Monday, October 17, 2011


Friendship is an interesting thing, especially when you consider how many Facebook 'friends' you have. In Uganda friendship can mean something entirely different. I have this year even been known (not in one of my more compassionate moments) to suggest to someone that I had enough 'friends' and that he did not need to become my friend. That is because often a friend here means someone who helps you and takes care of you especially in a financial or material manner. So, many would say that we have a massive number of friends here. In fact, we would probably beg to differ, we have people we have happily helped and some real friendships. The difficult part is that all the people we know have needs and so it is a hard decision how to best help those who have become true friends. You could well say, just give to them - which of course we do, but how, and how do you stop the relationship changing into a lopsided one? However, I mention all this so that you have some background into more of our situation.
Friendship is such an important thing, and we have been privileged to make some good friends here and to recognise how much we miss good friends in Australia. This last week one of those friends here Robert Kafeero turned 40 years of age. No, there was no big party despite the fact that when you turn 40 here you are considered to now be wise. However, we were able to celebrate with him and Rachel which was an immense privilege for us. They invited us to go out to dinner with them. In usual Ugandan style it was meant to be what would suit us, but we were able to convince them that it was about Robert not us. So, off we went. Unfortunately, the new restaurant that to all appearances looked open was only able to serve drinks. So, after a nice soda we moved on to another place. It was so nice to share a meal with friends. We feel so much on an equal level with this couple. Robert as director of the school has spent a bit of time discussing school matters with Anne. Ron and Robert work closely together on all the building projects, with Robert as the ultimate boss but Ron able to give his thoughts. On matters Ugandan, Robert is our authority. He will not give us an answer to please us, he will tell us what he really thinks. We love that! We are so fortunate, they understand us (not just the language) and hopefully they feel like we understand them. We do not get that much time to spend with Rachel but when we do we really appreciate her input and thoughts. Why can we have such a friendship? I think part of the reason is that they are not coming to us and begging. They are part of the team that we are part of. This is their country and they do not want others to do the work for them, they want to work with the people that come to help. Their attitudes are so often very refreshing. Something that made me so happy recently was when Robert made a special effort to drop in. He said how he had thought, "I haven't seen Anne for days, I will go and see them."
Robert and Rachel do appreciate that through friendship they gain. However, the gain is not a one way thing. Just this weekend, after a very long day Robert made sure that there was suitable food for us to have on our return. Amazing how much this makes one feel cared for. Then, just last night when returning from taking some of the children to a crusade, the bus broke down. Who did we ring? Robert of course. He came happily, despite having had a really busy day and only just returning home from picking up Rachel and the children from the same crusade. Friendships like this help to make life here very possible. Not only do we have God, we have some human bodies who we can turn to when in need.
There are other friends here. Judith and Fred are a couple from YWAM who we have got to know. Judith a bit more than Fred but we consider them both to be friends. This last week when Ron was not well and I was a little unwell, there were messages. They dropped around to see how we were. Judith and I pray together on a regular basis and she understands my concerns, it is not just about her. They also understand so much about the situation here and their insight is invaluable. They are about making a change. Interestingly, like Robert Kafeero, Fred has chosen to do things that are not for his personal financial gain. Fred is into community development and has taught a lot about this. He also is working on this in other ways. His assistance with the health work that we looked at was invaluable. He values important things and recognises the types of things that are detrimental to true development.
Other friendships happen, the guys who work on the buildings. It is hard not to consider them good friends, because they are. Not quite the same, but close. We care about their lives, they care about us. We have lots of laughs and plenty of banter shared. They would love us to help change their lives and in many ways through regular employment we (Hopebuilders) are. Of course there are other things too that are provided when needed. Only tonight Emma reminded Ron of his willingness to teach him to drive. So, the lessons will begin... These are people that add to our lives, we talk to them in a real way, we listen to their problems and share our joys with them.
As 'hosts' when people come we also make different forms of friendship with people that come. Some, will just be people we know for a few weeks, may see in Oz when we are there, and know we share the experience of being here in Uganda. Others, come who we have known and the friendship changes because they now share something that is significant to us. Still others, we will always remember. Will they be or become very good friends, only time can tell that. However, we do know that people that come do impact us. We listen, hear about peoples'reactions to situations and continuously assess how we are doing with it all. Being immersed in something you lose objectivity and so people help us see things in their own light. We hopefully gain wisdom, understanding from this both for ourselves and to enhance the experience of others coming. Always so much to learn, fortunately education is a life long experience!
Then, of course there are friends back in Australia. Some of them are going through different struggles. It is so hard not to be able to sit and have a coffee and chat. To not be there for people that you love is really difficult. We of course share the joys and sorrows but it is not quite the same as being there. Some friends have managed to keep the constant contact for which I will be forever grateful. Amazing how much an email or message means when you are far away. Though of course while feeling grateful I often recognise how slack I have been in doing this for others. In some ways, at the moment I am all the more aware of the friendships back there. With the exciting news of grandparenthood approaching, one wants to share it with those that know your children, let alone of course the children themselves.
Sharing a wonderful time in England with great friends Rick and Di

Ultimately, how fortunate Ron and I are, we have so many friendships both new and old.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing stories, you two are great friends and parents too!