On July 18th, Jesse and I celebrated our 1 Year Anniversary of being in Uganda!
I had some clear expectations of how life would be after 1 year in-country. And we all know what happens when you put clear expectations on a very unclear future. Things didn’t exactly turn out like I thought they would…in some good ways and in some hard ways.
- Expat Friends! – Since no other WorldVenture people live in our town and Lumi has no other expats working here, I was a bit worried that we would be off on our own, in terms of American/Western friends. I was SO wrong! We’ve made great friends here and it has been one of the best parts of this whole experience. I can’t emphasize this enough. Not only have these new friends helped us adjust to life here and given us practical assistance, they have challenged and encouraged our faith, and truly walked with us and we’ve all grown together. I’m not sure I’ve ever had community quite like this before, and I am really grateful for this opportunity.
- Health! – In June, Jesse and I caught our first head-colds that either of us have had in over a year! Jesse had one small food-related issue back in September, but other than that, we have really been VERY healthy! We are especially aware of our good health since many of our friends have been sick with malaria, bacterial infections, parasites, and food-issues in the last year.
- Hope Alive! Project! – We hoped to be able to work with Engineering Ministries International while we were here, but we did not ever think it would be for a ministry in Gulu that is run by another WorldVenture missionary! We were really excited to be a part of the design team with EMI to help begin designing Hope Alive!’s Koch Goma campus (very near Gulu) this Spring. It was such an encouragement to me (Rachel) especially as I was able to reconnect with many of my old colleagues from my internship with EMI years ago.
- Lumi Technology Projects! – Before we came out to Uganda, I was a bit concerned that we might not be able to get very far with designing new solar products while were in Uganda. I was SO wrong. Instead of just designing new solar lamps we are creating an entirely new sales model and all the technology needed for it. This new model has the potential to expand access to power to tons of people around the world.
- Security! – We still haven’t had anything stolen! We have been told by many people to expect theft and just be ready to deal with it when it happens….but it just hasn’t happened. Nothing has been stolen from our bags, car, or house. We have an AMAZING day-guard who has helped us keep our house and stuff safe; even with all our traveling.
- Housing – Our 4 month wait to move into a house was NOT very fun. Driving back and forth between Kampala and Gulu was stressful and tiring, but there were definitely positive things that came from it. The biggest being that Jesse and I both feel very comfortable driving in Kampala and we know where all the stores and restaurants are. Most people that live in Gulu do not travel to Kampala often, and even fewer are willing to drive in Kampala. Jesse and I still travel to Kampala often for work, and we are able to really enjoy our time there since we lived there when we first arrived in Uganda.
- Water Project – For me (Rachel), I can say that he hardest surprise was realizing that Lumi would not be expanding into water access. The majority of my adult life has been focused on eventually working with water in developing countries, and I believed that coming out here to work with Lumi was going to be the culmination of that dream. When I realized that Lumi was not likely to expand into water, I thought that it would be easy to find another water group to work with, but after about another 6 months, it became obvious that finding another group, for a variety of reasons, was not likely. The realization that I may not be able to do much water work while here was crushing.I didn’t realize how much of my identity and my faith was tied to water engineering in Africa, until the opportunity was taken away after getting so close. There was/is a lot of grieving, but I am learning SO much through the process. The biggest take-aways for me have been the importance of staying focused on what matters most, reminding myself that my value is not tied to my performance or significance, and knowing that there is no promised result of following God in terms of “success” or “importance”.
I am still an Engineering Director with Lumi, and have had the opportunity to help with some water projects while here, as well, but I have been looking for more in “my” field. Very recently, another potential water opportunity has come up and I will share more about that if it starts to look more likely. It is still in very early brainstorming stages.
3. Work-style – When we left the US, we figured we would spend our time with our co-workers and out in the villages, and that was true for the first 6 months we were in Uganda. Unfortunately, the last 6 months have involved a lot of report writing and designing from our office at home. Both of us are getting a little bit of cabin (or compound) fever. Hopefully after these big reports/designs are done, we will have more time away from our desks, with co-workers and with customers.
After a year, Gulu feels like home. We love our house, dogs, car, friends and co-workers. We’ve learned “thank you” in a lot of languages…but have not learned how to say much else! =) Half the time we can’t imagine staying here more than our 3 year commitment, the other half of the time we can’t imagine going back to America (don’t worry, we’re still planning on coming back).
Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support during this year and during our preparation time before we left.
Please continue to be in prayer for our health and safety and for Lumi!
~Rachel & Jesse Geiger