I just returned from a week in Uganda. One of the reasons we traveled to Uganda was to record three new chapters for our “Beyond the Headlines” series (click here to check it out) This trip was full of “firsts”: it was my first time in Africa; it was our first time recording “Beyond the Headlines” outside of Israel; and it was my first time to experience first-hand the incredible work that Israeli organizations are doing around the world in order to bless others. But most importantly, I had the amazing privilege to have my son with me, which was a tremendous blessing for us both! And because the trip was a week before Pesach (Passover), it was particularly special for me to take a small fishing boat on the Nile River, as well as to see the process of making mud bricks today, which are used to build homes in Uganda!
When we landed in Entebbe, I couldn’t help but notice the reality of a third world country, from the visitors and taxi area at the airport, to the roads (many of which are still dirt roads), to our first hotel where the lack of air-conditioning in the room and other conditions caused us to not sleep well that first night.
We started the second day with a long drive… from paved roads to dirt roads, back to paved roads and on… to traffic, and I mean traffic… from stop lights to no traffic signs whatsoever… and the vendors on the side of the road that have no way of cooling their food products, such as eggs and meat, due to no access to electricity. You can imagine that might take its toll on the freshness and even safety of these foods! Upon our arrival to our next hotel, we discovered our room was located on the third floor of a walk-up building. When we ordered food, it took an hour for it to arrive, which was a blessing in disguise because we could stop and actually spend time together, talking and laughing.
We started the third day, Sunday, visiting a congregation. We arrived at a very simple yet beautiful building. When we entered, we were amazed by the amount of joy that the people had, as they sang, danced, worshiped, and heard God’s Word! It was not a well planned, buttoned up production that ended after an hour in a rush to get home, as many contemporary congregations services are today, but rather a few good hours of deep, genuine joy that kept pouring out of every person there.
The offering was the greatest blessing for me to witness. They brought their offering to the LORD with abundant joy, dancing, and singing. Everyone (even children) gave as she or he had - money, or plastic bags full of fruits and vegetables, and even sugar cane! One young man was a sugar cane farmer and he simply brought the best he could, which reminded me of the account in Scripture of the elderly widow that gave her offering from what she did not have. We then visited one of the local villages where we met with people who did not have many material things, but possessed an amazing amount joy and hospitality. We also had the wonderful privilege to visit a school where many of the students are orphans. These children were so special and I was amazed by how much joy a few footballs (soccer balls) that we had given them as a gift could bring! The simplicity of their lives coupled with their deep joy left a lasting impression on us, to say the least.
Our last few days were spent in an area where people were thirsty for clean water and hungry for food due to the current drought. We saw their living conditions with no running water, no electricity, very little food, and yet despite this, a great deal of joy and singing. We walked with them to find water sources, helped carry their barrels of water to their village, and planted fruits trees with them with the hopes that the trees would produce some fruit for their nourishment. We saw how they make so much from so little; we spent time with them, sat in their homes, and listened to their stories, which was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
At the end of every day we went back to our lodging, where every once in a while there was an electric outage, and the shower did not have an option for hot and cold water. Yet, we found ourselves thankful for the little drip of running water, and we were no longer bothered by the sink that got clogged every minute, or the warm room with no air conditioning, because gradually, our entire perspective on life began to change.
When we went back to spend our last night at the first hotel in Entebbe, suddenly a hotel that once had seemed like a 2-star hotel, became like a 5-star deluxe hotel! Everything around us looked luxurious! Even the paved roads looked fancy and we enjoyed simply spending time with each other and talking. We became thankful for every drop of clean water that we drank, and for the option of hot and cold water when we showered.
Pesach is a wonderful time to remember. It’s a time to remember where you once were, remember from where God delivered you, and to be thankful for the plenty that we have today!
Gratitude is a choice. It is an attitude of the heart. So, my brothers and sisters, be thankful... it is all a matter of perspective!