My friend Monica invited our whole family to her house on Wednesday. Monica has an incredible story which is too heart-rending to exploit on a blog...but you can tell in her wide, easy smile how much she loves her Jesus after the long roads he has walked with her. Some of those more recent roads, we've walked together. She visits our house often, often accompanied by her homemade peanut butter and roasted g-nuts (ground nuts) that support her family.
John and I were incredibly honored by her invitation. Inviting a family of six for dinner when you live with four other relatives in one room is a remarkably generous gesture.
Bumping down the dusty potholes to her home, our kids got some gentle coaching on how to respond to dinner at a different home than what they've ever experienced. But Monica and her daughters had whipped us up a ton of local food, and her hospitality positively embraced us. Aluminum saucepans overflowed with rice, beef stew, matooke, black beans: "I heard the Americans love black beans!" she grinned.
Outside, we laughed and listened to stories about the ducks and their ducklings that waddled around as we ate on mats and plastic chairs. One Ugandan boy upon our arrival had been forming tracks in the dust, dragging his brother in an old suitcase-turned-car; and sure enough, my kids were the next to try it out. I will let you guess which one of my boys was launching himself down a dirt pile and giggling all the way. Neighboring families simmered their meals on charcoal stoves outside their doors, the smoke and smells of fish mingling in our noses. Later, our kids squealed with delight as we watched Tom and Jerry together with Monica's family, which I have determined is a universal, language barrier-free form of entertainment.
Monica's hospitality sparkled. It wasn't because of a centerpiece or matching napkins, but because of her love of Christ and her obvious delight over welcoming us, over breaking bread--er, rice and matooke--together. It was a lesson to me in my own hospitality, reminding me to let love fuel any artistic efforts, rather than override my enjoyment of my guests.
This week, John and I mark two years of living here in East Africa! We're intentionally pushing further into ministry toward locals (that is, in addition to the support of internationals through John's job of member care and management). We had talked about staying at least three years in Uganda because we thought developing meaningful, life-changing relationships would take at least that long; but it is moving to actually witness this, to move deeper into people’s lives. A sweet memory like this marked an affirming, eye-opening stake in the ground.