Monday, April 13, 2009

L: You don't know

"You don't know the stories of Uganda."

We were sitting on the track field, stretching out after our individual work-outs. L started explaining to me how people only want you to know the good stories when you visit a place. "You don't know the stories of Uganda."

He's right. I still don't know the story of the night before. When he first walked over to stretch with me, I had asked him about his response to the night before. Because the night before, according to what I have heard but don't know to be correct, the police had released from prison a man accused of raping a young girl. The night before, like in any community, the people were angry that the man they thought had raped a young girl was out on the streets again without punishment. The night before, the community decided to do something about it. So they killed that man. They set him on fire. I don't know which one came first. I don't know if he was guilty or innocent. It happened outside the school gates, across the road in front of the church.

And the Ugandan students I have heard about or spoken to were rather nonplussed. This sort of thing happens. They didn't understand the American students who cried. I asked L about his response.

"I do not fear death. I have seen death."

I didn't know if I should ask or not, but I did. He told me about those he has seen killed.

Why should I tell these stories? Certainly not because they, by themselves, give you an accurate depiction of Uganda, or of Africa. But because, properly understood, they can help us ask questions that may lead to us understanding better, though even then not fully.


I have told you he told me I didn't know the stories of Uganda yet.

For him, the stories of Uganda are the stories of the districts of Uganda: of his tribe and how he agrees with their practice of endogamy (marriage within tribe only), where if you marry outside of your tribe the children won't inherit your tribal land.

For him, the stories of Uganda include the story of a tribe whose area has now been characterized as a place of cannibalism, so that the people no longer want to live there but move to the city.

For him, the stories of Uganda include the district where witchcraft is still strongly prevalent, and to finish a new building a child ought to be sacrificed, where for every child's body the police find with the head cut off, thus showing it to be a sacrifice, he wonders how many more actually took place. That district happens to be Mukono, where I am.


These are not my stories of Uganda; I have not seen any of these things with my own eyes. I have instead spent most of my time with a small minority in Uganda – those who have reached university. And still, although those are not my stories and I cannot speak with authority about them, even with the limitations of my story, I have heard these stories.

Uganda is so much more than these snippets. But these snippets are a part of it. I don't know how much I have seen incorrectly, or missed completely. Michele and I were walking home the other day and we both noticed a sign for the first time, for a community development organization. Had it always been there, or was it new? We didn't know. But it's funny how selective our vision can be. I talk about how I'm in Africa, and how when funny things that wouldn't happen back home occur, I just say TIA This is Africa, but really though maybe that's true, that's also selective. That's not all Africa is. And I regret it when I say that, because it implies you shouldn't expect any better from Africa, when in reality you should expect amazing things from this continent that has become a crossroads of past colonial powers.

Before we had both seen that sign, Michelle and I were talking about our blind spots when it comes to people. I was telling her a bit about my conversation with L, and how upset I was with myself that I became more interested in him and his story only after I heard a couple key words about the north and the LRA. We were talking about our cousin brother Michael and about how for us, he is Michael, and we know his story and we care, but for anyone else he is just another "village boy" as someone called him, or just another schoolboy in a uniform, like the dozens I pass everyday, or just another AIDS orphan. We don't see.

Invisible Children aren't invisible. We are blind.

In class we have been reading Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp. He talks about Christianity's Constantinian cataract, that ever since Constantine made Christianity the official state religion, and so made it partner with power, Christians have mistakenly thought they had to have political power in order to bring in God's kingdom. I could say so much more about that book, and that cataract, that vision impairment and its repercussions. But. Another day.

Another vision problem I've learned about in the past is the West's "missing middle," that in between God up in heaven and us down on earth, we don't see supernatural occurrences where heaven meets earth. I definitely still have that. Walter Wink, as I understand, would say the powers and principalities of the New Testament are just personifications of the general ethic, attitude or atmosphere of institutions and organizations. My Ugandan professor seems to agree. When I asked him about the LRA and the reports of Kony being spirit-possessed, he said he didn't believe it was so, but only exploitation of superstition to fight a war. But the books I've read and people I've talked to about the north and about life seem to say there is more to this world than we can explain. The thoughts in my head and relationships with others seem to show there is more to me than the same flesh and blood that I saw up-close the other day when Michelle slaughtered a chicken. As the great sage Thrice says, we're more than carbon and chemicals.


"You would not believe my story if I told you."

Back to the track field. And me. And L.

But not. Because a couple days before the track field, I was at an orphange. And I found out how terrible it can be when people are forced to tell their story when they're not ready, or have their story exploited and told for them. I fear telling L's story for the wrong reasons. It is his story to tell. Can you imagine if you tell your friend some very sensitive and painful event from your past, and then the next day you find out they've told all of facebook?

It's like I was reading this article by a Ugandan theologian, Katongole. And he talks about how people can get so caught up in the culture of a person, of the dance and the music and the food and the history, they stop caring about the person. All you see is what you're interested in. Like, for me, all I see is maybe "from the north" or "ex-child soldier" when there's so much more to someone than that.

But one thing does need to be said. I began telling you about a man killed by a mob, and by my questioning of L about people's response. He said he did not fear death. But later, after he had told me about other people he had seen be killed, ones I have not told of, he explained why death doesn't make him sad. He spoke about forgiveness, both for the man killed if he did the deed, and for the mob that did the killing.

After all, we're more than flesh and bones, aren't we?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Third State of the Sarah: Inhale the Dust

I've been writing a lot, more than I ever have before in my life. It's hard. For creative writing, I need at least 22 pages ready for submission for publication. So I've been trying to write things that matter, and things that are true. And that's really very hard to do.

Especially when in the meantime you're in Uganda hanging out with your momma and going to an orphanage and playing Frisbee with your friend who almost always can make you laugh when you're sad and wondering about what is true anyways who is Christ and how do I follow him and realizing you still don't really know how to love and attempting to fill out financial aid forms so that you can go back to school and dreaming about your future and listening to your friend talk about the guy she's freaked out about because she really likes him (actually, do that one two times! :D) and looking for a job back home and trying to run somewhat regularly and shower somewhat more regularly.

But I've been having this ongoing conversation with several people now, about how hard isn't necessarily bad. Doing all these things is hard. But…it's really good trying.


I've been thinking a lot about confrontation and reconciliation. We read Nouwen's Compassion a while ago, and we're reading this Lee Camp Mere Discipleship non-violent, Walter Wink quoting book now. And so there's a lot of talk about peace. Which…I mean, when you consider how burdened I was thinking about war and peace and reconciliation in December, it's insane how much the curriculum here brings it up. I really was meant to be here. But anyways Nouwen talks about how, if you're being truly compassionate, sometimes that demands confrontation. Gandhi talks about truth-force, having truth come up against power to have justice. In the Bible, Ephesians 4, it talks about maturity being when the body speaks the truth with love. Confrontation scares me. But if you want real shalom peace of just relationships, and you want real reconciliation where there's been repentance for how people have wronged each other, there's got to be confrontation. And I've been thinking about what I might need to confront back home in others and in myself. And I'm scared, cuz I'm a bit of a coward.


I've realized I've been asking the same basic question since like junior year of high school. Coming back from YUGO Mexico missions trip my junior year we were listening to Casting Crowns. The song If we are the body, why aren't our hands reaching….basically, why aren't we loving. And the song that's been stuck in my head this semester's Black Eyed Peas Where is the Love? I'm not sure about this, but I wonder if I've been asking the question without seeking out love enough in my own life heart actions words. If I've been asking it too much as I look out at the world, and not enough when I look at myself. Cuz myself…well, can I change myself? I think if change is going to happen it needs to start with myself. So I think the state of the Sarah, in sum, is searching for the love. To bad love doesn't start with S. That would've been an awesome sentence.

Two girls fell in love with boys here. That might be overstating it. But I don't think it is. Our program director, Mark, had a baby girl, Rachel. Our program assistant director, Brooke, is about eight months pregnant right now. She and her Ugandan husband are really really cute together. All the girls aww. It's lovely.


I didn't go on the safari or water rafting. I didn't have particular plans instead, either time. Both times I ended up at orphanages.  The first time, it was after meeting Janai. This past Saturday it was going with some of the students to a small orphanage begun by people from Oregon but run by Ugandans. I will tell you about this place and those people, but not here, not now. They need more space and time than I have right now.


Yesterday, I sat out on the lawn for over an hour with Lilyannie and her two little friends. They sang songs and danced and said, "Mzungu, see me!" and "Sarah, see me!" I spent an hour watching them, and I still wonder if I've really seen them. But they're beautiful, you must know this.


There was some reading for class today that hit me in the face, talking about mission as pilgrimage: "pilgrims who feel the dust under their feet and come to know the places where they sojourn. The problem with the world is not that we do not see others. We do….But to feel the gifts and the needs of the world-that means learning to journey…It takes time just to learn the history, for example, of Gulu in northern Uganda, to learn what is happening there. But when we take time for that, it begins to transform the pilgrim. You have learned the names of people and places, these far-flung places with names very difficult to pronounce. You have inhaled the dust. Mission as pilgrimage is about that transformation. It's not about fixing northern Uganda. You're not going to fix northern Uganda! It's not even about partnering with "northern Uganda." How can you partner with all of northern Uganda? Where do you begin? Instead the pilgrim begins to know, to feel, that northern Uganda, with a ll its tragedy and terror, is a Christian story. That it is not just their story, but that it is our story." – "From Tower-Dwellers to Travelers" in Christianity Today (8-26-2008) by Ugandan-born theologian Emmanuel Katongole

It's not about selling Christ, but about being Christ, being with people where they are, loving them. It isn't about you saving them but about Christ saving both of you.

I want to inhale the dust of this world. Not in an exotic, adventure kind of way. But in a compassionate, suffering-with-you loving you caring about you knowing your name kind of way. It's raining right now, and I want that mud under my feet, in a dirty, muddy, all of our feet need Jesus' cleaning kind of way.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This and That and Facebook

Michelle and I made no-bake cookies last week for our family again. Our sister started dancing. It was the first time I saw her happy in a while. She's been super busy, she's going to university next semester but meanwhile she cleans and cooks and works at a nearby school and watches movies late at night on my laptop and deals with boy drama. People say we're all so different, and truly there are so many differences. But really we are still all the same.

Proof: Last time we made no-bakes, Michelle and I added a bit too much sugar and ate a few too many of them. We had a dance competition karaoke night. Our cousin-brother Michael who lives down the road heard us singing. It could have been an ipod commercial.

Proof 2: Yesterday the students who didn't go on the Safari were invited over to make and eat cookies. We made and ate cookies. It was amazing. We broke cookie bread together.


My friend Suzana. She's the one that can make me laugh when I'm sad, the one who walks with a dance, the one who's working in the north with TASO, the AIDS counseling organization. When she was in secondary school, she was studying fine arts and literature. Even when she found out the classes were at the same time, she kept trying to study both, running out half-way through one class to the other, or alternating weeks. She didn't want to choose one, but eventually she had to. But she's still like that, wanting to learn everything. She's doing Development Studies, but she wants to study Industrial Arts and Design after working for a while. She wants to start her own business, maybe making clothes, and she'll start talking about maybe someday when she has different branches and she can start an orphanage and she can give the children training and jobs at her business and they can go out to other regions of the country and teach others.

She has such big dreams. So be looking out. Suzan Abong. She's even on facebook ☺


I'm learning a lot. I was talking with my cool creative writing professor, Jason Mehl. Who by the way is working on a book that he says everyone is going to have read in high school someday, and I believe him. But he was telling me about how the idea for it came about. I don't remember exact specifics, but basically for a couple years I think he had been working as a painter, like a house/wall painter. And so for months he was just listening to good music and painting and thinking and writing when he got home and one day the idea came to him. And anyways that sounded really nice. To have some normal, not saving-the-world job where you have time to think, and meanwhile you have the energy to be saving the world by caring about the people around you.

He also told me Russians were in such a hurry to get into space because they were worried that when Jesus came back and made the earth new and everyone who had ever lived was living on the earth again, that it would be really crowded.

He's on facebook, too, actually.

You should be facebook friends with my facebook friends. It's fun.


I've been going commando lately. Is that inappropriate to say? But it's true. My underwear has disappeared. *Poof!* Don't worry, it'll turn up. Everything always turns up. TIA. This is Africa. By the way, they call underwear pants here. Which can get really awkward if you forget to call someone's pants trousers, and call them pants instead.

Oh, and they call fries chips. So you know.


I've been learning a little of the adung here, I think I'm saying it right. It's a stringed instrument, it actually translates into guitar, but it's not. Nine strings, do re me fa so la ti do re. Pastor Steven's teaching me. I have video of him teaching. You should be Pastor Steven's friend. I'll find out if he's on facebook.


So, as far as plans for after college that might change tomorrow go, I'm thinking that I'll do Peace Corps teaching English in Latin America for three years, followed by a brief stint of some entry-level work or waitressing at home, followed by doing two years of Teach for America in the inner-city to get teaching credentials, followed by teaching while I go to law school, followed by finding or creating some community development center type place where I can just work for the community and help kids get through school and help parents learn English or figure out immigration stuff or something.

As far as plans for after college that might change tomorrow go.

I just realized that might suck, though. Because…I would have no home community. That's the problem with displacement. You're always feeling displaced.
But I guess I'd always have facebook?

This and That and Facebook

Michelle and I made no-bake cookies last week for our family again. Our sister started dancing. It was the first time I saw her happy in a while. She's been super busy, she's going to university next semester but meanwhile she cleans and cooks and works at a nearby school and watches movies late at night on my laptop and deals with boy drama. People say we're all so different, and truly there are so many differences. But really we are still all the same.

Proof: Last time we made no-bakes, Michelle and I added a bit too much sugar and ate a few too many of them. We had a dance competition karaoke night. Our cousin-brother Michael who lives down the road heard us singing. It could have been an ipod commercial.

Proof 2: Yesterday the students who didn't go on the Safari were invited over to make and eat cookies. We made and ate cookies. It was amazing. We broke cookie bread together.


My friend Suzana. She's the one that can make me laugh when I'm sad, the one who walks with a dance, the one who's working in the north with TASO, the AIDS counseling organization. When she was in secondary school, she was studying fine arts and literature. Even when she found out the classes were at the same time, she kept trying to study both, running out half-way through one class to the other, or alternating weeks. She didn't want to choose one, but eventually she had to. But she's still like that, wanting to learn everything. She's doing Development Studies, but she wants to study Industrial Arts and Design after working for a while. She wants to start her own business, maybe making clothes, and she'll start talking about maybe someday when she has different branches and she can start an orphanage and she can give the children training and jobs at her business and they can go out to other regions of the country and teach others.

She has such big dreams. So be looking out. Suzan Abong. She's even on facebook ☺


I'm learning a lot. I was talking with my cool creative writing professor, Jason Mehl. Who by the way is working on a book that he says everyone is going to have read in high school someday, and I believe him. But he was telling me about how the idea for it came about. I don't remember exact specifics, but basically for a couple years I think he had been working as a painter, like a house/wall painter. And so for months he was just listening to good music and painting and thinking and writing when he got home and one day the idea came to him. And anyways that sounded really nice. To have some normal, not saving-the-world job where you have time to think, and meanwhile you have the energy to be saving the world by caring about the people around you.

He also told me Russians were in such a hurry to get into space because they were worried that when Jesus came back and made the earth new and everyone who had ever lived was living on the earth again, that it would be really crowded.

He's on facebook, too, actually.

You should be facebook friends with my facebook friends. It's fun.


I've been going commando lately. Is that inappropriate to say? But it's true. My underwear has disappeared. *Poof!* Don't worry, it'll turn up. Everything always turns up. TIA. This is Africa. By the way, they call underwear pants here. Which can get really awkward if you forget to call someone's pants trousers, and call them pants instead.

Oh, and they call fries chips. So you know.


I've been learning a little of the adung here, I think I'm saying it right. It's a stringed instrument, it actually translates into guitar, but it's not. Nine strings, do re me fa so la ti do re. Pastor Steven's teaching me. I have video of him teaching. You should be Pastor Steven's friend. I'll find out if he's on facebook.


So, as far as plans for after college that might change tomorrow go, I'm thinking that I'll do Peace Corps teaching English in Latin America for three years, followed by a brief stint of some entry-level work or waitressing at home, followed by doing two years of Teach for America in the inner-city to get teaching credentials, followed by teaching while I go to law school, followed by finding or creating some community development center type place where I can just work for the community and help kids get through school and help parents learn English or figure out immigration stuff or something.

As far as plans for after college that might change tomorrow go.

I just realized that might suck, though. Because…I would have no home community. That's the problem with displacement. You're always feeling displaced.
But I guess I'd always have facebook?

Friday, March 27, 2009

The War Zone

It's kind of funny, and it kind of sucks.

Yesterday, I was writing this assignment. I wrote about Father Jerry, the same one I blogged about. I started writing words about how it's easy to live simply for a couple months while you're an expatriate living abroad, with your real life in storage back home safe and sound and the same. Then I wrote "But to live simply back home, to make your whole life mission, that's scary."

I'm coming home. Wednesday, May 6th at 8:25 pm. In five weeks.

I was going to go to Gulu, work with a church, live with awesome friends. I would learn a whole lot from going to the north, maybe even more than if I come home. But it would be easier. And it would be procrastinating on changing my life back home. Coming home, it's scarier to me than going to the war zone, because it's my own personal war zone. If I fail to live differently at home, than it was all for nothing, coming here for all I learned I didn't really learn anything. Knowledge is worthless if you don't act on it, right?

So. I'm coming home to the war zone. I'm looking for jobs on Craigslist, and I'm going to reconnect with the refugee organization. I'm gonna try to be a true friend and a true daughter and a true sister. I'm gonna look for Jesus in everyday working life, and not just in Africa. And that's where you guys come in. Cuz I need your help.  I came to Uganda to learn about the war and how to bring peace, but in the process I found out that I still need to learn how to have peace in my own life in my own relationships. Like with you. And with Jesus.

So I'm coming home. In a little over a month. And I'm going to try to be your true friend/sister/daughter/lover/beloved. Be patient with me, I'm gonna be in a little over my head. It's going to be a war zone. Hold me to the promise to fight. Because otherwise all of this was just so many words, broken promises and youthful idealism. But I think these words can be true. I think compassion can be a way of life in the war zone.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Father Jerry

Friday night before dinner Father Jerry drove to the compound we were staying in to speak with us. He drove to us from Kampala, where he had been taking weekend classes for a masters degree. He didn't look like a Father. He had on a black button-up with an open collar – although he was a man of the collar. He told us stories.

She lives in his parish. She lost her mother to AIDS. She's the oldest, so now she's in charge of the family, which includes grandmother. Grandmother needs medicine. I already forget if she has AIDS, too, but the label shouldn't matter anyways. Jennifer can't afford to go to school, though her younger siblings are able to, because of Jennifer. Her grandmother's still alive because of Jennifer. Jennifer sells her body to men in the community so that her grandmother can live and her siblings can go to school.

The next one…I have forgotten her name. I'm ashamed.
She would walk to see Father Jerry, she would come to him crying. She was dying. She had AIDS. Father Jerry would sit with her as she cried. He went to the States, and spoke at a church, and the church gave him a suitcase of things to bring back to her, including a doll. They gave him money for this girl, whose name I cannot remember. The night he told us her story, he had only just returned the week before. The day before he spoke with us, she died.

Margaret could have easily been a Jennifer. She could have been the girl whose name I have forgotten. But money came in time for her. She stayed in school, and she is in secondary school right now. We don't know her future, but her present is happy.

His Car
A British organization, I believe it was, gave Father Jerry a car. He's been able to travel much more easily to the several churches in his parish. He's been able to take countless people to the hospital, especially children. Many lives have been saved because of that car. Two lives were lost in that car. Two children, in their mother's arms. They died on the way to the hospital.

Father Jerry asked us that night if God is fair. It's the first time really I've heard a church leader here be willing to ask a difficult question and let the question hang there without giving an answer. Father Jerry remembers the name of the one I have forgotten. He had the opportunity to go to America and get his masters degree. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. But he decided he had to stay here in his community to be Present with them, so that girls like the one whose name I cannot remember would have someone to cry with her, and someone to remember her name.

Sunday we visited one of his parish churches. He preached. He prayed, face next to the goblet, over the communion. And he smiled. And he danced. And he encouraged the people. He was wearing his collar, but we already knew he was a man of the collar.

Luweero and Labels

This weekend we traveled to Luweero to learn about AIDS. A certain family has spent the last several years creating a program to meet the needs of AIDS victims. That family has each member contribute 10% of its income for the program, which provides food for six families. Once a week all the children come to their center and play games, talk, have bible study. Its called the Mirembe Orphans and Vulnerable Children Service Centre, and it's about as grassroots as it can get. AIDS is this huge issue that gets huge concerts and huge celebrities. But this family…they're paying to feed six families and they're playing with kids. Local children are also invited, so it's not just the "AIDS kids." When we were there, we didn't know who was who. And it didn't matter. No labels. Because labels suck. One of my pet peeves is labeling. Yet I do it all the time. And you have to, you think in labels, categories.

I almost got to go to the north this weekend with a Pastor Steven, to Arua district which is along the DR Congo border. It didn't work out, but I won't forget the conversation we had in preparation. He told me that in the rural areas, people might assume I'm Episcopal since I'm American, and think that I would be teaching homosexuality. Labels. In Luweero we met Bishop Rt. Rev. Evans M. Kisekka, who oversaw several Episcopal turned Anglican churches in California, that asked him for permission to become part of the diocese of Luweero after rejecting the Episcopal admittance of homosexuality. Yesterday in law class my friend Rob, who's Episcopal, did a presentation on homosexuality and argued that Jesus' message was peace and love, not condemnation. My Ugandan friends argued that if you blur the line here, soon thieves will justify themselves, that two cities were destroyed for homosexuality in the Bible (which isn't quite true), and that it's wrong the way school boys will get "sugar daddies" to provide their school fees (which I accept). I realized that they're coming from a very different place, though probably not as different as I'd like. When my Ugandan friend purposefully antagonized Rob, and then whispered to me about how fun it is to do so, I did have to laugh, but I was also sad.

Sometimes, labels are just a tool of the powerful to score points and to marginalize. But partly, labels are necessary to distinguish right from wrong. But even then it doesn't really matter, if there's not love. I watched Sometimes in April yesterday, about the Rwandan genocide. Amazing movie. There's this scene of someone watching tv as a bureaucrat stumbles over trying to call it acts of genocide, but not actual genocide. Labels stop to matter in finding right and wrong, because if there was love you wouldn't need a label to make yourself do something. A child doesn't need to be an AIDS orphan for you to help them if there's love. Murder doesn't need to be genocide for you to stop it if there's love. And someone with relationship drama doesn't need to be homosexual for you to listen if there's love.

Labels are important to identify distinctions, but they can also be perverted to create false distinctions where none should exist. I think everyone agrees on that. It's just making the distinction between the two where everybody seems to lose the love a lot of the time. Self included.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Scene 1
[Saturday morning 8:30 AM at Uganda Christian University. Far shot as Geoff and Sarah step onto the track field for a run. Geoff nods to a Ugandan friend walking up to them.]
Janai: [smiling, still a small distance away and walking] I want to ask you some questions about faith!

Scene 2
[Inside classroom looking out over track field. Teacher's voice slowly becomes recognizable. Clock reads 9:30 AM. Pinky, Janai's friend, has been looking out the window, wondering when these three will stop walking around the track. She watches them take turns gestulating wildly and hopping around. She laughs. When the teacher looks over she smiles innocently, and settles further into her seat.]

Scene 3
[10:30 am short view from Sarah and Janai still walking, them foreground, Geoff sitting talking with another Ugandan background. Off-screen voice calls out, wide shot of them and distantly on the hill overlooking track a figure in a red shirt]
Martin: [astounded, teasing] Janai! You're still walking? You're late!
Janai: What do you mean? What time is it?
Martin: It's already 10:30!
Janai: Ah! Hey. [grabs Sarah's arm] I've got to child rehabilitation. Want to come?
Sarah: [surprised, curious] Uh…sure, yeah! [pause] What's that?

Turns out that means going to a children's home to sing and dance, talk about a bible lesson and play soccer. With a cell group from the Kampala Pentecostal Church. Turns out that deciding to go wake up early to eat breakfast and run with Geoff cuz we were both feeling distant from God and people means meeting a girl who wants to talk about God and people, who wants a sign from God but then looks at the trees and sees, a girl who happens to be from Gulu and goes to the church when she's there I've been asking God if I should volunteer with, whose name happens to not be her real name but the name she got when she came to Christ after growing up Muslim a name that happens to mean God hears, a girl who happens to be an answer to prayers, though I'm still not sure what the answer is.

Friday all the local primary schools came to that same track for competitions. I had run the day before, and was reminded of how much I love to run, so it was heaven to be around so many young cheering, singing, laughing young people. Especially young people in pink and blue and red and yellow uniforms.. Actually, that's partly why we decided to go running Saturday.

This race started, and right away it was cool to see this kid in a red shirt and black sweat band and no shoes take the lead. They were running, and we were thinking wow they're going pretty fast maybe it's a 400, or 440, or whatever this track is cuz it's bigger than normal. But then they went for a second lap and we figured okay an 880. That second lap the kid who'd been keeping up with the one in the red shirt had to stop and sit down. By the eighth lap we'd lost count, and about five kids had started taking turns trying to catch up and pass the boy in the red shirt, including a boy in a ripped wife beater, hawaiin shorts and boots. But that kid just kept running. And you know what? That kid kept running for all of it. Every single one of the total 25 laps. Smiling every once in a while at his cheering friends with a flash of white teeth. He had ran a 10 K, over 6 miles. A kid in primary school, so at the very oldest maybe 15. Insane.

I got a picture of him. His name's Rashid. He's the one on the right. In the red.

I was walking home really fast Saturday, passing people right and left. But there was one guy I hadn't passed yet on the winding village path. I wanted to. I guess Rashid inspired me. Anyways, if I'm not playing the let's pass everyone it's a race game, I'm playing the let's smile at everyone and see what they do game. Some days, I play both. So I smiled as I started to pass him. But then he smiled back, and asked how I was. So I quit playing games, and we started talking. Half an hour later we were talking still, but now we were talking about how the media only shows the starving Africans, but not the Africans leading good work in their communities. Robert already knew I'm taking development studies. I asked him what he does. He owns a non-governmental organization and does community development. We kept walking and talking until we got to my road. It turns out he was going to visit his mother. Who also turns out to be my neighbor.

And I almost just passed him up.

Lesson learned? Play games until someone plays with you. Then stop playing games.

And I still don't trust myself. I'm really struggling to have patience. With myself. With other students. With miscommunications. With sitting in questions. It scares me, because when you lose patience it's cuz you don't love enough to suffer. Patience is long-suffering, and it's a choice, like running every lap even when it hurts. Love is very intentional. It's a choice. Lately, it's been a really difficult choice. Pray, please.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

sit in THAT!

"…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." – "Letters to a Young Poet," Rilke.


Apparently the VMAT2 gene is a genetic explanation for human spirituality: "people are, essentially, hardwired to seek a 'higher power'" (Sojourners, "Genetics, Gender and God"). I wanted just to post this cuz it made me sit and go huh how about that. But in sitting I'm scared people will jump up on it to defend or attack God. But I'd prefer it if instead of saying one person's religion is a crutch or another's a lie, we realized everybody, religious or not, has a pair of glasses they're trying to understand the world through. Some people try to keep them clean, some don't. Some take the easy answers, some don't, whether you're religious or not. But sitting in the question always gets a better answer in the end.


Relient K says the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair. If life were "fair" it'd be black and white and eye for an eye and, thanks Gandhi, we'd all be blind. I love that about grace, that there's mercy instead of judgment and life instead of condemnation. But there's something I still haven't figured out. If God is the lion pursuing us and God always gets what he pursues, then why would he pursue one person who doesn't deserve him, but not the other, if he loves them all? Unless he does, and he always gets what he pursues, and so nobody goes to hell. Which sounds rather nice. Until Hitler's in heaven. And I don't know maybe he is, but that's hard to believe. Or does God simply not always get what he wants? But if he tries sometimes he just might find he gets what he needs? Heh heh. Rolling Stones. Heh. Seriously, though, I could accept that if he wants all to respond to him with love but not all do and he gave us free will. But does an all-powerful God create a world where he can't always get what he wants? I don't know.

People make it out that if you think in black and white then you're stupid. But if you mess the two together too much then all you think in is grey gray where you can't even agree on how to spell a word.  And then "fair," "just," and "good" mean whatever you want and Hitler was mature for realizing that all's "fair" in love and war, and that sometimes there are simply costs. And that's not good. But at the same time, it seems like there really are costs. But how much is too much? I don't know.

Why did Diedrich Bonhoeffer think God created a world in which man would have to sin personally to do what's right publicly? Why do we accept that division between private righteousness (read: right relationships) and public justice (read: right relationships).
People admire Bonhoeffer. I admire Bonhoeffer. He was planning to kill a man. But it was Hitler. And if there's one thing I learned in high school, it's that Hitler was a bad man. A very bad man. We make it black and white. Hitler bad. Bonhoeffer good. And then the cost's okay. But Bonhoeffer had a whole lot of grey gray he was dealing with.


I sang Lilyannie to sleep with the same lullabies my mom sung me to sleep, telling her how there's no one else in the world like her who thinks or acts or smiles like her. If I really believe that about every person, then I don't want to use any cheap answers to justify anyone's life or death.

My cousin-brother Michael says God is very funny. He says sometimes he doesn't know why God made him. Because Michael's had a tough life. And honestly I don't want to tell his story right now cuz he's Michael my cousin-brother and that's what's most important. But he thinks God is very funny. And I agree.

My white Macbook has definitely been to Africa. It made me happy, because a good bit of the dirt came from Lilyannie, and so I thought it'd be a constant reminder of her when I went home. I thought about how just like my muzungu computer's going to take pieces of Africa back with it and be a muzungu+ computer, so would I be a muzungu+. But then today I was able to clean some of the dirt off. It's like when you think you have a tan and then you take a shower. I wonder how much of Africa is going to come off of me when I go home. I wonder who I'll forget. I'm scared.


A brother told me I should ask God my questions, and wait for him to answer. So that's what I'm trying to do. I didn't really share these questions for you to give me an answer. I'm just trying to practice transparency.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bring it On: Second State of the Sarah

I'm listening to I'mma Shine by YoungBloodZ right now. That assertion I'm gonna shine. The instrumental that backs it up makes you believe it's true.

And you know there's been some days this month when I really haven't felt that way. There's been days reading this book The White Man's Burden that's busting on the West for thinking that they can just impose some foreign solution on situations they don't know anything about that I think I must be so arrogant for thinking I can help. There's been days where I've felt like I don't know why I'm here I shouldn't be here I don't belong here. And I don't. But there's other days when that's cool and I kind of do belong. There's been some nights when I'm afraid that I follow a religion that has done a lot of harm and hating. And I do. But there's other nights when that's cool and I see I follow a religion that has done a lot of loving, too. There's been days when I read books like Girl Soldier and I struggle cuz the Sunday School answers to suffering sound trite. But there's days when I read Bruchko and suffering isn't a question but an answer. There's been days when I've wrestled with if I'm a Christian or if others would say I'm a Christian cuz there's a lot I thought Christ was that's he's not. But there's been days though when I realize that's okay to wrestle with. There's been days when I'm reading the Bible and I just have to shut it because I don't understand and it makes me upset. But there's days when I'm thinking bible verses to myself in my head and it's true and I know it. There's been days when I feel lost, but there's been days when I feel found.

You know what? Where is the Love by Black Eyed Peas just came up again on iTunes. I'm still having a hard time figuring out just where the love is. But know it's there. Seek and ye shall find, right?

The week in Kapchorwa was good. I did a lot of speaking from the front at the women's conference and at church again and in classes about seeking first the kingdom of God, the just kingdom of a just King where there's just relationships. And dude I don't have those just relationships or even just really compassionate ones and some nights before and after days talking about those just relationships I'd wonder if they're real or I'm a liar and a hypocrite yet talking about it you believe it can be real and you know it's good and you want it even if you don't have it. Cuz love makes you compassionate and just.

And that's the kingdom I want. Maybe tonight even I won't know if all of what I'm saying is for real. I won't now if the kingdom's just not here yet or if it's just not real. But more and more I'm just like that kingdom is worth believing in, so God please Bring it. Oh, and you know what I'm not sure but I think he says It's already brought my daughter, just keep praying Bring it on and it's brought.

That's about where I'm at. Some days when I see the complete failure of kingdom people myself most of all to be that kingdom to each other I'll still question where is the love God that your supposed to give us where are you in our lives where are you if you're God with us. But you know some days I see the kingdom.

I've been so scared that I'll leave Africa without learning the lessons of love and friendship and the Holy Spirit working today. But I finally woke up to the realization that I'm NOT going to learn that lesson before I leave Africa, nor before I leave this earth. I'll still be learning it the day I die. And that's cool. I'm trying to ask God the questions so that he can answer them. That's where I'm at.

Love, peace and joy to you, wherever you're at.
Where are you at, by the way?
Love peace and joy to you there.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Joy Despairs

Joy does despair, but meanwhile widows, orphans and soccer moms save the world.

I had just given a short lesson during church on Matthew 6:33 and how when you seek first the kingdom of God all these things matter less so that you share with one another and so create just kingdom relationships. After standing at the door to shake hands, we began to walk home only to see a crowd gathered around a single girl on the ground weeping. She had lost her money while playing. How much? Only 1000 shillings? Can I give it to her I ask myself. I hesitate a bit, because I'm stingy, but I do. But she is still crying. Oh, it was 10,000 shillings. I cannot help. I have the $5 that it amounts to, but American money doesn't help in Kapchorwa. The church members say they will try to pull together so that by next week they can give her a gift. Some of the members walk home with her so that they can reason with her short-tempered mother. I ask my mother the girl's name. Joy. I ask why her mother would be so angry. I learn those 10,000 shillings would have fed the family for the whole week. I do the math. Even if that 10000 shillings was for only one person, that was less than a $1 a day. The statistic I learned at a 30-Hour-Famine so many years ago of extreme poverty being living on less than a $1 a day suddenly has a face. Later I learn that the mother chased the girl at least a half mile down the road before leaving her to stay with a relative.

My mother in Kapchorwa is Reverend Diane. She is 36 years old and leads the church here. She has her bachelors and masters in education and teaches at the secondary school maybe 4 kilometers from our home or nearly 2.5 miles. She walks everyday. When she was finishing her masters degree her husband died. Her two boys were about 5 and 1. My mother is a widow. After her husband died she went back to school and became a reverend. She's a leader trying to help her community. She built a new home behind her old one and she started a kindergarten in the old one and paid women from the community to teach in her old home and use her kitchen to make porridge for the kids everyday.

Her husband came from a polygamous family, so he has many 10 siblings. Two of the other men have also died in the past ten years. One of those died in 2001, and in 2003 the widow left the children and ran away. I found this out after I'd spent most of three days hanging out with Ronald, a 22-year-old who was a month late going to school because his family was struggling to get school fees. We'd spent the days talking about the power of music and cutting matoke leaves and pounding g-nuts into sauce and shelling, winnowing and frying coffee beans. Ronald is one of the kids that woman left behind. Ronald is an orphan. And guess what? He doesn't wear one of those bright orange Orphan t-shirts that we were using at Biola to raise awareness. He's like you or me. His father was a military officer who imprisoned a soldier for beating his wife. The soldier decided to kill him and several other men at the court. Ronald wants to be a lawyer. But in his private life he wants to use music to sing about orphans and love and relationships.

Samuel's about the same age as Ronald. He's a partial-orphan. After Idi Amin was out of power, a lot of weapons were left behind in this area. One tribe, the Karamoja, managed to take many of these. They live in a very dry part of the country, and they took to cattle hustling, stealing cows from many people in Kapchorwa through violence. Samuel was a baby when they raided a village once. Samuel was with his mother when she was shot dead. Samuel didn't know she was dead and  continued to suckle from her breast. That's how his mother found him. I didn't know any of this when I was introduced to a young man on our walk back to school. I only knew this guy Samuel in front of me could speak English and kept joking with the Reverend about whether stealing was wrong or not.

One of the boys with him looked about twelve to me. He had a way of sticking out his chest that made me think he was trying to look like a man. A couple days after meeting them we were sitting staring out across the great valley that's my momma's backyard and staring at the falls that go down the cliff and attract tourists that provide jobs as guides and the opportunity to learn English for guys like Samuel. As we sat there sipping tea and talking, she pointed to caves along the cliffs. She told me the story of one day in 1997 when five boys of about 8 years old went into the cliffs. She told me the story of the one little boy who was a Christian and kept refusing to drink the liquor they brought down, because here to be born again includes a somewhat frustrating legalistic but powerfully life-transforming standing in front of the church and rejecting of the past way of life including alcohol. She told me the story of how those boys beat him until he died and tossed him over the cliff. She couldn't remember his name when I asked.

When I met those boys I didn't see those things. I just saw a tall young man and what looked like a boy trying to seem like a tall young man. That boy is actually 16 years old. Those boys, my mom told me, are thieves. But they're also guys that the community hasn't found a place for or a way to help them. I know only part of their story. But there's another side and I don't know it. I can only tell what I know.

What's a muzungu from California doing here? Preaching at the church and giving encouragement in five different classes at the secondary school and going to the market. What am I doing here? What's my role? Part of me never wants to leave Uganda. Part of me didn't want to leave Kapchorwa. Because I haven't answered that question yet.

Here's the thing. There is a place. There's even a place for Obama on my mom's wall on a magazine fold out with his pictures of him and his girls and his wife with her name spelled Mitchele. There's even room for muzungus to wear jeans and act like muzungus at all the resorts dotting the cliff. But where's my place?

I don't know. But it was odd to hear from my friends about their moms and dads in Kapchorwa who work with Compassion International and help children sponsored to go to school write letters to muzungus like me in America. It was weird to realize many of the students I talked to were only at school because of those sponsorships.

We're reading Compassion by Henri Nouwen right now. Compassion is to suffer with somebody, just to be Present with them and not always try to fix their problems but care about them and be in relationship with them. Emmanuel God with us is the ace of this kind of compassion. And I'm really not the ace at it. Because it's in fetching water and grinding g-nuts with them that I get to share with them their lives. But it's not my life, cuz after ten days I left, and in two months I get to leave and go back to the states. But I'm learning.

Cuz widows and orphans aren't just victims and helpless. They're reverends and musicians and lawyers and they have something to say and something to contribute. Even those boys I was telling you about out of the community, they have something to contribute. It's people just living their lives and walking a little girl home when she loses her money and getting the community together to pay for what she lost. It's walking 15 kilometers just to visit with somebody. It's holding a women's conference so that you can encourage and pray for one another. It's having compassion. And it doesn't take a super-hero.

We had a discussion, and one of the girls said was wondering about the choice between being a soccer mom and saving the world. But soccer moms can save the world. Soccer moms do save the world. Seriously. There was a group of five Christians in the slums of a major Mauritanian city who decided to actually live in the slums. The slums were full of rural immigrants who were illiterate and not used to urban life and from different tribes and different religions. There wasn't enough jobs and not even enough water. Talk about tension. They organized the youth in the midst of all of this for soccer games and speaking love into their lives. Those kids decided to make a newspaper. And then a radio station. And they made a community where before there was only a crowd.

Soccer moms can do that. And I don't know exactly what my place here in Africa or on planet Earth might be but I know I want to have compassion and I know I want to have community and I know that those things change everything.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stories and Advice

Some stories…

Liliannie lives in a one room shack with her mom that's at the most 10 by 10 feet. Her mom works at her house cooking dinner. This week Liliannie started eating dinner with us at our house. And the rest of the evening, we tickle her and repeat after her as she points at numbers and practices her alphabet, and play airplane with her and let her twist our hair around. She's darling. But I don't really understand her life. Her entire home is smaller than my room. Something's wrong there.

Most windows here have bars on them for safety. At the IMME headquarters on-campus we have two little rooms to hang out in when we're not in class or at home. Right now there's eight of us in a room that's about 10 by 12 feet. I always feel like we're animals in a zoo. It makes me happy.

My momma's making 1000 skirts for her school where she works as a nurse. She's legit.

The boys here really want to marry bzungu. And they'll ask you, "how do I get a mzungu to marry me?" And no matter how many times we try to explain, they don't understand why that might seem offensive. All they want is to marry you, after all. If I were them, I'd want to marry a muzungu, too, whether that sounds bad or not.

It turns out that I made the same new year's resolution as I did last year. Hug people a lot. Maybe I've found my calling.

Some pieces of advice…

It turns out that the random guy selling skirts at the market definitely knows how big your butt is, and you definitely don't. Next time, let them choose the skirt.

Caution: If you are late getting home, beware the child who stands at corners waiting to yell Mzungu and call forth the battalion children. Running may be an acceptable method of evasion. If besieged and unable to escape, be sure to skip and sing Lion King songs. The children will gladly repeat after you.

Furthermore, although the first few words you will be tempted to learn in the native language may be things like Hi and How are you, be sure to also arm yourself with an array of Don't disturb me and Leave me alone. These will come in very handy when the children try to climb up your arm or just happen to be running around with a knife.

On the note of language. In order to function fully in your new home, learn how to accuse and reject the state of craziness. Spend inordinate amounts of time practicing; after all, practice makes perfect. In addition, practicing exotic languages also creates a functioning family unit, especially when the two talking happen to be practicing different languages.

Next time you travel, go to Egypt. At least they'll offer one woman one camel. Here, it's two chickens to 13 bzungu. Obviously, Egyptians are better traders.

When showering in the dark, be sure to tell apart the soap from the cockroach. And when showering in the morning, as a certain friend of mine learned, be sure to tell apart the water bucket from the bedpan.

Canadians should not be trusted. Don't let their smiling faces fool you. There is not actually a red potion or a blue potion that will make you feel better. And when you don't fix guitars, they don't make baby ukuleles. On that note, don't trust Iowans. Giant caterpillars do not become snakes. Furthermore, realize that the U.S.A. is not actually the United States of America. Rather, it is California, and then everybody else.

On a more serious note, here's the link from the blog before of War Deaths in 2002 and military expenditure and so on:

valentine's day

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling, For more than a cause
I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You're raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices, With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies, In twenty four parts.
I'm not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.
 We want more than this world's got to offer
we want more than the wars of our fathers
Everything inside
screams for second life
we were meant to live for so much more
we lost ourselves

There's this book, Bruchko, by Bruce Olson. It used to be called For This Cross I'll Kill You. He tells the story of himself, starting back when he was an angry, uncoordinated, dorky thirteen year old afraid of the Lutheran God of judgment he knew reading the Bible one evening:

Then I came across a verse that shocked me and sent electricity jingling through my body. I sat up and read it again: "For the son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." I knew God's justice, that He would judge me on the basis of my impurities – but here was a verse saying that Jesus had come to save the lost…I felt drawn to try and speak to Christ…It was a simple talk, but it was the first I had ever really had with Him…"Oh, Jesus…I want peace and fulfillment…I want to be delivered from all my fears…" At that moment I felt a presence…."Lord, I'm frightened by You…Everything is messed up around me. And it's messed up in me, too. But, please, God, I want to change…Make me new." And then I knew that I was being saved." (26-27)

When he was 19 he went to Venezuela on his own, with no missionary organization and no support. He would almost die or be killed several times. He went into the jungle, and the first thing he did was get lost. But eventually he would find a brother in a young man several years younger than him he called Bobby, and the tribe found the God that their legends told they had lost when they were deceived and went down the wrong trail, they found the God that walked those same trails as they did when he came to earth and died for them. And they put their faith in them, or in their language, they tied their hammock strings into Christ and were suspended in God.

Later, they're translating the Bible and for in Philippians how it has the verb for being conformed to Christ, even his suffering or his death. Bobby chose a new verb tense they had made, something already done, yet lying in the future. He writes, "I had brought Jesus to the Motilones, yes; but was I ready to bring them this kind of conformity – conformity to the death of Christ?"

Bobby made the decision to use this future yet present word for conformity to Christ even in his suffering and death, at a time that the entire life of the tribe was threatened by settlers. Three weeks later he was killed by settlers who had warned, "I will kill you for this cross." His wife said "Jesus Christ died for all the tribes of the world. Bobby is almost like Him. He died for the Motilones." (194)
That peace, that suspension, what else does anybody want to know? I spent Valentine's Day with three other students reading the Word to each other, talking about God's love for us and in us and through us. And it was the most natural thing, to talk about Christ the Lover pursuing us his Beloved. And I don't know why I'd ever spend Valentine's Day in another way. Or any day. Oh, and I got a kiss. Chocolate. Sweet. Literally.

We talked about conflict yesterday in class. Readings on Northern Uganda, on Sudan, on what about Africa makes violence so overwhelming. It reminded me of this cartogram I found many moons ago, of War Deaths in 2002. Check the link and look at War Expenditures. It'll give you some food for thought. At lunch we were still talking about class. Talking about people dying from starvation and being killed and living lives of fear and desperation and hopelessness. And we were crying. One of my friends, I love her, was so upset. "Why ME? Why am I so blessed that I can eat food three times a day, and meanwhile they're DYING?"

Some questions you just have to sit in for awhile. Questions like we discussed in our Simple Living discussion about only asking for our daily bread and nothing more.
But you know that peace I was talking about? I still have it. Today's one of those rare days I'm not wearing my peace cap, but I still have it. I don't' know the answer yet. I don't' know how to figure out how Christ is real if we have to always put the word church in quotations. But for some reason, that love, even if it's missing here, I believe in it, I believe it and it brings peace. Other days I know I won't have it. But still. I believe.

I was sick last night, like bye bye food. But I'm okay today. When I was feeling less okay, though, for sure it sucked, but I didn't want it to stop me from life. Or from loving others. Michelle hasn't been able to eat for over a week, and yet she has the energy every day to get up and go to school and play with our beautiful little neighbor friend Lilyanna.

One other thing about Christ's love. It's getting so much bigger in my life that I have less and less patience for things that aren't it. Theology-wise, like, I don't want to talk about Christianity anymore, I just want to talk about Christ. His love. That's it. And yet you can't quite do that. Yesterday I was talking with Michelle about the war in Iraq and about Islam and Muslims and are other religions demonic or simply responding to the amount of light they've been given. And I don't know. About any of it. But all I know right now really well is Christ's love. That sounds really hippy. But it's not, I swear. It's real, it's genuine, it's Christ and it's the cross.

And maybe the settlers thought Christ only died for their tribe and were willing to kill for that cross, but Bobby knew that Christ died for all tribes and was willing to die for that cross. People seem to be so willing to take a life rather than give their own. Myself included. A friend I care about a lot made me realize the other day that I'm really quite the hypocrite. It was good. I hope that friend reads this. I know I'm a hypocrite. But Christ. And maybe that friend can't accept but Christ, but I think they might get a love that dies for the one that kills the one that dies.

I'm not that love. I wish I was.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


So in 1 King 18 God comes down in blazing fire and proves himself and Elijah is triumphant in his faith. But in 1 Kings 19 Elijah's on the run and he asks God to let him die and he struggles in the wilderness:

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." ...  And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

And that low whisper was the Lord. It goes on. Elijah gives his exact same spiel again. The Reverend at chapel taught how God is not always the raging fire but also the low whisper. But then he began to look at Elijah, saying that if you want spiritual maturity, DON'T be like Elijah. Because Elijah despaired, had self-pity and thought he was the only faithful one left. And that really got to me. Because I've been like that. I think every Christian worries about how most of the Church isn't really the Church. But I'd been really letting it get to me, wondering how Christ could really be Christ if his Church wasn't really his Church. Despair. Self-pity: Elijah was like, "God, I've been doing all the right things, and now I'm being persecuted!" So I'm not even being persecuted, but I've pitied myself because this past couple of months I've tried to be transparent, share, confess issues. And sometimes I don't get the love I want/need, and I get sad for myself. But that's stupid. Of course it's natural. But I shouldn't be going into an interaction just seeking to get something out. I think instead of really sharing I was just looking for encouragement. And encouragement is good, no doubt. But not when what you need might be a harsh word. At least I've done a better job seeing my own problems. But I still catch myself feeling like everyone else just needs to have more love, when I have to start with me.

I'm reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. And you know he's all about big social justice issues. But he does a great job bringing it back to me and you:

"Pope John Paul II has rightly insisted that evil social structures are "rooted in personal sin…But the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins create "structures of sin" that are both oppressive and 'difficult to remove" (116).

That goes back to Blue Like Jazz where the author says he'd like to hold up a sign at a protest saying "I'm the Problem," because no one can change anything in the Congo until they change themselves. And then in another chapter Sider got me sniffling even more, cuz he was talking about how "the church should consist of communities of loving defiance" and how as much as we want to reject this culture of materialism and sex and success, that is impossible as individuals. Impossible. No Mission Impossible individual still making it possible. Impossible. He talks about how "the plausibility of ideas depends on the social support they have" (207). In other words, it's really really hard to believe the Bible isn't just balony when it talks about peace and joy and community living and love if you don't see those things in your own life in yourself and the people around you.

And once again I just wanted to cry and my friend sitting next to me asked if I was sick cuz I was sniffling so much. Cuz man I want that so bad. Man I need that. The chapter went on to give all these examples of house church congregations where people sign the papers for an interest-free mortgage on another family's house and make annual commitments to daily prayer and Bible study and have to be accountable to their small group about it every week and put all their money in a general fund and have it allotted to them every month according to need and not contribution and all buy apartments in the same two neighborhoods so they can share lawnmowers and washing machines and be Christ in the community. And I know all of those are only different ways. But where all of this comes out of is a deep love for one another and, just I mean love how much do we need that. How much do we need that.

And at the very end this was one of the study questions: "How close is your local church to the ideal of Christian community? What do you think God is leading you to do about that?"

And in the past that question has always made me so sad because I want my church to be closer to that ideal. But lately it's been hitting me more how much I, myself, need to be closer to that ideal. And how much I don't reach it, rather than how much others don't. Like. I suck at community. I want it so bad that I cry about it when I read books. But I really really suck at it. Maybe not in a I fight with them kind of way, but in a I have messed up priorities so I'm never just there, never just Present and talking with people about their day and praying with them and committing myself in that way and taking chances and trusting them with my own life and putting others before myself and before my grades and before my job. That's what I want so bad but then I don't do it myself.

My awesome ninja brother told me to relax because I'm trying to do good and I care and I just might be a ninja, too. And I know I probably should some. But a lot of me says that I've never just like tried to be, not even good, but just be there. I don't know how to just put people who are sitting in the room with me first. I don't know how. Does that make sense? I think a lot of my friends want to go No! here like my bro and say I'm cool and nice and stuff. Cuz I am. Lol. As in, I know I'm not some big bad terrible person. But my priorities are still wrong. And that sucks.

I've been around this earth for twenty years, grown up Christian and been pretty serious about that. But I still don't know how to put others first and just love them. I really don't want to graduate from college and still not know how to do that. I'm really scared though that I might let them happen if I don't figure out how to make sure I don't now and next year. So. Next time you see me, do me a really big favor, and make me put you first. Seriously. Please? Thanks.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Life's not Fair - A Month in Review

In Brief - State of the Sarah and the World:
    Food: Yummy. Even our American cooking! Fingers: Good, despite a car door attack. Feet: Rather liked by mosquitoes and blisters, but effectively walking. School: Learning. People: Loving. I'm not dead; on the contrary, I feel quite alive. All in all, I'm in tip top shape.
    Meanwhile, Israel stopped its military offensive in Gaza in time for Obama to become president of the USA, twice, and Gaddafi wants to make a new USA – the United States of Africa. Barbie's fifty years old and animal life is apparently millions of years older than people were saying last year.

State of the Sublime Sarah:
    Either my faith will stretch way farther than ever before, or it'll just pop. I'm kinda scared. What do I believe? Salvation and damnation, the Holy Spirit and prayer, love and hate, Christ himself. How do I live out what I believe? I don't quite know.
    Yet I find reassurance in a welcoming breeze and joy in the downpour of rain. I find peace in music, whether it be Underoath screaming out to the unfaithful and ungraceful and unloving that I will love you, India Arie saying she's got to get Back to the Middle, BEP asking Where's the Love, or Relient K rocking out about bipolar weather and grace. Or Father Abraham with twenty neighborhood kids who knew the end when we didn't.
    I find peace and comfort in these things, but I can't just stay there. I'm afraid if I try to share it I'll lose it. Yet I've found in Christ a person where the telos and praxis actually seem to meet - even if they don't meet yet in my own life. I've started to look in the mirror, and not just at the world. Though sometimes the world acts as my mirror.
    I've been having this trouble with reality, getting what I've always thought it was and what it actually is to meet. They don't. And so I'm trying to express that like I haven't really ever done before. Drawing writing singing dancing. I'm not super artsy. Yet these things have really anchored me this month. And in the art I'm able to better analyze this world around me. And I really like doing that.

State of the Mental Sarah (yeah, I'm mental!):
    History. Politics. Law. Different ways people have managed to live together without killing each other to extinction. Writing three of the truest sentences that I know. Defining what Africa's problem is and offering a solution. Hating myself for trying to do so. Hating myself for talking too little or too much during discussions about God and missions and sin. Laughing at myself for hating myself.

State of the Social Sarah:
    I don't like knowing that what I see in the mirror isn't what other people see when they look at me. And I can't make them meet. And I'm too off in my own world sometimes to notice. I love that one of the students is a constant mirror to me of what I can tend to be when I go too far in myself.  I love valued friends and talking passionately with them about politics and God or joking about boys and hair. Staying in touch with friends back home, missing them, loving them. My Ugandan family, I love discovering new things about them every day: sharp senses of humor, humble spirits, loud laughs and quiet smiles. Playing BS with my siblings and giving my sister backrubs and pestering my sister-cousin to teach me how to dance and making her laugh.
    My family back home. I love being able to say that I'm related to them. I love them. I love loving them. I'm so proud of them. I love knowing them better than when I left and so loving them all the more. I love them all.

Bezels to ponder
    Every day when I walk home I hold at least two dozen dirty little hands. Then I go home and love on the dirty little kitten with a broken paw. The kitten, my sister says, will maybe die. I think the similarities stop there, but I feel just as helpless. Not that I want to save them, but I want to see them as they are. Because they are not just dirty little helpless kids. They have names that I can't pronounce and families and futures. And I want to see that. But it's hard to see.
    Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.- James Baldwin, writer and civil rights leader.
    But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
    My friend's shirt reads "War is costly" on one side, and "Peace is priceless" on the other. It's true. But people value what they can make money off of selling.
    In Jinja, a young American man talks in Basogan fluently and jokes and laughs with men making metal trunks. He connects with them, and cares, but is still able to step out of it afterwards, without losing that care. Or, at least, that's how it seemed.
    When we join the dots between art and poverty, it helps breathe life into the poorest communities, restoring hope and igniting justice. This music has literally saved lives, and again I feel happy to be alive. – Martin Smith, Sojourners blog writer (1/29/09)
    After reading an article on the theology of missions that said the proof of the universality of the gospel of Christ is in missions. But, if the proof is in the pudding, then why does it sometimes taste so badly?
    Will they ever make a Grannie Barbie? I mean, honestly.
    " 'All men choose either compassion or…chatter…Those who have lost the capacity for listening, who cannot be there for others, are unable even to be truly present to themselves…'Compassion'…sums up the listening, responsive, agonizing receptivity of the prophet and the poet." – John Taylor, The Primal Vision
    When I was in Kampala sitting in the sun at the hip hop Hot Steps competition, I saw this funny bug flying around. Something was wrong with it, it's body was turned wrong, but it made me so happy though because it was shaped a little like a music note. That little bug just about made my day.

But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair – Relient K, Be My Escape

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Some Stories of the Month

An Illustration of my over-all learning experience in the IMME headquarters
Geoff: Ah, YES. You guys… [silence, as we all turn around]
Me: What is it? [extended silence as Geoff looks thoughtful and smiles]
Geoff: I can't believe I haven't realized it before. JESUS is the gospel. And I've never let that be enough. It' all about Jesus! Ahh! [thoughtful silence]
Laura: Can I fix your collar?

A Better-Articulated Sampling of Tea-Time discussions
Ugandans don't like the rain. Mosquitoes make more babies when it rains. And it's wet. I used to think that was why they all disappear when it rains. Now I know better.
Suzan: In Uganda, when it rains people make babies. Is it like that in America?
Me: So…people make babies when it rains cuz there's nothing else to do?
Suzan: Yes, so they just make love instead. But what do Americans do when it rains?
Me: I think they're too busy making money to make love, even when it's raining.
Followed by a Suite Life of Zack and Cody high five with a passing friend.

A Window into my Home Life
So Michelle and I were sitting in our room talking about God and trying to figure out the line between pluralism and being open to how God works. Michael walked in and asked us if we know anything about manure. Because he learned about the chemical process for making it in school that day.

Why I share These
Because the gospel and collars, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and love-making, and God and manure just kind of come up side by side all the time. Proof that life isn't as nice and compartmentalized as we'd like. Plus, it's pretty hilarious. There may be funnier ones, but these are some of the more recent ones that came to mind to share.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tears and Laughter; a look in the mirror

It had rained the night before, and the earth still seemed hungry. Red earth gave way under my feet as I navigated the winding downhill path towards home. Vivacious green tendrils reached out as to caress my ankles, as a strange sound wound upwards towards the sky. A crying baby. I realized it had been crying for sometime before, but I hadn't noticed. And then a new sound, similar, but lower in tone, and with a jovial laugh at the end of each spiral. An older brother, maybe, mocking the cryer. Past the enormous tree, broken now by one of the first storms and resembling a dinosaur with its long trunk extending over the trail, picking my steps carefully along the ditches made by the few, brave boda boda men and their motorcycles. And now, from the right, another cry, eerily similar to the child but with a distinctive goatish vibrato.

And here's the thing. I don't know whether that kid was crying just because it was tired and finicky, or if it was sick and dying. We dramatize things here: if you slip, you die, when I greeted my sick roomie the other day I said I was glad she wasn't dead. It's funny. Except for that it's not, since that same day, when I asked my mom why she was so dressed up and she said one of her friends had died. She was going to her second funeral since I've been here.

And in the meanwhile, I can cry about sunburns and hurt feelings after short responses, when really all of this could be averted with a good laugh at the situation. It's a matter of choice; like when a kid falls, and you can see them deciding whether to laugh or to cry. But still, sometimes you've got to cry, when you look yourself in the mirror.

For me, I don't get it. Poverty and wealth, sickness and health, life and death. I mean, I get it, but I just don't get it. We read this guy, Garber, in The Fabric of Faithfulness, and he shares from a student's paper who describes my peers and I as the Beavis Generation: "Disregard for other living things (e.g., hitting frogs with a baseball bat) will be in. Taking responsibility for one's actions will be out…there is a whole new generation out there that completely understands all of this society's foibles. And can only snicker" (40-41).

But he also talks about meeting with other graduate students who want to help the world, but just end up weeping and crying out that nothing can be done, the world is just too broken. Garber says later that "the great religious heresy used to be making man the measure of all things; but we have come close to making man the measure of nothing" (54). Dr. Decker talks about the two stories our culture tells us, either that we're the only person that matters, or that nobody matters. The humanistic, world-conquering, do-no-evil man, or the people-killing evil-loving man. And you look your face in the mirror and see both of these everyday. But really it's this third, made-for-good but fallen and broken man that needs and has been given saving that's the truth.

Donald Miller starts the second chapter in Blue Like Jazz talking about how he would go to protests about the Congo, until one day a friend asked, "Do you think you could do something like that [rape, kill]?" And how he realized then either he was messed up, just like them and Hitler, even, or somehow he had to say he was better than them. He talks about how broken he felt everyone really is after that. Miller talks about how broken he and every single person are, and then he moves further:

I am not browbeating myself here; I am only saying that true change, true life-giving, God-honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting. I wanted to make a sign that read "I AM THE PROBLEM!"

He talks about how he would call for change in Africa to help the refugees with no home, while there was a great homeless ministry at his own church at which he never helped. That one hit home for me, because I've always kind of hated and feared the hypocrisy in myself that I haven't DONE a whole lot with my life yet, and even though I'm "just" a student, the excuse is a poor one. I'm all about the idea of reconciliation and mending broken relationships in community development as part of conflict resolution. And yet, at the same time, it's taken me going to Africa for it to really sink in how much I need to do this in my own life with a certain daddy that I love.

That made the ending of the chapter ever so much more relevant, as Miller shared from his own broken life, "I wanted to be over this, done with this. I didn't want to live in a broken world or a broken me….I put on the new Wilco album…" This reminded me of that same certain daddy of mine, and a certain Wilco song he likes to sing about trees and seeds. But Miller goes on:

I know now, from experience, that the path to joy winds through this dark valley. I think every well-adjusted human being has dealt squarely with his or her own depravity…Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror.

Funny how many mirrors there are in Africa, despite how there's hardly any mirrors.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I found the source of the mysterious ticking noise

If anyone has seen the ridiculously funny/ stupid YouTube video with the Harry Potter finger puppets and the “mysterious ticking noise” you’ll probably think that the blog title is funny. If not, hopefully you’ll think this story is funny 

Long story short, I did indeed find the source of the mysterious ticking noise. Actually, the noise was more like a… beep… beep…beep… but it was still very mysterious. We’ve had over three weeks of school now, and the whole time many of us have been wondering what the noise is. You hear it everywhere—in the classrooms, in the IMME room, in the dining hall, walking across campus. It seemed so strange to be in the heart of Africa and constantly hearing this electronic-type noise. Finally at one point last week I decided to ask Phil, one of the interns, if he knew what it was. After laughing at me for a little bit (its ok, I probably deserved it) he revealed the mystery. What is the mysterious beeping noise? A bird. Humorously enough, Phil even called it the “catchphrase” bird, which absolutely describes the sound that it makes.

As far as other exciting on-campus news…
Its been raining for a long time, and not just raining—pouring. I’m sitting in the IMME room watching the lightning flash at the same time as I hear the thunder pound because it is so close. We also have a rushing red river outside of the door, the remains of the red dirt road washed away. The rainy season is not supposed to be for another month or more, but I think it’s come early. The walk home should be fun.

This past weekend was a pretty eventful three days. Because of some classes that got rearranged earlier in the week, we didn’t have any classes on Friday which was incredible. Laura and I decided that because we had the entire day free it would be a great time to plan to make dinner for our family. Two other guys in the program live in the house right across the street, so we planned for a joint meal. Cooking for 16 with nothing but charcoal and firewood proved to be more difficult than we had bargained for, but definitely still just as fun (if not more!) By the end of the night we ate a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and banana splits for desert (Everything turned out great except that we had a few too many meatballs and not enough sauce so it ended up being more like sloppy joe sauce on top of spaghetti… but they didn’t know that) Our brother William like it so much that he not only ate two huge plates of spaghetti, but he wrote on a copy of the 2006 calendar on the wall: “best supper in the world” with the date and his signature next to it. I bet that calendar will hang for at least another two years.

Saturday, three of us decided to visit CMU, an orphanage in Mukono. It was a great day—we visited with Ruth, a German woman who with her husband founded CMU, helped some of the girls wash their clothes, ate lunch, and had the opportunity to sing with the kids and talk to them after lunch. At first the girls were really hesitant to let us help them wash (who would have known bazungu could wash clothes by hand), but after a while they began to open up a little more. We are looking forward to going back in the near future.

The rest of the weekend was also pretty eventful—while the rest of you enjoyed the Superbowl on Sunday, I went Saturday night with my brother William to watch a football (soccer) game. Laura and I walked in the room, immediately realizing that we were not just the only white people, but also the only girls. It was an experience, all of us in the same room watching the game on a single television, but it was also a lot of fun. Sunday four of us went into Kampala to meet a friend-of-a-friend of one of the girls here. It ended up being a great weekend, visiting the church that he attends and grabbing some pizza and ice cream before catching the matatu home.

This weekend the 16 of us on the IMME track are traveling to Rakai, a rural area of Uganda about five-or-so hours away. Our last trip to Jinja was great, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll try to post some more pictures soon!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

kill myself

Romans 6:6-7 "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

This past weekend we visited Jinja, and since then I've been mulling over not the effects of culture shock or poverty shock, but self shock. It wasn't the little kids begging for money, but my ability to forget them when I went inside for lunch, and my ability to look past them when I got back on the bus.

So my question is this: just how much is our old self crucified with Christ? Are we only kind of freed from being slaves to sin? Have we only kind of died with Christ? Is it possible to totally kill oneself, to be free to be a total slave to others? More importantly, would I even have the heart and the guts to do that? This isn't just a theological question, to the extent that any question's able not to be theological. It's also practical. In my law class we were discussing different Christian views on the state. Augustine played with our heads saying first that morality should have nothing to do with the state because government is just about economics, and then saying that there is no difference between a pirate and a navy admiral, unless that difference be seeking justice.

And seeking justice, it just can't be self-seeking. It's not a means to an end. Through the process your personal justice would also be sought, but not your privilege. So what is just? Are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness really God-given rights, that when lacking mean a lack of justice? Or are those privileges?

In the words of my favorite roomie, IDK. But I knew what I thought I knew I don't know anymore. Good times :)

By the way, I actually wrote this with some seeds of joy. Seriousness doesn't equal solemness, as Chesterton would point out!

Friday, January 23, 2009

new family, new friends and new news

I want to know their language. When my family starts talking and laughing, I can only sit and smile and enjoy their laughter. I can’t understand them without being able to listen and speak with them. I want to know Iteso, too, and Acholi, and all the languages here. Everyone can speak English, at least a little, but I know it’s not the same. Edward is a cousin, I think he is ten. One night I was drawing a picture of the living room. He was coming in and out doing little chores, and every time I would look up and we would just have a moment smiling at each other. It became hilarious, because he was in and out so often. Finally, he came in shyly and started watching me draw, so I started pointing and asking Lugandan words for each thing. He was delighted. If he didn’t know, he’d run out and ask his mom and run back in. Eventually, he just started talking in Lugandan to me, smiling, and I would reply in English, smiling. We had no idea what words the other one was saying, but we still could tell what the other one was saying.

Family is interesting here. Edward and yaja, grandma, are gone now. I thought they lived with us. They don’t. A week ago our niece Faith came and stayed with us, we didn’t know for how long. She slept with my sister Judie in her bed. Now she’s back with her mother. Our cousins Michael and Rachel live with us. I didn’t realize until not very long ago that Mary isn’t part of the family and doesn’t even live here. The family pays her to come across the road from her home and help out. That same night I met Imelda I passed by a shack on the way home and was surprised to find her there. I met her two daughters, Joannie and Liliannie.

Everybody is just trying to live their life, like anywhere else in the world. Everyone talks about the problem of getting water. When it is dry, there is trouble. Luckily it has been getting closer to the rainy season. And the government is building a ditch for water pipes. Most everyone at the school and my home has a cell phone and internet access, but still we struggle for water and cook over fire outside and don’t always have shoes. Is this poverty? Is their life worse than ours? Some, certainly. For some, in some ways. But the same can be said going the other way.

Maybe water is precious, but birthdays are precious, too. Two of my Ugandan friends, Suzan and Vickie, have been telling and joking with me about the birthday practice to pour water on the person. We’ve decided that the everliving Today is another friend’s birthday. Suzanne is going to do a medical internship in Gulu this summer, in the north. Another friend, Patrick, goes to the north to do a sports outreach during the summer. During the school year he is involved with the Iteso (his tribe) Mission, going out to villages and bringing the gospel and prayer and food and water and laughter. I’m tempted to ask them both and see if I can go with them.

Another young man, Edward, brings food to school everyday and sells it during tea time. I met him today as I sat there drawing a picture of President Museveni from his book, “What’s the Problem with Africa?” People just go and sit as they please at whichever table in the dining hall.So, he came and sat and talked with me about my drawing and about Museveni. Museveni has been President now for 22 years, longer than many of my Ugandan friends have been alive. I have heard many things against him in the newspapers. And I have thought many things against him. But I read his inauguration speech, which he gave after a five-year coup against Obote. I do not like violence, but even non-violence people like Gandhi said sometimes violence may be necessary. I do not know. I do not like someone who changes the constitution to stay in power. But I know the words I read Museveni say impressed me. For Edward, he said that you must understand where the country has come from since Museveni. After having six Presidents in 26 years, including three within the space of one year, including the regime of Idi Amin’s atrocities and including every change of power coming by force, including being surrounded by two countries that have or are experiencing genocide, Edward is glad for stability. Museveni, in his words, was able to come to power and keep it because his movement was for all the tribes and religions in the country. I do not know if this is true, but I can respect those words. Edward also told me a lot about business; remember I said he was selling food. He plans to make one million shillings in 60 days, which is quite a bit over $500. He told me about the need to make specific goals and track your progress and have daily goals. I think there is much I can learn from that. His brother is in Long Beach now like a certain brother of mine, studying business like a certain brother of mine, married to an African-American woman (unlike a certain brother of mine!). Now I miss my brother!

I love tea time. Before he came and sat with me, I drank my tea and talked with some Master of Divinity students, a bunch of theology men. When I graduate in 2010 they will also graduate, and will all return to their churches to lead. Each wanted me to keep in touch, and to come back after I graduate and visit their church. Steven and Sam and Emmanuel had to leave for class, but Tom stayed for a bit afterwards. He told me about how people would text him theological questions, and he would reply. I asked him questions. He told me how ~ “Sin, it is a fire but God’s mercy is that it didn’t burn our house down completely,” and echoed my father in saying how we are all made in the image of God, no matter how far corrupted we have made that image, and that we need to “just remove where the rot is and have people run to Jesus.”

The students here I have met all have a goal, like Edward. They want to do good for their country. In my law class, which I’m not actually in, we introduced ourselves and so many Ugandans talked about their desire to be truly Christian lawyers. They had a mission.

We were discussing the role of religion in politics, and they spoke about how theoretically of
course your religion should matter, because it should change the way you live, but how for many it doesn’t. Others countered that it shouldn’t matter, because that would be discrimination. We talked, and struggled together. We considered an article about Obama and the Trinity United Church, and we talked about MLK Jr. Whatever Obama may or not actually be, as a symbol he has become a source of hope. That is why I wanted to draw him. More importantly, I have drawings of some of the students now in my pad, their faces and their words. These people inspire me; they have goals, and they are steadfastly and faithfully working towards them, day by day, like Edward. I want to remember them, because it's important. Kikulu. And so I sat there, listening to their voices and seeing the passion in their eyes, and I tried to draw them, so as not to forget.

I’m afraid of drawing them wrongly, of misrepresenting them or their words. I can’t draw lips, let alone African lips. I don’t want to make them into a caricature, like so many did during the times of colonialism. I love drawing eyes here when people are talking, because they talk with their eyes also. While I’m afraid of misrepresenting them, I’ve even more afraid of forgetting them; that is why I draw, and that is also why I write.

Barack Obama is in the news. His face and assurance that change CAN happen sits right next to an article about the suspension of UN refugee repatriation from Uganda to Sudan because of the worsening situation. No wonder people want to believe change can happen.

On the other page another article speaks about the LRA’s recent execution of 16 South Sudanese civilians, and the Rwandan troops sent into the Congo to put a stop to Hutu militants. There’s articles about what Obama can learn from Cuba, and how he has taught Africa how to bring hope back. There’s articles claiming he is actually Ugandan because of a change in borders at the time of his father’s birth. And there’s an article headlining “Yes he can but no he won’t” solve Africa’s problems.

America influences it feels like everything here. My brother’s cell phone ring is a Hillsong United song from the newest album – the album I haven’t even heard yet. Obama is the talk of the town. Hip hop and R&B come from everyone’s speakers. My other brother wears Michael Jordan shoes. I told my law class my favorite philosopher was the Black Eyed Peas and they all laughed. But at the same time, my Michael Jordan-wearing brother will do a traditional dance by the fire of a gas light to the beat of his mother pounding peanuts into powder, while his sister cooks over the outdoor charcoal fire by my flashlight, and still even while their father watches television in the living room. That’s Africa.