“They don’t need us”

It’s only 13 days until I go to an airport with passport in tow with the ultimate destination of Uganda!  I feel both so ready and also so unprepared.  So many things I still have to do before going:

  • study/practice my lessons more
  • make a Bible character costume
  • buy some more last-minute supplies
  • get my plants into my garden (now that it’s not SNOWING…)
  • find someone to water my garden
  • get an oil change
  • pack

…plus go through all of the fun activities I have scheduled between now and then:

  • hike Pikes Peak
  • host an ice cream social at church
  • bid my senior students farewell at youth group
  • attend graduation parties
  • race a 5K fundraiser
  • run the Bolder Boulder
  • Boulder Creek Festival

All in thirteen days!!!  I get overwhelmed if I think about it all too much…

But that’s not the subject of this post.

At our first team meeting for Musana, when we were all still reeling from the honor of being chosen and trying to think about logistics like planning and packing and fundraising all while meeting our new teammates and starting to learn about Flatirons’ philosophy of missions, one of my teammates spoke up and asked a question.  It was when we were talking about fundraising and how to approach people and tell them about what we’re going to be doing on this trip.

“Why do they need us?”

There was a very brief pause before one of our team leaders answered.  “They don’t.”

At least not in the traditional way that people have thought of doing missions.

This trip isn’t about us going to help poor Africans.  They’re actually doing pretty fine on their own.  Their lives aren’t perfect – but neither are ours.

But there IS something that they need.  It’s something that we ALL need.  We need community.  We need connection.  We need friendship.  This trip is about learning from each other.  Being present in each other’s lives.

I think of the Jewish custom of sitting shiva in which people gather to mourn after a death.  Wikipedia says, “It is considered a great mitzvah of kindness and compassion to pay a shiva call to the mourners… Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and visitors wait for the mourners to initiate conversation, or remain silent if the mourners do not do so, out of respect for their bereavement.”  I feel like in my culture people aren’t comfortable with silence.  But we can communicate respect and love for others regardless of if we even speak the same language or even speak at all, just by being present.

I know, it’s not as glamourous or concrete as telling someone that you’re going to Africa to build something.  But ultimately it’s the most important thing that we can do – whether cross-culturally or across-the-coffee-shop.

Flatirons Community Church has worked for years to build a relationship with Musana.  And the only reason we’re even invited to go and help with this program is because of that friendship.  Last summer during some of the free time, a member of the team started talking with one of the teachers about sounding out words and their syllables.  Completely new information!  The teacher started crying, saying that this would revolutionize how they taught.  Rather than rote memorization of words, students would be able to learn how to sound them out in learning to read.  As a result, later this summer another team made up of teachers is going to Musana with the simple purpose of teaching the teachers phonics.

I think that’s an incredible story of God using one small conversation.  Sharing time and sharing life in a social context resulted in an unforeseeable opportunity to learn from each other.

At our last team training, we all wrote down the thing that we were most excited about for this trip.  Unsurprisingly, more than half of the people wrote down that they were excited about the kids – playing with them, hugging them, laughing and dancing with them.  I’m excited for that as well, but I wrote down something different.

I’m looking forward to learning from them.  Experiencing their culture.  Seeing how they live.  Seeing how they worship God.  Seeing the things that give them joy. 

I may not publish another blog post before I go, but I’m going to write some in advance to auto-publish while I’m there about what we’re doing, what stories I’ll be teaching (or helping teach), and what God’s been teaching me or that I hope to learn.

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