To continue our story of adventure with the jjajjas at the picnic last Saturday I’ll pick up where the children exited the small church. While they enjoyed their own services under the shade of a tree, we focused on our relationship with these grannies.
I meet with these Aunties and jjajjas (grandmothers) each time I travel to Uganda. I feel a burden in my heart to let them know how much love God has given me for them. Kirabo Seeds doesn’t support them because we don’t want to begin a dependency program like we escaped with another pastor. But we are building relationships and I have to believe that’s vitally important.
When each of them found me as they arrived, I received bear hugs from them all. The excitement and joy that comes with greetings is uniquely Ugandan. If a Ugandan refuses to greet you then you can assume he is your mortal enemy. (that happened to me once.) Anyway, the familiarity I now enjoy with the jjajjas is important to me because I am learning they not only like me but they respect and trust me. That’s critical if we are meant to have a future ministering in the village with them and their neighbors. I don’t have any idea yet what God has planned for our future, but I have to believe it involves working with the community we are establishing between ourselves now.
The celebration began when Craig gave his testimony and a short lesson about God’s love and the purpose he has for our lives. A wonderful breeze flowed through the church alleviating the beating sun on the tin roof. It was a room full of women, and that’s not the ideal audience I would choose for my husband, but he handled it so well and they received him cheerfully.
Vicki shared a verse from Lamentations that reminds us women God loves our children more than we do and we will do well to allow him to be the author of their lives. Then Jim stood a full six feet two inches and carefully denied the need of the microphone. He has a humorous and gentle way of connecting with his audience. They were giggling and relaxing within his first few words. He shared the testimony of how he became saved by Jesus Christ, and then he shared the gospel with them all. He gave an invitation to accept salvation and prayed the prayer with them repeating it. We do not know if anyone was saved that day, it is really between their hearts and the heart of God. I do know our land manager, Eddie, was in the room, and I continued to pray that he would have some new understanding about the ministry and sacrifice of Jesus. My heart is burdened for Eddie’s salvation so if the whole event on Saturday meant only that he would have a deeper understanding of my Lord, then it would all be worth it.
After the mzungus finished their speaking the jjajjas were eager to share stories and give thanks. This is a culture of expressive story tellers. Their hands and faces reveal their hearts as they speak. They are so thankful to God for the blessings in their lives. Those who have children in our program shared what joy it is for them to see them so beautiful, healthy and full of the knowledge of God. Those who wish for us to take their children shared their burdens and sorrows in hopes we can make room. Widows who are alone and in need of assistance made their pleas. Mothers without means shared how it is impossible for them to find the necessary school fees for their children who are desperate for an education. It is the same story everywhere in this country. My heart never hardens towards these needs, but I have a clear understanding about my calling and boundaries. I know I cannot take care of everyone who had need, but I can pray for them. I can remind them God has not forgotten them and their savior is not me but Jesus Christ. I have peace understanding I can’t help everyone. I don’t carry a savior complex around with me but I do have great compassion.
Boniface has two jjajjas, and they are sisters. One is demure and soft spoken like mary in the bible. The other is like Martha, gregarious and full of demonstrative energy. She took the microphone and gave testimony to the health of Boniface and their joy with his residence at our home. Then she told everyone I had promised to bring my husband from America last time I visited. She called him forward to stand next to her. And she proclaimed she is keeping him! Oh the embarrassment on Craig’s face, and her joy in being a little stinker for the fun of it was entertaining for all. She’s a hoot. She’s the one who goes tromping through the bush barefoot with a ten foot stick to knock the fruit out of the tree. She’s got vigor and an appetite for life. She’s also the one to speak out for all the jjajjas when they have a concern feeling too shy to speak to me directly. I love this woman. I have to believe if I were from here I would be just like her.
After I reclaimed my husband I asked everyone in the room to stand up if they did not have a bible. It was my joy to open the box of forty bibles we bought in Lugandan for this occasion. I thought we would have more people than bible and would need to do a drawing. These women were excited. They danced, yodled, hugged, and smiled all the way up from their toes. I challenged them to get the pages dirty by the next time I return to Uganda as they search for the wonderful truths about Jesus. Thank you again to all the people who donated funds so we could purchase these bibles!
We took a break for our meal. Funny how the size of our crowd doubled instantly when plates were passed out. Children fought with their fists to get their plates before the food ran out. ( it never did…) People sat everywhere enjoying food. Our children served the adults plates until everyone was served then they waited for their own plates. Phiona was so proud of their servant hearts and self-control.
After the meal we were called inside the church so some of the jjajjas could present us with gifts. Kira was asleep in my lap so Craig took the honor of standing in front. He was presented with fresh avocados and a brown chicken! He held it in his hands far away from what it could do to his shoes. I personally know he’s never held a chicken in his hand before. Jim was quick to name our gift, “Craig the chicken.”
The church pastor offered some local entertainment for us. We were tired and hoping the day would be wrapping up, but we agreed to enjoy their offer. They sang and danced three songs that really brought life and movement to the crowd. The pastor spoke and suggested we have received a full service that day and so he passed around the offering plate. I was uncomfortable with that. But he did offer his place for the day and his time so we shared. I’m always protective of guests I bring here because there was once a pastor who cornered every mzungu persisting for support and gifts.
It was a wonderful day of celebration, sharing and testimonies for what Jesus has done in our lives. It was the first time I personally enjoyed sharing a meal with the community. Let me just warn anyone out there who comes to Africa and has the opportunity to share a meal with a community, it is imperative that you eat some of their food, if you refuse you will offend them deeply. We mingled and enjoyed knitting our relationships a little bit tighter. They know we care, and I believe somehow God will give us help in this community so we can educate them to help their own children with needs. I’m just waiting for God to move and hoping I’ll have my eyes and ears open to recognize it when he does.