Monday, April 11, 2011

Uganda Stories: True Joy

Something that has always struck me about the believers* in Uganda is their genuine joy. Yes, they are poor. Yes, their lives hold incredible pain. Yes, their day-to-day struggle to survive is harder than anything I could imagine. But when you see them, it is their joy that stands out above all else. 

This joy is what I remember most about my first visit there in 2006 and something that impacted me again this time around. These believers experience the joy of the Lord in a way I have never seen anywhere else. They are poor and hungry, desperate and needy, but they turn that desperation toward the Lord and their faith is radiant because of their need for Him. Some would see this joy and say, "Wow - they are so joyful despite their circumstances." But I fully believe they are joyful because of their circumstances. They have a dependence on God that produces great faith, great love and great joy - because He is all they have.

Since and during this most recent trip to Uganda, I've been wondering if this kind of relationship with God is even possible in American. It has to be – somehow. We can’t all live in Africa, yet we are all called to have that same relationship with God… but it is so much harder to find that dependence when we have so much else to depend on. Compound that even more when we live within a culture that fights and prays to avoid discomfort and trials with everything in us. 

I heard a song recently by Laura Story that reminded me so much of the faith of the Ugandan people and challenged me deeply to accept the very real possibility that the trials of this life could be God's mercies in disguise and perhaps I shouldn't despise them so much when they show up in my life. (Listen to the song Blessings here.)

(Me, Papa and Devin)
The best example I saw in Uganda of this kind of joyful dependence was Papa Issac - the founder of Cannan Children's Home. This dear, sweet, lovable, jolly man cares for 107 orphans. It is his burden to feed them, clothe them, school them, mentor them and provide them with "aunties" (caregivers) that will show them love and spiritual training. Papa Issac is fifty-six-years-old and considered an old man by Ugandan longevity standards. He has health issues that are only getting worse as he pushes forward with God's work each day. In candid moments, the weight of his task is heavy on his shoulders. Despite this (because of this) he is one of the most joyful people I have ever had to privilege to know. It is obvious from Where is hope, joy and strength comes from - from the only One would could provide such joy amidst such trials.

I look at this kind of joy and wish for it. Yet selfishly, when I look at the circumstances behind the joy, I am grateful I don't have them. I want the joy without the trials, yet so often, God uses trails to produce His blessings. Something to remember the next time I face a difficult circumstance I'd rather be rid of - am I willing to forgo some of God's greatest blessings in order to stubbornly cling to my own temporary comforts? 

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
-Blessings by Laura Story 

* I should clarify by saying that as a whole, the people of Uganda are an incredibly friendly, joyful bunch of folks. But there is much suffering in their lives and I have noticed a deeper and more consistent type of joy in those who place their hope in Christ amidst those daily trials.


  1. Beautiful! You have a gift with words - thanks for sharing!

  2. I the picture of sweet Ruth! She is so beautiful!!! Thank you! =D

  3. Thank you for the depth of this post. I am sooo spoiled - I truly know no problems, no pain.
    I was reading some of your posts on frugal living and I cleaned out my closet yesterday. I was sickened by the amount of clothing I possess. 3 bags went to Goodwill.
    I am your newest follower because I feel I will learn a lot from you.
    Press on....

    PS.... You are working on a cross for me. I have also just learned of your twins pregnancy. Congrats and PLEASE take your time - the cross can wait!


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