Imagine that you wake up one day in a place very different from all that is familiar to you.  Everywhere you look there is something new to see and experience.  You stare in awe at the unfamiliar sights and sounds, trying to take it all in, but sensing that you can only absorb so much.

Your first reaction is amazement and wonder.  You try to discern what it must be like to live “like them,” but your mind can’t even wrap itself around that possibility.  With each new discovery, you make comparisons between here and home.  Your first instinct is to determine which is the better of the two.  At first it seems like no contest.  Home, with everything easy and familiar, is certainly superior to this strange land.  With every heartbreaking story you hear, you wish you could take these people home to experience the wonder of our luxuries and conveniences.

Yet, as you see into their hearts, you wonder…do I really have it better at home?  Am I really “better off” than they are?  On the surface it’s an easy answer, “Of course!”  I have running water coming from several sinks, a refrigerator and cabinets filled with food, electricity that allows me to work any hour of the day, televisions, iPods, excellent schools, cars, stores, opportunities, and the list goes on and on.

But these “things” can be misleading.  How many times do they get in the way of the non-tangibles in life?  How often am I too busy to pray or spend time with my family because of all those “conveniences” and “opportunities.”  How often is going to church a burden because I have so many other things to do?

As these deeper thoughts start running through your mind, you realize that the answer to which world is best is that there is no answer.  My world and their world were created by the same amazing God and were contaminated by the same sinful people.  They are both equally beautiful and ugly in their unique ways.  The challenge is to get past the “I am right, you are wrong” and do what you can to enhance the beauty and diminish the ugly.

In essence, that is what I learned from my visit to Uganda.  That we, who have so much in terms of material wealth and conveniences, can do so much to fill in the ugly gaps of the people in Uganda who have so many physical needs.  At the same time, the Ugandan people have so much to teach us about living in faith one day at a time and honoring the truly sacred things in life.

In the next series of posts about my experience in Uganda, Africa, my goal is to share with you both sides of the Ugandan world – the intense beauty of the land and people, as well as the shocking state of their living conditions.  It is my prayer that through this examination of their world, your eyes will be opened to how you can make a difference there and also in your own life here at home.  Please check back tomorrow to read about a typical day in the life of a Ugandan woman and child.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me.