“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)
I was recently back in the States for a stint, and there were two questions that I kept being asked. Okay, there were more than two questions, but these were probably the two most frequently asked:
- What is your (my) favorite part about living in Uganda?
- What is the hardest part about living in Uganda?
Even though these were the two most common questions I received, every time they were asked, they would stop me in my tracks. Because, honestly, there is a lot that I love about living here and a lot that can be really challenging. I love the basically perfect weather! I dislike being away from my niece and nephew (and the rest of my family, but they are the two cutest members). I love the convenience of being able to hop on a boda if you need immediate transport. I miss driving on smooth roads. I love the students I get to teach! I hate the never-ending war on ants. The list could go on for hours.
But honestly, if I really give myself enough time to think about it, my favorite thing about living in Uganda is also the hardest.
It’s the community.
I have here a community that has stood by my side through thick and thin. We have celebrated major holidays and have cried through extremely challenging circumstances together. They have seen me thrive and have seen me at my ugliest. Some people have been a part of my community for the entire year and a half that I have been here, while others have only just recently joined. Without the community with which the Lord has provided me, life here would be so much more difficult.
When you go through exciting new experiences with people, those memories often last a lifetime. But when you go through the trenches with people, it creates a bond that is unbreakable. Things happen in the trenches that you cannot share with others. Or if you try, they may listen and be empathetic, but they will never truly understand in the same way the people do who were alongside you. Life here is not all trenches, but I have certainly had those moments, and I am so grateful that God has surrounded me with an amazing community of people with whom I have experienced both the peaks and the valleys.
So how could such a wonderful community also be the hardest part about life here?
In the 18 months that I have lived here, I have already had to say, “See ya later” to several amazing friends. Some of these friends I know I will see in the next few months, while others I pray I will get to see again someday. It can be really hard to allow yourself to form such close friendships when there is an end date.
But that is what God calls us to do. He calls us to invest in people. He does not say, “Only invest in people who are going to be in your life for at least a year.” He does not say, “Only invest in people who look/think/act/etc., like you.” We are called to build relationships because that is what Jesus did. Not everyone with whom Jesus came into contact ended up being a close, personal friend…heck, a lot of people did not even like Him…but He still laid down His life for them.
So I am challenging myself not to grow cynical. I am challenging myself to continue investing in those around me, not knowing if we will be together for 2 months, 6 months, 2 years, or 20 years. And I want to approach each day with a grateful heart. I am so thankful for the sweet friendships I have formed here and for the opportunity to serve in a community of believers who desire to love those whom God puts in our lives…even when it is difficult.