Mar 20, 2017

Hello Assassins

We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, then wither and perish,
but naught changeth thee.
Hello assassins
Did you sleep well?
Did you dream sweet dreams?
Of flower petals and beautiful meadows?
Of children's laughter and cheerful celebrations?
Did you lay your head on your pillow and stretch your feet?
Did you yawn and seek a comfortable position, grateful for a job well done?

Feb 3, 2017

A Memory of Things

This pot (amoti) is the fridge in my parent’s home in Serere. It’s served faithfully since I was a little girl. I had never seen a pot so huge. I could literally hide behind it in a game of “tapo” and no one would find me. When the water levels were low, my feet dangled as I tried to scoop up a drink of water. Surprising how much it shrunk since.
Once the pot is smoked, it yields the sweetest, coolest water at the perfect temperature. It’s reassuring to find it in the corner of the corridor.

So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. 

Feb 1, 2017

Race and the Ugandan in America

He is dark, 5ft 7 inches. On most days he’ll wear a hoodie and a pair of jeans. As I watch him walk to the bus I think, there goes my baby – my Japadhola/Mufumbira/ Etesot. A Ugandan boy who holds no grudges for his ethnicity. In the world we live in, he is a “Young black man!” - not the description I would use for my son, but like the police here would say – “he fits the profile.” Can one tell that he is not an angry black man when he walks into a store with a hoodie? In moving to America I exchanged one set of issues for another.

Jan 30, 2017

Walking Miles for the Vulnerable

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path , we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path , we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives." Henry David Thoreau

Walking is therapeutic and magical. It clears the mind and strengthens the body, make that walk for a cause and you've made life more meaningful. I stumbled upon a young man who has made an art of it. Mile by mile, little town after little town he plans to walk through Uganda to raise awareness on issues that affect the poor and disadvantaged in his community. I was curious to know what got him on this journey. In the corner of the office library one cold January afternoon Edwin Barungi shared his story. Thanks to a good what'sapp connection an hour went by swiftly.

It was our first conversation but that didn't get in the way.  An exchange of a few pleasantries got us onto the right footing. “Let me tell you my story" he said, "I was born in Nsambya hospital. My only sibling died at the age of five. I lost both my parents to AIDS when I was eight years old.” He didn't hold back. I listened in silence as his story tagged at my heart. Between primary one and seven Edwin had attended thirteen different schools.

Jan 1, 2017

Moon and Venus Duet on First Night Sky of 2017

I looked up into the first night sky of 2017, the moon and Venus illuminated the sky. I thought of God's faithfulness, His beauty, His power. He is a good good father and an awesome artist too.

May God's light shine in your life to show you the way. May He lead you by day and by night.

Happy New Year!

Dec 28, 2016

When Blind Leads Blind

It was 7pm, I rounded the street corner and saw two people with walking canes having a conversation. I slowed down when I realized they were both blind. I had lots of questions: How did they get around? Was it a case of the blind leading the blind?
I walked past and shortly after they walked in my direction. In the frenzy of traffic and people on the busy streets, they stopped. 
The lady waved and said “excuse me”. 
“We are trying to get to block 1725”
Thankfully it was a few steps away. I was going that way so I said sure.
She held my elbow and the guy held her elbow and we walked.

The independence and empowerment for people with different abilities here is incredible.  I was reminded of the little helpers I used to see on Kampala road. 
No matter where we are, we need each other.

Nov 23, 2016

Tea and cookies with Gary and Marilyn Skinner

Gary shares the Father's heart
“My pastor Gary” as one friend used to say, as though she owned him. We all owned him. All 7,000+ of us. When a man dedicates his life to full time ministry: to teach, preach and lead an entire congregation in bible study and worship every Tuesday, Thursday and at least 10 hours on Sunday – he’s invested. Invested in God and in people. Never mind the slight inconvenience of adjusting to a different language, culture and political system.

As young people in search of good fun, Kampala Pentecostal Church (K.P.C) was the perfect fit. We had access to in depth teaching of scripture, the best contemporary Christian music and good company. It is no wonder school holidays were spent at church. We lounged at the reception, hang out with the sound men but also attended New Life Class, Evangelism Explosion, Music, Dance and Drama ministry. The concept that Christianity could be enjoyed, had us glued. That we could use our talents to build the kingdom of God in Kampala was a wonderful revelation. Friendship bonds grew as we grew – the foundation of God’s saving grace took root as we trans versed the country on mission trips and through life’s up’s and downs. When we traveled away from home we fed on sermon notes and songs engraved in tattered journals. The further we traveled the more we were convinced there was no place like K.P.C. All because a young Canadian man obeyed The Call, left his country, loaded his tiny wife and three little kids on to a plane and brought them to live in the African jungle of Uganda. It has been over 30 years since Gary and Marilyn made Uganda their home.

Marilyn and Gary listen to stories of life in the diaspora

The Skinner's first grandchild is in his mid-teens, likewise the extended family also known as the church has grown exponentially - their children have had children who live and work in Uganda and around the world. The bonds that tie us together have three codes; the love of Christ, a shared background and the influence of the Skinner's as the parents of our faith.

What a delight therefore for old K.P.C ian’s in the D.C metro area to sit down to a cozy breakfast of baked beans, samosas , cookies and ka chai with their “god parents”. We mused over times past and testified of the impact their ministry has had on our lives. Gary shared the vision God has placed on his heart to see the church grow even more with worship centers in nearly every section of Kampala. 
We acknowledged how much the church had changed, how we “the pioneers” felt like strangers. Where once we were in charge – now we were being ushered to the overflow section or politely turned away at the door.
Gary said “The church is like a family with grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren and they all take on different roles.” There has to be room for transition. It doesn’t mean any one is less important but balance is critical. With a teenager of my own I understood the analogy. When I turn on my favorite music, my son zones out because “mummy, really?!” and when I stumble upon his music, I say a silent prayer.
Change and growth is inevitable but how it is handled makes all the difference. Sometimes the good old days are resigned to just that – good old days. It is necessary to be relevant to the majority of the congregation - the youth. The old and young need to support each other and make sacrifices. Even though the mature Christian needs to be fed, a times comes when we give back with selfless commitment - to guide and advise and not necessarily hold the reins.

Marilyn is a Ugandan citizen with the mannerisms to boot. She hugged without reservation and used local colloquialisms. Best of all, was the quick pats on my hand or shoulder as she gave updates on friends back home. When she was choir mistress, we spent many a Saturday morning/afternoon in rehearsals for Sunday service and December Cantata presentations. Her focus was on excellence and good stewardship of our talents. As a pastor's wife, she seldom spoke to the church congregation and yet today she is a world renowned speaker who travels for conference engagements. How did she transform from the timid lady to this advocate? I asked.

“Marilyn, I always knew you to be the reserved, quiet wife hinged to the keyboard. You barely said a word to the congregation.”
“Yes, I do well with one on one conversations.”
“Yeah! so tell me, what happened? When did the switch occur?”
She looked me in the eye, licked her lips and said;
“This is how it happened."

She took me on the journey - through the air to a visit to Hill Song church Australia, down the corridor to Gary’s office where he accepted a speaking invitation that was addressed to her but was accidentally sent to his email account. I was in stitches at the point when she was finally on the pulpit at the Hill song Women’s Color Conference. She’d suffered several sleepless nights and an empty stomach that couldn’t hold anything down. She’d rehearsed her speech for days. The moment arrived. She stood before the multitudes, looked at her notes and the pages went blank before her eyes. She unscrewed the microphone in a nervous plight to keep her hands occupied. The mental picture had me wiping tears with the sleeve of my dashiki. This lady is a fantastic story teller, so honest and vulnerable enough to laugh at herself. God orchestrates events in our lives in ways we least expect. With a nudge from a supportive husband who knew her potential, she soared. Women, widows and orphans are her mission field.

An inside joke
We each shared how the Skinner's spiritual leadership impacted our lives. Come to think of it, a quick scan through my friendships and a vast majority of these relationships were nurtured in Kampala Pentecostal church – now Watoto Church. I don’t need to look far as the man whose name I share started as an acquaintance in the Evangelism Explosion class. The study exploded into more than we had imagined - but those are God's ways.

So, the question is, what will your legacy be? Are you influencing your circles? Have you obeyed God’s call? This Canadian couple did and their lives continue to impact multitudes. From Kampala to Gulu, coast to coast and around the world. For the influence that Gary and Marilyn had in our formative years, we are grateful.

In keeping with the seasons theme of thanks giving, it's only appropriate to say thank you for giving to the Lord, we are lives that were saved. #Thankyou, #Eyalamanoi #Apoyomatek #Webaremunonga #Webalenyo …
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