Tuesday, July 19, 2011
AFRICA THANK YOU FOR TEACHING MY DAUGHTER TO DANCE BEFORE SHE COULD WALK
A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter, Sophia graduated from Kigali International Community School (KICS). It was a moment of great satisfaction. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma my mind was flooded with appreciation for all those who had invested in her education. The list was long. I blogged to try to publicly say thank you.
God willing in a few weeks Sophia will begin university at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. Our plan is for Sophia and me to travel to the United States to settle. We’ll be together at Wheaton for a few days. Then I will leave her and entrust her future to God. That coming day is one I face with holy fear.
In my mind I am packing – passport; clothes; and one key piece of memories, an 18 year old Ugandan drum.
Sophia graduating from Kigali International Community School.
Our family moved to Uganda in March, 1993 when Sophia was nine months old. During one of those early days of adjustment I was driving outside of Kampala and saw drums for sale. I stopped and haggled down to 30,000 Uganda Shillings (I think about $25 U.S. Dollars.) I brought the drum home and presented it to my crawling daughter.
She pulled herself to the top of the drum and began beating it. Then she began to dance to her self-produced music. Our game of learning to walk began. Sophia would crawl to the top of the drum. She would beat it and began to dance. As her beating hands came off the drum I would pull it a few centimeters away. She would reach for the drum. Her body could not resist continued dancing. Her eyes would meet mine. Then for a tense moment she would decide what to do. She would stand for a little longer. I pulled the drum a few more centimeters away. She would look at me and then look at the floor. Then time after time she would drop to the floor and crawl to the drum.
Dave and Sophia.
Our little game continued for days. The love of the drum and dance drove Sophia. My hope to see her first steps drove me.
Then the moment finally came. I moved the drum away from Sophia. She looked into my eyes. Then she reached for the drum and took her first step. Jana and I cheered. Sophia was stunned at both her first step and our cheering. She reached the drum, beat it, and danced.
My first born child learned to dance beating a Ugandan drum. A sense of intuitive rhythm has been her guide. Her youthful wealth is in the diversity of friendships that she navigates with rhythm.
Africa as a loving mother, by Sophie Jenkins. (photos Dave Jenkins)
Our years in Uganda were filled with many mistakes and gracious friends. In the plans of God a good portion of the gracious friends were Rwandans. Jana and I first visited Rwanda in 1999. In our first full day in Kigali we met the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Angelina Muganza. When we asked what someone like us could do to help she responded with the idea that became CCR – An English speaking church for returnees with a good children’s program. For five years I thought it was a great idea, but assumed another would be called.
In 2001 I traveled again to Rwanda to visit friends, but this time came with my two oldest children; Sophia and Caleb who were 9 and 7 at the time. We dreamt of a new life. We played on the shores of Lake Kivu and somehow we could feel the rhythm of both Kivu’s waves and Rwanda’s dance.
In 2004 our contract to minister in Uganda ended and all that was comfortable seemed to leave. Sophia intuitively wrote me a wise letter at the age of 12 which told me to trust and rest. A few months later we heard the call of Rwanda and decided to move to Kigali in June, 2005.
We arrived and the dance continued. A memorable one was Valentine’s Day in 2009. Jana was sick and in pain (later we would find with a tumor.) At 16 Sophia went with me to the Valentine’s Day Party Jana planned and we danced.
The last year has been one of guarded treasure. On October 8, 2010 we had only two tickets to Uganda’s Independence Day Celebrations in Kigali at the Serena. Jana chose to forfeit her opportunity so I could go with Sophia. We sat with old friends, shared a meal, laughed, and in the end danced. It was a fitting start to her final year of secondary school in Kigali. After all Sophia learned to dance before she could walk.
Now as we pack the old Uganda drum will make her journey to Wheaton College. I will leave Sophia there with my blessing of African rhythm. Whatever new challenges may come to Sophia in Chicago I am confident her Africa rhythm will find a way to dance through it.