Visiting the Batwa Pygmies in Uganda
I just returned from an incredible trip with this team sharing Christ and giving goats to the Batwa pygmies in Uganda. Here is Lina Godine’s reflections from the trip:
“Up, up, up we climbed along a dirt path that had been carved into the mountainside by bare, calloused feet that daily trod the red dust. The rolling green hills perched atop each other and reached magnificently toward heaven. Our guides, Batwa children who had run down the mountain to greet us, eagerly led the way to their small village on top of the highest hill. The view was enchanting. Sunflowers, corn rows, and tea tree fields dotted the hillsides like patchwork. Banana leaves waved lazily in the wood-smoke scented breeze, as if to acknowledge our arrival. Next to the hill, densely wooded mountains heralded entrance into the Impenetrable Forest. Those mountains had once been home to the Batwa pygmy people. However, they were expelled from the forest in the late 1980s when it was made into a national park in order to preserve the endangered Mountain Gorillas. No longer able to live the nomadic life of their ancestors, the Batwa turned to agriculture, yet they received little aid and training from their new neighbors, who treated them as outcasts. Our reason for visiting this Batwa village was two fold: 1) to provide animal healthcare training and institute a revolving goat loan program and 2) to provide hope through the message of the Gospel.
We began the workshop by reading excerpts from Psalm 104, Genesis 1, and Psalm 50 to help frame our discussion about why and how we care for animals. Every animal belongs to the Lord (Psalm 50) and He has called us to care for His creation (Genesis 1), (to be a steward is to care diligently for something which is not your own). God Himself is our example of how to care for creation. He is a faithful and generous Creator, providing shelter, food, and water for the animals so that they are satisfied, not just meagerly sustained (Psalm 104). Following this, we began a discussion about goat nutrition. The Batwa joyfully scampered around their hilltop to collect samples of the local forage, and we reviewed which of these plants are nutritious for goats and which are poisonous. A discussion of the importance of daily access to clean water left many villagers surprised that the addition of soap and salt to the goats’ water is unnecessary and potentially harmful. We continued the training on shelter and security, characteristics of sick and healthy goats, and goat reproduction. Yet the real meat of the conversations was not the valuable animal healthcare training, but the presentation of the Gospel after the morning workshop. After all, how can a person recognize the value of an animal and care for it appropriately until they have first recognized their own worth as a human being created by God, loved by God, called by God, and raised by God to dwell with Him forever? Our team was treated to a woodfire-cooked lunch consisting of goat (meat is a rare delicacy for many poor villagers), rice, beans, posho (water and finely ground maize cooked to the consistency of rubbery dough), and fresh avocados and bananas. Following the meal, Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald shared the Gospel with a people group much like the ones that Jesus spent time with—the outcasts, the mistreated, the neglected, the marginalized, the people with seemingly no hope, the spiritually lost and thirsty. Into that darkness Jesus shown, and He still shines today. What a true joy and privilege it was to share that Hope with a people group that longs to know that they are noticed and cared for and loved! A holy hush fell over the crowd as the Batwa listened to this Hope and intermittently confirmed its truth with head nods, smiles, and softening countenances. Although it is impossible to know people’s hearts it was exciting to see so many of the pygmies were eager to ask Christ into their lives.
As I listened to this presentation of the Gospel—a message that I have heard many, many times—I was reminded again of the profound power of its simple truths. Friends, let us daily remind ourselves of this joy and hope, and let the knowledge of its power in our lives never become mundane and fade away.”
Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald served with her husband Jack in Cochabamba, Bolivia, teaching animal husbandry and helping in micro-finance projects. Mary has developed a large-animal demonstration site where she prepares U.S. vet teams for global ministry. Mary is also overseeing goat projects as part of an evangelism and community development program in East Africa. Her recently released book The Magnet shares her testimony. Mary is also a co-leader of the Anglican International Student Ministry Network. You can contact Mary here.