Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tea Parties in Uganda

Several years ago Hope 4 Women International began holding tea parties in Uganda. These vary from a few women in the bush to as many as 175 women beneath a large tent. The object is to bring dignity, joy, health and God's love as Hope 4 Kids International has strived to do for the past 35 years.
We gather the women and set a basin of soapy water before them. As they soak their feet they sip tea and munch on tea cakes. A Ugandan leader presents the gospel using an evangecube (from the Jesus film people). Team members then go around to each lady and paint her fingernails and ask, "how can I pray for you?" We give the ladies colorful headscarves, lip stick--flip flops or clothing if we have them. Many ladies in the bush have never seen themselves in a mirror so we carry a mirror and when they see themselves for the first time they are shocked--but their shock turns to smiles and they will pose and make faces in the mirror. Team members kneel before them and dry their feet; rub lotion on their feet and calves; place their feet in plastic bags and bring out battery-operated foot massagers. The women are overwhelmed that someone would kneel before them and perform such loving acts and the massagers are a joyful hit! After we empty the basins of water we fill them with bags of rice, garden seeds, and other practical items. We give them the opportunity to receive Christ but assure them: "We are not here to buy you. You will keep the items whether you recieve Christ or not. We are just here to show you a small portion of God's love for you."
These tea parties have been the object of some criticism and have been called frivolous. My friend Jodi was a critic but changed her mind. Here is an article she wrote about the tea parties.

"I have shared with some that my first reaction to the tea parties held for widows in Uganda--well--I just didn't get it. I thought. . . these ladies need food, medicine, beds,etc. Seriously--lipstick, nail polish? How are these things important in their lives? Well, I have changed my mind based on the witness of the people involved and have seen the hope & dignity this time with the widows brings.
Yesterday I was reading a book, Sex God--Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality & Spirituality. Hey. I bought it at church. . .
There was a story about a concentration camp in Germany where a British soldier described the disgusting, tragic conditions that they encountered while liberating a camp called Bergen-Belsen. The horrors he saw designed to strip people of their humanity was unbelievable. He said: "It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we wanted , we were screaming for hundreds & thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it. It was an action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets & no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the postmortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. at last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.
Because sometimes, the difference between heaven & hell, may be a bit of lipstick." Wow! So, when you see pictures of us loving on these women & putting otherwise frivolous cosmetics on them, just remember that we are a part of this--We will be meeting their needs of food, shelter, etc. but, first & foremost, we will be reminding them that they are human beings! They are not objects or numbers in the vast expanse of widows in Uganda that appear to be forgotten by the world. They are beautiful children of God. Created by Him in His image!
'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10)' "

To see more you can browse my blog. Off to the left are links such as the recipe book, youtube videos showing the women at tea! Click on "Rachel's videos" to see them. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Diane Markins said...

A few years ago I served on a missions team in Mexico at a week-long women's conference (in combination with Vacation Bible School for their kids). These women were very poor and certainly needed some of the fundamentals for survival. But each day we arrived and taught them songs, offered a snack and had a craft or fun activity for them...including a day of manicures. We had collected many hotel-size bottles of lotions, shampoos and shower gels for them to take home. We also let each woman choose her nail color and take it home. These ladies were radiant. An older woman had only one arm but she was thrilled to have that hand looking pretty. Sometimes feeling beautiful and remembering that we are not invisible in God's eyes can sustain us as much as manna.
Blessings on your wonderful work!