It’s hard in Uganda to tell much about a person’s character until they open their mouth a few times or you’ve had a chance to interact with them a little. Even then, some are experts at fooling you and hiding their dark side behind a veneer of wolfish smiles and faux helpfulness.

Take Pastor Damon (name changed to protect the guilty) who drove us to a distant village way out in the boondocks, then had to be bribed to wait and take us back (see 2  posts ago – “OK, But a Bit Short”). We would have been stuck there with no possibility of a ride and I suspect he was using that. When I offered to pay him to wait for our business to be done, he smiled big and said he could not take money because we were brothers in ministry.  Then he proceeded to tell me that he had been planning to drive his many children to their school in a distant city that afternoon, so perhaps I could pay for the car he would have to hire to take them instead if he stayed to help us.

He kind of had me over a barrel, so I agreed. He then charged me about double what I wanted to pay, or thought was fair, but…remember the barrel. So I paid him.

Here’s the thing. There were no children that needed to be driven to a distant city to go to school. His story really didn’t ring true. But this way, he got to retain his brother-in -ministry image AND take advantage of the musungu over the barrel at the same time. Who could resist such a deal?

Then he insisted all the way back to town that he wanted to fleece me in ministry…excuse me, I meant to say, work together with me in ministry. Hmmm, probably not.

Now, for contrast, consider Alfred, my assistant, companion, friend, and interpreter here in Uganda. He’s worked for me about three years now and has proven himself to be of the solid gold character type. Experience tells me this, but so does my wife, who has good judgment in such matters. Recently, though, I got a further validation of our discernment and experience.

He once drove for a sort of taxi service here in Bugembe, a suburb of Jinja.  While he worked there, he got to know most of the other drivers, and now, when we are driving around, he often pulls up to some car, rolls the window down and exchanges greetings with the driver.

As it happened, Gail needed one of these drivers to take her to Kampala last week. So Alfred set her up with Ahmed, an Islamic driver that he trusted well. When Ahmed arrived, he greeted Alfred warmly like an old friend but called him “Mulokule” (Moo-low’-koo–lee). Later I asked Alfred why he called him Mulokule. He said that Ahmed and he were good friends from the time he worked at the taxi station, but that Ahmed doesn’t remember his real name – he just always calls him Mulokule.

When I asked Alfred what Mulokule means, he told me it means, “the Christian one.” He said Ahmed also sometimes calls him Pastor – Alfred is not a pastor. Now this is interesting because many of the drivers would claim to be Christians, but Ahmed only calls Alfred Mulokule, and he observes his conduct from an Islamic perspective.

Alfred’s character is speaking for itself. He stands out. He stands out because his character matches his testimony, and does so obviously enough even to impress a person from a different religion.

Alfred is what this Christian thing is all about.