"When they went from one nation to another, And from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no man to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, "Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm." 1 Chronicles 16:20-22
Today was tough and amazing all within 2 hours. We had an important meeting with the Kayepas community leaders today. There are two people who have come forward claiming that the land the school buildings are on is their land, that they weren’t involved in the community meeting when the land was given to us for free, and they want some “appreciation” for the land. There were many meetings and conversations leading up to today. Our stance never wavered. We’re not paying for land. The only reason the school is standing today is because we were given the land by the community. It was their contribution to the future of their children. So if someone wants ‘appreciation’ the community can come up with it themselves.
I went into the meeting telling Pastor Philip that I wasn’t going to say a single thing until someone told me we had to give money and then I was going to say “No, not happening. Come up with another solution.”
We arrived late because the car didn’t arrive on time. When we got there the guy who is claiming the land belongs to his family approached us and said “The meeting is done. It was decided that Pastor Philip will see how to get the money for the appreciation and that is that.” Needless to say that didn’t go over well with Pastor Philip or myself. They started talking in their native language and I could tell it was getting heated. Pastor Philip who is one of the quietest and most humble men I’ve ever met said “go ahead crucify me, I’ve done nothing.” That’s when I knew things were not good at all.
The man comes over to me and starts with “You see Becky, Pastor Philip has done these people wrong. He speaks then the story changes.” I don’t get mad often but I was hot. Don’t attack my friend of almost 8 years who has NEVER done a single solitary thing to ever make me doubt him, his heart, his intention, or his love for his people. So I pretty much laid into the man who stands at least a foot taller than me. I don’t think he expected me to say what I said. Women here are underappreciated and expected to keep quiet. I told myself I was going to keep quiet so that I wouldn’t disrespect anyone but I couldn’t. I really laid into him, questioning his intentions and motives. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know what was happening. The village was so thrilled to hear a school was coming. Where were you last January when they were digging a giant 20 foot deep hole by hand which took over a month to complete? Don’t tell me you didn’t know. But now you want some money.” He said “No we want appreciation.” I said “Appreciation or payment is the same thing. It’s cash. You want cash. Well, you are not getting cash from the ministry and you are not getting cash from Pastor Philip. So you can go back to the community and tell them to give you cows, goats, or whatever it makes no difference to me but nothing is coming from us. The problem with Karamoja is everyone has a hand out all the time. They cannot just say thank you and stop there. It’s thank you but we also need this or that.”
The man settled and backed down. Started saying sorry and we appreciate the school. The government leaders are going to help with some “appreciation”. I said that is fine but you are to clear Pastor Philip’s name. He’s done nothing wrong and I want his name cleared right now. He said “God knows. He is the only judge.” Which is true and correct. He walked away and left. I also then found out that this man had bought local brew for the elders to drink…
After some time Pastor Philip went over to talk to the village elders (mostly men). I went to take pictures of the school. When I was done we went back to the tree where they were gathered. As I got out of the car and approached the group they all stood up. I thought they were leaving. Pastor said “They are standing to welcome you.” I was floored. They’ve never done that before. A few approached me and greeted me with great happiness. Pastor continued talking with them. They asked me to speak a few words. So I did. I started with “Some people bring you alcohol to drink to confuse you but some bring you the word of God. Some bring you chaos and anger and some bring you peace and good news.” I went on to clear up all the other rumors that were being spoken and made it very clear where we stood on all of it.
When I concluded the chief elder stood said “Becky, let not your heart be worried about this land issue anymore. It is done. We are the elders and we have decided what to do. It is not for you to be concerned with any longer. We are grateful for you and everyone who is helping our children. Let not your heart be worried. You are welcomed here now and forever. Don’t let these issues keep you from coming back and helping us. If you want more land you tell us and we will give it to you. You are here to help us and we are grateful.”
I followed up with telling them that there is no one and nothing that can keep me from coming to Karamoja except if God told me that my work here was done. There are many things I have faced with serving these people. There have been many more challenges that Pastor Philip has faced. But we remain vigilant in our calling. That we are here to serve the Karimajong people. I could be anywhere but here. Pastor Philip could also be anywhere but here. But we are following God’s calling on our lives.
Being a true servant of God is a total sacrifice of every part of you – mind, body, and soul. The bible says many times that Christians will be persecuted but to have faith that what you are doing for God will be rewarded in the end. It is not an easy thing to do.
At the end of the meeting with the elders, Pastor and I went around to each person and I have to say that the joy from them was palpable. I’ve never been hugged by a man elder before but today I was by many. I don’t know what they were saying but they were so happy. They would take both of my hands and put them up above our heads, then to his chest, then to my chest, then up his head, then to my head. Maybe it means heart to heart, mind to mind. I don’t know but it something I’ll never forget. No matter the struggle. No matter the pain and frustration. Knowing that those children will go to school and also hear about this man we call Jesus makes it all worth it. Praise be to God and Him alone!