When you are a new missionary, there are so many things you can encounter that might confuse you. Some are tragic, inhumane, or heart wrenching. Others, like the below story, are really funny. It's good to be able to laugh at yourself! After all, it is good medicine. Not everything has to be so serious. :)
After a few months of being in the bush, I would come out to the city to get some rest, eat some food that my body was familiar with, and get supplies. One time, when I came to the city, my friend Wendy was also there.
Wendy was working with Food for the Hungry in Kitgum. Her and another woman started a project for formerly abducted child mothers, a project that we would help with as we were able to give biblical counseling to the women. She was doing a tremendous work, and she had been living in East Africa for over 20 years. All of her children were born and grew up here in Africa, mostly in Kenya. She had a FAR better understanding of life here than I did. She is also about 20 years my senior, so she is someone that I look up to and have a lot of respect for.
Wendy and I decided to get together for dinner at a real restaurant, a treat for both of us. We enjoyed the visit so much. As we were departing to leave, we ended up talking for a long time together in the parking lot. A man walked up to us and said to me: "I would like to carry you!" I was so confused, having no idea what he was talking about. I replied: "Thanks, but I can walk." Wendy started cracking up. I looked at her, and she said: "He is proposing marriage to you!"
There is a tribe in a part of Uganda that proposes in that way. The men show their strength by carrying the woman they love. They wait on her hand and foot, feed her so that she gets fat (this is a good thing in most parts of this country), and prove that they can take care of her. I didn't know anything about this tribe because my only experience was with the Acholi people of Northern Uganda, which was completely different. I politely declined and said that I wasn't interested. He departed, and I joined Wendy in laughing hysterically at myself. It was such a funny experience, but it was even more than that.
This funny little encounter was a reminder that I would make a lot of mistakes, possibly be offensive, but I had to make sure to do my best to take things slowly, to speak slowly, and to roll with the punches.
I was never approached again by someone asking to carry me. I've had my share of other interesting things, but that was a one-time deal for me. Still, I have never forgotten it. It taught me that I have a lot to learn; and truly, that has never changed. I still have much to learn, and I know that I will until the day I leave this place.