So these next few blog postings will be outdated, because I was just able to get internet connection (from a coffee shop about 10km away from my current house). I will post them each individually, but you can see them all here as well.
Small Acts of Love and Defiance
January 20, 2016
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the waters,
Wherever You have called me,
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger,
In the presence of my Saviour"
These are very dangerous words to speak. And yet I find these are the words of my heart every day here in Kampala; to be led into the unknown by the Spirit who understands it all. They are dangerous words because when you finally let yourself surrender to Jesus, (and again and again and again we surrender), He takes us outside of our comfort zone, into a place where we have no choice BUT to trust Him for everything. And although this is a terrifying concept to, in some ways, every single person on this planet, relinquishing OUR control for HIS guidance, I see again and again how faithful Jesus really is.
I have been here for almost three weeks now, finally settling into a rhythm of the hustle and bustle of this chaotic city that I love. Last week I began my public art project in the slum of Kivulu (chi-vulu) near Makerere University in Kampala. I'm not going to lie. I was scared out of my mind at the magnitude of this project. It's one thing to have an idea for a project, it's a very different thing to actually see that the project happens. This is especially daunting when you are the one in charge of every detail and decision there is to make.
The organization I am working alongside with in Kivulu is called Hope Street Uganda. It has been running in this slum for three years now, and meets three times a week in this slum, along with having a boys home for youth trying to transition out of the slum and go to school. This organization is made up of all-male staff, all of whom used to be on the street at one point in their lives. I cannot speak highly enough of these men. They have already been a blessing to me even in the short two weeks I have known them. Both the uncles at Hope Street and the 100 boys involved in the program have been extremely excited to be taught art and also to participate in the making of the art. There have also been an additional 30-50 children, boys and girls, within the slum of Kivulu who have been participating as well, because a little chaos is good, right?
This week Monday and Wednesday have been full of excitement, good and bad. On Monday, a ugandan man in his 60s came up to me while we were working on the mural and said hello, then proceeded to tell me that he had been in the ugandan army for 30 years and that these boys, (street kids in general), were bad and needed to be taught how to behave better. He said that they were little more than garbage, and didn't agree that they should be the ones to paint these murals because they didn't deserve it.
Well, I'm not going to lie. What this man said made me mad. It also shocked me that he came up to me, the only white person standing there, instead of going to any of the six uncles also standing around. He spoke about these boys to me as if they weren't present -in fact they were standing five feet from me and understood his english perfectly fine. That was my first encounter with anyone saying things like that and it gave me a new realization for just how important these public art projects are to those involved. To talk about or hear about how these boys are mistreated or judged immediately just based off of their appearances is one thing, but to actually witness the abuse is quite another. It gave me a new and deeper understanding of just what Jesus meant when He told us to "care for widows and orphans" and to stand with those who are oppressed.
Sometimes all a person needs to have dignity restored is to have someone stand alongside them and walk next to them. Yes, culturally they may all be cast as the "dirty, rude, thief of a street kid", but that is not their story, and every person, no matter their circumstances, deserves recognition of their value and worth.
Yesterday, Wednesday, I saw something I will never forget. We had just started program when a boy came sprinting out of the slum, shirt torn almost off his body. We heard shouting coming from behind the building, and suddenly eight grown men, mechanics, came out carrying large sticks and metal pipes, shouting at this boy in Luganda. Then things started unravelling. Some of the mothers from the slum shouted at the men, the men shouted back, and the uncles from Hope Street sprang up from the grass where they were sitting and ran over to intervene. This went on for ten minutes, dissipating just before I thought a fight may erupt.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with these men coming back and forth, complaining in Luganda about something I wasn't made privy to until much later in the day. You see, earlier that morning a different group had been meeting, and had sent a soccer ball flying over the fence and down into the mechanic's shop. When they went to retrieve it, the kids who were there started fighting with the mechanics, and stole their phones before running away. When Hope Street arrived, the child who had been beaten up and chased from down in the slum was one of the boys from the program, not one who had been a part of the stealing, but just around the vicinity of the shop. The mechanics tried to kill him, and would have succeeded had the uncles from Hope Street not stepped in to calm the situation down and do a little rough justice to get the men to not hurt this boy.
Yesterday I realized just how untamed this place I work is. No, at no point did I feel in danger or that my life was at risk, but I am definitely not "safe" and "comfortable". But I don't think being obedient to God ever is. Once you say "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You have called me", your life is no longer your own, but His. And yes, some days I wish I could be comfortable, but I think there is far more danger in that than there is in the untamed life that obedience can bring.
I am living life alongside youth who may not even eat one meal a day, who are constantly beat up and stolen from and sleep under the elements at night. They are told by most that they are worthless, and futureless. But the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Teaching art, encouraging their talent, laughing at their silliness and challenging them to live better is serving. I see Jesus in these small acts of love and defiance that I take part in every day. I see Jesus in these faces, and I see His goodness and faithfulness and mercy in every testimony I hear from them.
"Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour"