Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

October 19, 2005

A Rainy Day

In tropical Uganda, high humidity, heat, and frequent rains are the norm. For about 9 months of the year, in my part of the country, it rains anywhere from 2-3 times a week to daily, and often nightly as well. The country averages 85" of rain per year, so everything is lush and green. I often think that every shade of green that God created can be found in Uganda!

Most of our rainstorms are the thunder and lightning variety. This is year round, as we have no winter here. The rains are very often torrential in nature. I read once somewhere a description of this kind of rain, how if stick your arm out in it, your hand will disappear! Well, I haven't seen it rain quite THAT hard, but close! It can be raining so hard you think it can't possibly rain any harder… and then it does! I've seen it level corn fields, rip out huge trees, and flood my house.

When such rains are falling, roads quickly turn into rivers. Dirt turns into quagmires. Hollows turn into lakes. There is a waterfall from each and every roof and on every hill. Sometimes hailstones come down, bouncing off the tin roofs with the sound of pelting stones, drowning out all other sounds.

Driving becomes treacherous in storms. Sometimes the rain, wind and hail come down so hard, you can only pull off the road and wait for it to pass. You pray that no other driver comes along blindly, to run into you! You just can't see to drive. As the gullies and potholes fill up with running water, if you're not familiar with where they are, you can easily drive into a bone-jarring, axle-breaking hole. When I first came to Uganda, one of my first trips out into a village was during such a storm. We didn't know the road, so when our driver came to a place where there was a torrent down the center of the small dirt road, he judged wrongly. He went to the right of the rushing water, when he should have gone left. As a result, we slid off into the deep ditch that we couldn't see, nearly onto our side, with one wheel up in the air!

This week a friend and I were leaving for home after a day in Kampala when the heavens ruptured and emptied on us. Lighting crashed down all around us as we slowly wended our way through the flooded streets and dodged the invisible, swirling potholes. The defroster in our vehicle didn't work, so our windows quickly fogged up. We were forced to drive with our side windows partly down to keep air circulating, fighting a losing battle to see through the foggy glass into already poor driving conditions.

Suddenly a double cabin pickup truck, driving like a maniac, passing everyone in its way, tore past us just as we were crossing a flooded section of street. Brown, muddy water sprayed in on us through the partially open driver's window, soaking both of us and our vehicle. My white jacket was now mostly muddy brown, the same dirty water dripping off my face and glasses, the dash board, the window opposite the driver's window, off my purse, and on the inside of the windshield. The poor driver got the worst of it, taking the muddy blast full on the side of his face and body, muddying his clothing, covering his glasses so he had to rip them off to see to drive. Needless to say, we were both enraged, and for a short distance, we tried to catch up with the offending driver. Strangely enough, in Uganda where the laws are often slanted so that punishments don't fit crimes proportionately, it is an offense for a vehicle to splash someone with muddy water! The offender can be taken immediately to court and made to compensate (mostly for the cost of cleaning the victim's muddy clothing), if he doesn't compensate on the spot (which most will do). So this driver was not about to let us catch him. He continued his erratic, dangerous driving, continuing to pass the vehicles ahead of us, throwing out huge sprays of water as he did so.

Finally we gave up on trying to catch him, as to do so would only endanger us and others as well. Our anger cooled, and we gradually wiped off most of the mud, and cleaned our glasses. We were dirty, chilly, with our wet clothing and the open windows, but the important thing was that we made it home safely in spite of the reckless driver who'd dirtied and endangered us.

How like life this weather is! We can be cruising along, minding our own business when suddenly the heavens open up and trials pour down on us. We can fall in an unseen hole and suffer painful consequences. The stones of people's false words can pelt our heads and hearts. And there are times when we find ourselves soaked with the brown mud of filth that others toss our way as they go on their own selfish ways, heedless of the cost to the ones they soil as they fly by, getting ahead at any cost. Cross-cultural conflicts can blind us or blur our vision.

Sometimes it's hard to know just how to deal with these things. Do we pull over and stop, til the trials pass because it's too dangerous to move on? Do we dodge the holes as best we can, or slowly and blindly hobble through them, hoping to avoid injury? Do we wipe the mud off our faces and try to avenge ourselves, or do we forgive and go home to take a shower?

This past month I've found myself doing all of the above. I thought I was going to drown a couple of times, and then I found myself limping on and washing the mud off my face. At times I have raged, wanting to throw mud back on the one who had muddied me. I have feared my foggy vision might distort what I needed to see. But, as Michael W Smith sings, there is a "Healing Rain" that comes from God. As we submit to God, forgive, travel on in His leading, the clear, cleansing rain of heaven comes down and washes us clean once again. All I have to do is look upwards and the mud is washed off my face, my clothing, my wounds are cleaned, and then I can drive on Home without the filth of the world weighing me down, crippling me or blinding me. And hopefully I'll always be able to see clearly enough that I don't run into somebody else sitting blindly in the ditch, waiting for their storm to pass.

Thanks for praying.

Margaret Nelson