Since Chloe and I have returned to the field with new, super-official OPC creds, we were asked to write short biographies for the OPC newsletter, New Horizons. Since not all of you subscribe, or if you do, you may be wondering why one would keep adding screws to a piece of furniture that wasn’t moribund, I’m including the original-pre-editor’s-chopping-block version for your reading pleasure below.
My time in Uganda has been best memorialised by Mark, one of our Karimojong friends, who said (I paraphrase slightly), “Christopher has done too many things. He came here as a photographer, then he became a pastor, now he is a doctor. It’s just too many things.” His characterisation miscaptures the pith of my time in Uganda perfectly. Pronounced as a mild criticism, I am unsure whether his opinion would be improved by the truth that I’ve muddled into most of these honourifics almost by accident. There is a shortage of qualified people in the world already, and they seemingly flee from my presence. The majority of my professional life, pre-Uganda, was spent as a web designer, a role into which I fell when my employer would hand me work he had promised to his clients that I had no idea how to pull off. Around the same time, I became the de facto captain of the ragtag Campus Crusade group at my junior college when the real leader left and I was in possession of the group’s banner. At my home church, New Life, I found myself holding the bag of the A/V team and the Youth Group when eminently more qualified people decamped in their various directions.
Contrariwise, Chloe has always been the steady half of our lives. Pre-Uganda, she held a single job for a single employer, which she performed with distinction. On the mission, she has been the bookkeeper since we arrived, slowly taking on more components of that work and making incremental improvements along the way. If our relationship was an atomic model, she would be the nucleus—steady and solid. I am the electron, zipping crazily hither and yon.
When we first kicked around the idea of working in Karamoja, our aspiration was simply to fill gaps wherever they appeared, the way you might keep adding screws to a favourite piece of moribund furniture or kludge together the ductwork for your home furnace. In the healthiest sense of that obsession, our San Diegan and Ugandan lives share a common goal. I wanted to keep the Youth Group at New Life going because it had meant so much to me when I was in high school (it was, after all, Dave Okken, who led it during my formative years). I will not claim that Akisyon a Yesu Presbyterian Clinic has been brilliantly revitalised under my tenure, but when the option was to shutter it, my vote and my energy went in the opposite direction, because it was and is a wonderful aspect of our ministry in Karamoja.
My friend, Mark, said to me at the clinic on another, later day, “When you first came, we did not know you and we did not know what you were doing, but now we have come to see that you care for us, the Karimojong.” In his mind at that moment (and, hopefully, in my mind as well), the titles and even the efficacy of my work were not paramount. The mere fact that I was willing to serve in the right place at the wrong time spoke to him. May it be, through the Spirit’s movement, a waypoint en route to his salvation.