Our Great Big Wilderness Adventure

Now if you’ve been reading this blawg-o-mine for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I am not, by and large, a girl who spends a lot of time outdoors. In fact, I believe I’ve mentioned that nature would be ever-so-much more enjoyable for me if it were air conditioned.

And I still think there’s merit to that idea, by the way.

So you can imagine my apprehension when I found myself climbing into a(n) (un-air conditioned) van around 6:30 IN THE MORNING last Saturday so that I could ride around and look at animals in their natural habitat.


Heather was insistent that we ride in the same van, mainly because she wanted to hear me say “OH MY LANDS” over and over again.

For the record, I didn’t say “OH MY LANDS” very much at all.

But I did say “OH MY WORD” about eleventy-four thousand times.

Our guide was a guy named Emmanuel, and I can’t even tell you how comforted I was by the presence of someone whose name translates to “God with us.” Because I don’t know when I’ve ever craved God’s presence more than I did when confronted with, you know, REAL LIVE LIONS.

I’m just sayin’.

Once Heather, Carlos, Shaun, Shannon and I were settled in the van, we headed down some bumpy dirt roads. And I have to confess: I started to warm up to the whole notion of spending the morning in nature when I looked to my right and saw this:


That was pretty cool.

And, you know, this wasn’t so bad, either:



Because whether you’re a nature fan or not, seeing elephants about twenty-five feet from your vehicle really is about seventy-two kinds of awesome.

One of the most surreal parts of our excursion is that the guides talked to each other on their cell phones so that they’d know which animals were where. In all honesty I was a bit jealous about their cell coverage because I would have given anything to be able to send Big Mama a text message that said, “HELLO, I AM LOOKING AT ALL THE NATURE.”

And believe you me: when Emmanuel got word via cell phone that there were lions not too far away, our driver took off down those dusty roads at a rate of speed I have only experienced when I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it to a Popeye’s by closing time.

So what I’m saying is that there was a certain sense of urgency.

Because look! Lions!


And Carlos!


And Shaun! Who can laugh even in the presence of a high-powered rifle!


Our trek lasted about three hours, and I must have taken 150 pictures. But before you look at a picture of me, I feel that I must explain the kerchief atop my ahead.

Or as Carlos called it: my FundanaTM.

There was never any question that I needed to wear some sort of protective covering on my head. But given the baseball cap disaster the day before, I wanted to wear something a bit more sassy and colorful.

However, since I didn’t put on the FundanaTM until I was in the van, I was unaware of how I looked in a FundanaTM until I saw this picture.

Prepare yourselves, people.


Needless to say, I don’t think it’s a look I’ll be repeating.

But FundanaTM or no, that day was one of the highlights of my life.

Because yeah, the animals were were great.

And that large body of water they call the Nile River? Even better.

But these people?



Hands-down. Best part of all.

My Afternoon Outside In The Nature

For the last couple of days of our trip we headed a little deeper into the heart of Uganda and visited a national park adjacent to Murchison Falls. At the time I didn’t understand why those two days were so important, but in retrospect it is perfectly clear that without that decompression period my head would have flown straight off of my body and would now be residing somewhere in the middle of Lake Victoria.

So the decompression time, it was good.

In fact, it was one of the most memorable, wonderful, hysterical, inspiring times of my whole life. I felt absolutely enveloped by God’s grace. For real.

The first afternoon we were there we made a trip to Murchison Falls. We had to take a short ferry ride, then a much longer (and bumpy) van ride, and I sort of expected that we’d tackle the falls like the Griswold family tackled the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon’s Vacation. We’d walk over to the edge, stare for a couple of seconds, snap a few pictures, then head back to the vans.

So you can imagine my surprise when I hopped out of the van and heard the following words: “we’re going to take a 45-minute hike.”



Y’all. I was wearing Crocs – which I intially thought would be quite sensible for standing on some dirt and looking at some water and stuff – and some very large, dangly hoop earrings. Not to mention my glasses.

So obviously I was dressed for the occasion.

We started up the first hill, and since I am by nature a pretty fast walker, my strategy was to get up the hill as quickly as possible. However, since the hill was at angle I’m approximating to be around 90 degrees, my speed was quickly diminished by the sheer effort of putting one foot in front of the other.

In fact, I was a little incredulous that I was being asked to climb this particular hill WITHOUT THE AID OF A ROPE, but I was bound and determined that I was not going to be the 30-something mama who couldn’t keep up with the rest of the pack.

And do you know how long I was “bound and determined”? For a full minute. Oh yes I was.

And when that minute was over? I looked back at Shannon, gasped for air, and said, “Gotta. Stop. Minute. Breathe.”

She looked at me and said, “Yes. Hard. Steep.”

And then I said, “May. Die.”

I’m telling you, we were right at home on the side of that mountain. Just like a couple of housecats in the middle of a rodeo.

Somehow we made it up to the top of the hill (MOUNTAIN? MOVE OUT OF MY WAY!), and we started a downhill trek that was fairly simple, except for the fact that there were a lot of rocks and we had to make our way down the rocks and THERE WEREN’T ANY RAILS OR ANYTHING.

Also: if you step in mud while wearing Crocs? The mud will seep into your Crocs. And it will be very squishy.

After about thirty minutes or sixteen hours, we finally made it to the falls. And oh, I must confess that the view was stunning. Even if I had to sweat and stuff to be able to see it.





By the way, I cannot believe that I just put a picture of me WEARING A BASEBALL CAP on the interweb. There is no question that my mama will be horrified. But I had to have something to protect my lily-white scalp from the blazing African sun. And I figured that my options were either a baseball cap or, you know, skin cancer. So I went with the cap.

I continue to stand by that decision.

Even if my head looks like a prize-winning melon.

In Which I Am Humbled Again And Again

There are lots of sights and sounds from Uganda that will stay with me forever, but for some reason last Tuesday’s home visit seems to be on constant replay in my mind. I can’t think of anything in recent memory that has affected me so profoundly, and every single time I close my eyes to rest or to try to sleep, I see a mental slideshow of that afternoon.

We went to see a 21 year-old mother and her little boy. Their home is in a small village, and to get there we had to walk through several narrow alleyways that are bisected by drainage ditches. Three families share one outdoor restroom – which is located behind this brick wall.


This is the young mama praying while she held her little boy; I will always remember their sweet faces.


The home next door was empty, so I asked the Compassion worker who was with us if I could take some pictures. For whatever reason, it struck me as completely surreal.



When our home visit was over, we walked slowly back through the village.






A couple of hours later we had a worship service at a nearby Compassion project; several mothers and children from the village were there with us. And when I saw the mom we visited walk to the front of the church to sing for us, I thought my heart might explode right then and there.


She lives in a one-room house in the middle of a remote, impoverished village.

I live in a way-too-many-rooms house in the middle of American suburbia.

And I wonder if I’ve ever known the kind of hope that she has, if I’ve ever experienced a faith that’s as pure and unencumbered by the things of this world.

The woman and her friends were singing a song they’d written about how Compassion has helped their families. They see every meal, every vaccination, every mosquito net, every dose of medicine, every bit of help from Compassion as God’s provision for them. They are deeply grateful.

And I get ticked off in the grocery store if my favorite brand of coffee is out of stock or if the line at the deli requires me to wait more than two minutes for my sliced turkey.

Perspective. It’s a mighty good thing. And that day – in the middle of a remote Ugandan village that has no power, no running water, no telephone lines and no cable television – I found tons of it.

I pray that I never forget.

That’s More Like It

When we put the little man to bed around 8 o’clock last night, he said he wanted me to snuggle with him for a minute.

So I crawled in the bed, wrapped my arm around him, and that’s the last thing I remember until about 5:45 this morning.


Somebody say “hallelujah” one time.

And I still have loads of Uganda stories. Including one that involves Shannon and a(n) (alleged) monkey.

Oh, yes. ‘Tis true.

See y’all in a little while.

I’m Wiped Out

But Shaun (proper pronuniciation: SHAW-AWN) is doing very cool thing over at his place.

Halfway There

We are in Brussels, and PRAISE THE LORD, OH PRAISE HIM, we all had at least two seats to stretch out on the plane from Entebbe to here.

And I haven’t mentioned this before, but can I just please tell you that Shannon was the best roommate in the whole wide world? THE BEST. We had such a fun time together. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her there.

Well, I guess I probably would’ve bugged everybody else a whole lot more. Which is but one reason why the whole group is even more glad that Shannon was around.

I’m currently in a bit of a toss-up about whether or not I want Mexican or fried chicken when I get home, and I have to say, I think Mexican is winning out. Primarily because there will be cheese dip there. And I’m pretty sure I could drink it with a straw.

And then ask for seconds, por favor.

I know that lots of y’all have had Compassion-related questions for me in the comments, and I’m going to do a post that focuses on those questions sometime in the next few days. I’m not entirely sure how this whole jet lag thing is going to affect me, so it may take me a couple of days to collect my thoughts and catch up on sleep and get used to being back home again. But I’ll definitely answer your questions – oh yes I will.

Okay – I’m going to find some coffee. And I want to sit around and listen to everybody laugh for the next hour or so, because once we get to Chicago we’ll be heading in different directions. That makes me a little sad.

Internets, you have responded to the Compassion children in a TREMENDOUS way this past week – thank you so much for that. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that there will be more people who decide to sponsor a child in the days and weeks and months to come. There are just so many stories. So many. And thanks in advance for letting me continue to share those stories with you.

By the way, my poor husband has NO IDEA how much listening he’s going to have to do in the next few weeks, oh bless his heart. Y’all might want to keep him in your prayers. Because there’s going to be A LOT OF TALKING in our house.

Have a great Monday, everybody.

And thanks again for being the best internets in the whole wide world interweb.