I wish sometimes that I could be a bird, like the eagles that soar effortlessly in the skies here in Uganda, flying in circles over a moment to see how all the pieces of it weave together like a brilliant piece of cloth.
Or perhaps I could be a painter, could pick up a brush and paint what I see – just sit tucked away in some quiet corner of an experience to depict every motion and emotion. Now, some would argue that words can do that too, but there’s something about the stroke of the brush against a canvas that can create a moment you could step inside.
Today, if I was a bird, I would see so many colorful threads. Today, if I was a painter, it would have been a lovely “sometime.”
It was the last day of a week-long pastors conference hosted by Arise Africa. The teaching team had traveled every day to a different zone to share biblical truth with local pastors and church leaders in Uganda. New Valley Baptist Church was already in full swing when we arrived. There was hug after hug from the women as they grabbed us and ushered us to the front of the sanctuary to dance. A scarf was tied around my waist, giving me permission to shake my hips (clearly they must have noticed those hips can’t NOT move). We jumped and danced and spun around and attempted to sing the words that were a mixture of Luganda and English. The Casio keyboard played in the corner of the rough-hewn clay brick church that Pastor Joseph says has now grown too small for the village. On Sundays, more than 100 people attend, plus their children. And during the week, a primary school has been launched to educate a large number of orphans who live with other family members. He says he’s had a vision of a team coming from the United States to help build an addition to the church. Certainly, every square inch of the sanctuary was filled with people ready to worship and take detailed notes of each session. But there were threads all around the little church in the dusty village of Palisa.
In front of the church, a small child was cradled by his mother – a dignified woman who was now pregnant with twins. No larger than a toddler, the child named Eric was almost 6. A long period of time without oxygen at birth had rendered him unable to walk or talk. She and her husband did what they could to nurture Eric, but they had six other children to care for and two more within months of arrival. Eric had never been tested to see that options of treatment might be available. Today, Arise Africa stepped in. Once Eric is tested, partner organizations will be sought to provide the care he deserves.
Beside the church, Pastor Edward shared his story with tears in his eyes. He lost his wife in October, and struggles to be both mom and dad to his children. Rainy season is coming, and he worries about the thatched roof in his home. It leaks. But his heart hurts for more than his children – it hurts for all the children of his country. “I pray more people will come to Africa, that they will not be afraid of our people. Our children need to know they are not forgotten. I know it is difficult for those in America to lock up their homes and leave their possessions to come – it is a long journey and it is hard – but when they come they see we are the same people.” He asks me if I am going to move here and bring my husband, and says he would show me how to make a garden so there would be fruits and flowers. Fruit is expensive and rare in Palisa – it could save lives.
Behind the church, near the outdoor kitchen where his wife Agnes was preparing a lunch of beans and posho, Pastor Joseph asked for prayer for her. She is sick and has not gotten well. Arise Africa paid for a visit to the doctor, and the course of treatment included a prescription and dietary change. That change includes fruit – again, the one thing that is difficult to purchase. We prayed for supernatural healing and for people who might provide help in any way.
Under a grove of trees, Pastor Nelson, pastor of Wakitaka Baptist Church and an Arise Africa leader, shared his heart and their vision for planting churches in Uganda. Currently there are 158 – and they feel 400 more should be planted. He passionately spoke of the “Timothys” that he knows are already in villages, just waiting to be trained and supported as they preach and teach and serve. The churches may be made of brick, or mud and cow dung, or sticks and thatch – or simply use the shade of a tree as their roof. But their divine purpose is the same.
In the front of the church, children ran and played with team members willing to simply run and skip and be silly for the sake of the Gospel. They sang songs about bottles of soda and shouting and how big God is. And they loved seeing their faces in pictures.
And inside the church, the loom that weaves the threads was shared. Inside that church, the palette with every color imaginable was held up for the brush. Five simple words echoed off the clay and dirt and trees:
We belong to each other. ~Romans 12:5
The birds know it. Those who paint know it. And on days like this, with each person serving – teaching, praying, caring, feeding, holding each other up and loving each other – those threads weave and those colors blend and flow into stories with new threads and new colors. Pastor Edward’s prayer is that they will become part of your story. Today, if I was a bird, I would fly the threads to you. If I was a painter, I would bring a canvas home to you.
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
*thanks to Jim Shields and Cordel Robinson for the photo love today…