This afternoon Janice, Jasmine and I arrived in Uganda. It was almost exactly 24 hours of travel, from leaving the Manse yesterday around lunchtime, to getting to our accomodation in Kampala.
I might be getting old but I found the journey a challenge. The claustrophobic nature of air travel. The five hours in Addis Ababa before the final flight to Entebbe. My body is all out of sorts. Then people chasing their own individualistic human rights against what I believe in more, the communal human right. Exhausted from a busier than busy June and year before it, I was a little frayed. That character that many love, Airport Steve, didn't appear but if he had...
Anyway we are here, being wonderfully welcomed already by the community that we have grown to love at Fields of Life. We got a walk around their brand new offices and hugged all that we knew and some we didn't yet. Ugandan women like to play games with me by completely changing their hair between my trips so that I get a little confused every time I walk in!
I bought a bag of Ethiopian coffee, in that Addis Ababa layover, and so in our cafetière travel mugs (thank you Christine Burnett) we have had a lovely coffee on the balcony of our apartment, a wee sleep and are now ready for whatever goes down.
We are looking forward to six weeks in Uganda. Our other daughter Caitlin will join us when a team of another 21 from Fitzroy join us for two weeks at the beginning of July. We will join that team as they go up north to our school, Onialeku Primary School, on the edge of Arua. After the team leaves Caitlin will remain. We miss her already!
If you are a Soul Surmise regular then you will know that Uganda has been prominent in our lives for some years. We have been there the past three summers and I was out again in January of this year. Our church formed a partnership with a school in Arua back in 2013. That partnership has been developing ever since. I was due a sabbatical. Presbyterian ministers are encouraged to take one every seven years and it has been thirteen since we had one in Vancouver. I never considered Uganda until my friend Grant Connor did a week of his sabbatical there last September. My mind started ticking.
What a great idea! My reasoning was layered. First, I wanted sabbatical space in a place I always feel refreshed. I also was aware that the big trips with my daughters were coming to an end. This was maybe the last chance of enjoying their company on sabbatical. My three women LOVE Uganda. It is where they are at their very fullest potential and joy. Watching them living 10:10 - life in all its fulness - maximises my own happiness and heals my soul. Let us go there.
There was also some work I wanted to do. I wanted to get more time in our school, to develop relationships, work out whether we are making a good contribution to the school’s long term sustainability. Relationships take a little time cross culturally. We have dear friends in Arua but our time to get to know each other has been limited. We think that more time to spend together will create trust and confidence for the partnership going forward.
Then… finally… out of the blue, the other piece of the sabbatical jig saw fell wonderfully in to place. Late one night on Facebook messenger Richard Spratt, the CEO of Fields of Life, appeared and asked me if I would consider helping Trevor Stevenson write his memoir. Trevor is the founder of Fields Of Life, the organisation we go to Uganda with.
I remember back in Arua in August 2015 at the opening of Onialeku Primary School wondering about the man who started God’s sequence of events that led us to this sacred place. Now I would get to hear the story first hand - all of it!
So, the main emphasis of my sabbatical will be reading Trevor’s story and shaping it into something that everyone of you will want to read. It is quite a story. In my time in Kampala I will be writing full time and even in Arua I hope to spend half my day in the school and the other half writing.
Many have asked as to whether this is a restful sabbatical. Well, as a youth I played golf, 36 holes a day. Today, I write! I love it and this sabbatical gives me space to write more than the 500 words per day of a blog. I am looking forward to its refreshment!
I will be using Soul Surmise as a diary, so if you are interested or intrigued, then watch this space!