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.

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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

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