We pulled into our new home, ushering us into a new season of sorts. Little did we know it wasn’t only for us but for all of us, all over the world.
It was our third move in 9 months of marriage. We had moved all over the country, hopping from town to town every few months. My husband was in medical school and his training sent him to work in community hospitals all throughout Uganda. Each move brought its own set of joys and challenges—a new community, new people, new language, and new options for food choices or at times a lack thereof.
A few days after we moved in, we had our first lockdown in Uganda. Those first few days we got to know our neighbors. I chatted with the wife, standing six feet apart: her on the veranda while I scrubbed my shoes in the grass. A few days later we met our neighbor’s house helper who cleaned their home. She was a kind woman who shared with us that her daughter also needed a job, so we decided to take her up on her offer to help us wash our clothes.
The Lord used them to open my eyes to more of the real effects of the pandemic on the people in Uganda. It was one thing for me to watch the nightly news as I tried to grasp the reality of what was taking place in my new home, always asking my husband a million questions. But, it was a whole other thing to have this new friend of mine sharing the reality of what her neighbors were experiencing. It was as if I was watching my passport country of America through a muddled rear-view mirror. I tried to grapple with the varying realties of these two places, both very near to my heart and at the same time somehow both very far away.
Together my husband and I talked about how best we could tangibly serve our neighbors. These new friends of ours helped us to see that people, hundreds of people, just ten minutes from our home were running out of food. We packed up bags of some staple foods in Uganda and began distributing them.
But, what I still can’t stop thinking about is the way that village showed up for one another through the distributing of the food. While we had purchased enough food to feed a few hundred people, the community members of this village saw how there were more in need than there was food available. Just as quickly as we began distributing the twenty-pound bags of food, they began splitting open the bags to make their own smaller bags of food. Twenty-pound turned into ten pounds and then ten to five, in order to feed more of their own people who they knew were hungry, too.
Years ago, my church had this phrase written on its walls, “Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it.” This is exactly what these Ugandan people were doing, for their own.
Jesus says in Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV):
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
We watched as our new Ugandan neighbors were living this truth out—giving what they had to one another, doing it unto Jesus himself. And through them we were blessed to be part of that too, loving the least of these, all of us doing it unto the King.
This past year has been full of darkness, trials, pain and suffering across the globe. But, it’s also been full of beauty and light. All around us. We look up, look out, and look into the eyes of the One who always promises beauty for ashes, hope in sorrow, and that something far better awaits each of us who call Christ our Lord.
I’m thankful for this small village and how they planted a seed of hope in my heart as I watched them love their people in their own time of need. There’s certainly still trials, pain, corruption, and suffering. Even as I write this, we’re back in another country-wide lockdown. But, I want to be the one who looks out for the light in the midst of the darkness. The one who, like our Ugandan neighbors, finds needs and fills them, finds hurts and heals them. In a pandemic and out of a pandemic. One day at a time.
How have the people around you planted hope in your heart in the midst of the pandemic?