July 1, 2012 I took my first trip to the Kabale district in the mountains of southwest Uganda. I accompanied my sponsorship lead and friend, Ivan on this journey with his Mum, brothers, and best friend. It was our gift to Ivan for his 35th birthday, an opportunity to visit his home village 500 km away. For 4 years any mention of Kabale, was always accompanied by Ivan’s claim, “the most beautiful place on earth!” His best friend and I were eager to see for ourselves.
Although I anticipated seeing the mountains that day, the drive went long and we arrived at around 8 pm just as the sky was growing dark. The mountains would have to wait for the morning light. There was debate that evening on where I would be spending the night. A rural, primitive area, Kihanga, “deep” in the village had no running water, no electricity and no toilets. My ever thoughtful African hosts thought, ‘better to put the “Muzungu” at a hotel’. Honestly I was so excited to see Ivan’s home that when we pulled up in front of the hotel my disappointment in their gesture of hospitality started me crying. It’s lonely feeling so different there. So white and pampered and such a difficult guest. They relented. I could stay at Ivan’s Mum’s home!! I remember feeling so happy, so relieved not to be left behind!
And what an amazing blessing that relenting turned out to be for this Muzungu! You see, we got up very early the following morning, Ivan and I. As we made our way up the mountain the beauty of the mist rising and the awe inspiring heights whispered to us of the nearness of God. A holy place. It felt like “home” in the most life-giving way; a place you are fully known and loved anyway. A place where you return and belong. As we reached the top of the mountain we separated, Ivan to the left, me right. I walked a bit away from him then looked back and this image is what I saw. A Mukiga of the Bakiga Tribe, a people known for their strength, finally finding peace at home. Home, the place he longed for as he stood gazing at the sunrise. Home, the place God designed for him.
‘Ivan belongs here.’ God impressed on us both in those moments.
‘I am calling him home to serve the children and his community here.’
I snapped the picture, preserving that welcome calling to “the most beautiful place on earth”.
Mountain Children’s Ministry began that morning July 2, 2012 as a call on a mountain to come home. Ironically that very area is where Ivan built his home which was completed this May, 2013. In the mornings when I’m there we still make our way outside after the kids leave for school and sit mesmerized by that overwhelming love. It is home now, God is near and we are so grateful!