The one aspect of missional life that I did not anticipate is our new role as a Property Management Specialists.
Last week, the kids and I sat in the car on the side of the road, watching the Colobus monkeys swing overhead. As we were heading to Fort Portal for some much needed rest and connection time with the team, Travis said, “Oh by the way, I told a man I would stop and see him about a property.” A what? Property? Apparently, when the first pioneers of WHM came to this area, they stopped and set up their temporary homes, tents, in this man’s land as they explored possible sites for ministry. He then sold that land to WHM for more permanent homes to be built. And then took them further on the Bwamba Road into Bundibugyo to the current sites of WHM, the place in which I am now sitting typing. So, that first piece of land continued to be owned by WHM though no one lived on it. Fast forward a bit to 1996 when a “certain man” (a phrase used commonly here) from Zaire (now Congo) needed assistance and was given a letter which allowed him to farm that land for the very specific dates of one year. The letter details that this year of farming should allow him to earn enough money from which he can buy his own land and support himself. Well, 13 years later, we met this “certain man” who is still farming a thriving cocoa crop on this land and receiving the compensation from the government for the land used when the electric lines went through it. So....here we are, Travis now has a deed to the land, 7 community members all witnessing the meeting, the farming man, the original seller of the land (who now is interested in buying back the land for 1/5 of the price sold), slashers who clear a path in which to walk, and us in the car wondering what is going on...me surprised that this is now a significant part of our life, managing property.
Later in Fort Portal, another “oh, by the way” visit to another WHM property, the former home of a missionary family who is transitioning to ministry in Kenya for better educational opportunities for their kids. As we walked around the land, garden, house, church, pastor’s house, we learned the nuances of the water system, locks, electricity and various ways in which a house in Africa is made and held together by missionaries who make do and rig things so that they work just a little bit longer. So, now we are in charge of the maintenance of this property, a lovely site, but 3 hours away from Bundibugyo.
And then there are the slashers, men who cut grass with a machete that is bent at the end. They are employed to keep the grass short around the community center, houses, on the paths, and such. However, not much slashing has been going on lately. Gotta get on that one but I am not sure who they actually are!
And then the houses that are empty but are to be maintained for future teammates, the current school that has a ginormous yard with grass taller than my kids’ heads, the goat pens, the chicken coops, the bats in the community center (Scott is either laughing as he reads this or sighing in relief that he has passed that metaphorical hat on!).
And then our own home. This week as I was putting a toy away in the kids’ room, I felt something wet on my hand. That is always unsettling as we have a number of “indoor pets” like lizards, spider, ants, and rats. But as I looked up, I located that our ceiling was indeed leaking. The tank that holds water for the sun to heat it for showers was leaking. So, that tank is now drained and we are enjoying glacier-cold Ngite waterfall fed showers until we have the time to crawl in the ceiling and try to fix it (via duct tape?).
And then there are the water lines. As Travis was driving teammates and visitors back from a hike to Ngite, they saw that the water line that brings the water from the waterfall to the town had been hacked at so that the water that was intended for the whole community was being used by someone to make bricks at his house.
And then there is the girls’ finicky refrigerator.
And the cows.
And our solar power whose batteries are shot.
And the internet which goes out when there is no grid power.
And maintenance of Christ School Bundibugyo.
But it is more than just managing property because in this relational culture to interact about something is just a means in which one builds relationship, creates “the web” of community (as Jennifer is always explaining). The more interaction, the more one is tied to another, the more there is a reliance, expectation of helping each other.
Last week, I spent the mornings with two precious women as we cleaned and prepared the Myhres house to be used by visitors and for a prayer retreat home for our team. As we sorted, swept, scrubbed, and dusted, the three of us (four when Susan was there!) laughed and sang. Ok, I sang the only song I know in Lebwisi is “Tulimarora” but they sang with a cheerful heart as they made order from chaos. I started to see what Jennifer meant by “the web” as my heart was inexplicably tied to these ladies, my new friends.
So, for now, this is where God has called us. A long time ago, we told him that we were available to go wherever and do whatever He want us to go and do. I had no idea that it would mean in the middle of Africa, just trying to keep things together so our small band of saints could continue in love and ministry to our Ugandan neighbors. But here we are. And we will continue to do that faithfully...and when I update my resume, I may add “property management specialist” to it.