This picture on the right was taken the Sunday morning of the bombing, July 11th. We were taking the kids to church and wanted to get more pictures with their church clothes on. We didn't realize it would be the last in our Africa albums. It has been over a month since returning home, and I have worked on and off on a new blog post. I began writing this right when I got back, and have added on and off as the days have passed. That may explain why some of these are jumbled thoughts. However, forgive me for allowing it to be this long, but being back in the United States, I was not sure if I should continue writing. But I did…
The night of the bombing our church leaders and missions sending agency worked quickly to get us out of Uganda. Only 48 hours later we were in transit to the airport to board a flight home. I never would have thought we would be going home. It didn’t seem to fit. It is all surreal, and to this day it is still surreal. Did that really happen? I thought to myself, “We still have four months left. Why is this happening? And why is it happening so fast?” My mind couldn’t even catch up to process what really just occurred in our lives. We were so disoriented in the moment our decision-making was at an all time low. Honestly, the time in Uganda I took very for granted thinking I had so much more. Sounds similar to life. I never appreciate the breath God has given me until I thought it could be my last. Vividly I remember being huddled in the corner of the debris filled, blood covered room we found refuge in, and thought, “This could be it. This could be the last breath I breathe.” Why do we always under appreciate the things we have, including life itself, until someone or something threatens its existence. The bombing story has been told over and over at many different places to many different people. It still doesn’t seem fully real. It is nothing that I would have chosen to happen to anyone, but I have seen good, and God be glorified through this already.
Before leaving for Africa, a specific question had been wading through the murky depths of my thoughts. I could not seem to push it aside. While I was there and even now, the same question still seems to surface in my mind on occasion. Instead of a specific answer or solution, usually more questions form from this question. This is the type of question you can talk about for hours on a back porch on a cool fall night. It can be debated and discussed. People can add opinion or theology to try to prove a point, but there is no formula that leads to a definite answer. This side of heaven, it is truly an unsolvable puzzle. It is a question that began to stir my thoughts when someone very close to me asked me back at home before I left. To add context before you read it, it was asked in America amongst Americans in a much simpler form. The jist of the question is this: Why has God blessed us so much, and allowed others to be born and live in the pits of poverty?
(Feel free to think about that one for a while, but at least finish reading this at some point.)
The blessings in my life have been even more clearly revealed to me after going and seeing what the pit of poverty really looks like. The phrase abundantly blessed now seems like a drastic understatement. With this and even outside of this, the past weeks have been full of adjusting. Adjusting to many things other than my reverse culture shock. For example, I am convinced my jetlag is equipped with boxing gloves attempting to punch me into a coma every afternoon. If I could only resist the post-lunch afternoon nap I could break it, but my long overdue quality time with the sofa usually justifies my surrender. Comfort wins. Jetlag hangs around a little longer, ready for the next fight.
My eyes are still somewhat thrown off by the things around me. We have been so used to hand made, home made, or trade crafted things (including buildings), the straight lines created by machines make my mind feel lost. I said to Jay, “What are all these straight lines, and why does it not make sense.” He gave me a look that made me feel more lost. “I guess it is the lack of a hand made edge.”
When FINALLY getting back to Birmingham my family and best friends welcomed me home. They even brought Chick-fil-a to the airport, which is another long overdue comfort that they knew I craved. The moment we loaded my luggage and piled into my Jeep, I realized once again how blessed I am. I sat down in a vehicle that was, for the lack of a better word, awesome. I have driven it for a year but it seemed brand new. Unnecessary bells and whistles are strung throughout this machine that gets me from place to place. I have never realized how nice it was. I have not sat in a vehicle newer than probably a ’93 in months. I had not driven at all in months, so my driving terrified my sister. It felt new again. I told her, “It is just like riding a bike, I can pick it back up without a problem.” Then suddenly I hit an old man on the crosswalk…. I made that part up. We got home safe without injuring anyone. I really did pick up driving just like I had never left. I think I may have even sent a text on the way home.
We made our way back to the Birmingham suburbia neighborhood that I have grown up in all my life. I had made each turn thousands of times, but this time it was different. I noticed things I have never noticed. Insignificant things. Bushes were pruned, flowers were in rows, and things were in order. Cars were clean. There were clear painted lanes on the road and people actually stayed in them for the most part. Traffic lights!? Restaurants had reproduced everywhere. Jim N’ Nicks! Oh, how I have missed you! Soon after we passed the guardhouse at the entrance of my neighborhood, I realized that mansions now surrounded me. Huge houses sat all around me, looking down on me from the clouds as I passed by. I had to ask myself, I have driven this street before so many times, why does it seem so different? Why does it feel… off?
God has spoken in such a powerful way recently. As I am reading David Platt’s new book, I am remembering truths that I quickly forgot after I got over there. I am also beginning to grasp some sort of an answer to the question I can’t shake off my mind.
I am sure we all agree it is a fact that we are blessed. If you can read this blog you are blessed, regardless of the type of computer, it is a computer. Even our definition of poor in the United States is extremely blessed comparative to the world. Especially the world we were immersed in. But why? Why me?
Also, I am not one that thinks blessings and good things are bad. Nice things aren’t bad, but I believe it is our responsibility on how we use the blessings we have been given. If were not careful, they can consume us. (Ironic that consuming can consume the ultimate consumer.) I still don’t have a complete answer to why specifically me, or we, are richly blessed, but I am beginning to grasp a piece of what we are called to do. All of us have a responsibility. Maybe calling is a better word.
My piece of an answer is actually very simple. I am blessed to bless. That’s it. I have been so blessed to bless the lives of others and glorify God in everything I do. My responsibility is to use the copious resources I have to pour into others and share the love of Christ. If it is not material blessings, it is relational. If not those, intelligence or health are forms of blessings. The definition of blessing can go on and on, but regardless they can all be used to bless someone else. Our purpose on this earth is to share Christ with all nations and make disciples. I think that is made pretty clear in Scripture. There is much more to this, but I know that I grew up where I did, in the family I did, around the people I did, with the resources, the education, the trials, and the blessings that I have, to be used for God’s glory, and to make Jesus’ name known amongst the nations! I have been given what I have been given, to give it.
If others are not as blessed it gives me an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. How do you love and bless someone that is already blessed? How do you offer support to someone without a void to fill? How do you show the love of Christ to someone that doesn’t believe they need a savior? How do you show agape love, or selfless love without sacrificing and blessing others with the blessings we have been blessed with? If that doesn’t make sense, read it again, or read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, because I think Jesus’ teachings had a lot to do with that. Isn’t that what Christ did for us? He was sinless. He was not deserving of the cross he carried. Christ did not do anything to merit the torture that came. He did not deserve the nails driven into his hands. And most of all, Christ did not deserve his Father to pour out the wrath upon him for our sins. We did. But he did it willingly. That is selfless love. That is agape love.
God has blessed us so much so that we may illustrate the same sacrificial love that has been given to us to the ones that are living in the midst of poverty. The interesting thing about that is; the ones in Africa who are poor in possessions, usually are rich in relationships and have an extremely strong faith. This question brings another important question, “Who is actually more blessed?” Us or them?
Today it is official. I booked my flight. November 1st I am returning to Uganda.