Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Day At the Races

Yesterday was my first swim meet since I've been back from Africa. I was almost desperate to have my times get faster. It was the last normal meet of the season. The conditions couldn't have been much worse for improving times, though. It was freezing cold and rainy, and the wind was blowing. Yes, in Kansas, in the middle of July. The coldest day within a time slot of 5 months just had to be on the day I needed good weather. I was pretty cold (being all wet didn't help much either). And the water was warm. As soon as you dove into it, your muscles got all soft, and relaxed... Which is not a good thing for us swimmers. But I tried not to think much of it. I just tried my hardest to stay warm (which was impossible). And I told myself that I was going to swim hard. REALLY hard. We started off with a relay, which went pretty well. No glitches. Then came my big event. The 100 meter butterfly. I was six seconds from making a
Division II (basically like Sub-State) time. Now, if your not a racer (track swimming... whatever), 6 seconds is a long time. A very long time. And if your not a swimmer, trying to six seconds off of a butterfly race is about the equivalent of trying to get to Africa 18 hours before you normally would. With good weather. (If you were wondering, I totally made up that whole Africa part). But yeah, that is how hard it is. Anyways... guess what... I didn't make it. I was kinda put out about it, but it didn't ruin my day or anything. So, thats how the big race turned out. The rest of the day went on like that. No one improved any times. Most people added a few seconds (namely, me). By the time, the meet was starting to wind down, people were getting tired of being there and everyone wanted to go home. People started scratching out of their races on purpose (namely, NOT me!!!). My coach always puts me in the distance events, which also happen to be at the very end of the day, not because I'm a really good distance swimmer, but because no one enters those races, and we get a few promised points out of it (when people ask me though, I just tell them it's cause my coach thinks I can handle it). First I swam the 200 meter freestyle, which I surprisingly ended up taking almost 2 seconds off of. That was weird. To be completely honest with you, I hardly even remember anything about that race, but I took time off, so I'm happy. (Don't tell my coach I said that!) I was just going to swim the 400 meter nice and easy. It was my last race of the day, and to beat the next placed girl ahead of me, I would have to take off even more time than my butterfly. And, you'll never guess this one. I took 16 seconds off, yes, I said sixteen. AND I qualified. I don't even know how I did it. I the only thing I did was sprint the last 75 meters, so I could catch a girl that was just half a body length ahead of me (which is not easy in a distance race). I was talking with another coach afterwards and he said I had paced mysefl out really well. Then, I remembered that when we first started the was a girl that I kept up with. I remember hearing in my head. "Just stay up there with her, match her pace, and you'll be fine." It's really easy in a distance race to talk to yourself like that (or sing songs in your head, or think about what you're going to wear the next day, or think about all sorts of interesting subjects... Hey! It's a long race! You would get bored too!) Anyways, after the race, I realized that the voice I was listening to was NOT mine. The only one it could've belonged to is God. Then, I remembered the one challenge that I had when I was deciding to go to Uganda: What about my swimming. This was supposed to be my year. I'm at the top of my age group. I'm getting faster. Then I decided to let God take care of it. I went home that night and told him that I would go to Africa, and I would hand my swim season to him. I knew that if I did what he had called me to do, go to Uganda, and put my swimming in his hands, then he would bless it. And guess what... Thats exactly what he did. It just so happened to be in way that I wouldn't have expected him to.

These pictures aren't from this meet, because it's sunny outside. They're from the same place, so guess thay are last years pictures. Yes, that is me, by the way.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cheesy Fourth of July

Yesterday was the big ol' Fourth of July. My family and I went to the baseball game (only to watch them lose) but then, there were fireworks. I didn't Ooh and Aah along with everybody else, like I do every other year . As the stadium lights dimmed, and the fireworks started exploding in the air, my mind went back to Uganda, for the ten-billionth time since we got back to Kansas. First, I wonder how they would react to all the fireworks. I don't know this for sure, but unless they do like homeade fireworks or something, they would probably be scared at first of all the big lights and big booms!!! But then I wondered, if they felt the same freedom that I did. This sounds so cheesy right now, but it really made me proud to be an American. It reminded me of all that I take for granted every day. Cheesy? Yes. Corny? Yes. True? Absolutely.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Getting Back Into the Flow of Things

Well, we are home. It's good to be here, and I gotta tell ya, it felt AMAZING to sleep in my own bed last night! Just wanted to let all ya'll now that I got home safe, but my mind is on something else. I am really wondering how I'm going to carry on the rest of my life as it is. I just can't continue living the way I was before Africa. What my eyes have seen in Uganda has changed all of that. How am I supposed to carry on with my life, though? The way God wants me to, of course. That is the Sunday School answer, but I can't really find the true answer deep in my heart. How can I continue to live all that has been shown to me in Uganda? It's really hard. We live in a society that has forgotten something that the Ugandans haven't. I can't tell you exactly what that is, but I have it now, and I don't want to lose it. I can't lose it.

Cruisin' the Nile

I lied. I said I'd write on here the next day, but I didn't. I'm here now though. The last day was pretty busy. We were in such a hurry to get packed, and we all also wanted to go out on the town one last time before leaving, so that is my excuse. The Nile trip was a lot of fun. I personally think that it was better than the safari. We saw all sorts of things: hippos, water buffalo, kingfishers, crocodiles, warthogs, elephants, waterbuck... The list could go on.

Weird fact about the Nile: In the mornings, there is foam EVERYWHERE. It comes from Murchinson's Falls, and just floats on down the river (And flies up and gets all over your shirt. Poor Amber!). As the day goes on, the sun makes most of it evaporate.

The very first thing that we saw were hippos. It's crazy how big those things are!!! JJ calls them giant water pigs :)

There were a bunch of kingfishers flying around everywhere. They were pretty, and fun to watch. We actually went by the Kingfisher mating/nesting grounds, which were a ton of itty-bitty holes pecked into the side of a cliff. I thought it was pretty cool.

If you look really close, you can see the little holes. Here, let me help you out on that.

The base of Murchinson's Falls is where all of the crocodiles live. They eat all of the animals that fall down, well, the falls.

Well, thats mostly all for now. We saw a few more good animals, but I'm mostly out of good pictures.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

African Safari

Hey Guys! We just returned from our Safari/Nile boat trip. We had a nice safari. We saw girraffe, elephants, waterbuck, baboons, warthogs, about a million different types of antelope, water buffalo, and hippos, and probably one or two things that I have forgotten to mention.


We had to leave for the lodge we were staying at at 4:30. Yes, in the morning. I slept for a while, but when I woke up there was this beautiful sunrise (Finally, Daddy!). Too bad I wasn't able to get a better picture!!!

Our first stop was Murchinson's Falls. All of that water is so incredibly powerful. It made me feel really small when I stood next to it. It was truly awe inspiring.

Of course I had to have my picture taken next to it!!!

To travel across the river,we had to ride on a ferry.

I didn't get a very good picture of it, but I did get good pictures of the animals that were waiting for us on the other side!

We ate lunch at the lodge. By the way, that place was AMAZING!!! Everything was really nice. I was also waited on hand and foot. I've thought about calling home and telling my mom what they did for me, an how maybe she could kinda do the same thing... But I doubt she would appreciate it.

The safari started at four, and it was led by a guy named Henry. I already told you about everything we saw, so I guess I don't need to do that again!

The safari was pretty nice, but it lasted for somewhere around 5 HOURS!!! We didn't get home until nine, and considering that it is fall here, it gets very dark, very early. I went to sleep as soon as it got dark! I kind of wanted to stay awake, but it was dark, so we couldn't see any animals, and I was also very tired. Oh well!!!

I'll write about the Nile trip tomorrow. It is very late.

I know this has nothing to do with the safari, but I just had to add this in!!! Gene was looking through Ben's pictures the other day and he came across this one and showed it to me. It is so sweet!!! This little girl ran up to me the moment our team started walking up the road, and she wouldn't let go of my hand! She was so cute. When other kids would come to me and try to hold my other hand she would pull me away from them as of to say "Get your own Mzungu!!!"

O.K. I'm finally signing off now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Learnin' To Love

Hey there everyone. I've gotta keep this quick, because I have to wake up at 4:00 tomorow morning!!! I just wanted to say something really quick about today's adventures.

Today's subject is love. We studied it when Gene did devotions tonight. The question was "How are you going to take the love that you have learned here back to your town, and apply it to your everyday life?" And we aren't talking about the sappy love that we all cry over in romance novels and chick flicks. It's kind of hard to explain this type of love to those that haven't experienced it in a way that I have here in Africa. But, I will try my best. It's the kind of love that you can find in one of the best hugs you have ever recieved from woman excited beyond words. It's when a little girl comes racing up to you, just so that she can hold your hand. It's why a single parent living with AIDS wakes up every morning to feed their kids, so that the children will live for one more day than they did yesterday. It's why widows would give an entire GFR team several weeks worth of work in the form of baskets, just to thank them for visiting their village where one woman and her children are sponsored. These people are so easy to love. They want my love. They NEED my love. And they want and need to share theirs with me. It is a sort of love that I have found only here in Africa. Almost like something that we Americans used to have at one time, but lost it somewhere along the road. That is the type of love that we are called by God to give to everyone.

1 John 3:18-20 (The Message)

My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is
the only way we'll know we're living truly, living God's reality. It's also the way
to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For
God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do

This verse kind of hits two points at once. For the first part, it means that when we put our words into actions, then they become true and real. For example: Pertend that you told all of your friends that Coke is your most favorite drink in the whole entire world. However, none of them ever saw you drink Coke, and you had a Pepsi in your hand all the time. Would they believe that Coke was your favoritest drink in the world because you said so, or would they believe that Pepsi was your favoritest drink in the world because you constantly had one glued to your hand? The same is true with loving. Are you going to talk, or are you going to love?

The second part says that When we let true love live through us, it pushes away the negative thoughts that can make us unable to live in the way that God wants us to. When we can't even love ourselves, how will we ever be able to love on anyone else?

Well, now that I've taken forever to explain the type of love I have gave and been given for the past week and a half, I'd like to share with you what my answer was to the question that Gene asked us. It took me a while for me to come up with it because it is a really tough question!
It is so easy to give my love to the people here because they are willing to accept and reciprocate it. Back home, there are lots of people that are very difficult to love. Whether it be the stinky kid in the hallway or the one the looks down their nose at everyone, we are called to love them. Desirable or not. What I decided was that it has to be a continuous effort each day to reach out and care for those people. I am going to have to ask God to teach me how to love those specific people. I'll also have to ask for the patience to deal with them!!! I don't think that it will be a thing easily forgotten because of love that has been given to me. Here in Africa.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Little Too Late

Well, I finally have a blog. I should've gotten one earlier, when I had things to write about. Tomorrow is our last work day. I guess I'll try to write as much as I can then!!! Today was an optional day. I still had some gifts to buy, so I stayed behind and walked around Kampala with Michelle. There is nothing significant about walking around down town, or spending money, but God has odd ways of showing his face, even in what seems to be the ordinary. We saw a lot of people begging on the roadside. They were so worn and broken. They didn't have the strength to even ask for money. They sat until someone would see them in their pity, and press a few shillings into their outstretched hands. Many of them were too twisted to sit up. They would never see or feel the joy of walking. When we went by, all I could do is feel sorry for them. I could never imagine living that sort of lifestyle. Would my loved ones put me out to beg each day because I was too much of an eyesore? Too expensive? Too hard to take care of? Too sad to look at? Of course not. They would want me to be better. They would love on me. Had any of those people ever felt love ever before? It wasn't until later that I thought of a bible story that relates to what I experienced today exactly. It's the story of Bartimaeus, found in
Mark 10:46-52. Here it goes:

46Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a
large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by
the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he
began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48Many
rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of
David, have mercy on me!" 49Jesus stopped and said "Call him." So they
called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling to you."
50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said
"Rabbi, I want to see." 52"Go." said Jesus, "your faith has healed you."
Immediately he recieved his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Wow. What an amazing experience for Bartimaeus (Let's just call him Bart). Can you imagine what it was like? Put yourself in his sandals for just a minute. You had heard that this Jesus guy had performed some major miracles. He raised people from the dead, turned water into wine, taught the lame to walk. Surely he would be able to heal your own eyesight. You can't believe it when you hear that he is walking your way. You yell "Jesus! Son of Nazareth! Come and heal me!" Others surrounding you are embarrassed. They know that Jesus doesn't need to deal with such petty things. They think that the rich and important take first priority. You scream even louder. No one is going to keep you from Jesus. Suddenly, you hear his voice. You stretch out your hands to him, running your hands over his face, memorizing every detail with your fingertips. You tell him that you want to see more than anything in the world. Instantly, a bright light fills your eyes. You blink into the sunlight, and suddenly his face comes into focus. Jesus is the very first thing that you see. "Because of your faith, you have been healed." he says. Do you mumble a thank you and then trudge on home? NO!!! You jump up and shout "Hallejluiah!" Then you do a dance because you are so happy. What a beautiful blessing!!!

I hope that by now you kind of grasp what I'm getting at. The people I saw in downtown Kampala are all, in some way, Bart. They are hurt and broken and they have no hope. The story of Bart was special to me, because despite the fact that the story occured over two thousand years ago, the same sort of broken people are still needing the same savior.

Thank you to all who chose to read my entire ramble. It took me a while to sort my thoughts out into words, so I really hope ya'll enjoyed it.