Uganda’s tremendous hospitality is something I will never get used to. Our mission team traveled here with the intentions of throwing some pebbles into a poverty ridden culture. Perhaps we could love on some kids, wash some clothes, clean some dormitories, and teach a class or two. Maybe we could leave something behind that would make a difference for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and the loving hands that daily care for them.
Instead, our team has been waited on, hugged, chauffeured, celebrated, entertained, honored, thanked, and bathed in prayer. Those we came to serve are serving us. They don’t find serving us awkward or hard or impractical. They consider it their privilege—an opportunity to be like Jesus who also came to serve.
It hit me hard today in a quiet corner office at Pastor Elijah’s church. We were ushered there to enjoy a tray full of succulent, fresh fruit. We drank pineapple soda and ate grapes, bananas, oranges and the sweetest pineapple we’d ever tasted. Then the orphanage mission coordinator slipped into the room and stood before us spewing gratitude for our outstanding and humbling work. Truth be told, our work was nothing more than mopping the church floors. This crazy gratitude came from a man whose floors I should mop every day considering the countless orphans he has loved into the wee hours of the night.
Later, we paid a visit to the woman who helped birth Hands of Love. Pastor Ruth Sebuchu leads annual Women’s Empowerment Conferences for thousands of Uganda’s destitute women. She helped her husband build seven mud huts with their bare hands to house 188 orphans. The mud huts would later become Hands of Love, which today serves more than 1,600 orphans. We knelt down with this saint of a woman and tearfully spoke a simple prayer beside her ill family member. Her stream of heartfelt thanks, praise, and abundant hugs touched us deeply.
The day we arrived, the children greeted us with a parade of personalized signs, waving hands, and cheers. We were served a hand cooked, elaborate lunch in the principals’ office and seated at the table of honor for a stunning performance featuring the talented children. The performance concluded with more speeches honoring—you guessed it—the missionaries.
Our country could take a few notes from Uganda when it comes to serving others. So often we (I) are so focused on the task at hand that we fail to stop and give thanks for the hands that throw pebbles.
Who can you serve today? What simple thing can you do to express thanks for how another has served you?