The Hardings :: Oh Uganda

Oh Uganda, your deep orange body, which paints your huts with dust is teeming with unquenchable life. Your tall, green arms sway in the rainy season breeze as your curious people stroll in the shadows cast by your broad shoulders.

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Your sweet, tangy passion fruit speaks boldly of the difficulties of the past and present, without losing the tinge of hope for a better future. Your heavy fields bear the secret weight of harvest, which is sure to supply this growing world with sugar.

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With all your naivete of the outside world, you still welcome the stranger into your midst, as we often clash and disrupt the formalities of your lifestyle.

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It wasn't long after I met the Hardings that I recognized the narrative of surrender, woven like a strong rope holding together a disheveled tapestry of tattered strings. This family became a model for me when I felt the suffocating weight of perfection.

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As I began to understand my own brokenness, their imperfection was a light, illuminating the beauty of surrender. With resilience in my soul to accept all the imperfections in my life, I admired the stillness of surrender for a worn-down soul. Perfection was no longer a prize worth chasing down.

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Wholeness is beckoning all of us to His embrace. And wholeness will stop at nothing till He calls all of us to the table. Wholeness will never leave us in pieces. However, He mends us together slowly—through the messy journey of walking with Jesus. And though it's messy as hell, I have found that even the simplest words from a dear friend can quiet an anxious mind. 

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When you let your heart embrace people long enough, you grow in a capacity that distance can’t separate. Only a few months after this family of seven sold everything and moved to Uganda, Brittany Shifflett and I booked our ticket for a visit. I can't really explain what it's like to be reunited with your best friend. But if I could sum said reunion up in two words, they would be: DANCE PARTY!

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Their house is planted imperfectly in the midst of the slums on the shore of Lake Victoria. A home that had previously been used to treat some of the sickest people in Jinja, Alex and Beth are renting as a place of refuge for their family.

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Many days are filled with challenges that only foreign places have the power to stir up. But the heart is rarely convinced to leave the place where it finds a purpose. So we plant ourselves in the midst of the challenges and find strength in the brightness of the smiles of those we worship alongside. We plant ourselves in the chaos and find peace in the reverence of heads bowed in prayer.

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These are the days we are required to understand both the hardship and freedom of surrender. With every bone in our body, we are urged to throw ourselves fully into a lifestyle that is much bigger than our comfort. And in the wrestling to still our mind long enough to acknowledge this beauty around us, we have to be willing to let the Great Creator weave His strong rope of surrender through every fiber of our body. These are the days that will be filled with laughter, tears, screaming, whispers, and squeals. But there is an eternity, which beckons each of us to a greater hope. 

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What happened in only seven days, is etched in my soul and will be remembered for years. Martha found comfort in the mess of Nutella, which slipped off her spoon because of the warm air. Penelope snuggled with Miss Bwinney every chance she could get. Ezekiel celebrated his birthday by visiting the biggest dinosaur I have ever seen. Malachi repeated everything he said at least 100 times, including: "Not a rubber ducky!" Chloe taught me how to sing without worrying about what people around you think. 

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On one of the last nights we gathered around a messy dining room table, breaking chocolate cupcakes Beth made from scratch.

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As the bittersweet cacao lingered in my mouth, I was reminded of the unshakeable Eucharist. Though people try to offer us an explanation for all the chaos, mess and brokenness around us, 2000 years later Jesus still offers us His presence. Like a strong rope that is woven throughout history, He unveils the mystery of surrender in a world burdened by the weight of the chaos. 

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