By: Joan Ninsiima | What memories do you have from moments spent around the table? Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner? These memories differ for each person depending on what traditions existed in the house.
Some people, presumably have fond memories created of joy and laughter around the table, and there is another group who have a hard time saying what memories they hold because it is more of a blur or no memories were created at all. Growing up, it was hard for me to imagine that sharing a meal with my parents would be one full of laughter. The tradition observed at dinner time was quite a hectic one with my father ‘prying’ over us as we ate. I dreaded this time so much for a lot of selfish reasons.
The routine involved having several lectures about the right etiquette while sitting at the table. (Do not chew your food noisily, do not serve more than you can finish… a very long list of don’ts and on an unlucky day, a few lashes). Also after the meal, as a requirement, each one had to read out loud in front of everyone, a chapter from an assigned book. We were tasked to learn ten new words each day and their meanings, and also present not less than ten mathematics numbers solved that day. Finally, dishes had to be done immediately under strict supervision. “Ensure to scrub that pot and give it a shine till you can see your reflection through it”, my father would say.
As a young girl, I found this so daunting and stressful. I preferred to be alone and standing up in front of people scared me to the core. The fear of receiving some lashes in the event of forgetting what was taught the previous day was real. I couldn’t wait for the time I would be old enough to make my own decisions.
Being a young adult can be a very exciting phase in a girl’s life. It’s a season of recognized independence, where one almost feels invincible, and this phase too is prone to a lot of bad decisions being made. It was time for me to voice my opinions. Instead of eating dinner at the table with everyone I would snack earlier and claim I am very satisfied to take dinner and opt for the company of the television.
With time my father let me choose whether to join the rest at the table or not, since I was old enough. It was no longer compulsory for me, and I felt like I had achieved so much being able to have my way. When the time to join college came, I made sure to apply to a college that was 5 hours away from my home district. Little did I know that a gap was being created. Our conversations became more estranged each passing day. I only made a phone call if I needed some money. The problem with this is that the enemy started to plant strange ideas in my mind to the point of thinking that my parents hated me. My poor choices had pushed me in a very lonely place. One Christmas instead of traveling home I stayed in my apartment all by myself. I started to have feelings of regret, was it late too late for me to have a relationship with my parents? All I had was limited time because I had moved away from home and got a job in another district. Even if I wanted to make a quick visit I would not be able to do so since I had to get on a bus and travel for over five hours to get home. I started asking God to help me to bridge the gap for me with my parents and he worked on it through a very amazing experience.
Five years ago I joined a team of wonderful people in a local Organization called Wells of Hope. The organization reaches out to children that have a parent in prison through different compassionate programs to help them cope with parental imprisonment. I am grateful to the Lord for leading me to this place, and it was in the first year that he used one of the activities we do for the children to teach me an important lesson and to have the courage to take the next steps in mending my broken relationship.
The Prison visit! This is one of the major highlights for the children. It is arranged for the children to visit their parents in prison once every term, and this was going to be my first time to accompany the children. It was a long process of having to go through the necessary security checks and I started to feel anxious alongside the children who couldn’t wait to see their parents. For me it was arising from the fact that this was my first time to enter prison. We were ushered into the waiting room where parents had convened to meet their children.
I could see joy and happiness as the children were being swept up in their parent’s arms. A wave of emotion sweep over me in that moment and I found myself fighting to hold back tears because I needed to be strong in front of these children. The rest of the interaction was one I cannot fully describe with words, the parents had prepared a meal which they shared with the children, encouraging their children to study hard after evaluating their assessment reports. Two fathers were trying to create a bond with their daughters whom they were meeting for the very first time.
When I got home later that day, I was bawling in tears as I remembered how selfish I had been. I had thrown away something so beautiful that others would only get for an hour 3 times a year, an opportunity of being able to sit with a parent and share with them a meal. I knew that if I did not do anything about this now, the future would be too far for me, I had TODAY to take a step. I called home and talked briefly to my father and after the conversation I told him that I loved him. The response I received was one filled with confusion and later followed with “okay.” I understand this was very awkward because in our culture we do not often say such statements to parents. I had prepared myself mentally not to expect so much from the very first conversation but I purposed to always end our phone conversations with the statement “I love you”. After a period of close to six months, it was no longer awkward and that became part of our normal conversation and I can testify that our relationship has been restored.
I think about these children a lot who have their parents incarcerated, especially in this Christmas season. For some it is difficult to locate families of relatives willing to be with them for the holiday while others completely have no homes they can return to. So we choose to celebrate with them and have a Christmas party with them earlier where each child is given a gift and reminded that they are loved.
I like to imagine that God and his ‘team’ in heaven agreed on sending a savior for humanity from a conversation around a table. In his mercy, he saw the great divide that was between him and man, and this had to be worked on. I imagine the conversation at this ‘table’ involved the son consenting to coming down here on earth to live among us and eventually die so we can be reconciled to the father.
The birth of Christ is a sign of God’s love for us, and as we celebrate this love, I challenge you to think about and evaluate the relationships that could have been ignored out of your life whether intentionally or unintentionally. For those that require forgiveness probably from so much hurt caused in the past, I pray that you open up your heart before the Lord to step right in and bring healing. For those that desire to have their relationships mended, that he will give you direction on what steps to take. Any step taken towards bridging the gap is important before God and he will hold your hand through the process (Zechariah 4:10 “do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin”) Do not be discouraged, sometimes it can be slow but the results are worth it.
“God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing.”
Psalm 68:6a – NIV
“Lord, I pray for each person that feels so alone and lonely especially around this season that you will strengthen them and remind them of how much you love them. I also pray that you surround us with people that bring joy and gladness to our hearts. Amen”
Read Galatians 4:4-5
Get out your Bible or phone app and read the words yourself!
To know more about the work I am involved in with these children please visit www.wellsofhope.org .We are also raising funds to support these children as the year comes to an end to include their feeding, medication, transportation for them to go back home and re-connect with their families.
Please follow the link or share it to support these children during this season. https://mailchi.mp/5e5046270dad/wells-of-hope-ministries-year-end-campaign-1617309?e=ccb833dbea
Meet Today’s Writer: “I am a 26 year old Ugandan, and I love the Lord. I currently live in Kampala, and am an Accountant by profession. I work with Wells of Hope Ministries, an organization which reaches out to those affected by Incarceration, especially the children. I am part of the Worship team at my local church UCF, and I volunteer in Sunday School, and am a leader in one of the Wednesday Bible study groups at Church. I have a dream of seeing all nations loved into the Kingdom of God.” Joan invites you to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, IG or email: firstname.lastname@example.org