Be content in all circumstances
By Ian Baird
In 2008 I travelled to Uganda with Pastor Mark, visiting the work of LightForce international and participating in a few of their projects. Mark and I stayed at the LightForce base in central Lira, Northern Uganda.
The majority of those Ugandans that had been displaced during the civil war (involving the Lord’s Resistance Army) had returned north to their home areas and the focus for LightForce had shifted from humanitarian aid to rebuilding health clinics, school classrooms, housing for teachers and distributing educational equipment and medical provisions.
One morning Mark and I assisted the LightForce team loading an open truck full of educational equipment before jumping in the back and travelling for several hours to a nearby district called Dokolo to undertake a school distribution. The red mud roads were baked hard, heavily rutted and the dust trail from passing vehicles hung in the air for hundreds of metres. The team sat on sacks and boxes in an attempt to avoid the pain of slamming against the truck floor and sides as we bumped our way along – what I’ll never forget as we bounced along was listening to the testimonies of team members and joining them as they sang old hymns, Mark and I had grown up singing as boys. The presence of God was so tangible in the back of that truck – so often we reserve our worship to 20-30 minutes on a Sunday morning in our comfortable church halls but sat in the back of that truck I was reminded that God is deserving of my worship 24/7 and in all circumstances.
I cannot recall what Mark’s role was in our little production line during the school distribution but I was on plastic pencil sharpeners – it was such a humbling experience to witness first hand the joy and gratitude from the children who had sat patiently for an hour in the early afternoon sun, many in uniforms that were falling apart at the seams, as I dropped a sharpener into their Unicef bag.
With the truck now empty of its cargo, it bounced all the harder on the rutted road as we travelled back to Lira and we had to stand up to ease our discomfort – often resulting in our being smothered in the red dust cloud that enveloped the truck as vehicles passed by. Our shirts and trousers were ingrained with red dust when we arrived back at base and I thought Mark passed extremely well as an Oompa Loompa. Mark and I were able to wash the dust out of our hair and our clothes were returned washed/ironed by the Housekeeper the following evening but the memories of our experience have remained with me to this day. The children we met (and others on our trip) had very little yet their joy was infectious, I was reminded of the apostle Paul who had learned to be content in all circumstances – what a challenge for me.