What does it mean to care about someone on the other side of the world?
What does it look like?
What emotions must exist?
When thousands of miles, days of travel, and complete cultural differences exist between you, what does truly caring for someone else look like?
Rewind to January 2014. I was enrolled in a Discipleship Training School in Nashville Tennesee (23 weeks aimed at equipping Christians to go into the mission field, with both lecture and overseas outreach phases). The outreach phase was in Uganda. We arrived in Kampala, Uganda and took an eight-hour bus ride north to a small town one hour south of the South Sudan border called Arua. Population unknown. A little town smelling of dirt, polluted water and street food. Characterised by the roadside shops, beautiful people and Boda Bodas, motorbike taxis. The landscape was that of stereotypical African pictures. Grass huts in clusters, forming villages with what seemed like miles between inhabited areas. Arua’s focal point is the local mosque surrounded by a market and two-story businesses with the occasional church.
Boda Boda drivers were the town’s lower cast, the cat-callers, the disrespected businessmen.
They’d pass the day by sitting in the shade of a grass woven pavilion waiting for their next customer. Three days a week, we would go into the town and build relationships with the locals and tell them about Jesus. Almost every single time we went out, I felt drawn to that group of what some would call “bad men”.
In the midst of all the faces, one specific gentleman specifically stood out to me. Chris was the youngest of three sons, husband and father of five children. A gentle man, soft spoken, yet rowdy like the rest of them. Teeth covered in dirt from all the hours smiling, a product of the joy that abounded inside. Chris and I became friends; I would often call him personally whenever I needed a ride. Those rides would often turn into conversations about God, America and life in Uganda. I had the privilege of buying a Bible for Chris’s household. He was a Christian man and true African, having a heart for his community and family.
He embraced people with open arms and was generous in offering insight into Ugandan culture.Move forward to May of the same year. I had been working for about a month at this point at local car lot back in America, still processing everything from the previous 6 months. Questions like,
“What did I learn? What would I change? Did I change?”
ran through my mind continually. I had learned and experienced so much of God, that I knew something had to have changed within me. One morning I received a call from my outreach leader. His voice sounded on edge, asking if I was somewhere I could get away. After assuring him I could, he went on to tell me that he received a call from one of our friends in Uganda. Chris’s brother called to say that Chris had died in a motorcycle accident the day before. I don’t remember much from that day, but I do remember that I cried. So many emotions were running free within me: everything from sadness to joy. But I was also confused. Why was I crying about the death of a man on the other side of the world? I was perplexed. As a man who knew what it was to feel nothing, and many days had to fight to feel anything at all, was I really crying over the death of a man in Uganda? I couldn’t help but be blown away at what God had done within my life.
I knew again what it was to feel, not just for myself but the world around me. I knew what it was to love.
by Cody Brewer
School of Communication & Digital Influence Student