Wait… whose baby is this?

I can’t believe I’ve already been in Africa for two weeks! The time has flown by so quickly. There have been moments where I have felt very much at home and others where I have felt so out of place.

Last week  I was in Uganda for four days with a team that consisted of me and four men. We were there to lead discipleship training, and when we left for Uganda we were under the assumption that we would be training two groups of around 100 pastors each. In reality, our time was very different from what we expected it to be. (Which is actually to be expected on these sorts of trips.) During the trip there were so many moments where everything was completely out of my control and I just had to trust that God would come through.

A few things about me that will help you better understand how I was feeling through this trip:
1) I’m introverted. I need alone time to recharge and to feel like a human being.
2) I thrive in structured environments. I like routine and organization.
3) Time management is one of my strengths, and I love schedules. I had to schedule my life down to the minute in college because of juggling so many obligations, but it all worked out fine.

When we left for the trip we weren’t sure if I would actually end up presenting any of the the material, or if I would just observe and learn from the other presenters. I ended up training with two of the other members in our team at a school about an hour to an hour and a half from where we were staying. We had to adjust our teaching plans on the fly because we got to the school four hours later than we had planned, and because we were addressing a much different audience than we anticipated. Also, I had food poisoning, and the restrooms at the school were outhouses with holes in the ground. (I’m usually pretty okay with this kind of set up because of how much my family has camped and other travel experiences, but in this moment I was miserable.)

I don’t really get cranky very often, but when I do I hate it. I don’t know I just really yearn to be in a pleasant mood and I get like pretty angry (at myself?) when I’m not. And as you can imagine in that moment I was not in a great mood because I HATE feeling sick or weak.

But God was so very faithful to give me the strength I needed. Some people took me to a clinic. I got some antibiotics, and made it back to the school in time to present on “Intimacy with Christ” to about 200 students. I was fine while I was speaking, and then after I was done I felt sick again.

I’m so glad that I got to present to students because: A) I just finished school so I still feel more like a student than a working adult. B) Historically, God has used young people in great movements of the Gospel. C) I probably would have been really intimidated teaching a room full of pastors.

Thankfully, the next day I was feeling a lot better. The team and I continued the training, and I taught on church and how it can actually be much more simple to plant a church than we think it is when we model our churches after the Bible and not tradition. I had fun empowering the students to go out into the community and be church planters.

On Sunday I preached at a church that the school where we taught was planting in a nearby village. It was the opening service of the church and my team came later (after they all preached at different churches) to participate in more opening festivities.

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Originally, when I found out that I was being asked to preach I was really anxious about it. It was outside my comfort zone because I come from a more conservative church background where women don’t preach. When I got there I wasn’t actually too nervous, but I had no idea what was going on for most of the time. At one point one of the children who was about three or four came up to me and handed me a baby.  I had no idea whose baby it was, and because the baby wasn’t wearing a diaper I feared that he would pee on me.  After a long time of holding the baby I got the attention of one of the leaders and someone took the baby and handed it to a child who was probably around nine.  I was in the church for about four and a half hours generally confused before one of my teammates came and rescued me from the hot brick building so I could rest a bit before the church opening later in the afternoon.

After lunch we participated in the church opening which consisted of more singing, dancing, lip synching and *worship gymnastics.  Each member of the team also got up and shared briefly about discipleship and church planting. Finally, a young family came up to the stage with a baby.  One of my teammates whispered that the team had voted and that I would do the baby dedication.  Not two seconds later, they asked for one of us to come to the stage to dedicate the baby.  So I jumped up and  prayed for the baby and the family(definitely not something I thought was going to happen that day).  When I came back to my seat my teammate informed me that he had been joking about everyone saying that  I should do the baby dedication but that I got up too quickly for him to say it was fine if I didn’t want to do it.

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All in all, I feel like the a theme of the trip was being totally unable to control anything and needing to allow Jesus to direct every step.  It was a blessing to be stretched in my trust of God, and to expand my comfort zone.

 

*I had three experiences with worship gymnastics while I was in Uganda and could probably devote an entire post to just that but let me just say it was pretty uncomfortable to watch. For example, one of the guys put both of his legs behind his head and rubbed his butt. You can see a time lapse video one of my teammates took here:

Ready, Set, Gogh.

It takes multiple long flights to get to Kenya, so I decided to fly through Amsterdam and give myself a layover there to explore the city because I had never been there before.  I’m flying standby for this whole trip and getting out of New York City was pretty stressful. When I got to the airport the customer service agent told me that my chances of making it to Amsterdam weren’t good.  (Some other travelers had already been trying for two days to get there without any luck.)  After not making it on the first flight, I booked a ticket through Dubai just in case I wasn’t able to make the next flight either.  I ended up getting the last seat on the last flight of the day going to Amsterdam, and I was filled with relief when I boarded the plane.

My short visit in Amsterdam was fun (good introvert time) even though it was rainy and cold.  I got to accomplish my primary objective while I was there, which was going to the Van Gogh museum (I realize that this is probably the average 22 year old’s objective while in Amsterdam but I majored in Art History so yeah…) I almost got run over by several different kinds of vehicles, but the most interesting was a street cleaner that was up on the sidewalk.

I wasn’t planning on going into the Red Light District at all, but it I ended up walking through it accidentally when walking from the train to my hostel (picture tiny streets, cobblestones, me pulling my luggage while being vaguely aware of where I need to go but not entirely sure, and almost being run over by a bike or moped every few minutes).  Suddenly, I was walking past a brothel that had women standing in the windows.  The image of women standing there selling their bodies has remained with me and has made me really sad whenever it comes to mind.    Knowing what God’s plan is for sex, and seeing it being distorted into an economic transaction broke my heart.

On a lighter note,  the Van Gogh museum was great, and I loved walking around and seeing all of the picturesque canals.  I ate dinner in a cute little cafe and spent the evening back in the hostel completely exhausted from traveling and walking around so much during the day.

In the morning I went to the airport and the flight to Nairobi was fairly open so I didn’t have any problem getting a seat.  I sat by a Kenyan marathon runner which was pretty awesome.  After making it through customs, I met the cab that was waiting for me to take me to the house where I am staying.  On the ride we passed a heard of zebras so that was really really cool.

The past few days I have been getting oriented to life here, meeting people I’m going to be working with, and visiting the neighborhood that I want to work in.  We had a house church where I’m staying on Wednesday night and I really enjoyed that time of fellowship and community.  I also went on a retreat yesterday where we got to spend some really intentional time with the Lord.  During the retreat, God brought up areas in my heart where I haven’t been trusting him and invited me into a deeper knowledge of his goodness.  I also felt God saying that he was going to do something new in my life during this trip so I am excited to see what that will be, and what other lessons he has to teach me while I’m here.

-Hannah