When the Sacrifice Brings Joy

How the Karimojong People of Northern Uganda Delight in the Lord

Story by Kristin Andre

Photos by Jordan Andre


 

A Karimajong boy walks through sticky mud while tending to his family’s herd of livestock.

The Karimojong are a people group who live off the beaten path. Theirs is a way of life most of us think of when we think about Africa. Their houses are made of mud and sticks, they don’t wear much in the way of clothing (especially the children), and they are a semi-nomadic people who can often be found herding their livestock all over North Eastern Uganda.

They lead very simple lives, and often men in the culture have more than one wife and many, many kids. But there was something so beautiful about sitting with them after one of their church gatherings outside Kotido, Uganda, on an unusually rainy day in late November.

 

I was blown away by their generosity and love for Christ and one another. They have next to nothing, yet here they were, bringing buckets, bags of food, multiple goats to be sold as an offering in celebration of the completion of the church building, which will serve as a community center and gathering place for them all.
The Karimojong are an ethnic group of agro-pastoral herders living mainly in North Eastern Uganda. Many Karimojong have ancient animistic beliefs. Pictured above is a ‘Manyatta’, where one man and his wives and children live. Livestock are corraled into the center of the Manyatta where they are protected from wild animals and raiding from other tribes.
A Karimojong youth looks on at the joyful singing and dancing taking place inside the new Church building.
A Karimojong girl cracks a grin when she realizes she’s the subject of a photo.
A Karimojong elder sits and enjoys the days festivities.

Now, you and I might think a church building is a bit of a silly thing: a thing of the past; no longer needed. Why waste money building such a thing when we can gather anywhere? We are the church, after all, right? It’s the people, not the building.

 

But to the Karimojong, this building (which isn’t even a fully walled-in structure, but rather simply short walls and a tin roof) represents way more than just a structure to host Sunday church gatherings.

 

It’s a place for them to gather together in the name of Christ to lift his name high, as well as a place to celebrate together the big things in life: coming of age ceremonies, weddings, anniversaries, a place to mourn the dead together, and a place to learn new skills and share meals as a community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The completion of the church building meant so much to them. I wish you could have seen them! They danced and sang for hours, until some were dripping with sweat.

And after that? They came together and shared in the bounty of delicious peanuts they’d grown and prepared the rest of the food to be sold, with all of the proceeds to be given as an offering. The amount of food was more than I could have imagined. They all just kept bringing offerings of food. It was truly a beautiful site. People who have next to nothing by Western standards, giving sacrificially and joyfully. I couldn’t help but think of the poor widow Jesus talks about in Mark 12.

‘He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor woman also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”’ (NAB)

Sacrificial giving is the kind of giving that is done at great personal cost to the giver. The Karimojong people gave sacrificially that day. But here’s the kicker – their sacrifice brought them all so much joy. They gave sacrificially AND joyfully. What a beautiful people and a beautiful picture of Christ’s kingdom come.

The sweat tells the story of this incredible woman leading the village in worship and dance.