Here’s one way to open a Bible study: What is more important—fighting baboons or listening to the Word of God? Such are the incongruities of which our lives are made in Karamoja. Incongruous in the developed world, perhaps, but not at all out of place in Nakaale. Yesterday, I’m not sure we even had a definitive answer.
When we arrived at Nariko to teach the Bible story yesterday, there was a crowd of children shouting and calling to some boys standing further up the side of the hill. As we looked, a troop of baboons could be seen at the stony top of the hill, moving away from the scene. The aim of the assembled crowd was to scare them off away from the village and, importantly, from the surrounding fields. Baboons and monkeys here are commonly found eating maize which has been cultivated, and as such, they are a nuisance.
While one of our church members mobilized people to come to Bible study, several young men along with their dogs went up the hill to try and kill what baboons they could. In addition to being a menace, I am told, the meat is very sweet. Eventually, people came from their homes and assembled to hear the teaching. The story for the week is on the parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price. Stories of the kingdom. Stories about people giving up all they have because of the surpassing greatness of what they have found—but a treasure whose value is hidden. We can only hope that these who sat and listened to the stories amid all the confusion might be those who have seen the treasure of Christ’s kingdom and ascertained its value.
As Pastor Dave finished teaching, two boys brought down a goat whose belly had been ripped open, its organs spilling over the sides. Baboons apparently enjoy meat (cue Andy Serkis!). The loss of an animal is always a minor tragedy in Karamoja, and the people gathered set to talking about it straightaway. From their facial features to their dexterity to their love of a good bit of mutton, people were commenting how like humans they were. Dave’s parting shot was to remind everyone that no matter how similar to us baboons may be, that in all of creation, God has elected specially to reveal to humans the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven. Baboons may have their fill in this life, but there is a banquet prepared in heaven for those who have been granted eyes to see and have diligently sought after the master of the feast.