While living in the small, mountainous town of Kabale Uganda, I have found a small group of ex-patriot friends. Over the past few years, we have made an effort to get together regularly to build our friendships, and general support or living in a country that doesn’t match our passports. Currently our families represent seven different nations! One of the friends I’ve made, Cara, is actually from a town about 30 minutes away from my hometown in Illinois. What a small world!
Cara’s husband, Ivan, is Ugandan, and has a best friend named Patrick. In early 2019 Cara mentioned introducing me to Patrick, but I didn’t really react. I was not too interested in a relationship at the time, for a variety of reasons. It especially felt complicated to consider someone from a different culture than my own. After Easter had come and gone, I found out Cara & Ivan had invited Patrick to come to Kabale to celebrate the holiday. Apparently, they had hoped Patrick and I would meet…but I never ended up joining that gathering, having a full house myself. Again, I didn’t really react to the news of the missed opportunity.
Eventually, in August of 2019, Cara decided to ignore my nonchalance, and introduced Patrick and I via social media. It was a bit risky to set up her husband’s best friend with one of her few friends in country…but I guess she was confident it would work out!
I was not so confident…In fact, right away I told Patrick about my hesitancy of entering into a relationship with him. Yet, he was not deterred, and remained patient.
We got to know each other quickly and easily right away. Patrick has grown up in Kampala, living mostly with his grandmother and cousins, who were more like siblings. He has also served as a father-figure to his twin nephews over the years. For many years, Patrick has been working with Americans and a project they started. He is currently the Director of a children’s program, primary school, and secondary school.
With almost constant communication after we were introduced, Patrick came to visit in October that year. Trying to date while not living in the same town, and having children in my home was a bit tricky, but Patrick didn’t seem to notice.
I quickly observed that this man was different from anyone I had known before. Despite our cultural differences, we shared so values and mindsets concerning so many topics: morals, ministry, family, work, and so much more. Being an independent woman for so long, not to mention a single parent, I immediately noticed Patrick’s genuine desire to simply take care of me. It was refreshing. Throughout our relationship, he has somehow managed to take care of me (and the boys) in many ways, even when he is not physically present.
Patrick quickly connected with the twins…something I appreciated, yet was a bit scared of as well. I mean, I wasn’t sure how far this relationship would go, and I was nervous for the boys to get attached before I did! Nevertheless, they quickly grew to love each other, and now regularly enjoy video chatting.
Over several months, our relationship grew. Then COVID hit, and Uganda went into lockdown. We couldn’t even drive our own personal vehicles for over 2 months. Yet, it seemed to strengthen our relationship rather than weaken it. As soon as that aspect of the lockdown was lifted, we were able to finally reconnect in person. Slowly by slowly, I was able to let go of my hesitations, and fully embrace being with Patrick, and begin imagining the future.
It didn’t take long for Simon & Solomon to decide that Patrick was cooler than me, and they liked having him around. In fact, before proposing to me, Patrick first talked to the twins about the idea of us getting married and becoming their dad. They were very excited about the idea and immediately began making plans for the wedding.
The week of Thanksgiving, Patrick came to join our group of friends for the holiday meal. The day before Thanksgiving, he took me to an island on Lake Bunyonyi, just outside of town. We had been to this island several months before with the twins, when we had enjoyed a hike and seeing various animals that inhabit the island.
This time, as we took the short boat ride to the island, it began to sprinkle. By the time we reached the restaurant at the top of the hill, it was raining hard. We ordered lunch and I watched Patrick stare at the dark clouds and try to wish them away. They were not going anywhere. Eventually he gave up his hopes of taking a hike and looking for zebras along the way. Instead, with an umbrella in hand, we walked down a slippery path to a cabin along the lake. There he took a ring out of his pocket, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. I happily said yes. Though it wasn’t exactly as Patrick hoped, it was just perfect for us, and is definitely a day we won’t forget! As Ugandans say, rain is a sign of a blessing, so we will happily take that blessing as we move towards marriage.
Sometimes it is a little tricky to manage relationships expectations from two different cultures, and in many ways we have operated in a more typical Ugandan way regarding ours. Unlike most American couples, in Uganda, people usually do not publicly announce their relationships until they begin planning the wedding. Though some people knew about us long before that, many people didn’t know much until I had a ring on my finger.
We are excited to move forward and get married in January 2021. We are eager to see how God is going to work in our family from there. We are planning a small (COVID-friendly) wedding here in Uganda, and hope to line up everything to allow our friends and family in America to attend virtually as well. (Let me know if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on the livestream!)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9