In a world of selfies and Facebook posts, where the number of friends, likes and shares we can gather is the measure of our personal worth, we have seen something very, very different here in Uganda. It makes us pause and say, rather than look at me, look at them!
We have been asked to visit nine wards and branches in eastern Uganda over the next few months, spending one week in each. This week we visited Busia, a wonderful tropical town which straddles the Uganda-Kenya border. We’ve been in the homes of perhaps 20 families, and we’ve shed tears of amazement.
Over 15 months ago, we began this website as a study of the people of Uganda, and what makes them happy in the face of heartbreaking poverty, violence and corruption. Today we realized how little we actually understand. These faces do not belong to the stories that come from their mouths. Let me share just a few examples:
- David and his wife have nine children (pictured above). They live in a house made of mud and sticks. They are self-proclaimed peasants and have very little money. Their stories of poverty and struggle took our breath away. But look at his smile in the photo! Does that look like a guy whose life is so difficult? Not to us. As we sat inside this house and visited, we were amazed at the giggling kids who poked their heads in the door (on a dare) to take another look at the Muzungus (whites) inside. One of David’s daughters glided back and forth on a rope swing, using a broken board as a seat. Her face was a picture of peace.
- We visited Sister Susan in her one room house. She has a two-year-old baby girl, and is expecting another one next month. As she explained how they often have nothing to eat, my wife asked if she could sew using the sewing machine in the hut. Yes, she said, but there are no customers. The local leader who was our escort informed us that no one in the area can afford to buy pre-made clothes. They just make them their self. So Susan depends on what small, small money her husband brings home, and hopes for brighter days. She spoke of Heaven as being her only great hope for peace.
- We sat with seven women and two men under a flowering tree for a visit. As I explained our love for the Ugandan people, I became emotional as it hit me again how very much they have changed us. We thought we came to help them, but we have been lifted and blessed far more than any aid we may have given. We dearly love Uganda and these poor, humble, yet incredibly happy people.
- Lawrence is an aged man who lives alone in a hut similar to the one pictured here. His wife died 20 years ago, leaving him with five children to raise. Now that they have grown and moved away on their own, Lawrence farms his little plot of ground which measures 50 x 100 meters (164′ x 361′). He farms to grow food for himself. There is none left over to sell. He eats what he grows and he is very happy. His gnarly bare feet were caked with dirt from the day’s work when we arrived. As he shared his testimony of Jesus Christ and his knowledge of the Church, we were amazed to learn that he’s only been a member for 18 months. His cheerfulness betrayed his living conditions.
As we left Busia to drive back to our apartment in Jinja, I was again in awe at what we feel here. It feels like my childhood home in Loa, Utah in the 1950s; dirt roads, humble homes, not much money, and very happy people. Those whose lives are consumed by acquiring more and more stuff, and trying to raise their image in the eyes of others, should come here for awhile and see what is truly important.
We will never be the same after Uganda. Thank you, our dear African friends.