I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – as a missionary living in a culture away from what’s familiar to me has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I will never fully understand why things happen the way they do here in Bundibugyo, Uganda but rest assured Jesus knows the ins and outs of every culture and I can cling to that truth when trying my best to understand.
But one thing that is most redemptive to me in a place that is filled with such heartache is relationships.
After spending over a year getting to know neighbors, church members, co-workers, and my team that is like family to me, I have seen the way that God works in relationships bringing about change in beautiful ways.
Here are a few relationship that I would like to share with you that have been great encouragements to me as of late:
If you told me a year ago that I would become best friends with a 35-year-old man missing most of his teeth, I would second-guess your judgment.
But here we are — I am best friends with a 35-year-old man missing most of his teeth! Godfrey is a husband to a beautiful wife and a father to eight children. They live just a stone’s throw away from us in a two-room house made of reeds, mud, and iron sheets. They are currently building a four-room house made of bricks and cement that will provide more space and privacy for their family.
When Godfrey was looking for work, I asked him to start a few yard projects for me. He went above and beyond what I asked and blew me away with his work ethic. And now he works for our house three times a week slashing our grass, watering our plants, and teaching me tips and tricks on how to properly garden amidst dry season. He is a man that truly works hard, but plays even harder — and I love it!
Godfrey and I are constantly laughing, joking, and teaching one another silly English and Lubwisi phrases. When I really get him going, he smiles so big, keels over gasping for air, and lets out the best giggle you’ve ever heard while shouting “Bohhhh waiye (friend)!” Safe to say, we get along great and keep each other laughing all day long. Just yesterday, after trying to explain to him in Lubwisi that I was extremely sore from a soccer workout and could barely walk, he walked over to a tree, pulled off a limb, and [laughing uncontrollably] gave it to me to use as a cane. He then proceeded to call me “Maamba Katherine”, meaning old woman, for the rest of the day!
Because of the daily joy that Godfrey exudes, no one would ever know that up until a few years ago, Godfrey struggled with alcoholism and came to a breaking point one day when he was hospitalized. Realizing the major impact this had on his family and his health, he began to abstain from alcohol and seek counsel from church elders and community leaders.
He started attending church with his family, eventually leading him to learn more about the power of the God’s grace in Jesus Christ. He reminds me to always give thanks to our Lord, often exclaiming “Mukama Asiimwe!” (Praise God) with a big smile. Not only does God pull us out of the deep pit and redirect our steps, but He also gives us new life in Christ that has the power to restore and redeem — what an encouragement!
Ashley and Ashland
Out of all our teammates, these are the two names that cause the most confusion to Ugandans (sometimes they throw my name into the mix and call us, “Asherine”). These two blessings from above and fellow millennials are my roommates here in Bundibugyo. The ability to come home to a safe space where I will always be received with open arms is a huge gift in a place that can truly wipe us out physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
They serve as listening ears, stress-relievers, and ridiculous comedians each and every day. We spend our days in our areas of ministry work, while our evenings are spent together cooking, exercising, watching movies, reading, etc.
I would describe the three of us as a well-oiled tricycle where the two wheels in the back have the ability to affirm, encourage, and strengthen that front wheel that may be stuck or uncertain of which direction to move in. Each of us brings different gifts to the table and that alone is of great encouragement to me in the way that we live and interact with one another.
Ashley is one that keeps the house in tip-top shape, makes sure we are taking Sabbath seriously, and intentionally asks how we’re doing emotionally each day.
Ashland answers almost every knock at the door, makes sure we’re eating all the protein and veggies, and encourages our heart postures to be open to what God is doing.
I think the girls would agree that I manage the yard work, bring comedic relief to almost every conversation, and remind them of the importance of exercising, staying hydrated, and eating three meals a day. We make an awesome team and I’m incredibly thankful to serve alongside two beautifully strong women that show me Jesus every single day.
Amaka is a beautiful, Ugandan woman of Tanzanian descent that works with me at BundiNutrition on Tuesdays. She fills the role perfectly. She has a degree in Nursing, local knowledge, and a keen sense for the needs mothers have in this community.
Amaka is the type of person to be extremely shy at first, but when you get to know her, this girl is a spitfire! She is bold, curious, hilarious, and very bright. Amaka frequently calls me “Kathyyyy” and loves to ramble in Lubwisi assuming I understand everything she says (I comprehend about 30%).
Whenever Amaka and I get together, it’s like old friends picking right back up where we left off. She teaches me how to bargain for clothes in the market, teases me for my inability to maintain composure when it comes to anything medical, and invites me into her home with no hesitation. She is quickly becoming a sweet and refreshing sister-friend to me!
These relationships are just a snapshot of the many beautiful people that the Lord has placed in my life here.
I can’t recall a day where I have not been greeted with a smile by someone that I care so much about – whether they are a teammate, Christ School student, neighbor, house worker, BundiNutrition patient, or shop owner.
Every day I see how God uses broken people to bring joy, grace, and humility to relationships and it is such a privilege to receive the love within them.
* These names have been changed out of respect to the individuals and their communities.