We’ve finished a long week at Kamuda, a village area outside the town of Soroti. Now we are resting up for next week IN Soroti.

One of the students’ favorite things during the teaching here in Uganda is when I take questions from the group. My aim is to elicit questions concerning the actual material I am teaching to clarify any confusing points, but rarely am I asked a question that is on task. Mostly, the questions are perpendicular to the topic we are discussing and about some issue that has been bugging the student for some time. She hasn’t been able to find anyone who can answer it, so here is the musungu asking for questions and…well, this moment is as good as any.

“We have been taught in school that some of our people are  living up in space now. Are they still there? How do they relate with us in God’s ministry? Are they widening the initiative of living in space and establishing administrative headquarters yonder?”

This was an actual question that was submitted in writing – this student had great command of their English, just not their science. Now I assure you, I was not teaching on this subject. The second question from this student was, “Can you help me about how they say that some people are living in certain planets. If so, do they relate with some of the humanities on earth here?” This person has been listening to or reading some science fiction. I have never encountered this subject in Uganda before this. As far as I know, science fiction is very limited here.

Church Planting in Apac.

Some of these questions are whimsical, but many are very serious theological issues that are argued among the churches with no clear answers coming from any source. Many are incomprehensible so that I have to ask the student who submitted it to restate it with more information, and, of course, some of the questions are about local urban legends or just misunderstandings of what the Bible is saying. Many of these misunderstandings are widely held as truth. We learn much about the culture from these questions and can see how the local worldview is influencing their understanding of the Bible. Here are some examples.

Serious theological or biblical questions: [grammar and spelling mostly corrected for purposes of clarity]

  • Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Are we also supposed to do that? (I am asked this question at least 3-5 times every trip.)
  • What is the difference between the Sabbath in Exodus 20 and the Jewish festivals? (I really have to know my Bible for some of these, and often, I will say, “I’ll get back to this one tomorrow,” so I can go look up the details.)
  • Question time in Kaberamaido.

    Say something about the Jerusalem Bible and the additional books that this Bible has. (This question concerns the 14 extra books of the Apocrypha that some denominations include in their Bibles. They learn this from their Anglican and Catholic neighbors and wonder what these extra books are. I’ve learned a lot from these questions, having to do some research myself before answering them. The Apocrypha, a set of Greek writings from the Old Testament period which are usually mixed into the Old Testament text, were actually included in the original King James Version in 1611, but published in a third section, as OT, Apocrypha, NT.)

  • What was the church called at the time of Peter and Paul? (Acts 9:2 – “The Way,” Acts 11:26 – “Christians.”)
  • What significance does the cross have to the church today? Is it idol-worship to have crosses like some churches do?
  • When you teach hermeneutics, you say that Christ is central to all interpretation of the Bible. But Song of Songs has a lot about love issues. How is that related? (Great question…good discussion as to the true meaning of Song of Songs/Song of Solomon.)
  • How can you get a right partner for marriage?
  • Which day is proper for the worship of God, Saturday or Sunday? Are we lost for praying on Sunday instead of Saturday? (There are many questions on this subject, especially where there are Seventh Day Adventist churches mixed in with the other Evangelicals.)

    Answering questions about the cross Jesus was crucified on – Kamuda.

  • In our community some people name their children Jesus or Is it good to give such names to our children?
  • Does our prayer save the dead? Is it biblical to pay money to ___ missions after someone’s death to save them? Especially by taking our baptism tickets back to our missions? (There are obviously many cultural and mixed denominational traditions dealing with the dead that I know only little about. Most of this will be cleared up when I teach Church History and they can see where and when these different beliefs arose.)
  • What is the most biblical method of burying the dead body? I have asked this because some people use coffins, others bury without coffins, others roll the body using the stick to the grave, etc. (?? –Much I don’t understand here, but I do know, though, that Ugandans seem to have a universal terror of cremation as a form of dealing with the body, so I didn’t suggest that.)
  • As the scripture says in 1 John 5:16-17, there are some sins which don’t lead us to death. Is it true that there are some sins which don’t lead us to death? (I lost an hour of lesson time to that question.)
  • May you please give us some reasons as to why the clergy and the Laity cannot change their mind and follow the examples of spiritual leadership set by Jesus in the New Testament? (Sadly, because they do not want to.)

Some incomprehensible questions are submitted, some of which no one will admit to asking, others which become clear when I am able to ask some clarifying questions of my own as to what the person  actually meant to say:

Gettin’ down to it in Kamuda.

  • They always say that there is the “underground.” So please let me know about it. (This required some real interviewing on my part as to what this could possibly mean. The answer was unpleasant. It seems the latest round of rumors sweeping across the churches in Uganda is that some  pastors are going to the lake and meeting some “super-evil power” underwater to get blessing from them – “the underground” – and then bringing their evil powers back to the church. Lists of pastors’ names are even being published of the ones that supposedly are under this influence. Last year it was burning your King James Bibles because they have the word “Holy Ghost” in them, and the year before it was lists of names of pastors who were part of the “Illuminati.” Easily distracted people love to hear and spread negative rumors, regardless how outlandish and unbelievable the stories are, and, reputations are actually ruined by these kinds of rumors.)
  • May you explain to us two ways to holy marriage? (No one would own this question so I could figure out what they were asking.)
  • Exodus 20:1-5; Exodus 20:4-5?? (That was all that was written on the slip of paper – my answer was, “Yes.”)
  • (And then there was this one…) Pastor, well done. However, you have a new contact on your phone. (I tried to figure this one out for two days, then finally the interpreter admitted that someone had handed him the note, which was meant for him, and after reading it, he put it on table where the questions were gathered.)

Never a dull moment!