So it’s day 3 on the ground in Uganda, day 5 since I’ve left Nashville. My body is still considerably confused about how it’s possible to be 8 am here and midnight back home. Seems like I’ll get the hang of it just in time to fly back and start all over again.
I have not yet succumbed to any sort of colonic disorders that seem to be striking down my friends. This is a sneaky thing that seems to be systematically taking us down one by one. It’s kind of like the intestinal version of a Friday the 13th movie where all of a sudden you realize someone is missing from the dinner table only to find out that they were now claimed as a victim.
To be fair, I of subscribed to the Bush doctrine of preemptive strike when there is an imminent threat and started taking Immodium the minute I arrived. I’m not entirely sure if this is healthy, but it seems to be holding back the enemy that is amassing weapons of mass destruction in my stomach.
The rooms on either side of me are experiencing the bathroom version of shock and awe. So far I am just feeling this sort of feeling of something unnatural but not sick. It feels like at any minute Freddy could strike. The suspense is killing me.
Meanwhile, back in Uganda…
I wrote yesterday about us being the Body of Christ. It occurred to me today that in America we are the internal organs fueling the body. Today I met the muscles. These young men and women stand ready to do the heavy lifting.
I met what Compassion refers to as LDP Students. They are kids who were sponsored as children but have aged out of that system. Compassion has devised a system by which they are selecting the brightest students who are leaders and developing them through the Student Leadership Project. It’s an intense program where they pay for their university training as well as a supplemental course in servant leadership.
In American you get out of high school and if you don’t go to college you can at least pick up a job as a manager at the Gap or flipping burgers. Here you can hang out with your friends on the streets and live in a shack. My ugandan friend Dennis who works for Compassion here told me that for every job there are usually 500 applicants. Getting a job without a college degree is pretty much like winning a lottery.
So Compassion has devised this system by which these students can not only get a degree and a job, but they can be part of changing Uganda’s future from the inside out. At Uganda Christian University there are 164 of these hand picked students. They are chosen through a process that recognizes if they are proactive, leaders, hard workers, and stand out. Only a few of them can be chosen because of the resources, but those that are chosen are some of the brightest most inspiring people I have ever met.
All of their stories were the same. Parents died, usually the father when they were young and the mother when they were older. (older meaning 10-12). They come from remote villages and were sponsored by Compassion when they were young.
They had something else in common. All of them shared a desire to finish the courses at University and go back to their villages and affect change. They are already spending their Christmas and Summer breaks doing that. When I graduated I couldn’t get out of town fast enough, these young people can’t get back fast enough. These students who for all intents and purposes are themselves still poor, want to help the poor. Let that sit in for a minute.
They are living out 1 Cor 1 where Paul talks about being able to take the way that you were ministered to and to minister to others with that same issue. They are the future of Uganda. They are the Body of Christ here. The only thing preventing them from accomplishing this is ridiculous when you think about it. Money. And not much money. $300 a month. $300 a month feeds, houses, and educates these kids at the University.
What struck me most was that I think I actually saw Gods love, the actual Agape love first hand today. One of the students, James, lost his mother and father when he was a child. His 13 year old sister became the head of house. And then in a twist that is just unimaginable, his sister also died. One of our group asked him if he had ever been angry at God about his life. He was absolutely genuinely confused by the question. He paused, and said I don’t understand. It wasn’t a language barrier, it was a spiritual barrier. It was a foreign concept to him. He said “how can I be angry with God after all He has done for me.”
They kept thanking us for our love. It hit me that this is love. In the words of the great poet Tobymac “Love is a verb”. Indeed. Through Compassion and many other organizations like it we are being a conduit of Gods love to these folks. I always thought about it as giving money. But we’re loving them and as a result one of the things Love would do is provide. It’s one thing to say we Love, it’s another to do it.
Melissa Brock said today that she thought of her sponsoring a child as just giving money, as giving the child a chance. When she met her sponsored child and the mother for the first time the child’s mother said that her hope for her child is to be the future of Uganda to change the country. Melissa said something that stuck with me. She said that this mom was hoping for so much more than I was. And then today we saw that this hope can actually be a reality. We saw the possibility of that hope alive and in person today.
This is a project that takes time. It takes time for these young men and women to grow through this process. It takes time for them to go back home and affect a culture and a people. It could take a long time.
I wish it could move faster. There’s so much need here. But I’m reminded of something that Paul wrote so many years ago.
Love is not only kind; it is patient.