I have made it to Kampala! Yesterday, Scott & I road the Link bus from Fort Portal to Kampala. (Scott works in Mundri, South Sudan as a physician’s assistant for WHM. He used to live in Bundibugyo, & recently came back to visit friends & help Dr. Jess in the hospital.) The ride was fairly uneventful. We sat African style with six of us squished into four seats in the back of the bus. Hardly any wait from the time we boarded to the time we departed, only 1 small breakdown, & I got airborne only once from a ginormous speed bump taken a little too fast.
On Monday, Scott, Michael, & I were supposed to hike over the Bwamba Pass, a 6 to 8 hour hike from Bundibugyo Town over the Rwenzori Mountains to Fort Portal. Bwamba Pass was on my Bundi bucket list, so I was pretty exited that I had found people willing to brave it with me. However, a very African series of unfortunate events redirected our plans: Michael’s ride back to Bundibugyo cancelled on him, a cut on my foot swelled with infection, Sunday night I had a fever all night (which I passed onto Scott. I share!), Scott’s stomach emptied it’s contents (a story in itself), locals began to persuade us that the path was too muddy because of the rainy season & mizungus are too weak to hike it, plus we would “freeze to death” (70’s are cold in Africa). So instead of exiting the district African style, we drove with Jess & the two visiting P.A. students to Fort Portal where I collapsed in the hostel with another fever attack.
Two days later, Scott & I are in Kampala staying with the Sinclairs, an MTW couple that teaches at Westminster Seminary outside of Kampala. Mrs. Sinclair is thoroughly spoiling us with sweet southern hospitality. (Oh how I’ve missed thee!) There is nothing like a southern accent & grandmothering to relax any travel aches & bring a breath of refreshment & rest. I’ve enjoyed listening to Mr. Sinclair explain how they teach theology & Biblical studies to Africans. His many shelves of systematic theology, prayer, & Bible books make me hungry to be back in Christian studies classes soaking up the history of the monarchs, the teachings of Paul, & the discoveries of men much smarter than me.
The Sinclairs left this morning to teach, so I have plopped myself in a chair on the balcony overlooking the city. A strong breeze brushes my curls against my face. Sunlight bathes the city in the warmth & happiness & excitement of a Florida summer. From my high seat, I witness the collision of first world & third world. The beautiful tiled porch floor, a sky riser in construction, Italian styled houses to my right, reddish rooftops crowding the hills amidst tall trees & small cell towers. But in between these ordinary things to an American eye are dirt roads, a mud shack between two homes, a rooster crowing, tall, skinny sticks holding power lines with twine, a woman in a dress suit & heels with a basket of bananas on her head. I wish I could freeze time this morning & grab a pair of binoculars to watch. The builder risking his life perched on a tower of poles & planks, the young man sawing wood in skinny jeans & a red shirt, boda bodas carrying luggage & passengers to unknown destinations. I would wait to see who would walk out on the porches of the fancy houses next to me. Are the owners American, British, Swiss? Are they missionaries, ambassadors, businessmen, secret agents? Or is this their vacation home in Africa, close enough to the dirt to have an African experience, but far enough away from the hunger of the poor, the grossness of disease, & the desperation of prostitution?
I still am not comfortable with the paradoxes of Africa. Modern mixed with primitive. Beauty amidst decay. Green against dust. Concrete next to mud. My eyes input the images to my brain, but there the equation remains uncalculated. The variables don’t add, subtract or multiply to produce an emotion or opinion. They are just there.
A swift breeze ripples pages of my journal. Words fly by from the past few months. Frantic scribbles, desperate pleas, excited stories, thoughts with no direction. So much processing, yet does any of anything really make sense? Will life ever make sense? How can it, when I only have the view point of a dot on a canvas of pointillism so large one must have a heavenly perspective to see it. I am but one spec among a world full of specs that are decidedly placed to form a masterpiece. Would someone even notice if my spec was gone? Does someone notice the specs that die at birth like the babies in Nyahuka that died during my 3 months? Do they even get a dot on the canvas? I cannot know these answers from where I sit. I am not the Artist, just part of the artwork.
But I try to understand. I read books. I take theology classes. I debate. I ask questions & listen. I search & memorize. And somehow I always return to the floor with my face down praying, “God, I don’t get it. I don’t understand grace.” But maybe that’s where I’m supposed to go. Colossians 2:3 says that in God “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom & knowledge.” He holds the answers to my questions. Let me seek Him.
A beautiful smell reaches my perch on the balcony. Smokes curls & lifts over a nearby concrete wall from the corner of a tin hut. The smell of out-of-place incense. An offering? God’s voice whispers to my heart, “You are a pleasing aroma to Me. You are a sweet fragrance around My people. You wear the perfume of My Son. Your searching is good. It pleases Me.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). Oh the still small voice that moves mountains. Calms the storms of my thoughts. Personal & true. Trustworthy & safe. A stronghold & refuge. A wave of peace & joy. Thank you, Abba.
The aroma of Jesus. Not something I can produce or comprehend, nor do I wholly appreciate. I cannot fathom how the Spirit produces anything good smelling out of this mangled mess of a life. Just the same, it’s hard for me to see any lasting good scent wafting from the stench of slum & death in Uganda. But the paradoxes return to remind me. Stories of men saved from drunkenness to preach the gospel to their community. A girl who clings to the love of God because that’s the only love she’s experienced. A seminary teaching men & women Truth, Theology, research & composition so that they can return to their people & make disciples. Wonderful news amidst brokenness. The paradoxes I see & hear that my brain naturally calculates for products of encouragement, joy & awe. God’s work is hard & at times monotonous, but never powerless & pointless. He has allowed me to witness this in Bundibugyo. A small peak at His artwork. A peak that will take me years to process.