As we get priested a week today (yikes!) I decided that the only book I would bring with me to Uganda was my Bible, with the additional benefit that I could keep the weight of my luggage to a minimum!
So when I had an early night when we arrived in Luwero, I flicked open the pink leather book and decided to start at the very beginning. For some reason, the ‘doing words’ were jumping out at me and so I wrote every verb in the margin down the side, paying special attention to what God does in Genesis 1-3.
The next day it became very clear why we are here. We are here to do. And that is what is making this trip unique. See, when I went to Burundi we were developing a diocese (English county) to province (an larger area made up of several dioceses) link. So the geographical area and number of churches and projects to be covered on such a trip was huge. Even when the Burundi team of 11 split into 3 to visit the whole province between us, we still didn’t have time to get stuck in doing stuff. We made friends, sat with people where they were and gave a lot of support but we didn’t do much painting, building, fixing or making.
We would often turn up at projects, hear how they started, look at how far they had come, hear the challenges they faced, listen to their dreams for the future, and pray for them. It was wonderful, very informative and I think we all benefited from it, but this trip is very different.
At this project, we have heard how Rev Sheilagh from England has helped create the women’s project, and how lives have been transformed by someone helping them work out how to make money, little by little. We have seen the beautiful crafts like bags, pencil cases, rugs and bracelets they make to sell. And as a result, some of these women have been able to pay school fees which they couldn’t have done before. And at the school we have seen what they do and the environment they are in, and what they would like in the future. And this time, as well as praying, we have been able to practically help make some of those changes.
As a team, we’ve decorated classrooms that really needed some TLC and we’ve fixed desks and chairs. We’ve been re-building doorways, teaching the ladies new skills to expand their businesses, and we’ve repainted the play equipment. We’ve made and painted bookshelves for each classroom as well as taking lessons and trying to get the people to think about their dreams and the small steps they can take to get there. And on top of that we’ve been trying to get to know the kids, the ladies in the project and the people of the village.
In the doing, we end up tired and covered in paint. Some of us have different ideas about how stuff should be done. We realise how lucky we are to have so much at our fingertips at home. We get to give to the people in a practical and physically demanding way, and we show we care by being here and helping them improve their surroundings.
It is most definitely a different kind of trip. But I think God prepared me for it well when I was reading through those opening chapters of Genesis at the beginning of the trip. God does. He does stuff, he makes stuff happen, he is an active God. He is active in us (even if we don’t like it!) and he is active in the world. And this trip, I think the group is called to do. Not in such a way that dominates or imposes, nor in such a way which prevents people from working hard themselves. But in such a way which helps, inspires and makes a difference in all our lives. I very much hope that when we leave, we will see the shoots of a relationship which spans across the world, based on friendship, mutual support and the shared love of a Lord who did stuff at the beginning of time, who came to the world to be with us, who does stuff now and will continue to be at work in the world even until the end of the age.