How was your trip?
I’m pensive as I sort out a fulfilling answer to that question. Craig says I need the elevator speech. That means whatever I hope to communicate should fit into an elevator ride. (in a normal building not a NYC sky scraper)
This recent trip was so full of adventure and learning it wasn’t easy to select the standout event. I feel like I’ve got attention deficit as I cling to a new favorite story with the popcorn going off in my head of memories and ideas. So when I am riding and completely focused on the reins in my hand and the animal under the saddle I ask myself the question again. “What was the one thing I’ll never forget about this trip?” And the answer is simple.
Our children tried on wings of leadership and soared on the first try.
I am still astonished how we could gather in an open space near a church, bang a drum, sing some songs and wait a few minutes. Then small faces appear on the road, from behind buildings, through the leaves of the bush. A simple offer of “jangu” (come) opens the door for curious children to join the new thing that is happening. Most of them are barefoot and wearing mud stained tattered clothing with no fit, tattered play clothes. If their parents had known something was happening they’d have on their Sunday best. But their eyes sparkle and their shy smiles are eager. They come in multiples. It is rare to see someone lonely in the village.
Our Kirabo Seeds kids packed their backpacks with books, jump ropes, and games. We taught the children songs. Our children stood in the crowd of 200 unfamiliar children and shared the story of what God has done in their lives. They led a bible devotion for all and asked interactive questions to get everyone thinking and applying the answers to their own relationship with God. Then the near miracle occurred. They pulled out storybooks and as one KS kid read it in English another translated into Lugandan. The children remained riveted to the pictures on the page. Most of them have never seen a children’s book before. If they are lucky there’s a bible some where in their house. But pictures!! They were enthralled and I was limp with joy.
What a small gift we can give the children. This is training for our children to practice “to whom much is given much is expected”. We sent them out to share what they do every day. Practice leadership and public speaking. Pull up those big girl panties and find the confidence to tell the story of what God has done for you.
I have the big problem, like an addict, “if some is good more is better” so immediately I wanted to do this every Saturday! The traveling Sunday school van can drive up anywhere with a drum and bless the children. I was bouncing with ideas. My husband stroked my shoulder and said, “easy girl” let’s start with once a month.
As all of the people that day shared a meal that was prepared by the matriarchs, led by Lydia’s jjajja, it turned out there was food leftover. I can’t say I’ve ever had that happen before. People who didn’t sit to listen to the bible teaching were certainly on time when plates were passed around. Children who aren’t used to getting meat had physical fights to cut the lines for food. It broke my heart. Phiona instructed our children to serve every adult a piled high plate before taking their own meal. I marveled as our children delivered food for every jjajja and bowed as they gave it out.
Participating with the community, in Uganda, as they come together to share a meal on a Saturday morning was a fascinating study for me. How were there enough plates? Who had the enormous pots? Who woke up at 4:am to start the wood fire? Who chopped all that food? How many women and children had to sort the beans for stones?
A potluck like this doesn’t happen American style where we have email sign ups two weeks in advance. Whoever is planning the event has to continue to poke everyone to remind them what is happening and make sure they commit to coming even though the schedules are over loaded with commitments. It is a big sacrifice to give up that time. Fitting three events into one day might be normal.
Not in Africa. The sound of a drummer, the hope of fun, the expectation of greeting neighbors is the only necessary announcement. Their commitment is grand when it means coming together for a meal to share. Once in Connecticut we belonged to a church small enough for a church potluck. I remember it so well. Donny just started middle school, Jack’s age now. We all were so excited to be together in one place just to socialize, eat delicious food, and watch the children play. It was an all-afternoon event and no one wanted it to end. That was the experience when I really fell in love with the people in our church and felt so devoted to serving God alongside them. I would do anything to have that small church in my life now. It is a little bit of what we have at the Equestrian center, us crazy horse owners have a great sense of togetherness and family and we do potlucks! It’s the sound of hoof beats rather than the beating of a drum to call everyone out from the bush.
Back to my story…After the meal the church played music on the speakers. I love African worship music. I can’t understand a word of it and each song sounds the same to me, but the rhythm moves the bones without the mind knowing what’s happening. Watching the matriarchs smile, dance, raise their arms high, swing their hips and let the music carry them away was the ULTIMATE. They are so comfortable with who we are, and what we are doing in their community that they will include us into their dance. What an honor. What a responsibility. What a God we serve to bring two cultures together around his Word and make a dance out of it.
That’s a little longer than an elevator speech, but you aren’t in an elevator. Well maybe you are…all I can hope is you can wonder where is the potluck in your life? What is it that centers the interest of the people? Is it forced or is it instinctual to gather? How can we have more face to face community experiences in America in an otherwise overwhelming schedule? I really don’t know. While I love it with the people in Uganda who are so community oriented, I don’t know if I would enjoy it the same with Americans who are always looking at their watch and have somewhere else to go. I’d love to know what thoughts are out there about this.