Illumination of Absolution

25 04 2008

Friends and Family,

Mere Christianity. I’m sure you’ve either read it or have a friend who has. Yeah, that C.S. Lewis guy wrote it. You know, the one created The Chronicles of Narnia, but don’t get confused, this book isn’t about fauns or talking beavers. It’s about the raw essentials that illustrate God’s existence and the book is blowing my mind. Literally, my brain cells are dropping like flies.

A plus RV’s equals Responsibilities

The sky shed a few tears as I waited for the hovering darkness to pass. Tonight, I was going to be in community with an old friend and her family. A family made up of twenty-two children, a husband and two wives. Yes, two wives. I can still remember my first reaction to polygamy in Uganda so clearly. “What, you have four wives? No wonder you’re HIV positive.” However, tonight projected a different reaction. My tune was understanding and complimentary to the tune of Acholi culture.

My old friend (I’m now going to refer to her as Betty because that is her name after all), was frying donuts as Vanessa (my girlfriend) and I arrived late in the evening. The stars seemed too close and a cool breeze irritated the bats living in the trees above (Vanessa got pooped on…twice). What would tonight have in store? I sat down next to Vanessa and mentally transitioned into community life. Betty’s husband joined our small group of four and followed his greetings with a forty-five minute monologue. It eventually evolved into an explanation of what a real man is. He ended by saying “Jared, you’re a great man.” My insides got really uncomfortable and then Vanessa got pooped on (so we moved inside). As I grabbed my bag I couldn’t help thinking about what he said, “am I a great man?” No, I thought, I’m no greater than any other convicted men. Men convicted to take care and support those around him.

The Acholi culture is community based and men are seen as the head of the home. It’s the man’s responsibility to take care of and to provide for his wife(s) and children. An HIV infected widow is unable to provide enough for her eight plus children and is “blessed” when she remarries (even if the man is already married to more than one woman) because she and her children will be provided for. She loves her children so much and does anything; even share her love with a man who now has two wives. When I was fresh from America I had a hard time understanding an Acholi man’s “conviction” to love more than one woman. However, his culture is a part of him. His convictions are a part of him. HIV is a part of him. A woman with HIV is looked down upon and is rejected by a single unmarried man. However, a married HIV infected man sees it as his responsibility to take care of his tribe, so he marries another woman adding responsibility (ridiculous amounts), but he loves it. It’s part of who he is. (Note: Not all men with multiple wives in Uganda are HIV positive and not all HIV positive men have more than one wife).

I’m not writing this to say men in America should marry more than one woman because it’s the responsible thing to do. I believe western men should only have one wife (it’s the law). I’m saying an AIDS infected Acholi man who’s convicted and responsible enough to marry an AIDS infected widow with eight plus children is consider by some to be a real man. In fact, more real than me (I’m an unmarried 25 year old, that’s unusual here).

At the end of the night, Betty passed her husband his ARV’s and he gave a big smile before swallowing them.

The world is not as black and white as I once thought.

God offers Absolution and His love is strong.

Jared

Advertisements




How IC in Uganda

9 04 2008

Today I received an email from my friend and supervisor in the States. It’s pretty exciting stuff and I wanted to share it with all of you. Thanks to those who’ve signed up for donating to Invisible Children through TRI (reoccuring monthly donations). It’s because of these donations that we’re able to support the below.

PS This email was sent to the Invisible Children staff. You’re in the know. Sweet.

Hey guys,

I know we have never been about the numbers in Uganda. We are about the people, the individuals, and how we can have the greatest impact on their lives and their personal stories so that they, in turn, can have the greatest effect on their communities and their country. IC has very intentionally invested in the few with the greatest potential, so we can unquestionably say that it’s not about numbers in Uganda.

BUT, if it was…this is what it would look like:

-690 secondary school students receiving scholarships from across Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum, and Pader; each with a Ugandan mentor, being given the opportunity and guidance needed to become the next leaders

-60 university students receiving scholarships in Uganda (as of fall ’08), 40 girls and 20 guys from impoverished communities, who are also receiving the academic advising necessary to succeed and transform their lives and those around them

-1 university student in the US. She will be attending Boise State in the Fall ‘08 to pilot international scholarships.

-179 bracelet makers, trained in savings and investment, supporting their families and reinvesting their money into programs that stimulate economic growth in their communities

-10 child mothers making handbags, soon to be trained in savings and investment, supporting their families and rising out of extreme poverty

-90 staff members, each giving back to their community while simultaneously earning a great income to support their entire families.

That’s a total of around 1,030 people whose lives will never be the same. Not only that, they are each being invested in so heavily that their families will never be the same. Here is where it gets crazy. The average woman in Uganda has nearly 7 children. Yes, 7. It’s the 8th fastest growing population in the world. Using a conservative estimate we could say that the people listed above have an average family size of 7. Knowing that each of these people is transforming their family’s situation, that’s over 7,000 people whose lives are being changed through IC in a fairly direct way. And that’s before Schools for Schools.

At this moment, Schools for Schools is changing the future for around 8,400 kids in ten schools.

If you add that to the total above, without even factoring in the S4S kids’ families, that’s over 15,000 people that are tangibly affected by IC, many of whom will take on leadership positions, create growth and healing in their communities, and cause impact and change in Uganda that we will never even be able to measure. 15,000—that number doesn’t even count any extended family, friends, and neighbors who are finding support through members of the IC network.

Much love.





Burden

6 04 2008

Friends & Family,

Bombardment of statistics, propaganda and peoples opinions is overwhelming and burdensome. We’re in the midst of choices clouded by self and sin. Choices that try to define our fallen existence and wage war on our quest through life for truth. We’ve all asked ourselves “what is truth?” The truth is that we are in a fallen world, filled with fallen people and we fall. We make mistakes. We turn right instead of left and then deal with the consequences of what we think shouldn’t be. Then comes guilt. Shame. Loneliness. And depression.

– Twenty percent of people in the world live on one dollar a day.
– Another 20 percent live on two dollars a day.
– Twenty percent of us live on more than seventy dollars a day.
– More than two billion children live in our world, half in poverty.
– One out of every four children in the world has to work instead of going to school.
– Eight percent of people in the world own a car.
– Over one billion people have unsafe drinking water.
– A child dies of hunger every sixteen seconds.

Overwhelming? You bet. What do we do with this burden?

I’m currently reading a speech by Ivan Illich called “To Hell with Good Intentions”, I know, the title is a little abrasive, however, the honesty has invited me into a theological ideal. An ideal vocalized from knowledge, experience and understanding.

“Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders. Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or “seducing” the “underdeveloped” to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement. Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared.”

Are our good intentions to share our lives, our ideals, our opinions and our rights, right? Or even good for that matter? My answer right now is no (still in the process). So what should we share?

Truth.

“Love seeks not its own.” – Paul

Love isn’t self-seeking. God calls us to love Him first then love others. It’s impossible for us to truly love others if we do not first love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. We will fail, but the beauty is that God uses our failures to draw us back to Him.

What if our self-seeking was really seeking the good of others? Would this be considered love?

We must first ask, what is the good of others? Is what’s “good” for me good for you? [God, love, truth, salvation, and the fruit of the Spirit are good for everyone – but I’m talking about humanitarianism].

The only way I’ll ever know what’s good for someone else is to ask. To know them, live life and be in community with them. My friend James (an amazing writer) provides a little insight on how these questions translate in Uganda.

“One lesson that I learned in Uganda that will guide me for many years is: A Ugandan will do more good for Uganda than I ever can. The reasons are obvious. She understands her community more deeply than I will because she was born into it, grew into its roles and conventions, knows its troubles and hopes from a thousand evening conversations. She absorbed it like language. I, on the other hand, struggle to peel back its layers; I search for its heart. Sometimes I’m more successful than others, but always I have to interrupt in order to understand. She just knows.”

If we are to do good for others, we must understand what good is from their perspective. Thus, ask questions, listen and adapt. This is the success of the time given to me in Uganda.

God bestowed a dream to a woman named Jolly Okot and it’s her vision for her people that will bring good to their land. She’s been born into it. It’s her calling. Her destiny. Thanks to God, I’m not a “vacationing do-gooder”. I’m not perfect. Definitely still a work in progress. However, I’ve been asked by Jolly to return to Uganda again to pass on her vision, advice and encourage a new friend of mine (IC’s new Logistics Manager). I’ll be in Uganda March 28th – April 18th. Please pray that my dependency would be on God and all glory would be His.

Something for us to ponder:
Is it harder to serve your friends next door or friends overseas?

Love you all. Thank you for your prayers, emails, letters and financial support.

Hope you liked the video in my last email and that you signed up to give your money away. If there’s one thing you could do to help it would be $12 a month to Invisible Children. They [our friends overseas] need it. They’ve got the vision, just not enough resources.

Jared