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“When I grow up I will have 14 dogs, 6 cats, a cow, 3 pigs, 5 chickens, and live with my mom!” As a seven-year-old, I dreamed of life like the fairy tale Snow White…full of whimsy, befriending and singing with nature’s creatures. Some dreams do come true, but the reality of this dream isn’t quite as romantic as portrayed in my favorite childhood film.

geofreys-parents-houseThe mud smeared walls and grass-thatched roof of my home provide little boundary between me and nature’s creatures. A dream come true? Maybe, if all creatures had cute furry tails and whistled while we worked. My whistle is more of a sigh when I find yet another trail of termites that chewed their way through the floor, reminding me of a paper I forgot to pick up. Or when the ants show me spots where I failed to perfectly wipe. A shout when I sweep out the insects and my chicken friends come inside to “help” clean, swarming like children at the sound of the ice cream truck. A groan when Jolly, once a precious kitten, now an unwelcome guest, reminds me of the dirty dishes I have yet to do, and tastes the food on the stove to make sure it isn’t burning. A cry as the goat helps trim the bottom of my roof then decides my soap is a “thank you” snack. And a squeal when the cow who tests the temperature of my bath water while I am inside finding more soap!

bore-holeMy fairy tale dream turned out much different from what 7-year-old me could have imagined. Adorable creatures may no help me, but I have been adopted into a culture of women whose nature is to lend a helping hand. A culture that doesn’t have the excuse of being busy. When I arrive at the water hole exhausted, someone takes my jerry-can, pumps the water, and carries it home for me. Other times, a group of women come to lift the burden of shelling endless peanuts to make paste. Nearly every day, someone drops by and offers food from their garden. Whether it’s oranges, maize, or sesame seeds, they generously choose to sacrifice some of what they have and allow me to share in their wealth. I am daily exposed to a beautiful image of community and loving thy neighbor as we deny ourselves to become selfless.

Reality is that no one lives happily-ever after. However, my interactions with the women in our small village teach me that I do have the opportunity to bring a Kingdom of hope, love, and joy here to Earth. I can bring hope to the suffering through seeing their needs and being willing to meet them. I exchanged the dream of cute furry animals who whistle while I work, for a community that exudes the Lord’s joy in serving each other.

With love from Omiya Anyima, Uganda,