The swirling thoughts of late have been around where I am right now, third world country, versus where I live out my life, first world country, and how I connect what I am seeing in the lives of those around with me with what I experience back home in the States.
Where I am right now: Uganda. A place where the average age is 15 making it the second youngest country in the world. (15! 31 million people and the average age is 15. Wrap your head around that.) A place where people still die from diarrhea. A place with an AIDS epidemic. A place where millions of people don’t have clean drinking water, where there is trash all over the roads, where women still cook over open fires, where only 50% of the children finish elementary school, where most of the roads aren’t paved, and where corruption is rampant.
This is a place where communities LIVE LIFE together. A place where they all know their neighbors. A place where everyone has an easy laugh, a big smile, and a sweet enjoyment of life. A place where strangers talk to each other and help each other out. A place where most people have a simple and yet seemingly unwavering faith in God to help, protect, and care for them. A place where they get tons of rain and with simple tools, they can collect water, where the weather is perfect so people can actually live in simple, modest homes, where they can grow almost anything to eat, and where they have rich cultural traditions, music, dance, and history.
Where I live my life: America. A place where we have enough to eat so that we throw out food. A place where we have enough clean water, so much so that we flush our toilets with drinking water. A place with easy to access and getting-better-affordable medical care. A place where we spend gobs and gobs of money on entertainment. A place with its own sets of overwhelming problems and also much more money than any other place in the history of the world.
Trying to connect these things is not easy. I am not sure I can ever find a way to understand it all. But I am learning one thing. Life in Uganda is all about relationships. Relationships are currency here. Networking and name dropping is useful and important. Ugandans view themselves in terms of relationship. If you ask, “tell me about yourself,” the answer will most likely be one about family, tribe, and people. If you ask an American about him/herself, the answer will most likely be about a career or title/role. Here in Uganda, if you have come to help them, their response isn’t, “thank you for helping us.” It is, “thank you for loving us.” It’s extremely relationship oriented.
I am learning that life is better with people and with relationships. I occasionally joke that, “_____ is great, except for the people.” Yet even through the difficulties of relationships and life, everything is better with relationships. I am learning that Ugandans have deeper friendships than most Americans. And they don’t open up that easily either. But I have made some of those deep friendships. I have found a richness of relationship with people here. I have loved them and been loved in return.
Derrick, Maureen, Rogers in Bukwiri
Why do some people in the world have to deal with all of this pain and suffering?
I don’t know.
Why do I get to live my life, in some ways, with relative ease?
I don’t know.
But I am learning to live with people here. To LIVE with people. This is happening through my time with Michelle, my time with Milton and his musicians/dancers, my time in Bukwiri…
My primary goal in coming to Uganda was to do something with great impact using music. But, what if that is just the tool that I get to use to come here and build relationships with people? I get to walk in their shoes, use their latrines, eat meals in their homes, see life from their eyes, love them and be loved in return.
That is what Christ came to do and as it turns out, I get to do it too.