The week we left for Uganda we also moved. Our lease was up the day we left the country, so we put everything in boxes, dropped it off, and left. If you’ve ever moved before you know that there is a cleaning out process that goes along with moving. As you pack, you put stuff you want to keep in boxes and you put other stuff in the “Goodwill pile.” In the midst of work, moving, and packing for a trip our Goodwill pile never got dropped off.
Upon arriving in Uganda we had to make the 4 hour journey from the airport to the village we were staying in. There is one paved road that runs from the capital city all the way through Uganda to the Congo. As we drove, we passed by village after village. To some extent they all looked pretty similar. Some seemed bigger than others but they all had some of the same characteristics. We passed by one village in particular where there were tons of people. There were little sections of dirt where people were sitting and they were surrounded by clothes, shoes, and just stuff. We asked what was going on and found out that today was this village’s market day. Apparently every village has a market day once a week. On any given day you can find a market day somewhere. We asked what they were selling and learned that most people just bring all of their possessions to try to sell. You might find some real gems and some new stuff but for the most part you’ll find a lot of used goods, if you will. I kind of thought the idea of market day was weird, sad and great all at the same time. It’s whatever, this is Africa.
Just as I thought I was done with my feelings about market day we were informed of something that makes me feel sick to my stomach if I really think about it for too long. Remember my Goodwill pile from earlier? I take that pile to Goodwill. Goodwill goes through it and decides what they want to keep and what they don’t. What they decide is not good enough to sell at Goodwill; they put in pallets and ship over to Africa. The people in Africa then have to purchase those clothes for themselves and for their families on a market day. Those clothes that I could have essentially just thrown away, the ones that would make me pretty mad if I had to buy. The clothes that probably have some pit stains, maybe a little tear somewhere, look discolored from all the washes, and just look worn. Hear me when I say, I have nothing against Goodwill. I just don’t like that that’s what happens. It doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t feel like the gospel is supposed to look like people buying my gross clothes.
But once again they aren’t just people anymore. It isn’t just Africa. It’s the place that I have fallen in love with. The place that has rolling hills, red dirt that won’t come off my shoes, it’s beautiful and green, and it has the sweetest fruit I’ve ever eaten. It’s the place that has William who wants to be a journalist someday, Christine who has the best dance moves and a smirk that kills me, Esther who has the poker face of a champion, Adolf who is going to be a heart breaker when he grows up, and Ana who I love with all of my heart.
I ended up coming home and taking those bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. I didn’t really know what else to do with them. Some of those clothes I wish I could give to my new friends. I have a feeling those are the clothes that won’t make it to Africa. It’ll be the ones that I would be embarrassed to give them let alone charge them for.
Dustin and I have decided to do something about it. It’s not a lot but we wanted to invite you to join us. Our friends at the orphanage in Uganda get new shoes every Christmas. It’s their one pair of shoes for the entire year. To buy about 70 kids new shoes cost $800. That’s how much we write a check for every single month for rent. There are 14 weeks until December 1 and we want to get those kids their new shoes for Christmas. I’m kind of scared to invite people in on this. There are a hundred “what if’s” that make me want to throw up when I think about them. What if nobody cares, what people don’t give anything, what if we don’t end up with $800, what if people think we’re weird/stupid/crazy? Then God reaffirms me with, what if all of those things happen? But what if they don’t? What if people do give, what if they do care, what if they just need an opportunity, what if you get more than $800, what if you just do what I’ve told you and leave the rest to me?
We’ve decided to do just that. Do what God’s told us and leave the rest to him. I know that he is bigger than $800. I know that when he moves, he moves big and awesome things can happen. So, we’re calling it the “Christmas Shoes Project” and you can check it out here, on Know Think Act (which we’ll tell you about another time, this post just got real long real fast). As we figure out what living in America looks like post Africa, this is going to be our starting point. It’s what a friend referred to and I’ve started to adopt as our life motto… this is Africa, in America.