By Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald
Up, up, up we climbed along a dirt path that had been carved into the mountainside by bare, calloused feet that daily trod the red dust. The rolling green hills perched atop each other and reached magnificently toward heaven. Our guides, Batwa children who had run down the mountain to greet us, eagerly led the way to their small village on top of the highest hill. The view was enchanting. Sunflowers, rows of corn, and tea tree fields dotted the hillsides like patchwork. Banana leaves waved lazily in the wood-smoke scented breeze as if to acknowledge our arrival. Next, to the hill, densely wooded mountains heralded entrance into the Impenetrable Forest. Those mountains had once been home to the Batwa pygmy people. However, they were expelled from the forest in the late 1980s when it was made into a national park to preserve the endangered Mountain Gorillas. No longer able to live the nomadic life of their ancestors, the Batwa turned to agriculture, yet they received little aid and training from their new neighbors, who treated them as outcasts.
Our reason for visiting this Batwa village was twofold: 1) to provide animal healthcare training and institute a revolving goat loan program and 2) to provide hope through the message of the Gospel.
Our team was treated to a wood fire-cooked lunch consisting of goat (meat is a rare delicacy for many poor villagers), rice, beans, posho (water and finely ground maize cooked to the consistency of rubbery dough), and fresh avocados and bananas.
Following the meal, Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald shared the Gospel with a people group much like the ones that Jesus spent time with—the outcasts, the mistreated, the neglected, the marginalized, the people with seemingly no hope, the spiritually lost and thirsty. Into that darkness, Jesus shone, and He still shines today. What a true joy and privilege it was to share that Hope with a people group that longs to know that they are noticed, cared for and loved!
A holy hush fell over the crowd as the Batwa listened to this Hope as they intermittently confirmed its truth with head nods, smiles, and softening countenances. Although it is impossible to know people’s hearts, it was exciting to see so many of the pygmies were eager to ask Christ into their lives.
Dr. Mary McDonald developed a large-animal demonstration and course site called Farm Animal Refresher in Virginia, where she prepares U.S. vet teams for global ministry around the world. Mary is also overseeing goat projects as part of an evangelism and community development program in East Africa where this story originated, and she is the author of the book The Magnet. You can support Dr. Mary’s work here.