I am rich. Everyday I pick clothes from a full closet, I have more than enough shoes to pick from, I own a refrigerator, get food out of a full freezer, eat 3 meals a day, I sleep on a mattress at night, own a vehicle, have the means to travel, have the luxury of weekends and vacations, I am educated and can read, I can seek and pay for good medical care, I have a home with many rooms and an indoor toilet and bathing, I can buy groceries even treats I don't need, I have Kleenexes to blow my noses in... You maybe chuckling by now but I am serious. I have so much! I don't have to worry about where or when the next meal, shirt, or money will come. Every day I look at my friends and neighbors and often feel sicked by my wealth. Don't get me wrong, I am also VERY thankful! I have been blessed and I know that that blessing comes with responsibility. I am accountable for all I have been given and what I do with it. Many of you would think we don't have much, live simply and spend wisely which is true. However, when you own a vehicle, have extra clothes, can feed your family everyday, and can even go on vacation...it means we are wealthy. In this world it makes us in the top 2%. That makes us rich.
Sometimes when I visit a friend here I think about the fact that they live in a room smaller than my bedroom (smaller than many American's bathrooms or walk-in closets!) and sometimes it is a family living there. My neighbors have about four huts for their homes - one for the parents and little ones, one for the older girls, one for the older boys and a kitchen hut. Some sleep on mattresses (a twin size is usually shared by dad and mom or a few kids) and some sleep on mats on the floor. They bath outside surrounded by palms, leaves, or some kind of grass for a shelter. The latrine is a small hut with a hole in the ground (and lots of flies). They live by survival. Day by day. Enough money and food to meet the needs of the day. They have a small trunk (if they can afford it) with a few sets of clothes and shoes for school or church. They don't have "weekends" as we have in Western culture where it is built around pleasure, self and relaxing. Everyday you have to fetch water if you are going to drink, cook, wash clothes or bath. Everyday you have to light the fire and cook over it (not to mention cut and gather the wood for it). You have to farm if you are going to eat or find some other way to make money to buy food. Before you can eat you have to harvest, dry, beat, thresh, and grind. Nothing comes easily and most cannot afford to buy food. So there is no grocery stores and not many treats or extras. For most of us growing up in America vacations are a normal part of life and summer many expect a vacation. There are no vacations for my friends. The closest thing they have is their conferences. I always wondered why our church loves conferences because to me they often look like work and frustration, but I realized it is a break for them. Especially for women to be able to sit, not be responsible for cooking, and they can socialize - that is like a vacation to them. Many of my friends have not gone beyond a hour or two of their village. For some of them the only city they know is Soroti.
Some people will read this and say, "what do you want me to do Mandy? Send my stuff/food to Africa?" Some of you will feel the need to help, send their stuff or money, fix it...but I also want you to know my friends are some of the most content, happy, thankful people I know (the Christians at least). I am constantly challenged by them and encouraged by how they react to hardships. Sometimes when I go to America I find that there is a lot of complaining - it's too hot, it's too cold, I hate winter, there are too many potholes in the roads, we don't have enough money, our furniture is old... Living here has made me a thankful person. The other night our neighbors ate peanuts for supper because that is all they had. Later that night we heard their family singing praise to God. Wow. There has been drought and little food for a year now and I have hardly heard people complain. At Bible study when I ask the women about it they just say God is in control and knows -we can trust Him. They truly see God as their provider and put their trust in Him for all they need. If we are honest with ourselves in Western Christianity we trust in ourselves to provide. Throughout this year I have been humbled by the joyous worship at our church. With all they are going through they choose to praise the Lord. It is not unrealistic to say that even in their hunger and weakness from it they find strength in the Lord and give Him a true sacrifice of praise.
I have learned they view suffering different than we do. They do not question God. They are generally all in the same situation so they don't complain (everyone is in need). Suffering is a part of life. They relate to Jesus in His suffering. They truly see death, as a Christian, as gain. Yes, they are sad when someone dies, but what do they have to hold on to in this world. Eternal life, Heaven and all it's promises and glory ARE GAIN. Honestly, we in the West have so much to hold onto in this world we do not exactly see death as gain.
There is no conclusion to this blog, but it will hopefully make us think, pray, be thankful, hold on to the world less, want less, give more, be responsible with all we have been given, live generously...and glorify God