In It All — There Is Joy
We celebrated Sabbath yesterday among Ugandan worshipers. It was lively! Vigorous singing — freedom in expressing the emotion the music and the “turning to God” brought into the hearts of those present. My hope was that I could enter into this more spontaneous and expressive worship here in the African church. But I found myself postured more as an observer. That’s okay. I am learning along the way not to force something that is not happening just now. It was good to be in the house of the Lord with brothers and sisters from Uganda.
There was a point in the service where the pastor asked if there was anyone who had testimony to bring to the church. There was a young woman, maybe in her early 20s who came forward. She was beautiful. Perhaps that shouldn’t enter into the dialogue here, but she captivated me. She was dressed in such a beautiful bright yellow African dress, with a matching scarf wrapped around her head. She carried with her a rolled up rug, and beautiful little baby boy – healthy and chubby. I would guess maybe 6 or 8 weeks old. She put the baby in a chair at the front of the stage to manage the microphone and her large rolled rug. Almost immediately one of the other woman picked up that babe to hold. The woman spoke of healing. During the pregnancy, it was determined there were significant problems with her pregnancy and growing baby. She brought testimony of healing and the gift of a healthy (very obviously so!!) baby. She brought the carpet as a gift of thankfulness to the Lord – her healer. The congregation was loud in their clapping and vocalizing their affirmations that God had indeed blessed her. She then began a “Dance of Thankfulness” – an Ethiopian dance. I learned later that her family had moved into the area from Ethiopia about 5 years ago and had purchased land. Well, this dance. I felt myself so moved by the beauty of this joyful movement that came from this young woman as she sang and danced before the Lord. She didn’t hold back. Full expression, beautiful movement. Very quickly she was joined with others from her Ethiopian brothers and sisters, who came forward and danced and jumped and sang their gratefulness along with her. The “performance” was very beautiful, but what struck me was the richness that was very much a part of the community. A people who recognize the blessings of God when they come and who celebrate with their neighbors when good things happen.
My heart overflows with the richness of what I experienced visiting this church, tucked in the middle of a very poor village, located on the shores of beautiful Lake Victoria. One of the most picturesque places you could find in Africa or the rest of the world. A place of deep poverty. Perhaps the most impoverished village we visited this far on our trip, I was told by our Ugandan guide who works in the IN projects in this community. Some people in this village are starving. The huts are very simple, often just made of mud and sticks. The women are wearing very tattered skirts; buttons missing from blouses. Children dressed in rags or nothing at all. But in the house of the Lord – there is joy. Brothers and sisters who express hopefulness for what God will do and joy in what He has done among them.
I wonder if I can bring some of this learning home with me. Ugandan brothers and sisters who have shown me what it could look like when the Lord blesses. Slowing down to really celebrate. Looking beyond myself,to truly enter into celebrating blessing in someone else’s life.
I learned that the IN projects in this village called Kiyindi – the child sponsorship is largely from Canada. Perhaps some people following our blog have a child from this community. I know with the children I sponsor from different areas, you can start to feel a little disconnected. There’s an automatic withdrawal that comes out of your account each month. Maybe the money isn’t really missed, and what you are contributing to doesn’t really impact you very often throughout the year. I don’t have words to express how much your sponsorship would matter in this place. There is so little here. So difficult to send children to school when whole families are hungry.
There is an abundance of fish that come from Lake Victoria which lies right in front of them. But most do not benefit. There are fishermen who sell to Kampala. Prices are too much for the local people, and they cannot fish for themselves without boats or nets. Perhaps there is licensing that is an issue at all. What we learned is that all of this protein right in front of their homes is inaccessible, and they are hungry. This could be a place of real despair. It is deeply impoverished. But there is an IN school there – that educates and feeds around 900 people. Whole families benefit when children are educated. They bring home their learning about hygiene, basic health, the importance of clean water. Opportunity will come for this next generation with an education. IN Uganda put in a well here, so there is access to clean water, without having to walk large distances. And there is a church in the centre of this community – growing together in their understanding of God – trusting in his promises – finding hope and purpose.