The recording of the birth date in Uganda is still a bit of a Western custom. Most of the children and youth are now recorded, but anyone back in the villages, like on Buvuma Island or any one of a thousand small communities spread through the bush that runs away from the cities all the way to the borders, may not have their birth date recorded. If a person is over 40 years old, they come from a time when Uganda was still in civil war, and western customs were still very foreign. Their documents will say, ” DOB January 1, 1974, or some other year.” Most of these people were somehow all born on the same day, vying for the prize perhaps of being the first birth of the New Year.

This issue has become more serious now that Uganda is registering everyone with a national ID card. This card requires the DOB, of course. Few Ugandans seem to care much about their birthday, and it seems that few celebrate it, unlike the much-anticipated and sometimes expensive birthday parties Americans will throw to celebrate even the birthdays of small children who are too young even to know what’s happening. Americans like their birthdays and celebrate annually in proportion to their “like,” but the Africans I know seem hardly to notice theirs, and the dates seem to pass by with maybe just a brief nod.

Recently we have started to register our Bible Institute students so we can prepare a graduation transcript, and the issue of birth date comes up repeatedly. Again, many of them put down January 1, and some cannot even tell you their age. One man, who looks to be in his thirties, has been 30 now for three years. Every time the subject comes up he says the same thing. I think he is either counting decades instead of years or refusing to get old, but the truth is, he doesn’t know.

When we registered a certain musee (moo-zay’), which means an elderly gentleman, he put down an interesting DOB. This pastor is the original man who evangelized Buvuma Island many years ago. Most of the older pastors were led to Christ by this one man, and he is largely responsible for the existence of many of the churches on Buvuma today. He was a busy pastor and never married until about 2 years ago – I had the honor of performing the ceremony. He is at least 90 and said that he wanted to spend his last years enjoying some family.

The subject of his DOB had never come up until now. So when we registered him at the Institute this time, he wrote down January 1, 1950, and this is apparently his official birth date recorded on his ID card. Gail and I were both born in 1949. So this musee is claiming to be one year younger than we are. We looked at him, trying to decide if we should challenge the year of birth for a man who is easily 2-3 decades older than we are. Finally, we let it go.

I was amused.  My wife? Not so much…

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