writing our souls

Writers Track at the Amahoro Conference in Kampala 2013

I’ve been back in Luxembourg for a week now. I’ve read hundreds of emails, helped organise an event, hosted an out-of-town guest, planted tomatoes and chillies and green beans on our balcony, finished two books, had a picnic by the river, signed up for a wedding fair, joined a board, had a photo shoot, made dinner for grieving friends, gone to the doctor, had an evening of wine tasting, and joined my writer’s group for the second time.

In all that, I’ve been wondering how on earth to write out all my experiences and stories from our trip to Burundi and Uganda. I told you (sleepily) about Bishop Zack’s talk that left such an impression on me at the Amahoro conference. I told you about the beauty of seeing clean water flow at Bubanza. And I told you about coming home to normal. But what next?

I’ve decided to just tell you stories. Some will be short, some will be longer. Some will have a point, some won’t have any that I can figure out. But it seems the best way. It seems the right way. They’ll be turning up here over the coming days (and weeks if it takes that long) and I hope you don’t get bored, but that they somehow help to show you a little of what our trip was like.

I’m starting today with our Writing Workshops at the Amahoro Gathering


Around large round tables we sat and shared the words we’d written in just seven short minutes from a prompt that Idelette gave us. The faces around me were Congolese, Ugandan, Kenyan, South African. The words had spilled out at a faster pace than I knew I could create, and I silently thanked my primary teachers for being so strict about handwriting, because now my hand moved as fast as the words became thoughts.

And I wondered again why I didn’t do this more often, wondered how something I enjoy so much can become such a chore, another line on the to-do list.

The only sounds that accompanied us was the scribble of pen on paper, the occasional sigh, a sniff as a tear was wiped away. Writing goes deep. Writing reaches further into your soul than you knew was possible and pulls out the secrets you want to hide, the desires that refuse to be quenched, the memories that form us and make us strong or make us weak.

The words flowed freely and then I looked down at what had tumbled out and was surprised to see it there on paper. Not surprised to know it had existed.

We took it in turns at our tables, to read aloud what we had written. And as words poured out I saw each person as if for the first time. Beyond the introductions and the job titles and the home countries. Here were people with big and outrageous dreams. And deep abiding fears.

We are all the same, I realised. I had thought I was alone in this constant fight for courage, to be brave. But no. When we were asked to share the deepest parts of ourselves with near strangers, somehow we knew this was safe space, and so we shared truth. And the truth was we’re all terrified we won’t measure up. We’re all terrified we’re not enough, in one way or another.

I look down at my paper again and read my own words: “I wonder how to find the confidence I lack, to trust I am made in the image of a creator who has plans for me, how to be brave, how to be sure.”

I’m on this journey out of the clutches of fear. I had thought I was alone on that path, but only because I’d been walking along looking at my feet. My eyes were called upward that afternoon and I saw the faces of the travellers around me, walking this same path into courage.

And oh, the dreams! What a beautiful and passionate community will rise up with each courageous step we choose to take!


p.s. Kelley and Leigh have written posts based on things they wrote during our Writer’s Track. They are beautiful and vulnerable.