I can’t say I hurry to go to the dentist, or savor the experience for that matter. Here in America it’s a discipline we are raised to respect. Go to the dentist twice a year whether you like it or not or you won’t have any teeth when you are old. So last time I was in Uganda I gasped and told Phiona, “oh goodness, we are way behind in sending the children to the dentist.” She looked confused and said, “but we did take them to the dentist.” Both of us stared at one another for a moment realizing we weren’t at all in the same conversation.
I said, “but they need to go visit the dentist twice a year and it was over a year a go.” I assumed they understood biannual visits were necessary. She and Robert burst out into laughter at the idea and both of them confessed they have never been to the dentist. So I informed them that all of the staff will lay down in the chair just like the kids and I’ll pay. Over the past few weeks everyone visited the dentist again. Only three of them were free not to come back. The others all had more work to be done. (they are all probably not so happy with Mama Tonya these days.)
Sometimes these cultural gaps are easy and fun, and sometimes they require patience, countless conversations and surrender. I can be considered too direct in my dealings with people there. Even direct eye contact (especially from a woman) can be considered aggressive. (and I thought it was polite to look deep into someones eyes. I still do it.) They don’t like to call a bribe a bribe. If I smell one I say immediately in front of everyone, “I won’t do bribes.” And then I watch everyone shrink and look away. Oops. I never want our team to take the Ugandan out of these children. We preserve their heritage and culture carefully. But there are some things that grieve the heart of God so I can promise they won’t be practiced in our home. Thankfully I have a solid and secure plumb line to measure our straightness in walking with God and that’s the instructions from the bible. I’m not a bible scholar, but I have been parenting with the bible as my compass for twenty-one years so I understand some things about raising a family. Most importantly, God has blessed these 17 children with a staff who is devoted to him and to understanding the bible.
The bible doesn’t say, “if you live in Africa then do business such as this.” Nor does it say, “if you live in America buy your way through a problem.” Culture becomes irrelevant when facing the absolute truths from the bible. Don’t bribe. Love God more than things. Don’t covet. Be content. Be thankful. Serve. Be honest. The list of guidelines is as long as the road from Texas to Kampala. When we have a cultural disagreement, and there are plenty we all agree to submit to what the bible says. And this my friends is how we are able to work together to raise 17 children with hopes of becoming outstanding citizens in Uganda. Our prayers are that they will take what they learn in our home and move it forward in the generations after them.
Oh, I can see the day when I go to visit Ronald, our oldest boy, and he’s married with four fine children. I will spend the day in their home helping with the children, the cooking and the washing and enjoy getting to know his wife. I will see him lead his home with love, God’s word, prayer, devotion time with the children, kindness, gratitude and gentleness. He will be an involved father and loving with his wife. He will be responsible and provide for the needs of his family. He will not only take them to church but also have Jesus live with them in their home. And those four children, what will they pass on? A whole lot more than simply “go to the dentist twice a year to prevent tooth decay”. Since Ronald is getting a root canal along with Musa and Dickson, he is about to get that hard lesson. Seriously though, we are giving them tools to be excellent husbands and fathers and citizens of their culture.
These are the “Seeds” we are spreading that all began because God called us to adopt a little girl named Kirabo, our precious “gift”. He’s had a plan all along. I am so honored to serve Him and thankful to be useful.