Summer Interns // Updates
“Joy and Gratitude in the Face of Hardship”
This past week I had one of the most awe-inspiring conversations during our 6 weeks in Uganda. I was recently sick for five days so I stayed around the base here in Namayemba the whole week. On Saturday I was feeling somewhat better and I ventured into the kitchen to find people to talk with. I asked our cook, Mamma Veronica how she was and she proceeded to tell me this story.
Just two days before this conversation, her brother-in-law passed away. She informed me that this was very hard on her family because they lose a family member so often. She is almost used to the pain that comes with losing a loved one because it happens so often for her. After telling me about how this affected her family, she also told me that she was sick with malaria. She was tired and her joints hurt so terribly that it was hard to do any work. She had taken Friday off but the other cook needed help and so she had to come to work.
I said, “Mamma Vero, how are you still able to smile and joke and be so happy?”
In America when we are sick or if we have had a family member die we take a good amount of time off of work. And she had both happen to her and she was only off for one day. The work ethic here in Uganda is unreal. They work a longer work week than we do in America and they do hard labor jobs compared to most of our office work. That part of her story really affected me and then I asked her a question. I said, “Mamma Vero, how are you still able to smile and joke and be so happy?” And she replied with, “It is only through the grace of God. When God says yes, no one can say no, and when God says no, no one can say yes. We just trust that what God does is good. I have my God and so how could I not smile?”
At this point I was almost in tears because this woman is one of the most joyful people I have ever met and yet she has had a difficult life between sickness and death. I thought all of the big inspirational conversations that I would have over this summer would be out in the community, but the people who work at the AsOne base are some of the coolest people I have had the honor to meet. Each and every one has their own individual story full of hard moments, and yet they all remain joyful and completely devoted to God.
I am so grateful that God has given me the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with these people this summer. I have been blessed by them. The biggest lesson that I have learned since being here is how I take so much of what God does for granted. When people pray here in Uganda they thank God for things like life and each new day; and if they go visit someone they thank God almost every time for protection on the way. In America, I feel that it is very hard to find prayers like these. In general, I only seem to thank God for the big things that are easy to see that he provided for. I take the daily provisions for granted. I don’t thank God when I have food to eat or when I make it to school safely, when these things are truly a blessing from God. The gratitude that people here show is something that I truly strive to have
in my life. Even though they may possess so little, they are so grateful to the Lord. Ugandans seem to have this inner strength because when things seem to go wrong they still are able to praise. Mamma Veronica especially has this inner strength. She praised God in the midst of sickness and mourning when for me it is very hard in either of these situations to be grateful. She was able to trust that God’s provision and goodness would come through for her. Getting to meet these wonderful people and share in their experiences causes me to examine my own life. Meeting such amazing people has caused me to find so many areas where I can improve in just hope that I can be half as faithful of a disciple as they have shown me to be. So far, I have learned more in this summer than any other summer in my life and the credit all goes to my God and the people here that I have encountered.
"Leaning into the Who"
After living in Uganda for just over 6 weeks, life in the US seems so distant and life here has become the new normal: The rain lulling you to sleep at night and the rooster waking you in the morning; the heaping plates of rice, beans, greens, and cabbage; the testimonies of thankfulness that are so often heard for the gift of being alive; the cold nights and colder showers; the relaxed pace; the laundry washed by hand and dried by sunshine; the impromptu conversations when you meet someone you know walking along the path (even if you have something else to get done.) This is life in Uganda and it has already taught me so much.
As I was preparing for this internship, I thought I knew what to expect. I had been to Uganda with AsOne last Thanksgiving, so I already knew the place we would stay, what the food was like, and how the country looked. We also did a lot of preparation readying ourselves to go and looking over what our roles and responsibilities would be as interns. So, while writing support letters and having conversations, I always talked on what I would be doing: helping with immersion trips, visiting schools, tutoring, and so on. More questions of what consumed my thoughts like “what would I pack”, “what lessons I should prepare”, and “what do I need to do before I leave”. I was so focused on the what, that I had forgotten the who. I had forgotten about the scholars and their families, the staff, the teachers and students, the church members, and the people of the community that I would be soon meeting. I had lost sight of AsOne’s goal to transform the whole person through sustainable development. When I think about what has impacted me the most thus far I don’t think about the places I have been and things I have done, but rather the people I have met and the relationships that have been built. The memories I am making will always be connected with a person that I shared an experience with and that relationship will impact me more than anything else I can do this summer.
Now when people ask me how I am doing, I find myself talking more about who I have met and less about what I have done. However, I fear that once I go back to the US, my focus will once again change little by little, just like it did after my trip last year. I feel that our culture is so consumed with being productive that relationships are often not valued because they cannot be measured and reported upon to show progress. When I told others about this internship I felt a need to validate the work I would do: the what, instead of talking about the people I had met on the last trip and the ones I had the opportunity to meet on this trip.
I have a feeling you may struggle in a similar way. When you see news from AsOne through emails or social media do you just see project updates or do you also see lives that are being transformed now and those that will be impacted in the future? I know that before I came for my internship it was easy for me to separate the project from the story, to look at the numbers and not the lives, but my challenge for us is to slow down to think and go deeper. Real transformation is found when you take the time to recognize what God is doing around you. It can be much easier to skim by and not think about it, but there is no joy in that. AsOne is making a real difference in the lives of the people of Uganda and I encourage you to lean into that.
I would also challenge you to take the time in your own life to look at who is around you, not just what you have to do. Everything you do involves people with lives and stories of struggles and victories. There are countless stories at your workplace, the grocery store, your church, and even in your friends and family. Make time, ask questions, and show the people around you that you care. Investing in those around you in never a waste of time. You might be surprised by the stories you will hear, the beautiful people you will discover, and the friendships that are built. This is just one of the lessons my time in Uganda has taught me and one that I am still practicing myself, but I hope it encourages you to spend time leaning into the who and loving those around you well.
Ruth (Ugandan Intern)
“Encouragement on the Journey”
This past week in the Scholars Saturday program, Addy shared from the Word about “Our Journey of Salvation”. She put emphasis on three points that help us in this journey, which include: laying aside all our weights and sins, perseverance, and fixing our eyes on Jesus. She highlighted taking off our weights by explaining that you cannot run any race while carrying luggage for they are too heavy. I learned from this to get rid of my sin in order to continue to be able to succeed in this journey. Perseverance was also emphasized because there are so many hindrances along on the way, but we need to persist to the finishing point. To me I was given a push to resist temptations and endure all problems, for I know that Jesus already marked out the journey for me through His suffering and death. Lastly, Addy talked about fixing our eyes on Jesus because He will lead us to the finishing point. For example, you can’t walk and reach your destination while looking in the opposite direction, because you may end up knocking into obstacles or even heading in the direction of your eyes instead of the right direction. This inspired me to look straight on to Jesus: for he is the best guide to the finishing point. This will also help me be focused without looking aside at things that may divert my mind from the race or even cause me to quit in this journey.
After the sermon we broke the secondary Scholars into groups for further discussion on what they had learned. We wanted to also hear how they were doing in school, at home, and how the Scholars Program had helped them grow both physically and spiritually. During this assessment I learned so many things and one of them was that each Scholar is working hard to see that they progress in their studies, despite different hardships like moving longer distances from school, poor family backgrounds, and some even being orphans. Most of them said that this program has helped them to develop their talents through the programs that they have every Saturday. We also took time to ask students of what they would want to be in future. They gave us answers like: teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, artists, and many others, which really impressed me because they each have a big goal in front of them and are, like Addy continued us all to continue on the journey, working hard to achieve it. It excites me and inspires me to see these Scholars and friends each Saturday and to help in a small way continue to grow and learn.