Wednesday, February 9, 2011

African Time

On the day that we left Melbourne to come here to Uganda, a friend made a special effort to give Anne a book that he had actually bought for his wife. It was written by a lady working in Sudan, and there were a couple of pages that he had read that made him want Anne to have the book. The gist of those pages was about how in Africa, relationship comes before time, that is the person in front of you is more important than getting done the task that you are working on. The author of the book saw the funny side of God sending someone with her overachieving personality to Africa. I think Geoff saw the same funny side of Anne coming here. (I hope Di eventually got her copy of the book!)

As the weeks have gone on, we have both been learning the importance of that philosophy, and there have been many occasions when we have had to subdue our own desire to get something done to give time to the person we are with.

One of those occasions occurred on Australia day. We planned an “Aussie Feast” for the children and mothers here at the village. We told them we would cook their supper, and give them Australian food to celebrate the day. (Not sure that a sausage sizzle followed by jelly and ice cream qualifies as a feast in most minds)

Anyway, despite also being a holiday here to recognize the anniversary of the current government coming to power, several of our workers had come to work for the day and we were actually having a bit of a chat over a cup of tea at the end of the day. Emma, who had not worked that day but who had been very involved in laying mud bricks when the team were here dropped in for a chat also. We hadn’t seen him for a few days because he had a sick child who had required hospitalization and that means much time was spent at the hospital and doing the other things that family life requires. The child was home by now and so Emma was able to call in and let us know where he had been.

Time was marching on and I had to go to town to buy the ice cream - our freezer is neither big enough nor the power reliable enough for us to have purchased it earlier and been sure that it would still be sufficiently frozen. As the conversation continued, it became clear that we would need to break with tradition and Anne would have to cook the BBQ.

Because I was going to town I offered to give Emma a ride home which he accepted. As we approached his home, he invited me to come and see his home, which I did, despite delaying the purchase of ice cream and the Aussie feast. Little did I know how big a deal this was for Emma. He took me first to meet his wife, Marjorie, who was sitting in front of the tiny shop that they have to sell some of the things she sews on her treadle machine and a few other supplies. The he took me up the back, past a few small houses to his own place, a simple 3 room mud house. We went inside and Emma proudly showed me through each room. Outside we talked about his plans to build a more solid brick home on his land. Then we went back down to the car, said goodbye, and off I went in search of ice cream. This whole little interlude had taken less than 10 minutes and I had not had to go out of my way at all.

A few days later at a similar time, Emma dropped in again to join us in our end of the day cuppa. Again we enjoyed a chat, talking about many aspects of life in Uganda. Emma kept saying how privileged he was that I had come and visited his home. He mentioned that the children were both still unwell, and just before he was leaving, I offered to pray for them. He was more than happy for me to do so, and actually asked if we might come to his house and do it there with the children. So off we went. Both of us were welcomed into his family home, and in a very short time, Anne had been invited to come by every day if she liked. We prayed for the children and Emma and Marjorie, and very much felt that it was we who were the privileged ones who had been taken in to the home, however humble, of a lovely young family.

Emma is a man of plans and dreams who together with Marjorie is working very hard to improve the outcomes for their children. They both need to have regular work to ensure that as their children grow, they will be able to manage the school fees that confront all Ugandan parents. Hopefully Emma will be able to have his new house built by then so that he can rent out the current house to ease that burden.

As is the case all over the world, Uganda has a range of people from those who are very well off to those who are really struggling, some of whom take the attitude that it is someone else’s fault. Emma is not at the well off end of the spectrum financially, but his attitude to working his way to freedom from poverty makes him particularly well off. We were the ones blessed by our visit to his home, and it won’t be the last time we go there I suspect.

African time doesn’t seem nearly as bad when you look at it like this.


  1. Thanks for sharing that Ron! It's powerful to be reminded that blessing doesn't always come in the form of things, but most profoundly in people!
    Our prayers are with you both as you minister in 'flex time'!!

  2. Thank you for introducing us to your new friend Emma and his family. He sounds an amazing man.I would love updates on how he is going.

  3. What a blessing to hear this story Ron (and Anne) thanks so much - it reminds me again of so many interludes that have really shaped the story of HopeBuilders. We too are in prayer for Emma and his family... I love Emma's cap :)

  4. Hey by the way how did the BBQ turn out?