I am sitting in the living room of my new home, with the doors wide open, a very calm breeze blowing through the house. Today is a public holiday in Uganda so I have spent most of the day like this, reading a book, working on a few projects, and enjoying the sounds of the neighborhood kids below the apartment as they giggle and play. As I type, a Ugandan strums the guitar and sings an incredibly calming mixture of Ugandan and American songs. Each time he stops, the children sing the next words in the song, urging him along. I feel at peace. This is the Uganda that I know and love. I think of the women I met in Kikandwa last weekend, kneeling down before me and thanking me with tears in their eyes for believing that development is possible in their community. I think of the health center – full of clients – changing the lives of every person who steps through the doors. For me, Uganda is hope. Uganda has always been hope. Uganda is still hope.
It’s a big week for us here in Uganda and in Kampala in particular which is home to about 3 million people. On Thursday, we will have our presidential elections, which occur every 5 years. We’ve had the same president for 30 years and don’t have the best track record with peaceful elections. In a country ravaged with poverty, the situation is desperate at times. The country is torn between groups of people who desperately want change and others who want stability because they fear the recurrence of the violence their country experienced under Amin’s regime. My heart was worn and saddened on Monday night watching rallies that turned violent. Tear gas, streets swarmed with police, individuals at the rally running away covering their faces. One man was killed. And my heart broke. The places shown on the news are not close to my home, but at the same time, they are too close to my home. They are familiar. Places I have eaten, places I pass through.
My heart broke because in a world where Uganda is almost never in the media, the images shown on TV screens across the world on Monday night will impact the way that many people in the world, and maybe many of you, will view Uganda. You will not hear the laughing children, you will not see the smiling faces, you will not see the face of a woman who steps into a health clinic for the first time in her life with a new hope and a new confidence.
You will only see the tear gas in the streets of a country that is struggling desperately for development.
I am privileged to be part of a church community in Uganda that I dearly love. At church this week, the pastor spoke about our role in elections. He challenged us to shine positively in the midst of negative publicity this week. He urged us to pray for our country.
I would also like to urge you this week: When you see the pictures of our country on its worst days… think about its best days, too. Think about the hope, the development, the progress that we are making each and every day. Think about me, think about my many friends here, and their families, and pray that God would guide us, and them, not just this week but every week. Pray for business development, pray for church development, and pray for life development. Pray that God would bless Uganda and that the good works already begun here would continue. And if you feel so bold, would you dare to see Uganda for more than just what’s shown on the news?
Let me close with this: “Pray for the peace of Uganda. May all who love this country prosper. O Uganda, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your government, homes and businesses. This I ask for the sake of all my friends who live here. Psalm 122:6-8 TLB (word in italics changed)