.
We walked to the bank and had to wait. But the bank is located in a mall so we got to eat breakfast while we waited. (We forgot to eat dinner the night before and didn’t get lunch until almost 3 because of the car troubles).
The money posted 10 minutes after we paid even though it is usually a day long process. The guy seemed like he couldn’t believe it, and frankly we couldn’t either.
The car was stuck right next to the police mehcanics headquarters so several police officers assisted us with the car. When it wouldn’t jump from a truck, they brought a new battery to start it and got us on our way within 20 minutes. We also made a new friend who promised to come look us up in Gulu if he comes our way.
Why do I tell you these stories of our crazy Kampala trip? One, because those are the things that absolutely drain me as a missionary. It isn’t the cultural customs, or the different food, or learning a new language, or different church styles or any of that. It is not understanding the very different systems of doing things, or not understanding that you pay your bills at the bank not the office etc. It’s the ants, not the elephants. (Speaking of, I was pretty unhappy when I came home to a countertop of dead ants... literal ants. But. All of those little moments of confusion and fear and frustration, God was giving His favor in ways I didn’t anticipate. He has been faithful in so many ways; I couldn’t ever recount them all. And in these moments where I am so faithless, He is faithful.
He has been teaching me to pray in new ways. Not as a scared criminal before a judge, bargaining and begging. But as a daughter approaching her Father to ask for His help, comfort and peace. I wonder how many of us find ourselves praying as if we are begging or persuading. Often when I find myself in those impersonal prayers, it is because my life has been prayerless. When I am in constant communication I find myself not afraid to pray and ask for God’s blessing on situations, because I am talking to my Father.
So all of this is just to encourage you to be in prayer. Take the little things to your Father in prayer and see how He answers. It often isn’t in the way we expect, but when we look back we can be blown away with how He knows and meets our needs. Whether it is providing our literal daily bread, or just bringing comfort in times of troubles. I used to believe that I should only pray over the big things, the HUGE things. I have found that it really is as Jesus said “our daily bread”. When we pray in the little and the big, we see God answer us in the little, and the big.