Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012: Meeting Jesus on a Holy Night

Dear God,
Give us ears to hear your voice, give us feet to follow your paths, give us hearts to share your love. Amen.

Merry Christmas!
This is only my second service back after having had 3 ½ months of sabbatical, and I’m still a little shell shocked and excited to be with you on this holy, holy night.

It is a holy night.
That’s not a word we use so casually in our regular conversation, but it bears reclaiming.  Christmas is the time in our life together as Christians that we are really told, in no uncertain terms, that our lives are holy and our world is holy.

We have some strange ideas about holiness. We think that holiness is maybe just for other people. We think that holiness is maybe just for people who pray all the time, or give all their money to charity, or at the very minimum do “more”—more what, we’re not sure, but more than us anyway. We’re not quite sure we make the cut.

Maybe it’s our Western achievement-oriented culture.  We want to prove things, have it all listed out in tidy rows and spreadsheets, wanting certain knowledge. Maybe it’s our own collective insecurity, or maybe it’s a deep, deep sorrow at the state of the world and a hopelessness about effecting positive change. Maybe it’s just our own brokenness that can’t see a way out.

The good news is that we don’t have to find a way out. Christmas is not yet another thing that we have to do, adding it to the list and trying to find a way through.

And Christmas is not just about holiness far away, a good girl and her polite husband.  Holiness is about us, in all of the messiness of our lives and all the ways we aren’t quite sure we make the cut. Against our own best advice, maybe, that’s where God insists on going.

God will not stay far away.  
God is closer than we can imagine, intimately joined to us in our sleeping and our waking, our prayer and our protest.    It has always been so—in the Gospel of John we hear how Jesus as the Word was spoken by God from the beginning, woven into us from our birth.  We were made in the image of that holiness. We are part of God and God is part of us. So the birth of Jesus isn’t so much a hinge in time as it is a recentering. We remember who we are.

We remember who we are, and we remember what we are capable of. That we are able to work with God as partners in healing this world. That the work of bringing Jesus Christ to birth is our job as well.  When I was travelling two weeks ago in East Africa, I met Jesus again and again.

I met him in the matriarchs of the Cathedral in Korogwe, Tanzania, where we were treated to a multi-course feast of chicken, beef, fish, ugali corn, greens, fruit, and more on the first day we were in town, bleary from days of travel. I met him in the people of the church in Amboni, in a diocese with no women priests, when I was not only invited to preach and give out communion, but—hysterical laughter enjoyed by all—handed a live chicken in thanks for my service. I met Jesus in Ann, a single woman with a transcendent smile, not much older than I who runs the children’s sponsorship program for the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation, who in the course of her six years with the organization has adopted seven foster daughters, from the age of one to nineteen.  Her one year old was abandoned at three days of age.

I met Jesus when I got home, in our fellow traveler Colin, who was in Tanzania with us but didn’t stay for the Uganda part, who came to the airport to welcome us and see if anyone needed a ride. I met Jesus in Pree, a two year old who fell asleep on my shoulder as we were visiting the mobile health clinic in Kasese, who was tired and sick and whose parents had had to leave her in the care of her six and eight year old brothers. 

From the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, to the tin shacks of Kasese, Uganda, to well-manicured suburban lawns, to practical two family homes, from pavement to rain forest, God comes to us and God says come, here, with me, I need your hands here.

Through sorrow and joy, through tears and elation, through hilarity and laughter and desperation and suffering, God comes to us.

If God chose a barn to be born in. If God chose a young woman who wasn’t even married yet.  If God’s coming to us was announced by social nobodies like shepherds, how can we assume that God has somewhere better to be than with us? How can we assume that the birth of Christ is for judgment, rather than for generosity? 

We are God’s people. God may have chosen to create better people, or smarter people, or more attractive ones. But we’re it. From sketchy shepherds to scared teenagers, to everyone in between we’re it.

God comes to all of us, and God comes to all of us.  We don’t have to be powerful. We don’t have to be well-behaved or strong or have all the answers.

Because this is a holy night. This is a holy place. And God is here. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pictures (last of them?)


Marabou Stork, Entebbe, Uganda

 Kampala, Uganda

 looking episcopal at the kizara center

 More fauna

 Bar/Internet Cafe at the White Parrot 
Korogwe, Tanzania

 Faith, hope, communion at St Barnabas house 
 Korogwe, Tanzania

 Swahili Introductions

Sleepy girl--my favorite picture
Kasese, Uganda

Video: Welcome to St Alban's Parish, Ngombezi, Tanzania

Video: Wow and a Swahili lesson

The view to the sea from the mountains in Tanzania--
more proof of Shadrach's labeling of Americans as "the wow people."

A Swahili lesson with Angelina and Colin

Music from Kuhurio, Tanzania

Video: Choir from Kihurio

Singing from Kihurio

Video: Cathedral Kids 2

Video: Kids at the Cathedral School, Korogwe, Tanzania

Video: Elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park

We were with Dr. Daniel's six year old, Elisha, on our national park visit and he chose this an opportunity to try out his best English swear words (it's also true that an unnamed adult also muttered  "What the hell" when the driver started to go just as it was getting interesting). Anyway...at about 17 seconds in you may want to mute it if you're with a child.

Video: Kasese Kids

Taken at BMCF Mobile Clinic, Kasese

Video: Sara Blessing the kindergarten

FYI--"hisself" is not a term customarily used in prayer.  oops.

Monday, December 17, 2012

On the way home, being a stranger with candy, and so on

Schipol airport, Amsterdam.

On the way home
I’m sitting in the “library” in the airport—“we invite you to read, download, and explore Dutch culture”—there is also a note that says politely that the sleeping area is upstairs. I’m sitting at a long counter with 20 other people, all of us industriously attached to our devices.  I just drank water from the tap and displayed in front of me sits a book entitled “Dutch Delftware: Vases with Spouts/Three Centuries of Splendor.” What a contrast.

Of our group, Tom is the only one who has been to Africa before (and already has plans to be back in 2013), and I think the remaining four of us are struggling a little to figure out how the last two weeks will assimilate into our “regular” lives of busy-ness and privilege.  We are clear that there is a lot to learn; how the groups we’ve met fit into their wider networks of advocacy and service, how these relationships will be sustained, and how we can best use our resources to help.  And we have fickle hearts. In Tanzania what we were doing seemed so important, and it is, but the level of fundamental need in Uganda was even more staggering.  There are still landmines left in the hills near Kasese, and war and AIDS have decimated the social structure.  There are so many places where it just seems like there are no adults; there just aren’t any.   But I also would love for all those churches not to have dirt floors, and I also have faith that those relationships will deepen.

It’s hard to compare the experiences of each country as well. The Uganda time couldn’t be more different than Tanzania, though each casts light on the other. In Tanzania, our interactions were almost according to ritual; we came, we did church, welcomed, thanked.  It was glorious. But it was mediated in a very distinct way through that structure. Held in the container of shared faith, it was easier to feel connected and to have a kind of narrative thread to hold it all together.   Even though we interpreted the ideas differently, the church provided a common language.  In the Sunday service on our last day, when I was at the altar with the priests there I could feel in my bones that yes, there is all kinds of sin and inequality and injustice, but that there is a unity below it that can transcend everything.  Or at least it feels like it can.  I do, after all, have a BA in gender studies, and am very aware of how power and privilege and difference get in the way of real community.

In Uganda, there’s still plenty of praying (each workday begins with a 30 minute long staff chapel service, where one of the staff offers a short meditation). And of course our shared faith (no matter what the institutional churches say about who’s going to hell) offers a link. And of course everywhere, whatever belief or lack of belief, mediated--or not--through a religious tradition, love and respect and mutuality are always a gift.  For my personal preferences, though, the girl with the incense brings me to my happy place very quickly.

So we all have a lot to learn.  Like any organization founded by a strong leader (and, in this case, named for him) succession and leadership development and institutional growth is a challenge. BMCF, though, is an international organization with an American board as well as a Ugandan one, and all of our time with them was very smooth and strategic.  We had a meeting with “stakeholders” (teachers and students), were intentionally introduced to the present and future focus in the healthcare and children’s programs with personal contact with intentionally representative groups. The BMCF is not a bunch of na├»ve people singing about Jesus who just want to help.  So I guess the familiar language of the nonprofit world offered some connective tissue, as does the wonder-filed passion of those who are doing the work. And Jesus.

On being a stranger with candy—a lot of candy.
Looking back over these posts, I set out with a fairly nebulous sense of purpose on this trip. I wanted to go. I fretted about what I bringing in my suitcase—candy and bubbles are, in some ways, literally useless (there was also paper and colored pencils, which for sure are more practical).  Being with kids who have very limited opportunity actually to be kids, though, “useless” kids stuff takes on a whole new significance. 

It felt awkward to be the one with all the candy—more on that below—but seeing the kids was delightful. Those kids have so many adult-sized problems, and to see them just having fun and simple pleasure is a big deal.  A lollipop won’t bring back their dead parents and the bubbles pop right away. But to have a few seconds to focus on something else counts for something.  I think one of my landmark moments was seeing a one year old at the clinic waiting for vaccinations with a lollipop in each fist while breastfeeding. Embarrassment of riches!

At first, it felt very awkward to show up as a random stranger with goodies.  I felt so acutely the power dynamic of being the “have-er” in the midst of the “want-ers.”   I decided who had already gotten one and was fibbing about collecting for “my sister,”  and I decided who got one next and when everything got put away. And you know what? Yes, it’s uncomfortable.  I don’t enjoy feeling needy, either, though it happens often enough. I need one of those meme pictures of Willy Wonka with him looking condescending, saying, “I can’t wait, tell me about how your privilege makes you so uncomfortable.” I’m flying home to dressed and healthy children, with whom my greatest complaint is their reluctance to brush their teeth at a sink with running hot and cold water after a meal prepared indoors. Really? Uncomfortable? Do tell. 

Yes, I’m uncomfortable, and that’s important.  I heard a quote from Rabbi Abraham Heschel about inequality recently: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” I did not create a colonial empire that abused individuals and families, aided and abetted genocide, and continues to hobble emerging economies through its aid and foreign policies.  Send US grown grain to a poor country? Of course! But what happens when all of that “free” food floods the market and the bottom falls out for local growers? Oops. Our entire government didn’t think of that, did they.

So, yes, I did not personally create the market conditions for poverty or the social conditions for an AIDS epidemic. But given the sheer quantity of “getting” that I do, there is a lot more giving to be done. And inviting others into it, and saying, yes, it really does look like the pictures and yes, these are beautiful and funny and smart kids who have just as much a right to flourishing and imagining their future as mine do.  And, by the way, global warming: you can bet that the drought in Tanzania is caused directly by the climate change that our car-driving, single-serve package, new-stuff-buying lifestyle. And I am both guilty and responsible for that.

Grace, anyway
Still, I think of those moments of church in Tanzania, or the 45 minutes I spent with Pree sleeping on my shoulder or Amy surrounded by kids doing the hokey pokey. There have been transcendent moments where time stands still and all of the separation melts away, where holiness pushes aside all of the brokenness and pain and guilt and the sky opens.

As a Christian, I understand those times to be Jesus moments--Jesus was always pulling people in who didn’t fit in other places and making something new.  Whores and bad guys and, yes, kids, were at the center of his mission—to throw open the doors and let absolutely everybody have the life and grace that he knew was their birthright.  As children of God all of us, imperfect and needy and making bad choices all over the place, are loved and treasured no matter what the world says.  There’s forgiveness, there, both for well-meaning but often clueless do-gooders as well as for the adults who have let these kids down. And for them, a promise that poverty and illness don’t have the last word.

I have been away from home for 16 days—at least 4 of those on a plane or bus trying to get somewhere. So I don’t pretend to have any answers after two weeks. I have a lot of questions, and a lot of interpretations. Spiritually, I know the places I want to return—to that moment of being completely cracked open and flooded with light in that church in Kihurio, Tanzania, where all the women and some men and lots of kids came out singing to meet us on the road and brought us in. I want to return to that moment of eating together, of communion and being joined in the mystery of sacrament and silence and riotous music in Amboni.  I want to return to the love in Ann’s eyes when she talks about her seven foster kids and the future that’s possible for them, one of whom came to her at just a few weeks old, for whom she is all the mother she has had.   And all of those dirt floors swept clean and all the prayers said in gratitude for whatever we have been given, no matter how small. And I want to hang on to the requests—Bahati, one of the teachers at a school that has kids sponsored by BMCF, who sent us a meticulously handwritten note asking that we double our support, and Kizara’s need for hospital beds at the clinic up in the mountains, and even the housekeeper at the hotel where we stayed who asked us for money for a suitcase. I want to be on the hook for that, to remember to tell these stories and not just come home with some lovely baskets and a sunburn, but a mission and a hope for the future.

Finally, I want to remember to be moved.
We heard about the Newtown killings in a text message to Tom from Mally at the diocesan office, and spent the day on the road wondering what had happened. As the details emerged and it got worse and worse, all we could do was be silent and remember that there is insecurity and danger, even at home.  Our culture does not have a lock on communitarian goodness or even any claim to functional society by a longshot.  Next, of course, was to question why our country doesn’t have meaningful gun laws. Not asking that question is a little like getting sick from bad food and then going back for seconds and wondering why you got sick again.  Not politics, causality. Nobody needs an assault rifle. Nobody.

So there has been plenty of Good Friday, but we have also often noted how without the blare of Christmas music from everywhere, Advent has been quite a different prospect. Heaven knows that the amount of time we’ve spent in the car has been an excellent waiting discipline. So Christmas is in a week—that moment where the world gets turned upside down and God becomes human and goes to the unlikeliest, poorest place, and lights it on fire with God’s grace and call to peace and justice; a powerless baby telling everyone to wake up and know that everything can be different, that there is enough, that we can be different. 

And for now, that will have to be enough.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More Uganda Pictures

 Daniel, Bishop Masereka, Mama Stella and Alice (L to R) at Morning Chapel
 Misc Countryside
 Pineapple in the garden at our hotel

 A heavy load on a bike
 Misc Traffic

Pictures: Kasese Mobile Clinic

Mobile Clinic, Kasese

 Setting up the HIV testing section

 Amy and Caroline go over some notes from the talk the day before

 The clinic set up in front of the church--as the day went on it got much more crowded

 Amy playing games!

The scale

 Handing out bubbles and candy--the smallest little girl in the center is Pree--more pictures to come

Saturday, December 15, 2012

More work with BMCF

Leaving Kasese over the speedbumps, of which there are many.  In my last post I mentioned that it took 8h40min to drive back from Entebbe and the hope for today is to make it in 7, going the longer but more scenic and less bumpy route.

How to describe the last few days.
Wednesday, which I wrote about before, was our time with the health center and hospital site visiting.  Thursday morning we went out with the mobile clinic, and it was both hopeful and shattering at the same time.  The staff set up in a church yard and inside the church—prenatal exams were inside, with women lying down on a cushion perched on two benches together and a screen around them. Outside there was a station for immunization, HIV testing, pre and post HIV test counseling, and baby weigh-in. As soon as the word got out that we were there, it seemed like every child in the neighboring area showed up. We were on the outskirts of Kasese—not too far from the clinic itself, but far enough that getting there could be a barrier.

So all of these children turned up, and we came prepared with our customary stash of lollipops and bubbles. That was entertaining for about twenty minutes before everyone started asking for extras “for my sister,” at which point we figured everyone had been well-served.

The kids were not well. There were runny noses, rashes, cuts on their feet.  There were seven year olds with 18month olds on their backs. One particular (girl, I noticed when I saw she wasn’t wearing anything covering her bottom) child seemed delayed because she was the size of a robust one year old but her motor skills were that of a two year old—she could walk fine, but didn’t talk at all. She seemed to be cared for by her older sister (who was maybe on the older side of 3, also with nothing on but a T shirt).

When the bubbles ran out, we tried singing and games—I lead “head, shoulder, knees and toes” and tried Simon Says, and Amy did hopscotch and got the older kids in a circle for clapping games. [let me interject here that I’m writing as we’re driving through the Queen Elizabeth National Park and it is incredible and beautiful and we have seen a bunch of antelope already] Sitting in the shade with the smaller kids, the girl I noticed who seemed small for her age was climbing over the bench and fell off and started to cry.  The older child with her looked a little concerned, but moved on so I pulled her up next to me. Some younger children we’ve met in both Tanzania and Uganda have seen us and run away, so I was mindful of not wanting to alarm her. But she was OK with me and kept crying, so I pulled her on to my lap and rocked and sang a little.  She stopped crying and eventually fell asleep and I had the delicious “pinned” feeling you have when a child falls asleep in your arms and immediately weighs 500 lbs.  So we sat together for about half an hour before their dad showed up—I’d been told the mom was in the village and that he was “out.”  He came over to me and said motioned to her and said he was the dad, so I handed her over not a little sadly. I noticed that four kids left with him—I think the older kids were 6 and 8, maybe. Her name is Pree.

In the meantime, Amy kept up with the games and it got hotter and hotter and the kids more and more impatient with each other.   Finally, technology won out; she got out her ipad and started making little movies and showing them.   A few of those kids would have been in school at a different time of year; the end of school year vacation is December-January, but most would have just been with each other, with the adults off trying to make ends meet.

I want to take a moment here and talk about photography.
In a lot of places, the kids have been eager to have their pictures taken. Especially with digital cameras when you can see it right away. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to send back picutres we’ve taken and that they can get to the right people. Even at home, I wrestle with documenting vs experiencing; do I want to spend my kid’s pre-kindergarten graduation behind a camera, or do I want to actually be there? Here, my reluctance comes from a slightly different place, in not wanting to freeze things, not wanting it to become a simple, two  dimensional image of  abstract disaster of kids with no pants on in which all you see is the sadness. At the same time, the dirty feet and torn shirt should not be a source of shame.  More shame is for those who merrily go along on our way pretending that this kind of need doesn’t exist.  Of course, I am overthinking.  And I’m glad somebody took a picture of me with Pree.

The afternoon after the clinic, we went along with Alex and Ann with home visits. The children’s program supports all aspects of kids’ development—and checks up on them. We visited five homes, each an example of a family category—“Discordant” couple—he HIV + and her HIV – and their children, one with an elderly caretaker, one with an HIV + mom and son, one with HIV + mom and several kids in the program, and one with a mom who was also being served through the microfinance program, which she’d opened a small shop next door to her home. The “discordant” family wasn’t home, but we heard a little of their story; they had been living in a crumbling home with four kids in one room—corrugated metal that was falling down—but owned the property, so an organization from Mississippi that BMCF has contact with funded with construction of a new home. The couple—Joseph and Mary—helped build and Joseph made the bricks so there was more collaboration. The other houses were either corrugated sheets of metal nailed together or brick, and all had dirt floors. One house we visited, with Helen (pictured with Penny, Tom, and Ann) was living with an elderly relative who was HIV +. She was unstable and disappeared for days, so Helen didn’t get enough food to eat. Ann and she said they were looking for another sponsor to pay for her to go to boarding school; she was already attending during the day, but when there was no food, it was hard for her to study so she needed an extra $450/year to cover the room and board.  Tom looked at Penny and said, “How about it?” so they’ll cover her expenses until she graduates high school.

We then visited Boniface and his mom, both HIV +, who live next to a shop where she works. Her illness is not under control, though, so she can’t work very often.  His cousin just came to stay with them a few months ago after her parents died, and she’s being tested this week.

BMCF supports 611 kids—that’s 611 stories just like those. More than 50% don’t live with a parent.  It was a hard day, and none of us slept well. In Tanzania, people were poor, but if the margins were thin there, here it’s a razor thin line between life and death. The AIDS epidemic here has wiped out whole towns, and even though drugs now are very good, they’re very strong and it’s not easy to stay on treatment, which then creates more illness. Boniface, who is twelve, doesn’t want to take his drugs; his mom is sick, so he is losing hope. Caroline, whom we heard from the day before, also has a sister who has stopped taking her drugs; she says she’ll die anyway, so why bother.

Ann says she never loses hope. She has plenty of hard days, and said that she still thought about a girl who died in July.   But they don’t lose hope. If they don’t, how can we?  Still, there’s this economy of sorrow that seems so vast. We went to a life skills presentation some of the kids attended and one of the girls talked about how she was with a single HIV + mom and how they prayed all the time but her father had disappeared and didn’t support them. I asked her, what can we pray for for you?  Her answer was stark: “That my mother doesn’t die.”

But these kids are creating community with each other, they’re learning about how to focus on their values, know their strength and weaknesses, try to be a leader to others.   They are children and they have nothing, and they have to negotiate their relationships with school, their guardians, and, nearly always, HIV. Heartbreaking  story after story, and there are so many.  There is a depth to the disasater, but also a depth to the success—each individual child brings with them their siblings, their mother, their guardian.  BMCF won’t reach every child in Uganda, or even in Kasese, but the ones they do reach matter a lot.

Friday, December 12
Friday, we had a “resting” day; morning in the national park.  We went with Dr. Daniel and his son, Elisha, age six, who was incredibly fun and made me glad to be seeing my own kids very soon. I think he and Isaiah could wreak a lot of havoc together.  Our car was a leaky minibus; not one of those cool four wheel drive vehicles that the top pops up on so you can look out the roof.  Seeing an elephant cross the road in front of you is pretty magical, though, no matter what kind of vehicle you’re in.  We all felt a little awkward about our comparative (and extreme) comfort vis a vis the kids who we met the day before. Also sighted: warthogs, lions (far away, but still), more elephants, antelope, water buck (related to antelopes), and some amazing birds. So now I can say I’ve been on safari. Sort of.

Finally, our last night in Kasese—we went to Dr. Daniel’s house and met his wife, Jackie, and their other 11 month old son, who used Tom’s collar as a teething ring all night. Food was delicious—all the food here has been great, thanks to Mama Stella—and at the end of the night Daniel talked about how thankful they are for our friendship and support. Jesus brought friends together and called them brothers. We are friends and brothers and sisters and will each do our work in our own place.

Our work in our own place: I’m not sure, exactly, how this will become part of my work. It has certainly deepened my sense of the challenges the world faces, but it has also given me more of a sense of what’s possible and put a face on the world that needs to be done. We stood in front of Helen’s house and Ann told us what she needed and now she—she, Helen, with a big smile and beautiful face—she is going to go to a better school now and she will decide what she wants to be when she graduates.

As we went around the circle, I said that it is a privilege it is to be part of what they’re doing, even in the smallest way.  And also how there are a lot of people who do great work in the world, but that it’s been not just inspiring to be here, but a real pleasure; such smart and funny and committed people.

Now, we’re driving back to Entebbe to get our flight tomorrow. Bishop Zeb has been in Kampala all week in meetings; USAID is considering moving funds directly to local NGO’s instead of going through the government, where funds are often misappropriated, so he met with the American ambassador on Tuesday and is staying on for the service for the new archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda.

Ah, the Anglican Church of Uganda.
We spent all our time in Tanzania centered around church, and none here. When we were at the mobile clinic the pastor came out to say hello—he lived across the way—and took me for a walk and showed me everything.   Unfortunately our churches are not on the best of terms, given that the Anglican Church here has decided that the Americans are going to hell because we support the rights of GLBT people to get married and serve in the church. The pastor asked me to fund his education—people are very willing to ask for help, which is both refreshing and a little unsettling.  And in this case, the answer is no. Bishop Masereka is a retired bishop, so he is free to work with Americans in ways his compatriots can—or will-not.

Sexuality came up in the life skills class as well—one of the kids said that he and many people were worried that the world was going to come to an end because of homosexuality. Tom gave a pretty good answer—culture and acceptance on all sides, that we believe that God loves gays and lesbians and ask for their respect of our beliefs. Later, he said it occurred to him that he might have mentioned polygamy, which is more accepted here than I had thought.  Uganda has been in the news quite a bit lately over the “Kill the gays” bill, which was first introduced in 2009.  Same gender sexual acts are already a crime in Uganda and can lead up to 14 years in prison, but the new bill establishes life imprisonment and the death penalty for “serial offenders” and acts with minors or an act committed by an HIV positive person.  It also includes a raft of punishments for those who “collaborate,” which could impact teachers who don’t turn in students, health workers who treat GLBT persons, and on and on.  An All Out petition making its way around the internet has taken some credit for the fact that the bill has stalled and won’t be taken up again until after the next session begins in 2013; there is a fairly scathing Ugandan response to this at the blog for Freedom and Roam Uganda (http://faruganda.wordpress.com), a Ugandan lesbian organization. In other news, the pope this week gave a blessing to Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Parliament who hoped to pass the bill in time for Christmas, when she was in Rome with other Ugandan leaders. It was the same day he went on twitter so that upstaged the coverage of the Ugandan visit. So pray for the kids we’ve met, as well as the GLBT community here.

Cultural baggage multiplies on both sides; Mama Stella said someone in the US once asked her if she lived in a tree house in the jungle, and someone else in the student Q and A (sitting next to the one who was worried about homosexuality) was curious if 63% of Americans really do worship Satan. This time of year, only Santa.

[editing note: I leave for the airport in just a few hours! see you soon and more words to come from the airplane. Also many more pictures when I get more technology straightened out at home]