Lessons from a Ugandan Village: What a Ugandan Woman taught Me about Faith in the Midst of my Chronic Pain

Soroti and Kapchura 093

I remember the night all too clearly, yet pieces of it are a blur. That night was awash with emotions.

I was spending a college semester in Uganda, studying at a University among a small group of Americans and local Ugandans. Our American group had just returned from our homestays, each of us staying with a different rural Ugandan family in the Soroti District. Envision pictures you’ve seen in National Geographic. Think of small huts in the middle of the African bush. Seven days of eating with my hands and sitting on the ground. Seven days of shelling ground nuts with the children, making dinners over a fire (more watching than making), and sweeping out the compound with sticks. Seven days of waking up at dawn, helping fetch water (although the five year old carried more than me), and sponge bathing under the open starry sky.

Soroti and Kapchura 016

That type of experience gives you more than enough time to think. Time to think about life and what it’s really about. Time to consider the purposelessness of materialism, the selfishness that perpetrates our society, and the ideals of real community. There is something so calming and comforting about the stillness and peace of rural Ugandan village life. Something quieting about the silence and listening. I remembered the soothing feeling of sitting and shelling ground nuts all day in relative quiet and then lying down for an afternoon nap. The work is difficult, but life is simple and much good comes from that simplicity.

Soroti and Kapchura 005

So much was going on that night. We were reunited with our group and all returned with stories and crazy experiences. For most it had been the hardest week of the trip. For me, it had been the best, an eye-opening and transformative experience.

I started frantically journaling in the solitude of our little dorm. As a college student, I was struck with this realization that life is about more than finding the perfect job. It was about more than going on crazy adventures. It had a lot to do with God, and not much to do with me. It had a lot to do with people and generosity, and my concept and definition of those things had just been broadened in a significant way.

Soroti and Kapchura 148

I don’t remember the exact words, but I told God, “send me, choose me.”

I wrote on and on. I recalled the way my Ugandan mother served her village every single day in such small, tangible, needed ways. I told God, “send me anywhere you want to do anything you want. It doesn’t have to be on a crazy adventure. Just your will be done.” I knew I was making a dangerous request. I knew, but I didn’t know. In my mind, I knew it would not turn out as I expected. I knew God probably had something planned that I could never imagine in my limited, finite mind.

Soroti and Kapchura 182

Looking back through my journals recently, that night and those requests have flooded back into my mind and jolted my memory. And I realize, is this is what I was saying yes to? Was I saying yes to years of sickness and pain? When I said yes to anything God wanted for me, is this what he had in mind? I told God, “please send me where I can serve you best, my life is open, completely set aside for you.”

That is still my request, but I feel much less rash and have far more wisdom to know what it really means. God’s answer has been unexpected at best and felt unbearable at its worst. And constant on my mind is how my present circumstances are meant to further God’s Kingdom. I wonder how I am supposed to better serve him when it feels as though I am too tired to go out and serve him. I wonder how I am supposed to serve in this small, monotonous world that has become my life.

Soroti and Kapchura 116

I remember Soroti because I saw my host mother do just that: serve in the middle of normal life in basic yet phenomenal ways. I heard her get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to sing and pray until the rest of the family woke at dawn. I watched her give money to any neighbor who asked, though she herself was poor. She raised her own children and several orphans with no husband to help and support her. She was an extraordinary woman who did great things with great humility. Tucked away in at tiny village in Soroti in the middle of Uganda, she will never go down in the history books. Few people beyond her village will know about her, and probably no more than a dozen Americans will ever meet her. But she was truly extraordinary in a quiet, bold, strong way.

Soroti and Kapchura 154

And I desire to be more like her. I want to emulate her spirit and convictions. I want to translate her service to village life into service to my small corner of life.

Soroti and Kapchura 127

How is it that some people just “get it” so naturally? You look at their lives and think, “what they are doing is good. How can I do that same thing, yet differently in my own life?” They have taken their corner of life, excelled in it, and then drawn others in as well. They are comfortable with their role, who they are, and what they are doing. And then they share it with others. That has never come naturally for me, as much as I desire it.

Soroti and Kapchura 179

If this time of pain is the opportunity that God prepared for me, and answered my request for, I don’t want to waste it. I need the perspective to believe this is a unique time in my life that could lend to a unique ministry if I could only discover it. I am beginning to discover it – reaching out as I can through my blog, starting a group for others in similar places, writing a book about the Christian and chronic pain. I truly believe that changing the world begins in our own homes, communities, and villages. I am slowly figuring out what this should look like.

And mostly, I am learning. I am stepping out when I know how, asking God to transform me, and often I think of her. Silent and strong. Humble and filled with faith. Serving out of her poverty of riches, as I serve out of my poverty of health.

Soroti and Kapchura 131

14 Comments

  1. Quite possibly the most beautiful post you have written. I’m moved deeply. You are already serving God by ministering to those of us who read your blog. Despite your discouragement, you encourage us. Despite your poverty of health, you are rich with insight and inspiration.

      1. Well, the quick answer, I suppose, as to how we are to serve Him in our personal circumstances, is to do it a little at a time as He leads us every day. and sometimes I know it seems as if we are going about it sooo slow — “in slow motion.” But we have to trust that He will lead us, and I am beginning more and more to ask myself what would Jesus do if He were me, in my culture and circumstance. And of course we as Christians are called to suffer as He did–we will suffer in the flesh (in many ways) as we do what is right and good for His kingdom. Of course we still need to fill out the specifics of what to do. That’s the hard part.

  2. Very beautifully written. Extremely heartfelt and so open. Amazing pictures. What a profound connection you have made… thank you for sharing!

  3. What a wonderful and encouraging post. Thank you for sharing memories of your trip and the inspiring people you met. You made me feel as though I was there with you.
    Being reminded of those we can look up to who make the most serving with the lives they are given helps to make us stronger in God’s hand for us- just as you are doing connecting with others in your new Facebook group.
    Thank you for sharing your dreams and your passions to do God’s will. If He plants a seed, He will nurture it in your life. It just doesn’t always grow how we imagine it will… But He is certainly using your gifts from where you are.

      1. Oh, thank you so much. I’m very grateful God has allowed me to feel useful. Even though I often see it as so small, like you said, it must be right where He can use me most right now. And you are someone I also look to as a positive example in my life. I don’t think it’s ever easy; and if it is, we probably aren’t growing. So glad to hear you had some better days this week. Praying you have MANY more. Hugs, friend.

Leave a Reply