I found Babu sitting outside in his usual spot this morning, bargaining with a lady over some fresh fish she was selling. We often see ladies or children walking through the neighborhoods, balancing a plastic pan of vegetables or fish on their heads. It is a convenient way for us to obtain food from a local source. In this case, it was fresh Talapia and Nile Perch, caught last night or this morning from Lake Victoria and in perfect condition. After I bought the mid-section of a large Nile Perch, Babu insisted that the lady add the large tail section to my bag. I understood that he was buying it for us.
“Hey, what are you doing?” I asked Babu, “The first piece is large enough for our family to enjoy some good fish soup!”
“Oh, the second piece is not for you”, was his reply, “It is a gift from us to your daughter, Anna, who is a very close friend of mine.”
“But she is in America right now, so what should we do with the fish?”
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes, “You have to take care of it for her. Maybe she will share it with you, since she is not here right now”.
When I left a little while later, my “poor” African grandfather was still rejoicing over his opportunity to buy a gift for our family. It made me ponder, as I walked up the slope to our home, about our common concepts of wealth and poverty. I realized that I usually give from my abundance, while Babu gave from his poverty. So, who is “rich” and who is “poor”? I think that the great joy he received from the act of giving made him the richer man.
I went to catch a “dala dala” into town to take care of some needs, still thinking about the lessons I was learning from Babu. When I returned a couple of hours later, I waved at him across the yard as I passed their place. As usual, he gave me a big grin and an enthusiastic wave in return with both arms high in the air. I came into the house to find some ears of fresh roasted corn lying on the kitchen counter.
“Who gave us the maize?” I asked one of the children.
“Babu sent them up by one of his grandsons a little while ago.”
Of course! I should have known it would be him!
Later this afternoon I went down to his house a second time, and found him at it again – being generous, that is! His wife was busy handing out grocery bags of fresh maize from their own garden to each person in a group of visitors. They could have thought of themselves as “poor” and kept it all for themselves to make it through the coming dry season. But Babu and Bibi were having too much fun giving it away to think about their future. They were making themselves rich through their selfless giving. When one of the visitors commented to me about how often Babu had been a blessing to her and many other people, he pretended to threaten her angrily with his cane for saying such foolish words. But we all laughed, for we knew he was a kind grandpa with a big, loving heart, just like our loving Father in Heaven!
“They have been severely tested by the troubles they went through; but their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving, even though they are very poor. I can assure you that they gave as much as they could, and even more than they could. Of their own free will they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God’s people….” (2 Cor. 8:2-4)
A couple weeks ago, I went down to share some morning coffee and morning sunshine with Babu. I found him sitting outside alone under the mulberry tree (near the chicken pen) with his favorite coffee cup.
“I’ve been sitting here having a conversation with your daughter Anna,” he said with a slight smile on his face. “She is so kind to me and is such a good friend of mine.”
It took me a few moments to realize that he was not hallucinating, but expressing his delight in the gift he had received from our daughter.
He continued, “Every morning! Yes! Every morning, I must have a conversation with Anna because she is so kind to remember this old “Muzee” in Africa. There is no other cup I can use except this one here.”
Our daughter had taken a pottery class in college and had become quite good at it. So, we asked her to make a couple of coffee mugs for us to bring as presents for Babu and Bibi. They were so delighted with her gift that they promptly quit using any other cups for their daily coffee or tea.
It turns out that he has named his cup “Anna” – and he looks forward to “having a conversation with Anna” every morning during his coffee time!
“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 1:2-3)
Now, a personal note on what is happening with my work plans and schedule. I have been assisting as a deacon in the English Congregation at St. Nicholas Cathedral and preaching several times a month. Theoretically, the Bible School for church lay leaders is starting up in February, in which I am to share teaching duties along with several other local pastors. It remains to be seen as to whether this will actually begin on time or not. I have to constantly remind myself that “African time” is not the same as “American time”. It’s all in God’s hands.
The other responsibility I have been given is to be the new Chaplain at the Isamilo International School. This high quality British curriculum school is owned by the Anglican Diocese and they wanted to have a Chaplain available three days a week on the school grounds. The school has over 500 students from over 50 countries, and 120 staff members. Many of the students and teachers have been requesting that a spiritual guidance counselor be available regularly on campus, and so a new position has been created. About 45% of the students are Christian, while the remainder is mostly Muslim and Hindu. This will be a new challenge for me and require much faith and prayer that God will lead me in this important task. I will need wisdom and sensitivity to be a positive influence for Kingdom of God while remaining respectful of other faiths. I am planning to begin in the first week of February, so by next month I should be able to give you a better description of what this position entails. It seems that life is going to get quite busy very soon!
Forward in joy!