SUNDAY OCTOBER 23
Sunday was the beginning of the mission week at Kyambogo University. Medad had been up very late the night before trying to get a serviceable roof on the chapel. They were building a very large church over the small original chapel. One of the walls had been removed completely, so that an extension that went off in that direction could see the pulpit, but the new construction was mostly the concrete floor, walls with very large openings in them, and a roof only over part of the structure. The metal roof trusses for the front half had arrived just on Saturday but when they were lifted into place with an expensive piece of rental equipment, it was discovered that they were off by a few centimeters. The rental equipment had to go back, so Medad had wielders out working until midnight. They had stretched canvas or something over the metal. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day with no rain, as Medad feared. It was a good thing, because the chapel construction zone was packed with people. The Youth Hall, where people watched the service via video camera, was also packed. I believe that Medad is responsible for the growth of the student congregation from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand. He was made the assistant chaplain there a couple of years ago, and will be promoted to chaplain in December 2005. They normally have four services on Sunday to accommodate this large number of people, but were meeting all in one during the mission week. (GIVING OPPORTUNITY: Completion of the building is greatly hampered by lack of funds. The building belongs to the university, which isn’t all that interested in the services offered there, and has little money itself. The congregation consists mostly of students, who have no money either. Medad is quite desperate to finish the roof, especially as the rainy season is upon them.)
I rode to church with Jovah and we wondered where we would sit in this packed building. But Medad appeared and whisked us off to his office, where the morning speakers were waiting. I chatted with the archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombe, a tall, elegant-looking man, who was very approachable. I’m not sure I knew he was the archbishop for the entire country at the time. It was especially interesting to talk with him because (1) he has a close relationship with Truro, an Episcopal church in Fairfax where my daughter Nicole’s singing performed last year, (2) he attended the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Conference in Anaheim, and (3) he actually has several congregations in Southern California. These are Episcopal churches that broke with their own archdiocese probably over the American churches elevation of a gay man to bishop. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too much time with him, although Medad told me later than the archbishop was interested in what I was doing, and Jovah told me that he said I should have spoken at Macarere University (the BIG university in Kampala) as well. A few weeks after I got home, there was a picture of him in the Washington Times, as he attended a conference in Pennsylvania.
Also speaking on the program was Bishop Edward Muhima, who gave an absolutely amazing talk. The Bishop had just been elevated to the position of bishop of a diocese by Lake Edward on the Congo border, having been the president of the Anglican Evangelical Association for year.
This was my first exposure to any preaching in Africa that I could understand. One thing that was really striking about the way they preach is that there is a lot of references to sin (perhaps not too surprising as these were altar calls) but also a lot of references to Satan. I would later draw on this difference in my evangelical talks.
After the service, there was a luncheon for the archbishop in one of the campus buildings. I sat at the high table, next to a woman names Marthe Curry. Marthe is from Texas, and is spending six months in Uganda working on women’s economic development. She runs a women’s center and coaches the CEO of the Church of Uganda on women’s issues, staying at the archbishop’s palace with him and his wife. I also met several other people who work with Medad, including a lady named Loy. Loy and Connie escorted me back to Jovah’s house. Jovah was not home yet, but Loy and Connie came in and chatted in the sitting room. Connie suggested that I go take a nap, which I was happy to do given our busy day before. Loy had said she wanted to talk to me, so I said, OK, let’s talk now. But Connie said that she and Loy were still talking and Loy would wait for me after by nap. This seemed odd to me, but as I was really tired, I went to lie down. Both ladies were gone when I came back, and although I saw Loy again, we never had our talk.
I had dinner that evening with Jovah, who prepared quite a feast. I got to meet her adorable daughter, Joan, age 15. Joan goes to boarding school, but was suffering from a relapse of malaria and was home for a few days getting injections for it. I had dinner with Jovah just once or twice, but we had breakfast every morning, which I really enjoyed, both for the good food and for the company.
MONDAY OCTOBER 24
Monday Cowboy and a young man named Roger came and picked me up and took me to a café where Medad was having tea with a man named Hillary. En route, I mentioned to Cowboy my confusion over the gift of the duck. Roger didn’t understand why I found this gift odd. Hillary worked for a group that did AIDS education in the schools. I asked Hillary Bob Subrick’s question about was the AIDS rate in Uganda really as high as it was supposed to be originally. Apparently, in the first decade or so of the AIDS epidemic, there were no AIDS testing done in Africa. Instead, if a sick person had several of a list of symptoms, he was diagnosed with AIDS. The implication here is that the “Ugandan miracle” of reducing its extremely high rate of AIDS to 5% was not a miracle, because there was no way of knowing if the people who made up the original high number actually had the virus or not. Hillary, a well-educated young man, regarded the question with some disbelief. He told me they had 4,000,000 AIDS orphans, and cited sky-high HIV/AID prevalence rates in neighboring countries. Maybe it wasn’t AIDS, but a lot of people died of something. He accompanied us back to the university, and expressed interest in my study guide, so I gave him a copy.
At the Birundi’s house I met Pierre. Pierre (AKA Peter) is from Burundi and is either a medical student or doing an internship at the University of Rwanda. He took a bus from Rwanda to observe the mission week, as he wants to put one on himself in Rwanda. Burundi was a Belgium colony (I believe) so Pierre speaks French as well as English (not quite as well, but pretty good) as well as several African languages. When I first met Pierre he was wearing a grey suit with a Nehru collar and looked very nice (but very warm!) He gave me a hug and held me gently for the longest time.
I spoke to a large group of students in the Youth Hall. There were a hundred or so students there – Medad said the group was small because it was a public holiday honoring the funeral of former Ugandan president Obote. I gave a version of the talk I gave in the village, then afterward sat in Medad’s office and talked with students. Talking with them, I learned immediately that this group, which I thought was a mixed crowd of believers and non-believers, was the Christian Union – the student Christian group! I’m glad I found that out, before I gave them the “no drinking, no witchcraft, stop beating your wife” sermon. They are a very committed group of young people who are concerned about preserving family and marriage. To their villages, they represent the future and hope, and they realize the importance of the example they set.
Medad took me to lunch at a nice café/coffee shop at Shop Rite. This is a sort of strip mall, but quite nicely done and like Garden City Mall, more affluent and westernized than most of the city. I believe it is owned by a South African company. Over lunch, Medad told me his amazing story. Click here to read it in his own words. What isn’t this account is what happened to Medad and Connie in the last few years before he became affiliated with the university. The bishop to whom he reported objected strongly to Medad’s beliefs affirming women and supporting spiritual gifts. He refused to allow Medad to be ordained, and did his best to make sure that neither he nor Connie could get a job. For some time, the family was completely destitute, and was being fed by a farm family that would bring them produce every week. Fortunately, that bishop retired and the present bishop and archbishop are very supportive of Medad. Archbishop Henry ordained Medad as an evangelist as soon as he could, and Medad is scheduled to be “priested” (ordained a priest) on December 11, 2005.
The university mission week featured two evangelical services each night, meeting outside the residence halls (called hostels in Uganda.) I was scheduled to speak at two of these services, but not on Monday. I wanted to go to tonight’s service, however, both to see what I was getting into when I did speak, and because Bishop Muhima was speaking. This service was held outdoor and the speaker’s stand was set up on the grass. The students set up a bench behind the worship team (and behind the speakers, for which I am grateful, as they set the volume extremely high) for the speakers to sit. I was not on the program, but Medad but me there anyway. As it happened, Bishop Muhima sat next to me and we chatted for 20 or 30 minutes while the worship was playing. The Bishop went to divinity and then graduate school in Chicago, and he was there while Larry and I were there, although he was in a better neighborhood. He went to Trinity Divinity on the North Shore (and very much better neighborhood) and then got a doctorate in comparative religion at Northwestern. Once again, he gave an amazing sermon. The Bishop will be in the US in February. I have invited him to come visit us while he is here.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 25
Medad said they would “pick me” (Ugandan for “pick me up”) at 9:00 in the morning, but no one was there by 10:00. I was scheduled to speak to the lunch hour group again. I called Medad, who said Cowboy was on his way. I asked him if Cowboy could take me to an Internet Café before my talk, and Medad agreed, and asked that we come pick him up at All Saints Cathedral afterward. It was 11:00 before Cowboy got to me, however, so I suggested we go straight to get Medad. So we made our way across town, and found that Medad was stuck in a meeting with the bishop and couldn’t come. Cowboy had with him Bright and Pierre. I met Bright the previous week. He is a recent university graduate will a degree in journalism who is “one the street”: not literally, but that is their expression for looking for work. He had text messaged Anne that I was fine, and he is a great fan of her and Patti. Unless one has family connections in the government, it is very difficult to find a job, taking maybe five years to get one. Bright has been sponsored through university (which is a three-year degree there, because their senior school can go 5-6 years) by one of the Scots who support WSM. He would love to go on for a master’s degree in film making or open his own studio or come to the United States. Interestingly, Bright is the only one I met who expressed interest in coming to the US. I thought there would be many. Perhaps they are daunted by the difficulties of getting a green card and the great expense of the trip.
Today there were more students in the hall. Medad wasn’t there and the young student in charge wasn’t nearly as laid back as Medad. I reviewed what I had talked about on Monday, about how people want to be in charge of their own lives and turn our backs on God, which alienated us from each other as well. Then I went through material on how Jesus urged people to give up their anxious quest to control their own lives and gain power over each other. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I had a time when I had to finish, and they had to rush me off the podium when my time was up. The day before had been that public holiday, so they had not had classes. Today they had classes and some announcements to make. I mentioned to the strict young man in charge that no one had told me the timing and he grunted in surprise.
Ugandans have their own way of speaking (“pick you” instead of “pick you up”; calling a car accident a “knock,” etc.). They also have a repertoire of non-verbal vocalizations that are very expressive. I started using them myself. The “eh” or grunt of surprise is one (when we were at Mweya, I accidentally said to Connie that they did not open the gate in the morning until 8:30, and got such an “eh!”) and also little hums that can alternatively mean “okay” or “well, maybe.”
Cowboy, Bright, and Pierre had instructions to take me to the downtown food court to meet Medad and use the Internet Café. When we got there, however, Medad was not. The young men suggested I use the internet while they waited, but I was very thirsty and hungry. I asked if they had had lunch and they got very flustered, and I quickly realized that they had not had lunch but had no money for it. So I offered to buy them lunch.
I had eaten at this food court several times but although the waitresses had in the past offered us menus, today they attacked us with menus. Pierre had sort of ordered lunch from one girl while the rest of us decided on a four-person lunch with another. We went with the four-person lunch, but the other waitress was disgusted, so we told her we would order the drinks from her. We had chicken (their chickens, even in the South African place, as kind of skinny), a big basket of fries and coleslaw. Bright was especially happy. He said it must be his birthday, to have so much good food. I ate quickly and went to check my email.
I had two copies of my study guide with me. Pierre expressed interest in it – I didn’t learn until recently that he is very interested in biblical equality (equality between men and women) and that was his connection with Medad. He has made connections for Medad to minister on this subject in Burundi) – so I gave him a copy. Cowboy said he would like one too, so he got copy number two. Bright then observed he was the odd man out, so I promised him one as well.
The young men then took me to buy a dress for my daughter. Bright warned me that everyone would raise their prices sky high when they saw a white woman, so he went ahead to scout out a shop. We had a good time in the one he selected – the fellows would hold up the different dresses so I could see how they looked, and I’d tell them they looked very nice in that, and we’d all laugh. I did not have enough cash for my purchases, so Cowboy and I went out to a currency change (they are everywhere in Kampala) and changes some money.
The young men and I had a conversation about jobs. They know we have a minimum wage in the US. This is part of why Bright is so eager to come to the US. Five dollars an hour seems like a fortune to them. I said, yes, by Ugandan standards, but you can’t live on that in the US. Actually, I told them, most people make more than $5 an hour, and I can’t even get someone to come dig holes for $10/hour. Bright was incredulous at the notion that we have a labor shortage in the US. I told him what I pay my cleaning lady, and he said, for how long a period? A month? What I pay here is more than three times what you would pay a live-in cook for a whole month in Kampala. I think many housemaids get only room and board and a few cents a day. When I told him it was for one afternoon, he eagerly offered to clean for me for two-thirds that amount. He knows of people who came, worked menial jobs, lived frugally, and sent their money home to build a house in Uganda. So I told him that if he got a green card, I would find him a job. When I got home, I found information on this year’s lottery to apply for a green card for 2007 and sent it to him. He successfully completed the application for the lottery, so everyone pray that he is selected. He really is a delightful young man, eager to work hard and do well.
When we finished our transactions, Bright left us to go check his email, commenting on how full he was after that delicious meal. As we drove back to Jovah’s, I asked Pierre if he were married. He said no, but would I give him my daughter? We laughed, and I told him American girls didn’t take very well to being given. I’m sure this made no sense to him – I think he thought I said she was already given. A while later I asked him what he studied, and he said medicine. I said, “Oh, okay, you can have my daughter,” and we laughed more.
I had a long day on Wednesday, so I went back to Jovah’s for an afternoon and evening off. Most mornings I was waking up early no matter when I went to bed, so I was getting kind of tired.
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 26
Today Connie and Medad picked me. Medad had a meeting but was going to drop Connie and me at the WSM offices downtown. Nine other ladies were meeting us there for a day-long seminar in how to teach from my study guide, Male and Female in Christ. We got only a few blocks, however, when someone in another car told Medad that we were leaking oil. They have a beautiful minivan that Patti helped them buy. Unfortunately, it is very low to the ground, which is a particular problem in Kampala with its many potholes. There was a service station right there, so Medad pulled in, arranged to have the car looked at, and took off on a Voda-voda (a motorscooter. Kampala is full of voda-vodas, which serve as a form of public transportation). He looked very dignified, in his suit and carrying his brief case, perched on the back of this motorscooter. Connie asked me if I would be afraid to take one of the taxis, which are vans that seem to hold 30 people and that are always cruising around. One man drives, and another hangs out the window to solicit riders. The man hanging out the window also seems to function like the men reputed to work in Japanese subways, shoving people into the cars. I had the phone number of what they call a “special” taxi company in my pocket (what we would consider a regular taxi), however, so we called them and they sent a car immediately. I did get to ride in one of the jammed-full buses on Friday, however. The fare to the office was 8,000 shillings (a little over $4). I had a 10,000 note. The driver quite embarrassed admitted he didn’t have change, so I told him I guess he got a very big tip.
WSM offices are in downtown Kampala, inside a building that is narrow on the street side but reaches far back along a narrow alley between it and the next building. Both sides of the alley are lined with little shops. WSM is up a flight of stairs. Everything is wood and in need of a coat of paint (which is true of most of downtown Kampala). World Shine has two small rooms: one an office for the director, Robert Erone, and the other, in which we met, which is probably office space for the rest of the staff. The rest of the staff is Patricia, Joyce, and Medad, although I doubt if Medad gets to the office much since he became chaplain. We busied ourselves pushing tables and desks around, moving computers, and moving in chairs. The room was maybe 10 x 12 and had, like many of the other offices and shops around us, a window with bars but no glass. We were supposed to start at 9:00 but only a few people were there by then. I finally just started about 10:30, and everyone was pretty much there within an hour. We had Connie, Patricia, Joyce (2 Joyces, actually), Margaret (a midwife who delivered Jabez Omega and Patti’s great friend), Sarah (wife of the dynamic youth pastor at the chapel), Christine Erone (Robert’s wife and a police officer), Betty, Edith and someone else whose name I don’t remember. They were a great group, and we had a great day. They really soaked up the material. Everyone got a copy of the study guide, and I left several extra behind. Margaret especially was eager to have them, and she has since emailed me that she is teaching a group of poor ladies from it. We all went to lunch at a regular African restaurant across the street, where everyone but me ordered goat. I actually never had goat (to my knowledge, anyway) while I was there, although it is quite a favorite in Uganda. On the way back to the office, I followed someone I thought was Connie, except it wasn’t Connie. I followed her quite a ways down the street before someone came after me.
Wednesday night was my first evangelical sermon with the students! We were at Connie’s in between the workshop and the meeting, and I sat in her sitting room writing notes on yellow stickies, which I put in my Bible next to the story of the Temptation in the Wilderness. I was pretty apprehensive about this whole thing, as I am a teacher, not a preacher (although Bishop Mihuma kindness said, that works too). The meeting was at the Good Shepard Hostel, and Medad, Bright, and Pierre were with me. I think Cowboy was around somewhere too. The meeting started with a worship team equipped with speakers about 6 feet tall, and unfortunately, I was on the speaker side tonight. As Medad says, the students like to “make a lot of noise,” to blast out all the competition and get everyone down to the meeting, and to make sure none of the neighbors (for miles around, apparently) feel left out either. I have the two places I did evening meetings confused, but I think this one was way out past the shanty town next to the university. It had a large wall around it, with rolls of razor wire along the top, and an armed guard. All the houses in Jovah’s neighborhood have the walls and razor wire, and most of the guards, whether at the Garden City Mall or the parking police downtown, have big rifles. The young woman from the Christian Union who was in charge of this service had told me that I spoke too softly, so I promised to yell. I actually have rarely been accused of speaking too softly, but it might be a question of style as well as volume – the Africans tend to be very forceful speakers. Well, as I say, I’m a teacher, not a preacher.
So after the worship, I gave my talk. Here it is, briefly.
Greetings from the United States. (I told them my daughter was a university student, my son a graduate, and my husband a professor. My audiences often acted a little scared of me, so by telling them about my children in the beginning, I could later assure them that I had children their age and they didn’t find me scary at all.)
We in the US want to encourage you in Uganda because Africa and South America are the hope of Christianity. In the United States, we can no longer bear to hear the word “sin.” If you are a university professor and you call someone or some act sinful, you can lose your job. If you are a politician, similarly, that is the end of your career. But it you can’t bear to hear the word “sin,” you can’t repent, and you can’t know the love of Jesus.
In Creation, God made us and gave us every good thing. But we wanted things our own way and turned out backs on God. We sold ourselves to sin. Now preachers always tell us to repent so we can go to heaven when we die. But I want to tell you that the Kingdom of Heaven is now. You don’t have to die to have every good thing. God wants to give them to us.
In biblical days, people would sell family land, and even sometimes family members. But God wouldn’t let people be permanently lost. Hebrew law provided the role of a redeemer, someone who could buy other people back from slavery. God sent us his son to redeem us back from the sin into which we sold ourselves.
I am here to ask you to come back from slavery, to accept that redemption. There is no happiness in sin. So many sins – drinking, sexual immorality, violence, porn, gambling — are attempts to ease the tensions we suffer when we are alienated from God. And these things do release the tension – for a little while. But because they don’t solve the real problem, we have to do them again and again, until we become addicted. There is no happiness in that.
Materialism is not the answer either. Jesus told the story of a wealthy man who had a very good year and worried about how to protect his treasure. So the wealthy man built a strong tower and stored up all his wealth inside. Then he thought, Now I have everything. It is all mine. I did it all myself, and I’m safe and can do anything I want. And Jesus said, You foolish man. Tonight your soul will be required of you. We can build up all the protections in the world, but ultimately, there is only one source of security: God.
We in the United States offer just such an example of the inability of wealth to solve human problems. We are very rich by historic standards, yet our rates of divorce are sky-high. A huge percentage of the population takes pills for depression. Now what do Americans have to be depressed about? There is tremendous pressure on our children to be popular, to wear the right clothes, the right shoes, to have the right look. We are too sophisticated to believe in the devil, but we are deep in Satan’s clutches.
The Bible talks about Satan as the tempter – someone who knows the hidden desires of our hearts and offers them to us. And our deepest desire is to be like god. Remember the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness? He had fasted for 40 days and nights, and was very hungry when the tempter came to him. The tempter said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Use your enormous powers to serve your own physical needs, the tempter told Jesus. And what did Jesus say?
(Here I asked them to answer, and ran down to the person who waved her hand and gave her the mic. These folks are really Bible-literate. Someone quoted, accurately,
“You shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.”
Then the tempter took Jesus to the highest pinnacle of the temple in the holy city, and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written that God will command his angels concerning you, and they will bear you up and not let you even stub your foot.” Show us you are a big man, Jesus. Let all of Israel see who you are. And Jesus said,
(Once again, I asked them)
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” God doesn’t have to show off.
Finally the tempter took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms and all the riches of the world and said, “All this will I give you if you bow down and worship me.” Just what Jesus could have been, if he had decided to go that route.
But Jesus said (and a student answered): “Get away from me, Satan! For you will worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
And then I repeated, “Get away from me, Satan! And the devil ran away.”
The Bible says that when two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, he will be there in the midst of them. I said that I thought I saw more than 2 or 3 Christians there that night, and asked all the Christians to raise their hands. Most of the audience did. I invited them to open their hearts and feel his presence, and was quiet for a moment. Then I asked those who were opening their hearts to Jesus for the first time to come down so we could pray for them (my first altar call!) Medad came and took the mic and urged people to come forward. And eventually we had 7 or 8 students come forward.
Medad and Bright were very excited about my talk. Medad loved my statements that there was no happiness in sin and that the kingdom of heaven is now. Bright was moved by the moment of silence. Medad kept saying, “You are an evangelist!”
THURSDAY OCTOBER 27
Thursday I once again spoke to the Christian Union group at noon. This was my last day with them, and I told them that since I had talked about the first sin on the first day, and about giving up your own will on the second, I was going to sum it all up and talk about sex and the perfect relationship on the last. That follows logically, doesn’t it? So I talked about how in the beginning, what God created was an “adam” – not a proper name (Adam) nor a “man” (ish) but, but a play on the Hebrew word for the dust of the earth (adama) from which the being was formed. But God created only one such being, and he quickly saw that “It is not good for the adama to be alone.” So God set out to create an ezer kenegdo for the earth creature. The first word, usually translated “helper,” does not mean an inferior helper, but a real help. In fact, when this word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament, it is usually used to refer to God as a help (as in the Psalm, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where will my help come? My help is the Lord…”). The second word, kenegdo, means fitting, suitable, or corresponding to the adam. What God said the adam needed was someone who was strong enough to be a real help, not another God, but someone equal to the earth creature. (I joked about being an American speaking English in Africa teaching them Hebrew.) The adam looked through the animals God had created, but couldn’t not find the ezer kenegdo among them (the ezer kenegdo would not be an animal, but a being made in God’s image like the earth creature.) So God put him into a deep sleep, took a substantial hunk of him, and created the woman.
When the earth creature – now called a man (ish) for the first time – sees this new creation, he says:
“This one at last! Bone of my bone! Flesh of my flesh! She shall be called woman (ishasha) because she was taken from the man (ish).”
Some scholars have argued that because the man called the new creature “woman” he was naming her and so signifying that he had authority over her. But “woman” was no more a name then than it is now. Instead, the man’s entire speech reflects his joy at finding someone who is like him. Ishasha (woman) is simply ish (man) with a feminine ending attached. They are simply male and female versions of the same thing.
And Genesis 2 concludes:
“For this reason, a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. And they were naked, the man and the woman, and they were not ashamed.”
The account of the creation of woman tells us that God divided one lonely creature into two in such a way that they became one again. Further, while nakedness is a physical state, shame refers to a psychological one. “Naked and not ashamed” refers to a state of honesty and freedom between husband and wife.
Then I talked about what it means to be an ezer kenegdo. It means that woman was created not as a housemaid or a baby-making machine (as traditional cultures tend to assume) but to be a real help to the man. The day before, doing my train-the-trainer workshop, a case came up where the husband of a woman who was doing well professional had become very unhappy and threatened to leave her. A similar thing had happened with the former vice-president of Uganda. This woman had had to resign when her husband began to abuse her. So today I talked about how the one flesh relationship requires a wife to emotionally support her husband. I read from Bartchy’s list of what it meant for Jesus to share power (which I had talked about on Tuesday) – Jesus used his power to lift up the oppressed, to encourage, to help each other be the best they can be. I talked about how men need our admiration, the strength to go out and thrive in a world where they are always under judgment and oppressed by other men. Then I read them Paul’s instructions to husbands in Ephesians 5: Love your wife, help her be the best she can be, give yourself up for her, etc.”
I ended by telling the young men that if they treated their wives like this, she would be the happiest woman in the world. They laughed and applauded at this. Then I concluded, “And you will be the happiest man.”
I loved talking with the students, and I wish I had more time with them, and maybe do a train-the-trainer with them. They were very responsive to the message I brought, and they are just the right age to be catching them with it. As the future leaders of their country and a bridge generation, it is so important that they build healthy relationships and families.
Thursday afternoon Connie, Cowboy, and Pierre took me to lunch at Margaret. Kiswirri’s house. Patti especially urged me to be sure to meet Margaret and I see why. Margaret leads Bible studies and is working with low-income women. She is also a mid-wife and her husband is a doctor. They have a nice house in an area where the Indians used to live before Idi Amin threw them out (although the road pavement itself has to be the absolute worst in Kampala. The road is so eroded it would be better off without what pavement is left.) Margaret’s husband’s ministry placed them in this house, and when the Indian family that had owned it did not come back after Amin was thrown out of office, gave them the opportunity to buy it. The government wanted payment in full almost immediately, but fortunately changed its mind and offered payments over time (although still very steep.) Margaret and her husband had just finished paying for the house and are planning renovations.
Margaret served us a very nice lunch and we enjoyed looking at her daughters’ photo albums. I pulled out a copy of our last year’s Christmas letter to show her my family (it had the only photos I brought with me). Cowboy looked at the picture of my daughter, handed the letter to Pierre, and said, “Send the cows.” They agreed she was very beautiful and worth many cows. I told Larry this and he got a lot of mileage out of it.
Thursday night I was scheduled to meet with the Full Gospel Businessmen’s (and women’s) Fellowship. Medad was supposed to take me, but once again, he could not get away. Connie went with me, as well as Pierre, who was also speaking, and Cowboy drove. The hotel where the fellowship was held was a hundred yards or so from Jovah’s house, and as the hotel was full with graduation parties, we decided to park at Jovah’s. You have to ring a bell to get someone to come open the gate at Jovah’s, and no one came for a long time. It turned out that the electricity was off – as it had done several evenings while I was there – and Jovah had the generator running and no one could hear the bell in the house. We finally got in, and walked up the hill to the meeting.
Medad had told me that this was fairly casual and would be more of a testimony than a speech. But maybe because the group had been moved into a different room due to the parties, it was not very casual. A large group was seated around a rectangular table, and they were expecting speakers. So I talked about what is going on the US, material from my academic lecture (which I will attach elsewhere). The group of high level businesspeople was very interested and responsive and asked many good questions.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 28
Friday morning Connie and Cowboy took me downtown to open a bank account at Connie’s bank. I wanted to open a joint account so Patti could use it as well, but they wouldn’t put Patti on the account without her photo and signature. I had to have two passport sized photos, so we went over near the post office where there was a photo booth. I discovered that white Americans and black Ugandans need different light settings for photographic purposes – the flash in the photo booth was very bright. I look like a sheet of paper. We set up the account okay, then went to our familiar food court for lunch, leaving the car where it was parked. After lunch, I felt a little pressed for time — I had my academic lecture at 3:00 and wanted to check out the room and set up the Power Point presentation – so we took one of the Ugandan taxis a few blocks back to the car. These taxis are vans that hold I don’t know how many people – 20? 30? Kampala is full of them and they always seem jammed full. They each have a driver and one additional man who hangs out the window and inveigles people to get on board. The one we took seemed already full to the maximum. I ended up in a jump seat where the conductor (or shover) normally sat. I thought he was going to sit on my lap but he found space somewhere else. The woman next to me looked like I had just dropped in from Mars. I suppose I had. But it was a short trip that cost only 200 shillings each (about 11 cents) and got us where we needed to go.
We got back to the university in plenty of time, but when we got to the hall where I was to speak, there was a class going on. Three o’clock came and the class showed no sign of ending. One of the Ugandan men from Gideon International (who had come to give away New Testaments) spoke to a student near the door, who said that the class was scheduled to last until 4:00. Someone else went around to the front (it was a very large class, a few hundred students) and talked to the professor, who agreed to end at 3:30. Very kind of him. Apparently, the vice chancellor had agreed to give Medad the space but no one actually followed through on finding out if it were available. Our group was already expected to be smaller than Medad had hoped because of the graduation going on at Makarere University, the BIG school in town, to which most of the faculty had been invited. This delay meant that most of the students could not stay more than half an hour, as they had other lectures. We also spent a lot of time trying to get the Power Point projector to work (it never did, despite valiant attempts on Pierre’s part). I finally gave up and started my talk without it. There were varying numbers of people there, of course, maybe 2 or 3 dozen to start with and only one dozen at the end. But again, a receptive audience that asked very good questions. One thing I learned from them is that all of the pornography spam on the Internet poses a serious problem in countries like Uganda. Internet connections are slow and expensive anyway, and the cost of a good service with good filters is probably out of reach of most users. So they get pounded with spam. In addition to the moral issue of pornography itself, this problem has to have developmental consequences. How can people conduct business when they have to wade through all that garbage?
I am currently editing the paper I presented in Uganda but will add it or a link soon. Basically, I collapsed chapters two and five from my book, and talked about the economic reasons for the structure of the “historic” patriarchal family, including the subordination of women, and how the industrial revolution and the movement of production out of the household has caused declines and other change in family life in the West. Presenting this paper in Uganda was a real eye-opener for me, for many of the things I wrote about as “historic” are, of course, still going on in the less developed parts of the world. The butchering of animals for meat, for example, left the American household by 1860s. In Uganda, most meat is still butchered in the household, which of course explains Naboth’s and my confusion over his gift of a live duck.) And while Ugandan TV carries American sit-coms, they were very interested to have someone tell them about the forces behind behavior such as that portrayed on a show like “Friends.” One man, for instance, said that he had been puzzled by ads in European newspapers placed by women seeking husbands. Ugandan women would not dream of advertising for a husband, or of having to. A young woman burst into loud laughter when I read a passage about some American women not marrying because they felt that having a man around was too much work and that while “children were a joy, many men were not.” Unfortunately, she had to leave before the question period, so I don’t know if she laughed because that was so outrageous to her or because it described her own situation!
Friday night I once again spoke at the evening evangelical meetings in the dorm. Connie was preparing Naboth’s duck for dinner, which they were having early so I could get to the meeting at 8:00. Immaculate and Eron, two young women whose university fees Larry and I are paying, had come down from Bishop Barnum University (two or three hours away) to meet me, and they were busy preparing the meal as well. I sat in the sitting room alone, looking at my sermon notes, when a group of six adults came in. They all greeted me (none spoke English) and then sat down. Just sat down. I went to get Connie, who came out and greeted them and then went back into the kitchen. Soon she came out with the duck, put it on the table, and asked me to come eat. I was a little confused to be eating by myself, but as I had to leave soon, I complied. Then the family who had come in came over and ate too. I was pretty astonished. I asked Connie later if she got anything to eat. She just laughed. I sort of doubted it. I told the story to Jovah and she said this is why so many pastors’ kids decide they don’t like the church. They will be all ready to eat lunch and someone will show up and get it instead. Earlier Connie had suggested that if I wanted to help support their ministry of hospitality, she would be very appreciative. It gets expensive feeding all these people, all the ones who stay with them as well as people who just drop by to eat or sleep. Plus, Medad pays school fees for a lot of people. I did leave some money for this purpose (another giving opportunity if the reader is interested – Connie’s Household Account.)
I spoke Friday night at the Trinity Hostel. The group here invited some of the neighbors to the meeting, so one of the lovely young students translated for me so the neighbors could understand. Eric, the chapel youth minister, did the altar call after I spoke and another seven students came forward. Eric is pretty amazing, an extremely dynamic young man, a great speaker and energetic leader. I doubt if he is five feet tall, but his passion more than makes up for his lack of stature. His full name is Eric Abraham, his wife’s name is Sarah (she was at the train-the-trainer session and is a dynamic leader in her own right) and they have a little boy named Isaac. Both Eric and Sarah are delighted to tell you this joke. I just hope they don’t name their next child Ishmael.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 29
Saturday started bright and early with me speaking at a Ladies’ Prayer Breakfast at 8:00. It was held on the patio at a restaurant called the Public Café. Jovah drove me. They had the worship team from the evening before, and after worship and a nice buffet breakfast, I spoke. I was very impressed with the young women running these student events. They started on time, kept to their schedules, and kept me well informed. There were 115 (I think that is what Medad said later, but it may have been 150) women there, while Medad spoke at the men’s prayer breakfast at another hotel. I spoke on how Jesus raised up women, rejecting cultural imperatives of his day that feared women as a source of ritual impurity and sexual temptation, and which defined them solely as wives and mothers. Jesus refused to let his ministry to women be limited, however, and he called them to come out of the kitchen and participate fully in the kingdom of God. After I spoke, we invited women in the audience to come up and share their own insights. We had a really good discussion, with women sharing their testimonies, telling their own Jesus stories, and talking about Ugandan traditions that kept women down. It was another event that, had it been the only thing I participated in, would have made the entire trip worthwhile. Jovah took part in the discussion, and proved to be a powerful and compelling speaker.
After the breakfast, Jovah took me shopping. She said she wanted to give me a gift (despite my protest that she had already been a most gracious hostess) and asked me what I would like. I finally said I would like one of the scarves the Uganda women wear. I meant a simple cotton one like they use to tie babies on their back with. Instead, Jovah bought be an entire elegant ensemble. The fabric store had the skirt pre-made as a demonstration, but they didn’t have a blouse made up. So Jovah bought fabric and we took it upstairs to a tailor shop, which made up the blouse that afternoon (although they complained about it, they did it.) It is quite beautiful and I was glad to have something besides my “missionary” clothes to wear to the party we went to Sunday night. We also went to a kind of tourist market by the theatre, where I bought some batik paintings and Jovah bought a shawl with elephants on it to send to my daughter.
Jovah returned me to the Birungis, and I went with Medad, Cowboy, the lady from the village and Loy to a “give away” ceremony.
More about this ceremony and my last two days later.