I have spent the last week in Uganda. I am here now. I think this is somewhere around my tenth trip to Uganda, working for Parental Care Ministries. I don’t pretend that I’ve made any profound or lasting impact during my time here; not humility, false or otherwise; just fact.
Why I keep returning, aside from the fact that I hope and believe that God will be faithful to use whatever little bit we bring to do any good, is that Uganda profoundly changes me. And, anything that can make me a better man hopefully enriches the lives of those around me, including those precious ones I love and whose care I have been entrusted.
As I was reflecting, here are three ways that Africa makes me a better leader and man:
1. I realize how small I really am in the context of the Body of Christ. At times, there’s this ownership over one’s ministry as THE place, our own little world as THE ministry where God is working. Being in Uganda helps me realize that, as Shakespeare described, I am a bit player on an amazingly broad stage, a pixel on an IMAX screen. God is at work through His Body in so many ways, and in so many places, and in so many people, that it hurts my brain to comprehend it. Anytime I think this world is getting away from us, ” going to hell in a hand basket,” I get over here, and see that He’s not only working powerfully in my little square, but across a massive canvas. He’s at work everywhere, doing incredible things everywhere. His Body is alive and thriving, and I’m edified and humbled.
2. I was standing in the middle of Katyazo site of PCM Secondary School and soon-to-be primary school, in absolute wonderment. Only a few years ago, I stood here, in the middle of an open field. Now, the secondary campus is nearly completed, with a farm, a baby house, and a primary school in advanced development. Yesterday, Pastor Emmy and I were recalling that we met in London with the Barrets and Karla Foreman to create a five-year plan for PCM.
God completed that plan in two years. If I had a Ugandan shilling for every time I’ve been wrong about the growth of PCM, I could afford to finish out this campus. If I had this same track record at my own school, I’d have lost my job a long time ago.
Being in Uganda reminds me of the power of God working through the faithfulness of His people’s prayers and generosity. Sometime His timetable is slower than ours, and sometimes is blazingly faster, but it is rarely the same. That’s all the more reason that working alongside the Lord means seeking daily His purposes and His timing, and praying to be in alignment with both His agenda when I so often stray on my own.
3. Nothing goes as planned in Uganda. When someone says they will pick you up at 9:00 am, they really mean 9:00 am African time, which is actually 9:30 or so, unless you try to game what you’re doing to work African time. Then, they switch immediately and without warning to American time, making you the one who is late. If you are supposed to teach four times, it may mean three times, or two times, or five times. It may mean teaching, or facilitating, or presenting. You may get two days’ notice, or two minutes. As a Westerner, living in this hour with my eye fixed firmly on the next, this used to drive me crazy. I mean, absolutely crazy. So I go back, time after time, in order to live for a while on African time.
African time teaches me to live moment to moment by the provision of the Holy Spirit; to stop relying on my resources and trusting in the One “in whom I live and move and have my being”; to stop taking myself so seriously, and to learn to be flexible, seeing each one of my seconds as a gift from God, and each one as a gift for me to give in service to others. Finally, I live on African time to see that enjoying relationships is more important than killing time or checking boxes.
All of these things force me to make less of me and more of my Lord, and anything that makes less of me and much of Jesus makes me a better leader, husband, and daddy.
I am here because living as a Ugandan Christian makes me a better American one. Makama Asiimwe. Praise the Lord.