We wrapped up our Sunday afternoon with these precious women by taking photos outside the small school house. The widows immediately wanted to see their photos, to see themselves; we gathered around my iPhone, I zoomed in on each of their beautiful faces. We communicated through laughter and smiles. I thought about how often I quickly delete or untag myself from photos I don't think are "good" of myself. My sweet new friends were just happy to capture the moment, to see themselves; they did not critique their imperfections.
I have a lot to learn.
This was just the first lesson.
I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. As I turned around, I was greeted by a warm smile and an arm extended. In this sweet widow's hand were a bag of eggs.
She spoke in English, "You are my friend. I want you to have these."
We hugged; I thanked her. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, but I knew I just needed to accept them. I later learned that eggs are not easily accessible or affordable in this community. She had given me a precious gift.
That was just the first one.
The next day, a beautiful widow named Angela visited us. We were surrounded by children who we were enrolling in the 410 Bridge Child Sponsorship Program. She smiled and proudly presented us with sugar cane from her garden. Another simple, yet precious gift. Our team took a break; we watched as our driver cut the sugar cane up into bite-sized pieces. We became the brunt of laughter as we learned from the children how to chew it to get the best taste. It was fun; it was delicious!
It was the best she had to give us.
In the days following, anytime we were in the village, a widow walked to find us and bring us a gift from her garden or farm. Avocados, casava, and more eggs. They were each such kind, sincere gestures.
Still, I had only begun to grasp their profound significance.
It all came together for me on one of the last days in the village. We had the honor of visiting a few widows homes. We planned to pray with each of them and give them a couple mosquito nets to cover their beds at night. I had no idea what to expect.
One by one, they pointed out widow's home after widow's home.
I was overwhelmed. This community has been ravaged by HIV and the affects of limited access to clean water.
We divided up into small groups. I followed my teammates up to the first home where we were greeted by the gentle smile of a little girl. It was a welcome distraction from the poverty that lay in front of us.
We greeted the gracious widow and she invited us into her tiny house made from mud and what looked like bamboo sticks. She was proud of her humble home where she raised 4 grandchildren on her own. We walked back outside and presented her with the mosquito nets. She embraced us and thanked us in her language.
I began to walk away, heart-broken. It was at that point I noticed her small garden to the side of her home.
I thought to myself, "This is how she provides for herself and her grandkids. This is what she lives on."
This is everything she has.
I thought about all those gifts we had been given throughout the week, from all our new friends who were widows. They most likely have a garden just like this one.
And they gave away the very best of their gardens to our team. They gave to us out of the little they had to live on.
These very verses came alive in that moment:
"As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21: 1-4 NIV)
What a beautiful sacrifice, what a fragrant offering. I am forever grateful.
Dearly loved, for widows,
Special thanks to my roommate for our Uganda trip, Tammy, who took these amazing photographs.