Ugandan Chicken Soup for the Soul

I received this text at 3:14 am on Tuesday morning:

“Hello beautiful and handsome friends.  I am in Gulu what do you want me to bring back to you?”

Our friend had just arrived in his hometown in Gulu.  A little sleepy and never having been very good at making gift requests, I responded with,  “Surprise me!”  

Understatement of the century.

Godffrey arrived to work on Wednesday morning with a pineapple in his left hand and a LIVE chicken in his right.  

He later explained the chicken had traveled under his public bus seat (totally allowed by the way) over an 8 hour journey to our family with the intention that we might enjoy her for dinner! 

If you have peeked through my blog you know we are pretty strict vegetarians, specifically, we eat a plant-based diet.  BUT we will always choose people over plants and this ( Vegetables are Not My God states a tad more clearly how I feel about all this meat and veggie business. 

Our chicken gift was a no brainer.  Though it tugged on heart strings and pushed buttons I don’t typically like pushed; it was obvious we would be eating our newest gift as it was the only appropriate and appreciative response.

The life lessons we learned this week were gigantic but the top 3 lessons learned were: 

Absolute generosity requires a sacrifice…

I think it is easy to be generous when we have an over-abundance.  But I cannot help but wonder what it would be like to be generous on THIS scale????  

I started to gain perspective on our gift and I did a little math.  (Actually Chris helped me do some math, so be grateful because these are the correct percentages!)  

We calculated our chicken was anywhere between 10%-20% of our friends’ monthly salary.   To put that in perspective…if you make $100,000 a year–monthly you might make roughly $8,000 a month.  So imagine meeting someone a few months back and then decided to buy your new friend an $800-$1600.00 dinner?   Can we say generous?  Now the question becomes:  What was the sacrifice made on behalf of our friend so that our family would receive this gift?  A less comfortable bus ride?  A less quiet night in his home as the chicken stayed inside before he brought her to us?  Or is it a less comfortable financial week so we might be blessed by this thoughtful meal?  Significant sacrifice was made and I was given a  new perspective on the concept of absolute generosity.  

The second lesson learned was:  Before you eat take care of your meat.  Oh great.   Here she goes on her vegetarian rant complaining about meat production in America!  Kinda.  American meat connoisseurs, take a deep breath and push through the next few sentences.  Free range is certainly the words to describe our hen’s existence.  She not only was placed in our yard “on a leash” to do what hens do…Godffrey also purchased rice for her to eat.  At one point in the day it began to rain VERY hard and he called Chris to inform him we would need to bring the chicken under our porch or inside so she would not be saturated.  “It will kill her.”  He explained.  As the sun started to set he told us we needed to bring her inside to ensure she was not harmed or eaten by another animal, cat, etc.  So we housed our chicken in our shower for the night.  Around 7:30pm she was still outside and Godffrey told us, “She needs to go to bed!”  Apparently it was past her bedtime so we brought her in to our shower and afforded her a good night’s sleep.  She was so healthy and strong.  This is NOT what we see with the factory farms existing in the US today.  Most animals do see the light of day nor are they allowed the opportunity to walk around as they are caged for the duration of their LIVES.  I assume no one is worried about rain, predators, or certainly the fowls’ bedtime!  Though we do not eat meat in the US for many reasons–factory farming tops our list.  This made our bird much more palatable when she became Thursday night’s dinner. 


The 3rd lesson we learned was:  One way to appreciate a gift is to be a gracious receiver!

Confession:  I am a compulsive re-gifter!  Can I blame this on the fact that gifts is not my primary love language?  Or maybe it is because I cannot stand the thought of not fully using something that has been given to me and therefore I enjoy the challenge of finding a friend who would??   Too picky?  I hope not…oh maybe!?  No matter the reason…when I do not fully know what to do with a gift my immediate thought following is:  Who else might enjoy this gift????   I could walk no more than 25 feet outside our compound to find about 30 people who would love to consume our generous gift from Godffrey.  And for them–they not only might appreciate it–but it might fill a huge need in their families’ lives:  food for dinner that night.  (The Cockerhams don’t wonder IF we will have dinner…our question is what or when we will have dinner.)   That said, re-gifting our chicken was out of the question.    We then needed to figure out how we might be the most gracious receivers possible.   We did our best to care for the chicken while she was alive.  We then asked our faithful chef from our compound if he would be so kind as to slaughter our chicken.  Then whether this is gracious or not, we appreciated her sacrifice of life by watching this happen.  Denis then prepared the chicken in a Ugandan style dish with bones in a “soup” type sauce.   We knew it was best to have the full Ugandan chicken experience and receive the gift as it was intended.  

Our Ugandan children easily appreciated the gift and were not at all uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the process.  They had 3rd helpings that night.   The rest of us (having never named the bird) found it simpler than originally expected to enjoy our dinner and appreciate the thoughtfulness of our dear friend.  Lesson learned…re-gifiting has got to go.  Not truly receiving the gift is quite a kick in the teeth.  


Though we were not fully “known” by our Ugandan friend–as he was unaware of our vegetarian preferences; what was trying to be conveyed was precious and priceless.  I hope our family never loses sight of the lessons learned.  I hope we might also respond and move forward giving in a sacrificial way, choosing people over our programs, and graciously receiving gifts given–no matter how uncomfortable and unusual the gift might be!  

Not to over spiritualize but I also found profound truth in seeing this week in the context of God’s gifts to me.  God’s best is given to us and we often have no comprehension of the value or sacrifices made on our behalf.  God wants us to not only give generously as He gives generously…He desires for us to receive even when His goodness is unexpected or not packaged the way we might assume. I could have told you I did not “need” the gift given on Wednesday but I would be wrong.  Our chicken produced awesome conversation and character development.  What a “miss” it would have been if we had not fully accepted what was offered.  May I be mindful of God’s gifts and receive what He has given me, even if at the time I am not fully clear on what to do with His gift!

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,  


2 thoughts on “Ugandan Chicken Soup for the Soul

  1. I have to chuckle…your generation missed so much! I grew up in the city, but my father always wanted to be a farmer and my mother, who grew up on a farm as a tenant farmer, DID NOT! We grew vegetables, went to farms and picked in LARGE quantities (to feed our family of 7), and occasionally bought chickens that my parents slaughtered. Several times they bought a pig that they prepared on the back porch (I won't describe all of that!). Everything was “free-range” and “organic.” However, I think that with the changes in our society (more city-dwellers with no clue on how to prepare fresh vegetables for the winter or space to grow it), the chicken farms and pesticides were introduced to produce more food. I am glad to see the turn back to a more natural production…however, many cannot afford to pay the price for it. Glad you had a good experience with the chicken!


  2. Oh this story! 😀
    For so many years, I have been called quietly to be a vegetarian. The kicker? I really, really, really don't like vegetables. I always said that if I had to actually tend and prepare my meals, that would fix the issue right away. I love this story and I am so moved by your ability to live in the uncomfortable and see the lessons daily.


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