By Kari Miller
One of Wrecked’s most featured contributors, Kari Miller, took a trip to Uganda over the summer, and we thought it’d be interesting to do an interview with her. We love great stories about ordinary people doing radical things, and we thought you, too, might like to hear straight from her what it was like to live in Africa for four-and-a-half months and what it’s like to re-adjust to American culture.
Kari, can you tell us about your trip to Africa this past summer? Why Uganda? What caused you to go? What did you actually do once you got there?
Put simply–I went to Africa because I wanted to learn to love. I went to Uganda because I had already begun friendships there. When I left American soil last April, I had no idea what I would do when I got there, who I would meet, the new depths of friendship I would experience, or where I would live.
God told me to go and listen to the stories of the most vulnerable, so I went– all by myself without a plan. God told me that he had something to say about himself through his people and that those people were his beloved as well as our responsibility. I felt this deep intense longing to be Gods storyteller. I dont know where it came from or why I felt that way, but I do know that I feel the closest to Jesus when I respectfully tell the stories of the least, the lost and the left out. It was my hope to honor them by showing the beauty of God inside them. It was also my hope to encourage others to become more deeply involved with the widows and orphans of the world. I prayed that God would use their stories to wake other Jesus followers up to the plight of the poor and the sick.
In an earlier conversation, you said that the Ugandans you were serving werent ministry projects; they were your friends. Can you elaborate more on that was this a recent paradigm shift for you?
While I was in Uganda, I saw other muzungus like me enter into the homes of the widows, the lives of the orphans, and the staff of the NGOs and it seemed that they were intensely looking for an experience of a lifetime or a humanitarian vacation or a chance to give back or a great mission trip with the poor. Whatever the reason, they were looking for what they could get from them and sadly, often it was the best photo of the most wrecked situation.
The widows often said that muzungus came, sang with them, prayed with them and told them how clearly they saw God while they were with them, and that after feeling the intense presence of God with them, they left and never contacted them again. The boys at the orphan home saw a steady stream of college students come and go. The staff at the NGOs went out of their way to engage them in true friendship only to find that their emails were never responded to after the muzungus returned home.
The bottom line is people know when you are coming to help them. When they are nothing more than a spiritual experience or an experience with someone whos poor. When I saw these situations play out, it disgusted me. Where is the love in that? I went to make friends, life long friends. I wanted to know them as individualstheir hopes, dreams and fears. I wanted them to know me intimately too. I gave them my phone number and email and I call and write them often. We are now connected for life. We are in real relationship.
I am not there to simply help them or to give charity of some sort, I am standing with my friends in the depth of their pain as they stand with me in mine. We encourage each other and help each other as we are able. I am not sure how or where this strong feeling of mutual friendship came from, but I know it deepened the more I asked God to teach me to love.
How did your perspective on God change over the course of your trip? How did your perspective on life change?
I learned that when you give up your own needs, wants, desires and goals for your life for the sake of God, you will find a life steeped in fulfillment, joy, peace and adventure. I learned what it feels like to be truly alive and free of emptiness. I learned that God is wild and will not be tamed. I learned that God loves love and longs for us to be lovers.
What is life like for you back home now?
Life is difficult. I am sad a lot of the time. I cry at night or when a powerful memory comes close. I dont feel like I belong here anymore. Everything suddenly seems strange and ridiculous. Do I really care what kind of fabric softener is the best? It is a torturous feeling to be somewhere you arent meant to be. I miss my friends, my widows, my orphans. I think about them all the time. I know what it is like to feel alive, to love and be loved, and to learn to live in community, and I miss it so much it physically hurts. I just cant stay here anymore. My life isnt here. God has created a life for me in Uganda, so I am selling my house, leaving my job, giving my dog to my parents and saying goodbye to those I love here. I am going home.
For anyone whos interested in getting more involved with this kind of work or who resonates with what youre saying, how would you encourage them to get involved? What should they do?
Learn to love. Put yourself in a place to grow deep lasting relationships with those that the world doesnt want to get close to not just for two weeks, but for a long extended time. Crave intimacy with those the world rejects. Dont just visit the poor, live with the poor. Use the resources, influence, time, and talent God has given you to love others in long lasting relationships. Dont be a one project person, be a lifelong lover of people. Dont come to help, come to stand with them, to know that your life, peace and joy is wrapped together with theirs. Loving is best thing you can do. For when you love, you will know their needs and they will know yours. Then simply give what they need, as they give you what you need.
If you want to stand with the widows in Uganda or want to dialogue with me more about anything I have said, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
Some other Wrecked articles by Kari:
Kari Miller is a 4th grade teacher who is passionate about loving Jesus and loving others. She longs to inspire others to love the least, the lost and the left out.
In previous articles, we informed you that Kari was trying to raise $15,000 dollars to purchase land for 100 widows and their children. Thanks to you and other donors, she has now raised $16,000 and has begun negotiations. Please pray for Kari as she has recently left the widows and returned home.