In Jeremiah 29:7, Jeremiah instructs the exiles to “… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” While I’m not an exile, I think it is still a good practice to pray for the peace and prosperity of wherever you are.
Last week there was a by-election (off-cycle election) in Arua, in northwest Uganda. The president and other leading political leaders were there to stump for their respective party candidates, and in the fracas, several people were injured, some badly, including an extremely popular, recently elected young Member of Parliament.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit more drama involved in this, and the public is justifiably upset at both what has happened and how it has happened. There was a demonstration in Mityana yesterday, and the US Embassy’s warning of potential riots in Kampala today was sadly prophetic, with reports of riots, tear gas, people plows, and bullets flying.
Please pray for peace, order, and justice to prevail.
In early June, a sweet puppy, about seven months old, decided that he needed to come live with me. He had spent the weekend going to various homes, shopping for a human, and when he landed on me, he decided he was home. I told him that I’m not a dog person, and that did not deter him. He hung around for three days, even without food, accompanying me to chapel in the morning. That’s when I decided to make things official by getting him his shots, getting a collar, a lead, and food, and a name: Tucker, in honor of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology. I wish I could take credit for his name, but I am simply not that creative.
Naturally, word spread quickly about Tucker. A number of the students were reluctant to enter my office when he was there, and since that is where they robe for services, this was a challenge until he was tethered at home. However, everyone seemed pleased that I once again had a pet.
After a staff meeting, someone asked how Tucker was. A lecturer who’d not heard about him looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Jessica, is this true? Did the Lord bring this dog to you? He brought you a dog to care for you? Right to your door. Isn’t that WONDERFUL?” And she was truly amazed.
I must confess, at that moment, I shared neither her incredulity nor her amazement. Tucker was not taking care of me. I was trying to adjust to being a dog person, getting him into a schedule, ensuring that he was able to expend his puppy energy before he completely dug up all the grass in my compound, and trying to ensure that he was a civilized dog who would let me sleep through the night.
As it turns out, Tucker was born just outside one of UCU’s gates, and his mom brought the puppies inside in hopes of finding food. We have many feral animals running around, and to keep their population at bay, poison is often placed in the compost heaps. This befell Tucker’s mom and siblings, but not Tucker. Somehow he survived, and for several months, managed to eke out a living, mostly staying around the library.
I don’t know what prompted him to find a human. I don’t know how he adapted fairly well to domestic life. He loved his walks, especially in the morning with Doreen, my househelp. He hated the harness I bought him, but it made him be a bit more civilized, something of import that I tried to convey to him.
As time marched on, we fell into a good rhythm, I think, and I began to see myself as a dog owner, though I was rather stressed about who would care for Tucker when I went on leave.
On August 1, I went to get him his third collar (since he stretched out the first two trying to get off the lead to explore: ahem), as well as a bone and some toys. When I left, he was happy in the compound with Doreen and the gardener. When I returned, I showed him the new collar, and he was ridiculously happy about it, silly boy. He was happy about the new bone. Then I prepared to sit down to work, and I heard Doreen ask, “Tucker?” He had collapsed.
I called the vet, who I’m sure knew he had been poisoned by what I told him, but Tucker kept fighting, and I asked him to come. He arrived just before Tucker died. It was horrible and awful, yet I’m so glad that I was able to be home with him, and that the vet came, even if it was useless. I felt better having him to talk to.
And after everything and Tucker was buried, Doreen and I sat down and cried. I told her how much Tucker loved her, and how much I appreciated that she loved Tucker, and she said, “You loved him too. You bought him all those things” (the collars and bones, I suppose).
And then I realized she was right. I did come to adore Tucker, and pretty quickly. I came to agree with my colleague that the Lord did provide Tucker to care for me. He brought him right to my door. I don’t know why, and as much as I am still struggling with the grief of his abrupt death, I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to bring Tucker into my life. He taught me to stop and smell the roses (and the avocados on the ground and whatever else he wanted to smell). He got me out for evening walks, which we both enjoyed immensely, and then I wondered why it’s taken me six years to do. He was not deterred by my constant reminders that we would not be chasing squirrels, monkeys, chickens, or cats. He was very quick to make friends, and found very few people he did not like. I loved how open his heart was. Maybe that was the biggest lesson the Lord was trying to teach me: to be as open and embracing as he was.
Mornings here during the week usually begin with greeting Paul who takes care of the garden outside our house. He is a joyful person who is always wearing a big smile. We prepare our coffee and sit down for a small breakfast of jam and toast (though Paul highly prefers his bread untoasted) and morning bible study (currently the book of Galatians). During our discussions, Paul often shares cultural insights that give me a better understanding of the Ugandan culture but also often sheds new light on part of scripture. For example, as we studied Galatians 5:1, Paul was able to share with us his experiences of training oxen with a yoke in his village.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
He shared that early in the training, the ox goes this way and that and has to be trained to go straight in order to plow the fields. At times, the yoke is left on its neck overnight so that the ox can get used to it. When they finally submit to the yoke and the training, plowing with these 2 giant animals can be done with just one person quietly instructing, back and forth down the rows of the field. As he shared, Matthew 11:28-30 came to my mind.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Let us not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, but by the grace of God through the cross, let us submit each day to His leadership in our lives, knowing it is an easy yoke and much lighter burden than we carry when we choose to go it alone!
P.s. The picture above is from a Friday morning when we treat ourselves to mandazi (a Ugandan doughnut).
(Photo of oxen borrowed from http://blog.peaceharvest.org/2009/10/third-post.html)
While I haven’t been able to meet with students yet to review business plans, our gardener, Paul, is a jack of many trades and took me up enthusiastically on my offer to put his business plans into spreadsheet form to help him make decisions about how best to grow them, etc. He is currently selling beans and also has plans to open a piggery. We spent a few days the other week discussing the inputs to the model for these businesses, building the models and reviewing them together. It was a fun experience to learn about new industries I had NO previous exposure to and to see Paul giggle at what seemed like silly questions I was asking – like “does 1 pig eat a kilo of feed each week or each day? – A week? No, a day!” “How much does a piglet cost?”
Seeing the excitement on his face as he took printouts of the different financial models we built with him to discuss with his brother and father in his village the next weekend made my week. It reminded me that God’s economy doesn’t work like our human economy. Blessing one person is just as important and valuable as blessing a multitude because our God is a personal God who loves each of us individually out of his glorious riches. I’m excited and hopeful to see where Paul’s business plans take him!