A personal story about generosity and teamwork.
My father died on January 28th. I knew it would happen someday; but I was not ready for it; suddenly I had to face the implications of his death. He had been unwell for a long time and an invalid since July.
Now I was in charge. Being first born in a polygamous Luo family has its challenges; you are at once “husband’ to your mothers, “father” to your siblings and in my case representative of my grandfather’s house among the clan, and he too was polygamous. My relatives are scattered in Kenya and Uganda; and our in-laws spread across two generations and at least three different tribal groups. The responsibility for hosting the funeral in Kenya while meeting the varied expectations for protocol, logistics, accommodation, transport and meals depended on my ability to mobilize and coordinate resources. As one elder put it to me hours before dinner one night, “Peter, this funeral belongs to you and they don’t have tomatoes for tonight’s cooking.”
The clan estimated 2,000 guests needing feeding, and I knew of at least 30 from my Ugandan maternal relatives needing accommodation for two nights.
3 bulls and 5, maybe 6 rams, and innumerable fish and chicken were slaughtered. One veteran missionary who had served in our community had warned me, “Expect to leave the home without a single chicken.”
However, we did leave behind chickens and sheep, and my mothers and brother still have cattle.
I have no idea how many were fed nor do I know how many visitors came to our home during the two-and-a-half days of mourning.
I do know however, in a very personal way, that God is faithful to keep His promises and I did my best to honor Him in the distribution of leftover food and firewood.
We relied on teams of volunteers; each team demonstrated well-known principles of effective teamwork.
Based in Eldoret was the core team of friends, mostly Navigators of Kenya. There was
One accepted leader in charge: a close family member.
Agreed on a common goal: provide 5 meals over two days and seating for 1000.
Each team member had a clearly defined role: tasks were assigned according to one’s skills and experience: for example the treasurer was a seasoned school and church administrator, catering oversight was in the hands of individuals who were themselves caterers with understanding of Luo culture.
Process was mutually agreed upon by the team, known by everyone and reviewed regularly.
The team met at set times took notes and communicated with my wife and I almost daily in their two weeks of work.
They gave us a final report after evaluating their work, paying all bills and even producing a “thank you “ card and mailing list for us.
However, we did not ask them to serve nor did we select the team it was entirely their own initiative to come to our aid reminding us of the Christians mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.
Other teams were at work: cousins coordinated their own efforts led by one woman, having one fundraising goal, centralized communications, effective process and timely delivery on their promises for a hearse and coffin.
These demonstrations of effective teamwork pale in comparison to our experience of God’s faithfulness and sovereign goodness.
I had a fender bender on the way back, my fault entirely, the victim wore a T-shirt saying; “Be still and know that I am God.” He was extremely polite, calm and arranged for repairs, even haggling down the price for us.
God’s people stood up for us, raised funds for us and served at their own expense.
This recent testing of my faith proved the faithfulness of God; it makes it easier for me to trust Him for the needs here at EMAS Canada.
The events surrounding my father’s death reminded me that God has resources I do not know about.
Former employees and students whom we haven’t seen or heard from for over 15 years, an uncle who lived with my dad as a student before I was born gave a bull. So much outpouring of generosity from a giving people are all reminders that “He who gives the seed to the sower and turns that seed into bread to eat, will give you the seed of generosity to sow, and, for harvest, the satisfying bread of good deeds well done. The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God. For your giving does not end in meeting the wants of your fellow-Christians. It also results in an overflowing tide of thanksgiving to God”1
We celebrate the generosity of one Canadian family that saw the potential that Dr. Pontian Kiwanuka represents for Ugandan healthcare. Pontian is now a fully-fledged Obstetrician and Gynecologist having completed his residency at Makerere University in Uganda, his funding came through EMAS Canada’s international student scholarship program.
We mourn the recent death of Dr. Heather Onyett, an accomplished medical educator and longtime friend of EMAS Canada, Heather served many missionaries in Africa as a self-sponsored CME teacher, and she was remarkably generous with her resources frequently finding ways to give through EMAS projects.
I am thankful, too, for those who support EMAS Canada.
12 Corinthians 9:10-14 JB Philips 1972.
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)
A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.