5 things we've learnt in 5 years

Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 | 7 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

14th January 2016 marked the five-year anniversary of our arrival in Kiwoko. So, as it seems everything on the internet these days must come in the form of numbered lists, here are 5 things we have learnt in that time:

1. God works on a totally different timeline than we do.
Getting used to Ugandan time keeping has been a big challenge for two people who have always been ridiculously punctual. But slowly, we have come to understand the reasons behind Ugandan lateness (they don’t have a watch; they calculate time differently, starting from sun-up rather than from midnight; stopping to greet people en route is more important than arriving at your destination on time) and we have at least learnt to not be surprised by it.

But God’s timing always seems to be beyond the heights of our understanding. We have seen Him answer our prayers within days leaving us overwhelmed by His intervention. And we have seen ourselves wait for months for an answer, learning to trust that he knows better than we do when the right time is.

2. Cultures can be vastly different but people are the same.
We dread to think how many times in the last five years we have insulted someone by not being respectful of the local culture. Of course, not on purpose. Our Ugandan friends have shown us much grace, as we have learnt that what seems perfectly normal where we come from, can be a huge social faux pas here.

An example was one evening at a staff dinner, I suggested to a friend that he take some of the leftover food home for his family who had missed the event. I was informed that I was suggesting that he could not provide for his family, which was far from my intention. I remind myself of these instances when I get annoyed by what seems very rude to me in Ugandan culture (queue jumping being a personal bugbear) because what is rude to me is not rude to them, and vice versa. So, while our culture is different, we can be hurt or annoyed or embarrassed just the same.

3. It’s easier to be part of the problem than part of the solution.
When we first arrived we saw so many problems and immediately tried to think of ways that WE could solve them. This would have been the quick solution and maybe we would have been back in Ireland three years ago if we’d stuck to that plan. But within months (maybe even days) of us leaving, everything would probably have slipped back to the old ways because we had left no long term plans – just short term solutions. We have learnt that our ultimate aim here is to be able to slip away one day and the work we have been involved in will keep going naturally by the local staff who have been equipped to do it. This takes a long time and brings countless setbacks and challenges but also (we pray) greater rewards.

4. Being a ‘missionary’ doesn’t make you super-spiritual.
If only it did, then maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long to learn what we have. Some nights I go to bed and realise my day consisted of cooking, cleaning, changing nappies, trying to entertain a toddler, answering a few emails, and a trip to the shop for eggs and vegetables. It’s no different to most of my friends back in Ireland.

Of course there are other days when I might be sitting in a mud hut with a lady who has HIV explaining how she can’t offer me food because she spent all her money on alcohol. But it’s the same me, who can’t get her toddler to stop climbing on every piece of furniture she can find, who faces these situations and needs as much strength from God for the ‘normal’ days as for the extraordinary ones.

5. We still have so much more to learn.
Every day is a school day. Even if we had been here 20 years, we still would not have grasped everything. We pray the Ugandans will continue to be gracious enough to us as we stumble through this life. And we thank God that he is gracious enough to keep picking us up after every mistake.



Lorraine graham said Thu, 21 Jan 2016 06:48PM
Another good newsy blog, we are still remembering to pray for you three
Gillian Maganda said Fri, 22 Jan 2016 05:09PM
5 years! How time has flown and what a lovely reflection on your amazing walk with Him. Never a moment is wasted. Praying for you all. xo
royhkelly said Fri, 22 Jan 2016 06:01PM
Great blog as always love and prayers mum and dad
Esther said Sat, 23 Jan 2016 11:34PM
Happy 5 year Anniversary! Great blog Tania, as we approach our 5 year anniversary I can relate and agree with everything you have said. Praying for you guys and hope sometime our furloughs match so we can catch up x
Catherine and John said Sun, 24 Jan 2016 05:22AM
Lovely to read your blog. All so interesting and good points. I particularly smiled at number 2 - I remember chatting about that one as we walked through chapati gate! Oh the ways I'm sure I insulted people. I liked number 5 too; have a happy time keeping on learning. Thank you for sharing 😀
Aart said Mon, 25 Jan 2016 06:05PM
Happy to see the family picture. Still miss being able to pop-in at Kiwoko on the way down (or up)and be with friends. I'm much better in communicating in person. Best wishes for the next 5
Roger Thompson said Tue, 26 Jan 2016 09:21AM
Hello Tania and Paul - great to read this blog - it should be used in our Mission Partner and META training! Liked all 5 points, but especially no. 3 (thinking of my time as a Rector). I heard Tony Benn speak in Belfast a few years ago and he quoted an ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, "A great leader has no self interest and leaves no trace. When his work is done, the people will say: we did it ourselves.”

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