Affirmations and Realities

Anybody who knows me knows how much I love Africa. At times it’s all I think about. My days off of work I scour the internet looking for blogs, academic journals, anything that I can learn about the politics, culture, or development of Africa. That being said, in the build up prior to leaving for Uganda I wasn’t feeling the excitement I felt I should have considering that fact that I was fulfilling the biggest dream that I’ve had for the past 5 years since taking Modern African Civilizations my freshman year at Central. I wasn’t feeling giddiness or even nervousness. I was so entrenched in the pattern of work and play in Des Moines that I couldn’t get my head around the idea that I was spending the summer in one of the most traumatized regions on the planet. This numbness I was feeling terrified me and started making me question my motivations and reasons for doing this internship.
I felt this way for months and months until I actually landed in Africa. Seeing that God had so clearly tattooed on my consciousness for my whole, albeit young, adult life thus far dissolved any indifference I had been harboring as easily as the equatorial African sun vanquishes clouds at midday. The second I hit the tarmac in Kampala I had such profound swells of affirmation that my fascination and passions in the abstract IDEA of Africa was instantaneously replaced with a tangible love for the reality of Africa. Here’s what I wrote in the very first journal entry I made:
I’m here now and I’m ALIVE. I’m affirmed in loving the IDEA of Africa for so long, and have started to love the gravity, the reality of Africa. This love will grow and it’ll surely be tested, but I love where I’m at now. Thank you Lord, for the love you have cultivated in me these past few years. I ask you humbly for more! 5-17-12
I truly believe that God is trying to teach me to love Africa like HE loves it. I’m as culpable and dysfunctional as any other human, however, and this will constantly be a refining process, but I really desire for myself and Taylor’s compassion to converge with Jesus’ compassion in Spirit and in Truth.
As I previously mentioned, I’m growing in love for the reality of Africa. The reality of Africa, however, is very difficult. Not even a week being here passed, and we were confronted with how complicated and slow-moving development is. We’re in Northern Uganda at the start of rainy season and during a torrential downpour the roads to Lukodi, the site of construction for the new Child Voice center, are utterly impassable. Not only that, but if you are already in Lukodi during a storm, work is impossible because the building materials—soil, sand, and concrete—are unusable if they get drenched. We’ve also run into huge schematic realities. For instance, it has been the task of us interns to triangulate coordinates on the property to map out where the clusters of huts will be. This seems straightforward and easy enough, but this terrain is a step below uncleared bush, with grasses chest high, and trees in the way. Additionally, we do not have a tape measure long enough to reach the points so we’ve had to purchase local twine and tie them together and measure them out to the appropriate lengths. Within these constraints we’ve essentially wasted 3 days of work and have still not pinpointed the first area of construction. That’s the reality here. It moves at a crawl, and you have to constantly go back to the drawing board.
As if the contextual limitations weren’t enough, I’ve also been struggling internally about my vocation this summer. As I’ve mentioned I’ve been helping with construction of the new center. Here’s my dilemma though. Thus far I’ve been helping with the manual labor of making bricks. I’m not averse to hard physical work, but anybody can do what I’ve been doing. In fact, if I were to be replaced by a local person, he would be paid and that would help his family AND the community. It makes me feel useless because I have no specialized skills that can add value to ChildVoice’s operations AND I’m keeping a local guy from having a job.
These are the realities of my situation right now. I’ve voiced my concerns and struggles with Conrad, the leader of ChildVoice, and he assured me that my problem solving skills and different perspective will be invaluable to the construction of the center. Also, I’m going to partner with Brad, another intern, in evaluating the microfinance project and finding ways to improve it and possibly at a savings aspect as well. This I’m very excited about, as I’ve been interested in microfinance for a long time. . There are a plethora of obstacles, and an abundance of uncertainties, but I came here to be a servant, and here’s my chance to. Tay has shared the stories of girls who have gone through the program, and I’ve met so many that have experienced the worst imaginable Hell in the bush, and yet after going through ChildVoice have found renewal and most importantly hope. I will do all I can to help get the center up and running, so that more women can find this restoration, even if I have to shelf my pride and ambitions to “be useful”. Please check out this link and consider giving in order that the center can be constructed, and the women can return to a place of refuge and growth.

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