Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Call me Muhwezi

Call me Muhwezi! Ok, so it doesn’t have the same ring as the opening line to Moby Dick, but regardless, I have an African name – Muhwezi! It means ‘helper’ and it was given to me by my organization and people are starting to call me that. They say names here differently than we do. For example my name would be Dunn Brian (or Muhwezi Brian) here.

40 days and 40 nights. That’s how long it’s been since it’s rained here. Not a drop. Not a drizzle. No mist or even any rain clouds even. This once lush, green, Ireland looking country has turned brown, crusty and DUSTY! Grass, trees and plants along the roads are brown because they’re covered w/ dust, and people who are walking have to have handkerchiefs to cover their faces as cars, trucks and buses fly by leaving in their wake the masses to struggle for oxygen in the midst of the dust storm. And an observation I’ve made, the larger the vehicle, the faster they drive. Seriously, the mopeds reach about 30 or so, but the buses have no speed limit, which is strange because this is a walking culture, so there are people all along the road, including kids, and these buses are doing 70+ mph through these villages and along these pothole covered roads. It’s amazing!

I want to retell these stories I’ve heard recently, in part because it’s become my theme. It’s that motto that I hang over my doorway to remind myself why I’m here and what my job really is.

The first one I just read this evening. It’s by Rob Bell from his book Velvet Elvis (which is turning out to be a super super book). In it he’s talking about jumping on a trampoline w/ his kids. Now, I LOVE trampolines! I used to tell an old girlfriend that they first thing I was going to buy when I got my house was a trampoline…it turned out, instead, to be a couch that she picked out, but I digress. So Rob is talking about this trampoline and how he can time his jumps to launch his kids like, miles up in the air (don’t worry, it’s the ones w/ the nets so they don’t go head first into the flower bed). Well, he goes into describing how the springs of this trampoline are like words that describe God. Scripture, literature, things people say in Sunday School but also in movies and in every day life. They aren’t absolutes because they change constantly by stretching, contracting and moving all around. These ‘springs’ aren’t God, they aren’t Jesus. They’re words, and they serve their own purpose. And if you LOVE to trampoline, like I love to trampoline then you LOVE to invite people to trampoline w/ you. You don’t spend time arguing and debating about the mechanics of the springs or to convince people why to trampoline, you just want them to DO IT! Now Rob says it better, but I just felt like that was an adequate explanation of both the joy I have in knowing and studying Jesus and inviting people to share in what I’ve found in Him.

The second story I heard from Jeff Krajewski at Common Ground, but I think he got it from the West Wing or something. It is about a man who fell into a hole. Try as he might he couldn’t get out, so he waited. Finally a man came along and saw him in this hole. The man told him he could help him out so he gathered up some paper and drew him a map of a ladder and how to make it and he threw the paper down into the hole. Frustrated, the man in the hole sat again and waited again. Shortly after, another man wearing priestly attire came by and upon seeing the man in the hole he took a piece of paper and wrote on it some scripture on dealing with hardships in difficult times and threw it into the hole. Again the man sat and waited. Along came a third man who upon seeing this man down in the hole, immediately jumped into the hole with him. “What are you doing??!! Can’t you see I’m stuck here?” “Yes I can. But do you know what? I’ve been in this hole before and I know the way out.”

So that’s become my prayer, to jump in the hole rather than to preach the way out from the top.

Did some home visits yesterday. My love/hate thing continues with them. It’s such a unique thing to do, too. If you were to come and visit Uganda, sure, you could go visit some orphanages, no problem. And you’d of course see poor people on the streets, but to go into their houses, see where the live, sleep, cook, eat and exist. It’s the real thing, I tell you. And the thing I’m finding is that it’s like an iceberg. In fact so much of what I encounter on a daily basis could fall under this category. And what I mean is that only 10% of it is what is seen. There’s another 90% that’s underwater… We visited the home of these 2 adorable little sisters in our program. These girls seem like such happy, pleasant girls. Bright smiles and friendly greetings when they see you… but then you go to their home, and it’s ok. Their parents are believed to have dies from AIDS. They stay w/ their grandparents and there are other family members that have houses there on the land. The house the girls sleep in is the size of my little ‘studio apartment’ room and they are sleeping 8 in that house and 2 to a bed. The grandparents also have told us that the kids are stubborn and refuse to do work around the premises and it shows. There are areas that are unkempt and untidy around the yard, to which you’d think, ‘it’s their yard, so what?’ In this country, the front yard is the living room. It’s where they spend their evenings up until they go to bed, so it is important. They sweep the dirt clean each morning if that means anything. And so, Alice the Nurse and I visited their school and sat them down and told them what we expected of them (when I say Alice and I, what I mean is that she talked in Runyankole and I sat there looking stern).

We also visited with Justine the Wash Lady who does my and Jacob’s laundry on Mondays and Thursdays. She’s a really nice lady who surprised everyone when she wound up speaking to me at length in English. Her neighbors were surprised she new any English… I found out only a day or two ago that her daughter in the program has HIV, to which I also learned that Justine also has HIV. Caroline (the daughter), her father passed away from AIDS. Now Justine is very poor. She fits under the category of ‘extreme poverty’ meaning that she earns less than a dollar a day. Now Jacob and I pay her about $15 a month for laundry which we’ve been told is a lot, but that’s one reason why we do it. She also earns an income by renting out some rooms to families. These rooms are made of mud and sticks with dirt floors and she gets $5 per month from both families. Other than that she sells some tea on the side. Now she also has 2 other younger children all from different fathers. Japheth, our Project Director at Compassion, explained to me that in all likelihood she isn’t being a promiscuous for the same reasons that a 20yr old college girl is, but rather, she gets money and food from these men she sleeps with and that provides the means for her family. Now…we’re going to test these younger kids for HIV, but the flip side of this coin is that these men she has slept with perhaps have wives who they have now possibly given HIV to. Also, if these men slept w/ her then who’s to say they’re not sleeping with others, thus further spreading this ridiculous, frustrating disease. So, indirectly she could be responsible for maybe 10 people or more getting AIDS… So… my idea is this, the next time she’s washing I’ll try and talk to her about AIDS. It’s possible she doesn’t know the facts about the disease. I’ve also decided that I’m going to put some condoms in w/ the wash for her from time to time. Condoms here are like $0.10 for 3, and with money being as tight as it is my fear is that she can’t afford them. Now, I am a firm believer that abstinence and faithfulness are the two #1 preventers of HIV/AIDS, but immediately following that is condom use. I even heard that the local hospital in a nearby town will supply you w/ a free box of condoms if you ask.

I did visit Nicholas also. His balance has not improved, but he did look well and in good spirits. He’s got the biggest smile. I took a picture and I kept telling him to smile, which of course he was, but I kept saying it and saying it and then tickling him. The poor kid has to stay in bed all day so I just try to cheer him up when I do get a chance to see him. At the project they’re saying he’s my brother because I love him so much. That doesn’t bother me one bit.

I think Shelly said it best when she stated, “People look at your bike like you’re riding a space ship!” Everyone has bikes, but they’re more like the bike your grandmother rides, so to see a mountain bike must be like seeing a hot rod or a space ship…

I saw Marshal Faulk this evening. Well, so maybe it wasn’t the real former Indianapolis Colt, but he had the jersey. I love seeing that jersey because I’m a HUGE HUGE HUGE Colts fan and I used to have that same jersey. They had a track meet for the local high school kids here. It was a pretty typical track meet I suppose, except for the obvious differences. The track was a loop around the soccer field and the lines were made in the ground by pouring oil down. There were 8 lanes because 8 schools were supposed to come, I think maybe only 6 did. There were many people there to spectate as you could imagine. I rationalized that it was what it was like when my dad was in school when the schools event was still big news in the community. They had 100m for boys then girls. 200m. 1800m (which I thought strange). High jump, triple jump, shot put. Now how can you have a track meet w/ out someone on a blow horn 24/7? They had music going and a megaphone all hooked up to a car battery. Also, most of the runners were racing barefoot. I timed them going around 1 loop and I’m going to go to the track tomorrow to see what my time is compared to theirs.

Lastly, I’m still working on getting some pictures taken. Inside my place, the people I work with, the large hill directly behind my house w/ 1 tree on top (which we’ve named 1 tree hill), better pictures of Shelly, Jacob and Bruno. Maybe even of Joseph and Israel, the 2 old Israeli men we hang out with from time to time.

I climbed today. Out my back door and exactly 1 mile away is One Tree Hill (or mt marcus). It’s a steep, grassy hill where cattle are occasionally seen grazing. It’s a few hundred feet higher than it is here and it gives you a view of the town and the surrounding mountains. It takes me less than 30 minutes to climb it and I was in a mood to just get a way from people for a while, so I went. Took along my book, Velvet Elvis, and just went up there to read, cry, feel, think, and pray. Not because I’m lonely, homesick, feeling bad or anything. I’m not stressed out, mom, so don’t worry about me… it’s none of that. I just went up there to be. And I was. And it was beautiful.


At 19 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome stories Brian! You sound so well-adjusted. Thanks so much for sharing. I hope it rains soon!


At 21 July, 2006, Anonymous mom said...

Thanks so much for sharing! Mom


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