As I sit in the Amsterdam airport I take some time to reflect on the story now written into my life from the last two months. And I say written into my life, and with permanent marker, because I no longer look/feel/act the same as I did back in January. In Uganda, I saw people genuinely loving others and taking real time to be together in community. I let my internal clock slow down to allow for living in the moments of life. I worshiped in and inhabited humble settings at night in which the text from Matthew, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them,” resonated as true as ever. I danced. I sweat. I cried. I felt love, and I also loved.
However, despite these things, I also witnessed struggle, heartache, physical pain and other things. There are many battles that people in Uganda face every day, and heck, the rest of the world has its own battles as well. What battles are you facing now? Or better yet, who do you know that can pick you up? And maybe even better yet, who can you uplift today, who can you give encouragement, who can you love better today? How can we all love better today, and how can that mentality last?
One recent evening reading through Romans with my pal, Henry, I came across the text that spoke to me on a here and now, social level. The words that popped: Endurance. Encouragement.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15: 5-6.
Endurance. What does it mean?
Endurance is something describing lasting energy, and God gives us this endurance – the necessary energy – to pursue others in love. Just like running a long race isn’t done by training for a sprint, even building endurance takes a different kind of training. It’s one of those “you can’t hang up the old baseball glove until the first day of the season next year,” kind of a thing. Follower-of-Jesus type endurance is something even maintained or better yet a “toss on some plates and do 3 sets of 10 for them legs” kind of maintenance worked on over a lifetime. As I look to follow Jesus more and more I need to remember that not only does he want to train me, but he also wants me to be FOR others. And I want to even leave the training up to Him. That is where our encouragement comes in.
Encouragement. What does it mean?
For some reason, the word encouragement to me never held biblical weight until recently, and I have to say, I’m loving it like McDonald’s because it has made things simple, beautiful, and simply beautiful. It’s a “great job”, or “you’re awesome, just saying”, or “I love you”, etc. It has allowed people to love people for being people, being created by the same God. And it even means to surrender our Christian agendas to instead just L-O-V-E people with deep, compassionate love. I want to be an encourager of people, agenda-less. Because being agenda-less is true love. A love that even perseveres into someone’s core. (I read a book by Rob Bell called Velvet Elvis during the last month in Uganda, that I encourage you to read, and I loved how it finished by talking about this agenda surrender.)
Altogether, this scripture finished with a single body of people coming together as one. Because together, aren’t we stronger as one? Aren’t we ensuring that love has a greater chance to prevail when we think of becoming one? I think so. And I’ll even first join a group that already is out there, and then our group will join another group, and then even that group will join with another group of similar size, and then, etc. etc. you are getting the hint. It’s an enduring group of encouragers and those living for Jesus.
So what do I take from Uganda?
I have new favorite memories to keep forever, I have a bigger heart that trusts the Lord for the uncomfortable, I have a new love for the concept of a three-passenger motorcycle ride, I have a greater understanding for just how much education is an asset worthy of my investment for kids and teenagers alike in Uganda, and overall, I have many stories to share with all of you.
You see, Uganda isn’t a place so far from home now. It’s a place where emotions once stored up back in January in anticipation of what to expect translated into a two month outward expression of love in community with people I now call friends, brothers, sisters, and mothers. It’s a place I look towards and smile because of how they understand the meaning of taking care of a neighbor. It’s a place full of people loving the Lord. It’s a place of people waiting to be empowered. It’s a place with many local communities doing right. It’s a place that even might take your heart, and then even your body too someday.