It's only been weeks since we left Karamoja, but I find myself already needing to remember. I hope to write soon about why God led us to leave (all good reasons), but for now we are settling in and words escape me for all I'm feeling.
Instead, I am reposting this blog I wrote for my friend Karen's website. Some days I just need to look back to where God has taken our family and be assured that He is still leading us, although in a new direction, into good places, places where dry ground becomes springs of living water.
It's 6 am, and Kenneth's watch begins beeping. Louder than the alarm I hear the cows lowing as they start their daily ramble down the mountain to find grass. The shepherds call back and forth to each other and sing morning songs to their cows and goats. Light is just beginning to peep around our metal shutters as I tap Kenneth again. I'm his snooze alarm.
I reach under my pillow for my headlamp and quietly climb out from under my mosquito net. I feel my way into my fleece and grab a blanket to wrap around my legs. Mornings are chilly in Kaceri, and this one especially so since it rained most of the night. Kenneth is rolling out of bed now, and we tiptoe out of our room, careful not to wake Acuka. No sound comes from the kids' room, and I breathe a sigh of relief that Selah, our two year old and the kids' alarm clock, has not woken up yet. The seven of them usually share a room, but since Acuka's bout of pneumonia and malaria he has been sleeping in our room so that we can monitor his fever and breathing.
The water filling the tea kettle echoes loudly in our cement-floored bathroom as Kenneth gets everything ready for morning coffee. I unbolt the front door as quietly as I can, but the metal rasps and clangs, another noise bouncing around our small cement house. We'll be lucky if the kids don't hear.
The morning is beautiful. The sky is grey and misty, and the dew turns our fence-webs white. I grab a broom and tighten the leather strap holding the grass stalks in place. They are always falling out as I sweep, making a bigger mess of my already dirty floors. I sweep the porch methodically, moving the always huge pile of shoes and shooing the dog out from under my feet. He's made a mess of his dinner again, leaving mushy posho stuck and drying on our patio. I leave it for later. It's getting late, past time for starting.
I bring out the plastic chairs, setting them in a semi-circle facing inward, our backs towards the fence and the distraction of any passers-by. Andrew is first, cheerful as always, followed shortly by Kerri, my sister and his wife. They are both wrapped in blankets against the morning chill, and they settle into their chairs, chatting quietly and waiting for the coffee. I take out my Bible and begin to work on the chapter I'm memorizing, a Psalm right now. I never thought I could memorize Scripture. I guess I always sold myself short. I also never thought I'd be getting up every morning at 6 am for prayer. God truly is a God of miracles.
The sun is barely peeking over the mountains that surround our house as Kenneth joins us bearing mugs of hot coffee. I close my eyes, letting the steam drift up and around my face and breathe in the heavenly smell. I need this cup of coffee. Last night was long, and I am tired. I struggle to focus, but my mind wanders.
I am still worried about Acuka. He had a rough day yesterday, so rough that I pleaded with God to spare his life. His fever spiked over and over, and convulsions shook his little body. His breathing was scary, ragged and infrequent, leaving me helpless to do anything. There is no oxygen within an hour, and no good doctors within two. Even the dirt airstrip is at least an hour away, not that it matters since it has recently been taken off the fly list. Too bumpy and no one wants the responsibility of fixing it. Today I am feeling the weight of our decisions, mainly the decision to move our family to the middle of nowhere, deep in the “bush”. Most of the time I love living here, especially the adventure of a life lived completely dependent on God. But some days I struggle. Some days I feel the stress, the tension of just surviving here, away from everything that we used to depend on.
I pull my thoughts back to the present and realize that Kenneth is already praying. He's thanking God for sparing Acuka's life. We all know that it is only God's healing touch that has kept him alive.
Help us to endure. Help us to continue to press on in this place where You've called us. Help us to fight discouragement and distractions. Help us, Lord, to remember why You've brought us here.
Why we are here...my mind wanders again as I think about the love God has given us for these people. I know it's from Him because they are not usually easy to love. Vibrant is a word that aptly describes them, but so do the words stubborn and stiff-necked. What a paradox. This place epitomizes “survival of the fittest”, and in our 2 ½ years we have already watched many who were not “the fittest” pass on into eternity. Crossing into this region is like traveling back in time hundreds of years. They are cattle herders by trade, semi-nomadic people who move with their cows during the dry season in order to find fresh grass and live in thatched mud huts during the rainy season. They are known as fierce, blanket-clad warriors who fight and die for their cows. This reputation has kept many people, Ugandans and Westerners alike, from visiting or working in this beautiful place. And it is beautiful.
I think back to the first visit Kenneth made here. He came back full of stories of a culture unlike anything he'd ever experienced. A people so far behind the western world that they lacked even the basic necessities of life: clothes, water (not running water or even clean water, just water), food, basic healthcare, and schooling. But the biggest thing was the lostness. A people who had barely heard the name of Jesus and didn't know even one story about Him. Their morality was nonexistent, not fake play-acting like American morality, goodness without the heart to back it, but outright, in-your-face, immorality.
So we began to pray. The more we prayed the more we felt that we should be the ones to go. We should be the ones to bring the light of Christ to the dark areas of Karamoja. Not exactly something that was in my future plans, but I was open to it, interested. Discipleship and church planting had been our passion for a long time. We had done it in Nepal, then again in Colorado as we returned home. And now, apparently, we would be doing it in Uganda.
As we prepared to go we saw God's hand in everything. From the insane amount of money that He provided in just a few months time to the sale of our house, the last of our financial burdens. He did it all. And it was miraculous. We never doubted His plan or His provision. We knew we were following Him, and that He would see this crazy thing through. After all, it was His idea.
Fast forward a few months, and I'm stressed and homesick and wanting to be anywhere other than my hot house in my dusty brown yard where children surround my walls and yell out my name at all hours of the day asking for water and clothes and food and money. I'm expecting my fifth baby any time, and I'm beginning to wonder what exactly we're doing on the other side of the world. I hide out in my room, the only place I have any privacy and pray and pray and pray.
God, what are we doing here? Today I just want to be in my comfortable home in America with lights and running water and NO MOSQUITOES. I want to deliver my baby in relative safety, with a hospital right down the road. I want friends who speak the same language I do, who like me for me, not what I can give them. I want to eat normal American food, not beans, beans and more beans. I just want to go home!
And God reminds me, gently, of the penalty for looking back. The loss of the land. Was I an Israelite, one who constantly wished for the past despite the provision for the future, or was I willing to take the land, to go forward into the unknown despite the “giants” that resided there? He had promised us the land.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not
perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
This was definitely my wilderness, and I was feeling the desert heat keenly. But He had promised us the land and rivers in the desert. My part was to face forward, strengthen my weak knees, and keep walking forward. He was still with us, and He had called us to endure. Point well taken.
Fast forward again and we're sitting in a circle under a huge spreading tree. Children's laughter and babies' cries mingle with women's chatter as we wait for everyone to gather. “Church” is about to begin. As more and more people arrive the singing starts and a dancing circle forms, jumpers in the middle, clappers on the outside. The music is lively and boisterous with many songs having just been written the week before about the newest Bible story that was shared. Most of these people are new believers still wet behind the ears from their recent cow pond baptism, and they haven't yet learned to calm down, to “behave” in church. They are hearing stories about the Creator, the one they knew existed but knew nothing about, and it is resonating in their hearts. God has been answering their prayers and they are experiencing, first-hand, His power to heal, save and change lives.
My husband squats on his stool among the men, clapping and singing along when he knows the words. He knows these people well. They invite him into their homes and share their struggles and joys. He prays over them and rejoices with them as they learn of God's faithfulness to answer. His wisdom has earned him a place of respect among the elders, and he prays often for a humble heart as he disciples another to fill his role. He has been walking alongside them for over a year now, teaching, correcting, explaining and discussing, and is just starting to see the fruit of his labor.
And it is beautiful.
I open my eyes to see the sun rising over the mountain above our house. The view is breathtaking, and I am reminded again of the goodness of my God and His love for us that reveals itself in every waking moment. I hear men singing in the distance; a dance is in progress, probably continuing from the night before. Maybe today they are singing of the beauty of their cows or the power of their guns, but I have no doubt they will soon be singing of the greatness of their God. He is moving here, among these vibrant people, turning the hearts of the Karimojong to Himself, and we rejoice in the “rivers of living water” that are flowing all around us.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'”. John 7:38
“...for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
Kenneth and Kristi Williams
The Williams Family
Kenneth and Kristi
Nevaeh, 18 years old
Rikot, 18 years old
Ezra, 17 years old
Zion, 16 years old
Izzy, 14 years old
Selah, 12 years
Acuka, 11 years
Benaiah, 8 years
Jubal, 5 years
Jireh, 1.5 years
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