For most Ugandans going to church is the great highlight of the week. Women everywhere wear their traditional bright and shiny gomesi dresses. High heels pick through muddy roads to make it to worship looking good. Skirts are lifted out of the dust. Men wear shirts and ties and shoes are always polished and shined. My favorite part of church worship is how it feels like a great dance party celebrating the Lord. It is impossible to remain still in a Ugandan worship service. Someone may carry you away to the hospital if you try.
I’ve been to countless churches in Uganda. Some were poles holding up a tin roof where we sat on wooden benches. Others were beautiful sanctuaries with balconies, stages, and great technology. Those with mud walls crumbling in spots and a cow dung floor are fairly standard. The one where our children attend is a white tent, grass floor, plastic lawn chairs, and great technology. It is located on top of one of the hills in Kampala and the view is beautiful. It doesn’t matter really what the structure is made of, the people show up to worship with song and learn from God’s word. I am always moved when I have that moment and feel the impact that Christians all over the world in many different cultures worship the same Jesus and learn from the same bible. I can visit a church in Africa, or England, or America and not know a person, but still feel I am with family. It’s a reminder of how small I am and how great our God is.
It is also good to realize God is not American. Our way of doing church is not the only way. A power point presentation doesn’t have to be the standard. God can speak loudly through a preacher under the shade of a tree beside the Nile River. A prayer on one continent reaches God as effectively as a prayer from the other side of the world. It is valuable for me to remember, to touch, to begin to understand how mighty God really is.
And if he has all the people of the world crying out to him and he still has time for little ole me, that’s humbling. I am so thankful. I know my place. It isn’t in a mega church in a major American city with state of the art programs for my kids, or in an African hut, it is on my knees alone with God and my bible open. It is leading a small family of orphaned children towards the life He has marked out for them.
The preacher asked the question that day under the white tent, “what are you known for?” A few things come immediately to mind…red hair…determination…creativity…our colorful family…our ministry with orphans…spiritual transparency…
He began to explain what Ugandans are known for and the list wasn’t attractive. He said they have the highest rate of pregnancy and drunkenness in Africa. The people take more alcohol than children take milk. The corruption is among the highest in Africa and it’s because the God of Ugandans is money. Ouch. That’s what he said. I wouldn’t want to be known for that list.
He quoted proverbs 34:14 that says “righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any nation”. If Jesus is not lord and money is, corruption will prevail. I have enough stories of corruption in my own personal experiences in Uganda to write a trilogy. A simple example is a man who has a wife that does the finances. He goes to get fuel for his car, and he puts in thirty but he asks the attendant for a receipt for fifty. Why? He doesn’t want his wife to know what he does with that extra twenty. If he will do that to his wife what will he do to his friends? Ask enough questions to enough people and we always find out the truth. The owner of the house we rent for the children lives in South Africa. He was shocked to hear what we were charged to rent this house, it certainly wasn’t what he received for it.
Corruption already has a generational divide in Uganda. Robert was explaining to me that the people in their twenties are significantly more honest than those who are in their forties and beyond. This has been my experience as well. It’s no coincidence that our staff at Kirabo Seeds, and our lawyer are all in their mid twenties!
What do we do? We can only look inward and determine if we are content with what God has given us. If we look out there we will always see what we don’t have. But if we look in and understand what has been given and appreciate the gift we have then we are safe from corruption. If we use the gifts, talents and passions we have to serve God, can we be known for the wrong thing? The vital point is to keep our focus on Jesus and not the deep burning desire for more of what money can buy. I am far more concerned to know what God thinks I am known for than what the world thinks. I learned long ago to pray this prayer: “God please help me want what you want for my life.” It has made all the difference.
The most important thing we can do is pass righteousness on to the next generation. A corrupt world can end by educating and holding the children accountable for the truth. That’s our intentions with the children in our home at Kirabo Seeds. We will help the children look inside their own hearts and find contentment with what God has given them. We will help them determine their gifts and talents so they can use them for God. Their righteousness can exalt their nation…one child at a time. The children can be known for their right relationship with God, and we can be known for raising a harvest of righteousness for His honor and glory.