The Next Best Thing

A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a rainstorm just blasting the roof of my home. You know that sound don’t you? It makes you feel glad to be safe and dry inside your home and not outside where it’s raining ‘cats and dogs.’

As often happens, I couldn’t fall back to sleep and so I ventured outside and watched the torrential downpour from under the cover of my front porch. I love a good thunderstorm. It shows just how powerful God can be with a ‘snap of his fingers’ as He controls the weather and then how the weather can influence us.

As I watched the rush of the water spewing out of my gutters that were clogged with all those leaves that I hadn’t gotten a chance to remove, my mind (and my heart) flashed back to February of this year.

I was in one of the poorer areas of Jinja, Uganda helping to deliver some donated blankets and clothing I had brought over with me from a local church. We were also there talking with some of the people in the ‘neighborhood’ that our friend and guide had been working with for a while.

There was a woman probably in her thirties who had seven children (see the picture here). She was living in a space that measured about 8 feet by 10 feet, enclosed on four sides with scrap wooden boards. I say ‘was living’ because a fire had swept through the neighborhood and burned down the walls of her ‘home’ and all her possessions. You can imagine that she didn’t have many possessions to begin with. She had lost everything except the poles that held up her metal roof and her children. She worked hard to provide food for her children and dearly loved them. To earn money to feed her kids, she bought discarded fish skins from a restaurant (yes, the restaurant actually sold them to her instead of just giving them to her), wrapped them up in a small roll, fried them and sold them as food to others in her neighborhood. As we spoke to her I soon discovered she was an industrious woman. 

We were measuring her ‘home’ to provide her with metal, corrugated aluminum sheets so that she would again have walls to protect her and her kids from the elements (and another fire if it happened again). We purchased those metal sheets, bought her some mattresses and gave her some blankets for her kids. We bought those materials with money donated by U.S. people who wanted to help someone in Africa.

I was thinking about her and her kids from the dry safety of my porch while the rain pounded down all around me. I’m told the rainy season in Uganda is crazy. It comes down like ‘cats and dogs’ day after day for weeks at a time. It really has nowhere to go except into the red-orange dirt and dust of a forgotten area in town. The dirt becomes mud and the mud begins to slow everything down. The weather affects everyone. How would this kind of downpour sound to them on their metal roof? I’m thinking like a dozen machine guns all firing at the same time. They would all be huddled together I’m sure. I wondered if they were dry and safe…at least dry. If mom was there, I’m sure they felt safe too.

These images and thoughts from six months ago still linger on. I hope they will not fade as more time passes. Many things nowadays bring my thoughts back to the people of Jinja and Kampala and Bombo and the things I experienced there. We have so much…they have nothing.

I am resolved to do something. My mind races; my heart aches; my emotions well up. I am impatient. We need to help those in need, whether they are over there or over here. A friend of mine put it this way, “We need to do the next best thing.”

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