Produce, Poultry, and Appreciation

Produce, Poultry, and Appreciation
Guest post 4: By Jessica Duran

We were warned about this. Dylan said it would be hard. I couldn’t have imaged just how hard, though, until I was there, sitting on a plastic chair lined up against the concrete wall of the Carepoint with my team members.

A nervous feeling came over me as we waited to see what all the fuss was about. Butterflies don’t even begin to describe how I felt.  Women, most of them older, lined the back of the room. Their children sat in the space between us, all eyes on us.  “They’ve brought you gifts of thanksgiving,” Richard translated.  My mood changed from delight to panic. “What gifts could they possibly have for us?” I thought.   I had seen their homes and their children. Most of the kids had been wearing the same outfits all week– with holes, filth, too big or too small. We were there because they needed help; they don’t have any excess.

As women approached us, one by one, with their gifts, I tried to keep it together. Kneeling down to shake our hands, the widows kissed each of our cheeks as they presented corn, rice, potatoes, and a live chicken with feet tied together for careful handling.  As each woman brought her produce (or poultry), I knew this gift represented her livelihood, a week’s worth of food at the very least. I couldn’t contain the tears anymore as I watched them present bigger gifts than we deserved. I was overwhelmed by their generosity and felt sick about receiving such gratitude. Like other times throughout the trip when presented with tokens of thanks, I felt only cheap and somewhat disgusted with my own lack of generosity. 

A few widows spent all week making dresses to fit each of us
perfectly.  They gave us new dresses even though they wore rags
every day!  Very humbling!
One of the boys, Enock, also brought us a chicken. A young lady, Grace, presented us with her own bag of produce. Sweet-hearted children, who work alongside their parents to provide food for their families were also willing to sacrifice for thanksgiving. 

Two more times I watched these beautiful people give all they had, once during the church service at the next village, Ogoloi. Eggs count as money when you have nothing else to give as your offering to God. Again, when we were to say goodbye to the Ogoloi children, more produce and poultry were presented in a demonstration of gratitude. 

While receiving these gifts was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, to refuse them seems just as hard. How do you tell people you don’t need their gifts, when they’ve given all they have? With a heart so full of thanksgiving, to turn these gifts down would not only be culturally unacceptable, but heartbreaking. 

Later in the day we said goodbye to the children at Bukedea. So as not to cause a mob-like situation, the children were asked to stay seated as we left. My heart still aches at the lack of affection we were able to give during those last moments. More tears fell as I scanned the crowd for my Adongo and her twin sister. I wanted to hug them one last time, I wanted to hug them all. As we drove away, I wondered if they understood that we wouldn’t be back the next day.

I watched out the window as we continued on our journey. We would start all over the next day in a new village. A new group of kids to love, a whole new week of investing our time and emotions. I was somber, emotionally and physically exhausted. I didn’t want to do it all again, just to say goodbye. 

As we drove farther into the bush the next morning, we were stopped by a small group of children lined up with faces painted. Their sweet song filled the air as we got out of our van and continued the journey on foot. Two children took my hands in theirs and walked me down the unusually sandy path
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