Everyone has breakfast and get dressed and ready to go to the Easter service. For many of us it is the first worship service we will attend in Uganda. I’m feeling apprehensive. I don’t know what to expect or what will be expected of me. I pray and God reminds me that He has allowed me on this trip. It seems He has something to teach me. This changes my focus. Now I only feel excitement. What will I learn? What will change in the way I see things? On the bus I wonder what the others are feeling. We all come from such different religious backgrounds.
As we make our way to the church building on the bus we pass so many people who are on their way to worship. Many of them have to walk so far. They are all well dressed and I admire their beauty. I see women in their pristine dresses; both modern and traditional. There are adorable little girls in white dresses. I wonder how they have stayed so white as they walk the red dirt road. A father holds the hands of his two young sons, all of them in their suit jackets. So many people smile and wave at us. I wonder if this is what royalty feels like or the rich and famous. This humbles me because I know we get this treatment by no merit of our own. We have not earned it. See? God is humbling me. The lessons have begun.
I can hear the people singing and clapping long before I see the church building. We will be meeting with the Free Methodist church in Kanungu. The building is fairly large and round with tall ceilings that meet high in the center. The doors are all open and we can see plastic chairs set out. We are shown to our seats to the side of the podium. As we walk in people seem a little shocked. I’m sure we are a sight. The music begins, the voices swell and intermingle with the drums and electric piano. The words are foreign and yet I can feel the message. Everyone is here to worship God. I was ready for that but the dancing took me by surprise. Not that there was dancing but that power of the dance. It occurs to me that there is something at the center of this custom that I cannot understand. We are called out of our seats to join them. Of course I cannot sing the words and I definitely cannot dance the dance so I clap and sway in a way that only a white girl can. I enjoy the people and live in the moment. Then it is over and time to return to our seats. Now my mind is turning and turning. What am I to take away from all of this? It may be a few days before I know the answer. The singing continues for a long time. As it goes on more and more people trickle in. I have been told many times that time is not as it is in the U.S. It is Ugandan time. It’s relative. This now makes more sense as I realize how for many people have walked and some with small children. If you have children you know it is one thing to get there but it’s a whole other thing to get there and the children still looking presentable! Many other speakers come up and many things happen but most of it is lost on us as we don’t speak the language. A sermon is given. They were so kind to speak in English and translate for all those who do not know English. I am so warmed by this as I know it is a pain and breaks up the flow of the sermon.
The time comes for tithing. Oh! As Americans we have so, so much to learn! Envelopes are handed out and everyone begins putting their tithes inside and bringing it up to the front to add to one of two baskets. We have all brought money but as I look around I see the looks on faces and realize no one wants to walk up there. So I collect everyones cash and head for the front but then I realize…I have no idea where to get an envelope! What do I do? Ah, everyone will have to forgive me. They all know I’m clueless; it’s written all over my face as I stand before the two baskets. One is labeled Tithes and the other Contributions. All I can think is, “What’s the difference?!!” So at the last minute I choose Contributions an just shove the money in! Nothing awkward about any of that, I’m sure! As the tithing continues I see someone bring in a huge bunch of bananas and set it down by the baskets. Bags full of what I suppose is produce are set at the front. Then most amazing to me…a goat is brought in. I am shocked! I am thrilled at the devotion and sacrifice. Then once again, I am humbled. I feel as if I have just witnessed the widow with the two mites. God let me have such a heart for you!
Something catches my eye just behind me. I turn to see a young girl kneeling next to Annika. She is all smiles and seems fascinated by Anni’s belt. The truth is, we are all fascinated with her belt. You would have to see it to understand. A few minutes later I look back and another little girl has joined her. Soon most of the girls have a child on their lap. They are shy, smiling and adorable! When it is time for us to leave many of the girls walk up the hill with us and see us off to our bus. My heart is full.