As we walked home, I congratulated Lilli for sitting for four hours of church today. It is always good to worship alongside our neighbors, brothers, and sisters, but today’s service leaves me both befuddled and amazed.
Typically, there are numerous announcements, most of which I do not understand with my limited Lebwisi. Today, 25 youth (ages 13 to 35) stood proud to announce that they had completed slashing the WHM airstrip by hand and were paid for their work. That payment went to “electrifying” the Community Center where the Church meets on Sundays. From my seat, I could see new places where chunks of brick were knocked out and wires were now attached to the building. The next announcement came from a man who called himself a “pioneer of the mission” and who now works for the government. With current rebel activity in the DRC and refugees flooding into southwestern Uganda and Rwanda, he announced that searches for “people who do not belong here” will be occurring. While those first two announcements may befuddle me as they are outside of my range of “typical church announcements”, the last announcement is what still amazes me.
Two weeks ago, a letter arrived at our house from a local councilman describing a person in his village. Irene is a girl from Gulu (northern Uganda…far from here) stranded in Bundibugyo. Her mother had moved here from Gulu to wed Irene's father and when her father decided to take another wife, her mother returned home to Gulu. As children are considered belonging to the father, she lived with her father and new stepmother. Recently, her father died and her step mother no longer wanted her. The letter detailed that she needed to get back to Gulu to her mother as she now had no home and the councilman was afraid that she would be forced to survive by "means of a bad life.”
A week ago, a crying girl came to our house and as I sat and tried to understand who this girl is and why she was at our house, I remembered the letter about a stranded girl named Irene. We receive a lot (!) of requests for assistance for various needs. While we would love to help everyone who asks, it would not be good for them or for us. So, after talking about this need and praying with this girl, Travis approached New Life Bundimalinga Presbyterian Church’s elder Shem with this girl’s need.
So today, I sat a amazed when a chair was set up in the front of the church with a small table and a basket on it. An elder read the letter from the local councilman about Irene and her need and then the deacon asked Irene to come forward to the chair. She was crying and did not want to move. The sweet wife of another elder came to her and talked with her, then talked to the congregation, and then helped Irene to the chair. Two youth stood beside her so she would not be alone. As we all sang, church members walked to the front to place money in the basket. When the song was over, the elder and the deacon counted the money out loud, and then prayed over Irene. With money in hand, she tearfully walked back to her seat. When I turned around to smile at her, for the first time I saw, where tears had been, a smile.
After the service, Shem and another elder brought Irene to our house. He was concerned that she needed more money to get to Gulu. Together, we figured out that to take public transportation from Nyahuka to Fort Portal to Gulu would be 57,000 Ug Shilllings and from Gulu to her village would be another 3,000 Ug Sh.
The total need she had EXACTLY MATCHED, to the 50 shilling piece she held, the AMOUNT THAT THE CHURCH RAISED!
As Lilli so appropriately said, “That is Miracle Math!”
Now we pray for Irene as she makes her way across Uganda and back to her mother.