Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

July 13, 2005

Of Chickens and Turkeys

Did you know that if you squeeze an egg as hard as you can in your hand, it's very unlikely that you can break it? And yet the most delicate tap can cause the same egg to break right open.

Did you know that a fresh egg can be left on the shelf for 3 weeks and not spoil? (This may not be true for a grocery store egg that has been cleaned.)

Did you know that a chick inside an egg will not live if it cannot peck its own way out of that eggshell? If it does not have the strength to escape, it will not have the strength to survive.

God has marvelously created the egg to withstand the rigors of a hen sitting on top of a cluster of them, incubating them for about 21 days, while making the egg delicate enough that the tiny chick can break the shell with taps of his tiny beak. Once I had some chicks hatching out and one could not get out of the egg. I carefully assisted it to escape, but it was never a strong chick, even with all my tender loving care. And, as I'd always been told would happen, it died before reaching maturity.

For the 6 ˝ years I've been living in East Africa, in one of the poorest countries in the world, I have consistently marveled at the hardiness of the people. Many live in the most grueling conditions, with little or no material conveniences, not even toys for their children, and yet it is these very conditions that cause so many of the people to be incredibly creative, hardy, and even generous. I saw that generosity again in touching ways when my daughter and grandson were visiting this past month. In the lack of material things to give, people give of themselves, often in ways that we Westerners might find too personal. People who do not know me as well also gave of themselves, in less personal, but no less touching, ways, such as carefully weeding the village road that leads to my house before my family came.

As a Westerner, coming from a very different culture, one where money is more available and personal comfort is often a big priority, I find it very natural to want to help people with money. I see this all throughout my own culture, people wanting to assuage their own discomfort at seeing others' misery by throwing money at their problems, feeling they have solved them. Or at least we feel better that we have tried. This goes all the way from international foreign aid down to the tiniest of organizations and individuals. And a little money in the right place and the right time can, at times, be a good thing.

Personally, one of my biggest dilemmas is that I cannot think like God. I do not know when it's good to give money and when it's not. The tendency is to "help" but that can be blurred by a love of acclaim. I fear people viewing me and my "American money" as their solution (however temporary that may be) rather than looking to God, who no doubt has a better plan for them. I don't want to fall into the trap of never giving, which is easy to do, because when you give, people naturally want more, and I can become self-protective. But my Bible tells me it's good for my heart to be a generous giver. But my problem is that I cannot think like God, to know when and where and what to do. This is why I so often ask prayer for wisdom! I do not want to be guilty of helping the chick out of the egg, to its ultimate detriment.

One of the things I have learned early on, is that often, when the needs surrounding me are the greatest and affect the people I love the most, and my heart is bleeding with the desire to help them out somehow, some way, that is when I find myself the most broke! Then I must accept the fact that God is telling me He has a better plan than mine, in spite of my bleeding heart and my friends' suffering, and I can only trust. Sometimes I can give out of my own need, in non-monetary ways, but sometimes I can't even do that. Then I can only give of myself, sharing my heart, my prayers, and my love with my friends. I learn more of African and Christian ways…

Last week, just 2 days before my family flew home, a lady gave us a turkey. Unfortunately, our schedule was packed with activities and dinner plans up until their departure, so there was no time to butcher and eat that turkey. The lady felt really badly, but realized her mistake in waiting so long to give us the turkey.

Margaret's grandson Joel Clarkson, with Pastor Ezira's future dinner.
Margaret's grandson Joel Clarkson,
with Pastor Ezira's future dinner.

When I returned from seeing my family off at the airport, I went to bed that night, thinking of how on the morrow, Nakamiya would kill and cook that turkey. It had to be done, as I have no place to let a turkey run loose, nor do I have a freezer for keeping the meat. But I was jolted by the thought of eating that turkey alone (with any visitors who might be around) before it could spoil, when I knew that the family of Pastor Ezira was suffering hunger! So I jumped up and called to Ezira, who was on night guard, and told him that turkey was for him and his family, to take it home in the morning. He thanked me profusely, and I went back to bed with a happier heart.

The next night when Ezira returned for duty, he again thanked me on behalf of his family, saying how they'd enjoyed that turkey! However, I did not receive the whole story until last night…

A few nights before, Ezira had experienced a serious bicycle accident on his way to my house. I had doctored his multiple, painful abrasions; he had even feared a broken bone. He was also suffering emotional pain, wondering why God had not protected him from this injury and pain, when he's already been suffering so much (later on, after the pain had subsided, he was grateful to God for protecting him from worse!). So I was reading scriptures to him, regarding the Apostle Paul's sufferings, and all God had accomplished through his ministry, because I've seen huge growth in Ezira's church and ministry!

We read how Paul had suffered through prison, flogging, near death experiences, whippings with rods and lashes, stoning, shipwreck, being adrift on the open sea, unending travel, river danger, danger from bandits, from his own countrymen, from false brothers, danger in the city, in the country, and at sea. He had overworked, gone without sleep, had been cold and naked, and had KNOWN HUNGER AND THIRST, AND GONE WITHOUT FOOD. In addition, he'd felt the weight of responsibility for his churches (what good pastor hasn't?). 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. We saw how God allowed these things so He could comfort Paul, and then Paul could comfort others with that same comfort of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. These scriptures even comforted me as I saw reasons behind my brothers' sufferings, and even behind my own… God is hatching strong chicks!

Last night as Ezira again related to me his family's enjoyment of the turkey, I began to see a bigger picture. He told me of his parents' separate escapes from the independence turbulence of the 1960s in Congo, how they found Jesus, met, married, and settled in Uganda. The babies began to come (17 in all, less than half alive today), their decision to raise their children in a village rather than in the city. Turkeys are expensive, and with their growing family, there were times when they thought of how they'd love to eat a turkey, but there was little opportunity. Turkeys were for the rich. On the rare occasions when there was money with which a turkey could've been bought, it was forgotten, or something more pressing was bought instead. As I listened to this meandering history, I realized the astounding truth that this now extended Congolese family of 3 generations had never, ever eaten a turkey! So they had puzzled over even how to cook the bird, finally deciding it could safely be stewed, as is most meat eaten in Uganda.

Then came the most incredible part of the story. I had looked at the turkey's bony breast as my grandson Joel had held it for a photo, thinking how under all those feathers, it really wasn't a very big bird. Yet, Ezira told me they had feasted on this bird for 3 days! I was thinking, yeah, they've stretched out the soup as long as possible, like we do at Christmas time. But no, there were 21 people who partook of this turkey, eating great chunks of meat "with very little bone," until it was finally gone 3 days later! So their joy was more than just eating turkey meat and having a long-held dream of tasting turkey come true, but it was in the knowledge that God had done a miracle of multiplication for them, just as Jesus did with the loaves and fishes so long ago, allowing them to feast for 3 solid days!

As Ezira then quoted to me, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26.

So many times I have wanted to intervene and somehow ease the sufferings of these friends of mine. But I've had to stand aside and trust our God that He knows what He's doing in their lives, just as He knows what He's doing in my own. I have had peace in that, even though what I view with my eyes has been troubling. It has caused me to pray. And I can now look and rejoice with them and see how little value money truly has in the overall scheme of things. It can ease momentary discomfort maybe, but in the long run, that is only a placebo. God has a bigger plan, one that I cannot always see, one that I don't want to interfere with… and yet I never want to lose my availability to be used by Him.

Even if it's just in the giving of a turkey... God wants strong chicks! :)

Margaret Nelson