The road to and from Yumbe is becoming very familiar these days! A person can almost anticipate every turn, every pothole, every rock on the way – that is, if one could see the road through all the dust! Oh! How we long for the rainy season to start. Of course, that will have its challenges, too, by turning the roads into mud pits!
A Danish proverb says, “The road to a friend’s house is never long.” In the same way, in spite of the rough, hot and dusty ride, our reason for traveling to Yumbe overcomes the distance and discomfort and finds us happy to engage in yet another meeting with Aringa Imams and Sheikhs or working in partnership with Charles and Pilgrim Church in ministry to the Yumbe District community.
This last Tuesday, Jacob, Emma, Zakeo and I returned to Yumbe (Apo Sub-county). At Apo Seed Secondary School (a very nice facility), we met with 45 Imams and Sheikhs. There were to be 60; however, a well-revered, elderly Imam from the nearby Mosque passed away and many were attending his funeral.
As always, the meeting started out with introductions and a couple of very short speeches by key leaders from the community. We also passed out some gift bags and literature, all of which the attendees were eager to receive. At every Dialogue, there is that reminder that we are, indeed, having a dialogue and not a debate; we are not trying to undermine each other, but to understand each other. So far, this approach has worked well. Though we have known of a few who oppose our coming, that we just had our 12th Dialogue is proof positive that the opposition is in the minority. We have always been warmly welcomed.
“I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.” – Elie Wiesel
Jacob is typically given the first slot of time to present his words (most of which focus on who Jesus is according to Christians). This time, because we were also offering an Ag extension portion, Jacob took less time and decided to explain the Gospel in story form – a story he created to describe creation, the fall of man (in the Garden), redemption (through Christ) and consummation (being reunited with the Father). It was a particularly effective story (in which the audience seemed sincerely engaged) with its setting being a rural village and…a latrine pit; the story line was something to which everyone could relate.
Emma “grabbed the baton” after Jacob and presented “Growing Bananas as a Business”, a topic which had been requested by several Muslims at the last Dialogue. Agriculture nearly and dearly touches these people’s lives. For many, it is one of the only means of potential income-generating activity. To each participant, a booklet of agricultural principles and practices (written by Emma) was provided. A bunch of RAU grown Matooke bananas was brought as a gift and for inspiration (given that the banana came to fruit during the dry season due to the way in which it was planted and managed) – instructions included. Emma concluded by answering their many questions.
Both Jacob and Emma are gifted teachers with their own styles – Jacob, personal and animated and Emma, instructive and participatory.
Part way in to Emma’s Ag session, we noticed that people were coming and going. The facilitator said the men were taking turns to go outside for their noon prayers. Rather than anyone missing parts of the teaching, we stopped for a short while to allow them the opportunity for their ritual washing and prayers and then resumed the Ag teaching.
The Yumbe Muslims also have their “go-to” person whom they respect and call upon to represent their faith. This time, he was feeling poorly due to a bout of Malaria (we had the opportunity to give him anti-malaria meds and pain pills), but he did not let the opportunity pass him by to very graciously offer his perspectives and clarifications about Islamic beliefs. He shared about a common belief we have: being rude to the person to whom you are explaining your beliefs does no good thing in winning them to your side. He expressed appreciation that Jacob has maintained a gracious mode of sharing what Christians believe.
It was a long day – without a lunch break! (We provide them a small amount of money to cover a meal and transport.) However, not a time goes by when we don’t leave these meetings with a pleasant sense of accomplishment and growing friendship and favor. During the meeting, one of the very top leaders offered Jacob several opportunities to meet again with Imams and Sheikhs in the area. We praise God for this friendly platform from which to share who Jesus is from a biblical perspective and to clear up misunderstandings which Muslims have about our beliefs. Our sincere and loving hope is that, one day, many, if not all, will have their eyes opened to see the beautiful Savior, Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
With Love and Appreciation,
Carol (Jacob) Lee
For those who have asked, small packages and letters may safely be sent to:
Jacob & Carol Lee, PO. 55, Moyo Uganda, East Africa
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it. (Jacob Lee)
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