This has been a tough week. Almost every single student (and staff) has been deathly ill at one point or another. Okay, not exactly death, but it sure felt like it (and looked like it) sometimes.
Morale was really low. I think our students have really felt discouraged, and sadly, the other night, they took it out on us. The culture shock, the time change (I think we're still adjusting), the insane heat, unmet expectations, frustrations with limitations, the food, the lack of sleep in our hammocks, and of course, being so sick has really worn on all of them. I've heard a lot of grumbling and complaining lately-- even plans for the first meal back in the States (not for another month!), and a strange silence during our team sharing times.
I think they are in that critical breaking point of really digging into the culture, and feeling the hardships that they knew they would face (the things they knew would change them & make them stronger)... but now that they are here, they're wondering why they came. So, the other night, it finally came out: it's all our fault. It's the staff. They made the schedules, they make the rules, they keep us from getting online & emailing our families, they misled us, and they are the ones who are making it so difficult to save Uganda.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit... but not all that much, really. It didn't really bother me that much that they were blaming us-- I know that it's part of leadership. And, I understand where they're coming from, and feel the same frustrations & discomforts. What sucked is that they have been talking about us behind our backs-- grumbling & complaining & blaming without coming to us.
I think we're working it out, though. I really think that was the beginning of some good changes. What really makes me sad, though, is that I can feel a lack of trust, or intimacy in our team. The first week that we were here, we trusted each other-- we were opening up to one another, crying in front of one another, and experiencing the struggles together. Now, there is a rift in the group, and I'm not quite sure of how we can fix it.
Part of the problem is that we have no where to meet as a group. We are all paired up in our little mud huts, which are too small to meet in. At night, we gather into the one lighted classroom (with a single light bulb dangling from the ceiling), and compete against the roar of the generator and our heavy eyelids. It's not the best environment for deep discussions. Our only other gathering point (during daylight) is on our reed mats, under the shade of the mango tree. Sadly, the tree is right next to the fence that separates Child Voice from the Refugee camp, and the local children love to hang on the fence, staring at the white people, and practicing their English. They sound like little parrots: "Howayoo? Howayoo??" ("How are you?"). Very entertaining (for the first five minutes), but a little distracting.
Please pray that we would find a way to develop intimacy and a sense of team again. There really is a tangible difference in our students & the way we are all interacting.
Another battle we have witnessed/engaged in has been spiritual. Last night, as we were all settling into our huts, we heard a girl screaming & crying. I stepped out of my hut, and looked across the fence to where all the girls (the Child Mothers) were bathing for the night, laughing and joking over the noise of a blood-curdling scream.
No one seemed to be phased by this awful screaming noise, and I couldn't tell where it was coming from. Chris walked around the fence to the gate, to find out what was happening, all the while, the screaming continued. He was told that one of the younger girls in the program (14yrs old), who has had a lot of maturity & emotional problems was throwing a tantrum-- trying to get attention.
Strange, I thought, Sounds like a lot more than getting attention to me. The screams were just awful. They continued on so much longer than I imagined possible-- sometimes fading out, and then coming back even stronger than before. After about 15 or 20 minutes of screaming, some of our students went over and began praying for her. She was rolling & spinning in the dirt, screaming & writhing in pain. Once people started praying for her, she calmed down into a trance-like state, and finally went to sleep.
Apparently, she is one of the girls who has experienced a lot of the demonic attacks before (but has also had some strange emotional outbursts-- which is why, at first they thought she was just acting out). One of our non-Christian students there (who had previously said she thought those outbursts were purely psychological), said that she definitely believed there was something spiritual happening in that girl.
I'm sure that I am not communicating all this very well (I'm racing against the clock-- our ride back to the camp is rapidly approaching), but write all this just to say that it has been emotional-- that I deeply believe there is a battle being waged against our students, against those girls, and against this broken community.
One thing I am sure of, though, is that God is bigger. I wasn't present when this girl was being attacked/possessed, but I heard her screams and felt her pain. Despite that, I was not and am not afraid. God has given me such a sense of security in Him, and a strength that I wasn't sure I could have in these circumstances.
Thank you for praying for us. I really believe it's because of your prayers that we are still going. Please keep praying-- it really is a battle out here...
Oh, and to lighten things up a bit, after the screaming calmed down, Chris and I were attacked in a completely different way. We were about to go to sleep, when we noticed that our walls were moving-- Indiana Jones style. Apparently, mud huts also make great ant hills, and there were millions of baby fire ants coming out of our walls.
We moved all our bags to an empty hut, but there were no hammocks there, so we had to sleep in our ant hill for the night. When we woke up in the morning, they had receded into the wall, as though they were never there. We decided that we would do our best to live together in peace with our hut-mates, knowing that it would probably be the same in any other hut.
So, I after the attacks by stomach bugs, grumbling students, demons, and ants, we are still standing-- and I would say, doing remarkably well. I feel good. I can handle pit latrines, hammocks, beans & rice every day, and even a gaggle of grump students. I won't go so far as to say that I can handle demonic attacks, but I will say that I am confident in my God.