All posts by Elizabeth Fredrickson

Peace. Justice. Forgiveness

It is so difficult to put into words what I have gathered from the people in Uganda. Many of those we interviewed spoke of peace, justice and forgiveness. Their answers were always so beautiful and genuine. Their desire for peace, through justice and forgiveness is so strong. Peace, justice and forgiveness are perhaps some of the most abstract concepts to define yet, at the same time, it is easy for us to identify actions of peace, justice, and forgiveness. In order to define these ideas, we must not only describe them with our words but define them with our actions. That being said, the words I write to describe these concepts, most certainly, cannot come close to defining them. They are just a few of my thoughts….

peace

– no violence or animosity between people

– acceptance and understanding

– loving others

– free of worry

– constant movement toward peace

– harmony

– open conversation, listening, learning

– in peace with God and self to live in peace with others

justice

-giving others what they deserve

-many times thought of in terms of when a crime is committed but it is important to consider its meaning outside of that train of thought

-if it is giving others what they deserve, it is giving them what is rightfully theirs

-protection of human rights and justice when there is a violation of human rights

-also, we are given so much more than what we deserve

-we are a sinful people and despite our shortcomings we are still loved

-in terms of justice then, there is an element of mercy

-even if someone’s actions warrant justice, in everything we do we need to love others

-we must treat others the way we would want to be treated in the same situation

– unbiased

forgiveness

– expression of love

– not seeking revenge, not holding grudges

– unlimited

– not always easy, but always necessary

– unselfish

Proud?

After learning about my trip to Uganda, some are saying that they are proud of me.  When people respond in this way it causes me to feel confused, and honestly, a bit frustrated.  I guess I don’t really understand what I have done that someone could be proud of.

Perhaps, I went outside my comfort zone.  Outside of the Johnson County, Kansas bubble.

But since when are we challenged within our own comfort zones?

When are we met where we want to be met, when we are ready, when it is convinient for us?

What good would occur if we stayed in our comfort zones and only welcomed challenge within our own parameters?

I suppose that I believe we aren’t supposed to live comfortable lives in which we just go through the motions.  It should be considered normalcy to be daily challenged and daily responsive, not an extraordinary event.  Not something to be proud of.

Or, maybe people think that they should be proud of what I am doing, writing, thinking, after the trip.  Those things are also not to be proud of.  Words and thoughts easily become hypocritical when they are not turned into action.  I am still struggling to respond.  And yeah, sure, in order to figure out how to respond, asking questions is helpful.

But again, aren’t we always supposed to be questioning?

And aren’t we all supposed to be questioning?

Responding?

I am so thankful for the experience that I was able to be a part of.  And for the new ways in which I was challenged and pushed to respond.  But this is not something to be proud of because it should be a part of everyone’s daily life.

Traveling to another country-is not going to produce change, is not something to be proud of and is not love.

Not being aware of problems within ourselves and in our own backyards-is not going to produce change, is not something to be proud of and is not love.  

Not reflecting our words, thoughts, beliefs, in our actions-is not going to produce change, is not something to be proud of and is not love.

Thinking we know everything and are no longer suppose to ask questions, seek answers, and actively respond-is not going to produce change, is not something to be proud of and is not love.   

Nothing<<<<<<<>>>>>>Something

I am constantly struggling to overcome my deep selfish tendencies.  Sometimes I ignore them hoping that in that way I am not thinking of myself and that they will disappear.  But then, they rear their ugly heads again.  And once again, my selfishness hurts others.   

It obviously does not work to ignore my problems.  Ignoring problems does not make them go away.  Katongole, in his book The Sacrifice of Africa, quotes Basil Davidson who says of the social struggles in Africa that they were “smuggled out of hearing or censored out of sight.” Uganda, today, is fighting to discover the best approach, as an independent country, to break free of its social struggles.

I am still having difficulty deciphering how I should specifically be responding to the struggles I saw in Uganda.  I know that I have been called to make changes in my life so that I am actively loving my neighbors.   Not responding when I am made aware of problems within my own life or saying that I am going to change but never acting on it, is a terrible cycle to throw myself into.

No longer passively allowing myself to make selfish decisions would result in a greater capacity to answer the call to love others.  And by deeply and genuinely loving others, perhaps I will be pushed further from the doing nothing end of the spectrum into doing something.  For doing something is better than nothing.  “Smuggling and censoring” what needs to be changed in our individual lives and what needs to be changed within the world is doing nothing.  And doing nothing is not loving. 

*The fact that I am posting this while sitting in Starbucks is enough to write about.  Conscious making decisions is vital to changing my actions.

if all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a rain it would be…Part I

A snapshot of my journal….

May 19th and 20th: Travel Days

– In the morning I was freaking out and so nervous.  Thank goodness for those who I am lucky enough to have in my life. Those who take care of me and keep me calm.  I love and miss them all.

– Flying makes me feel so small.  It helps me put perspective on my life, my seemingly insignificance, and the things that I deem as important even though they aren’t.

– This trip will mold me in many ways.  I am constantly being molded by the people and experiences that I am meant to encounter in my life.  The Artisan as a plan for me and although I many times want to know the outcome, I must have faith that I am in His hands.  I hope to be open to the changes that I am called to make in my life and responsive to the shaping.  The breaking and reforming.  The pushing and pulling.  

– Sunrises and sunsets are always beautiful.  No matter how many I see. I am constantly in awe of their uniqueness and majesty.

– People are so varied.  So beautiful.  So unique. What a privilege to be able to see and experience so much. More than ever I realize how blessed I am.

– I love the ways that our groups is getting along and getting to know each other.  What a beautiful thing to witness people with unique personalities and talents come together for a common goal

May 21st: Part I, Day I 

– Upon landing I noticed how dark it is in the country at night.  It was completely dark when we arrived except the lights of the runway and a few city lights.  For a large metropolitan city this really surprised me.

– There is a very distinctive smell here.  I have heard that it is the smell of Africa but it is definitely present in all of Uganda.  I have gotten used to it now even though it is still all around me.  Although difficult to explain it can be described as burning and body odor.  Burning of wood, charcoal, rubber, fuel and I’m sure a multitude of other materials.

– Anticipation and excitement is building. Along with jet lag, prevented me from much sleep.

if all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a rain it would be…Part II

A snapshot of my journal…PART II

May 21st: Part II, Day I

– Overwhelmed.

– People everywhere.  Walking.  On motorbikes.  On bicycles.  Animals everywhere.  Poverty everywhere.

– Tiny storefronts selling everything imaginable.  Food.  Shoes.  Furniture.  Bikes.  Building supplies.  You know.  Etc.

– It is so hard for me to take pictures.  I love taking pictures and want to so badly.  I don’t want to forget what I have seen, which will be impossible I’m sure.  I want to show others what is present here.  I want to tell them stories.  But to put my stupid camera into someone’s life to do so is so hard.  Goodness knows how much I love my picture being taken.

– I am so privileged.  I have no right at all to think that I can pry into the lives of people that I do not know.  And so wrong to think I know how they live and what life is like for them.

– Humbled.  

– After leaving the city of Kampala the scenery became greener.  So lush and so beautiful. Houses changed from being made of scrap wood and tin to being constructed from grass, mud and bricks.

– People are seen working land.  Backbreaking manual labor.  People clearing debris from the dirt.  Children watching each other and working along side their parents.

– It is hard for be to imagine that the majority of people here are concerned about having enough food and water for life.  I have so many selfish needs that are truly wants.

– Many people were waving as we entered Lira.  So many.  

–  Although not as populated as Kampala, Lira was still the sight of immense poverty.  It is still incomprehensible to me and I never think it will be.  I can’t even begin to imagine what their life is like and honestly I hope that I never pretend to.  I hope not to become a snobby girl who thins she is well traveled and in the know about the world’s problems.  I would hate to come back from this thinking anything but humbling thoughts.  I would hate to say “I understand, because I have seen.” How naïve?! What ounce of me can think I understand this because I don’t and never will.  Ahhhh.  But I want to help so badly but it is so obvious that I can’t.  This is so much bigger than what I know and what I can do anything about.  I am so insignificant.  My voting record even reflects my feelings of insignificance.  I begin to question the ways I live.  Do I act entitled? Yes Do I think selfish thoughts most if not all of the time? Yep.  Do I give unconditionally? No.  Do I love others the way that I am loved and have been called to love? No.  So change is necessary.  Many issues inside myself must change.  I am being reformed.  Like the changes that need to take place inside of me.  Change needs to occur in the developing world.  In order for change to take place, problems must be presented and be made aware.  Thankfully our documentary will be doing some of the witnessing for us when we return.  But what about after the documentary is presented? We must continue to remind others and ourselves around us to be aware of the problems we live in.  We must change the way we live to do everything out of love.  If all of the people poured love out on one another, oh what a world it would be.

– Beautiful children! Smiling! Laughing! Trusting! Spending time with these children adds so much joy to my day.  I might get tired but seeing them changes my whole mood and outlook.  This trip is a wake up call to change my outlook and myself.

– The food that we have been able to eat has been wonderful.  But I am so gluttonous.  I am often thinking of the next meal.  And options at the next meal.  Not whether or not I will eat.  But stinking options.

– I have no idea what it means to be hungry. Thirsty.  Cold.  Hot.  Tired.  Complaining of such things must stop.  I have nothing to complain about.  Nothing at all.

if all of the raindrops where lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a rain in would be…Part II

A snapshot of my journal…. PART III

May 22nd: Day II

– We attended mass today.  It was so wonderful to watch as we traveled to the church the people who were heading in the same direction.  Thinking about the movement of many people from different faiths and culture heading towards such a place was inspirational.

– People are united in faith and life.  We are all one people and should live as such.  Caring for and loving each other unconditionally.

– A boy outside of the church quickly came up to stare at us, as was the rest of the congregation. Heck.  I would most certainly stare at us too.  The little boy was playing with something in his hands. Herbert, our guide, decided to see what he was holding.  Upon examination it was discovered that he was holding a needle in its cap.  As a child, my parents never worried about whether or not I would pick up a needle, used or not, and play with it.  And from an early age, I was taught not to play with needles or touch blood.  I can’t begin to imagine the daily health concerns and threats to life that the people here face.

– The mass was full of passion.  It was obvious that the people wanted to be there and believed in the mission and goals of the church.

– After mass we spoke to the bishop of Lira.  He was very knowledgeable.  He spoke of forgiveness, for it is the only option.  He also spoke of awareness and change. He challenged us not to be moved for only a moment after our return but to be moved for life into action and to move others into action as well.

– A full morning and afternoon it was.  Later we toured the village that surrounds our compounds.  The children and people here bring so much life to my life.  Hanging out with the children is one of the most moving experiences.  There is so much to learn from them.

– We had an evening full of entertainment.  Dancers came to perform for us.  So many times I wish that I had a culture to identify with.  I am obviously American but to be truthful I wish I had a true identity.  I’m not exactly proud of our reputation.

– So I have been taking up the computer for too long now.  These last few days have been eye opening to say the least.  I am so looking forward to the remainder of our journey. 

Tourist

After concluding our filming last week we were able to experience even more of what Uganda had to present to us.  Safaris.  Boating on the Nile.  Waterfalls.  The touristy type things.  My goodness, how I hated to feel like a tourist and how I started to get angry at people who were just tourists.

I don’t want to go on and angry and judgmental tangent here about people because that won’t do any good.  Perhaps the, I hope, common conclusion that our world is beautiful is more worth discussing.

The animals of the world have been crafted so beautifully.  They are made perfectly for their purpose.  I understand that some people or cultures rely on animal sources for nutrients and sustenance.  But letting animals roam freely is so natural and true their creation.

The land and trees used to cover so much of our world.  Wonderful resources have been provided to us.  However, how wrong of us is it to take advantage and destroy what we have been given? Everything green and alive is being replaced by everything gray and dead.  It doesn’t make sense to me. 

I have never seen a more blue sky or more white clouds in my life.  I could stare at the sky for hours because it always amazes me.  I don’t think I could ever, with my limited artistic abilities, paint or photograph the sky to show its clarity and vastness.  

Water is so powerful.  Water brings life to all it touches.  At the same time water is not to be taken advantage of.  It is such a great privilege to have clean water and especially to turn on a faucet and have clean water.  But if water is taken advantage of and contaminated, it can bring death and disease to so many.  Waterfalls can hold my attention forever.  It is such a mystery to me how the water can flow over the rocks and create such a wonderful display.  But rushing water can be dangerous.  It is best to observe and appreciate rather than try to fight the forces of nature.

Our world is so beautiful and such a gift.  And the beauty of it is all around us, even in Omaha, NE.  At all times it should be respected and appreciated and we should allow it to continue to leave us in awe. 

Lillian- Student

I am continually taken aback by the strength of the people that we have encountered.  We have been openly recieved to hear so many stories of hardship.  Each one is unique and each one offers so many lessons.

Yesterday we interviewed a 16 year old girl named Lillian.  She was not abducted by the LRA nor forced to become a child solider.  But growing up, the war was ever present in her life.

When Lillian was young both of her parents passed away.  While they were still alive she was barely able to attend school.  School after her parents’ deaths seemed impossible.  It was made even more impossible when she was sent to stay with her aunt.  Her aunt quickly wanted to send her away, to become an orphan, because there were already too many mouths to feed in the family.

Young Lillian went to her teachers at the school and explained her situation.  She voiced her desire to continue to learn and was provided with scholarships to continue her education.  Education is vital to life and success in Uganda.

At the same time Lillian was continuing her education, the LRA was operating at its fullest.  Lillian shared that even though she was in school, she was always afraid. And always distracted.  It was very difficult for her to concentrate on her studies.  She was always watching the grass because every little movement could be dangerous.  She was afraid that she would be abducted and forced to kill her own friends, family, and neighbors.

Now that the war has ended, she is fighting her vivid nightmares with prayer.  She continues to attend school and hopes to become a doctor.

I am so blessed to have both my mother and father alive and caring for me.  They give everything to care for my siblings and me.  Everything.  I am so grateful for the sacrifices they have made in order to promote happiness and success in my life.

There are many distractions in college that can prevent studying.  However, I have never been truly in fear for my life.  I study in an environment that provides so many educational opportunities.  The opportunities that are open to me are so immense.

I have so much to be thankful for.  Every single day I have to live is such a blessing.

Walter- Chef

Before arriving in Gulu we were staying in Lira.  We were fortunate enough to be able to stay at a really nice hotel.  The people running and working the hotel were so generous and hospitable. 

One morning Megan and I slept in a bit too late and had to be woken.  Later I was able to learn more about the life of the young man who came to knock on our door.

That evening Megan and I began to talk to the young man.  He introduced himself as Chef Walter.  For the longest time I thought he said his name was Jeff until I realized that he was actually the chef at the place we were staying.  Walter also added that he was 18 years old.  

He told me that every morning he had to be at the hotel my six o’clock.  It gets light very quite early so that isn’t too bad.  However, he has to stay at the hotel until after we go to bed.  Which is easily after 11 o’clock.

It gets so dark here because there aren’t city lights.  It is literally pitch black.  I asked Walter if he got afraid when he had to walk home, in the dark, so late at night.  He explained that he was used to it and that it didn’t frighten him.  

As we got to talking he informed me that his mother was sick.  She had “water in her womb”.  The doctors actually removed her “entire womb” earlier that day.  So Walter, instead of going directly home at 11 o’clock, was going many miles back into the city, on foot, to take care of his mother for the night.  Then he would return early in the morning.  

I asked him how much the surgery would cost.  500,000 shillings.  Walter makes 100,000 shillings a month and only gets paid every two months.  Doing some rough math, that is about 50 US dollars a month.  Less than $1.75 a day.  If he works from six in the morning until eleven at night.  That is seventeen hours a day.  And that comes out to less than a dime an hour.  Sometimes I need things to be presented very literally to me.  Calculating that someone makes 0.098 cents an hour really puts things into perspective.

Next, I asked Walter if he was tired.  He replied,

 “No, I am not tired.  I can not be tired because we have to survive”.

Over the next couple days, I saw Walter around the house.  We talked about his mother’s recovery.  About how he was the second youngest of six.  About how he had to stop school because his family could not afford it.

Then I asked somewhat of a silly question.  I asked him if he had all of the money in the world what he would do with it.

He answered, “First, I would give it back to my Creator, to God.  Then I would go back to school and get an education so that I could get a better job.  And then I would buy things for our house because we need livestock and crops.”

Brief interactions with Walter for just a few days taught me so much.  It is true that I was impacted deeply by so many other experiences and people. But engaging in personal conversation rather than just a handshake or a smile or a few words causes a much longer lasting impact.

…unprepared

As we begin classes for our journey to Uganda, it is quite obviously that all preparations are about to come to a close when we depart on Thursday.  It is time for packing to stop.  Classes will soon be over. But mental preparations may never be complete.  That is why when people ask me how I am feeling about the trip, I usually respond with excited but I also include that I am unprepared. I am about to experience things that I have never experienced before.  Journalism.  Videography.  Interviewing.  Blogs.  But more than that I will have new encounters.  With people.  With a third world country. How am I suppose to prepare for the new encounters and experiences that are beginning today? I have come to the conclusion that Thursday will come even if my suitcase does not have everything I will need.  I will begin journalism and videography even if I haven’t learned all the techniques. As for being mentally prepared, I am sure that I never will be. Because I am unprepared, I have decided to begin this journey with no expectations.  With no expectations, I will try to let everything wash over me.  Absorbing all that I can.