Back from Uganda: A Lesson about the Culture of the Word

I feel like I'm making some big announcement in saying that I'm back from Uganda, but I'm not quite sure why I feel that way.  Maybe it's because going to Africa was such a dream of mine for so long.  Maybe it's because when you live in a tight-knit dorm community, being gone for twelve days is a big deal.  Maybe it's because I really believe that we only have tomorrow if the Lord wills.  Regardless, I'm back, and was greatly blessed to be able to go and see and serve.

Of course, you already know the question that I've answered the most over the past twenty-four hours.  I don't mind answering it, because the question itself is an evidence that the people around me are kind enough to rejoice with those who rejoice and curious enough to learn with those who learn.  Answering it also gives me an opportunity to share about the goodness of God and the beauty of Africa and the needs of Uganda and the diversity of culture and the worth of the Word and the devastating wonder of an orphan.  And these are just a few major themes.

Now the question becomes where to start (along with where to end, what to put in the middle, what to leave out, how to communicate continent-sized experiences and lessons, and how to fight my addiction to detail).  In some ways I would love to try to enumerate all the lessons I learned, because I am finding them to be quite valuable.  But that just won't be possible (and for anyone who reads this, it wouldn't be desirable, either).  So I'll just have to pound those out in my mind, my journal, and my life.

I may just try to write one summary of the trip, hitting on four or five major things.  Or I might try to share about various aspects of the trip in multiple posts.  What will probably happen is that I'll write one summary post and then weave a multitude of thoughts in and out of various posts over the next few months.

For now I'll just say one thing, because my body is telling me something slightly different than my watch (my jet lag actually hasn't been bad at all; I'm just getting tired a bit earlier than normal, and with a different feeling than normal).  I'll probably write about the trip as a whole on Saturday or Sunday.  But for now:

You learn so much when you visit a different place.  Your perspective is stretched, and sometimes it even tears (for better or for worse).  The lenses over your eyes (which are the color of your experience) are shaded with different hues and tones, and things start to look different.  You realize that what's "normal" isn't necessarily right, and what's right isn't necessarily normal.  You see things that you couldn't have seen before, even though they were there the whole time.  Visiting a different world helps you to understand your own.

This is why it's so immeasurably important to saturate yourself with God's Word.  As helpful as a visit to Africa may be to correct my misconceptions, challenge my culture, and open my eyes, it is nothing like spending time in the world of the Word.  There have been times when I've sat down and read my Bible immediately after watching a movie.  I almost always feel like I'm in a completely different world.  I actually have a sense of culture shock.  What God has to say is so manifestly different than what everything around me (including my sinful self) is saying.  What God has to say is otherworldly.  His Word exposes every philosophy, measures every culture, penetrates every habit, shatters every perception, informs every judgment, and repairs all discernment.  The Word of God is its own culture – a culture of perfection and light.  Only by knowing it can you know yourself.  Only by understanding it can you understand the nuances of your complicated and twisted world.  Only by burning it into your soul can you avoid being conformed to this world, this world of which both America and Africa are a part.

Visit the Word often, and keep it with you in your memory banks and on the tablet of your heart.  If nine days on the ground in fallen Africa can alter my perspective on fallen America, how much more a minute-by-minute, day-by-day exposure to God's Word.

This will be a valuable lesson for me, if I persevere in it.  I think I'm going to go read my Bible before I go to sleep.  I think I need to.


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