Wednesday, November 2, 2011

East and West

Rev. Kimberly Burke

I am honored today to feature the writing of Rev. Kimberly Burke, who shares her impressions from a recent trip to Uganda. Kimberly currently serves as Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Boerne, Texas where the congregation and outreach team are involved with Tree of Life Ministries. This is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Boerne.Through this involvement, Kimberly was called to attend a mission trip to Uganda in Africa  What follows is the first in a series of four blog posts. This is her story…..

I've struggled for almost a month now to form words around the images and emotions I experienced on my journey to Africa.  From the moment that I felt the call to go I knew this trip was more about changing me than changing or helping anyone else.  That may sound a bit egocentric but I knew that Tree of Life Ministries was doing great things to assist and empower the communities in Uganda that we were partnered with.  I was constantly evaluating my inadequacies for mission. I have no medical knowledge, no nursing skills; I couldn’t speak the language and to top it off I had no clergy rights in this country as a woman.  I knew there was a women’s ministry and God spoke boldly to my heart that there were women who were waiting to be empowered to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. So I left all my comforts, was properly immunized, sanitized and set off with my companions.

I’m quite sure my eyes were wide as quarters as we made our bus journey through the burnt orange dirt roads outside of Ginga.  I thought that I was prepared.  I had been to poverty stricken cities in Central America but I had never been to a place so different from the United States.  I felt as if I had journeyed to another planet rather than another continent.  A planet made of red dirt, mud huts, smoky cooking pots and a cacophony of cars, buses, bota, bota’s (motorcycles) and people walking dangerously close to all the moving objects, which by the way are all going the opposite direction at top speeds.  This was a planet with no traffic lights, stop signs or directions and vehicles which spoke their own honking language of warnings, curses and acknowledgment.  People moving with purpose to unknown places, selling mysterious foods and all eyes seemed to be on us, curious eyes, questioning eyes, children laughing and running alongside calling up to us…Muzungu, Muzungu, which is apparently the name for the white faced humans from the other planet.  Evidently Muzungu’s don’t frequent the planet often and we were quite a spectacle of intrigue with celebrity status.  Yes, I was not at all prepared for this other world or how it would profoundly change my life.

Africa is a place of extremes; extreme poverty and pain and extreme spiritual abundance and joy.  Africa is rich in beauty; flora, fauna and the human spirit and it is poor in basic human needs and opportunity.  It spins to its own rhythm which is raw and wild, yet respectful and proud.  In contrasting the East with the West I realized that of course there is poverty and suffering in the West but it is overshadowed by a pre-packaged neatness and a sterility that is predictable.  There is no way to hide the poverty in the East.  It is systemic.  In the West, it is often hidden away in pockets and patches far from the major roads and guarded against by gated communities and neighborhood safety patrol signs.  I am convinced that we suffer from spiritual poverty in the West brought on by our rugged individualistic nature.  We are self-made humans in the West but in the East the motto of life is I am because “we” are.  Community is vital for survival.  We in the Christian church are organized around the community model but I wonder if we could tap into just a bit of what the East has to offer we might find what is lacking in our constant search for affirmation, purpose, fulfillment…peace.  We seem to be searching for something just outside of our grasp and because we can. We seek to fill our empty spiritual voids with the things of the world, and even the quest for spiritual highs; highs that leave us wanting more but never seeming to sustain.  I couldn’t understand why the people of Africa were so joyful and filled with the Holy Spirit, and I don’t say that lightly.  It is a Spirit that can be felt. God is truly in this place because God is visible.   In the midst of so much suffering I imagined I would find a people so depressed and despondent yet I found just the opposite... 

(To be continued next Wednesday.... Go here for Part 2)
Linking up with Jen at Finding Heaven Today 


  1. So glad that you shared the beginning of this story. I can't wait to read more.

    This, too, I often wonder about: We seek to fill our empty spiritual voids with the things of the world, and even the quest for spiritual highs; highs that leave us wanting more but never seeming to sustain.

    In the face of plenty and immediate gratification, we often neglect to be still enough to wait and let the Lord fill us.

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Jen. You are so right about us not being still. Part 2 will be next week. Come and join us.

  3. Jen, thanks for your post! I totally agree. The Christians in Uganda expect God to show up, they see God moving in ways I think we miss.

  4. I'm so glad I did not miss this - thank you facebook for being a tool of the Holy Spirit. This message of community is just what I needed to hear - again and again. To have community where you feel safe sharing your joys and sorrows and as a devotional by Jan Richardson says "hunger". Sharing yourself with God and others is the ultimate joy. Pastor Kim thank you for sharing.

  5. Robbie, thank you for stopping by. This testimony of Pastor Kim's is powerful.