Reflections on Easter…In Africa (Mar-Apr 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

By Shane Gage
March – April 2003

Yesterday was a beautiful Easter Sunday…in Africa.Puffy white clouds peppered the sky as we drove to Kitongore village in Western Uganda.The green hills, lush banana plants, and smiling faces of villagers during the three-hour worship brought back many fond memories. We had helped start this village church years ago.

And it was Easter.I grew up in a culture and a church that could never seem to figure out just what to do with these “religious holidays.”Was Easter to be a celebration of the most awesome display of power in history, or was it about a mysterious rabbit who somehow laid brightly colored chicken eggs?I, for one, have grown to enjoy Easter in the “religious” sense, appreciating the spiritual benefits of dedicating a whole day to publicly celebrate the resurrection.So Carole and I began our day by enjoying a sunrise service with other missionaries from various denominations.

After the sunrise service we drove the bumpy road to Kitongore to visit old friends.Our friends Steven, Annah, and Ivan went with us. Our conversation on the way was lively.

We compared holidays in Uganda and America.Here in Uganda, Easter is a big deal – for many people, it is one of the few days of the year when they eat meat.Needless to say, it is not a banner day for the cows, whose remains we observed hanging up at makeshift butcheries along the road. Families save, beg, borrow, and steal in order to find the money to do the Easter meal right.And I mean “steal” literally.The night before, Mwebaze, a church member had been beaten up by thugs on his way home. They stole all his money…probably to buy meat for an Easter celebration.

Our Ugandan traveling companions wanted to know how we celebrate Easter in America.They were very amused with the whole “Easter bunny” thing!I’m amazed, too, at how we Americans can look down on “primitive” cultures with animistic beliefs while at the same time harboring our own superstitions…anyone ever have a “lucky rabbit’s foot?”

 

Steven mentioned something about a rat. Hey, when you’re talking about a magical bunny that can somehow lay chicken eggs all around the world in one day, anything is fair game, right? Carole asked for clarification, and they proceeded to tell us that the rat was basically the Ugandan equivalent of the Tooth Fairy.

Now let me ask you:How would YOU warm to the thought of a rat sneaking under your pillow to retrieve your last molar??!!!

We tried to describe a “fairy” to them, feeling the same kind of embarrassment that many Ugandans must feel when we’re questioning them about their traditional beliefs.But since we’re friends, we all had a good laugh over the whole idea of Easter Bunnies and Tooth Rats.

Besides, we had almost reached the church and we had a terrific day ahead of us.As we settled on our wooden benches for worship, all those silly thoughts faded, leaving us to focus our minds on the risen Lord for three hours of worship with our brothers and sisters in Kitongore.Our cultures may be worlds apart.We speak a vastly different language.

They have rats and we have rabbits…but we were united that day by the power of an empty tomb!

Contact Shane Gage: shane@gageuganda.com

Shane’s MCC weblog:http://everydaychurch.blogspot.com

MCC pictures on the web:http://community.webshots.com/user/everydaychurch

 

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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