I was glad

When they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.

Sundays have always been such cheery days in our home. It was the one day that my dad boomed hymns and chorals all day long. But there was also just the delight of dressing up to go to church. The normally jammed lanes and pavements of the University were quiet, even the Library closed. We had all the quadrangles to explore, what made it more interesting was we could never guess in which faculty we would be having Sunday School.

But the fascination was the two Chapels, St. Francis and St. Augustine. During the week, they were inaccessible to us. But now I had all the time to gaze at the fresco’s and take in the amazing architecture. When the organ piped out those hymns, it was divine. Suffice it to say that I did not really understand what Church was about but all the pomp and ceremony was enthralling.

The order of service and how the Chaplain and the other priests moved at the altar. The endless rows of neatly arranged chairs. The baptismal pool at the back. The side aisles that people walked through very ‘humbly’ as they came back from taking Communion. Oh my, I loved doing it over and over.

When I walked to the Gayaza Chapel and found a similar arrangement, I was completely sold. Those two side access doors that we used and the drum fanfare before service. One of my favorite pastimes has become visiting ancient Cathedrals, just sitting there and imagining the countless congregations that have sat there, in war and in peace.

Namirembe Cathedral, was not a typical Sunday but rather a Christmas Carol service by the Kampala Singers. Without any microphones, we were able to hear the beautiful, harmonies from any cleft in that vast Cathedral. The organ, sounded even more glorious than the one in St. Francis. And then there were the vast terraced grounds, which we were free to roam at the time. I could never get over the different access points and would find myself wonderfully lost, trying to get back to my mother.

All Saints Kingston. Photo Credit: Pinterest

The church bells are pealing. Well, our bells never pealed. And we did not have Church bells either. I was glad to experience the actual pealing of Church bells when I visited Kingston,England. Early one Sunday morning. Oh, it was so thrilling and wonderful in contrast to the quiet in the neighborhood.

I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.

A celebration of my midwife: Sorry, I didn’t get your name

My gynaecologist, Dr Biryabarema had given instructions that I should check in on 7th November, whether or not I was in labour. Both my sons, as described by my brother, seemed to enjoy 1st class facilities in my womb and they never arrived on their due dates. This was the case that morning.

We arrived to a very quiet Ward 5&6, at Mulago Hospital. This was rare but there we were. I plonked myself on the bench and waited for the doctor. She came sweeping in a few minutes later, she never walks, she kind of glides through that hospital. She saw me, paused, greeted us mid-glide and off she went to begin admissions.

The ward was full so I was taken directly into the labour room as we waited for a bed or room. My things would have to remain in the car, I had my little (light enough to fit in aircraft hand luggage) emergency bag, so I had all I needed until the baby arrived. Triage. Bed next to window. No more eating. Only black tea. You know the drill. Aye, aye, Captain.

The midwife, burst in and started to check on the patients. I could not see her but I could hear her frenzied movements. One of the ladies was having a difficult labour, she needed to be prepped for theatre. The one next to me was progressing well. Nothing was happening on my side, so I was to be induced, no use being in the labour ward doing nothing. This is not a resort. With such swift efficiency, she had identified the vein (usually takes about 20 minutes for any vein to show up on my arm) and connected it to the line. Off she went.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When she returned, a few minutes later with a colleague from another ward. She gave her instructions on what to do while she prepped herself for theatre. Apparently, the other nurses and midwives had not shown up for duty and she was on duty alone. I was not a risk, she was to keep checking on how the contractions were progressing. She was to monitor the lady next to me keenly to ensure that nothing went wrong. Right? Right? Scrubs on. She moved to surgery with the lady opposite me.

My faithful labour ward companion showed up and the stories started. Laughter and jokes. Catching up on the news. She remembered she had an Auntie who was a nurse. She left to go check on her. On their return, they found the fill in nurse and both agreed I was still far from active labour. I should take it easy, drink more black tea and rest if I felt tired. It was starting to sound like a resort after all.

The mid wife came back, this time she is on phone checking on how far her child is in the queue to see the doctor. She had left her baby with the maid in a queue in the Paediatric clinic. Her maid also needed to go queue up in the eye clinic before it closed. She ceased to be the midwife and became a mother, a wife, a woman to me. Well, she didn’t have time for that, my neighbor had to be rushed for an emergency C-section. Back to theatre.

My mum came in, and another round of stories started and more jokes. I had some slight pain but not discomforting and neither was it electrifying. Our auntie Sister passes by and finds me laughing with everyone, ‘you are still laughing, you are not about!’ She smiles and leaves.

‘Madam, you were not feeling the baby’s head?’, the midwife asked after taking a peak in between my legs. Is that what it was? I thought to myself. ‘Eh, your baby is ready to come out, prepare to bear down,’ she exclaims as she snaps on a fresh pair of gloves. ‘What does bear down mean again? I wonder. ‘Wama, mummy ono jangu omuyambe aterere, tugenda kuzala kati, omutwe gwa baby guguno’. My mum, woke up as if from slumber, gave quick instructions and at once l was ready. Did I mention my mother gave birth to my baby brother at home by herself? So there we are, from smiling to active labour. My husband and faithful companion had gone to bring up the luggage, we had found a room. Boy, were they in for the shock of their lives.

‘Ok, on the count of three, push’. I pushed. ‘Ok hold it, there is something obstructing the baby:. I thank God that at this time, the nerves go on some vacation and it’s only the contractions that I could feel. Her hands go in and out comes my baby.

The cord had been wrapped round his neck, she had unwound it. I pushed and out he came with such force and a loud cry. She quickly rushed him off. Following closely at her heels, was my mother aka Kaaka to my son, Baby Joe. She run the APGAR assessment and he scored highly. Ever the calm baby, he cried a bit and slept off.

She returned for what we describe as the second labour. The delivery of the placenta. The placenta had been severed from my baby but not from me. Now it had to be torn from my womb. With a few twists and turns, it started to severe and finally it was out. She put it away and cleaned up all the blood. Within micro seconds, the room was back to normal. No bloody mess, just one exhausted mum. My faithful companion walks in to let me know that the room had been allocated and was ready. She inquired, ‘how far?’ lol. I asked her whether she hadn’t seen my mum with a baby. :Eeehhh’, she exclaimed!

I don’t remember the name of my midwife. I will remember the waiter with the tag. I will remember the boda boda guy who told me his name. But I will not remember the name of the lady who saved me and my baby. Maybe I should have been more conscious of others than I was of my pain. For all the what ifs, I still did not get her name and for that I am sorry.

Thank you dear midwives for your care and love.

Working the works of God

Jesus was speaking to some Jews, according to John, who asked Him this question that always struck me as strange, odd even. It always seemed so out of context. I thought well, Jesus, who is graciousness personified, was being gracious to the askers. What did they mean by working the works of God?

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, ” This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

John 6:28-29 NKJV

So there is this series at Worship Harvest #SomeKaMoney, started this August 2020. If you have not listened to it, you can start right here.

Sunday morning, keenly paying attention to the sermon and boom! It hits me that to the Jews, work was their way of extending the kingdom of God. It is why they ask Jesus after he has miraculously fed them, all five thousand of them, how they can work it? Their response to the miraculous was wonder and desire to replicate.

One of my history classes had very inquisitive minds. They did not accept regular answers and always asked why? The lessons were filled with so many seemingly unconnected whys. I decided rather than waste this opportunity, let us delve into the theory of evolution. At which point, of course, with the many whys, they became the several theories of evolution. In order to prepare for the lesson, I also had to really delve so as to sufficiently answer each child’s questions. I read about Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos islands and his journal entries and drawings of the finches. Suddenly, my world was filled with wonder at the magnificence and greatness and forethought of God.

These finches were spoken into being, (Genesis 1:20-23) on the fifth day. Not only were they distinguished from eagles, parrots, hens and humming birds by the Word of God. They carried within themselves, the ability to adapt and survive in their different environments. Darwin spent five years observing them, it must have been such a wondrous thing to behold. His observation led him to write his paper, The Origin of Species, which to date has caused quite a stir.

Source: Pinterest

In both instances, Darwin’s and the Jews, the wonder of creation created a desire that got them working. It created a passion that caused them to create. Why then do we separate, our wonder from our work? It is not possible. All work begins with wonder, the possibility of greatness. The possibility of bringing happiness to a soul.

Have you paused to think about why you work? Well Genesis 1, tells us that God paused at the end of each day and saw that His work was good. Is it any wonder then that Peter says of Jesus ‘he went about doing good..’ while speaking at the house of Cornelius. (Acts 10:38). Paul writing to the Ephesians exhorts them and us to remember that we are ‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works’. Paul also writing to the Philippians encourages them that ‘it is God who works in you both to will and to do. God worked because He is good and loves to do good.

Why do you work? And why should you work? Work is our response to the greatness of God. Like the heavens, David writes about, declare the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1). Our work declares the glory of God.

Fully known

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Psalms 139:13‭-‬15 NKJV

I made up my mind, that I was in a waiting space and when the time was right, like Elizabeth, my sons would come. Of course, everyone is asking how do you know they will be boys? Or inviting me to more prayers for the barren. I simply told them, I am not barren. This was the promise God made to those who obeyed Him, there shall be none barren among you.( Exodus 23:26) Loads of eyes rolling and angst because these conversations tired me. For crying out loud, I had done it all. Alllll! I even had notes.

I got into a space where random people would walk up to me and tell me how they dreamt that I was pregnant. Or they would see me holding a baby. I had been there, done that so I didn’t find it as fascinating as I should have. I would get into prayer meetings and they would pray for me. I would visit someone and it would end up being a prayer meeting. I was like Jacob, the Lord was in this place and I knew it not. God has jokes.

One Friday, I purposed to go to Rubaga Miracle Centre for the overnight. I had spent many overnights there while still a university student. I missed the fire and the noise and just being in a space where believers expected miracles. So I went. It was awesome, never to disappoint. The prayer time. The praise and worship, wooow. The testimonies. Pastor Robert Kayanja came on started ministering to several categories of people, and he called up women who had been told by doctors that they would not give birth. He went on to affirm that as Christians, we are not barren because the Bible says they shall be none barren among you. I knew this was the mother of all setups, so I walked to the front. I just need you to know that if for any reason he had said those words in a different way, I was not leaving my seat. He was not in a hurry, for some reason that overnight was live streaming so we were on cameras. He tells us to imagine we are holding our babies in our hands and rock them to sleep, sing to them. This was like for eternity. He invited the rest of the church not to spectate but to pray. So there we are with our arms cradling babies, we have called forth. Then he says, you have received your expectation, you may go. And back we went to our seats. Only we were received like conquering heroes, there was a loud cheer. A friend of mine, I didn’t know was at the overnight, came running to hug me. Wooowww!

Photo Credit: Pintrest

I took to spending Saturday mornings or afternoons with my mother in town. There were always errands to run in Kampala and home was a convenient stop over. My mother loved my company and I hers, so it worked for both of us. This one Saturday, I decided to head to Nakasero market first, because it could get really crowded. However, I could not get in at my usual 5am because I needed to get Mpafu, a type of fig, from the lower market which did not open till later. By the time, I got there it was crowded. Oh well. Off to see mummy. I spent a whole day there, hoping the traffic will ease so I get in at about 5 pm. My mum asks me what it is I must buy from the market that I could not get in another market. I tell her mpafu, she laughed and told me how I was becoming like her. When she was expecting me, she used to go to that same lady, early in the morning to get mpafu. Hahaha.

I went to the market, picked my mpafu and debated whether to take a pregnancy test. I decided, if not, why not? Headed to SAS clinic and did the test. The waiting was of, real butterflies, my hands were shaking literally. I started shivering but I was determined to maintain composure. Thankfully, the clinic traffic was low. I was the only client in the lab. It was a short wait. The test was positive.

I can’t hear youuuu, louder doctor. Did you say positive? Whenever I receive news that I didn’t anticipate, my ears get a humming sound and all sound is like an echo or buzzing. I was going through that.

I could see the doctor smiling and going on about something. It’s positive. All my years of waiting had ended. Just like that. The doctor recommended a scan to confirm and I am like, sure. Scans are good things. I was at peace with the world. All things were good. I have no problem.

Elated. Out onto the street. Excited. Up the stairs. Exhilarating. Onto the bed. Cold gel. Experience loading.

There he was. My baby. Just a bleep. Such a beautiful, black and white bleep. 7 weeks. God bless the creator of scans.

Rabbit holes of multinationalism

Alice discovers Wonderland after chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole. The character, Alice, is based on a young girl, Alice Liddell. I found Lewis Carroll’s answers to her very many questions, I imagine, very intriguing. The curiosity built up in young children requires the kind of imagination in his book. His ability to blend the real with the imaginary makes a very good read.

The World Economic Forum on Africa (wef) ended on September 6th 2019. The theme led me down a rabbit hole, but unlike Alice, to a different kind of Wonderland.

#AF19 whose theme this year is “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The agenda will cover four key areas: innovation, sustainable development, digitalization and governance.

Inclusive. shared. sustainable. digitalization.

These words like Alice’s characters sounded fascinating. There are so many fascinating scenes in the cartoon, I shall restrict my musings to the caterpillar scene.

Data from the African Development Bank (AFD) shows Africa’s GDP growth reached roughly 3.5% last year, about the same as a year earlier, and up 1.4 percentage points from the 2.1% in 2016.The continent’s growth this year is projected to accelerate to 4% and 4.1% in 2020. While higher than other emerging and developing countries, Africa’s growth remains insufficient to make a dent on unemployment and poverty. These challenges manifest amid an imperative for Africa’s growth to be shared by everyone, particularly by providing our growing populations with good jobs and social protection. What can be done to address these challenges? Let me underscore three priorities for South Africans, and for the continent as a whole: greater cooperation, policy injection and human capital development.

The caterpillar asks Alice who she is and she does not know. She has changed so many times.

Photo credit: Pinterest

It seems like Alice that we shall show up only three inches tall rather than what we were earlier. The caterpillar on the other hand, is three inches tall and happy about it! He has the ability to metamorphose. This he does right before Alice’s own eyes. His parting remarks as a butterfly are instructions on eating a mushroom.

Shall we eat the mushroom?

In March, the African Union launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This landmark agreement aims to create a single market expected to generate a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion and benefit over 1 billion people. Alex Liu

The free trade area creates a single market and and has similar laws governing goods and services and dispute settlement. The AfCFTA was signed by 54 out of 55 countries. By the time, it was operationalized in July 2019, only 27 countries had ratified it. The requirement was 22 countries. We are not the same as we were this morning.

While we may not metamorphose, there is a mushroom that we can eat, one side will make us taller. Another side will make us shorter.

4IR is going to be the fastest revolution because it builds on existing technologies and enhances their capabilities. Like transformers, the ability to change in seconds will be achieved for most of our technologies. Take the duration from 4G to 5G, some of us are still migrating from 3G to 4G.

The speed at which we adapt to change in Africa has to increase. The speed at which we or our governments adopt changes to laws and to policies needs to increase.

Overcoming the ‘xenophobic’ attacks and never ending wars requires a mindset change. It is one thing to open our countries for exchange of goods. Services come with people. Different people. Their cultures are different. Their language is different. They do not find your jokes funny.

The notion of open borders shall indeed shift in our metrics of success and growth. Our little and sometimes shallow thinking shall be stretched. Our imagination needs to grow beyond our little safety nets. Our identity will not be based on how strong our affiliation for our nation is but how agile we are at navigating the free trade area. Diversify or die.

If our collective growth is not sufficient to overcome poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor will widen. Will the rich barricade themselves in their wealth or will the poor in true Marxist style lead a revolution?Or shall we really begin to love our neighbor?

One side will make us taller and another side will make us shorter. Tradeoffs have to be made, big ones for certain nations and smaller ones for others.

One African sky. A single African passport. Border less continent. Shift from extractive to value addition.

We shall not be the same as we were this morning.

It is my hope that like Alice at the Hatter’s party we also celebrate, with the rest of the world, our happy unbirthday!

The Author of Wonder

“I don’t believe that the child has yet been born who didn’t look at the world around it with those fresh eyes and wonder.

“If you lose that first wonder, you’ve lost one of the most greatest sources of delight and pleasure and beauty in the whole of the universe. Caring for that brings a joy and enlightenment which is irreplaceable. That is one of the great pleasures of life.”

Sir David Attenborough

I shall begin my trail of thought with this quote from an adorable naturalist. His documentaries taught me so much about a world and allowed me to visit, unbothered by visa applications, these other worlds. I celebrate his work.

There are huge pipes by our road side and the children in my car, are always happy to stop and look at the huge diggers and caterpillars, lift and place pipes into the ground. They crowd around one window and all scream with glee at the diggers!! I, on the other hand, am miffed about the delay in traffic. I sit there wondering when this will all be over and hope none of the pipes falls on my car.

Two kinds of wonder, one full of hope and joy and the other despondent. Growing up, I always thought that hope and joy compounded. Adults, in my view, were the happiest people in the world because they got to do anything they wanted, when they wanted! I hear the loud echoes of laughter fading even as I write that last line.

Time stealers and irrational schemes attack and rob us of hope and joy. They force their way into our memory and cram their bile onto our neural paths. Our wonder is corrupted. It is no longer colorful and cheerful (Tigger) but rather gray and despondent.( Eeyore)

Those honor nature well, who teach she can speak on everything, even on theology.Blaise Pascal

Nature is our gift from God to bring the delight of wonder back. More importantly, to lead us to God.

When I take a moment to consider the different birds, insects and trees in my little village of Kiwanga, I am amazed at the diversity and how they coexist. I recall my biology and science lessons about the different veins in leaves. The different methods of propagation. The different sizes. The different shades of green. The smell of soil after the rain. Our God loves diversity. Our God is an Artist and a Scientist. Our God is beautiful.

One fine day, I found bees buzzing around ,what I thought as, not very impressive flowers. Flowers of one of my palm trees. The bees found these nondescript flowers attractive. Our God is mindful. Our God is the provider.

Bruna, one of our numerous dogs gave birth. The puppies were so different from each other, in appearance and character. Dogs have character. Imagine that. The day we gave away one of the puppies, the rest of the puppies huddled with Bruna, and suckled. Dogs feel. Our God is caring.

Nature will lead us back to God to wonder about Him and His awesomely good and great character. It will cause us to think like the Psalmist,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
Psalms 8:3‭-‬4 NKJV

Slow down, like a child, smell the roses. Keep your wonder, it will lead you to God.