Date: June 6, 2014
Location: Nkozi, Uganda
“About half of Africa’s population is deemed to live in extreme poverty, and that proportion has risen slightly over the period.”***
As true as that statement may be in an economic sense, it is the furthest thing from true in an emotional sense. Yes, at times, their wallets may be empty, but I mean it when I say that I have yet to meet a single person here who is empty of heart.
My Ugandan roommate Agatha (Aggie) has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. Yesterday, I was taking a nap (not a surprise…if you know me, you know my bed is my best friend) and halfway through I woke up to Aggie putting a blanket over me because she said I looked cold and she wanted me to sleep as comfortably as possible. She has such a big heart for others…she’s like a best friend and a second mom all in one. Every night we stay up late laughing and talking about life and family and school and boys (who needs ‘em) and everything else in between. With each conversation, the seemingly endless distance between our two worlds gets smaller and smaller, and it feels as if we’ve known each other our whole lives. I asked Aggie the other day where her strength comes from (since she is truly one of the strongest people I've ever met) and all she said was, "That book," pointing to my Bible sitting on my bed.
|Aggie & I at the hill near UMU overlooking beautiful Nkozi.|
And then there’s my girl Vyna Kush – my “besto,” my “balongo” (my best friend, my twin). Kush could tell I was a little down at dinner the other day, so she immediately pulled me aside to ask what was wrong. We talked for about an hour outside and later in our conversation, she said these words to me that I will not soon forget: “Haley, we are best friends. So if you need something, you come straight to me. And I will drop everything to help you. Always come to me. Always.” Reminds me of my best friends from Notre Dame, people who I know will always drop everything they are doing just to make me smile. Like my best friends from Notre Dame, Kush is wonderfully crazy and fantastic in her own way. She does her own thing. But at the end of every seemingly endless day, filled with endless ups and downs, I know she will always be there for me. Always.
|Kush & I trying to lighten the mood as 10 people are crammed into one tiny van, adventuring through these oh-so-paved roads.|
The lessons these emotionally-rich people have taught me are endless. Lessons about true friendship, laughter, love, and life. They have shown me what it means to be truly alive, truly content with oneself, truly happy. In them, I see endless strength. From their lips I hear endless laughter. In observing their actions, I long for their endless fullness of life. It’s true, I long to be just like them.
So there you have it: seemingly endless distance divides us throughout each seemingly endless day full of endless ups and downs, yet each moment I realize more and more why I am here – to learn from their endless strength, endless laughter, and endless fullness of life.
So it may be true that “about half of Africa’s population is deemed to live in extreme poverty,”*** but I really believe a majority of these people know more about what it means to truly live than the rest of us may ever be able to comprehend.
I did not come here to “fix” these people or even to attempt to “make a difference” in their lives because the truth of the matter is that they’ve already taught me more than I could ever hope to teach them. I came to Uganda simply to learn about this fascinating place and its fascinating people – to live each and every day of these two months with my eyes wide open – so that one day I can return to Uganda with this summer as my foundation and only then even think about trying to make a difference in this beautiful place that these beautiful people call "home."
But for now, endless praise to You, Lord Jesus, for bringing me to Uganda. 2 weeks down, 6 to go. Still more endless lessons to come.
Endless Love for All of You,
***Source: Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty, excerpt from Ch. 1 "A Global Family Portrait," Who and Where Are the Poor?