An untimely death almost thwarted our recent mission team’s plan. We had flown thousands of miles and boarded 3 different plane flights to reach Kampala, Uganda to attend a previously arranged special meeting with Edward, but when we arrived his email message greeted us:
“My brother suddenly died at his desk in Ethiopia so I can’t meet with you this week.”
Edward, as the older brother in the family, had been designated to meet his brother’s body at the airport the very next day; the day our meeting had been scheduled. After a memorial service the family intended to take his body to their ancestral village to be buried.
What should we do? Was this Edward’s excuse not to meet us, since his boss, the Church of Uganda, had invited us to come to Kampala to resolve recent issues?
After consulting with colleagues living in Kampala, we decided to donate a customary gift to the family for the burial. Then, we hoped Edward would follow through with meeting us the next morning as planned. We informed Edward while expressing our condolences
Even though the usual Monday morning traffic jam delayed the starting time of our scheduled meeting an hour, shortly after we arrived, Edward appeared, still with time for him to make it to the airport to meet the plane returning his brother’s casket.
Then, three members of our GOAL mission team sat around a table with our partners, three members of the Church’s oversight committee, to discuss with Edward why he had used his salary monies to travel around the USA, delaying the School Drug Prevention program that he was supposed to be leading, and how he planned to repay those funds.
After the two teams received an adequate apology and explanation, a voluntary probationary period was put in place to repay the funds misused. The meeting ended and Edward left to collect his brother’s casket and to gather with his family to view the body and grieve. Everyone in the family wore a t-shirt engraved with his brother’s smiling face.
But the face they saw in the casket was not smiling. His body had lost an eye and his heart was missing. Police started a murder investigation, compounding the family’s grief process.
Meanwhile, during the rest of our time that week our two teams continued planning the way forward in preparation for our final meeting to signed our new partnership agreement. We thanked our hosts and agreed to their continued leadership and oversight off this most vital project.
Our mission plan having been accomplished we boarded our plane flights to return home with new cultural awareness.