As I cleaned up the dinner plates this evening, I was overwhelmed with a familiar longing. I wanted to be with my friends in Adacar, Uganda. Carrying stacks of my own bright orange ceramic plates, my mind flashed to stacks of bright blue and green plastic bowls, and I missed my friends.
This summer I am not leading a team to Adacar. I felt last summer that God was raising up a new trip leader for 2013 and I was staying home. It’s good, and healthy, and I’m thrilled for the new leader and team. I have no mission there this year. But I have friends there, and I miss them.
I find myself wanting to be with people, not accomplish projects. I want to sit and smile and work out my broken Ateso, not solve problems. What started as a mission has grown into so much more.
The give and take of a relationship.
I learn so much from my Ugandan friends, so much more than I teach. I have nothing to offer but hugs. I wish I could pop over this weekend, eat chapatti and groundnuts, and feel the acceptance of Ugandan Jesus-friends. The kind of love that crosses borders and oceans and knits hearts and twinkles eyes and bubbles laughter.
I wish I could hop back on a motorcycle and take off with braids flying.
I want to hold a squawking chicken by its feet and have kids laugh at me and show me what to do. I want to talk test scores and exams and CarePoint news and not just read about it but see it, feel it, touch it because I’m there.
I want to be boring and hang out and pray and hold hands while we walk. I want to sing loudly and let tears stream down my face because God is close and I can feel His heartbeat.
I miss my friends. I don’t need a mission trip, but I do need these relationships that are so dear to me.
During my three years of love and work with Adacar, I have discovered a beautiful truth. It’s all about relationship. Our relationship with Jesus, our relationship with each other. Healing happens through relationship. Through buildings built in relationship. Through meals prepared in relationship. Through lessons learned in relationship. We are friends, and we are growing together. Two communities partnered together, one big family in Christ.
What a blessing and privilege to form friendships across cultures! My favorite memory from my last trip wasn’t when all the children and grownups had eye exams and many received glasses and saw clearly for the first time. It wasn’t seeing the sixty pregnant women hear their babies’ heartbeats during prenatal exams and listen as the midwives learned from each other. It wasn’t seeing hundreds of children with full bowls and full bellies. All of those moments are treasured memories, along with sitting in on the discipleship time with the teenagers, special time with my sponsored children, praying, singing, and dancing, and watching as God rained down 300 Bibles into the hands of eager kids (not literal rain – that would hurt). No, all those moments were incredible, but if I had to pick just one, I’d pick the Unexpected Chapatti.
Where were our translators? The eye clinic and come to a standstill without anyone to translate, and I set off to hunt them down and get them back in the game. I found them in the CarePoint office, eating chapatti with Matilda and Christine, the caretaker and the head cook. They explained that Matilda had made the chapatti as a gift to them, and then they invited me to sit down. This opportunity…to ditch my task-oriented American ways and place relationship carefully in front. I was delighted. I sat down on the concrete floor, tucked my legs underneath my skirt, and accepted the chapatti handed to me. It was perfect. Warm, soft, and with the perfect hint of salt and oil. The work faded for a moment, and I relished the hospitality and friendship of these two women, along with the two men from HopeChest Uganda, who work so hard and love the children so much.
I love the work, I love the mission, but more than that, I love the friends that I’ve made. I miss them. I also know that God will bring me back to them, in His timing, in His way. I’m practicing patience, and I need a lot of practice!
For those of you who have been on mission trips, what are some of your favorite moments? What or who do you miss? How were you surprised by unexpected moments on the trip?