Sunday, January 9, 2011

Friends of Friends

Robert in Uganda was connected to a Methodist church in Ireland that was connected to Heidi in Grand Rapids who is connected to Cornerstone University which is connected to me. Is that six degrees of separation? I think it’s only three. None-the-less I had the privilege of delivering gifts to Robert on Heidi’s behalf. Robert lives in Bugembe, a suburb of Jinja about three hours from home (Kawuku).

Waving us down at the Taxi stage, this dear man welcomed me with a hug even though we’ve never met before. I like him already. A short distance off the main road over the typical dusty, rutted pathways, Robert directed our car to his home. Unlike the typical Ugandan homes made of mud and sticks or local bricks, the solid steel window coverings and steel doors gave the home the more guarded sense you’d get when walking past a store that was closed and locked up for the night. Robert commented as we passed through the doorway leading to the back of the cinder block building that it was like entering a prison.

Close spaces were behind that door. The cement courtyard (using the term loosely) contained Robert’s extended family, resting in the midday heat, and the various small brick homes they occupied. From the parking area you would never know all this life went on behind those doors. Of the many in-laws surrounding his home, Robert’s only son of five children was there along with his wife, Monica.

They all greeted us and invited us into their clean, neat home. The small living room was furnished with a leopard print sofa, love seat, chair trio (something akin to Art Van style) and a dining table big enough for the seven family members plus one. Robert put his gift bags away immediately and I felt a little funny asking to take his picture as he opened the bags so I let the moment slip by. He did note that he was particularly excited about the Christian book as books are a very rare commodity in Uganda.

Robert is a theology student and his wife is a nursing student. We talked about how difficult it can be to maintain a home both physically and financially when you are a student let alone when both parents are students. Robert described his trade as a computer repair technician, although he is attending school full time at the moment. He and Gabriel connected because of their many common certificates related to construction.

Sadly our schedule for the day didn’t allow for a longer visit. Robert and Monica graciously invited us to return and stay with them for a few days, which I just might take them up on. A whole new batch of children screaming mzungu as I go by is rather enticing. I’d like to think I can turn that thrill into something God-based and constructive. I am so privileged to have met this family, to have a friend who will drive me all over kingdom come, and to have a friend who trusts me to be her hands and hearts in her precious relationships.