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5/30/97 Big picture gives balance to daily Ugandan challenges

KAMPALA, Uganda (BP)–Linda Rice laughs when she hears someone in the States complain about being without electricity.
Her electrical power is off so often she no longer pays attention to the outages.
She and her family are used to cold muffins for breakfast or waiting days to wash clothes. When the room goes dark during dinner, someone automatically lights candles.
Each room in the house has candles and matches, just in case. Several rooms also have small lights powered by an automobile battery.
Rice and her husband, Jim, left their Richmond, Va., home in 1974 to become missionaries. The next year they moved to Uganda.
They have had to adjust to the occasional sound of nearby mortar exchanges and to having their vehicles hijacked and their home broken into.
“It has given me coping ability,” said Linda, 49. “A lot of things that frustrate people are insignificant. I don’t think I would know that unless I lived in a Third World country.” Although she loves life here, she misses the conveniences taken for granted in the States. “General housekeeping takes longer here because you have to have water and electricity at the same time. When you go two weeks and don’t, it gets frustrating,” she said.
“Cooking takes a lot longer because there is nothing already prepared. You make your mayonnaise. Often I make my own jam and squeeze lemons for juice. I buy all my vegetables fresh, so I have to clean them well and soak them in disinfectant. Meats are mostly tough, which means you crock pot them,” if the power stays on long enough, she said.
The Rices catch rain water in a tank and filter it for drinking and cooking.
“The concept of time here can drive you crazy, but it also can release you from being a slave to the clock. If someone says 4 o’clock, it could mean anywhere from 4 to 6,” Linda said.
“The way people visit is neat. A friend doesn’t announce he’s coming. If he did, you would have to have something for him to eat and drink. A real friend just drops in. I like that kind of relaxed visiting. But I have to put it in check in the U.S.”
Southern Baptist missionaries serve four-year terms overseas, then return to the States for a one-year furlough. The Rices shop for clothes every fifth year when they are in the States.
“There are clothes here (in Uganda), but they are expensive. Trying to anticipate what your growing daughter will look like in four years isn’t easy,” she said.
“It’s funny going back to States. On one furlough, we had an apartment two and a half blocks from my mom (in Christiansburg in southwest Virginia). I forgot we had a phone and walked down to her house to tell her something. We hadn’t had a telephone in Uganda for
years.”
Jim and Linda and their 13-year-old daughter, Kristen, live in a three-acre Baptist mission compound in Kampala, the capital city. Their neighbors are another missionary family — Mark and Elaine Pierce and their three children, Michelle, 13; Matt, 11; and Abbie, 4.
The Rices live in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a large living room, dining area and a patio with a pond. There is an eight-foot fence around the compound. When the Rices or Pierces drive up, they toot the car horn and the guard opens the gate. The windows and doors are barred. Nevertheless, there have been several break-ins, so the two families share an armed guard.
The compound has basketball and tennis courts. Workers who help with housekeeping for the two mission families live in several smaller homes on the compound.
For the Rices, home isn’t just a place to live. A lot of ministry takes place there.
Two women came to the Rices’ house recently to spend the night because they wanted someone to pray with them. A pastor’s wife who had a miscarriage came there to talk about losing her baby and to be comforted. Retreats and prayer days are held on the compound’s tree-lined property, which has room for pitching tents.
On Sunday evenings, the Rices entertain four church leaders and their wives.
“We do it to give them a good meal and a little R and R, but it bounces back as a good thing for us,” Rice said. “It’s fun. Kristen joins in. It would be easy for an MK (missionary kid) to grow up resenting some aspects of our work, but she doesn’t.”
The children from Kristen’s school hold slumber parties and campouts at the Rices.
When it comes to recreation, the family has to be creative. When the Rices are on furlough in the States, they record Disney programs to be parceled out to other mission families back in Kampala. They have a trampoline and they play basketball, badminton and volleyball at the mission compound. Kristen is an avid reader.
The Rices will travel to Virginia this summer for their next furlough.
“I’m really looking forward to this furlough,” Linda said. “I didn’t think my dad would be living (because of health problems). But God has given us a great gift. We will get to see him.”
The Rices have had two cars hijacked.
“I was driving home in a small car and got to a big pothole and was easing into it,” Linda said. “A car whipped around and pulled in front of me. Four men with machine guns pointed at my windshield got out. It doesn’t take much time for you to decide what to do.
“I had a big crowd of people walk me home. People said, ‘Hope this isn’t going to make you go back home.’ We were very few at that time. People were glad to see us around. It meant they hadn’t been forgotten. We felt most appreciated.”
When the second car was stolen, Jim was driving. He was ordered out and the thieves also took his watch and drove away.
Last month, Kristen and her mother chased a Bible thief. The Rices’ mission is to distribute Bibles, but not this one.
“Kristen was baptized in June and we got her a teen’s study Bible from the States as her gift. The next week it was stolen. Someone got her another one. And a guy reached in the car window and grabbed it out of her lap,” Linda said.
The book had a fancy cover, and the thief may have thought it was a pocketbook.
“I took off after him in the car,” she said. “When I had to stop, Kristen jumped out and chased him on foot. I locked the car and went running after her. She jumped over a big pot cooking over a fire. People were shouting at us: ‘He went that way. He went down the next alley.’ The guy dropped the Bible and we got it back.”
Kristen said: “It made me mad. I wasn’t going to have another Bible stolen.”
Added her mom: “We were feeling pretty good about getting it back. But I was afraid of telling Jim. I hardly said anything. He’s really the right guy for me to be married to. He just trusts me to the Lord. I do a
lot of traveling by myself in the villages, sometimes with a (Ugandan), but hardly ever with anyone who knows how to drive or fix a car.”
One of God’s gifts to her, she said, is a lack of fear.
“I have been afraid one time. Maybe it’s slow wits,” she said.
She recalled the occasion for her fear.
“We had a guy driving a big truck for us. He was shot and killed sitting in the truck. He was a Kenyan. As such, his body had to go back to Kenya. I had to drive the body back to his home.
“I drove into this place after dark. All the family was there and there were no Christians. There was all this wailing and they were throwing themselves down in front of the car. The person who had taken the message said only the man died, not that he was shot in the head. Even after we buried him, people were dancing on the grave and throwing themselves down. Jim got there the next day and that helped. Daylight also helped.”
Rice described another experience that would have terrified many people. In 1985, while government soldiers and a rebel group fought at a nearby golf course, the family and some people who were visiting took cover for a day and a half on mattresses in the hallway of their house. “Mortars were flying around. Kristen was 2. She didn’t know what was going on. Every time one of those big things was shot, Kristen would
say: ‘Big boom!’ The curtains came out from the windows, and the water in the waterbed moved back and forth.
“During the quiet spells, we ran to the kitchen and brought food into the hall and snacked our way through it,” Rice said.
“People say, ‘Aren’t you going to take Kristen back to the States?’ There are moments I have wished she wasn’t here, but she’s such a gift. We were 14 years without a child. She is God’s blessing upon us.
“We have had so many years of hearing gunfire, we don’t pay attention to it. I’m blessed with sleep, too. I can sleep through anything. And peace. I think we take that as confirmation that we are where we are supposed to be.”
Jim added: “I have a conviction that even though God called me here before Kristen was born, he knew about her. I do fear for her. We keep a pretty close rein on her. It’s a reason to be careful, but it’s not a reason to go home. I sensed God’s calling me here, and I haven’t felt him calling me elsewhere yet.”
It’s when things are fairly easy that Jim begins worrying about what could happen.
“When things are tough, like the two days with bullets actually flying, it was easy to go through,” he said. “Worrying about it is harder. I worry about Linda because she is pretty much fearless. I call on God to take care of her when I’m not around. Being here makes you live closer to the Lord.”
Being in Uganda has taught Linda a lot.
“If I hadn’t been out here, I might not see how God uses things. I see some of the poorest people out here with AIDS. They have just nothing. Yet you see God using them to do things in families. My understanding of who God is and how he loves is certainly expanded from what it would be in the States.”