When our family felt God calling us to Uganda, it was often difficult to explain to others why we had fallen in love with a group of people and a country on the other side of the globe. We did not necessarily need anyone’s approval, as we had all felt that God had given us a “ticket” to come to Uganda. We had pictures and stories of things that we had seen and done in Uganda, but you can’t really get a feel for this place unless you experience it for yourself. We have been supported by almost everyone that we know, but especially by close friends, our church, our small group and to an even greater degree by our family. For nearly all of these people, it is a “blind support”, as almost none of them have been to Uganda before.
My parents, Jerry and Tana Gregston, flew to Uganda, late last week, to visit us. They wanted to visit us, sure, but they also wanted to see what we have been doing and get a feel for what has drawn us to Uganda. I had felt a little anxious, as the time for their arrival neared. I wanted them to have the best experience possible, so that they would have a positive experience and possibly understand why we left home for so long to work with medical teams here. I wanted to try to cram good experiences of Uganda into their 6 day stay here. I told myself that we needed to go slow and not wear them out, or everything would seem negative. They arrived very late on Saturday night. Actually, it was early Sunday morning. I told them, on the way home from the airport, that if they felt up to it, we could go to Jinja on Sunday. To me, most of the beauty of Uganda is in the rural areas, along the Nile River (Jinja), and in the mountains of SW Uganda. If we just stayed in Kampala, all they would get to see is congestion, traffic jams and big city life. We had clinics scheduled on Monday-Thursday, so Sunday or Friday were our only days to “site see”. They both thought that if they were in Uganda, they had to go see the Nile. So after a short night on Saturday night, we went to church on Sunday morning. After church, we drove to Jinja. We had lunch, then we drove about an hour out of Jinja to Intanda Falls. The roads are very bumpy and all dirt. By the time we got back to Jinja, had dinner, and drove back to Kampala, it was about 10:30 Sunday night. So in the 24 hours that my parents had been in Uganda, we had been in our 1994 Toyota van for 7-8 hours. I was worn out, and they were the ones that just switched continents and barely slept for the previous 30 hours. I had failed in the “go slow” plan. I was again worried that they might not understand what we see in Uganda.
God gave us a ticket to come to Uganda, for an extended time. Why do I feel like I need to have it validated by my parents? To quote the great American philosopher Mike Gundy, “I’m a man! I’m forty (actually 41)”! I should not need my parents’ approval for what I am doing! For better or worse, I grew up wanting to make my parents proud. I, unfortunately, grew up knowing a God that I was afraid to let down because of a fear of punishment. As far as my parents were concerned, I tried to do the right thing because I did not want to disappoint them, not because I was afraid of a punishment. My relationship with Christ has grown over the past 10 years to a point that I don’t want to disappoint Him either. The Grace that I have been given, won’t be taken away, but I sure would like God’s approval of what I am doing. We feel that what we are doing has purpose, but I think that your calling has more purpose when someone you respect understands where you are coming from.
I write this blog as we are driving my parents back to the airport. This week has flown by. They have worked side by side with us in medical clinics and have gone with us to Mulago to visit Starfish friends. They have met Tendo and Nakiganda, who are special friends of our family. They both have said that they have enjoyed the trip. My dad even told Dr. Martin last night that the trip had been “interesting”. I don’t know if they will ever come to Uganda again. I don’t know if they see Uganda through the same eyes that we do. I don’t know if they think that we are more “crazy” than they did before they came to experience Uganda. I am not really sure what I wanted them to think or say about their time here. We really enjoyed seeing them and getting to catch up on the 4 months that we have been away. We know that God has “validated” our ticket to Uganda. We have seen too much of Him here to think that we “misread” the ticket. I have been blessed with wonderful parents and it was awesome that they took the time to come all the way here to get a glimpse of Uganda, whether they love it or not!
Jill’s parents, Herb and Doris Lang, have been unable to come to visit Uganda. Although they really wanted to, health problems have limited their ability to leave home and travel. Please keep the two of them in your prayers. Doris has had back and leg pain that would have made it hard to travel such a long distance. Herb has recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 laryngeal cancer. We have been looking for a reason for his hoarse voice since early January. He will have a laryngectomy on June 26th in Oklahoma City. This will leave him without a voice box and several new things to get accustomed to. They have always been very supportive of us and it is difficult to support them from such a distance. Please help us to support them by praying and checking on them to see where you can help in the days to come.