Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Farewell Part 2

By far the thing I miss most about Uganda are the relationships. Relationships with my kids, relationships with the staff, and relationships with the missionary community and my dear friends. The Mbale missionary community is like no other community that I've lived in- probably because we all come with the same common goal of loving God and loving other people. We all have a heart to serve and the commonality of being a foreigner in another culture.

Saying goodbye to all these relationships was not easy. What will they look like 8613 miles away? How will they change as we are no longer involved in every day life together? These are questions I'm still dabbling with but what I did leave Mbale with left were many sweet goodbyes.

Outside of the farewell party at the children's home there were a few other treasured memories. The first was the farewell party that Bobbi and Megan so beautifully organized for me. The missionary community gathered at our favorite local dive, Endiro. The place was decorated in with some great Pinterest wins and there were over 60 people who attended. 

Praying as the evening got started.

My heart was beyond blessed to go table by table chatting with people and remembering the special memories held with each of them. 

Miranda, Bobbi, and Richard Trull

Brianne, Elyse, Yusuf, Nada, Manna

Leland, Gina, Carol, Siham, Gloria

Emma, Meagan, Rhonda

Anna, Callie, Chris, Sarah

Chad, Eric, Kira, Katie, Lauren, Dave

Emma, Megan, Ryan

Tiffany, Ty, Al, Christi

Jill and JP

Martha, Bryce, Erika, Bobby

Everyone there left me with sweet notes and prayers for my future, but one of the most special gifts of the evening was a beautiful cake, made just for me, buy one of the missionary kids, Riley. As a budding baker, she layered three different color sheet cakes to resemble national flag of Uganda and personalize the fondant icing – which is not easy to make in the humid weather of Uganda. It was, by far, the most special cake that I have ever had and she was so excited to show it to me! 

So special (and so yummy).

Look at their faces :)

Black, Yellow and Red for the Uganda flag!

The evening ended with the men departing and the ladies remaining for one of my favorite games… BUNKO!!

Gloria, Gina, Bobbi, Anna, Siham, Lauri, Me, Katie, Callie, Nada, Rhonda, Elyse, Manna, Megan, Tiffany, Sarah

Another treasured memory marking my goodbyes was the prayer picnic that my Ugandan prayer partner, Favour, and her friend Jamimah took me on. To understand just how special this was, you have to know that I funded most of the outings that involved my Ugandan friends throughout the years. Not because they're not generous, nor because they didn't want to spend the money, but usually I would insist because I knew that money is limited and would go for more valuable things like school fees, food, or rent. But this day, Favour and Jamimah insisted on hosting me- from the planning to the paying.  We took the hour long journey out to Sipi Falls where we could overlook the gorgeous iconic waterfall of the Eastern region. They had planned ahead and brought hot water, tea leaves, boiled eggs, popcorn, and biscuits. This was truly going to be a picnic! We spent the whole day there, enjoying one another's company, laughing, sharing stories of the past, lifting up prayers for the future, and just being in the presence of the Lord.

Favor, Jamimah, Me

At one point the fog started creeping in. It was awesome! We could see the fog moving right in front of us and coming closer and closer towards us until it completely covered the waterfall with no possible chance of seeing through it. We reflected how often this reflects our walk with the Lord. Too commonly, when we can't see what's ahead of us we forget what we know is actually there or we may start to waver in the promises of the Lord. Sometimes it seems impossible to believe that that next thing is through the “fog”. But in an instant the winds can change direction and the fog quickly drifts away and the beauty is before our eyes once again. All three of us were so blessed by this is a cool picture of a spiritual truth.

Before we could leave the place I wanted to make sure that these precious ladies had a memory they wouldn't forget. Having been to this location before I told them to trust me and follow me as I led them down a small pathway down the slope of the mountainside until we reached a swing that over hung a slight cliff on the mountain. I swung first to show them how to do it and then encourage each of them to try one by one. Thrills and shrills of nervousness and excitement filled the air and Favour even exclaimed, “From my childhood I have never swung. This is my very first time to be a child. This is the day I'll never forget.”

My final week was filled with final memories. Special dinners with special friends- like Betty and Favour, farewell at church, our last game night, and dinner over at Sarah's house with a surprise evening outing to the rooftops overlooking a Mbale.

My sweet sister-in-Christ, Dean, who attends Uni and makes some cash by helping me in my house.

Farewell at Mbale Presbyterian Church
Sweet time with Sarah (and Chris- thanks for the photos)

Sarah's baby, Moses. (p.c.  christopher mullen)

And there was even a slumber party.

For some crazy reason I thought it would be a good idea to have all nine of the children who were escorting me to the airport (plus Favour) come and spend the night at my house the night before I left. This seemed fine (and even fun) until my panic mode set in when I was trying to do the weight shifting and rearranging of my luggage. I had asked the kids to leave me alone in my room so I could sort it all out and they should just pretend as if they lived here all by themselves and I wasn't there. I needed some time without them calling, “Teacha, Teacha”. But slowly, one by one, they started migrating into my room, sitting on my bed, listening to music  and looking at photos. As the room got more crowded I looked up from my luggage and asked, “Can I help all of you with something? I just need a few more minutes.” Then Samwiri sweetly looked at me and said, “Teacha, we’ve come in here to ask how we can help you because we know that you are stressed and we don't want you to be stressed. We want to help you.”  

Favour, Josephat, Sarah, Betty, Norah (sleeping), Joel, Davis, James, Samwiri (and Egulasi-not in photo)

Isn't that the sweetest?! But the reality was it was more helpful to have them out of my room, so I sent them away, again, and finally finish up. The rest of the evening was sweet- gathered together for dinner and seeing them all huddled in my empty living room with sleeping pallets on the floor and rooms filled to full capacity. That final slumber party is a treasured memory. 

We woke up super early the next morning, around 4:30 AM, to make sure everyone was awake had their teeth brushed and we're ready to be out the door by 5:30, when Enoch arrived. Loading the trunks on top of the van is when the reality hit me and tears couldn't stop flowing from my eyes. I have to admit, the first hour of our journey out of Mbale was really rough. Tears filled almost everyone’s eyes and occasional sobs could be hard. These couldn’t be our last memories, so I prayed that the Lord would change the atmosphere in the van into one of joy and He did! The remainder of the ride was filled with stories of old days and memories of the past, silly jokes made up on the spot, commentary about the happenings that they were seeing on the road-side, and games on my phone. 

When we reached Entebbe we headed to one of the newer malls, Victoria Mall. I wanted to show them a few things that they hadn’t yet experienced. As we walked in, their eyes were big seeing such a modern shopping place. 

I told them I wanted to take them on the elevator and pointed in the direction to the big glass box on the wall moving up-and-down. A few were unsure and stayed on the steps while the rest followed me. It was so funny to see their expressions as they saw their friends on the steps become smaller and smaller as we went up. 

And though this was their first elevator ride, most of them were more taken by the novelty of the inside fishpond that was part of a wall’s water decoration. Davis told me, “Teacher, I can't believe they have so many fish right there and nobody tries to catch them and eat them!” He couldn't cut quite grasp that they were just there for decoration.

The time finally reach for us to head to the airport and all of the children help push the luggage up the winding driveway. It's a place I've been countless times, picking up and dropping off teams, and now it was my turn. They prayed for me and with tears in our eyes we gave one another a last hug (until we meet again).  I thank the Lord for each of these treasured memories and special tokens of goodbye.

Photo credit: Christopher Mullen