This past Sunday Michelle and I attended a service at one of the rural parishes attached to the Cathedral. The offertory at this service was a completely new experience for us. Many of the people belonging to this parish do not have extra money to give to the church. Instead they bring their crops and sometimes even their animals as an offering. It almost feels like we had gone back in time, to when the children of Israel would offer the first fruits of their livestock and their fields to God.
This Sunday was a special event and the offertory was extraordinary. During the offertory, various groups (sub-regions) within the church competed for who could bring forward the best offering. Points were awarded for presentation, processional, quantity and quality of the offering. The result was an amazing site! The amount of food brought forward was staggering. There must have been enough there to feed a small army twice over. What astounded me the most was the joy in which the offerings were given. It was a mini-festival as people sang and in some cases danced their offering to the front. It took forty-five minutes to process all of the items to the front of the church and the entire procession really was a celebration.
I wish the offertory time back home could have even a fraction of the joy these people expressed. They were not giving out of their abundance like we do at home, but out of the they could grow on their land. Yet all the while they were proud and happy with what they had brought before the Lord. I think the people here realize what they have is a gift from God and therefore are quite happy to give it back. For us in North America I think it is harder to think this was. What we have is what we have earned and therefore is ours by right. I think we have much to learn from this small group of people about our possessions.
After the service was finished, the auction began. The food offered is not the most useful offering for their church, so the auction is used to convert the food into money. The auction was a bit hard to follow as it was all in Runyankole, but they certainly have fun with it. The competition for some items was comical to watch even with the language barrier. Usually people in the congregation would compete against each other, buying the produce for themselves, or for others. In other cases the some people would contribute to a bid to help win an item. The whole process took at least three hours before everything was sold off.
We were humbled during the process to have one person buy us a basket containing 3 papaya, 13 avocados, 2 pineapples and two bunches of bananas and another buy us a head of cabbage and another pineapple. We also bid on a couple of items and brought home a bag of dried beans and some tomatoes. We got smiles and laughter at our attempts to bid in Runyankole. It was a good bit of fun for sure, but I am left with one question—what on earth do we do with 13 avocados???