Sometimes planning to do a community event here in Uganda flows like melted chocolate, and other times it’s hard, uphill, and studded with many obstacles. I’m learning the more I do work here how crucial it is to be precise with communication. The culture gap is enormous and evident with resulting communication mishaps even though English is the common language.
Paul’s jjajja wanted to host this outreach. We are realizing now that the jjajjas find it quite an honor in their neighborhood to be chosen to host one of our events for the children. Phiona arranged it with her prior to our arrival and we were going to come prepared on Monday. She promised to get the local school’s permission to use their property, gather her friends to help her cook the food, and spread the word to all the children in her area. Our job was to drop off the food she will cook on Sunday. While we were in the van on our way to the store to buy the food Phiona called her to say we’ll be coming by with it. The lady exclaimed, “I didn’t know it is tomorrow!”
That means she didn’t have enough time to have children gathered for us to share God’s goodness and love. They had a nice argument on the phone. I’m always amazed when they openly argue on the spot and get over it as fast as it heats up. Finally we decided to change the day to Wednesday. As I always say it isn’t good to have too tight an agenda here because it doesn’t leave room for God to work. Now I can make a note for us to follow up and give frequent reminders prior to the event. These people happily live unbound to their calendar and clocks so for those of us who do it is our obligation to nudge with regular reminders.
Wednesday morning everyone put on the new red Kirabo Seeds T-shirts I bought. We hired a second van and off we went to Paul’s neighborhood. Robert drove around for a few trips picking up jjajjas and delivering them to us. There were about ten children waiting for the event when we arrived. Within one hour of singing we had over a hundred children. If possible these kids show up wearing their Sunday clothes and their skin smeared with jelly. (petroleum jelly is used as moisturizer and it causes the skin to shine)
Angela began teaching them songs. If someone performed the song solo and correctly they won a T-shirt! When they answered questions about what we taught them they could also get a T-shirt. We passed out stickers for participation. Paul read a storybook and led a question and answer session. Donny played the guitar.
Phiona sang! Christopher taught them a song. We gave them a craft to make a bracelet that says “Jesus loves me”. The children wore them proudly.
It was 3:pm before the food was carried to the schoolroom for everyone to eat. We were all beginning to wilt from the sun and from hunger. Food was carried from Jjajja’s house to the school in buckets. When a bucket was emptied they went for more. Children lined up waiting for a plate to be handed to them. It always seems incredible to see a small child with an adult’s size plate piled high. They eat every bite.
It took an hour and a half for everyone to eat. (the clock watchers knew this) They played some physical games for a while before we called them together for Angela’s preaching. She shared the story of David and Goliath. And then our kids acted out the story with home made aluminum foil covered swords and shields. Musa was Goliath of course. They asked questions afterwards. The children loved it.
Phiona wanted me to speak to the group. I am opposed to bringing attention to myself at these events. I like to sit at the back, observe, learn and think about the whole process. This is THEIR event. Ugandans helping Ugandans. I’m not a fan of Americans taking the role as knowing the most. So I simply thanked Paul’s Jjajja for cooking the food and organizing the event and asked the kid what was the one thing they will remember from today. I hoped it would be that “Jesus loves you.”
I asked Phiona to share the salvation message with the children and she did an excellent job explaining and sharing. Afterwards a small crowd of children gathered to receive Christ as their Savior. We all prayed for them to grow in their knowledge and faith. Not surprisingly many mothers and jjajjas approached Phiona asking for our help with all the children in their care. My one fear is that someone will abandon a child at one of these events for us. It hurts Phiona to say no. She has so much compassion to help everyone who needs it. It is overwhelming to experience how much need there is here. We are not at all used to seeing children so hungry.
I humbly thanked God for opening this door for us to reach so many people for Him. Our team is more than capable of running these outreaches. It’s best that it is Ugandan. I loved it. Our children love to do it, and for all it is a great opportunity to share and gather together. Next time we will include some community project where our kids will get their hands into some work before beginning the program. They could clean a jjajja’s house, fix things, and help in many ways. They are eager to serve.