It has become the cliché of short-term missions to say, “I went thinking I would have something to give, but I ended up receiving far more.” This has sparked discussion in the short-term missions crowd about who is actually the real beneficiaries from all the time, money, and effort expended on missions trips. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why nearly everyone comes back saying that they gained more than they gave. After all, it is a lot easier to see change in an individual than in a community, so the appearance is that the benefit was to the individual over a harder-to-measure community.
So I want to take this time to accept that the same is true for me, too, and that it is good to reflect on and embrace the blessings I have received during my time in Uganda. I never want to forget the work of The Lord in me during these past 6 weeks. He has used Uganda to speak to me particularly about industriousness and generosity.
There is hardly an idle moment that passes by a Ugandan woman in a village. Between harvesting crops, mothering, food prep and cooking, cleaning, washing, scrubbing, and sweeping, a woman finds her day filled with labor-intensive chores. Everything in the home is immaculate, spotless, and ready for a visitor at any moment. As soon as the chores are done, it is just in time to do them again. Yet when you compliment her on her nonstop energy and hard work, she shrugs it off; this is not because she can’t take the compliment, but because it is so much a part of daily life that it’s like complimenting somebody for dressing themselves. It was deeply convicting to me of the level at which I could work yet choose not to. It also brings new enlightenment on the Bible’s words on work: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV). Nowhere is this more true than where a person’s labor is directly related to the amount they eat. Ugandan women really know what it means to be a Proverbs 31 wife!
In addition to being industrious, Ugandans know a secret about God that allows for their endless generosity. Well, it’s not that it is a real secret, as it has been revealed to all of us. Rather, they just get the truth of generosity in a way that we don’t. The secret to generosity is resting in the promise of God’s provision. Jesus told us it is useless to worry about what we will have when God provides for even the lilies and sparrows (Matthew 6:25-34). Instead, having “only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8) keeps us in proper relationship with God. We can easily have knowledge about God’s provision, but it is not until you have no food or water that you can give of it even more generously when you do- because it was not by your hands that it came to you. Ugandans know that God’s hand gives out of blessing, not out of obligation. When God is the one putting food on your table, you can easily afford to give more generously; after all, His pockets run far deeper than ours.
God has taught me a lot over the past several weeks, and I have yet more to reflect on in the upcoming weeks as I begin exploring the depths of a thesis paper. I continue to pray that the blessings I have received in Uganda will be evident in my life and will in turn be a blessing to others in the same way.