By Jimmy McCarty
Uganda is a beautiful country. From the Rwenzori mountain range to Lake Victoria and the headwaters of the Nile River there is natural beauty to be found everywhere. The people of Uganda are beautiful people as well. I would like to tell you of two families, and the beautiful way they extended the Christian gift of hospitality to me.
The first were my neighbors while staying in Uganda. I stayed at a house on a hill with a beautiful view of Lake Victoria, and every morning I was blessed to see the sunrise over it. Just down the hill a waysI came across the home of Sylvester, Jospehine and their grandchildren (the top two pictures). I took a walk one day and they welcomed me into their front yard.
They shared with me some chai tea and a millet pancake.
While I was there speaking with them Josephine was preparing matooke. (This is a type of banana found in Uganda that is usually served mashed.) Sylvester usually sat on the stairs and laughed.
He was missing his front teeth, and his right leg. He lost his leg in the conflicts with Idi Amin. Sylvester and Josephine did not speak English and neither did their grandchildren. However, there was always one of their children or nieces around who I was able to converse with. Their son even taught me to make bricks out of the red mud in their backyard.
Every time I would pass by they would invite me in and provide me with tea and a snack if it was available. This family was very poor. Their home was made from the bricks their son could make in the backyard. Their income came from the bricks their son was able to sell, and the paper jewelry that Josephine made and could sell in the market. (I helped her out by buying a few pieces from her for Desi and she loved them!) There was a total of five grandchildren there, and all were there because they had lost family to HIV/AIDS.
While I was there, Josephine contracted malaria. I am glad I was there when I was, because I was able to get some from the free medical clinic at the church for her. In spite of their extreme poverty this family was willing to share with their sparse resources everytime they saw me. They provided me with bricks to sit on, tea to drink and wonderful conversations to have. I tried to help out where I could. I brought them mangoes when I could. (They grew much of their own food, but they had no mango tree.) I provided Josephine with the malaria medication. I helped the grandchildren carry water in the yellow jugs they used, but somehow it just doesnt seem that I was able to provide them with the type of hospitality they provided me.
There was another family that I got to know while I was there that I will not soon forget. I met Hudson (bottom picture) at the Better Living Resource Center. He was a teenager and he likes to rap, so we hit it off immediately. I soon learned that he was living in Uganda with his family (second picture from bottom), and that they are refugees. His family is from the Democratic Republic of Congo which is in the middle of amilitary and political conflictthat has lasted for years and years. His father is a tailor and was finding work very hard to come by (so me and a couple other guys bought shirts from him to send some work his way).
Hudson introduced us to his mother, father and siblings who shared a one room apartment above a very overworked and under staffed and underfunded medical clinic. They were wonderful people and loved to have us over. They talked with us about everything from convincing Hudson to go into the ministry and to stop rapping to how beautiful Desi is. I loved spending time with them.
One evening they had me, and two other guys, over for dinner. They made us pandu (a Congolese dish composed of rice and casava leaves.) It was really good. While there we also received the shirts that Hudsons dad made for us.
We talked of what it was like in Congo, and how they felt in Uganda.
The family was having a very rough time. The father was not finding any work, and I know that at least Hudson, though I assume the other children as well, could no longer afford school fees. It broke my heart.
They asked if there was anything I could do. I do not know if they understood that I was just a student as well, and that though in their eyes I was rich (all Americans are in their mind) I did not have the resources to help them.
However, they greeted me with open arms. They welcomed me into their home and shared with me their food. Once again, I was shown hospitality which I hadno way of knowing how to return. The magnitude of their gifts to me are cherished memories, and they remain in my prayers.
The Bible repeats over and over the call for Christians to practice hospitality. In the ancient mediterranean world it was one of the highest virtues. The early church could not have survived without the extreme emphasis on hospitality. However, oftentimes I think it is a practice of Christian discipleship that we often forget in the West. At least, we do not understand it correctly. We assume we have shown hospitality by sending a card when someone is sick instead of being by their bedside and tending to their needs. We assume we have shown hospitality by sharing with others when we have plenty instead of out of our lack, or giving until we no longer have plenty. Hospitality is not simply helping others and opening your home when convenient, it is hospitality especially when it becomes inconvenient. These two families in Uganda showed me what hospitality is truly about.
I am reminded of the family I stayed with in southern India in 2005 that gave me, and two other guys, beds to sleep in. However, their three children slept in their parents bed with them for a month to allow us these beds. That is the Christian understanding of hospitality. I am truly grateful for the hospitality shown to me by these brothers and sisters overseas because they treated me as though I were Jesus; which makes me wonder if they were.
Share with Gods people who are in need. Practice hospitality. -Romans 12:13
well known for her good deed such asshowing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble -1 Timothy 5:10
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. -1 Peter 4:9
Do not foget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. -Hebrews 13:2
I was a stranger and you invited me in (Jesus)whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. -Matthew 25:31-46
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Jimmy is a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the husband of Desiree, a seminary student, and a servant of the homeless in Pomona and a church in Los Angeles.