Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Relatives are Here to STAY!

When I was growing up, I loved going to visit our relatives. Whether heading to Ohio or Florida, I always looked forward to the trip, to sleeping on cots, to just being with family. Of course, after about a week, everyone’s ready for the time to come to an end. We were always ready to get back to our own house, and I’m sure our relatives were ready to get rid of us!

Here in Uganda things work quite a bit differently. When relatives come for a visit, there is often no planning for the event. One day you come home to find the house full of people, often up to ten or more relatives, depending on the number of children brought along for the “visit.” They are simply “there” with no plan as to when they’ll be going, and of course, it would be rude to ask. Your job is to provide food, medical care, and whatever else might be needed during the stay. Sleeping arrangements are quite interesting, since most houses typically consist of one or two (at the most!) bedrooms, a sitting room, and then an outside kitchen. I’m not quite sure how people sleep, though I would assume quite a few sleep on mats on the floor. Of course, most visits do eventually come to an end, and the house gets back to normal.

It was a different situation for my friend Kibeti. A few nights ago, he arrived home to find that his sister, her husband, and two kids had arrived from a long journey. Only they had not come for a visit, they had ARRIVED. Suddenly, memories of “Uncle Buck” (John Candy) come flooding back to me. I wonder how it went. “Oh, hello my sister. It’s great to see you.” “Yes my brother, we are here.” “Yes, you are here.” “Yes.” “You are welcome.” “Thank-you.” “How is there?” “There is not fine. There is no food and the water has been hard to get.” “Oh, I am sorry.” “So, we are here.” “Yes, you are here.” And so it ends. You know exactly what has been said, “We are here without plans of going back. Glad we can stay with you.”

Unfortunately for Kibeti, his other sister has already been staying with him in their two room house, along with his own wife and two children. Now it’s nine people in a house about the size of most Americans’ living room. There is one up-side to things, though. Kibeti has been adding on to his house, a third bedroom, so his sister can have her own room and so he and his wife can sleep alone! He’s been working on this project for around six months now, building slowly by slowly, ten or fifteen dollars a month going into the project. Actually, Kibeti just sold his gigantic female pig (not long ago she produced 13 piglets!) in exchange for a smaller pig and some money- just enough to finish the room so his sister could move in. It is that money that Kibeti had in his pocket (over two-month’s wage for him!) when his sister and family found him.

I asked him what he was going to do. He said, “You know, God has blessed me in that my sister found me with money in my pocket. I will find for her a room to rent and pay three months rent, and I will buy for her cooking pans, plates, cups, and a hoe and slasher so they will be able to find some jobs and earn some money.” He wasn’t complaining, though now I’m not sure how long it will be for him to finally finish that room. The words of I Timothy 5:8 hit me hard, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Talk about the need for living out the Gospel! In the West, we have little idea what this verse really means or how to live it out. What would you have done in Kibeti’s place? How can you live out this verse in your own context?

1 comment:

gina said...

what a great example of community in it's purest form! we are on a quest to be in each others lives more as a church community presently here in WV...we've been helping each other with work days at one another's houses,(kind of like the old fashioned barn raising) and i personally have been making more of an effort to ask for and accept help from friends and family, and to be honest about shortcomings and failures in order to have accountability in more areas of my life. we westerners have such a hard time being neighborly, don't we?

i love this post. what a kick in the pants. by the way, congrats on seven years...