Building Community When It’s Hard // A Story from Uganda

Meet Moriah, daughter of Christ, wife to Dustin, mama to two little gals and foster mama to another. Currently living in Uganda and serving a three year mission term, Moriah is in a season of life where minutes to herself are few, hand washing clothes with littles is a challenge, and walking down the streets in Africa is always an adventure! She feels passionate about encouraging women to let grace flow and count it all joy!

building community when it's hard - belong magazine

Last year my family and I moved half way across the world from a quiet little town in Ohio, to another quiet little town, except this new town was half way across the world in Tororo, Uganda…Africa. The plane ride over with two little girls ages one and three was enough to give me nightmares, but as a family we were committed to going where we felt the Lord was calling us to go. 

Now that we have been here almost a year, I have taken some time to reflect on the importance of community, how I have worked to build it here, and what steps I still need to take. 

Let’s start by making one thing clear. I’m an introvert all the way. When I take personality tests, I always rank pretty high in that department, and no matter how many times I wished I was an extrovert growing up, I’m still an introvert. The thing is, now instead of wishing I was an extrovert, I actually enjoy being an introvert. I enjoy my alone time. Time to process, write, dream, read, be by myself and recharge. It’s not that I don’t like people (though if a big group is popping in unannounced, my husband may tell the story differently), and I more often than not feel great after having spent time with friends or getting to know new people, but I have to work to get myself there and just show up. I have to plan in advance that I’m going to invite new friends over. I have to plan to make the effort to go talk to someone I’ve never met. I have to work to seek out new relationships and take brave steps into uncharted territory.  There are many days I have to push myself to maintain the relationships I already have!

But here’s the thing that I’m learning.

Putting in the time and effort to build new relationships and form community where you’re at is worth it. Showing up and being present is worth it. Just as putting in the time with those you are comfortable with and already consider a part of your community is worth it.

The small Christian school I went to growing up preached community inside and out. When you’re in middle school and many of your activities are focused on building community amongst your classmates and yourself, it’s easy to brush it off, do an eye roll (inside of course), and move on to the next thing without realizing the importance of what they are trying to impart on your young mind. Now that it is some 16 odd year later, I’m finally starting to grasp the importance of putting in the effort. Of showing up even when I don’t feel like it, and building a support system that will do the same for me. Community helps us to grow and accomplish more than we could on our own. Community helps us learn how to work with others that may be different from ourselves.

Community helps us to think of people other than ourselves.

And while I may have now realized the importance of community and putting in the effort to build community right where I am, it doesn’t mean that this realization has made it easy. Remember that time I talked about being an introvert? Yup, two paragraphs later it’s still holding true. Now try to imagine this introverted gal, also with the roles of wife and mother to two small children, transplanted to a new town in Uganda, Africa. Our family sticks out like a sore thumb any time we step outside our gate, and we are often greeted with “Mzungu, how are you!?” Or in other words, “White person, how are you!?”. Sometimes just stepping outside the gate feels like a big enough accomplishment for the day!

But as I lean on the Lord to guide me and push myself to step further outside my comfort zone, I realize how much I am learning.

I am growing in confidence and boldness. I am learning to fellowship and work with people that are often very different from myself. I am learning to think of how I can be a blessing to others and in the process, being blessed and filled up as well. 

While it’s easy to stay in my comfort zone and within the familiarity of a community of people I already know, there are great things waiting in my new community. Even as I write this, I know I don’t have it all figured out. I’m working to maintain community with those back home by keeping in touch on the internet. Though long distance community is hard, this familiar, comfortable community is also rewarding and refreshing to maintain. I’m also still working to push myself to do the hard work, show up, and build community right where I’m at here in Uganda. The building is a journey, but it is one I don’t want to miss.

Thank you to Moriah for this beautiful post! Be sure and visit her blog Oh Tiny Gifts

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