It’s no secret that I would like to be home celebrating Thanksgiving with my family right now. Friends’ facebook statuses of “home sweet home!” and “mm sweet potato casserole…” have been driving me nuts for the last week. But, homesickness aside, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for, right here in Uganda. I finally narrowed it down to just five things. 🙂
1) I’m thankful for my family at IJM Uganda
It’s true, we’re family. We tease, bicker, cry, groan, laugh, pray, sing, and play like a family – a huge, ever-changing, cross-cultural, very peculiar family. But I am SO thankful for them – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve just stopped what I’m doing in the office, thought about it for a second, and become overwhelmed with how grateful I am to work here with an amazing team. We recently returned from our two-day staff retreat, which I’ll write more about later – but for now, here’s a picture from that occasion with two of my co-workers, Claire and Gerry (who, as of last week, is my new BFF) 🙂
2) I’m thankful for the team of IJM interns and fellows
These are the people who I spend the most time with – whether we want to or not! We work together, travel together, eat together, etc etc etc. They have welcomed me into the group with open arms, guided me through the adjustment phase of learning how to live life in Kampala. Every week, our field office director (my boss), has us over to his home for a delicious meal of typical American fare (think hamburgers, chili, lasagna, etc).
Last week, we had a murder mystery dinner. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Roley High School Class of 1954 – we got back together for our 5-year Homecoming Reunion in 1959. My name is Penelope Lofer, the rich young socialite wife who would do anything (including kill her brother!) in order to inherit her parents’ estate.
3) I’m thankful for the chance to start every day with prayer
One of the things I love the most about working at IJM is our commitment to seeking God daily, both corporately and individually. Every morning, we start off with quiet prayer alone, and then we gather for 1/2 hour for singing and sharing from the Word. It’s amazing how effective this time is in knitting us together as coworkers in the Body of Christ, and giving me a good attitude for the rest of the day. It’s so good to just soak in the presence of God, the sunshine, and a hot cup of African tea. Welcome to my life, from 8:30 to 9:00 am every morning:
4) I’m thankful for my little neighborhood of Ntinda
I treasure the walk to and from work every day. It takes me from my apartment complex,down a dusty street, up a hill covered in a heap of trash, through a crowded market, across a main street traversed by cars and bodabodas at breakneck speed, and finally into the residential neighborhood where our office is located, on a peaceful little street that looks out across the valley to the east.
It’s a fun walk, but what makes it best is the people I see every day. The little girls who smile at me and wave excitedly, yelling “byeee!!!” every day without fail. Deborah, the charcoal seller at the market who always greets me as I walk by usually in a hurry on my way to work. In the evenings, I take a more leisurely pace and we’ve had great conversations about education in Uganda, and what we use for charcoal in the States (me: “well…it’s not burnt wood like the charcoal you sell here, it’s like… hard stuff from deep inside the earth. You know?“) I should have listened more closely in earth sciences class! My favorite is a random guy I pass usually on the trash hill. I have no idea where he lives or where he’s going, but whenever we see each other, a HUGE smile breaks out across his face “Welcome BACK!!” he says, like we’re longlost friends who haven’t seen each other in years. With neighbors like that, I can’t barely return home without a smile on my face.
5) I’m thankful for YOU
Okay, so I know this is cheating a little bit. Most of you don’t actually live here in Uganda with me. But, you are very much part of my life here. It is your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial support that sustain my life here and enable to me experience all that I’m experiencing in Uganda. I wish you could all come visit, and see how wonderful it is to call Kampala “my home” for a year, to call IJM “my work” for a year, to call these brothers and sisters “my friends and family” for a year. It is an incredible blessing, and I am completely indebted to you, my friends and family scattered around the world, for making it possible for me to be here in Uganda. Thank YOU!!