A guy named Papa Moose, working at an orphanage, with children of different race, in a place of civil unrest, and a threat of yellow fever. Sound familiar? No, not Crystal City this time.
I'm going on a two-week mission to Uganda.
I've never really been on a "mission." The closest I've come to that was one Saturday, when the youth group from my church (well, one of my churches at the time) took a bus down to Tijuana. We were in San Diego, so it wasn't far. We took clothes and food to give to people who were living in a dump. We probably brought Bibles, too, but to be honest I can't quite remember. If we did, they were likely in Spanish, and so they were handed out by people who spoke Spanish.
My clearest memory from that trip was that one of the people living there, when offered some clothes, pointed to the jeans my friend Ken was wearing. Ken went into the back of the bus and changed into a pair of shorts from the giveaway pile, and gave the guy his jeans. I haven't seen Ken since my wedding day, but I've conversed with him via e-mail a few times after he re-found me after we lost touch -- through Hatrack, as it turns out. Remembering my confirmation name, he googled me, and Hatrack had my full name in a thread (of Telperion's, as I recall).
Yes, there's the school of thought that "wherever you are is a mission field," but this is different. There are also people who tell me that my time working at a Christian summer camp was a sort of mission, and I guess it is, of a sort. But again, this is different.
Why am I going? To be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure. From the time it was brought up one Sunday at church, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I suppose I'd have to say I "felt led" to go, though again I don't have a logical reason why. I tend to be more of a "baby steps" kind of guy, and it would normally take a lot of baby steps to get to Uganda.
What am I gonna do there? I don't exactly know. I'll be working, but it could be something as simple as hauling water for all I know. I doubt it, but it's not impossible. Maybe I'll help put a new roof on a leaky house. Maybe I'll help dig a pit latrine. Maybe I'll teach a crash course in English. Maybe I'll preach from a pulpit. I really don't know. In one of OSC's essays in A Storyteller in Zion, a question is posed (in Zion): "Hi, nice to meet you, what do you do?" And the answer he suggests is this: "I do everything I'm asked to do, and able to do, and righteously desire to do." That's what I'm gonna do there.
If that's all that needs to be done, why spend a couple thousand to fly me there to do it? Fair question. Tough question. One I've asked myself a number of times.
That's where faith comes in, I suppose. I trust that either there will be something needing to be done that only I can do or that I can do better than anyone there, or maybe that I'm the one who will be served by doing whatever it is that I'm directed to do. More likely the latter, but I think God is a good multitasker and can do both of those (and more) in a two-week timeframe.
Honestly, I expect to be far more changed by this experience than anyone I might meet there will be. I hope that I might have some positive effect on others while I'm there. But I'm really trying to go into this without specific expectations, because I find those expectations usually to be pretty far off the mark. Not to say the expectations are too high, but rather more likely misdirected. I've never yet felt let down.
Maybe I'll hit 6,000 posts shortly after my return, and have a whopper of a landmark to do then. Who knows? I've never been good at taking notes (mainly because my hand cramps when I try to write). If anyone's selling a used laptop really cheap, let me know, ok? I type much better than I write.
Oh, and I'm the moderator now. That's kinda landmarky, too. *smile*
Two close family friends (husband and wife) are going to live in Nairobi for a year, starting later this year, when he goes on sabbatical from his professorship at the university in my hometown. They'll spend the year there as teachers.
I've always thought that I should try to get involved with (for instance) engineers without borders, but it seems I value my first-world comforts too much. I hope that maybe one day I can have the courage to do what you're doing. I salute you, sir.
Posts: 10886 | Registered: Feb 2000
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Good for you! My mom went on a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic with her church last year (she's an RN/OTR/PHN)-- she forgot when she agreed to go that she'd be gone around my due date, and did, in fact, miss the birth of her first grandchild. But since she was one of only a very few "medical type people" to go-- four, in fact; a doctor she'd never met, her Muslim friend who is a nurse practitioner, and an LVN besides her-- she was very much in need. She ran the pharmacy, because they had no one else with sufficient training to do it who wasn't needed to treat actual patients. Along the way, she corrected many pediatric dosage mistakes made by the MD, who, it turns out, works only with adults normally. She also speaks fluent Spanish, and so, along with the LVN, was responsible for explaining anything the others hadn't been able to. The rest of the group cleaned up at the "clinic"-- it was a rundown former barracks currently used as a school when they had a teacher, the best building available-- and worked on building a new one and generally cleaning and repairing the "village" (it's a stretch to call it that) to provide better living conditions. They worked 12 hour days, seeing something like 140 patients a day between the four of them. Afterwards, she would spend some of her "fun time" there going around to the women and teaching them basic ways to improve their children's health care as much as possible, and finding out what was needed most for next year. She also helped a young woman whose baby was born with a cleft lip to nurse successfully, probably saving the baby's life. She got sick while there, but didn't realize it until she came to see us immediately afterward and her symptoms worsened; she thought she was just tired because she wasn't paying enough attention to herself to notice. Ever since she got back, she's been getting rid of stuff she's held on to for years, saying that she can't forget how little those people had, and that someone else must need this more than she does, since she never even uses it-- and this isn't even her first trip like this; she's been on Operation Smile missions three times, but these people were living in such poverty, she can't get it out of her mind.
I salute you and all those who do things like that. It will change your life forever, I hope you know. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Take care, and I'm sure it will be a wonderful experience.
Posts: 21180 | Registered: Sep 2004
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I realized in re-reading (and would have later because I was asked) that in writing and re-writing this post, I ended up leaving out the dates. I'll be going from July 16th to August 1st.
Susie, no, just me this time. Mama can't take the time off work. As it is, we're still gonna have to figure out what to do with the kids for two weeks. Daycare seems to be part of the support I need to raise, above and beyond travel costs. Mooselet might be too young to really be affected much by such a trip anyway, and Superstation definitely so. Best case they'd get a couple vaccinations they weren't expecting.
I may have limited internet time -- especially if I have a laptop with a wireless network card by then. If not, I'd just have to wait my turn. I'm sure Hatrack will survive a couple weeks without me, especially since OSC and kacard are still around.
When I made a mental pros/cons list about going, one of the cons was that it might interfere with OSC's Magic Street tour. How pathetic is that? *smile* I'm such a fanboy....
Pop, thanks for writing all of that down and sharing it with us. It made so much sense and I admire you for forging ahead and doing what you think is right. I'm sure there is something that you and only you can do down there, or someone that only you can reach and help in the way that he/she might need it. You'll be so glad that you went and so will your lovely family.
Posts: 6414 | Registered: Jul 2000
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Papa, I look forward to hearing about your mission trip. I think the people who go to "serve" arte almost always as blessed as they people they are serving.
Posts: 2711 | Registered: Mar 2004
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Gah, Pop, I'm going to be there 11 days after you leave!!!! Where in Uganda are you going to be? If you want, I'll give you my dad's e-mail address - he's in Kampala - and you can get in touch with him. Uganda is an amazing country and I know you'll love it. I wish you all the very best for your mission.
Posts: 1550 | Registered: Jun 1999
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Well, Pop, congrats on your 5000 posts, your new moderator privileges, but especially for going to Uganda! I hope you'll have a wonderful experience there, and boy, are those people going to be lucky to get someone like you to... Err, what are you going to do again?
Posts: 4519 | Registered: Sep 2003
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What a wonderful calling, Papa! I wish you God-speed and I am very happy to know you are feeling "led" to go there.
I hope you keep a journal or some such and give us a breakdown of everything when you get back (kind of like Dan_Raven did when they adopted Sasha). There will be so much going on, that I'm sure you will need to write it down! What better place than here?
I will put you on our prayer list immediately -- that funds can be raised, a good solution for childcare found, and a safe journey.