“Christmas again! Wow, I feel like we just had Christmas. This year feels like it’s been Christmas, March, bleurp and then Christmas again!”
I don’t know if this resonates with you at all but for us, Ezra’s response to a local friend’s mention of Christmas summarised neatly our thoughts about how this particular year has gone.
Four happy boys out for lunch for Eli’s birthday, top to bottom: Joel, Simeon, Eli and Ezra.
For us, the significance of March came not just in the dramatic spread of coronavirus but also in our long-anticipated move to Uganda. In some ways it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer than eight months and our arrival feels like a distant memory. So much has changed, not just in our lives but across the globe.
Our overwhelming feeling, when looking back over the last year, is that of gratitude. We are so thankful to God for bringing us not just to Uganda, but to this specific city, neighbourhood and home, at just the right time. We are beginning to feel properly settled here and are so thankful that we get to call this wonderful place home.
Out for a walk above Kuluva hospital on a typically sunny day.
Tom is grateful for God’s great blessing in the early days of his working role here and particularly for the wonderful Heather Sharland with whom he is working in the health department. He currently spends one or two days a week visiting the six rural health centres which the diocese supervises, training staff and running doctor’s clinics. The rest of the week he spends in the office on a wide range of work such as enacting externally-funded health projects and considering schemes such as health insurance and blood pressure screening to improve care.
COVID cases have not exploded exponentially as they might have done here, praise God (a total of 150 deaths now registered), but it is very much in the community just as people are starting to tire of following the appropriate precautions. Do pray for ongoing motivation for people to take COVID seriously and for God’s protection at this time.
For me (Verity), so much of my life revolves around our four boys. One of the biggest joys over the last couple of months has been to see them interacting most afternoons with a group of neighbourhood boys who come to our compound to play. It feels so good to be able to share our space and resources and to see how happily the boys now play alongside each other.
Joel and Simeon playing the 2020 version of “mums and dads” including putting on their masks to go to work.
Eli in particular really struggled over the first few months to engage with the local community and it’s so wonderful to see him joining in with games with the local boys. Ezra is in his element playing football most afternoons and loves having an abundance of friends to play with. Simeon seems very content being part of the community here and Joel continues to charm local shopkeepers and market sellers with his few words in Lugbara. His speech in general has taken off in the last few months, which we thank God for, as when we left the UK he had a hearing aid linked to his cleft palate and there was concern that his speech might be affected. We’re also very thankful for the friends we’ve made in the sizeable expat community here.
Like anyone, we have hard days and easier days. After a particularly stressful week of home-schooling the boys, with little time for walks in the neighbourhood, I (Verity) was walking to the local market one evening. I had a few good chats with some of our shopkeeper friends along the way, and just had a feeling of affirmation from God saying “You belong here.” Not necessarily in a forever sense, but for now, we are legitimately part of this community that God has chosen for us to belong to. The constant shouts of “Mundu!” (“foreigner”) remind us that we are different, and that won’t change, but we can still belong.
A few minutes later, in conversation in Lugbara with the market ladies, they told me they’d given me a Lugbara name – Ayikoru, meaning “joy” because I’m apparently always happy when I buy from them. I was hugely humbled but also laughed a little inside as my behaviour over the week at home had been quite the opposite of joyful. God has his timings though and it was another affirmation of our belonging here.
In John 1:14 we read how “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. We’ll often re-read this chapter at this time of year and the combination of God’s majesty and humility always blows me away. It leaves me both humbled and challenged. Humbled that the God who made the whole world has given us “the right to become children of God” (1:12). At the same time, I’m challenged that just as Jesus came to bring God’s love and light to a world in darkness, as his children, we are called to do the same. For us this means sharing his love with the people of Arua that they would “receive him and believe in his name” (1:12).
The view towards the end of the long drive north from Kampala that tells us we’re nearly home.
We feel very privileged to be a part of God’s mission in this corner of Uganda and we know that we couldn’t do it without the prayers of everyone back in the UK. Thank you so much for your support over this last year, we are so thankful for every one of you.
As usual, if you’d like more frequent updates on our lives in Arua, click here. claresinuganda.wordpress.com.
Tom, Verity, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel