Archive for July, 2015

You may remember the small and ancient Roman Catholic lady who, when we shared Christ with her, said she knew Peter and she knew Paul, but she did not have room for the gospel we were telling her. It was during my second trip to Uganda and I was here for seven weeks. We encountered Maria trying to haul a large jerry can of water up to her mud-wattle and thatch-roofed house from the spring (she has since moved). We offered to carry it for her and so fell into conversation. ( where her name mistakenly reported as Luwaida).

Maria after changing her dress to receive visitors.

Maria after changing her dress to receive visitors.

Just as I previously related her story over several trips to Uganda, she would never let us leave without mentioning certain needs, like, “I need some sugar,” or, “I haven’t eaten meat in three years.” So I fell into the easy pattern of dropping by each time I came with a small gift for her. She is a widow with no living children to take care of her, and she lives in abject poverty as one who is alone in the world.

Upon one of these gift-giving trips to her home, we asked her if she had thought more about Christ, and she said, “When you love me like this, I cannot fail to believe what you are telling me. I am in your hands.” I left her in the hands of the church-plant we had started nearby. (

I did not see her for several trips because of administrative changes that moved my ministry SAM_2527away from that area, but this trip as I revisited this first of my church-plants in Uganda, I also took the time to bring gifts to Maria. We found her hoeing among the banana trees, very hard work for a woman of her age. She seemed overjoyed to see me, insisted on washing up and changing her dress for my visit, and she was so enthused that she was half undressed before she even reached the door of her one-room apartment. When she emerged, she emerged calling out to her neighbor to bring chairs for her visitors. She would not settle until everything was just so.

As we visited, we asked why she was hoeing so vigorously in the banana trees. She said she does this every day so as to stay healthy and limber – physical therapy Uganda-style! We shared our gifts with her of sugar, and soap for both the body and the laundry, some chicken and some beef, and some cooking oil. She became more and more animated and effusive as we continued to pull things out of the bag. What a joy to give to such a one who has such need and who will not take it for granted in any way. What a joy to simply love another individual unconditionally. I thanked the Lord for giving this precious gift to me, and the visit may be the highlight of this entire trip.

Toward the end of our short visit, Maria began to repeat over and over the phrase, “Muje, muje, muje!” (sp?). I asked Alfred to translate,SAM_2522 and he said it meant, “You go, you go, you go.” Of course, as a musungu, I did not understand this comment, for she seemed quite happy, and the phrase did not make sense to me as it was being translated.

After a little more visiting, we came to an end and said our good-byes, she clutching my hand and squeezing and shaking it. I think we were all very touched by this meeting. As we departed, I asked Alfred for a clearer interpretation of the phrase she kept repeating, and this is what he said: Maria was saying, “You are free to go. Even if you leave now at this very moment, I am very content, I am well satisfied.”

SAM_2528This is truly the comment of a person used to living alone in the world, little noticed by those around her, of little or no consequence in both her own eyes and the eyes of her community to be so significantly affected by a loving visit. I was both deeply moved and saddened by these words and the heart and the life they reveal. Alfred told me her full name, Namudu Maria, means “slave woman.”

Pray for Maria.

According to Wikipedia:

“The chain of islands known as Buvuma Islands, consists of more than fifty islands and is located a few kilometres off the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda in the Napoleon Gulf. Buvuma lies approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi), by water, south of the major city of Jinja, and around 90 kilometres (56 mi), southeast of the national capital, Kampala. It is part of the wider Buganda kingdom region, and …was recently made into a government district of its own by the Government of the Republic of Uganda.

“The main island is Buvuma, with a land area of around 200 square-miles (517 km²), and a population of around 20,000. It is forested, and is a destination for intrepid bird-watching tourists. The forest is being cut and burned to provide three boats a day full of charcoal for the nearby city of Jinja. There are twenty-six gazetted Forest Reserves in Buvuma.” (

Here is the story of how Buvuma Island and the District of Buvuma got their name, according to the Ugandan residents.

In the late 1800’s the king of Buganda ruled one of the most powerful and influential kingdoms in Uganda. In fact, Kampala, the current Ugandan capital, is located in this kingdom. It is said of Buganda’s historical influence that even today in 2015, when a Baganda person refers to an individual from another kingdom, i.e., “You are a Basoga” (a person from the neighboring kingdom of Busoga), it is considered by the recipient to be an insult, and he hangs his head in shame, saying something like, “Please don’t say that.” Even Alfred, my assistant and a loyal Basoga, says this is culturally true, though he personally rejects it as a proud member of the Busoga Kingdom.

The king, Ssekabaka Mwanga II (Most High King Mwanga II), annexed the islands in 1893 apparently by military might and influence. When he visited the large island now referred to as Buvuma Island to establish his new rule there, the people, who were not particularly interested in being annexed or conquered, had no means of resistance.

No means, that is, except their sense of humor. They noticed that this king had

Ssekabaka Mwanga II, circa 1893

Ssekabaka Mwanga II, circa 1893

large and crooked teeth and an equally over-prominent nose (the various stories mention one or the other of these traits, or both together). When the king would hold his councils in the slightly different Luganda language of the Buganda kingdom, they also noticed that he had a loud and obnoxious laugh.

The islanders observed this laughing, horse-faced king, and the only campaign of resistance they could mount was one of mockery. They said, “Is this man the king?” Apparently this seemingly innocent question comes off as very rude and mocking in the local tribal language of Lusoga, a close relative of Luganda, and may translate to something like, “Is this horse-faced, braying donkey the king who is conquering us?” And so this question seems to have become a political/cultural proverb of the day. When someone would point to the king’s party and say, “Is this man the king?” everyone from the islands would burst into laughter and point at him, mocking his expressions and his laugh.

Burial place of Baganda Kabakas (kings)

Burial place of Baganda Kabakas (kings)

There is no record that I’ve uncovered as to how violently the king may have reacted to this kind of reception as he travelled from island to island forcing them officially into his kingdom one by one. He was capable of considerable violence, according to this passage:

“Mwanga II… never developed a personal affection for the Christian faith…. Shortly after assuming the throne, Mwanga launched a countrywide search for the Christians and dissuaded the[m]…to reconsider their commitment and instead, probably, renounce the Christian faith. During this period of trial, many people heeded the Kings’ edict and renounced the new faith. Those who stuck to their guns were brutally tortured, maimed, amputated and burned alive – accused of committing the unforgivable crime of disobeying the King’s orders.”  (

Whatever his physical reaction to the insults heaped on him by the islanders, we know this new street proverb was eventually repeated to him and his advisors. Forever afterward, the newly conquered islands became known as “the place where they abused him” or “buvuma.” So now, this entire Lake Victoria district of over 50 islands is known by the Luganda word Buvuma, or Abused.

Here is the latest news on James, the hearing impaired boy we delivered to a deaf school in Mbale. Our latest report from the school is that he lost his temper with one of the other deaf kids and actually tore the other child’s mattress. The mattresses are roll-up mattresses that they put down at night in their dorm room.

It was reported to us that the reason the uncles sent him away to a distant island to be with his “drunkard” father was his increasingly hard-to-handle temper tantrums. As I said in an earlier blog, here is an intelligent ten-year old boy who can make you understand him if you try to understand him. However, we have not seen anyone really trying to understand him except for the Bishop we often travel with and ourselves. I think this level of disregard and rejection has been building up in him for some time, and now it is beginning to come out as anger.

Tomali riding in the car.

Tomali riding in the car.

This disregard is widely cultural. Mostly those with disabilities seem to be considered in the village culture to be “less than” and are “despised” in many ways by the superstitious  people. We have seen this attitude exhibited in otherwise friendly Christians. On Buvuma Island we have a mentally challenged man named Tomali who always attends our training meetings, and I have consistently instructed the people and modeled to them how to love such a man. He is a true “innocent” though he must be about forty, and has a mental age of around six to ten, I would think.

Tomali loves to ride with us in our car. Once this trip he gestured to us for a ride from the side of the road as we passed. We loaded him into his normal place in the back seat and asked him where he wanted to go, which is always difficult to get out of him as his language is garbled and limited. He indicated that we should proceed forward. Then he motioned for us to stop, and he got out of the car proudly indicating that he had arrived at his destination – we had gone about ten yards.

I have witnessed Christian women crudely ordering this endearing little man to leave the training class or to get out of their way or to give them his front row seat as if he is so much debris or perhaps a dog who has strayed into the meeting by accident. He is the too frequent recipient of the scornful expression, the disdainful gesture motioning him away, or the angry voice raised in his direction, “Tomali, Tomili, get away!” To all of this, he grins, and keeps coming back for more. Alfred and I have grown to love Tomali, and we always look forward to seeing him again when we arrive on Buvuma.

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is "feelin' the vibe."

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is “feelin’ the vibe.”

This is what James has faced most of his short life as a functionally deaf child. So when Catherine, the head teacher of the deaf program, reported to us that James had torn the mattress of another child in a temper tantrum, we knew that this behavior is predictable and will have to work itself out as James adjusts to his new environment. We pray that his rescue did not come too late, and that he will be able to learn to control himself. Obviously, he is just now on the verge of being strong enough to do damage with his temper.

Alfred told Catherine that they had to discipline him. He had to be held accountable and to learn about consequences to his actions. As they discussed this, Alfred suggested that they give James the torn mattress and give James’ nice new mattress that we purchased for him to the boy he had attacked. Catherine seemed to find this a good solution, and as far as we know, implemented this plan. I suspect there will be a lot of discipline and accountability in the future for this wild child.

On the positive side, she said that James has now decided to sit in his class with the smaller kids and begin learning sign language. This is a major victory! When this bright child learns language and can begin to exchange actual ideas with his peers and his teachers, his potential is going to expand exponentially. I can’t wait to see it. I have seen this trapped potential in him, just waiting to burst the bonds that hold him captive. I imagine myself holding an actual conversation with James, and my hope for him just soars…

My church-planting ministry in Uganda is taking solid shape after two developmental years during which I had to “figure out the ropes.” For the first time, the schedule for my NEXT trip in October 2015 is nearly full. This means I am getting enough requests to come and teach that I am already scheduling two trips out in front of myself. This is edifying, of course, but also administratively challenging. I have to work out some of the details about how to schedule in this future-think manner with my Ugandan partners who handle the actual scheduling and tend to operate in the “now” rather than the “tomorrow.”.

As I get ready to wrap up this trip and return home on July 21, with only one more conference to go, I’m receiving reports from this trip suggesting this pattern will only become more intense. From a IMG_0827conference I did last week at a place named Nakabongo, just north of Jinja, I am hearing very excited reports coming back of pastors who are stirred up about church-planting and holding meetings of area pastors to plan coordinated church-plants. They expect a minimum of four new churches to emerge immediately, with others to follow. My Uganda plan includes follow-up of as many new church plants as possible.

This kind of excitement breaks out frequently when leaders see this simple strategy from Luke 10 used by Jesus and later by Paul. We teach them to find the “person of peace” and then to evangelize the “oikos (household) of peace” according to the pattern of Paul in Acts 16 with Lydia. This is widely known as “Oikos Evangelism” and is one of the most effective methods of church-planting available, suitable for low budget, grass roots church planters in the 10/40 Window.

I just completed a conference up on Lake Kyioga (“Choga”) at Kawango (Kawanga? – there seem to IMG_0773be two spellings in usage). This large lake occupies central Uganda, and while it is much smaller than Lake Victoria, it is still a good-sized body of water with its own ferry that “runs sometimes.” This was the first time either my driver Alfred or I had visited this region. It was definitely old lion-country savannah, though the lions have long since been killed out of these populated areas. “Populated” in this case refers to scattered farms between scattered villages and trading centers. As we drove through it, every African movie about safari’s and lions came to my mind, especially considering the bumpy ride over many miles of wash-boarded road. The landscape even evoked stories from Pastor Waisana who accompanied us of man-eaters who plagued the building of the railroad across Uganda a century ago.

Cactus Trees of Kawango

Cactus Trees of Kawango

The region is dotted with cactus trees of a type I have never seen before. They are supported at the base by a bark-covered trunk and unfold skyward at the top into large thorny cactus branches.

Over 100 leaders attended this meeting from quite a large area around the lake. They, like us, stayed overnight because of the distance they had travelled to attend. They slept on papyrus mats on the floors of the church, the pastor’s home, and various other homes, while we slept in a Ugandan guesthouse of sorts. Throughout the meeting different pastors would enthusiastically approach me on the breaks to express to me how helpful this information was and that they would take it home and “plant many churches” in the coming months. It seems they had picked up ICE’s and Meade International’s vision: a church in every village so no Ugandan has to walk more than 2 km to church on Sunday.

Now I need church-planters to supplement my work since it is getting bigger than I can handle alone. I need young, tough, adventurous missionaries to tackle the distant islands, who I heard just today, have heard of these conferences and are crying out for such training. Conditions on the big island are difficult enough for me, so I need young men to boat in and backpack and tent their way to training conferences on the other islands where there are no facilities, guesthouses, etc. I have two potential Ugandan islanders who may be willing to be trained and to take this task on, and I must begin to develop this resource over the next year.

I am 66 now, and beginning to feel my limits. I personally would have loved to backpack in for such ministry even just 15 years ago. But now…I’m not so sure this would be a good idea healthwise.


Not So Funny Comedy

I have had an odd but consistent dynamic in some of my meetings this trip to Uganda. In two of my church planting trainings, a drunk man has inserted himself into the audience and has caused a commotion. Fortunately, these incursions have been mostly comedy.


No pix of the drunk man, but this is the meeting.

In the first meeting the drunk man slipped in the back and sat listening. If he made a disturbance, like demanding to receive a note-taking booklet and a pen like the other students, he would be politely asked to leave the meeting, then more forcefully escorted if he resisted, which he always did. The ones assigned to hand out the materials were determined that the drunk man not receive any of them on the basis that he was not a serious church-planting student, so this led to some confrontations which Ugandans in general do not like to do and do not do well. Eventually, the drunk man was lured outside by an offer of free lunch and disappeared for a long time.

After everyone finished their lunch, I told a story at one point in the presentation about an evangelist holding a crusade in a village. Just as I began this section, the drunk man, his belly now full, slipped back in the rear seats. He was noticeably still drunk, so I think he had a stash nearby. I came to the end of the story where the evangelist gives an invitation to the villagers to receive Christ, and I began to simultaneously act out the part and describe his words and the response of the villagers.

Just as I said, “And so, the evangelist invited the ones who wanted to receive Christ to raise up their hands,” the drunk

On the website, click for larger view.

On the website, click for larger view.

man, of course, raised up his hand in the back row. Aside from the other students in the back, Alfred and I were the only ones who could see this. Stifling my laughter, I continued, “And then the evangelist asked the people who had raised their hands to step forward so he could speak with them and pray for them.” As soon as Alfred translated this, the drunk man rose to his feet and started forward down the short aisle with his hand raised.

Now I have considered what response I should have given to this, and you are free to disagree with my approach. From much previous experience with drunk people, I do not believe presenting the gospel under these conditions is wise. Usually, they cannot even remember what I say to them while they are under the influence, and generally they say yes to almost anything anyway. So in this case I left it to the pastors to work it out since this type of person tends to be a familiar fixture of their village, and they will have the ongoing ministry with him after I leave. Also, drunk people are well known for being willing to make professions of faith while drunk that mean nothing when they are sober again. So I let the pastors intervene in this situation and sit him back down in his seat where he remained until the end of the meeting.

As we were packing up the car and getting ready to leave, this man approached me and began to hit me up for money in a drunken slur that was difficult even for Alfred to interpret. This is standard behavior toward the visiting musungu for this kind of person. I told him I would be glad to consider his request tomorrow if he would not arrive at the meeting drunk, but instead would come sober. He did come the next day and he was noticeably less drunk, though still obviously under the influence. Frankly, I dreaded being accosted by him at the end of the meeting.

However, sometime just before the meeting closed, a woman appeared at the door, looked around until her eyes lit upon the drunk man. In a manner that was only slightly less than escorting him out by the ear, they left the meeting quickly, and I did not see him again. I’m not sure what that was about, but I’m pretty sure she was an angel, or maybe his mother.

This comedy was repeated in my next meeting also, now in a completely different village. Another drunk man showed up half way through the meeting and sat down near the American lady who has come along with me on this trip to observe and learn how to minister in Uganda. Right there in front of me and God and everyone, he began what can only be described as hitting on her while I was teaching from the podium. Fortunately, he was quickly escorted out by a pastor which caused a minor commotion. He slipped back in just as I was warming up to the evangelist story. And, of course, when I began to act out the invitation, up goes his hand, and up he jumps, only to be intercepted by the pastor and led quickly out the back.

There is at least one of these people in every village. The villagers refer to them as “the drunkard,” or “the crazy person.” The people seem to be tolerant of them and even charitable toward them, and unfortunately, even enabling of their continued decline. They don’t see them as “a serious person.” The alcohol is often home-made and cheap. Often they are accompanied by a local story of a relative or a business associate who went to such-and-such a witch doctor to put a curse on them for vengeance or jealousy, after which they began to deteriorate into their addicted condition – it is not possible for me to determine how true this might be. There is a ministry here, but AA meetings in these kinds of places would probably not work. I confess, my heart is troubled, and as with so many things here in Africa, I will have to pray on it and listen for what my part could be.

Girl in the Window Iganga 0615

It is tangible and almost breath-taking to affect a life as much as God has been able to affect ten-year-old James, but, as powerful as that experience has been for my assistant Alfred and me, and all of you who have participated, that is not really why God put me in Uganda. I came here to plant churches, and that is what I really spend most of my time doing. Please allow me tell you a little about it.

I came originally to Uganda with I Care Enough International (ICE – and Dr. Kenneth Rooks, the founder and Director of that organization. I travelled originally to India and to Uganda with him in order to learn how to plant churches since that is the primary mission of ICE. I did not know it at the time, but Dr. Rooks was moving his primary focus away from Uganda just at the exact time I visited there with him. The Lord was leading him to shift his focus after more than twenty years to India instead.

Dr. Rooks has supported Gail and me whole-heartedly in our call to Uganda, and so we are now ICE’s representatives in Uganda and Africa. We use materials which originate at Riverbend International Christian College and Seminary, which exists primarily to train church-planters, and we develop additional training material as needed. Our mission here is to plant new churches and to build up the existing church.

Breaking news: through ICE’s ministry, I have just been invited to Kenya for a church-planting conference, which I will conduct probably in November of this year. This is an unexpected expansion of the ministry, and I am excited about this unlooked-for opportunity to meet with and train the leaders from the Kitale area, nestled in the foothills of the Mt. Elgon mountain range in Northwestern Kenya. This opens an entirely new door for ministry to a new people group.

I spend the majority of my time here teaching multi-day church planting conferences. It is tempting to teach IMG_0272from the population centers, the cities. However, on my second trip here, as I travelled along a dusty, pot-holed dirt road that stretched through the countryside along the east bank of the Nile River, we passed through village after village, and God clearly said to me, “These people don’t see many westerners. They don’t receive much outside teaching. Concentrate yourself here.” Since that time, I have focused on the many isolated places in Uganda.

That assignment brought me to a village last fall where they said they have not had a musungu visitor in over thirty years, and where the children were quite surprised at, then afraid of, and finally curious about the strange color of my skin, rubbing on it to see if it would come off and reveal something more familiar underneath. It’s not unusual for very young children to run screaming when they see me in such places, and P1090582for even older children to run and hide in the maize fields and watch the musungu pass by in the car. In most places, though, there has been enough white presence that the children welcome us with more curiosity than fear. And they do warm up quickly when they realize we are friendly.

I typically meet with pastors and church leaders to train them about a simple and biblical method of church-planting based on Luke 10:1-11. We often have opportunities to teach on other subjects also. In one place, after I finished, a man stood and begged me to come again since, he said, they “are ignorant and desperately want and need teaching.” This moment broke my heart but affirmed my calling. What is a “teacher” to say to such a request? Of course, I have returned to this place several times since with different teachings, even this trip teaching a one day conference there on how to practically walk out their salvation in the Lord.

It is very satisfying to note that after nearly every church-planting seminar, about two new churches will be 2013-02-25 17.45.36planted in villages that have had no church until then. I have visited many of these new works and completed follow-up training with their leaders. It is the vision of ICE in Uganda to have a church in every village in Uganda so that no Ugandan has to walk more than 2 km to church on Sunday.

So that means that after this trip, during which I will finish at least seven church-planting seminars, I can hope to find upwards of fourteen new churches when I return in the Fall. Now that is truly satisfying to the soul!

James Follow-Up

This is a quick follow-up on James, the ten year old hearing impaired boy we delivered to the deaf school in Mbale, Uganda.

We have made several phone checks to see how he is doing. The first few were consistent. He is placed into the low primary group where they first teach sign language. He looks around at all the little kids, gets upset that he is sitting with them instead of kids his own age, and so gets up after 15 minutes and walks into the next higher class with kids his own age and plops down.

IMG_0386He stays in that class for a little while until he realizes that he can’t understand anything they are signing, and then he just gets up and goes outside. Our biggest problem with James was his habit of going wherever he wanted whenever he wanted, even in crowded downtown Mbale, and we spent a good deal of our time corralling this highly independent wild child. Now they are chasing him down and convincing him to return to classes several times a day.

James, as far as I know, has not spent a moment in a classroom in his life, so he has a huge adjustment to go through. Additionally, he hasn’t ever sat through a church service, probably since he was a tiny baby, if then. On one of our “where’s James adventures” on the island, we finally found him across the road from where we were, and he was jumping with the charismatics in a Catholic church service. He apparently could either hear the high pitched music, or some parts of it, or could feel the vibrations. When Alfred found him, he was enjoying the highly energetic style of this charismatic meeting and was dancing up a storm with the best of them. I think the Anglican approach he will find at this school will be a bit too tame for him.

Needless to say, we have been concerned about his adjustment. The head of the deaf department, a charming and capable teacher named Catherine, told us on the phone that he has made it abundantly clear that he wants to return to our care, even though we basically just drove him to Mbale and he was with us exclusively only a few nights.

Having said all this, we received a report from Catherine yesterday that he has now formed a bond to her, has eaten IMG_0415with her at her home several times, and has indicated that he wants to sleep there in her home, which she does not allow but rather escorts him back to the dormitory to sleep with the other children. Nevertheless, he is there at her to pray for his adjustment and urge you who are concerned for him to do so as well.

I have been going back and forth to my church planting seminars reflecting on the James project and all that has been accomplished in these last few weeks, from his rescue from obscurity on a distant island out in Lake Victoria, to our reunion, to the journey off Buvuma Island with him, to the shopping spree in Mbale for all his school supplies, to our hurried departure in the night from the school while the deaf children distracted him long enough for us to leave. I realized the other day that I have been involved in something epic here. And the adventure with James is only beginning…

No Hello for You!

I am no linguist but some of the discoveries about language in Africa that I stumble over seem fascinating to me. Perhaps in another lifetime, I would have made a linguist of sorts. My most recent discovery is that the Ugandans in my area, who speak two native tongues, Lusoga and Luganda, have no word for Hello.

As I travel to different tribal groups in Uganda in the future, I will be sure to ask how they say Hello to see if they too have no word for it. Now to be clear, they have most of the same phrases English uses to say Hello: How are you, Good morning, Good afternoon, the ever famous HowYU doin?, etc. Ugandans who speak these two very similar and often identical tribal languages of Lusoga and Luganda include most of these phrases in their language (well, maybe not that last one).

But while English speakers use these other phrases, they also have Hello for a simple greeting, and have even expanded that vocabulary by riffing off of it toward the informal: Hi, Hey, etc. English speakers also have a formal Hello in the use of Greetings. And as far as I know without extensive research, other Western languages have words for Hello: Hola in Spanish, Hallo and Sei gegrüßt (be greeted) in German. The French say Bonjour for Hello which technically means Good Day, a shortened form of Have a good day, but they also have the more informal Salut just for Hello or Hi.

So I find it odd that these two very common and widespread languages in Uganda have no basic word for Hello. In my ignorance, I was told early in my Ugandan odyssey that Kale (Okay) is used to greet one another, and so since 2011 I have greeted individuals and groups in this manner, thinking I was speaking good Luganda and blending into the culture so no one would notice I am a musungu. Only this week, finally, as the subject came up in conversation as we drove a long distance to reach our destination, I was chagrined to be told that this is not the correct way to say Hello.

My assistant, Alfred, who has been with me a year, said, “I wondered why you always greeted everyone this way.” And my friend Pastor Waisana agreed with him that it seemed odd to him also, and he has been with me since 2011. But did they tell me this useful information? No, they just observed and thought I was odd! Ouch! And apparently, so did everyone else along the way. Ouch again!

So now, as I quizzed them mercilessly to find out the correct way to greet people, I find all the normal phrases, but no word for the sole purpose of greeting someone. I have even checked in a Luganda-English dictionary and the closest I find are words like Kale, which I now know is only for responses to greetings but not for initiating a greeting. Others in this category are Wangi (roughly What?) , which they use to answer the telephone, but which can’t be used to initiate a greeting, oliotiya and mulymutiya for How are you to a single person or a group respectively. And then, of course, the wide range of phrases for different times of day, inquiries after your health, etc., just like English.

So I am confused. I have no way to say just plain Hello. I am nervous when I greet people now, and feel a little like I have regressed rather than progressed. How can a culture as friendly as the Ugandans have no word for Hello? Does this phenomenon have a cultural or anthropological significance? What does it mean to have no word that initiates a greeting and only has words that respond to a greeting. I’m sure some linguist or anthropologist out there has written a paper on this subject, and if so, would someone please send it my way?