Our family were heartbroken today. We suddenly became aware that our dear friend Alice had passed away and was being buried as we got the news.
Alice was a beautiful woman. She was a gentle human being, compassionate of heart and determined of soul. Growing up on the edge of Arua in the north west edge of Uganda she needed to be resilient and resourceful to make her way in a tough world.
Making your way in the world where Alice lived is not about wealth or power or decadent living. It is not about a big house. It is not about holidays, never mind holidays in other countries or skiing. It is not about a car. It is not about savings or pensions.
For Alice it was making her mark in her community and her family. We met Alice in 2015 when a Fitzroy Youth team travelled to Onialeku Nursery and Primary School in Arua. Fitzroy had funded a new building for the Primary School. We went to be at the Opening.
Alice was the School Principal. A local Elim church Bishop Isaac felt God ask him to give the children in the area an education. Alice was his right hand woman. She had worked with him to fill the first classrooms with children and develop the school.
Alice had good English. She had a gentle strength that allowed her to have good relationships with children, parents and teachers. She knew the entire school community. There were few resources, just imagination, ingenuity and steely determination.
As we look back today in order to celebrate Alice’s life and shed more than a few tears we realise how shy and humble she was. She wasn’t in as many photos as others. She was content to not to take any glory. She was content with the lot that life had given her but she was not content to give up on the development of her community. There was a Jesus-ness about her lack of desire for position but desire to serve.
Alice was a mother. In Uganda that usually means that you care for more children than you give birth to. Alice had taken in a brother’s children. Again resources were limited. Leisure was a crazy wasteful dream. Alice got her life satisfaction in serving her family, church and community, not in hobbies or holidays. Even when Janice did knitting classes. That was not just for leisure or chat. This was another potential resource to help get through life.
One of the reasons that I encouraged Fitzroy to partner in the way we do with Onialeku through Fields Of Life was in order that we might share the pain of our partnering community. It is easy to throw thousands of pounds to charities. It can be quite comfortable mission work.
Today is anything but. Today is deep grief. Today is yearning prayer to God for the school that will find it hard to replace Alice, now Deputy Head of the Primary School and head of the Nursery. Today we are on our knees for her children and family who have lost the engine and the earner.
Partnerships are all about this mutual pain. Sharing in the unique issues that both partnering organisations go through. Praying. Supporting. This is all a vital part of the deal. It is the world church together sharing mutual wealth and poverty.
So tonight we ache. BUT…
I am also marvelling at an inspirational life. Alice’s battling with all the hurdles that living in West Nile, Uganda brings embarrasses my soft decadent western living. The sacred act of remembering Alice’s life has made me asking what are the values that I am living for, the commitment I have to my family, church and community. I look at Alice’s ambitions and the day to day ways she had faith and followed Jesus and I am weighing my own life in the balances and finding myself wanting.
Thank you Munduru Alice. You were a wonderful friend to Janice. You were one of the most beautiful human beings I ever had the pleasure to be around. I will miss you the next time the bus arrives in the Onialeku playground… over there in the distance, smiling across the heads of the children, quietly with an inner thrilling joy… you and Janice then chittering and giggling under the avocado tree. We will ever remember you. Thank you for what you did for your community and for Fitzroy’s and thank God for bringing our lives tougher.