in the early part of the summer, i (amanda) had the great opportunity to spend a month in kampala, the capital city of uganda. i was there as part of my studies towards a masters degree in international development from eastern university.
[my amazing cohort + our disaster relief professor, francois]
although i didn't have many chances to venture out from the classroom, what i did manage to see was a beautiful country, full of boisterous people ("you are most welcome to uganda" was a popular greeting), bright clothing, eager smiles & delicious coffee. it was quite a contrast to cambodia, where people tend to be a bit more reserved, shy smiles are the standard greeting & the temperature is 20 degrees F hotter!
but the trip will always be tied with sadness in my memory. while i was in kampala, a terrible suicide bombing attack took the lives of 74 people, including aid worker nate henn who worked with invisible children, a group working to end the use of child soldiers in uganda. i was within 1/2 mile of the bombing & heard the bombs go off, although i thought they were fireworks at the time - how strange to be so close to such violence & yet so unaffected.
the experience gave me a lot to think about.
firstly, i was really thankful to be with a group of christians. we spent the next morning praying for the situation together & it was a reminder to me that we really are supposed to be praying without ceasing (1 thes 5:17), together as the Church & that i don't do that enough.
it was also a reminder that Satan really does prowl around like a roaring lion seeking destruction (1 peter 5:8), which doesn't mean i should be fearful, just that i should probably pray a whole lot more.
& finally it was reminder of something that i think i have been learning throughout these last two years in Cambodia (& that has really broken a lot of my theological presuppositions)
-- God doesn't promise us earthly safety & security & sustenance --
He promises us His presence & He sends the church into the world to provide earthly & spiritual sustenance & to work for justice & the oppressed (isaiah 58:6-10 & matthew 25:34-40), but those are signs of His kingdom that is here, but that is also not yet here & the "not yet here" part means that babies in cambodia will die simply from lack of proper food & babies in canada will have complicated breathing problems & even that i could be watching the world cup & be killed by a bomb.
i know that seems like a simple lesson, but when i draw from my own life & experiences, i see a God who always blesses & provides & so its hard to line that up when it seems like God doesn't always do that for others. but I know that God is so much bigger than my own experiences of Him & that i am called to be joyful & grateful for what I have, without ever thinking that God has promised me anything that I have, apart from His presence in the middle of the muddyness & messiness of life & death.
because in the end, God doesn't protect anyone from death, but He does offer us life that is greater.
& (aside from qualitative research, cross cultural studies, micro-finance, disaster relief & advocacy)
that's what i really learned in uganda .