Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Bitter Reality

Nothing quite goes as you would expect it to here in Uganda and for that reason, expectations are more often than not, useless.

There are few things that I encounter here that faze me anymore,
I'm not sure if this is a blessing or a curse,
But there's always at least one thing, every time that I visit, that rattles me to my core,
In a way I'm always glad when it does happen, it helps me to know that God is working with me to work out my faith, but in the
same regard, it's never easy to handle.

Care and Compassion days are always emotionally draining,
On one hand we are given the amazing privilege of spending time with a family, praying with them and finally blessing the family with gifts from the church,
But on the other hand, we hear the stories of their lives, their hardships and their loss, and in the feeblest sense of the word, take up their burdens.
There's often a familiar theme to the stories, echoed throughout this country,
In the lives of the children here on the property and the neighbours down the street,
One that speaks to the devastation of poverty and lack of infrastructure.

It takes a toll in the form of sickness and disease,
Starvation and lack of opportunity,

Yet their faith in God remains unscaved,
I still remember one of the first homes I ever visited,
Sitting on a mud floor of a tiny, crowded thatched roof home,
Hearing the story of a grandmother who had lost all her children to AIDS, her husband in an accident, and was now charged with looking after her 10 grandchildren, not knowing if they'd escaped the disease that claimed their parents,
Struggling to make ends meet she said with a smile, "but God is good."
Without having to ask she continued with her rationale, "I've lost so much in life, things disappear all around me, and nothing is certain. With the exception of God. He is always there for me, and always makes a way. He is the one thing in my life that is sure."

It is mirrored in the lives of so many families we visit,
An unshakable faith in the God who delivers.
A Christ who saved.

However, sometimes we encounter families which the hope is faded,
Where the shame overcomes the desire to converse,
Where there is hope in is something other than Christ.

Such is the story of a single mom and her 6 children,
The husband and father had deserted the family shortly after moving to the community,
And now some 4 years later, her health is fading and they are supported by neighbours alone,
The conversation was brief, the prayers were few and while there was thanksgiving at the gifts of food, mattresses and essentials for her and the children, it was shortlived.
As we parted ways we couldn't help but feeling overcome,
Suddenly as the team left there was a tug on my shirt, the mother knelt and pushed her daughter forward, a pleading look in her eye, begging me to take her daughter and give her the opportunity which seemed unattainable.

What love is this...
So strong,
So sacrificial,
The love of a mother

It always rattles me,
It doesn't get easier,
And I pray it never does,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

A Warm And Familiar Welcome

The smells of Uganda,
They never seem to change, even from my first trip (5 years ago) to now, it's etched in my memory and it always greets me right off the plane.
Long before the smiles of the children, or the embrace of a friend and pastor, the smell is there, and it's wonderful.

The drive from Entebbe is one that is relatively timeless as well,
The same partially finished building stands as the first marker, and as we wynd our way through Kampala and out to Masaka Road, the familiarities from past trips are striking.

It's always a source of entertainment watching those new to the journey process,
Hearing their comments and watching their eyes light up.
Comments surrounding signs like "Obama's Jet Carwash" are soon eclipsed by the sensory overload as we turn off the red dirt road and up towards the church.
A welcome party of smiling children, clapping and singing, never gets old and is always cause for a sudden "welling" of emotions.

This particular trip I get to see the eyes of a girl I've grown to love sparkle at the reception.

After some songs and dancing, it's time to settle in, begin the reorientation process and greet some old friends.

A couple days with the kids is always a great way to start a trip,
It's shocking to see how much they've grown.
They're excited to show their accomplishments of the past year and speak their ever improving English.
It's a breath of fresh air hearing the calls of "Uncle Brent" again.

It's with that warm reception that I bid you adue for now.
We're here safe and sound (would have been handy to know before the team left).

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And Away We Go!

After blowing the dust of my travel gear, I find myself sitting in YVR International Departures once again, with the rolling green hills of Uganda just 2 short (relatively speaking of course) flights away.
I can never fully express how I feel going back, but it seems I always try.
This time it feels a bit like heading home again.
Once again I find myself in the midst of a team, some of old and some of new, but one in particular who I happen to be a big fan of. It's with a sense of excitement that'll I'll be able to introduce her to my Ugandan family.
A lot happens in a year, and while I know undoubtedly that I'll love it, I count on much growth.
So it's with this final boarding call that I leave you.
Please pray for the team, so we enter into a season of ministry that is always beyond us alone.
And continue to pray for the children and community around Mpigi that I know will welcome us home.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Reflection From Greener Pastures

Time in Africa has an interesting way of sneaking away from you,
The pace is slow but there never seems to be enough hours in the day,

Having been in Uganda a week now, it's as if I never left,
With the exception of the jubilant welcome I received from the children and fast friends, life in Uganda has carried on much as I left it,

From the nerve shattering calls of “Halleluiah,” of Momma Rose before sunrise,
To the singing and dancing of the children after the sun goes down,
It’s no doubt there’s something special here,
Uganda has once again renewed its strangle hold on my heart,

There’s a peace about this place that surpasses all understanding, yet there’s always room for an adventure,

There’s something about walking down a red dirt road, long after the sun goes down, with close friends and nothing but the light of the stars to guide your way, that assures you the night is going to hold some adventure,

From the darkness comes the comments of “eh mzungu”
Safety is not an issue.

Upon reaching the highway we hire a squad of boda bodas and head into town,
The cloud of red dust marks our arrival into the dimly lit yet very busy town center,
Now, to find the match,

Having learned from past adventures, we send our Ugandan friends ahead to confirm the price of entry,
Us bzungus tend to raise the value of the dollar with just one look,
500 UGS is the report,
20 cents, affordable…for us
As we round the corner however the inevitable happens…the price doubles,
Our Ugandan friends are insulted, and vocally announce their displeasure, however we bow our heads and pay the new cover charge of 40 cents.

Decending into the darkness of the room we discover the place very full,
The mix of body heat, the hot air outside and the smell of body oder hits us in the face like a wet blanket,

The allegiances are split down the middle,
Half the room cheering for Spain, with the remainder for the Netherlands,

Tension is high with five minutes to half,
When suddenly we are engulfed in darkness,
The room and everyone in it disappear, we the linger of disapproval hangs in the air,
No power, TIA

Busy hands make light work however and with just 5 minutes left in the half time advertisements the screens, and the few lights in the room come to life with the buzz of the back-up generator,

Instantly the screen dances with commercials of washing machines, high end cars and western luxuries’,
Glued to the screen are the eyes of our Ugandan friends and
It makes you think, the darkness wasn’t all bad.

A tense second half and some overtime leaves Spain the champions,
The celebration that follows here in Mpigi comes only of an ignorance of that which has happened in Kampala,

We awoke the next morning to word of bombings in Kampala,
Just 45minutes away as we celebrated, others fled in terror,

A nation now mourns the loss of 80 of their own, as well as a sense of security that will take some time to regain,

Please keep Uganda in your prayers

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

Monday, July 5, 2010

Home Away From Home

One step off the plane and already it feels like home,
The familiar smell lingering in the humid air,
The accents of the man at customs,

I missed this,

It’s 4am now and we need a place to stay for a few hours before we’re whisked off to the 10 acres and 52 smiling children,

A cheap room for a couple hours, easy,
Ask a driver, give him a tip and before you know it there’s a knock on the door and your friendly, neighbourhood Canadian pastor is telling you to get out of bed,

It’s good to see the Dickie’s again,

Familiar roads, familiar faces and a warm welcome,
I’m home,
And it’s time for some football,


Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

A Few Good Things

It’s rare that I flinch at the inner workings of Cairo traffic,
Having braved treacherous road crossings, survived many accidents and earned my metaphorical strips, I’d call myself a veteran of this madness,
Yet a close encounter between a tourist bus and our taxi has me gripping the handles tighter than normal,

I feel that time and time again I try to describe the Khan accurately to friends, family and other foreigners, yet words always fail me,

The minaret of Hussein’s mosque towers over the high walls casts an omnipresent green glow on the narrow alleyways below,
Shopkeepers, familiar in upwards of 5 languages, spout clever catchphrases (‘how can I take your money?’ and ‘I have what you’re looking for’) in attempts to usher you through their door,
Their minuscule shops lined with everything clichély Egypt,
Busts of pharaohs and the sphinx, sandstone pyramids, perfume bottles and pipes, papyrus prints and scarf’s are the standard,
And if these don’t amuse you, anything you need, want or desire can be found at a price,

It truly is my favorite place in Cairo and it’s where my father and I spent our final hours in Egypt,
Hunting with my local friends for some final gifts for home.
It’s a nice change of pace from the hotel,
Albeit selfish, and consumer, it’s still spending time with my father,
Showing him the vastness of the Khan,
It’s worth it,

The transition from the Khan to the airport was less than seemless,
It was Egyptian,
Bartering for the price of a cab, having them try and raise the price when you reach your destination, argue for a bit, and then find out (after he’s left in a huff) that you’re at the wrong terminal…repeat process,

Next stop, Uganda,
Home away from home,
I can’t wait,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent

A New Cairo

The land of hot tea, crowded streets and fine fabrics,
Welcome once again to Egypt,

It’s timeless here,
While years pass, very little about this place changes,

The endless sound of horns still echo off the soaring concrete walls as traffic moves at death defying rates,
Nothing works when you need it to, yet a solution is always offered at a ‘fair price’
And a fine layer of sand and dust coats everything, after a few days here this includes the lungs,

I’ve never experienced Cairo this way before,
Staying downtown in a hotel,
It’s an Egypt removed, quantified.

Take in what you want, then retreat to the comforts of an air conditioned hotel room, relax for a few by the pool, before doing it all again.
I admit my life in Maadi was cushy, yet this takes it to a new level.
It’s easy to imagine how the Egypt experienced by the tourist and the Egypt experienced by those who live here are vastly different.

The perception of the hotel lobby, jammed with the high society Egyptians, smoking over priced shisha and sipping western tea is the most some people encounter before stepping on their tour bus and being whisked off the sights.

While I will be the first to admit there are some welcome changes with this Egypt (ie. the air conditioned room and the comfy bed), I miss the way things used to be,

Shisha down some dark back alley with shopkeepers and regulars,
Conversations about everything and nothing,
And believe it or not the frustration of shoulder to shoulder street traffic,

God keeps some fire inside my heart for Egypt and it mystifies me, yet I love it.
This love and hate relationship that Cairo and I share only grows deeper with every visit, impart due to some good friends.

Enter the Khan,
The narrow alley ways lined with shops, trinkets and crap that I so dearly love,
It’s where I’ve made some fast friends,
Granted the relationships were born out of them trying to swindle me and me trying to swindle them, however, thankfully they’ve grown into something deeper.

A phone called to one of these friends sparked a game of hide and go seek amidst the maze of back alleys before a reunion,
Timeless,

Just like old times I find myself sitting in a familiar shop, with good friends, sipping sweet hot tea and trying to convince some American tourist that they look great in some knock-off Ray-bans…it’s a beautiful thing.

Tonight is about catching up, introducing my father, and watching Africas final team fight for the chance at a World Cup win,

Football (soccer) truly has broken barriers within this little community of shop keepers and locals,
To see these men who typically spit on black Africans, now cheer for the Black Stars is remarkable.

Penalty shots has everyone in this little café on their feet,
A heartbreaking loss, God help the Uruguayan tourist around tonight.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Brent