For me, a new year doesn’t start on January the first and it rarely lasts 365 days. My years are not years but chapters and they start all over the place. So this time, for 365 days, my year is HEART (#oneword365). I’m no good at heart.
What I am good at is wholeheartedly throwing myself into things with a little too much enthusiasm, passion and anger. Watching it all get too much, then building up a lock box around my heart and promising I will never do that again! So this year my word is heart, a promise that after my passionate outbursts of honesty and heart I will not turn the key!
It started for me 3 years ago with a song, which turned into a prayer, ‘break my heart for what breaks yours’. A week later it was physical, the chance to spend 2 weeks in Uganda. By the summer it was tangible I was there, breaking! A year after that, my gap year plans fell through and the next day I was asked to return to Uganda. Broken.
Broken for this.
Chapter Uganda. . .
A year ago today I left my childhood home in sleepy Suffolk, my quite comfortable and thoroughly enjoyed job, and the confident familiarity of knowing everyone (and perhaps everything?)in my little town. It wasn’t enough.
Despite being one of the most irritatingly ‘logical’ post-it-note, chalk board, text me first people on the planet, anyone who knows me also knows I need fresh air, adventure and a healthy chunk of unexpected risk!
So a year ago today, almost to the minute, I stepped off the plane into the overwhelming heat of Ugandan night. All I remember is that the stars in Uganda’s capital shine a thousand time brighter than rural England, especially when you first step out, and the smiling love of the people who came to meet me shaped 150 days in Churchill’s ‘Pearl of Africa’.
I don’t want to talk about what I did in Uganda, because most of you already know, and actually I’m not so sure the things I did matter so much. But people have pointed out that I never finished my blog. It’s true, and I still haven’t. Partly because when I came home I just didn’t know what to say and it felt wrong to force out words that weren’t at all what I wanted to say, and I’ve learned in times like that it’s just better to keep quiet!
But most of all? My BIG Ugandan Adveture isn’t over. Writing an ending post scares me because I’m afraid that one day I might forget that my heart was broken for a cause, or worse, that I might build a safe box around my heart and harden it to the Uganda it was broken for.
So this isn’t the end, even if it’s the last post I write. It’s an honest lasting memory of why.
I did not go to Uganda to bring anything material, I came with a heart full of love and a head full of ideas.
And now I’ve come home, my heart longs to do these things again. . .
I long to feel the joy of seeing a street child in uniform after worried weeks pleading with him to stay in school.
My heart wants to pass half empty bottles of water to determined little hands begging at car windows to see the smiles of delight.
I long to take a bodaboda home for the adventure and risk of shooting through Kampala on a moped in 30 degree heat.
I long to drink milkshake in the corner of a busy cafe and talk for hours about street boys, heart, welsh words, curry sauce and freedom.
I long to hear the laughter of children on a once in a lifetime swimming trip.
I long to kayak down the river Nile, just once more.
I long to see Precious’ confident march into school every term, to feel with every inch of me that this little village girl might just change something one day!
I long for that one strange experience in a dingy African hairdresser’s, when ladies just give you their babies to hold.
I long to dance and sing my heart out in beautiful African Church.
I long for g-nuts beef, Edinance’s cooking and fresh fenne fruit.
I long to hear the girls laugh and watch them dance again like they did when the letters came from England.
I long for those evenings of tea and custard creams, listening to some of the most incredible stories of faith I’ve ever heard.
I long to share that first time when baby Rachel didn’t cry at a white person again.
I long to swim in Africa’s deepest lake again.
I long to walk through slums where street children sleep under buildings and know my heart will always be broken for them.
I long for the company of the people who became my family when I was 4000 miles form ‘home’.
I long for hysterical laughter helping Precious to kill the cockroaches.
I long to ride the bicycle ambulance for the first time and know the hope it holds.
And as much as I hate cities I long to be pulled through the noisy sweaty crowd of owino market in search of clothes for a village lady’s business.
In fact, the only thing I do not long for is another bout of Dengue fever!
So that’s it. I’ve left Uganda but luckily it refuses to leave me!
Now’s your challenge. Next time you ask me about Uganda (or for the first time if you haven’t) lets just skip the small talk – we all know I’m rubbish at it anyway!
Ask me why I wept at the justice of sending a street child away from school for a week. Ask how much I’d barter for a dozen eggs in church, and why. What it feels like to lie in a Ugandan hospital bed 2 weeks before you’re due to fly home. How precious a custard cream becomes, or how it feels when our street boys let me score just one goal in football!
Ask questions of the heart. And maybe, just maybe they’ll provoke enough honest heartfelt answers for me to write again.