Top 5 Things Not to Pack for Africa

After my fourth trip to Africa, I’ve learned things the hard way. To wit….

5. Clothes. Once you pack your suitcase, go through it again and take half of clothes out. Avoid excess baggage fees

4. Cash. It’s a global economy, stupid, and the dollar is strong. Your debit card can get local currency at ATMs, sparing you trips to FOREX.

3. Electronic gadgets. Do you really think you will find reliable wifi here? Buy an inexpensive basic phone for local, regional calls. Your locked iPhone won’t make calls.

2. Candy bars and other treats. Really? For your snack fix, you can do better with local samosas, mandazi and my favorite, ground nuts.

1. Plans. You may have a task list in mind. Toss it. Spontaneity works best here.

End Times…

Taking my last lap here in Uganda after five-plus glorious months. I thought that I might take a deep breath, rest and relax.

Nope.

The month of August has been a whirlwind. I have been traveling throughout and have landed in my bed in Bwindi only seven nights. Started with a five-day trip to DRC. A dynamic African nation with wonderful people…and some new friends.

On the way back, I stopped in Kasese, Uganda, to reunite with Cleous and his family and experience more African hospitality. Visited some interesting projects involving women and micro-financing.

Joined by widow of bishop's brother and her extended family.

Joined by widow of bishop’s brother and her extended family.

Then a week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where Swahili is the prevailing language. Joined ac-af.com again to videotape children’s activities and interviews. I was here last year. Beautiful young people.

Re-entered Kabale to rejoin Bishop Kayeeye and his family. After I arrived on Monday, Phoebe and I drove out to his village where the bishop is constructing a lodge. We inspected the pace of the project, which was impressive. Then we went a short distance to visit the bishop’s brother’s widow and family.

These are the moments on this trip that I cherish. I sit with family in their home and am simply present. There is conversation. I offer some greetings in Rukiga, accept their thanks.

I was first in this home in April when bishop, Phoebe and I visited his then-ailing brother. Bishop and I knelt at his bedside and I was asked to offer prayers. Powerful, beautiful experience.

I returned in July with some nurses to assist the dying man. Within 24 hours, he was gone. Then a huge African funeral. Very, very impressive.

On this day, though, many children, neighbours and extended family gathered around to greet us as we entered. I enjoy to be among these people, who are loving…and curious about me. I come in peace and love…they are gentle. It all works.

I got a text message. Bright, a 14-year-old HIV-positive boy I met, has died. So sad. A brave young man who suffered all his life, through no fault of his own. Yet it is also a glorious thing…for the Lord has called him home to enjoy a life where their is neither suffering nor sighing but light eternal.

Bishop Kayeeye leads funeral for 14-year-old Bright...

Bishop Kayeeye leads funeral for 14-year-old Bright…

Yesterday was the funeral. The chapel was packed with 300+ inside, and another couple of hundred or so outside. The community gathered to pay respects for Bright, his family and caregivers. Prayers, songs, a small casket.

It is an amazing and wonderful thing how God has planned this trip, these adventures, these relationships. I feel so fortunate to have met every person, to have shared every smile and laugh, and to exchange greetings in their local language to their amazement. So much fun. Never have I felt fear or trepidation. I have walked into every situation knowing God is with me and directing my steps.

It never gets old. These blessings, experiences and friendships will flourish until I return home next week.

Then I can rest.

Things I’ve Learned in Africa

Recently passed the half-way point of my video ministry trip to Bwindi, Uganda. I have adapted well, shot some nice video, have eaten just about everything put in front of me, have met scores of friendly people.

When I return to the states at the end of May, I will have some new habits, some of which may be life-changing. Let’s see:

I don’t need a hot shower every day. I don’t stink as bad as I thought I would. So unless I have a public appearance or a bad hair day, I may not shower.

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I don’t need clean underwear every day. Doing laundry in the jungle is tough. Washing clothes isn’t that hard, but DRYING them is. I brought with me about 8 packs of underwear and > 10 pairs of socks. I’ve been wearing each for three days or more. Started when my luggage was delayed in London. If it don’t stink, it says out of the sink.

Watch what I drink. A special treat here is a cold soda in the afternoon. Not exactly ice cold, but a cold Coke hits the spot. Hours later, I struggle to sleep. Is caffeine keeping me awake? I rarely drink cokes at home and will resume that practice.

Watch when I drink. Over a late supper, I’m drinking water. I drink more when I pop my daily anti-malaria pill. Hours later, I make more late-night trips than Boris Karloff. Reduce late-evening water consumption.

Overdose on patience. I’ve learned about “Africa time.” I’m a patient person but I’ve needed a megadose of patience here. Starting times for meetings, rehearsals slip by 30-45 minutes. Then meetings don’t end due to extended visitations. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry, be happy.

Relate to everything. From the industrious ant to the comical red-tailed monkey, every creature has its place. Appreciate everything and everyone.

Flexibility is strong suit. Whatever I have planned for the day or the moment, be flexible. Something else could come up and steal the day. I was told on Monday by the hospital chaplain that I would deliver the homily at morning devotions today. I meditated on the scripture verses, prepared my reflection….then watched as another young man stood up to deliver his homily. I’m up again on Sunday, resurrection day.

My lessons are incomplete. There’s sure to be more in the next six weeks.