Archives For Africa

Last January, I went to the other side of the world, to Uganda.

I think we all have a picture in our minds of what a place like Uganda is. The thing is that what I found was so much more than what I thought I would find.

Uganda was so much more poor than I ever imagined. When I say poor, I mean that thousands of people live in slums, collect their water from ditches, do not have basic sanitation. I mean that there are systemic problems that prevent people from just “pulling themselves up” by their bootstraps, the way we proud Americans think.

But Uganda is so much more than poverty. To see only poverty is to not see the people. Uganda is a beautiful place, far more beautiful than we imagine. It is a place that is rich in spirit, where people who have nothing believe that they are blessed. The people of Uganda believe they are blessed far more than you or I do. They are grateful. They are joyful. 

Uganda is everything. It is tragic and beautiful, a combination of despair and triumph.

Last week, I got some much needed good news. The infant rescue home that we worked to fund is finally complete! We have photographic proof. The furniture is being moved in as we speak and children will soon be rescued from poverty and certain death to begin a new life in a clean, safe, loving home.

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Just seeing those kids brings me back.

What’s more, the remaining rescue home is just about $13,000 away from reaching total funding! Just a few more bucks and the number of children rescued by this wonderful place can be doubled. How incredible is that?

If you can loosen a few coins from your pocket, you could assist World Help reach their goal and finish the final phase of the project.

It’s been a good week for me.

I worked hard at school, which was good.

I got revenge on a cocky high schooler.  Apparently, everyone thinks my reaction was appropriate, judging by the responses to this Facebook post.

And this photo here, one of my shots from Africa got liked a whole bunch.loveworld

Like, seven-thousand times.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a personal best for me…by about 6,910.

I don’t even remember if it’s actually my photo, since my shots got all mixed up with our real photographer’s shots.  But I added the words to it and posted it a few weeks ago.

And this week it got reposted. It always helps when you get a repost from an Instagram account with a couple hundred-thousand more followers than you.

And sure, the little surge of instant internet gratification felt good.

But I’ll tell you something…

I got another photo in the mail yesterday afternoon that blows that one away.

I sat down at my dining table, having tossed out all the junk mail.  I get a lot of junk and very little that is of value. I have to look carefully between the advertisements and the coupons to make sure I don’t toss anything important. And among all the trash, inside one precious envelope was this picture.

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This is Mugisha.  He is nine years old. He lives in Rwanda.  My wife and I just started sponsoring him through World Help.

I visited his school in January.  I have seen where he lives, where he collects his drinking water.

He likes playing games.  And playing songs.  He has talent for music.  And he doesn’t know about silly things like “Likes” and “Retweets” and getting a bunch of people to tap on a photo so a little heart pops up and makes you feel good.  Mugisha knows about important things, like Jesus.

Getting his photo in the mail blows away any little drip of instant gratification I may want.

Have a happy weekend, friends.

As bloggers, we make a hobby of telling people what we think.56 WH

It’s really a natural extension of my everyday life, I suppose. In school, we learned how to think about math or biology. In college, I learned how to think about design. In seminary, I learned how to think about the Bible.

And now I spend my days teaching my own students how to think. And you probably tell your own children what you think of their behavior or their grades or the mess they’ve made at least once a day. And if we run into a rude cashier at the store or an incompetent driver, we will probably tell them what we think of them, through words or gestures.

Yes, we believe that it is what we think that gives us identity. It is what we believe that gives us unity. It is a very “Descartes-ian” idea, that we think, and therefore we are.

Is it not funny that I had to go all the way to Africa to meet some other Americans who would prove to me that everything I have thought about thinking would be entirely wrong?

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Did you know that there are people who make a living by cuddling strangers?download

Yes, professional cuddlers.  People who snuggle with perfect strangers for money.  It’s like a massage or a therapy session.

Or maybe it’s like prostitution, except, you know…platonic.

Yes, I know this sounds almost unbelievable, but the Sunday Morning Show ran a story last weekend about just such a phenomenon.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.  You can check it out for yourself if you do not believe me.  People spend up to 120 dollars for an hour or so of snuggling.  It might start with a standing hug.  Then a hug lingers into an embrace.  Then it moves to the couch or a bed.  But nothing sexual.  Just prolonged human touch.  Even Mo Rocca who was doing the report seemed incredulous.

And by the laws of supply and demand, since there is a supply of professional cuddlers, then there is some contingent of customers demanding professional cuddling.

And on this day, just before the national celebration of love, what does it say about us that professional snuggling is a thing in today’s America?

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I have not seen that much of the world.

I would not consider myself a world traveler by any stretch of the imagination.

But something occurred to me last week somewhere between Uganda and Rwanda.

I imagine that one of the perks of being an omnipresent God is that He gets to enjoy everything all the time.  God is enjoying every sunset and sunrise (and isn’t the sun always rising and setting?)  He enjoys every mountain, tree, and snowflake.  God sees every crying baby, every couple in love, every tear that falls from every face.  He sees the pain.  He sees the beauty.

And I suppose it is this ability to see everything that must fill God’s heart with such immense love for the world.  How could He not see all of these things all swirled together and feel ambivalent about it?

As I took tiny glimpses of places and people I had never seen, I started to feel more love, more compassion for these people than I had when they were just abstract shapes in my mind.  I always knew there were hungry children in Africa.  I knew there were slums.  But seeing with my own eyes seemed to increase my ability to feel compassion for people.

That’s pretty important for us Americans, who build tall fences and are obsessed with privacy from our neighbors.  We bury our faces in our phones to avoid eye contact with our neighbors.  And maybe it is taking a toll on how we feel about the world, our neighbors.

With God, love is inevitable.  With us, it is not.  We certainly can ignore the world.  We can fear the world.  We can condemn the world.  But then, we are the ones who are poorer for it.

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I hope if you have the opportunity to see some part of the world, you will allow your heart to love the world a bit more.

And I resolve to love the people I see every day as much as those faraway neighbors.

If you have been following our efforts in Uganda, you know about our infant rescue centers.  If you have not already, please consider contributing to phase two of this extremely important ministry to Uganda’s abandoned children.

You know, poverty is not a new topic of discussion.DSC_2574

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us.  I’m not sure if he was just stating the facts or if he was making a subtle condemnation, but either way, he has been right so far.

And poverty is almost a daily point of discussion in American culture and politics.  Poverty touches every area of American life, from education to insurance to public health.  Every politician wants to talk about the poor.  Every talking head on TV wants to talk about the poor.

And most of us, myself included, have made our own set of assumptions about what causes poverty.

In short, many of us believe (even if we do not say it quite this way) that poverty is a character flaw.

And what is so stunning to me is the discovery that every assumption I have about poverty at home does not apply in these far away places.

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