Location: Mukono and Kira, Uganda
Friday, May 19, 2017
Glorious morning, UCU. Why? Because I slept! I figured it up, and between the time I left our home in Chicago and the time I went to bed last night (4 days later), I had slept a total of 14 hours. Not good. But last night, I added 8 to the total. Woohoo! Sleeping pills (and a ton of prayer — thank you, all!) are my friend. So, now I’m ready for more seeing God in new and dramatically different places. And that started with the same breakfast we’ve eaten every day. Ha! Actually, today I want to highlight a couple of random things in what will likely be an otherwise shorter-than-usual post. And at breakfast, it’s our friend the mango.
Every place I’ve traveled to has a particular food that, no matter where else you are, you just can’t reproduce. In Chicago, it’s pizza. It Israel, it’s humus. In England, it’s fish and chips. In Germany, it’s beer … a dozen things that I drool over just talking about them, because that’s “home” for me. And here in Uganda, it’s the tropical fruit, specifically the mango. Ain’t no Costco mango on the face of the earth that comes close to the mangoliciousness we get here for every single meal — slices for breakfast, and 100% juice drinks for every other occasion. So, a moment of stomach-growing silence, please, for our friend the mango.
Our morning today was spent visiting the Okuzimba Museum in Kira, Uganda. This is a memorial site, where a number of the original missionaries who brought Christianity to Uganda were killed.
In 1844, Muslim traders came to Uganda. In 1877, Anglican missionaries came from England. And in 1879, Catholic missionaries came from France. Of course, all three of these groups brought their pre-existing hostilities with them, and that bled over into relations between them in Uganda as well.
But in 1884, King Mutesa I (1852-84), who had invited the missionaries to come to Uganda, died. His son, King Mwanga (1884-98), then took throne and tried to wipe out Christianity, ordering the executions of many Christian missionaries, as well as some Muslims. Interestingly, it is believed this was to cover his homosexual lifestyle. To make matters worse, during this same time, Uganda experienced significant religious war. But ultimately, the Anglicans win and eventually, the Church of Uganda is formed as an archdiocese in the global Anglican communion. One of the Christians who escaped execution under Mwanga became Prime Minister of Uganda in 1927, and ultimately created the Okuzimba shrine. Eventually, a new building was built over the site and the original shrine. This is the museum we visited.
Here are a couple pictures from the museum, including a couple that are pretty gruesome. The artistry is excellent, but still gruesome.
When we got back from Kira, before lunch, we attended a global ministries lecture focused on pluralism, particularly in Uganda. Unfortunately, neither this talk nor the Muslim talk yesterday strike me as carefully considered, at least, not like the symposium was last night. So, this wasn’t really my favorite part of the day. I did however learn some interesting statistics about religious diversity in-country. Evidently, the country breaks down roughly as follows:
- Catholic: 40% (shrinking)
- Anglican: 32% (shrinking)
- Islam: 14%
- Pentecostal: 11% (growing) — This is the category for every Christian who is not Catholic or Anglican. My EFCA church, for example, would be classified “pentecostal” right alongside Assemblies of God or even more fringe pentecostal churches.
- Pagan and other: 3%
Talking through the demographic composition of the nation was really worth the price of admission all by itself. But the icing on the cake was learning this classic Ugandan (pan-African?) saying:
Westerners have watches, Africans have time.
That’s so right, but I’ve never heard it before. Basically, it means that we in the West race around keeping schedules, but we never have time for anything, where Africans pay little attention to watches or calendars, but seem to have time for everything they intend to achieve in life. It’s a question of expectations and satisfaction. I love it. But to bring any of that home to America would require a relentless simplification of American life. Possible? I think it could be.
After the lecture, we had lunch again at Touch of Class. This place is such a gift to the UCU campus. It’s so easy and so cheap to eat there. But there are also … so many bones! I got the chicken this time, and it was 70% bones / 30% chicken. I really don’t like bones in my food, lazy American that I am! Sigh.
We had a little downtime after lunch, which I always really appreciate, but then we hopped in the car and drove out to visit Children Alive Ministries, or CAlM (also on Facebook). This was probably my favorite activity while in Mukono. CAlM works with elementary-aged children in the local villages, helping them with school and character building. Their mission is “to empower children in urban Mukono to be community leaders by offering academic support, character development, spiritual development, and recreational and enrichment programs.” Love that!
While there, we met a significant portion of the staff, including some of the secondary-aged (High School) kids who act as “street leaders” (mentors and tutors) to the younger kids. I sat down next to one youngster named Kassim, and we hit it off right away. What a phenomenal young man, who was assisted as a younger boy, and now mentors kids himself as an older student. I was very impressed with him, and we had a ton of fun playing games with the group!
Speaking of the group, we learned a little about the ministry, introduced ourselves, played games together and shared some refreshments. It was too brief a time, but I absolutely loved it. The volunteers there were so friendly and bubbly that it was impossible not to enjoy being together, and the work they’re doing is both important and excellent. This is definitely an organization worth supporting.
One thing I definitely noted about CAlM is that they are rural, and driving in rural Uganda is not for the faint of heart. Many roads are unpaved, but the roads leading out to where we went to meet with these folks were roads only the most technical sense of the term. In fact, at one point driving out to meet then, we literally had to pile out of the bus and go the rest of the way on foot … and even that was, frankly, a bit perilous. Culture shock!
Coming back to campus from CAlM, we went straight to dinner at … you guessed it, Touch of Class. In contrast with other meals, however, this time they had ordered for us … and it was amazing. Here’s a picture. And the diamond of the table was the giant vat of avocado.
Another aside worth mentioning is that the avocados here are HUGE. I have literally seen people carving up ‘cados the size of grapefruits. It’s amazing. Tropical climates are definitely the fruit’s friend.
We closed the evening out by playing Mafia in the guest house commons area. This is a game of lies and deception — a good Christian game — in which everyone playing constitutes a town. Unbeknownst to the others, some are mafia (killers), some are sheriffs (those who can take out the Mafia), some are doctors (healers, who can prevent the Mafia from killing people), and — at least the way we were playing — a donut maker, who each day of gameplay gives someone a donut … just for fun. I was random citizen #2 (i.e. nobody) twice, and one of two sheriffs in the 3rd game. Sadly, I was killed off immediately by some very perceptive mafia, so……. But that gave me extra time to text with Faith, so no worries.
Guess that about sums it up for today. However, I thought I’d share one more random note… We were walking across campus today and suddenly monkeys starting appearing everywhere, coming out of the trees to frolic around on the yard. But by the time we stopped and reached for cameras, they were heading back up into the trees and off to who-knows-where. So, there are evidently some serious monkeys handing out on campus. How cool.
Last thought, prayer requests…
- Finally, I’ve gotten some sleep. Please praise God with me for that, and pray it continues.
- Please also continue to pray for my family, given how long I’ll be away.
- Pray for CAlM, and all the children they’re reaching for the gospel and helping to get a better education.
- Lastly, we leave campus tomorrow to head to Mbale, where we’ll be involved in a number of different ministries, from preaching to hospital ministry to prison ministry to working with street kids. Please pray for the power of the gospel and for us to just be a loving presence in their lives as we go out.
God bless you. Signing off for Friday.