Tuesday, June 24, 2014

HIstory Maker's Camp: My journey

I have been to 3 church camps, actually 4, I was a facilitator at a teen's camp (harder work than it seems, but still very sweet). Growing up, I was attracted to the idea of camping and the great outdoors. It is something I had always wanted to do. However, when I asked my dad if I could join the scouts while in primary, he said no. I never asked again. Even after joining secondary school, scouts was just one of those things I liked but never tried out for; camping was a dream for some day when I was 20 something.

I wasn't really raised in the church; I like to tell my friends I kind of stumbled into church. I went for catechism classes but I wasn't so good at the religious thing so as soon as I could, I stopped going to church all together. I began my relationship with Jesus in 2000, when I was 10, that is all I remember. I am not in the lucky bunch that remembers exact dates and situations, I just remember it was 2000, I was 10 and I was in P.6; a year after my father had passed on. For the longest time, I used to think I was scared into salvation; I remember my friend sharing with me about the rapture and the great tribulation and I had decided there was no way I was getting left behind. However, a while back the Lord revealed to me that was not what had captured my heart. My friend, who had lost her father as well, had on top of tribulation, shared with me about how God is the father to the fatherless, so I could have a father in God. I believe that is what sealed the deal on my part. I knew I could count on God for anything; I wrote Him poems and songs and there was nothing I hid or even wanted to hide from Him

Fast forward a couple of years later, without proper fellowship and discipleship and I constantly felt lost; like I was in this great fight to not lose my faith; to keep from "back sliding" , because I loved Jesus so much, it would devastate me if He let go of me. I found my way back to church in 2009. Up until 2007, I had been in school and that is the church I knew, School Chapel. However, in 2008, I was in S.6 vacation, I spent a very long time at home, I easily slipped out of the church habit and grew a few others. *clears throat* I found my way back to church in 2009 because I was sad. I was disappointed by the things I had chosen over God, my heart was broken, my life felt empty and I knew only one thing for sure, I missed my Jesus. I wasn't sure how to find my way back and the task seemed daunting but I made one decision (most likely by the leading of the Spirit); I decided that I would not again miss a single church service. If I did nothing else, if I failed to pray or read my bible, if I shunned all sorts of fellowships (I wasn't a big fan), I would go for church service every Sunday. I also started listening to Power Fm again, everything felt so strange!

One day, I heard on Power Fm that there was a University Camp. I really wanted to be part of it but I found out it was about 2 days away and I was yet to start exams! I felt bad, yet another camp I had missed. So in that very moment, I prayed and told God I wanted to attend camp the next year, I asked that He works out our timetable in a way that I would be free for camp

Monkey Business
The first camp I attended which I also believe was the first to be called the History Makers’ camp, was in June 2010. It was my first ever and I was excited!!!! It was at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, or as is known to those of us who were born a while back, the zoo. To add to the whole camping experience, we actually had to sleep in tents, which we were to pitch ourselves, in our respective villages. There is a great lot I got from this camp, from the speakers to those moments when we would have time to ourselves and we engaged in seemingly random yet very deep conversations with each other. I remember Pr. Gary Skinner came on one of the days to talk to us about God and the story of Watoto Ministry.

However, through it all, the most memorable thing for me at this camp, besides the golf carts that we had access to, were the monkeys. Unlike the other animals in the zoo, the monkeys are not caged up. So, they attended some sessions with us, we were warned not to leave our bags unattended as they were wise. True to the warning, one day we came back from a break to find some of our books thrown all over as though there had been a drug search, I found the cover torn off my bible and the front pages of my notebook gone. I guess the monkeys wanted a piece of the word too.
However, because I had just found my way back to church that year, I was dealing with a lot of condemnation for wherever I had been. I looked around and thought “all these perfect church kids, they don’t know...”; then Pastor Humphrey Asiimwe came and talked to us about God’s forgiveness and restoration and I was once again reminded of a loving God who heals.

and then there were tears
Another thing I quite enjoy on top of camping and the great outdoors is road trips, I hadn’t had that many because…maybe opportunities hardly presented themselves. In January 2010, I was part of a discipleship class organized for campusers (University students). We used to have 3 classes a week all taught by Vincent Kasule and once in a while he’d invite other speakers. That class changed my life. It was there that I first encountered the word legalism and started my journey of learning about the grace of God. It was so liberating. At the end of that class we had a weekend trip to Gulu which was nothing less than anointed epicness!!! So in 2011, when it was announced that our next camp was to be in Gulu, I was obviously excited, because this time I would get to spend an even longer time with more people.

This was just one bus, there were 3

2011 was a trying year for me. I had been part of campus cell ministry since late 2009, being a cell leader, cell host, section leader and at that point regional intern (scariest thing ever!) I loved cell, I felt like, still feel like my time on campus would have been quite empty if I did not have cell. I met some of the most amazing people ever through cell ministry, I got great friends, organized and attended some awesome small and not so small events. I loved cell. But at some point, it felt like it was the only thing in my life going right. I tried so hard and yet it seemed the harder I tried, the more everything else fell apart. My grades took a nose dive, I was confused about a great many things, yet here God was, calling me to be the next regional leader, was He out of His mind?

 My last straw came when after being sure beyond a reasonable doubt, that I had received a very specific promise from God, concerning a certain area, it turned out the opposite way. I felt crashed. I felt like, God, my love, my one and all had betrayed me, like He had teased me with something and then went and let a horrible thing happen. In my head there were three kinds of people, there were the favoured ones (which was pretty much everyone I interacted with), there were the normal ones, levelled playing field with everyone else and then there was me, and that broke my heart. I thought God loved me, but maybe not as much as the next person. I felt like I was at the bottom of His list. Nevertheless, I picked myself up, I sucked it in and forced my way through the days ahead.

I was excited for camp, sooooo many people were coming for this one, it was from one Friday to the next which is a really long time in the world of church camps; we even had a team that had come in from Princeton University, some of whom I’d had the previlage of meeting prior. According to me, the coolest part was that we got to carry the Deejay with us. As in, come on!!! You have to admit that is a really sweet deal, we had our very own Deejay, not just for the last night but for every day? Keep quiet and take my money! Gulu was Bittersweet for me. I was really excited but I somehow couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness that was in my heart. Every day, during every session, I felt like I was on the brink of tears. I kept asking God why I was so sad. Whatever had happened had happened in April, it was August, I was over it. I guess it didn’t help that we were reading from the book of Job and talking about tough times.

One fateful day, during a session, after Pastor Joe who was the then Pastor at Watoto Church Gulu had spoken, he asked for questions and the hall was dead quiet. It could have been because it was a hot afternoon and most people were dosing. So, being the leader I was, I decided to go and ask a question, to get the ball rolling and to encourage people to come up, because you know, I am a nice person. However, the question I asked was too close to home and I heard my voice trail off, I could feel the tears coming and the only thought in my head was “get away from this mic now!!!” From seemingly nowhere, Priscilla came and put her arm around me and we all know how that can be your undoing. So I covered my face, went back to my seat, thank God I had worn a sweater, buried my face in it and cried 7 months’ worth of tears. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. It was hard to believe I had broken down in front of 300 something people including dudes I may or may not have had crashes on. People seemed nicer to me after that, I got so many hugs from people I did not know. Something happened when I cried; I did not get answers to my questions though some tried to answer them but I felt lighter. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Everyone had already seen me cry.

my cell :) ; this was actually a few hours after the tears

I remember on our last day there, a friend of mine, Cornelius Kuteesa came to talk to me. We were both too early for breakfast, him because he really loves food and I because I wanted a chance to interview the DJ before he became busy (did I mention I wrote for the Youth Media Team too?) We got chatting, he asked a few usual how are you, how is home questions. I gave a few generic answers and thought, what’s left to lose, this is Connie, my very good friend, if not him then who? He said something to me and something clicked within me, divine revelation.. He said “God’s promises are true, don’t doubt that you heard from God. If you heard from God, you heard from God. He promises you a bright future and He will make that happen regardless of whatever means He uses” That there, was a defining moment in my life. There was something about what He said that somehow reassured me of God’s love for me. I was pretty much walking on air after that. Up to this day I feel like 2011 is one of the most beautiful years I’ve ever had and yet that was August. I was still a bit nervous about being the regional leader but a little more confident in God’s love for me and His presence in my life. His promises were true. For the first time in my life, I understood Romans 8: 28 “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to His purpose”

I am Loyal to your government sir
During my fourth year at campus (yes, I was in school for that long), I realized two things. One was that I did not want to practice what had kept me in campus that long, the other was that I was not sure what my alternative was. I therefore decided that after handing in my project report, I would take a break to rest because those last days had been so stressful and to just be and figure things out.

I love road trips and going to Fort Portal was as exciting as going to Gulu. Plus this time, I did not have to get back to a semester. I went for the Fort Portal Camp with one main thing on my mind, I was ready to serve. My heart was light and I was there looking for someone to whom I could be a blessing. Also, I had realized that I was missing in almost all the Gulu pictures which were so many by the way, simply because I was not participating. This time I packed for sports, for the last night and decided I would be part of everything, which paid off in terms of photos.

The scripture focus was Romans 8, which really is like a love chapter. The truth of God’s love for us was engraved deeper as we learnt about being pre-destined and chosen and called. However, I think my best part about this particular camp was the cell that I had the privilege of leading. I was meeting everyone in my cell for the first time but the level of honesty and the questions they used to ask was amazing.

True to my promise, I participated in sports in way of cheering and rounding people up to participate. Unfortunately, I was part of Zion, which despite our triumphant name, kept losing. It kept getting worse, from sports to creative wear and presentation, I wanted to hide. I have never lost that much in my life. It was so bad that it became funny. Zion oye?!

Some of the uummmph designers

Special shout outs go to the amazing uummph designers, under the leadership of Dorcus Mwebaza who were responsible for making the hall super beautiful, with a runway and balloons and ribbons and all the pretty things we could get our hands on.

If asked to, I don’t think I would be able to choose a favourite camp. At the zoo, I was reminded of a God who restores and throws my past in the sea of forgetfulness. In Gulu, walls were broken and I was once again re-affirmed in my Father’s love for me and that He who promised is faithful. In Fort Portal, on top of meeting Prince Oyo, I somehow re-discovered the joy of service.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dorcus Mwebaza

From where to start... It is hard to put some things into words. Words define, words limit, words draw boundaries and say, stop here; but how do you put a stop to a story that is just beginning and is still evolving.. I have known my dear Dorcus for coming to 3 years now. Wow, has it been that long already? It seems like just yesterday; like just yesterday, we were sitting on the same bus to Gulu across the isle from each other, like just yesterday I walked up to you asking if it had been you who'd lost your headsets because I had just found a pair and you said, no it was Anna, like just yesterday, we met in that tiny tiny youth office going on and on about how awesome camp was, like just yesterday...

We didn't even know each other's names yet but somehow we were right next to each other :). Sign?

I could break down the various events that have contributed to our awesome hanging out e.g gospel night, church overnights,get togethers at pastors' homes, youth office (just for just), the other day when we ran into each other around the park, praise rallies, cantatas, dinners...but those are a tiny speck in the huge sea of life. We have shared conversations, hopes, jokes and many things on seemingly normal days, but were they really? Didn't that interaction just make them a little more special?

Why do we celebrate birthdays anyway? I think it is because, if you had not been born, this day would just be, just another Wednesday two days after hero's day. I am grateful to know you. I am grateful and honoured to call you friend and have you call me friend. My prayer for you, Zion Dorcus, is that you will forever be mindful of how much father God loves you, that regardless of where you are, He is always mindful of you, always with you and He promises to never leave your side. He who promised is faithful. I pray that His voice shall always trascend any other voice in your life and that His report, the one that calls you Beloved, Redeemed, favoured,Protected, cared for,Powerful, that one is the one that you will believe. That you will know that He goes ahead of you and clears paths for you; while you sleep, He perfects all that concerns you that you may always rest in Him.

I pray that He gives us more years together, that our children's children will play together and even when this hair that we so talk about , turns grey, we shall be exchanging advice on hair styles and home remedies. Here is to many more years Dorcus Mwebaza. Happy Birthday <3 <3 <3

ummph designers :) , there we are again 

Friday, June 6, 2014

God’s Will

That up there seems to scare a lot of us, mostly because we think God’s will is painful or embarrassing or filled with lack. There are quite a number of things I am not sure about, with every passing day, I discover more and more about this God I’ve sworn my life to; but if there is anything I am sure of, I am sure of this one thing, in my spirit, deep down beyond my 5 senses, I know that God loves me. Of course, the problem for a while has been not knowing what love really looks like, what love is. He is love. His being is the very definition of love. Unfortunately, because we’ve been exposed to a lot of counterfeits, we tend to think that that is what God looks like. So day by day, moment by moment, He breaks down these imaginations I’ve built, these ideologies I’ve held on to, He uproots all that is not meant to be, leaving me feeling naked and exposed sometimes…and He rebuilds, opens my eyes and reveals Himself.

I read something earlier this week, a commentary from a friend about that part in the scriptures about “carrying our cross daily” and my friend was explaining it as sometimes the cross will be the painful things in life we will go through and that is God’s way of turning us into the perfect beings He created us to be. I have a problem with that kind of thinking. A good friend of mine said something to me last week that was amazing “You cannot rejoice in your trials and tribulations if you think it is God who sent them, but rather you rejoice because you know your father loves you and He is more than able and willing to deliver you from whatever comes your way.” I’m paraphrasing…it is more like, whatever the devil and the world throws at you, you can say, “Bring it on, God’s got me”

There is an analogy that I have heard used before to explain why change is sometimes painful. An example is given of a man who hasn’t had a bath in so long that the dirt has caked on his skin. To get clean, that man will experience some kind of pain from the scrubbing, and not because it is bad for him but because the dirt has stayed so long, it takes a lot to get it off. I once also tried to explain it as, the reason things like patience are hard to form in us is because we love the other side more, we’d rather be impatient, so the situations that call for patience are trying for us.

About 2 weeks back, I read The Shack, very amazing book, you should read it if you get the chance; everything in the book was profound but the thing that stood out for me the most, I guess because it hit home is this time when the character Mack is having a conversation with Jesus, it goes like this:

Tell me what you are afraid of, Mack.

Well, let me see, what am I afraid of, began Mack. Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that…

Exactly, Jesus interrupted. You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster. If I may prove my case, do you think humans were designed to live in the present or the past or the future?

Well,said Mack, hesitating, I think the most obvious answer is that we were designed to live in the present. Is that wrong?

Jesus chuckled. Relax, Mack; this is not a test, it’s a conversation. You are exactly correct, by the way. But now tell me, where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination, in the present, in the past, or in the future?

Mack thought for a moment before answering. I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.

Not unlike most people. When I dwell with you, I do so in the present I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?

That there, Jesus’ last statement is what got me. Isn’t that the truth? I find that the things I would project or was afraid of, I never pictured God there with me. I imagine that God will ask me to do some hard things like forgive someone who has hurt me in the worst way possible, become a missionary or whatever is hard for you and I hardly ever imagine that He will be there with His peace that surpasses understanding, that I will rest in Him and shall have peace of mind and heart knowing He is there with me. Jesus goes further to explain our fears, in answer to why it is so hard for us to picture Him there with us

Because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it; you talk about it, but you don’t know it.

Do I know it? Do I believe that God loves me? If I know that God loves me, then I know that God has healed me. If I know that God loves me, then I know that God will feed me, clothe me, give me transport, fight my battles, give me wisdom, cause me to excel, guide my paths into his perfect will which is good and there is not a single moment I will be without Him. Let’s think on this for a bit; what are you afraid of? What are you really afraid of?