A game of soccer in Uganda. Fifteen-person teams. I was the only girl, and a blonde one at that! Like dozens of other examples from our time in Africa, my experience that afternoon brought me closer to an Awesome God. That hot afternoon on the dusty and uneven pitch, the students of TAOST, players with far greater skill and speed, extended amazing grace to me. Not only was this “Mzungu” included, I was encouraged and appreciated even as I flubbed the ball. In this small way, the Ugandans served me and accepted me for myself, giving me opportunities to play and to share in their beloved game.
What makes one generous to others? In the Book of Acts, we see a devotion to serving, an eagerness to share all things. Evidently, this came naturally to those who saw generosity and diversity of community as an extension of having God’s forgiveness. According to Ephesians, the dividing wall of hostility has come down, and with it true fellowship between strangers, even enemies, is made possible. They are made brothers and sisters by Christ.
Life in Uganda is no doubt difficult. Children grow up fast and face the harshest of realities early and often. In the communities where we taught Bible lessons and did manual labor, hardship and suffering are impossible to ignore. Perhaps that’s why “community” comes first and people come together to nurture, love and build one another up. Many of the students were responsible for their younger siblings, and it is not uncommon to see a five-year-old going about playing and learning with endless energy with an 18-month-old on his back.
As we painted a church in Lwanda, they partnered with us, eagerly grabbing paintbrushes and working tirelessly alongside our team. It was noticeable how all the kids looked out for one another, that no child was ever left in tears, or without food, or on their own, for long. Their selflessness was like a window into joy, into faith in the midst of uncertainty. Was this what it means to be “poor in spirit?” Serious and Happy?
How could we describe their faith? It was so fundamental to them: They knew an Awesome God whose love was greater than their suffering, and far mightier than our cultural differences. Providentially, we as a church have been blessed with resources to offer others. And yet, it was very clear that we traveled to Uganda to receive that which cannot be bought. And, receive we did.