The wind is blowing (‘Ekusi ekuwam’). This saying becomes almost as common as a handshake in the dry season. We all look to the East and face the blow dryer that sweeps across the plain abducting any moisture in its path, sucking your skin parched and whipping up dust into every imaginable nook and cranny. At first the dry wind brings an imitation of fall. The leaves turn yellow and fall off the trees carpeting the earthen floor. Other plants bloom and fruit sensing the desperation of the season with eternal hope of coming rain. Then the earth waits, lingers, accepting the billowing dust tail from every passing vehicle on the main road, watching the dust devils twirl and dance across burned and barren fields. The naked eye can pierce a mile across the bush with all the thatch cut to protect from the coming rain, an entity we can never quite forget even when mummified in this scorching wind. When the nights cease to cool off and the wind dies just as you’re lying down to sleep, you know the seasons are beginning to change.
The winds of change are blowing. It was 5am when Zion woke me up with her cough. She settled quickly after a drink of water, but the air was still and heavy with heat. No relief tonight. On Saturday, Carmel and I took a walk to what was formerly the culvert, truly a broken cement culvert that merely greeted the burgeoning water as it flowed around, above. A creek that holds memories. It has straddled the road many a season, taunting those who want to pass like a troll under the bridge. Swim if you can, wade splashing water deeper than your boots, teeter precariously across stepping stones, hop across a bridge that gives regular offerings of plywood to the menace below, peer into the papyrus looking for the resident dwarf crocodile. But don’t ever forget that I am here, that I water your crops and your livestock, I wash your bodies and your clothes, that even in the stinking muck as I disappear I am a blessing from the Lord of Life. It dried out months ago, the earliest we had every seen. It is now piled high with dirt. We’ve been told that once the rains come, real culverts will be installed, that never again will we be made to get our feet wet just to follow the road. Development is coming. There’s power in the lines to nearby towns, at least some of the time. Our friends in Nabilatuk have running city water on their compound. There’s rumors of an irrigation project in Alamacar. And the rumor that never goes away is that tarmac is coming to our main road. I’ve begun to feel a bit like a relic. I remember the days when the road was impassable, when you bought enough groceries to last for six weeks at a time, when you never knew if you would reach Mbale or not. We asked one of our clinic workers about the change she had seen over the last fifteen years. Her response: clothes. Most people are wearing clothes. We’ve seen the transition of almost our entire team and are even now preparing to welcome two new families. Even the language is changing. The young and educated no longer know the Karimojong word where there is a common Swahili or English word that also fits. Its not important to them to know Kairmojong well, when English is the language of trade and advancement. And yet, I can’t let go of its tantalizing beauty, its unique view of God, a puzzle that reveals more of His face with every piece.
In Karimojong, the Holy Spirit can be translated in two ways: ‘Etau a ngolo Asegan’ the heart/soul which is holy, or ‘Ekuwam a ngolo Asegan’ the wind which is holy. A holy wind that blows through every season, that kicks up neither dust or dirt, but rather repentance and salvation; that does not look to human institutions, politicians or personages to bring change, but affects it itself with an awesome wisdom and grace; that does not suck life, but rather provides food and drink that can never be taken away; that looks not to what we’ve done or endured, but to what Christ has wrought; that moves us forward toward the throne of grace. May this Holy Wind ever blow, stirring up our hearts for good works, for zealous love of our Savior and fellow man, for repentance and submission to His will and His alone.