A Plea for Help

Poverty is a difficult thing. The more I learn about it the more complex it is. My eyes have been opened in the last three or so years in a way that I never could have imagined. We judge poverty by our own experiences. If someone doesn’t have running water or indoor plumbing we consider that a hardship because we have it and couldn’t imagine doing with out. My husband grew up without it and sees it as a superflous thing that doesn’t mean much to him. He sees what Americans have given up in order to have such modern conveniences and to him it’s not necessarily a win.

Sometimes as Americans we are a bit smug even in our desires to help. People don’t need rescuing, they don’t need someone to push for them to have the same modern convenices that we consider essential. Most of the time they just need an opportunity.

When I was in Uganda, my budget was kind of tight. I had used everything I had to pay my way there and to pay for my expenses during the 5 months that I lived there. Yet I was surrounded on every side by people who had less than me. How could I not help?

On the other hand, how could I help? Every day I encountered handicapped people whose needs far exceeded anything that I could give to make a difference, I encountered children who lived on the streets and had no home to go to. I encountered single moms struggling and often failing to care for their children. I saw people who were sick, suffering and the need was overwhelming. I helped where I could and I consoled myself with the fact that I was there making a difference. I was volunteering for a non-profit that helps single moms become self sufficient. Musana was making a difference and I could feel good about how I was spending my time and the little money I had. IMG_1613

Then one day I was walking the streets of Kampala making arrangements for the new street sign we were putting up at Musana. A woman approached me, obviously hungry, she had a small child strapped to her back and she was clutching her obviously empty breasts and pleading for help. She didn’t speak english but her message was clear. She had nothing to feed her baby. The baby looked at me with large open eyes from his mothers back. I shrugged my shoulders indicating that I had nothing for her and moved on. It felt heartless but what could I do? I couldn’t help everyone.

Since then I have had my own children. I have sat in a cozy gliding rocker in a decorated nursery and nursed my babies. During those times that I have not had enough milk I have gone to the kitchen and quickly made a bottle to satisfy my chubby sweet baby. I have come home from church after several hours of not being able to eat and made myself something to eat to help with that cold empty shaking feeling in my stomach that nursing a hungry baby leaves if you don’t eat enough.

Every day since my son was born that woman has been in my mind and heart. I have wept tears over the help I didn’t offer. Needless to say I would do things differently if I could go back. Still I would be faced with the same dilemma of too much need for my capabilities to help; but this woman, this one woman, I could have helped to feed her child. She came to me I could have done something.

A friend of mine is preparing for her own humanitarian trip to Uganda in May. She s raising $25,000 to build an orphanage while she is there. She is asking that we and anyone who is willing participate in “7 days of nothing” now I cringe a little at the title because having seen people who have nothing and it hardly compares. But the idea is to do without something for 7 days and donate your savings to the cause. Perhaps you can eat simply for 7 days. Nothing but beans, rice and oatmeal (typical food for many  families all over the world) Perhaps you can forgo using your running water and carry whatever water you need from an outdoor faucet, to get a feel for the way the majority of the world lives. Maybe try walking or riding your bike to work or the grocery store if you can.581766_10151416836355658_826602642_n

And if that is too much for you maybe you can skip your daily latte, or a trip to the salon. or go on a sugar fast for a week. Save what you can and send it to my friend to help build an orphanage. For Joseph and I we have washed our own clothes by hand, carried our water, walked wherever we need to go, done without many things and we know how to do it. We will be joining my friend in her 7 days of nothing and perhaps that woman and her sickly child will not haunt me so much. For you I pray that you will find something that works for you someway that you can give and I think you will find that the bigger your sacrifice the more impact it will have on your life.

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Missing Uganda

Today some good friends of ours will be leaving Uganda after serving 18 months as senior missionaries. This couple was so much help to Joseph and I and felt almost like parents to me. I am so excited to see them. Sister Casperson posted this goodbye to Uganda and the people there on her facebook.

Packing suitcases for our flight on Thursday night. Hard to believe that our mission is already coming to an end. We will miss Uganda and the lovely people we’ve met here. But, we’re looking forward to seeing our two grand babies we’ve never met and our children and grandchildren who have always been on our minds. Thank you for the support of all who have written, texted, skyped, and talked with us. Thank you to the Ugandan members who have loved us so much for the little we’ve done. We have gained much from them, and hope that as we go home, they will remember us from time-to-time and keep faithful to the gospel. We will be cheering right along with you when it is announced that Jinja District is Jinja Stake. Good luck to those of you getting married soon. We are sad we will miss those weddings, but so very, very happy that you’ve found your eternal companions! Remember to FB photos! Trust our Heavenly Father, believe Him, do what He asks you to do, and we will meet again as the Lord brings us into His fold to help accomplish His work until the end.

As I read this a realized how they must be feeling right now I remembered my own bitter sweet homecoming from that country. I was so excited to get home and see my family and eat familiar food and hopefully start feeling better. Yet I was so sad to leave my husband of two short months and all the sweet, wonderful people I had met while I was there.

Life in Uganda wasn’t easy for me but in so many ways it was so wonderful! Here are a few pictures from my last few days there that my husband rescued from a broken memory card.

Most women in Uganda just cook and wash dishes in pots on the floor. I wasnt cut  out for that so with Joseph’s help I tmy own little kitchen.IMG_1640Joseph found this little water jug and put a spout on it for me. IMG_1641The counter top was a piece of plywood that we covered with laminate flooring and nailed to the top of a broken cabinet that Joseph had planned to throw out. I sewed some curtains and strung them up on string.IMG_1643IMG_1642

A cutting board and a few jars from sister Casperson and a basket I found in the market completed my counter top. I pounded a few nails into the side of the cabinet to hang hot pads and towels on and Joseph found us a little fridge. Our little kitchen was complete and served us well!.

IMG_1644A veiw from the other side of the room shows the rest of our living area. Our first little home will always bring such sweet memories!

IMG_1645Our bed, with a broken fan that Joseph had. By cutting a small whole in the sheet that surved as a curtain and stringing some string through the bars on the windows I was able to tie our fan up in such a way that we had cool air blowing on us all night long. You cant see the mosquito net that hung above our bed but I loved the feeling of pulling it all around us at night and sleeping in its peaceful cocoon. IMG_1646 Our closet. This picture was taken the day I left so my clothes were already packed.

IMG_1630IMG_1628Sister Amina and Sister Dunba cam to help me pack the day before I left. We had so much fun that day. I miss these women.

IMG_1665This is the home Joseph grew up in. IMG_1655Juju (Grandma) Joseph’s mother, and us just before leaving to the airport.

Josephs brother Sekimuli and his wife.IMG_1668IMG_1651IMG_1618IMG_1649Joseph with his uncle, his mothet and some nieces and nephew. Jospeh with his sisters Tinah and AsherIMG_1604IMG_1597

The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

My sister came to me the other day and told me she had a song that I would love. She warned me that it would make me cry. I shrugged it off. Not much makes me cry these days. I’ve kind of found a way to turn my emotions off…at least for the most part. Her song caught me off guard. I was crying within seconds. Almost every word of that song could have been written directly from the sentiments of my heart. I found myself wanting to turn it off so that the tears would stop and at the same time I wanted to listen to it over and over again; amazed at how perfectly it described what I have felt over the last few months. The song is called Can I Do This On My Own.

Deciding to leave Joseph in Uganda was one of the most difficult decisions. I agonized over it for weeks. I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wasn’t getting what I needed there. I knew that if I didn’t give my baby every chance at making it I would hate myself forever if something went wrong. And yet I thought about that day in Rwanda when Joseph refused to leave my side. When he promised me that somehow we would figure things out and get us both home together. How could I leave him now?
We had just been sealed for time and all eternity and the first thing I was about to do was leave; not knowing when I would see him again. Joseph promised me it would be a short separation. I will be home by Christmas he told me. I feel confident we can get through this in three months. The Lord will help us.
I will never forget standing in the doorway of the airport trying to figure out how to walk away. Turns out there is only one way to do it. You just have to make your feet move and take one step at a time. Time was slipping away and I knew I had to leave. I tried not to look back knowing it would only make it harder. I took my bags and struggled to get them onto the conveyor belt. The woman at the counter told me to open it so that they could search it. I opened it and lying on the very top was a framed picture of Joseph and I on our wedding day. Was that man your husband the woman asked when she saw the picture. I nodded that he was, closed my bag, took a deep breathe and headed for the stairs that would lead me to the area where we would board the plane. I had no idea then that Joseph was still watching. Standing outside behind the big windows he stood there tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched until he couldn’t see me any more.
I didn’t cry. Not then and not until I was seated on the plane. Joseph had slipped me two envelops as I had left. They both contained letters to me. Once I was settled on the plane I read the first one. The second I would save until I arrived and had to go to bed alone at my parents house the next night. I knew I would need it then.
I arrived in Salt Lake on October 3. When I finally reached the pick up area of the Salt Lake airport I was exhausted. I didn’t see me sister who had agreed to pick me up. After a few minutes though I randomly ran in to someone that I knew. She recognized me. And as she said hello I burst into tears. She asked if something was wrong and if I needed help. I was crying to hard for her to understand. “I left Joseph in Africa!” It was all I could say.
Three months went by. Christmas came and went without even the slightest hope that Joseph would make it home. I hang on to hope that he would make if for the birth of our baby in late April. I felt that I really couldn’t get through that without him. The weeks slipped by one after the other. And one day I had to acknowledge that he wasn’t going to make it. It was a horrible moment trying to imagine going through the pain of childbirth and experiencing the joy that follows as that beautiful, perfect child is placed in your arms; and all of it without the one person that I wanted most to share it with. It was almost worse imagining the first weeks and possibly months of our child life going by without his father being there to see him. The thought of it was too hard to swallow. So I didn’t. I just took it a day at a time and somehow the day came for our baby to be born and we got through it. 10527720_10152185296310658_1792769584445851377_nHis first month passed and then his second and we got through it. Now what? Well they say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I think its true.
Because on Thursday July 17th I will be at the Salt Lake airport once again; standing in the pick up area. I will probably be crying again. But it will be different this time. I will be crying tears of joy…because my Joseph is FINALLY coming home!!!

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Life and Love in Uganda

After Joseph and I were married we moved into his apartment. There is really no way to describe those first few days of marriage. The strangeness of someones else’s home suddenly becoming your own. Joseph made room on his shelves for my clothes even though we were only going to be there a few days. Sunday, the day after the wedding was spent mostly on church activities and visiting with his family. Monday morning we woke up in our little apartment, crawled out of bed and sat in our pj’s eating left over wedding cake and opening gifts from our reception.

Joseph left for work and I pulled out some tubs and started doing some much needed laundry. I could see the women in the houses next to ours watching me in my clumsy efforts to fill the jerry can repeatedly to fill the tubs. I started scrubbing the clothes and it wasn’t long before two girls from across the street came over and begged to help me.

With their help it wasn’t long before I had two full lines filled with our dripping wet but clean clothes. The girls didn’t stop there they used the cleanest of the remaining water to wash the floors in our house and finally to clean our porch. They were so friendly and we laughed and talked as we worked together. I gave them some treats from the box of things that I still had left from what I had brought with me from Utah and we visited, looked at pictures and talked until their mothers called for them from across the street.

The following morning Joseph woke me early to tell me he was leaving to go get a truck to help us move our things to our new apartment. Joseph’s apartment was not within a gated compound and he felt that it was safer for me to be inside a gate. He left and I started packing our things. I opened a drawer in a large cabinet that Joseph had and was met by three LARGE scurrying roaches. I screamed bloody murder and ran from the house almost tripping over my feet in my hurry to get away from them.

My neighbors say on their porches laughing. I could see that they were thinking, “crazy mazungu” but they didn’t say it. I had gotten to know the two families that shared a porch with Joseph and I during the time that we were dating. They were very kind and had known Joseph since he was a boy. About the time I bolted out the front door I was greeted by the missionaries looking for my husband. They took care of the roaches for me and when Joseph arrived with the truck they helped us load everything up and take it to our new apartment.

The next few days felt a little like living in one of my favorite pioneer era novels. I cleaned walls and floors, Joseph had an old cabinet whose glass top had broken that he was about the throw out. I had convinced him to keep it and I used a piece of plywood covered in laminate and nailed to the top as a counter top. I purchased a couple of basin’s from the market and asked Joseph to get the largest water jug he could find and put a spout on the bottom of it for me. He did and after propping it up on some bricks it fit perfectly over the basin and created a make shift sink. By leaving a couple of nails sticking out the sides of the cabinet I had hooks to hang hot pads, rags, and towels on.

I had found some sheets that we weren’t using and a little sewing kit with needles and thread that Joseph had and sewed some curtains using string and nails to string them up to serve as cupboard doors for our shelves. It would make a perfect cabinet to store our food. Sister Casperson, one of the Senior missionary couples had given me a cutting board, and several empty cookie containers that worked perfectly as canisters to store flour, beans, rice, and other food. I went shopping and filled our shelves so that I would be able to cook us dinner. I was pretty proud of my little kitchen!

Figuring out how to cook on the charcoal stove was a little harder. After several failed attempts at starting the coals on fire I went to knock on the neighbors door to ask for help. Her name was Josephine and she was very kind. She came and showed me how to melt a plastic bag and use the dripping plastic to start a fire, she showed me how to fan the coals until they began to turn white and then red. Finally the coals were hot enough and the smoke had stopped enough to put a pan of rice on to cook.

Charcoal StoveThe rice cooked surprisingly fast and when it was done I was at a loss as to how to turn the coals off. So I decided to boil some water, and when that still didn’t use up all the coals I decided to try my hand at making a cake. I had some fresh pineapple and I decided to make a pineapple cake. It was an old muffin recipe actually that my family had used a lot when I was growing up. I just poured it all into the one pan since I didn’t have a muffin tin and decided to call it cake. I filled the pan with the sweet pineapple filled batter and set the pan inside another pan as I had seen other women do. I put a lid on it and covered the lid with hot coals. I was surprised about twenty minutes later to see the golden brown top of the cake and smell the sweet goodness inside and know that i had baked my first cake over charcoal.

While it was cooking I chopped some vegetables that I had purchased at the market and made a makeshift african version of hawaiian haystacks. I think Joseph was surprised to come home and see that his wife actually did know how to cook something for his dinner. We piled our plate high and each took a fork and dug in. I don’t know why we did it that way that night but we somehow started a tradition of eating our dinner together off the same plate. After that day, Each night when I would cook we just filled one plate and always ate together. It was a time I will never forget!

 

 

God Bless America

I love America, I always have. I love everything that it stands for. I love the stories of bravery and incredible integrity of those men and women who made America something to be proud of. I love the stories of courage and sacrifice from men and women who understood what it meant to be free both in terms of rights as well as responsibilities. I loved the stories of people who believed that they could stand up against tyranny and succeed. Even when that tyranny came from their own king and country.

I didn’t always appreciate every aspect of it, I didn’t always know just what it meant to have the freedom of the press and just how important that right was. I never really understood the significance of certain laws and rights that I took for granted.

Then I volunteered to spend three months in Uganda, working to help bring jobs, education and better living conditions to single women there and I started to see. I started to gain a deeper understanding of what my country stands for and what those rights means. Mostly I gained an understanding for how important the system is that keeps these rights in check, the systems of law and order that made my world a safe, mostly predictable place to live.

When during that time in Uganda I met and married a Ugandan man, my world changed and my understanding changed with it. Gaining a better understanding of the protections and the rights that I had as  US Citizen, seeing by contrast what his were in his own country scared me. When I returned back to the United States I sobbed when my feet finally touched the ground and I felt a certain peace and security that I had always taken for granted. There is security in knowing that there are laws and rights and resources to go to when laws are broken or questioned. I’ve always felt protected by the system.

We knew when we married that it wouldn’t be easy to get a visa for Joseph. We knew it would probably mean being separated for a time. We did everything we knew to prepare for that and to make it as simple as possible. We crossed every T and dotted every I. I learned more about the immigration laws and system than I ever thought was possible. We were prepared to follow the path, and work through the red tape. We were prepared to utilize every resource at our disposal but we knew that in the end it would be hard. We looked forward with a sigh of sadness and with great excitement to the day that Joseph would leave his own beloved country and become a citizen of the United States. In his words he would be stars and stripes all the way.

When we applied to the United States Embassy in Kampala for a visitors visa so that Joseph could be with me when our baby is born, we were hopeful. The law says that since we had a pending spouse visa it wold be assumed that Joseph intended to stay in the US. That was understandable. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their wife and new-born baby.  We were informed that it would be up to us to prove during an interview that he intended to return. This could be proved by providing documentation showing strong ties to Uganda. Things like family, work, owning property etc. could be used as proof that he would return.

We went to work gathering documents, showing that Joseph owns a business in Uganda, in fact he had just renewed his business license for another year, we gathered documents showing that he was the president of a non-profit organization that provides help for the disabled, we had documents showing that he was contracted to do work for a company for two months following his return to Uganda, he had a speaking engagement scheduled for after his return, he had exams and a letter from a dean at the University stating as much, vouching for his character and recommending that Joseph be given a visa. His entire family is still in Uganda. We were hopeful because we had all the evidence that one could ask for. I sent a letter of invitation and bank statements showing that we could support him while he was here, and just to be sure my parents sent the same as well.

Joseph paid the $160 fee (this amount could easily have paid three months rent for us in Uganda) and excitedly boarded a taxi for the three-hour journey to Kampala to the embassy for his appointment. This visitors visa would give us a chance to spend 90 days together at the time when I would need him most, it would give him a chance to be there when his first-born child, enters this world. It would allow him to hold his new-born son before he is already walking.

His interview lasted all of about 1 min.

The letter denying him the chance to visit had been drafted before he even arrived. You were unable to provide sufficient evidence that you intend to return to Uganda at the end of your visit… was the reason he was given. He protested that he wasn’t given a chance to prove it and was sternly told to leave the embassy NOW! He was told that there could be no appeal, but that he was welcome to reapply if he wanted, he could pay the fee again and see if they would treat him fairly the next time.

As he left the woman’s office he encountered another man in the waiting room ready to fight because he too had been denied a chance to visit his wife who was delivering their child in a months time. He talked to him, calming him down and explaining that fighting would get him nothing. And they left the embassy.

Joseph’s first interaction with the United States government shook his faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. He had always seen America as an example to be followed. Democracy, liberty and Freedom as something to aspire to. Now he saw them as predators, stealing from innocent Ugandan civilians their hard-earned money and their hope. He saw them as a land without concern for right or laws.

So, now we wait. we contemplate leaving America to find another country that will allow our little family to be together while we wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn in our favor. I console myself by knowing that I am not alone in this. How many soldiers wives, give birth alone, in the early days of our church how many missionaries left their wives pregnant and sick to go on missions only to return to a two-year old child and a wife stronger for having had to do so much on her own.

I tell myself these things and yet those women can also tell themselves that their husbands are doing it for a cause. For freedom, for liberty of our country and others, for the eternal welfare of a soul. I get to do it because someone had a bad day, or decided that they didn’t want to do an actual interview, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about. So when I am tired and sick, lying in bed alone aching for someone to rub my feet or help me up to go to the bathroom yet again, when I am lying in that bed holding my first child, my newborn son in my arms and marveling at the beauty of it all and the miracle of life I can console myself in the fact that my husband is 9000 miles away because someone didn’t want to take time to look at some papers and it will make me feel so much better.

I still love America. It will always be my home. I still sing our National Anthem and my eyes still fill with tears at the heartfelt passionate lyrics

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

In fact if anything I love her more. Because I see how fragile America is and how quickly all that was fought for can be lost. And I will pray that God WILL Bless America because she is my home that I love and she needs all the prayers she can get.

The_Prayer_at_Valley_Forge_by_Arnold_Friberg

 

The Proposal I Waited my Whole Life For

 

I met Joseph at the Space Café, a little tourist place that had great food. I was excited to tell him that I had “slept on it” and had an answer for him. The out door setting was secluded and romantic. We found a corner table with comfortable whicker chairs and sat down and ordered a milk shake and samosa.

“I’ve been thinking about what we talked about the other night,” I told him. “And I think I’m ready to take a step forward. I think we should get engaged.” I don’t know what I expected from him but the huge smile and the bear hug that I was soon engulfed in took me by surprise. I laughed and moved over to sit on his lap. We sat that way unaware of anyone else and just talked through our plans.

“This isn’t official though until you propose properly with a ring and everything,” I told him. “And you have to make it a good story. I’ve waited a long time to be proposed to and I’ve always wanted a good story. If you need help, coming up with something I can give you my friends phone number and she can help,” I told him, feeling quite sure that he wouldn’t have the first idea where to start to plan the kind of outrageous proposal that would live up to all my day dreams of how that moment should go. He insisted that he could do this on his own and that he didn’t need help, he could make it special and romantic.

“One more thing,” I added, “about the ring, I kind of know exactly what I like and what I don’t like. But I want you to pick it and I want it to be a surprise…so I could maybe show you some pictures and then you would know what to look for…” I told him. He assured me he would work something out.

We talked then about our plans, we would start the fiancée visa application right away, and then when August arrived and I headed home I could start planning the wedding. He would join me as soon as possible and we would be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.

We called the temple and set the date. October 11th.  It seemed everything was falling right into place. Our evening was perfect.

A few days later he called to ask me if I could go look at rings with him. I thought we would just look to give him an idea of what I liked, but when we got there, there wasn’t much of a variety to choose from and we quickly found one that suited our purposes. And since it really was the only option as far as I was concerned, we bought it there on the spot.

The cashier put it in the little velvet box and handed it to Joseph. He handed it to me, You keep this for now he told me and make sure you bring it with you when we take our trip to Rwanda.

We were planning a trip to visit Rwanda that weekend. I laughed a little. It was a bit un conventional and not at all what I had in mind but, what did it matter now. I begged Joseph to let me wear the ring for just a little while. He agreed and we had lunch and then headed back to Jinja.

Finally the weekend arrived. I wondered what Joseph had planned, as I packed the ring in my bag. I hoped it would be good. In the taxi on the way to the bus station, I talked to Joseph about something that had concerned me. I was very open about my concerns, never realizing that it might look to him as though I was questioning our decision to marry. Somehow it ended up in an argument.

Both of us were very emotional and I felt he wasn’t listening to me and being understanding. I have no idea what he felt but when I looked over at him, he had tears in his eyes as they looked straight ahead, he didn’t seem to want to look at me. I was frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I had told him of my concerns because I wanted him to comfort me, not the other way around!

Giving a new meaning to bumper to bumper...

Giving a new meaning to bumper to bumper…

The taxi was stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic like nothing you will see anywhere except Kampala streets and as the minutes turned to hours we knew we were about to miss our bus if we didn’t do something quick. Finishing this conversation would have to wait. We exited the taxi and found a couple of boda boda drivers. We need to get to the bus station Joseph told them and we need to make it in 20 minutes no matter what. Can you take us there. They spoke among themselves for a few seconds questioning if what we asked was possible. Ok they told us we can take you but hang on tight and don’t let go for anything, we will not be stopping if we are going to take you.

In order to make what we had planned possible we would take two separate bodas. Normally the drivers wanted you to hang on to the bike and not them but this time the driver told me to put my arms tight around his waist and get ready. We zoomed in and out of traffic sometimes coming so close to the cars on either side that I worried that my feet would hit them as we passed. When the cars closed up around us the driver whipped up over the curb and took the sidewalk, sometimes using his feet to help balance and sometimes using his hands on passing cars as we squeezed through small spaces. I clung to him for dear life and tried to keep an eye on Joseph’s back just ahead. In almost exactly twenty minutes we whizzed into the parking lot where our bus stood waiting. It was dark outside and the lights where on inside the bus, we could see that most of the passengers where already seated. I grabbed our things paid the boda men and raced up into the bus.

It wasn’t until we were safely in our seats and the bus was on its way that Joseph chose to resume our discussion from before. This time however, everything was different. We were seated in our two chairs side by side in the dark bus as it rumbled along down dirt roads, our chairs reclined just a little to allow us to sleep as the trip to Rwanda was going to take all night. Joseph raised the arm rest between our two seats to allow us to be closer and then he put both arms around me and cradled my head on his chest. “Im sorry, he whispered to me, There is just nothing that frightens me like the thought of losing you. Hearing you talk like that made me think that you might go home and I would never see you again..

Tears streamed down my cheeks. “I love you Joseph, I said, I would never leave you. I just wanted to be able to share with you some things that were hard for me. I wanted to hear you reassure me that it was all going to be ok. That’s all I really wanted.” His hand stroked my hair and down my back as we whispered lovingly to each other until we both fell asleep.

We had survived our first fight.

Morning arrived, although it was still dark outside and for the first time since I had come to Uganda, it was cold. Joseph informed me that we were very near the border, in a place called Kabale, It was here that we would be required to get off the bus and cross the border on foot.

We exited the bus, I wrapped up in my blanket to try to keep from shivering, As we stood in line to declare our possesions and obtain permission to pass into Rwanda we snacked a little on Mendoza ( a type of deep fried bread) and Fanta. Finally we finished the requirements to enter the city, changed some Uganda Schillings into Rwanda Francs and walked across the border to reboard our bus.

As we continued our journey the sun slowely came up to reveal the beautiful country side, that one pictures when they imagine going to Africa.  The red sand, open saces, and funny little trees off in the distance kept me captivated.  I marveled abit at how I had come to be here.

I had always wanted to live a life of adventure but I never imagined I would be sitting on a bus watching the sunrise as I entered Rwanda with my future husband by my side. I felt like I was living in some kind of dream. I struggled to wake from this dream and realize that it was in fact reality so that I could soak it all in, enjoy every second of this magical journey that had surpassed all my imaginings..

Finally we reached Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. It was so interesting to know the recent history of this place and yet to find myself here. Where stories that I had only read about took place, seeing and being greeted by adults who no doubt had been present, a witness to, if not a participant in the genocide that took place there. We took a taxi to a hotel, paid for our rooms and settled in to look around.

Kigali (pronounced Chigali) The Capital City of Rwanda)

Kigali (pronounced Chigali) The Capital City of Rwanda)

Our room…two rooms really, separated by a half wall. Each room with a small cot against one wall and one room with a sink attached to the other wall. A small table sat in the room that would be Joseph’s.

Joseph, on his side of the room.

Joseph, on his side of the room.

 

 

We unloaded our belongings and headed out to get some breakfast. We stopped on our way at an ATM only to discover that it wouldn’t take a visa so we went in search of another that would. We tried another and when it wouldn’t either we decided to just head to the mall to get something to eat and we would find a place to change more money later. I stuffed my small coin purse with all of our cash and my credit cards back in the backpack that Joseph carried on his back and we headed to the mall.

When we arrived I reached in expecting to feel the coarseness of the bark cloth coin purse only to feel nothing. We put the back pack down and searched every possible pocket taking everything out of it in our desperate search. I was near tears realizing that more than likely it was really gone.  We retraced our steps back to the last ATM homing against hope that we would find it along the way, but the purse was gone.

We better report it to the police, Joseph told me, see if they can help us. I was near tears, not sure what we were going to do without that money and completely at a loss for how I was going to survive the rest of my time in Uganda without access to any of the money in my bank account. Assuming of course that whoever took our purse didn’t get everything out of it before I could call and cancel the card.

I was frantic, Joseph and I stood looking at each other, just inside the mall entrance. I didn’t know what to say to him, I was a little afraid that he would be start blaming me for not putting the purse in a pocket that had a zipper as I now realize that I should have done.

I looked at him, he looked at me and then he started to grin.  Joseph this isn’t funny I said, this is really serious. We have nothing! And no way to get home until the bus leaves in another three days!

We will be ok, he told me, and think of the stories we will have to tell our grandkids.

I looked at him not sure if I should be angry with him for not taking this situation more seriously or to hug him for being such a good sport about it all and for reminding me of something that I should have remembered. This was just another adventure, and if nothing else it would make a good story later. I knew from past experience that often when things go horribly wrong, the make the best of memories years down the road when you can laugh at the craziness.

“You’re right I said, we will be fine. It might even be fun. I said with a twinkle in my eye. It won’t be the trip we planned but Im quite certain it will be an adventure. He hugged me then and we sat down to assess our situation.

Just then a couple walked by, obviously tourists as they were white and spoke with an Australian accent. They had twin daughters, one of which was in her mothers arms and the other was trailing behind the couple. She looked at us and without a word walked straight to Joseph and lifted her arms to be picked up.

Joseph stood unsure of what to do. Her little face, framed by blond curls, looked up at him, her blue eyes so peaceful and sweet demanding his attention.

He picked her up and walked toward her mother who stood watching, looking slightly unseasy. When Joseph reached the mother he held the girl out to her only to have her little arms wrap tenderly around his neck and she turned her face to hide in his shoulder.  He spoke to her for a minute and encouraged her to go to her mother. She finally did while her twin looked on quietly sucking her thumb.

I stood watching the whole scene in amazement. To me Joseph shone with kindness, his smile radiated goodness and I saw it from the moment that I met him. To see this child react to that confirmed to me that President Jackson’s words to me that day at the wedding were more true than even I imagined. Joseph really was everything that I thought he was. Even a child could see that and loved him.

I imagined him holding our child in his arms.

After the little family left we gathered up all the loose change and any bills of any kind that we had on us. We changed them into francs and discovered that we had just enough left to take a taxi back to the bus station with a little extra. We went to the grocery store to see what we could find. We bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a knife and a carton of milk.  It wasn’t much but at least we wouldn’t starve.

It was a holiday so most places where closed, and Joseph and I were unable to report our stolen wallet to the police as the station was desereted.

We went back to our rooms and sat on the bed. We read to each other and talked for sometime. Later that evening, we sat talking and Jospeh asked me if I knew what day it was. I did. It was the fourth of July. I knew everyone back home would be celebrating with fireworks and good food. But I was happy right where I was with my peanut butter sandwhich.

My bed, in our fancy hotel!

My bed, in our fancy hotel!

Did you bring that thing I asked you to pack? Joseph asked, referring to my engagement ring. I laughed knowing what was coming. I did, I told him.

Well we are going to need it now, he told me. I scooted off the bed and went to my side of the room to get the little black velvet box, this was so inconventional and so not what I had imagined. I brought it back and gave it to him. Ever since I got home from my mission, I have been praying and looking for a girl that would commit herself to me and to the gospel, he told me. I wanted to find a girl that I could trust to raise our children in the church, to have family home evening with me, and who would support me in my callings, he told me.

When I met you I was amazed by your goodness and I knew without a doubt that you would make a great mother, the more I got to know you I saw that you were committed to the gospel. I have told you some of the reason’s why I love you.  He said, but the biggest reason I love you is because it is so clear to me that you love the Lord. He promised to send me a handmaiden of the Lord and when I look at you, that is what I see.

Joseph, I interrupted, knowing what was coming and knowing that it couldn’t happen with both of us seated on his bed. Joseph, you know you can’t do this sitting down right? I asked not sure if he knew that he should be down on one knee.

Oh, ok lets stand up he told me, we stood and he continued, I have never been more sure about anything than I am about the fact that I want to spend the rest of my life with you…

Joseph, I enterupted again, you know you can’t do this standing up right? He looked at me confused. You have to get down on one knee. I told him laughing a little at how this was all turning out.

No problem! I will get down on two knees, he told me and he started to get down on the hard concrete floor.

No Joseph, Ilaughed again, its done on one. In America when you propose you get down on ONE knee. He seemed confused at why two wouldn’t be better but he did as I asked.

Finally he finished, look around you Vilate, this room, this place is nothing fancy, this trip is probably going to be a little bit hard. We don’t even have anything to celebrate with except more peanut butter sandwhiches. Our life will probably be something like this, full of unexpected adventures, difficult times and trials, but I love you and I promise you that if you will marry me I will do everything within my power to make you happy and to be a good husband and father.

Our room number...I didn't want to forget anything about that day.

Our room number…I didn’t want to forget anything about that day.

I gulped, still trying to grasp at the reality of this moment that I had waited almost 32 long years to experience. Nothing was the way I had imagined it. I looked around me at the cold bare walls, at the hard floor and the dirty sink in the corner and I realized that his proposal couldn’t have been more perfect, that he and I couldn’t have been more perfect. It would never have done to have him show up with roses and a cute little proposal, that just wasn’t me, or him. What could have been more appropriate than the way this had all happened. I said “yes” and Joseph slipped the ring on my finger.

I also had imagined that I would be a bucket of tears, that my hand would shake as he put the ring on my finger and that I would be so overcome with emotion that I wouldn’t hardly be able to stammer a yes. I felt none of those things. I felt peaceful, it felt normal, and I was happy. Over the last 16 years or so I had imagined every possible scenario in which this moment would happen. I never once imagined this one and once again life managed to throw me a surprise, an adventure and a curve that I never could have seen coming. Once again life had proved unpredicatable,… just the way I liked it.

Right after he proposed.

Right after he proposed.

And yes...neither of us even noticed that the ring was on the wrong hand!

And yes…neither of us even noticed that the ring was on the wrong hand!

My Whirlwind Romance part V “The Wedding”

Since Joseph and I had decided that we were officially dating, I wanted to find out all I could about him. I didn’t want to be in a relationship if it was a dead end. So the following Wednesday I had agreed to help out with a choir practice in Jinja and Joseph and I agreed to meet up afterward. We sat on the lawn with a notebook and had a very honest talk. The search was still on for the true Joseph. I knew he couldn’t be as wonderful as I thought he was. I asked him straight out what he felt his biggest faults were and he told me, I told him mine also and we talked about what and how we felt we could deal with these. We talked about many other things as well as we sat under a tree on the church lawn. After awhile we noticed quite a group gathering for a wedding.

There were three couples arriving to be married and President Jackson, the Mission President would be performing the ceremony.  It would be a very simple ceremony that would turn Uganda tradition on its head, proving that weddings don’t have to be big expensive affairs that take a lot of money and planning.

We crowded into the chapel and as I watched the ceremony, with Joseph seated next to me I kept thinking to myself about what a wedding to him might be like.  As President Jackson spoke about the sacred commitment that these couples were about to make I looked at Joseph to find him already looking at me. We smiled surely thinking the same thing and he squeezed my hand.

A mass wedding in Uganda

A mass wedding in Uganda

The wedding was beautiful with all three couples standing in turn to make their covenants with each other and with God. One by one President Jackson made them kiss, not just once but until he felt that they had done it right! He wanted to see a real kiss that showed they were thinking more about their love for each other than their shyness at kissing in public. As the couples kissed awkwardly it looked as though they were trying their best to only touch lips and no other part of their body.

I whispered to Joseph. “We would have no problem with this, I think we could give them lessons,” He agreed with a huge smile just as the wedding ended. We stood around waiting for the couples to take pictures and to be greeted by all their friends. As we stood at the back of the chapel, President Jackson saw me standing there holding Joseph’s hand, your looking suddenly very happy he told me as he passed by. It was true, I was blissfully happy.

I could feel so many eyes on us and I knew that my holding hands in public with the second counselor in the district presidency was causing a bit of a stir. I wanted a minute alone with Joseph. We went for a little walk around the church. As we got to the backside of the building where no people were we stopped and enjoyed the privacy and the quiet, away from prying eyes.

After the wedding, we attended a dinner at Two Friends resort. The food was good and the couples looked so happy.  We were seated at the table almost directly across from President Jackson. As they were cutting the cake Joseph left the table to get us drinks and when he was away President Jackson came to my table looked me straight in the eye and said “I just want you to know, that man is everything you think he is. I haven’t met a better man and neither will you.”

I felt chills go through my body and I knew he was telling me the truth. I knew I had found in my Joseph everything that I had prayed for for so long. It scared me.

When Joseph returned President Jackson shook his hand and told us he would be performing two more weddings that following week. He asked if we would attend. We agreed and then with a little twinkle in his eye he said, “You know we could make it three!”

We both laughed, but later as Joseph was saying goodbye, a van full of missionaries and others from the wedding waiting to take me back to Lugazi, I considered for the first time what It might be not to have to say goodbye to him. He held me and we tried to ignore the eyes watching us. “You have to go, he whispered, they are waiting for you. “ I clung to him wanting more than the simple goodbye hug but knowing it wasn’t possible there with everybody watching, so I said goodbye and started the long drive back to Lugazi. The next morning my first thought upon waking up was, I could be marrying Joseph next week! The thought was surprisingly appealing.

The next day I met with President Jackson for a temple recommend interview. After seeing that here in Uganda a temple recommend wasn’t so much about the ability to GO to the temple but a sign of your WORTHINESS to attend the temple, I felt ashamed at having let mine expire just because I didn’t think I would be needing it in Uganda. President explained to me a bit about blacks and the gospel and about the church’s position on interracial marriage. We also talked at length about Joseph, about my relationship with him, about my fears and my concerns. He offered to give me a blessing. He gave me some very specific counsel and advice about things I should be doing and told me that no one could get this answer except me but that if I would listen very carefully and try my best to follow what my heart told me, it would not lead me astray.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.