This week we’ve been in Mbale, a city of about 500,000 people on the eastern border of Uganda. As we’ve traveled about, we’ve commented many times how this place feels like the Garden of Eden. Today, we visited the village of Sirenko at the foot of 14,000 ft. Mt. Elgon, which straddles Uganda and Nairobi. To me, this is the most Eden-like place on earth, with crystal clear spring water, deep fertile soil, mild temperatures, and foods that grow almost on their own, year round.
I realize that some believe Eden was somewhere in the U.S., such as the place called Adam-ondi-Ahman in Jackson County Missouri. I beg to differ. It may have been the place where Adam dwelt after being driven from the Garden, but I’m persuaded that Uganda is a much more likely locale for year-round comfort.
Consider Adam and Eve, naked, living off the land with no ability to cultivate and grow crops, find shelter from a storm, or warm themselves. Then think about what Missouri would offer such a bare-skinned pair. It seems more like the dark and dreary world by comparison. Here in Uganda, they could easily be without clothing and live off the land year round. And they’d never go hungry because food grows freely everywhere. All they’d have to do is pick and eat.
As we drove with our branch leader guides deep into the bush of Sirenko, Eden was on my mind. And when we stopped to visit in a small grass shelter used for local church services (not ours), I fell in love.
The children came first, peeping and giggling and daring each other to come greet the Mzungus (whites). Then the adults came, bringing small benches or stools to sit upon as we shared our message of love for Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel. Before our talk had finished, over 50 people had emerged, and every person was eager to learn of this new Church.
The village Chairman spoke in behalf of everyone, asking us to teach the people. Fortunately, we had a local member who spoke their language, and we bore testimony through him. We explained the Restoration of the Gospel briefly, testifying of Its truth, and concluding that our member-interpreter would gladly teach them all about it if they would ask him to return.
After our conclusion, we invited everyone outside to play, including the adults. We formed a huge circle, then taught them to dance the Hokey Pokey. What a ball to see the adults laugh and mimic our moves as we sang and danced.
As we left Sirenko to move back to Mbale, our emotions were tender for these people. We recognize it may be several years before missionaries can teach them the Gospel in their language, because it must first be truly established in the centers of strength. But what sweet, humble, and beautiful people live here, where I imagine Eden may once have been.