So, I'm new to the blogging world.. Life is busy. I'm a mom, I home school (for now), I cook, I clean, I love. Sound familiar? Yet I have had this constant tug at my heart to write and write it for others to read. It's an old passion, rekindled by my love for His Word and His love to communicate with me. It's been swirling in my heart for quite some time, but I haven't made it a reality until now. Over a year ago, this deep urge to write pounded at my very soul. I had laid down most writing from my college and early missionary days, except for my occasional and sporadic journal entries. Until that one day... I was at a birth and a burial all within twelve hours, feeling all the senses of my heart pricked as I celebrated and mourned. As I stood around that dusty grave, packed up against at least one hundred sweaty bodies all trying to get a peak at the coffin, I kept hearing a voice in my head "go home and write..go write...you must write." The urgency was clear, and I would have been disobedient had I not written. So below is that story which re-birthed in me the joy of obeying the sacred act of pen and paper, or better yet, obeying His voice. For those of you who have read it already, enjoy re-reading it, or wait until the next installment of "savoring the little things of life in Uganda".
We live together, we die together…
Very early this morning I woke, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes to see the time stamp on my cell phone as I stumbled into the bathroom. Those early morning trips are regular these days. The time read 3:43am. I noticed I had 2 missed calls and a text that read “In Luwero”. My brain registered that my friends, the Vogt’s, were traveling back to the village at rapid speed to make it to the hospital in time for their baby’s arrival! My heart beat raced as I fully woke up to the realization of what was happening. They had spent the night near the airport in anticipation of Rebecca’s mom’s arrival this morning. Little did they know their little girl wouldn’t be waiting around for Grandma’s arrival. She wanted to be first and make her entrance rather grandiose for her parents. Chris made it back here in record time –just in time to carry Rebecca into the hospital that was without power, and let her push under cell phone light so the doctor could catch the baby! My friend Alair and I made it to the hospital just moments behind them, but moments AFTER her arrival! We were shocked, excited, and full of joy as we beheld little Naomi Sanyu just minutes after her birth. Naomi means “pleasant” and Sanyu is Luganda for “Joy”. She already is pleasant and bringing great joy to her family. But I cannot leave out that babies are a community event here in Africa. We have had to keep the community “at bay” so to speak in order to let the Vogt’s get a few winks. But not for long, as we are born into this African community, breathing the same air of life, celebrating the gift God brings through children. Children are celebrated here. Much more then the western culture celebrates children and the gift of life. It’s refreshing, even though it’s wearying for the family that has just welcomed a child into their home. Thus we let them celebrate, and in comes the guests, all wishing to hold the new one, bless with a few shillings, and pray over your baby. It’s a joyous occasion.
Not long after I returned from the hospital, I remembered that I was to attend a burial today. A good friend of ours (who works for me in our house on a daily basis), Fiona, had lost her final sister to AIDS. We had been praying for her over the last two weeks, celebrating when she had small improvements, hoping for the best. But alas, Jesus took her. Noah asked me this morning, “Mama, why did Auntie Fiona’s sister have to die?” I replied, “Because Jesus decided to…just like he decided Naomi would come into this world today.”
As we took that bumpy road out to Wabetunda I tried to talk away the impending community event to a pretty quiet Keith. The car tossed me back and forth, just like the shifting thoughts racing through my brain. I had come from the hospital, rejoicing in a healthy baby girl’s arrival to the village, full of people shouting “Muzungu” and traveling the same dusty road to the same sad occasion. What is this world we live in? The one we live in, the one we die in. When we arrived, we were surrounded by hundreds of people, pressing in to listen to the sermon and see the plain wood coffin. A small fire smoldered next to us, whispering of the hours that had been spent awake throughout the night. The community had stayed awake with the family to grieve together, not leaving them in their pain to weep alone. Bright scarves and wraps covered woman’s bodies and a florescent orange tarp held up by banana trees attempted to keep the cloudy sky from pouring threatening rain on their faces. A man preached the Gospel with passion –at least from what I could tell in my feble Luganda. An old woman, fondly known as Mama Minanee, sat next to the coffin. Her wooden face told of grief beyond my grasp. She had buried 7 children in her lifetime with only one remaining. Why must she bear this pain again, I wondered. A child started to weep. He wept with deep seated grief, and as the words “Mama” poured from his mouth, I felt my heart was near breaking. Mama? The words I hear each and every day from my three sons. This same title, this relationship was torn from this small boy, leaving him as a mulekwa (orphan). There were 4 that she left behind as the dirt covered her coffin, all who will become children raised by the community they live in. No longer will they have someone to call mama, but rather they will become a part of the hundreds that surround them, who bear similar scars, can tell similar stories. We live together, we die together.
As we stood at the grave, beating off hundreds of bugs who were angry we had invaded their garden, I was struck by the simplicity and complexity of the life God creates. As my little one kicked around in my womb, my thoughts were taken back three years ago. This was the same land we had gathered on to bury Fiona’s still born baby. And now, she holds her beautiful little Joshua. Yet here we were again, in the same African soil, crying, singing, and wondering what the God of the universe was up to. As I held my friend and cried with her, I knew one thing for certain. We live together, we die together, but we do not do so without hope. Keith has been teaching the boys through the book of Job just this last week. What have I learned? To bless the name of the Lord, no matter how it feels or what it looks like. And to be thankful for the African community that celebrates life around me, and grieves the loss of life with me. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Selah.