Happy Thanksgiving! A Pot of Simsim, Two Chickens and a Holy Goat

by Marsha Campbell

Sunday morning in the Pearl of Africa.  The land of a thousand hills, Kabale, Uganda.  I love the rhythm of a Sunday, the launch of a new week, a cadence of slowing and spending time with family and friends on the Lord’s Day.  I remember as a child, hearing the church bells toll a melodious greeting and invitation to come to the Father’s house for worship and thanksgiving.

This morning we are greeted with African “church bells”…amazing hide covered, timpani…like native drums we both hear and feel deep within us.  It takes a troupe of four percussionists, taking turns without missing a beat, to orchestrate an amazing rhythm that calls the community to church.  A battle of the bands—with a mesmerizing beat.  For a full ten minutes they drum a syncopatic cadence that evolves as a compelling invitation and celebration of what is to come… (CLICK HERE>> to listen and watch.)

I am not is Kansas anymore…I can hardly wait for what else is in store.

Our team is warmly welcomed and ushered in as honored visitors to sit in the first front pews of All Saints Cathedral in Boroboro.  Music fills the air with raised voices and hands and envelops us with humility in sharing the joy of these dear people who have so little materially, yet so much spiritually.  The service continues and we have an opportunity to share an offering.  We are so pleased and grateful to give.  More singing and words of affirmation we can sense but can’t articulate in their Luo tribal tongue. 

The next act of worship captures our full attention.  A stately woman saunters up the center aisle and sets a live chicken on the ground by the altar.  We continue to sing…yet, soon, another marches forward with a large stockpot and lays it down…one more follows with a plump red-headed rooster.  More prayer, more singing and our eyes grow large at the sight…a proud couple stride slowly up the aisle with a very oblivious, healthy, well fed goat on a rope.  Hmmm… Who knew? 

My friend, the Canon Rev. Dr. Alison, conspiratorially leans over to me and urgently whispers, “Marsha, you need to buy that goat for the Father’s House, and the red headed rooster for the Bishop!”  Well… Ok, then—Sure!  That is my immediate thought!  NOT.  I have always prodded my teams with the adage:  Go with the Flow…SO, what to do?  Let’s go with it.

Turns out, this is a Thanksgiving service.  Happy Thanksgiving!  African style

I learn quickly, that each one bearing live gifts for the church altar, are giving thanks to God and wish to celebrate their recent blessings.  Their stories follow, as each turns to the congregation and shares their gratitude and praise:  One had been very sick and now is well, another suffered a “boda-boda” accident which broke his leg, but now he can walk with just a limp.  A slight and smiling woman had an infection in her uterus—but she now is healed.  The last couple is celebrating good health and the upcoming marriage of their daughter this April.

Ovation, prayers, arms reaching the stars and joyful, heart shared praising breaks forth…

After a time, we all sit down and settle back into our pews.  It has been quite a day…but more lies ahead.  What follows, for the blessing of the church, is an amazing, African style, totally (as in chickens and goat) – LIVE AUCTION!

I, as the honored, front row Mzungu (Swahili slang for “white visitor”), was in the throes of my very first competition to win that goat and the red-headed rooster!  No complacency, you snooze and you lose…so the heat was on and I was going to win it for the Father’s House.  You betcha’—not a dull moment, I can’t remember church ever being this FUN!

So, the dealing begins…many stand and shout their bid.  The auctioneer cajoles and prods for higher bids…and they come.  I rise once, sit, wait and counter…SOLD!  One plump red-headed rooster.  My savvy ally, Alison smilingly accepts and presents the trophy rooster to the very happy Bishop! (right)  This is a very thoughtful gift—I am to learn.

OK, now…I am gearing up.  Another chicken and a huge stockpot pot of simsim (a favorite roasted sesame dish) are open for bids.  I rest and study the crowd of my competitors…I know the jackpot is looming…the great goat will soon be put on the block.  I ready myself and the bidding begins…I stand quickly to edge the first bid…another and another…(I lean over to Alison—I have no idea–how much is this???).  A bit of frenzied bidding ensues…however, I am determined and not to be denied…for the sake of the children, of course!

On the edge of my pew, I jump to excitedly counter with a rambunctious  “70,000 for The Father’s House!”  A hush falls over the crowd…a little whispering amongst the auctioneers…and then three more people gleefully bring up schillings in hand.  The Father’s House has not only won—but had others contribute more schillings on top of my winning offer!  WOW—this must be a holy goat!  I am called to come forward and claim our prize—so, there I stand at the altar, with a goat on a rope in my hand.  What’s better than that? (left)

How about a goat that reproduces eight more ‘kids’ to be then sold for a cow?!  The children will then have milk for their African tea, cream and cheese!   That’s the plan– a holy and healthy investment for the children of The Father’s House.

That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works. Psalm 26:7  Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4  Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing. Psalm 107:22 

 Holy Goat – Holy Cow – What a  Sunday!  Happy Thanksgiving to all!!