Fake Glasses & Sacramental Starbucks

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My BFF, living a couple miles from Jennings/Ferguson with her family, pastoring a nearby church, Harmony St. Louis.

The Hopping Home

The first attempt at writing anything about my experiences surrounding the death of Michael Brown and the events that followed can be found at Above the Fold here.

On Friday October 10th it had been 61 days since I first put my feet on the still bloody place where Mike Brown’s body had lain.

I didn’t understand my place anymore. I didn’t know what to do anymore. It seemed easy that first week, when there were clear places to be, at clear times, when the day after he was shot I went to a prayer vigil with two friends.

Ferguson October wasn’t going to be something I could fully participate in. The week after Michael Brown’s death we were extremely blessed in that we had a close family friend staying with us. And she stepped up and provided child care for those times and places we didn’t take the…

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Patience. Humility. Assertiveness.

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My first week in Uganda my boss told me there were three things that interns/fellows needed to be successful for their year.  Patience.  Humility.  Assertiveness.

Patience because things don’t work like they do where we’re from.  People are not the brought up the same way.  Expectations are completely different– from customer service to government to accountability… But you’ll get no where if you let the frustrations get to you.

Humility because though you’re educated, you don’t know it all.  Actually you understand very little.  Just because you come from a place that has figured some things out, doesn’t mean that those things will work here–or that they should.  Listen.  Learn.

But, assertiveness.  Because the status quo is not OK.  People being abused by the system that has been tasked with protecting them is not OK.  A better way is possible.  But you will meet opposition from every side–because people benefit from the brokenness of the system.

– – –

I have been back in Saint Louis for two weeks.  I was prepared for the worst as everyone warned me that reverse culture shock is much harder than arriving.  I had made so many dear friends and was in some ways nervous and unsettled about leaving.  But being back home has been a sweet, sweet time so far.  I have SO many loved ones.  I am so glad to be a part of their lives in a more direct way again.  It is comfortable, cozy, known.

– – –

I am happy with the work that I completed in the last 16 months.  It has been challenging.  I spent most of my initial time in Uganda scared to death at what was expected of me with no idea how to get started, let alone accomplish anything.  But as with most things, you just have to dig in somewhere.

It took about 8 months to feel comfortable with my job and my life–and to own them as mine (this is right on schedule according to cultural adjustment timelines).  And slowly anxiety about my job gave way to excitement as a picture of the project design was brought into focus polam pola with each trip to the court or judiciary’s IT group or sitting for hours hammering out detail by detail how practically we could reorganize, resource, train and monitor a series of reforms in our pilot area courts.

Vague ideas transformed into detailed design and budgets and timelines and procedures and training curriculum and procurement recommendations and a growing list of collaboration partners.  Could transformation of a fundamentally broken court system really might just maybe be possible???  Does that seem arrogant?  My boss thinks we have the best chance that the Ugandan Judiciary has seen in my portfolio.  Why not dream–and then follow through in faithful, compassionate word and deed?  We know we’re trying to do the impossible.  We surrender our little plans to the One who sits on a throne of justice and grace.  Oh to know the unfamiliar passions of God!

– – –

I turned in my multi-hundred page portfolio of recommendations to my field office director with a feeling of relief–and still, incredibly, knowing that there was so much more!  So much will happen the next few years!  My innovations and designs will be reworked and refined through trial and error.  How I would love to be a part of it!  But it was time to hand it off.  I placed much of it in the capable hands of my BFF Richard Asiimwe (shout out Richie!  Miss our talks– and you fixing my computer!)  I worked till a couple hours before my plane left.  And boom.

You leave one world.  And step into another.

Not better or worse.  Just different.

– – –

Water fountains.  Interstates.  Strollers.  Carpet.  Over abundance.  (Too many) options.  Ubiquitous smart phones.  Tall people.  Enormous people.  Expectations.  Change of seasons.  Heated water at sinks.  Seatbelts.  Directness.  Hyper safety.  Driving.  Good beer.  Good coffee.  Unlimited internet.  Complaining.  Continuous improvement.  Emission standards.  Libraries.  Customer service.  Midwest salt-of-the-earth friendliness.  Parking lots.  Blending in & being anonymous walking down the street.  No 5AM call to prayer, goats or roosters waking me.

– – –

Scott would chide me for jumping between too many subjects.  Alas, I am an inconsistent poster.  Webale nnyo bassebo na bannyabo!

Sharing my rare email updates

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Hello friends and family!
If you are keeping track, you may remember that today I am supposed be back at home in the US of A again…
But–I am still in Uganda!  What happened?!?
As my fellowship time was running out with many things still in progress, I was asked by IJM to extend my time in Uganda.  I ended up accepting a two month contract extension to finish my work and support our baseline study.  I will finish writing a few detailed memos of how to implement the next five years of our structural transformation project.  I will introduce other staff to the people I have developed trust and relationships with and pass on my duties and plans.
 
We are also conducting a baseline evaluation right now to measure the performance of the public justice system before our project begins.  In five years we will measure again to see if our project produced our desired impact to lower property grabbing and increase public justice system performance.  I am guiding the researchers through the police and court file reviews.
My friends, it has been an incredible year.  I know it sounds cliche, but it’s impossible to summarize.  I have learned SO much, grown professionally, personally and spiritually, gained much experience, met beautiful people, and I hope and pray have made some lasting impacts to serve the widow and the orphan in Uganda.  It is our vision that one day widows and orphans do not have to live in fear that their land and livlihood will be taken from them.  We hope that the public justice system will be strengthened to protect its citizens.
If you haven’t, please watch this video of Grace’s story.  Grace is one of over 500 clients that we have rescued and returned to their rightful property since 2008.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RohCIHXBZxY
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support– with emails, care packages, financial support, skype dates, phone calls and prayer.  I am so thankful for each one of you and the unique way that you have shown your love to me in the past year.  Thank you for putting up with me following my dream to serve with International Justice Mission in the field.  It has been a humbling honor.  And it is not over yet!
I do look forward to returning to you in less than two months now.  It will be a very happy Thanksgiving!
You can be praying that I finish my work well.  That I will discern what is next for me.  For the big, impossible goals that the IJM-Uganda office has set to accomplish structural transformation, victim relief and perpetrator accountability.  For our new office opening in post-conflict Gulu.  For the one in three women and children who are victims of property grabbing after the death of a head of household in Sub-Sarharan Africa.  For the thousands in desperate situations of abuse and oppression around the world waiting for rescue.
Love you all,
Nat

Trivial Pursuits

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Every Thursday night my big boss/Field Office Director and his wife have all the interns and fellows over to their house for dinner.  It’s a lovely slice of Americana: eat some tasty home cooking, run around with his three kiddos and play board games.

This Thursday we celebrated his youngest son’s fourth birthday.  We decided to make this a Super Hero party and donned capes and made masks.  I was the Green Lantern, if you were wondering.  (I’ll try to get my hands on some pictures).

After dinner we headed to our favorite (only??) Irish pub in Kampala for their monthly TRIVIA NIGHT!  And yes, we continued wearing our super hero masks.  And yes, our team name was Justice League.  (“Seek Justice!”)

Alas, we came in 6th place out of 10 teams (and we’re so brilliant, I don’t understand).  Rounds included Current Events, Whitney Houston facts and Arnold Schwartzenegger movies.

I was able to answer a few questions like confirming Ghana on the map for African geography round, recognizing “Someday” by The Strokes and guessing the album was released in 2001 thanks to my freshman year roommate Alexis Price!, and knowing that it takes 3 months for a water droplet to move from the Source in Jinja, Uganda all the way up to Egypt.

Well, if wearing super hero masks to a trivia night at an Irish bar in East Africa isn’t on your bucket list… it should be.  Come visit me to check it off!

A Prayer of Human Uncertainty and Godly Trust

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Oh Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. 

I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end. 

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following you does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you

And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though
I
may
know
nothing
about
it. 

Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

-Thomas Merton
   (1915-1968)

A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul.

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A few weeks ago I moved into my fourth, and let’s hope, last apartment in Uganda.  I am living with IJM Uganda’s new communication fellow, Cheryl.  I am grateful to spend a restful Saturday doing laundry and enjoying my new home.

Have I told you how much I love the fruits and vegetables here?  I made a simple summery salad for lunch which I am eating now.

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I am also enjoying a day of laundry catch-up.  Our new place very extravagantly came with a washing machine!!!!!  Unfortunately water pressure is so low that it takes an hour+ to fill, it sometimes errors out mid-cycle and during the spin cycle water leaks all over the kitchen.  Today I nursed the machine through one load and then did two loads by hand.  Be impressed.

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If you are wanting a peek at my face, here I am in my new room about to leave for church last Sunday.  Please note lovely original piece of artwork from Lindsay and “Someone in Missouri Loves You” picture frame from my family.  They will be hung as soon as I find a hammer and nails.

Finally, I met a friend one morning enjoying breakfast as I walked out the door to work.Image

Hope you all are as content as this guy!