Monday, November 1, 2010

If Tomorrow Comes

Tomorrow I return to Uganda. I am finally getting to go back to the kids, the culture, and the comforts of Africa. While being there, I never thought I would associate comfort with Africa. That Uganda actually has comforts sounds almost contradictory. America is the land of comfort. But Uganda has many comforts in different ways, and everything in my soul longs to reunite with them. There are 17 of them laughing, playing, and eating right now. The welcoming culture and laid-back schedule is a luxury I saw as a burden for some time. Honestly, my time while I was there was taken for granted and wasted away on the Internet or missing food, friends, and familiarity. The familiarity that I missed is now again familiar, but it has been turned upside down. Something in me now wishes the familiar were not so recognizable. The Internet and travelologist call this phenomenon “reverse culture shock.” It means after being in a foreign country for some time, the unusual effect people go through by re-entering the United States. I have self diagnosed myself with a pretty severe case. I get back to the world of excess and I look around almost in disgust of how I live. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for everything I have, and this sea of stuff we live in is not always bad, but an unavoidable feeling of guilt is overwhelming after seeing the rest of the world that has nothing.

Since being home, my schedule has become priority. My iCal is overworked and begging me to slow down. Everything I do I subconsciously obsess over efficiency and I don’t even know why. Honestly, it is draining me emotionally and spiritually. It is like I am in this time management mode and all I can think about is how I can do something better or faster. I plan breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffees, ice creams and I even catch myself judging routes home and figuring how I can shave off the most time. For example, when I am on highway 280 between noon and one o’clock, I merge into the left lane when I see Chick-fil-a in the distance because I know that traffic in the right lane will most likely slow down from all the merging people craving waffle fries and a chicken sandwich. I cram as much as I humanly can into a day. It reminds me of the same feeling I had working in restaurants on a busy weekend night. It brings me back to my days at Chili’s. Oh, how I praise God those days are over! I learned a lot working in restaurants and I have said before I think everyone should have to do it for one year of their life just for the experience. You learn about people and also how important it is to be friendly to a server that is overworked in a restaurant is understaffed. Working in restaurants forces you to master time management. Everything is a process that can be constructed in a certain way to be done the fastest. Fill up drinks, and then run salad to table 2 after putting desert for table 1 in microwave. As the timer rings entrees are taken to table 3 while dropping off napkins and Paradise Pie at table 1. All of it timed perfectly as I clear checks for table 4 and bring in another well made tip from table 5.  It is a sickness. I have taken it and applied it to my life back here in the States trying to do as much as I possibly can. It is a disease, that in my case, only Africa can cure. I have to slow down. God is telling me to “be still.” In Africa, they commonly uses the phrase “Hakuna Matata” to express how their style of life means no worries, and I can’t wait to dive back in.

On July 11th our life was radically impacted by the Kampala bombings during the World Cup. 76 people lost their lives that night, some only feet from us, as all of our team walked out untouched. It was a clear miracle by God’s hand of protection. Psalm 91 has never seemed so literal and real.

“…He is my refuge and fortress…”
“…He will cover you with his feathers…”
“… under his wings you will find refuge…”
“…his faithfulness will be your shield…”
“… You will not fear the terror of night…”
“… a thousand may fall at your side… but it will not come near you…”
“…you will only observe with your eyes…”
“…no harm will befall you…”
“… he will command his angels to guard you in all your ways…”
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”

A part of the story I don’t often tell is what happened that morning before the bombing took place. It was Sunday so we loaded up seventeen kids and all six of us in a fourteen-passenger van and headed to church. It was just another Sunday. Nothing unusual. That morning the pastor said something that stuck out to me in his sermon. He challenged all of us that morning with the question, “If Jesus were coming back tonight, what would you do different today?”
I was impacted by that question and after the service I went to our balcony that overlooked the lush jungles of Kampala and began to write. I wrote everything I could think of that I would change. Every detail of how I would and should live differently because of the fact that I am not promised tomorrow. Of course if I would have known how close I was actually going to come to meeting Jesus that night, I probably would have been more doing that writing, but still, I listed it all. I poured out my heart. Even though I get pretty honest and personal on here, I don’t know if it is time yet for me to post those things I wrote, but I pray everyday my life now reflects it and God receives all the glory. Knowing that tomorrow may never come and today could be your last, how would you live it differently? One day that statement will be true for all of us. One day we will all breathe our last breath. I don’t say that to spur people to begin making their bucket lists that include line items such as buy a Harley, see the Pyramids, or sky dive, but to really question how your heart and decisions would change if you were to stand before your Creator today… 

If tomorrow comes for me, I finally get to return to the country and people I have grown to love. They say that once you get the dirt of Africa on your feet, you can never again fully get it off. I am not sure who “they” are that say that, or if “they” could mean that literally because of the skin staining Ugandan clay, but I do know there is a piece of my heart that is still in Africa and I am looking forward to finding it again.


  1. You are an amazing writer Alan. Prayers to you for a safe return!!! God is using you for some incredibly work!

  2. Allen....your words are beautiful; although I
    know you don't claim them!! Thank you for the beautiful picture you paint through your writing. I long to be are so blessed to be a blessing to so many! Love you! Charlotte