I think we Americans take chickens for granted. We eat their eggs, make a pillow out of their feathers and eat them deep fried, baked and stewed. We don’t get to know our chickens and very few of us have held one and even fewer have actually raised a chicken.
In Uganda a chicken is not only food, but is lifeline, not taken for granted. A bird of great value that is given as gifts and used as currency. This the story of one such chicken.
We visited a grandmother who is caring for her four orphaned grandsons. A grandmother raising four young boys would be tremendous task in our own country and for this grandmother it is monumental and amazing that she is able to do it, because this grandmother is in poor heath herself and nearly blind. In our own country we would be caring for her, but in Uganda she must push on for the sake of her grandsons. The family lives on one meal a day. The boys spend a good portion of that day walking to find water and carry it back to the village for their daily use.
World Vision has just recently discovered this family and is scrambling to their aid. Soon the boys will have each of their faces on one of those picture folders. An opportunity for one of us to be Jesus to one of “the least of these.”
After visiting the grandmother we journeyed on to meet Olivia, the sponsored child of one of our team members, Mark Anzelon, who was unable to make this trip at the last minute. While this family is poor by anyone’s standards the contrast between this family and the grandmother’s is striking. They have a home with more than one hut (once a boy reaches age 15-17 they usually build their own hut). This family has 8 kids, 5 girls and 3 boys. And extended families often cluster together so we are in a spot in the bush what has about 4 or 5 huts. The children are dressed up in beautiful dresses, some shirt and ties are seen on the older boys and men. They have more stuff in contrast to the grandmother’s stark living conditions…and they have chickens, several in fact.
A beautiful visit. The girls sing for us. Olivia is given gifts sent by Mark, and not only gifts for her but gifts for everyone in the family as well. There was love all around. There was pride on the part of the father and smiles and hope exuded from each family member. Then Olivia tracks down a chicken, a good size one. The feet are bound with duct tape and the chicken is presented to Matthew Paul Turner on our team who is acting on behalf of Mark. On the practical side of things I think we are all thinking: “What in the world are we gonna do with a chicken… don’t think we can clear customs with that!.” But yet we know we have no choice but to accept the chicken to refuse it would be an insult. So we say our goodbyes and leave with live chicken in hand.
A decision is made.
We journey back to the grandmother. We find her napping alone in the shade outside her hut. She seems a bit confused that we have returned. Sam, the 13 year-old son of team member, David Konstantopoulos, is elected to present her with the gift. At first she doesn’t understand. Takes the chicken from us and possibly thinking we just wanted to show-off the gift we received tries to give it back. Then she understands that we are giving her the chicken… a smile… a big smile. She is so very happy.
I think the boys will be too… that chicken stew will be one of the healthiest meals they have had in a long time!
“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” The Message, Eugene Peterson