Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The blessing of neighbors

Leila with neighborhood friends Aby and Lydia

One of our Christmas family traditions is to carry plates of assorted cookies and candies around to friends in the Mbale community. Danetta spends a couple of days doing the cooking, baking and arranging, then some of us pile into a car and make the rounds to deliver the goods. As we were on our route a few days ago, it occurred to me that measuring wealth in terms of neighbors, we are rich indeed.

Our first stop was at Jeroen's farm, from where our regular supply of milk, cheese and yoghurt comes. Jeroen came to Uganda from the Netherlands years ago as a Roman Catholic lay volunteer, helping with agricultural projects in Kaberamaido, a couple of hours' drive north of Mbale. Along the way he married Petua, a delightful Ugandan lady, and together they eventually bought a farm on the edge of Mbale town where they run a dairy. You're always welcome at their house.

Next we stopped by the house where our boys' friend and schoolmate, Noah, lives with his family. They are from Germany. Here in Uganda Noah's dad works with patients in rehabilitative therapy at Kumi hospital.

Just down the road is a compound with two houses where we left plates for the Charles Howard and Dave Okken households. Charles serves as administrator for the children's orthopedic hospital in Mbale. Dave divides his time between Mbale and Nakalei, a two-hour drive into a real wilderness area, where he does preaching and discipling ministry among the nomadic Karimojong people. We are blessed to have them in our community.

Next we stopped by Robbie's place. He was not home, being busy with an operation to provide food for Christmas to a thousand or so widows in a slum area on the western edge of Mbale. Robbie hails from the UK, and he stays busy with a wide variety of community development projects in the name of Christ.

We drove on to the Eids' house, shaded by giant African mahogany trees. Yusef and Nada were among our first friends in Mbale, having been here since 1986. They are Palestinians, who came to Uganda from Lebanon. They operate a film-developing studio in town. Among the most hospitable people we have ever met, they frequently have us and other friends in the community over for supper (an unfailingly superb Lebanese menu) or to watch a movie together.

Then it was time to drop in on the Proctors, Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries who also happen to be our nearest neighbors (we share a back-yard fence, over which our two sets of kids routinely clamber back and forth over ladders propped on each side). These are quality people, the kind you want to have around you for the worst as well as the best of times.

On the other side of the neighborhood we visited the home of Parimal and Rani. They are Indian by nationality, but Parimal has spent all his life, more or less, in East Africa. A businessman, he also runs a car-repair shop and has done a lot of work on our vehicles over the years. Rani is a splendid cook. We've learned a lot more from her than we ever knew before about Indian cuisine!

Our next port of call was about four miles south of town on the Tororo road, where the Gibsons live. Their first set of children grown and on their own, they have adopted two other children, one of them a Ugandan orphan. Howard, originally from the Isle of Man, helps people here to make improvements in their agricultural methods. He is master of a wide variety of innovations in appropriate technology.

The Duffields, whose house we visited last on our route, left their first careers in Australia a few years ago and moved to Uganda. They have managed an orphan-sponsorship program and have helped develop a primary school and clinic during their time here. Besides that, they have adopted two lovely Ugandan girls who are good friends of our little Emily.

I almost forgot to mention Patrick and Helen--we didn't deliver to them, since one or two of their family had been over to visit and carried theirs home with them. Patrick, born here in Uganda, trained and practiced medicine in the UK and the US before bringing his family back to Uganda to build a hospital in his home village and start an array of other development projects. Their several children are close friends of our crew and spend a lot of time at each other's houses.

Neighbors like these--in addition to the most wonderful set of coworkers I can imagine--add extraordinary blessings to our lives as we enter a new year.

Lydia, Aby and Nathan with our Nathanael

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Post Ian! It is neat to know more about your everyday life. It kind of makes ours seem dull though! Bennett has a fever and sick tummy, so we didn't go to Rock Creek with Kenneth today. Will had it last Sunday, so maybe I will go to church again next week:) Well, I just wanted to say hi! Love and Miss ya'll! Deborah