Friday, April 13, 2007
Goats, God's provision
It was a goat party, one big goat party, the kind God would throw, where mostly widows, orphans, the infected and desperate were invited. About a hundred adults (which in Africa means at least a hundred kids tagging along) gathered on Thursday for the distribution of 68 specially breeded dairy goats, the fruits of Karen’s Matiti project, purchased by generous donations from friends in the US, and arranged by Karen’s visionary work here. The goats arrived from a dairy-goat-farm British mission project in Masaka (near Kampala) on Tuesday. After a day of feeding and sorting and matching ear tags with lists of eligible patients, the community gathered for the celebration. A representative of the recipients, mostly HIV-positive women and a smattering of grandmothers caring for orphans, got up to say that they would be praying for God to bless our mission. That was powerful for me, the prayers of the poor extravagantly poured upon us. For me these were not just names on a list, or faces in a crowd. I could remember grieving with this woman the death of her child, or celebrating with that one the news that the baby had avoided infection, or struggling to pull another’s infant through severe illness. Pamela encouraged the people to care for their animals, and Karen drew the analogy to seeds, as each goat could breed with local varieties so that the blessing could propagate on to many, many families. We live in a district of chronic undernutrition, so that a sustainable source of calories and protein for young children can have wide-ranging benefits for development.
Scott spoke on behalf of the mission, telling the story of Abraham and Isaac in dramatic detail. If you have never lived among people for whom Bible-story standards are as shocking and fresh as a first-run Hollywood movie plot, you can’t appreciate the gasps and laughter. And if you’ve not lived among people for whom goats are the traditional currency and source of life, you can’t imagine the relevance of stories like this one. The child at risk, the grieving and wondering parent, the moment of near-death, the ram in the thicket, God’s provision. The goat saves Isaac’s life. What a context for goats being handed out to people with hungry, marginalized children, to save their lives. Then Scott pointed out that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, God’s true provision for our lives. It was a great blending of real-life flesh-and-blood salvation from starvation pointing to deeper truths in the spiritual realm.
Pamela and Karen and Stephanie tirelessly shepherded the waiting recipients through registration and speeches and a generous lunch, then the group migrated from the community center to the Masso yard where the 68 goats were penned. Our veterinary assistants were joined by some of the kids (Acacia, Julia, and Jack) bringing goats out of the pen one by one. It became a nearly whole-team effort to match the goats to the records, the records to the right patient, documenting, handing over. Rascally goats jumped energetically while women stunned at their good fortune grasped ropes and hauled them away towards home.
A community leader from each of 16 subcounties received males to make available for breeding, while the females went to families whose children needed the protein boost of milk (something to think about when you pull a carton of milk out of the fridge so easily).
God’s provision, but detoured through the efforts of many, many people. The kind of party that Jesus would definitely attend. Check out the sidebar for ideas (top blog on the team list). It was so much fun we’d like to do it again this year, if the money comes in.