Last week we learned of the death of our good friend and colleague, Okello Godfrey. His sudden death was shocking and it has been hard to be so far away. We had a small memorial service for him at our church in London, and wanted to share a few of our thoughts and pictures in remembering Godfrey.
Godfrey was a thoughtful man. Each word he spoke had meaning and direction. Whether he was mediating a dispute between the youth group and a staff member, talking with beneficiaries in an IDP camp or presenting strategic plans to the board of trustees-every word was carefully placed.
Godfrey was a collected man. I never saw Godfrey lose his cool. He faced crisis the same way he faced ordinary life events: calm and collected. I remember driving with him to get his car fixed when he made a joke about having good “shock absorbers” for dealing with the stress that came across his desk, better than the shock absorbers on his car. At times, I wanted him to express his anger or frustration, but he knew that life was too short to be bothered by the small stuff. Godfrey preferred the sounds of boisterous laughing, meaningful dialogue and the hiss and clinking of bottles of Club.
Godfrey was the guy we trusted to keep an eye on our place when we were out of town and the person we could openly ask questions of a sensitive subject, knowing that we would get his most thoughtful response.
Godfrey was a forgiving man. Even when things at work were tense, he would happily invite us for drinks at the end of the day. He was able to compartmentalize his work from his fun and relaxation. I was really looking forward to hanging out with Godfrey without the influence of the organisation in our relationship. Godfrey would brag about Holly and I, telling his buddies that he had the best mzungus, and his friends would often tell him, “Hey, I saw your mzungus in town today…” He stuck his neck out for us, and invited us to integrate into the life and culture of young professionals (through weddings, funerals, birthday parties). We were proud to be his mzungus.
I think Godfrey knew how much I loved him. I think we were both surprised at how close we could become, given the cultural obstacles. He was open to knowing me, and I was open to knowing him. His life has enriched mine in so many ways. He has taught me lessons that I will carry for my lifetime.
Godfrey was one of the good ones. We will miss him dearly.