As many of you know, our close friend, colleague, and UAPO Founder Brittany Merill is in Uganda right now. She sent an email yesterday that read like a stream of consciouness journal entry and I had to share it. This is such a beautiful sentiment on life and makes me long for Africa! Thanks, Britt.
We are winding through the green hills of southwestern Uganda in a race to reach the city by nightfall. Our car teeters on a steep ridge allowing short glimpses of villages buried in the handprints of small mountains. The hazy orange sun flights to prove his colors stretch across the sky. Rolling farms resemble a tapestry of colored strands with blue sky and brown straw huts. Smells of fresh fruit, clean air, and raw earth fill our car as it plunges deep into a valley decorated with miles of banana plantations. As the sun flights to find us, branches of banana tress turn electric green with its light. It is a sight that can only be properly voiced by Hemmingway and Churchill.
As I flight to get the windows down, I notice scratches covering the palms of my hands down to my knees. Wonderful battle wounds from a weekend spent exploring unturned rocks, waterfalls, and watering holes of the Nile. In a weekend romp, we played under a tapestry of stars, slept in bandas, ate roasted pig, and read under Jackurunda trees. It was if we had landed in a deserted jungle that beckoned us to discover its secrets.
Cool air rushes through the banana plantations, wisps strands of hair across my face, and makes it way into my heart. It whispers beautiful things and fills my spirit with hope. It took leaving the city to remind me of the intoxicating beauty of Africa.
At the same moment U2 sings, “grace finds beauty in everything.” Beauty in the struggle and beauty in the triumph… in the difficulty and the purpose… in spectacular scenery and even in refugee camps.
I feel an incredible range of emotions when I am in Uganda. Exhausted but filled. Frustrated but exhilarated. Lonely but loved. I have learned that whatever emotions may exist- I always feel deeply human and alive. I am reminded that with all the difficulties that come with my work, I am living a grand adventure… and most importantly, I am living.
I have followed my dreams, taken risks, lived boldly, failed miserably, cried, laughed, and loved deeply. I have experienced the touch of the divine, shared food with orphans, danced with widows, and seen beauty unspeakable. I have fought for justice, felt defeated, tired, and frustrated. I have also felt rare joy, witnessed answered prayers, achieved the impossible, and watched love change my heart.
I think about the rest of my life… How many hours do I have left? What will they bring? How will I use them?
“God grant me the courage to change the things I can…”
Today we leave for the refugee camps in Northern Uganda. Once again I feel totally incapable and even lack the desire to go. How will we bring hope to such a dark place? What dangers await us? Do we have the ability to transform a refugee community? How will I stay there for five days? And then I hear the words that have spoken so clearly to my heart over the last five years and given me the audacity for such tasks. “I will always go where you go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places- firm muscles, strong bones. You will be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” -Isaiah 58
Fear is normal and can be overcome. The most important things in life cause us to risk humiliation and failure. Have the courage to live. To love. To pray. It is in these things, however difficult the journey may be to find them, that we experience life… and life was designed to be lived.
“In different times and different ways, our heavenly father offers us a simple proposition; Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd- and you will experience me and my power and my wisdom and my love.” – Garry A. Haugen, CEO International Justice Mission
This journey has taught me to live deeply… from my heart, my mind, my body, and my spirit. If I believe, I will always find my way.
Grace finds beauty in everything because God is a part of it all and has the ability to restore the darkest of places and even the darkest of hearts.
My prayer is to restore beauty and hope to a war-zone. It is a lofty goal but I have to believe that with grace it is possible. If he can change a heart like mine- how much more difficult will it be to transform a small community?
But even if we fail, I have been reminded that grace and beauty can truly be found in any corner of the word and in the crevasses of the heart.
Hold me in your hearts the next several days…