I was honestly not entirely ready to come back to Uganda and finding out my spiritual director and basically the best friend I have in Uganda is in the States didn’t help either. Fr. Pat, COME BACK SOON!
I have been in Kampala, the capital, since I arrived a little over a week ago. Until today I’ve been too sick to travel or do much of anything. Woo! I have been so graciously and lovingly cared for by Holy Cross Priests and Brothers. I am incredibly thankful and beyond blessed to stay in such a wonderful place in the big city and not have to worry about anything. Brother Patrick has been checking on me and making sure I am “breathing” every day. He gave me a swift kick of humility in allowing to be cared for and knowing that it is ridiculous of me to feel like a burden. “You are way more important than my stupid emails.” His statement before driving me to the supermarket for crackers and juice.
The past four and a half months have been absolutely crazy, wonderful, beyond difficult, and joyful. I don’t know if I have fully absorbed all that has happened. Despite many difficulties and road blocks, there has been an incredible amount of positive growth and development at St. Francis de Sales School for The Deaf. I am amazed at all God has done. I am amazed at the development and behavioral change of our students. The government’s inspection and approval of our school was a huge surprise for me. While I saw so many things as unfinished, messy, and in need of improvement, the inspector was surprised and amazed and about many things: our overall cleanliness, health of the students, nourishment (especially knowing how many came to us very malnourished), and care that they were receiving. Everyone knows Deaf children don’t often receive the care that they need.
We now have fields and gardens growing many things, electricity and solar energy, a water system that is mostly complete (water is a very difficult thing in our area), and many renovations/building that has taken place and some that are still happening.
I’ve had incredible experiences with God’s Divine Providence both on ground working/ doing the impossible and through our donors. Times of “how in the world will we pay for this, there’s no more money” and only moments later where some beautiful soul sends the exact amount of money needed for what was needed at the time, whether is be to feed the kids for another week, buy new clothes, fix the water, or hold us off for the next weeks. Two people in particular come to mind who have no idea how much they, through their openness and generosity, in actuality, saved us during the most crucial (perfect) times. Each of them at a different time without a clue of what they had done. I was so incredibly blessed to be able to hug most of these people while visiting the States in May.
Most times I am left speechless with tears boiling from my heart – how can I express to them what they’ve done?
Before I ever came to Uganda I would give money to a certain ministry located in Jinja, Uganda. Each month receiving the “thank you’s” and short stories. But until coming here and seeing for myself what is really happening on the ground, before working in this small village with 29 kids to care for, a school to run, and lives that are changing before my eyes, I never really understood the impact the seemingly small $25 a month was doing. Let me tell you, it is incredible.
People praise me for me work, thank me for all I do, and tell me I’m incredible. Let me tell you something: I am weak, I am a failure, I procrastinate everything, and for the past few months have been struggling in my spiritual life. Most every day I have no clue what I am doing here, only the direction He wants me to go in. I do nothing – God does EVERYTHING. I cannot express that enough or explain the reality of that.
You are incredible.
You – the one who prays for me every day and prays for our school. You – the one who encourages me from an ocean away. You – the one who works 8-5 everyday, manages a household, a family, college, your own bills, stressful life and hardships along with joyous occasions and praises to God, and in the evenings somehow remembers us in Uganda and sends a donation our way. You – who every month gives some of your tithe to our school and to myself. Helping to change the lives of children and young adults you’ve never met so they may eat another day, not have to walk a mile for water, receive a language, an education, love, care, and JESUS. And not to mention all you do for me. Making it possible for me to live here, work here, buy peanut butter, internet, and every season of The Office.
I think the biggest part of my job is to mediate between the incredible people at my Parish in my small town of Canyon, Texas along with my friends and family, and St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in the small village of Nyapea, Uganda; seeing that things develop and grow according to God’s plan in an honest and self-giving way.
Just a small child, crazy in love with Jesus, and doing her best to follow His will.
On more of a personal and vulnerable note, the past three months have been some of the most difficult months of my life. Incredible loneliness, heartache, over working, spiritual dryness and desolation, physical pain, and, more recently, sickness.
I am choosing to write about this because I have more recently come to the realization that as painful and awkward as it can be, sometimes vulnerability in the hardships of life and honesty with every aspect of what I do here is so healing and good. Why? It not only takes away my pride and twisted falseness of trying to live up to (and portray) an unrealistic and fake idea that I have previously had in my head of being a “Missionary” where everything is bubbly and beautiful, full of smiles and “I love black babies and Jesus” and it allows people to know the reality – all aspects – of what living in Uganda, being a missionary, and working here is actually like. Most importantly allows people to pray for specific intentions in regards to myself, my work, our school, and our children.
I had a very big problem with taking on too much and overworking. Overworking physically and mentally. Which was incredibly unhealthy, prideful, and selfish. Selfish in getting in the way of the Holy Spirit working the way He MUST. Prideful in thinking “it’s up to me” and forgetting that everything and everyone is God’s and He doesn’t at all need me. And unhealthy because I began to neglect caring for myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Neglecting prayer is the worst thing for me and for all. I am His (we all are His) and He simply wants to be with me and love me – I need to receive that love. I am nothing if not living for Him. In order to live with Him I must be in communion with Him, and make an effort to set aside time to be with Him each day – whether it be through prayer, reading, or simply sitting before the Blessed Sacrament soaking up His love and goodness. This goes along with eating (things other than grasshoppers and white ants) and getting away every now and then to rest. Something my pride never let me do.
April was the toughest. Although so much beauty and joy was all around me and every day I could clearly recognize God’s hand in everything – especially with St. Francis’ School. I myself was suffocating – feeling abandoned and alone, longing to go home to Texas. Again, I neglected myself and my needs.
My only prayer was reading poetry from a hermit and my dearest spiritual companion, my only consolation was the voice of my mother, and my only escape was running miles through the village hills. These three things were so beautiful. Having been somehow “revived” from my recent month in the States things have cleared up – so many things. I am able to look back and thank God for the hardships and breakdowns. I’m currently brought to tears at His goodness. There is so much I didn’t understand and still don’t but He always, always, work things for our good. He had been doing that this whole time I just couldn’t see it.
He allowed me to be broken down more, emptied out, and brought to what I felt was absolute nothing, only to bring me closer to Him. Jesus is showing me that only He can fill every part of my heart. God is slowly (and always has been and will be) bringing me to simply be His little child. The Holy Spirit removing my pride and selfish intentions so that He may breathe and work more fully, gently, through me.
This is a journey I (and all of us) will always be on and I am thankful for it. I long to abide in His peace, and for this I must let go and trust. Trust that whatever I am doing in Uganda is taken care of by Him – however long I am here, whatever the work, and anything with our school all belongs to Him and should be carried out in His providential timing.
I am so incredibly thankful for all of the friends I was able to see and spend time with while in America, although I didn’t get a chance to see everyone. I cannot express how much I needed that time! Being with my family was more than beautiful. My little brother and sister aren’t little anymore, but incredible young adults and possibly God’s coolest creation. My nieces, nephews, and God children are growing so quick, changing, and becoming more beautiful each day. More than any other time I felt more connected and real with friends from my Parish, my Parish priest, and St. Francis’ donors.
Oh, I'd like to mention - this whole “growing up and moving away from mom” thing is bananas, I’d like to hang out with her every day.
All my love, in Jesus