We asked the Lutjens and the Elwoods to consider teaching seminars on the Biblical approach to conflict as part of their visit. Pastor Lutjens took the lead, and we spent the bulk of the Saturday in the community center with between 50 and 60 people from the community. It just so happens that the evening before I had been present when a class of students organized a peaceful sit-down protest over issues they are unhappy with (mostly the lack of a class trip out of the district, something that is expensive and considered an unaffordable privilege by the administration when the school runs at a deficit . . . but deeply desired by the students in their S3 year . . this is the first class to miss the trip and they see themselves as fighting potential corruption by pushing for money they assume is there somewhere for them). We had also had just had a visit from a potentially hostile and powerful community leader related vaguely to the man who broke his ankle falling out of our tree; the leader was investigating the accident with a view towards opening a legal case against us. And we learned that morning of a conflict evolving between one of our community agriculture extension workers and her part-time hired farm worker, involving angry words and tears. Not to mention the fact that one of our watchmen was discovered stealing from the garden of mission tenants last week (the very property he's supposed to protect?). Oh, and you can add to that some unhappiness over decisions we've made in the last week as team leaders. And the general push-back from teenage kids who don't always agree with our plans. In other words, life is full of conflicts, and ours seems to be brimming over this week.
So we attended the seminar, not so much as organizers but as thirsty participants. And God faithfully spoke to me during the hours. The message I heard through the Lutjens was to remember that GOD IS IN CONTROL. In our conflicts we tend to want to work things out the way we see as best, and feel discouraged or anxious when we don't know what will happen. But Susan encouraged us to pray, and Kurt pointed us to Bible stories where God is at work even in adverse circumstances and through people who want to harm us. This was so encouraging to me, to be convicted of my lack of faith and be pointed towards God's sovereign care.
The other thing that was encouraging was the turn out. This was a no-free-lunch seminar, on a Saturday (market day). I told the Lutjens we'd be happy to get between 10 and 20 people coming . . but we had five times that many. And more than half were people I don't really know, people who don't just come to our events because they are our friends. We cast our net widely with invitations (Church of Uganda, Pentecostals, Catholics, Schools, our Local Council Political leaders, Health Staff . . in addition to the usual church and school and nutrition programs we work with), and people responded. I enjoyed seeing the mix, seeing a Christ School counselor meet a Health Center nurse, or a teacher from a local primary school ask questions of an elder in our church. Part of making peace is to strengthen community, so it was heartening to see the day doing just that.