I've never really understood the whole animal rights thing. Don't get me wrong, I love pets and I love my dog like crazy. But I've never been one to cry over the animal rescue commercials and I've always thought that it's a little silly to go through huge adoption processes for animals. But while in Uganda, I came to discover my heart for animals was a little bigger than I realized.
We did not see lions. I honestly don't think I ever will see a lion in Africa either. But, we did see monkeys, pigs, cows, goats, chickens, cranes and (on one special occasion) a camel. Needless to say, the wildlife was overflowing.
At first, I would go visit the pigs. Then Auntie Rachael told me how pigs are greedy and will break through their enclosure to eat babies when their hungry. After that, I stopped visiting the pigs. I decided to move on to chickens. The family would laugh at me as they watched me stare after the chickens and would tell Gilbert to get a chick for me. He’d go up to a bunch of baby chicks and pick one up for me. Then, the momma hen would stick her neck out, flap her wings and chase him like any protective mom would. So, he would throw the chick back at her and grab a huge banana branch and try again. When the mom came after him a second time, he'd hit her with the branch!
I loved holding the tiny chick in my hands, but I couldn't help but feel bad for the momma and her crying baby. So, after a while I'd return the baby to the mom and avoid getting into the same predicament for short while.
Another time, we went to visit a Muslim family. All the kids were with us (and a good ten extra we had picked up along the way) and they all already knew how much I loved animals. So, while Pastor Alex was talking to the Muslim family, Joseph went over, picked up a baby goat and placed it in Sebastian's arms. Then he went back and got one for me. That was fun.
Of course, I'm no fool. We definitely ate one of the roosters I had bonded with, thus reminding me why it is such a bad idea to get attached to your soon to be dinner. But it was still worth it. I had fun watching the animals and I know for a fact the Ugandans had fun watching me be entertained by the animals.
However, I'm not actually writing this post to talk about all my silly animal stories. There was actually a very significant lesson to be learned through my attachment to them. So, here's one last story before I share the lesson.
Joseph had a dog named Ami. He was Joseph's loyal companion and would follow him to Momi and Dad's house where we were staying. Near the end of our trip, he'd hang out with us every day and just lay down in the shade. He looked a lot like my dog. He had the same features as a German shepherd only he looked as though he had been shrunk down ten sizes. Both the resemblance to my dog and my natural love for dogs made me fond of Ami really fast. Every day, I'd step outside and the family would start laughing at me right away. They already knew where I was going. They would watch as I walked over to Ami and started petting him. They don't eat dogs, but to them, animals need to have some kind of purpose other than companionship. I'm sure in their heads they were wondering why I was spending so much time petting the security system. But who's to blame them? Who would want to pet an animal covered with fleas and ticks? Yes, every day, I'd find three new ticks buried deep in Ami's neck. And every day I'd say, "Joseph!" and point to the ticks so he'd remove them.
One day while petting Ami and sitting with Momi, Dad, Auntie Rachael, Joseph and Sandra, I told them how if my dog ever had fleas and ticks my mom would panic and get a bunch of medication for the dog. A concerned look came on Auntie Rachael's face. She bent down and started looking at Ami and saying something to Joseph in Luganda. I suddenly realized how ignorant my statement was. The thought of medical care for an animal was probably unheard of. And then it hit me. Why would people be concerned about the medical care of an animal when they are already being eaten alive by their own human ticks?
See while in Uganda, I had learned about jiggers. They're little parasites that burrow into your feet. I asked Pastor Fred if they were common in Luwero and he said that my little friends probably got them at home all the time. The flooring of their house is just dirt and there is no cement. But even still, while in Uganda I had learned of so many different ways that humans can be slowly eaten alive! A little girl I met at a school had bites up and down her arms. The best possible scenario would have been that she had bug infested sheets. But the other feasible option was that she went to the bathroom in her sleep, slept in her own feces all night and the worms that came out of her unhealthy system would bite at her. Whether by disease or parasites or worms, there were a million and one different things feasting on my friends.
So why would they be concerned with the health of a dog? I get tears in my eyes when I think about that one moment. For us "wealthy" people in America, we take care of our pets as if they were family. But how much more should we be taking care of our friends in Africa who are suffering ten times worse than our pets? It's almost a terrifying thought to think that humans are living in worse circumstances than dogs.
Maybe there are people living in worse circumstances than any of us can dream. If we can do something about it we should. But as much as I want to see a world with no pain and no suffering for all people, I have faith that this world is just one step before the pain free world. And I have faith that each and every person that has endured any kind of trial will come to find vindication and liberation in God. I trust that God will take care of my friends in Africa. I've seen him take care of my friends in the Philippines, in Central Asia, in Rwanda and in China. I've seen him take care of my family and of myself time and time again. So I trust that He'll take care of us all. We might get some bumps and bruises as we go, but at the end of the day if our hearts are in His hands, then we're only just beginning to see and understand a beautiful life beyond pain.