Friday, September 4, 2015

Life lessons from my experience living in three completely different parts of the world!

My name is Primrose Ndagire Kisuule. I’m a married mom of 4 kids. I was born and grew up in Uganda so a lot of what I am today reflects my upbringing. I got born again at age 14 at the Boarding school I attended back in Uganda. I met my husband Richard at University in Uganda and shortly after we started dating, he moved to the UK. I joined him 2 years later to do my Master’s degree. Another 2 years later, we got married. In total, Richard and I lived in England, United Kingdom for 11 and 9 years respectively. We also had our 2 boys, Nathaniel and Matthew there. 3yrs ago, we moved to Canada and settled among the Mennonites, a group of people we had never known even existed. How we ended up here is another story.

I am not the blogging type but my prayer is that this small part of my story will bless someone. So here are some life lessons from my personal experiences.
Life lesson 1: Double standards are as bad if not worse than shielding our kids from the secular world
We are all familiar with Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.) and yet as parents we tend to worry about how our children will turn out in today’s wicked and perverse generation.
As a child, I witnessed all the immorality I could.  Prostitution, vulgar language, teen pregnancies, drugs, AIDS, etc. were all common in my neighbourhood. My parents did all they could to protect us and to introduce us to God. My dad taught us to sing hymns and recite psalms. They sent us to Sunday school and got us into a church choir. Even when they did not go to church, we the kids had to go. My parents’ efforts paid off in keeping us in school and out of obvious trouble. We were in fact among the few kids who would never swear and were very polite. However, before each of my siblings even became a teenager, they would stop going to church all together. Even when my parents would confess Christ (they would soon backslide), my siblings would still not get back into church. So obviously going to church and hearing the gospel was not doing enough to bring us to salvation. Later my siblings would become very hard hearted towards the gospel and I believe it was more because of the double standards they witnessed at home than the filthy neighbourhood we lived in. So how did my life take a different turn from that of my siblings?
Life lesson 2: If we empower our children spiritually, they’ll become influencers not the influenced
When I got to that pre-teen rebellious age, I joined a day and boarding school. I was ready for rebellion and I soon I started gaining notoriety as a tiny bully. A year later, I joined the boarding section of my school where I would soon meet some radical Christian students. They were not many but boy were they on fire for God! They would pray for hours, organize fellowships and bring external preachers. They kept watch over each other and would not partake in disco dances or movie nights. Very soon their fire started spreading and almost everyone who became a boarder was certain to become a Christian. I had gone to church all my life, had heard the gospel and said the sinners’ prayer countless times but even as a child I would feel I had not been converted.  However, less than 6 months after becoming a boarder, I was converted and this time I knew it was for real.
I’m certain that God used my radical Christian peers to break my stubborn heart. Even as young teens, we watched over each other, prayed for each other and encouraged each other in the word. So strong was our foundation that even when we went back each to their home we held on so steadfast. My less than ideal neighbourhood could not dampen my fire. If a young man or older predator approached me for a ‘special friendship’, they left with a deposit of God’s word.  We started seeing dreams and visions and witnessed the miraculous in our little world. We saw Moslem students convert to Christianity and witnessed God’s protection and provision when they were disowned by their families. The day Scholars started noticing how different we were and began to want to be like us. Personally, this was a very strong foundation because it prepared me for life ahead. For example I never once worried about losing my salvation when I became ‘free’ student at University or when I was thrown into a very secular society in the UK with the world at my disposal. My foundation was so strong, my roots in the word were so deep, I had seen God at work in my life and nothing could move me.
If we root our children in the word, get them zealously involved in the things of God, let them see the miraculous hand of God in our lives and churches, then we shouldn’t be too worried about them walking away from God.  After all, darkness cannot overcome light (John 1:5)
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matthew 5:15)
Life Lesson 3: A smile and kind word may be the greatest blessing you give to someone
I came out of University full of confidence and excitement for the future. My whole life was ahead of me and there was no fear whatsoever. Richard would call me and use words like ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ and I honestly did not have a clue what they meant. I often wondered how someone could be depressed when they did not have physical pain.
I moved to the UK for further studies and within 3 months I was seeing a university councillor regarding anxiety attacks and possible depression. I became so confused that I was convinced I was losing my mind. Part of it was due to the fact that I had relationship issues. However, it was really worsened by the fact that I was so far away from home with no one to confide in.  My classmates already had friends and cliques and I was often left eating by myself in the cafeteria. I would smile and say hi along the school corridors only to be met with a ‘why is she greeting us?’ glare. I was one of only 2 black people in my class of 22 of which the other one was British born and a male. In fact I felt like he frowned upon me for my accent and background. My self-esteem and confidence was so low and I often wondered where my old self had disappeared to. For the first time in my life I felt incompetent and such an underdog. Unsurprisingly, I always excelled in individual work but really struggled in group work.
As if that was not enough, I had to work to meet my expenses. I experienced racism and discrimination on a daily basis and I was always crying as I walked back home. This was to become a big part of my work life for the rest of my time in the UK. To some extent I became immune to it but on so many occasions I would get stress headaches just from thinking about work.  In the meantime, I was getting married, having babies and dealing with other life issues.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2Cor 1:3, 4- ESV)
Although I had always thought of myself as a friendly person, the loneliness and mistreatment I experienced both at university and work did really contribute to how I treat people today. I vowed to always proactively look out for new people, to talk to those who no one talks to and to avoid sticking to cliques. I also promised that if I were to ever get a position of responsibility or leadership, I would treat everyone, especially my subjects kindly and would proactively seek to make everyone feel valued and appreciated.
…who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:19 -ESV)
Life Lesson 4: Live your life, not that of your mom or friends or peers
In April 2013, we moved from the UK to Canada. It was a welcome move as I was so ready for a rest from paid work. I was also expecting our 3rd child and 1st daughter
We were so warmly welcomed and felt loved by a people whose culture we had never known existed. Although we still needed finances, getting a job for me was not a priority, at lease for the time. I could finally settle down, have a rest and bring up my kids without being judged. However, I soon found myself having to explain my decisions to my friends but especially to my family who felt I was wasting all my education and knowledge by ‘just’ giving birth and staying at home. It was very new territory for me and soon I discovered that being a homemaker was not a walk in the park. I had always pictured myself as a working mom and never thought there was an alternative. To date I still have many moments and days when I really struggle with both the homemaker duties and to accept this season of my life. Thankfully, God my father continually whispers “I understand”. He’s continually reminding me to be me, to carry my load and to silence the voices of doubt and fear. That his divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He’s ALREADY given me everything I need for this role and season of my life so I don’t need anybody else’s approval.
Settling among the Mennonites, I learnt that one can grow their own food, make their own clothes, can fruit in the summer, be the primary educator of their kids and paint their own house. Of course with this new exposure came the temptation to try and do it all. I started being aware of how my new Mennonite friends run their homes and did all sorts of homey stuff. They seemed to have such orderly houses, have very disciplined children and be able to do pretty much everything. I started feeling frustrated for not matching up, however hard I tried. In fact, I still do feel this way from time to time. God has again been faithful in reminding me not to conform ( to behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards - matchfitsuitanswer, agree with, be like, correspond to, be consistent with, measure up to, tally with, square with).  
This scripture is a very sobering reminder that only God can transform us through his word
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:2 –NLT)
And another one,
If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.  (Gal 6:3-5 -NIV)

I am of course still a work in progress. Where ever God places us or whatever we go through, may we always ask ourselves, “What lesson does God want me to learn from this situation, location or season?” Like Esther, there is a big likelihood that any previous experiences may be meant for such a time as this (Esther 4:14b)

3 comments:

  1. Oh Prim.....what a wonderful blog! I was just thinking the other day how wonderful and encouraging you are. You do not have a clique that you hang out with and that is so great. You talk to anyone and everyone. And we as mennonites do not have it all together and we are not all homey like some. We dont all have our own gardens and can all summer long. We most definitely dont all have children who are the most obedient little beings. But we do need to live the lives that God has given us and not look to everyone around us and try to live up to their standards. God Bless!!

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  2. Thank you for writing this blog Prim! It was good to hear more about you and where you have come from you have such a neat perspective on things. When Mennonite culture is all we know it's interesting to hear another perspective from someone who has come from such a different culture like yourself. We sure can learn from one another can't we, and yet we struggle with the exact same thing no matter what our background, culture, and so on.

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