An important life lesson is that when you are visiting somewhere you’re not familiar with and the folks there have a place called “The Bad Place”…you should believe them. If not, you end up riding on the outside of a Ugandan kayak.
A bit of context: while we were on the river today, we had an ongoing discussion with our guide about the rapids on the river and the propensity of those rapids for sending folks on a lovely trip into the historic and pleasant Nile River (sounds a lot like a Wheel of Fortune prize when you put it that way, doesn’t it…). We chatted about rapids with creative and fun names like Big Brother and Sibling Rivalry. But, we kept coming back to the ever present question of how we wanted to handle ‘The Bad Place’.
By the time we approached this last rapid of the day, we’d determined that we would take the safer path and avoid this place which fun apparently forgot. So, we dropped (the boat) in the water (after walking the raft around a rapid that could best be described as a fireworks show in the water – Class 6 for those of you rafting enthusiasts keeping score at home). Our guide briefly gave us a how to on finding the calmer path down the river, and reminded us of the safety training we’d taken earlier in the day.
We pushed off of the shore and began paddling out into the rapids. Everything was going very smoothly and we cleared the first section as planned. Then we began the all important task of paddling very hard to get past the bad place and complete the run on the calmer section.
Pause for important life lesson #2: just when everything makes sense, that’s when you should probably watch out – and that’s a good thing.
God has shown me, and I think all of us, a lot of things on this trip. I think all of us have been outside our comfort zone in one way or another over the course of the past few days. Whether it’s been changing schedules, altering priorities, finding the right plane, or just (and most importantly) finding a way to connect with these children (and adults) we’ve come to minister to, it’s been a great growth and learning opportunity for all of us.
It’s very easy to get locked in to our “normal” day to day lives as Christians and feel like we’re ready for any challenges to that routine and that we’re equipped to make it through those things we’re comfortable with. Where we run into trouble is when we’re forced to branch out into something we didn’t expect or we didn’t think we were ready for. I think that God gives us these opportunities so that we learn (or relearn) to put our faith in Him and not in our own abilities.
We didn’t make it to the calmer route. The 30 seconds to 2 minutes that followed (time gets very relative when one is given an unexpected dunk in the river) are a bit of a blur, but I’m pretty sure of the following (and we’ll be able to confirm with video evidence tomorrow):
1) We didn’t paddle hard enough to make it to the calmer route
2) There’s a giant washing machine hidden in the Nile that apparently thought we were dirty socks
3) Nile water does NOT taste especially good
4) It’s a lot easier to ride inside a boat than outside a boat on the Nile (we had safety guides in Kayaks that came to fish us out after we tumbled through the rapid), but being outside the boat can still be comforting
Honestly, it’s easy to kid about it somewhat now, but at the time it was one of the scarier moments of my life (and, I think, that of my 7 boatmates as they had similar experiences) for a few of those seconds…which brings us to important life lesson/reminder #3 (which Madelene has so aptly mentioned just now): Every second we have is precious and everything we do should be focused on serving God (and sometimes I think learning or being reminded of life/spiritual lessons from a swim in the Nile is doing just that). We aren’t guaranteed any more time on this Earth, which makes things like Sweet Sleep’s ministry that much more important.