Don't be fooled by her shy, quiet demeanor. Jennifer Abenakyo is a powerful force in SHIM, in Kyoya village and on our island. Without her, a vital fuel for ministry is certainly lacking - delicious food that gives us energy and nutrition.
Every Monday through Friday Jennifer faithfully prepares our lunches and suppers of posho and beans, or rice and cowpeas and greens and others, cooking them over charcoal stoves in a small room in one of our builders on base.
Her mornings often begin with sweeping and mopping the kitchen area and sorting beans, removing stones and other things, to cook them for lunch. She almost always uses just the right amount of salt, so you never need to add any. And she is very apologetic if she accidentally uses too much, especially in the greens.
|She has the most beautiful smile!|
As I made preparations to return in early 2010, I was ecstatic to learn that Auntie Jen was back on the island and now cooking for SHIM. It was like hearing news that a relative had come home again.
I don't believe Jennifer finished primary (elementary) school, but did receive her culinary training in a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) course, held at the base near her mother's home outside of Jinja.
I have told Auntie Jen that when I cook for myself, I become sick, but I never get sick when she cooks. After a weekend of preparing my own meals, I often look forward to Monday when Auntie will be back in the SHIM kitchen.
Of all of the SHIM family, I can communicate the least with Auntie Jen because of my little knowledge of Luganda and her little knowledge of English. But we speak the words we know and for the most part are able to convey what is needed.
Though I don't often understand the words she speaks, I have surmised that Aunt Jen is spunky. She is a defender of the truth and loves to joke. Her vibrant laugh is famous and can often be heard around the base. She is very faithful and dependable. And she looks for opportunities to be a silent blessing.
When she is not cooking at SHIM, she has a special ministry among the young mothers of the island. Supplied by another staff member with baby clothes and similar items, Auntie Jen visits young mothers - Christians, Muslims and others, showing them the love of Christ in a very practical way. We often say that Auntie Jen has an influence among the village women and mothers that others of us of SHIM do not have.
A couple of years ago, she built a house in the nearby village of Kyoya. She invited all of us at SHIM to come for a feast to celebrate her new home and we enjoyed a fantastic meal.
|Auntie Jen, in back, with reserve cook Betu and her daughter Mary, in front, in the SHIM kitchen.|
As she is in her mid-thirties and still single, I know God is her Husband and she is continuing to trust Him to bring the right man in the right time.
It is not easy living on the islands, especially for a single woman, but God has blessed the faithfulness and sacrifices made by Auntie Jennifer and He is using her to bless and touch the lives of many here.
I look forward to the day when she and I can communicate freely and know each other much better. That may happen here on earth, but I know it will definitely happen in the future in our heavenly home.
|Good friends: Jennifer, center, with Joy, Pr. Samson's wife, and Immaculate, Pr. Robert's wife, at the 2012 SHIM Staff Retreat in western Uganda.|