The African community takes this to another level. Their collective culture and the high value they place on togetherness and family intensify the effects of their community. If our van gets stuck in the mud, random farmers in the surrounding area congregate to help. The most often story we hear is one relatively poor family member giving to an even needier member. It doesn't matter that they are barely making ends meet, they will give what they have to their people. They give until it hurts.
During a lot of our waiting times in Uganda, I took the opportunity to talk to my Ugandan brother, teammate and resident agriculture specialist, Moses. His passion and desire for justice was inspiring. He could motivate you to support just about any cause. His biggest conviction is his love for his country and the longing to help his people out of poverty. One of our conversations led us to discuss the way that he supports his family. He provides a lot from them, mostly because he lives in the states and is able to make more money. One time he was sending a larger amount to his brother, in order to pay his university tuition. The clerk at the bank couldn't believe he was supporting his brother in this way. And Moses couldn't believe that someone wouldn't support their brother in this way.
The culture of Uganda raises its children with this value of family and community. It's not only family first, but others first. You give to others until its uncomfortable, until you can't give any more. You see that family reaches far beyond the context of mother, father, siblings. It is your fellow church members, your neighbors, that person across the street that just lost a loved one. Sounds similar to what Jesus means when He says "love your neighbor as yourself," right?
I was reading Mark 12 the other day. It talks about the widow who sacrificed all the little she had back to God at the temple offering. As I was reading the commentary on the website She Reads Truth, I realized that often our Ugandan friends live this way.
"The widow's everything was next to nothing. And yet she knew that all she has was from God, her protector and provider."
"She had the guts to give God everything... This woman with very little looked at absolutely everything she had- her poverty- as abundance."The author of this particular devotional goes on to challenge the readers in this way:
"Are we digging deep, deep down into the next-to-nothing parts of our pockets and calendars and efforts to give to the Lord from a place of sacrifice what is already from Him?"Are you all in? Am I giving until it hurts? Not just your money, but your time, your priorities, your thoughts? Unfortunately, in America, we live in a culture that encourages comfort. It tells you that you have to be comfortable and if you're not, then you do whatever it takes to get there. Even in church, we are prompted to give, but do you give until it hurts, until you might have to give up some of your comforts in order to support someone else?
I admire my Ugandan friends that have come to live in America. They have left their comfort, their known world, to come to a vastly different place. They work really hard to live in average apartments so that they can send resources back to their family. But they always have enough, and they are always giving to others. It's almost as if the more open your hands, the more you have.
We have a lot to learn from one another, friends. And I am thankful for this example of community, of giving, and of sacrifice.
You are loved.