I’ve been back in the country for two months now and what a two months it’s been! I’ve made some big decisions. In a nutshell, I’ve pressed pause on ordination training, had an amazing opportunity to work with students who are below their levels and also worked on DoubleMe, building team and working on what that future looks like. I have met with great people who have encouraged me, held the team debrief from the 2014 team, started to organise shipping of equipment, interacted with international organisations with favourable results, spoken at a conference for head teachers and in two assemblies with around 500 students in each. My ‘day off’ has become my busiest day of the week.
To say there have been uncertainties would be an enormous understatement. Living in the midst of uncertainty is a place of confusion, frustration and growth. The implications of every step need to be considered, not in an egotistical way but in a red-pill, blue-pill where-will-this-path-take-me kind of way. People have been a combination of supportive, cynical, understanding and flippant. I am learning, for as many people you talk to, you will have as many different prescriptions of advice and expectations. So, choose your confidents carefully; I am learning. I need a circle of people I trust. People who are going to cheer me and warn me and who have my very best interests at heart. I am learning. I need people. You do too.
My thoughts have been very busy over the past few weeks as I prepare to live in Uganda for a couple of months. Flights, packing, accommodation, job-descriptions, headteachers’ priorities, partners, mosquitos. For the past few days though, I keep thinking about our team debrief which was held in a little church near Derby. We drank copious amounts of tea and coffee, small-talked about journeys, weather and work-load in a very British fashion. We talked practicalities, things to remember next time and what the future means for us now. How does what we’ve experienced and learnt inform our future choices? What did we come back knowing that we went unaware of? What’s the impact on our lives now? We talked about fundraising, sharing ideas, connecting schools but what’s been in my mind is four stories of powerful personal transformation.
Whilst we were at Wellspring, I was asked to preach and I talked about fellowship, about how we’re all broken and hurting and how we’re never going to be perfect. The good news though is that in Isaiah 61, I think God’s whispering to us ‘You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to do it!’ When I read the passage, which is all about when you feed the hungry and get on with it, then your healing will quickly appear. Do this, then this will happen. Do this, expect that. Sometimes we wait to be a certain age, for a certain someone, for a certain role or opportunity. No. Not so. Do this, then that will happen. Carry on regardless of the un-certain-ties. Press on. Feed the hungry. Move on. Clothe the poor. Keep on. Focus on others’ needs. Engage with those who need you. Be present. Bless them. Then, your healing will quickly appear. Do you see it? I’m learning.
I’ve seen this in the past ten days. These four incredible women spoke up about their journey of doing this, then that happened. One of the team spoke about a personal struggle she’d wrestled with for as long as she can remember about never feeling part of something. She’s been part of something amazing and she’s gained many friends along the way. She talked about the beauty of feeling acceptance for the first time. Someone else struggled with health and wondering if, whilst on the trip, when out of her comfort zone, her coping strategies would work. If she’d be ok? If she’d have a melt-down? She kept waiting for it to happen and it didn’t. She came home with a renewed sense of being better and has tentatively told her nearest and dearest. Living life a little more whole than when she left. In teacher-talk, I believe her progress has been measured! Another woman threw herself whole-heartedly into the trip and although battling with feelings of insecurity, she pursued her work with enthusiasm and effort. No one would know what was going on with her if she hadn’t shared. On the last day, we talked and she expressed how she was feeling like she hadn’t made a difference. My heart leapt for her when, at the presentations later she was mentioned by name for her input and the impact she had made. In that second, her value was recognised and a conclusion had been reached on her worth and how appreciated she is. Another teacher who came on the trip had lost her dad earlier in the year. She was grieving from an abrupt loss and showed such courage by coming on the trip. At the debrief she explained that for the past year she’d focused on what she’d lost but now, she’s able to see what she’s gained. Before she could only see what had been taken and now she sees what she’s been given.
The irony is that, we went to help and serve others. We went to use our skills and make a difference. The main difference has been in our hearts. As we journey, “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly” as is says in Micah in the Bible we see transformation everywhere. Around us, in the people we work with but most of all in our hearts. What I love most of all too, is that these moments of lasting change happened when we were busy with concerns of others. We’d ‘spend ourselves’ on others and then find ourselves surprised that something had also changed for us. Something beautiful and lasting; whilst we busied ourselves with this and that.