Category: Uganda 2014


Home Again and Planning for 2015

I returned to the US from Uganda the day before Thanksgiving. I did manage to stay awake during the celebration the next day until the appropriate time to doze on the couch during the football game after dinner. Here is a summary of my activities on this my third trip to Uganda this year 2014.

I taught:

  • One five-day Bible Institute on Buvuma Island
  • One two-day marriage conference, followed by a wedding for seven pastors
  • One two-day conference in Tororo
  • Two impromptu trainings in Tororo
  • One impromptu training in Mbale
  • Four two-day Leadership Training Conferences in Butiru, Mbale, Lira (North Central Uganda), and Soronko
  • One one-day conference in Bugirid
  • Numerous planning meetings with Bishops, Pastors, and Missionaries

I distributed nearly sixty pairs of glasses to the people on Buvuma Island and subsequently formed a potential partnership with a Ugandan Optometrist in Jinja to minister on Buvuma in the future.

The work on Buvuma Island with the Bible Institute has been so successful that the local political leader offered free land for the construction of a permanent facility. This is relatively unprecedented; I am leaving it to the bishops I work with there to advance this vision. But God is doing a work there!

I visited five new church plants in Tororo and Mbale.

I completed a total of 21 weeks in Uganda this year. Gail completed ten days in total on the field, leading women’s conferences and even speaking to one pastors’ meeting – they had so many questions for her that I couldn’t get the meeting back – it was great!

I trained pastors and leaders this year in Church Planting, Church Planting Follow-Ups with new church plants, Hermeneutics, Spiritual Warfare, Spiritual Gifts, Soteriology, Christian Leadership, Spirit Filling, and Hearing God’s Voice. I now have more invitations than I can manage by myself and am praying for someone to join me in ministry in Uganda.

I fostered five Ugandans economically in business start-ups this year and formed a partnership with a local ministry in Uganda for fostering economic development there.

I have discovered one deaf boy age 9 in an isolated location with little care and no education who needs to be sponsored and moved to a deaf school in Mbale that I located and visited (more on this in a later blog).

This year, my church, Mosaic Fort Worth, has donated glasses, a 3000 liter water tank for a house with 20+ orphans, funds to complete a church building in Bugembe, and economic development funds for one individual.

I met with more American missionaries in Uganda this trip than ever before, and I see fruitful partnerships arising for future work from these new friendships. Through these relationships I was introduced to malnutrition in Uganda and witnessed the ministry there saving lives right in front of me as small children who entered treatment with near-terminal malnutrition were pulled back from the brink of death. One tiny girl named Elizabeth who was unable to walk when I first saw her at the Christco Hospital in Butiru was not only walking by the time I left Uganda but was asking for materials so she could practice her school work prior to returning to her village.

And speaking of hospitals, right now I am now sitting in the hospital with Gail who has just had her second knee replacement surgery this year (12/03/14). As she begins her recovery, we are turning our thoughts to plans for 2015 in Uganda. It has been a busy and a blessed year.

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Witch Doctor Update

You may remember from last Spring 2014 a story about an accidental visit to a witch doctor’s home. So this is another follow-up story, since I visited the same region and the same pastor again during this trip, though I was not working anywhere in proximity to this particular area. The link for you to review is https://meadeinternational.org/2014/03/22/all-things-work-together-for-good/.

You may remember that the witch doctor’s wife had begun receiving dreams of a man suffering on a cross and went to the church members to ask them what it meant. Well, this witch doctor apparently became very sick over the summer and almost died. At the depth of his distress, he asked a church to come and pray for him. This was not the church he had been troubling all this time, the one in his own community that he continually threatened, “You will never have a successful church in this community.” He asked another church nearby to pray for him. He has now recovered.

What is the result of this experience? He has never spoken politely or smiled at any church member from this church in his own community which was started by our pastor friend seven years ago. He has crossed the road to avoid them, cursed them, scowled at them, etc. However, now, when he meets one along the road, he smiles, greets them, even chats with them. Now you might remember that this is a powerful witch doctor with a dreaded reputation for causing the deaths of many people, so the church members are not sure this change of behavior is an improvement as they are still frightened of him. However, his demeanor has radically shifted towards this church he has opposed all these years.

Pastor Enoch told me that they were having a meeting among the leaders one evening in the church building and were sitting near the front having a discussion. This witch doctor suddenly peered in the door at the back, then slipped in and sat quietly and thoughtfully in the last row for some time before slipping back out into the night. The leaders noticed him of course, but they are very hesitant to address him directly, so no one spoke to him to find out why he was there. For him to even enter a church building was monumental.

So please continue to pray for this man and his wife for salvation. God is doing work here, as we know from the way He stopped our car in front of this man’s house last Spring. It is only a matter of time, I think, before I will be writing another update, and one with much joy. Pray for his ability to leave behind the darkness in which he has lived all his life. Pray for someone bold enough to sit with this man and lead him to Christ. By the way, if you understand this prayer, please wear your armor (Eph. 6:10-18). There are those involved with this man who will not appreciate our prayers.

(I considered putting a picture of a Ugandan witch doctor in this blog, but decided that glorifying such a person would not be a good idea. Many of them are even currently involved in child sacrifices out among the outlying villages. They are not to be taken lightly.)

A Church Surprises Me with a Gift

As this trip to Uganda winds down, my last teaching ministry yeasterday was in a little town call Bugiri (Boo-gee-ree). For background of the first time I taught in Bugiri last March, see https://meadeinternational.org/2014/03/29/god-of-the-impossible/. I was edified to see that the church – which only began in January – had grown much since last March and in fact had moved to a larger space where they are again renting.

When I was teaching here last March, there was a teenage girl present who was so weak that she couldn’t stand consistently, but lay on a mat on the floor, and would often mewl or groan aloud even while I was teaching. Her mother had brought her to the one-day meeting because she couldn’t leave her alone and wanted to attend the teaching. Her groans concerned me so much that I asked what her difficulty was. They told me that this girl, who was gaunt and visibly sick, had been to the doctors many times, but they could not diagnose any problem. She had been in this deteriorating condition for months and could no longer attend school, but was confined to home and mostly to her bed, too weak to move around or sit upright for very long. In truth, she was so thin and drained that I took her for at least late twenties and was surprised when they told me she was a teen.

At the end of the meeting, I suggested to the Pastor that we gather the leaders and pray for this girl according to James 5:14ff. I explained that the oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and that it was Jesus Who would do the healing if He chose to intervene in this situation through our prayers. I also explained that the teaching of James 5 is clear, and that the church has this ministry to give and that it doesn’t cost anything to give it freely and often. So they agreed to pray for this girl.

After explaining this to the girl, we gathered around her with her mother, anointed her head with oil, laid hands on her head, and prayed as we felt led. Some prayed against demonic attack, some asked for healing, some for protection for her, some for restoration, etc.

Yesterday, when we came to the lunch break, the pastor asked for testimonies before the break. I didn’t think much of it because this is a frequent request during their services. A strong looking girl in a school uniform came forward and began to testify how she had been afflicted by evil spirits for months and months almost to the point of death, but that she had been healed the last time this musungu, indicating me, had visited the church when the leaders prayed for her. It was Martha, the very girl who had been so sick. She was unrecognizable to me, not at all the same

Look at this healthy young girl! Not at all the sickly young woman we prayed for last March. A Testimony to Jesus the Healer!

Look at this healthy young girl! Not at all the sickly young woman we prayed for last March. A Testimony to Jesus the Healer!

person that she had been just eight months ago. She said the sickness left her shortly after she received the prayer, and she grew stronger every day, and finally was able to return to school. She was now this strong looking, happy, teenage girl standing before me.

Here is her picture. Rejoice with me in the abounding grace of the Lord Jesus!!!

The pastor told me afterward that many people have come to the church upon hearing this girl’s testimony. And this is what I mean by church-planting….

The African sense of distance is always educational to a musungu (white person). When they say, “just there – it’s only a little way…,” it means you will still be looking for your destination fifteen kilometers further down the road.

It is tempting to try to fix this at first. You can emphasize the actual distance, point to the length of the journey, even show them on a map. However, this behavior cannot be evaluated from a Western perspective and changed “for the better.” It is already better to the African perspective, and it is the way of things in most of the Middle Eastern and African world. Their perspective seems to be: we will get there when we get there, so the actual distance is irrelevant, and even more so if the journey is a very necessary one to make.

This was demonstrated to me once again on the day that we lost our meeting hall to the prime minister of the local king of Buganda who was visiting Buvuma Island (even though we had paid the full rent in advance). We were scurrying around all morning trying to find an alternative meeting place so we could continue our interrupted training.

Someone suggested that there was a church we might use “next to the road just there a little way up out of the village.” So we decided to check it out. Indeed, surprisingly, just a little way up the road, maybe 400 yards, a man stood on a trail by the side waiting for us. We parked the car and climbed out into the drizzling rain. I could see buildings in the trees past a line of banana trees 100 yards up the trail, so I fired up my brain and set it to the task of how to move 100 students in the rain across the village to this place and up to these buildings – what I supposed to be a church building – in a minimum amount of time.

We asked the man if this was the church, indicating the trail, and he said “Yes, it is just a little way up there,” and he gestured vaguely toward the buildings. So we set off up the trail after him – myself, Alfred (my assistant), the bishop and a pastor. As we came to the buildings that I had seen from the road, I fully expected to turn in, foolish musungu that I am, but noticed several telltale signs – two pigs, a group of chickens, a woman seated by the door preparing some food, a naked child playing in a nearby puddle – that this was not a church building at all, but someone’s home.

Telltale signs...woman preparing food not visible on the left...Probably NOT a church building

Telltale signs…woman preparing food not visible on the left…Probably NOT a church building

I looked around and saw the man disappearing into the trees on the trail ahead of us.

So we followed him into the forest, which if you had become lost in it would qualify more as a tropical jungle than a forest. The trail wound around a bit and then climbed up a steep, muddy bank. As we topped the bank, we were looking into a large open field in the forest, dominated by a huge old grandfather tree. I thought, “What a beautiful place for a church,” but when I looked for the man, I saw he was almost out of sight, disappearing along the trail into the foliage at the other end of the large meadow. I said to the bishop, “Just where is this church?” It was apparent that he had never been here either, but he gamely said, “It’s just there, a little way up this trail.” That’s when I began to worry.

So we advanced up this narrow trail, pushing through the bushes and trees that crowded in on all sides. We came to another meadow, smaller than the first, and I thought, “Yes”‘…but no, the man was continuing on and…now he was again out of view. It was beginning to rain harder now. My logistical plan for moving all these students to this location was in complete disarray.

We wound through the forest for what seemed to be a interminable amount of time, but was surely only about four hours (maybe ten minutes by Western reckoning). Finally, after uncountable meadows where the church was not located, we broke out of the dense thickets and found ourselves standing on a sort of old roadway. We could see up

Gnarled grandfather tree guarding the first of several meadows

Gnarled grandfather tree guarding the first of several meadows

ahead of us, another hundred yards, on top of a little hill, a wooden building with a tin roof. The man beckoned us forward, and we trudged in that direction, slipped and slid up the now rain-slick slope, and stood in front of a small and humble church building. I looked around, and it was the only building in sight. We were standing in the middle of the jungle, high up toward the crest of the ridge that forms the spine of Buvuma Island. I could see that if we continued to climb, we would enter truly dense jungle, covered with vines, monkeys, tropical birds, and deep shadows. By this time, I was thinking uncharitable thoughts about the marketing director of this church who seemed to think that potential new church members who would be able to find this place.

Now the rain became a torrential downpour, and we took refuge for almost an hour inside the church building while the rain beat so loudly on the tin roof that we could hardly carry on a conversation, and I wondered a little frantically what our students were doing as thunder shook the ground. What conversation we were able

The dense jungle just beyond the church building

The dense jungle just beyond the church building

to have mostly concerned the utter impossibility of using such a place for our students – it would take hours even to lead them up the path.

When we finally embarked on the long return trail with banana leaves for umbrellas, I had time to ponder this experience as I carefully chose my steps back down the hillside. All morning I had been a little “out of sorts,” frankly, that the class had been cancelled out from under us, even though we had paid our rent in advance (there, I‘ve said it twice now, so you know just how piqued I was about it, since I was the one paying the rent!).

The Lord is ever patient with me when I get this way. As I walked down

Banana Leaf Umbrellas

Banana Leaf Umbrellas

what was an apparently ridiculously long “little way,” I could hear Him chuckling at my mood in the sound of the raindrops, and saying peace, peace with every drip. As I walked, I began to chuckle too, the situation being so bizarre that anyone could think this tiny structure would hold 100 students, or this little way, just there next to the road was in any way even possible to move such a group, a heavy generator, our white board and other teaching equipment, etc. By the time we reached the car, having slid down the hill a good portion of our walk, I was covered in mud, sopping wet and in a hilarious state of mind. Once again, the Lord had shown me eloquently how to rest in Him and how to walk in Him when faced by circumstances which I couldn’t control. I had ceased my striving as He quoted back to me my own morning meditation: “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

As it happened, the rain had completely shut down any meeting the prime minister might have had at the hall, so when his caravan pulled up, they only stayed there long enough to determine that no one was coming in the rain to celebrate his visit and listen to his speeches. By the time we returned to the hall, he had already departed and the hall was ours again.

So I am adjusting my view of the African sense distance to realize that when an African says “Just there, a little way,”

Entertaining ourselves during the thhunderstorm

Entertaining ourselves during the thhunderstorm

he has the destination in view, and the journey to get there is just part of his daily routine and figures very little in his perception. Africans seem to live as if facing a bridge over a river – it is necessary now to cross the bridge; what lies on the other side will be dealt with when the bridge is crossed, so it is not important to think about until then. This is so opposite to the Western perspective, which plans so carefully for how long the bridge is, what may be at the other end of the bridge, and how to anticipate every surprise along the way.

My evolving conclusion is that one perspective is not better than the other. In a world where we cannot control the circumstances, which one works best? I would be tempted to say that the Western view of past-present-and-future-think is better. But then I remember that I still can’t control the circumstances, regardless of how I perceive them, so maybe there is no better – it really is just different. I am fairly certain that striving against the circumstances does not in any way improve them, and may in fact add unnecessary stress to them. And maybe, allowing the journey just to be, without striving against its difficulties, will allow me to enjoy it a little bit more. And when I get to the destination finally, I will be there instead of already planning for my next journey.

Eyes Painfully Opened

For the past two days I have been teaching in a village named Butiru, nestled in the foothills of the eastern mountains that form the border with Kenya. The range of mountains that surrounds this area is the same range that includes Mt. Elgon, a high peak that many claim is the second highest in Eastern Africa. I’m not sure the numbers back that up, but at least it one of the largest extinct volcanoes in the world. Mt. Elgon National Park is certainly one of Uganda’s popular tourist attractions.

In Butiru I am ministering at a hospital run by an Amercan organization called Cristco (unable to find this on the internet) that partners with Life Center Ministries Africa. As the story goes, the American founder, recently deceased, was called to Africa when he was handed a piece of food and saw that it was shaped like the continent of Africa. Then God spoke to him. God works in mysterious ways for sure, but the fruit is what really tells the story – now there are Cristco churches throughout Uganda, Kenya, and other places in Africa. This particular site is a hospital, overseen by an American missionary, but operated primarily by Ugandans, with an Ugandan doctor onsite.

I am teaching in the hospital chapel which doubles as a church for the community. On the first day I joined the food line for lunch and noticed a small girl in a pretty little orange dress, maybe four or five years old, sitting on the grass nearby. Her face was so badly swollen so that her cheeks were very prominent, her jowls so heavy as to pull the sides of her mouth into a frown. She was cradling her left arm and I could see that the skin on her arm was badly damaged – I assumed it was a burn of some kind. Her scalp was peeling under her almost shaved head, which was covered with rings and patches of sloughing skin She did not seem to notice the crowd of people just a few feet away, all chatting and

A child with advanced malnutrition.

A child with advanced malnutrition.

picking up their lunches buffet style. Instead, she stared into space, silently a world away. I noticed several other children nearby with the same swollen features, but they were playing and moving more like a child that age.

I asked the Director about the girl during lunch. This is what he told me. This little girl is a victim of malnutrition, which they treat a lot of at this hospital. He said there are two different manifestations of malnutrition – one is the familiar guant face with the swollen belly, and the other, new to me, is that the body reacts by swelling, but particularly in the face, and then near the end, begins to slough off skin from various places on the body. He told me that this little girl had been near the end when she was brought to the hospital. Her arm is not burned, but is sloughing skin. She sits there silently because she has no energy, but also because she is in a great deal of pain. There is no doubt that if she survives, they will have saved her life – she was not sick, she was dying.

I was shocked because Uganda is the bread basket of Africa. There is hardly a patch of ground anywhere that is not growing some kind of crop. The land is fertile and will grow almost anything, and the growing season never stops. They plant year round, and it is not unusual to see mature maize (corn) growing next to new maize that has only recently been planted and is just breaking the surface. My next obvious question, then, was, “Is her malnutrition the result of neglect?”

He was clear in telling me that there is occasionally some neglect, but in most cases, like with this little girl, this is not the situation. The predominant cause of this devastating condition is rather ignorance of proper nutrition. The national food in Uganda is a pasty white, ground-up grain substance called posho. It is served with almost every meal. He said these villagers feed their children posho and beans every day, with no variation in their diet. They see their children eating all their food and then some. But posho, he says, has no nutritional value whatever, and certainly not for a child. The parents can’t understand when their children become sickly and often die. Because their children are eating, they blame typhoid, malaria, and a host of other illnesses indigenous to tropical Africa. The problem, though, is that a child simply cannot live on posho and beans.

A nutritional clinic at the the hospital for parents to learn about balanced crops and diets.

A nutritional clinic at the the hospital for parents to learn about balanced crops and diets.

The staff of the hospital travels to the outer villages to teach nutrition clinics to the parents, showing them how to give balanced diets to their children, how to vary their crops, how to grow more nutritious foods. They have introduced lettuce, zucchini, American pumpkin, soybeans, and other more nutritional foods into the local diet. They are teaching them to use goat’s milk for the children because it is easier to digest than cow’s milk and is even close in nutritional value to breast milk. They attempt to distribute goats to the families, but often the parents are so poor that they may choose to eat the goat instead of use the milk for their children. So this sacrificial ministry spends a lot of time trying to educate the people. They have a teaching garden, experimental crops, animals to distribute, etc., on their nearly ten acres.

He told me that typically, when they go out to the villages to do a clinic, they will find that 10% of the children are severely malnourished. This was brought home to me when the Director could not attend my seminar on the first day because he had to transport the body of a baby back to its family for burial. The baby had been brought in too late, and they were unable to save it.

This is another side of the gospel, another aspect of the love we share, and the gift that Christ wants to bring to the world. Because of our blessings, we Americans tend to have a blind spot in this area. I cannot get this little girl’s eyes out of my mind, their staring emptiness, their torment. And her condition is not because of abuse or neglect or violence – all the love her parents can give her cannot repair the simple lack of knowledge – a knowledge which I confess, is another thing I have taken for granted all my life.

Here is the link to the facebook page for Life Center Ministries Africa https://www.facebook.com/lifecenterministriesafrica if you are interested in more information.

Church Planting in Africa

I met a pastor on Wednesday this week who told me how he had come to plant the church which we were traveling toward. He said he had heard that quite suddenly at least nine suicides had occurred within a very short time in this particular community. Many families in the community had been affected by this tragedy. He knew that something spiritual had to account for this, and he suspected the involvement of

The jackfruit tree they held their early church meetings under

The jackfruit tree they held their early church meetings under

witch doctors. This was never verified to me, but the rest of his story is quite inspiring.

He went to this isolated place and found that there was no church there. He simply followed biblical principles of evangelism, preached the gospel a little here and there, spent enough time in the village to meet a number of the people. Soon they were asking him to pray for them and people were healed, things in their lives were set right as God moved. Still, he had no clear path as to why God had brought him here other than this general kind of ministry.

One day a family near the village had one of their small children go missing. They were frantic and the neighbors and the villagers joined them in the search through the maize fields and wooded areas all around their home. They were unable to find the child. Someone suggested to the father that there was a visiting pastor in the village who had prayed for many people. Perhaps he should ask this man to help, and so he did.

The pastor came and heard the serious need of this family, saw how distraught they were over their missing child, and so he prayed with them. As he was praying, the Lord impressed him of several specific things. He told them that the Lord had told him that the child was alive. He then went on to say that the child would return to them at 5:00 p.m. that day. They were, of course, hopeful but skeptical. They had searched all these fields around them and called for the child with no success.

The church building they are constructing

The church building they are constructing

Five o’clock came and everyone was looking around wondering if this pastor was just crazy when the child himself stepped out from between the tall stalks of maize and ran to be scooped up by his sobbing parents. The pastor then shared the meaning of Christ’s salvation with this group of gathered family – parents, aunties and uncles, grandparents, cousins. Twenty-seven people prayed to receive Christ.

People were coming from all over the area to see this great miracle as the word spread, so the pastor decided to hold a small crusade to take advantage of the crowd. An additional forty-seven people prayed to receive Christ during his preaching.

As we arrived at this circle of mud and thatch houses out in the potato and maize fields, a place isolated enough that many of the children had never seen white skin before, we were met by a snaking line of dancing teen-agers moving joyfully down the narrow lane to meet us. Then women were leaping and yodeling their peculiarly African high-pitched “yi-yi-yi=yi=yi.” They came up to me and threw their arms around me in greeting, one

Celebrating my arrival

Celebrating my arrival

after the other. The dancing teens snaked around and danced back the other way, and so I followed them into the little clearing. I found a rough pole-and-leaf-roofed church building, crammed full to breaking with over 80 people, all expectantly awaiting the musungu from America.

They showed me the tree they started the church under which was in the yard of the lost child’s parents. The father had also donated the land for the building that stood about 75 yards away. After so many had responded to the gospel, the people had simply insisted that this pastor, who had done so much for them, stay and give them a church. He tried to say that he needed to return to his life in Tororo, which was twenty or thirty miles up the road, but they were so insistent that he finally acquiesced, and returned to raise up a church there. When I arrived to minister briefly among them with a teaching about

A Full and Enthusiastic House greets me

A Full and Enthusiastic House greets me

spiritual armor from Ephesians 6, I was the first musungu in their area that anyone could remember, so they were very excited. The really unusual thing is that this bursting-with-life little church family of nearly 100 people was only three months old.

And this is often church-planting in Africa.

When I arrived on Buvuma Island about two weeks ago, I saw the crazy man every time I passed through the village of Kitamiru (Kit-uh-meer-roo). He seemed cleaner this time – his clothing was still at least three layers thick, like shorts over pants over pants, but the clothing was not stained dark with the muddy ground-soaked stains of my previous visits. Perhaps someone had given him a dry place to sleep. Otherwise, he was the same drunken-looking homeless man that I knew from before, wild hair and constant chattering to his unseen companions. Every now and then, if you watched him closely, he would look like he was arguing with someone about something, but, of course, he was the only one present.

Generally, I avoided him because of the violence of my earlier visit, and fortunately, he did not seem to notice me. Avoiding him was not much of a challenge because usually I was passing through on my way to somewhere and I never left the vehicle.

One day toward the middle of the Buvuma Bible Institute – five days of intensive all day Bible training with over 100 church leaders from the islands – we were forced to take a break. The prime minister of the local kingdom was visiting, and so the people were all in a furor following his SUV caravan from place to place while he made speeches and paraded up and down the few roads. On this particular day, even though we had paid five days rent in advance for our hall for the Institute, the management booted us out for half a day so the prime minister would have a place to make his speech in the village.

All this to say, we were at loose ends this morning because we could not teach, and so the bishop was driving around with us, seeking another place to move our classes to. Finally, we were sitting in the car, on the side of the road right in the middle of the village, discussing our next move. The rain was pouring down. As we waited and quietly talked, I watched the familiar figure of the crazy man walk out of one of the small restaurants carrying a plate full of food, eating it as he walked and seeming to talk with someone as he crossed the road. He came up onto our little lane and stopped just opposite our car, eating and talking, eating and talking, not even seeming to notice us. I concluded that someone had kindly given him a handout.

Now I had been wondering about the crazy man and the attitude of the Christians toward him. They seemed to tolerate his deranged condition almost as if he were just one of the bushes or trees along the road, as if there were nothing that could be done for him and he was simply a background fixture of the village. These people all believe in Jesus Christ, but it seemed to me like the idea of actually ministering to him simply never occurred to them. He was tolerated, they knew his sad story, they occasionally fed him, but that was the end of it. I had the benefit in this situation of being a foreigner who could not just take him for granted.

The bishop and the pastor in the back finally decided to head back to the hall to see if the prime minister was finished interrupting us. But, before we drove off, I followed a prompting of the Lord, which frankly I had been waiting for, since I don’t usually wade into this kind of cultural situation without the Lord’s direction. I asked Alfred to roll down the window and ask the crazy man if he wanted us to pray for him.

Immediately, to my surprise, the man stopped chattering, came over to the driver’s window, set his plate down and kneeled down right there in the street. Alfred explained to him that we all wanted to pray for him, so he should come around to the other side of the car, which he immediately did, again kneeling down in the mud and bowing his head. We climbed out of the car, raised him up from the mud and sat him on a small wall at the side of the road. We asked him his name, which was Moses, and laid hands on him and began to pray for his healing and deliverance from whatever was afflicting him. So: pouring rain, four men standing around this forlorn figure seated and bowed at the side of the road, hands laid on, praying aloud for his freedom….

We prayed for a few minutes and didn’t so much as notice the rain soaking us. When we concluded, I asked him through Alfred, my translator, if he knew Jesus. He crossed himself in the Catholic manner and said yes, he knew Jesus. So we blessed him and turned to re-enter the car. Now mind you, I had never heard this man speak a word of spontaneous English, but as I sat in my seat and turned to look at him, he looked me in the eye and said clearly, “God bless you.” I almost fell out of the car.

We left him there looking after us. By the time we arrived at the hall, the prime minister had just left, and so we unloaded and began the day’s teaching as the rain stopped and our students trickled in.

That evening, as we again passed through the village on our way back to the guesthouse, Moses stood just off the road in the village as usual, but when he saw our vehicle, well…all I can say is that his face filled with joy – I don’t know how else to describe what I saw. If I could have taken a picture of his smile and shown it to you, you would immediately identify his expression as joy. With this huge smile beaming from him, he waved vigorously at us as we drove by. I had never seen anything from him before that moment that even approached happiness, let alone what I was witnessing now.

I regret that we did not stop to speak with him then. I haven’t seen him since that evening. He was gone from the roadside the next day and every day thereafter, this man who had been present somewhere in the hustle and bustle of this little village every time I had passed through it on several visits over a year’s time.

We could not find anyone who could tell us what happened to him. Did he go home to his family, finally in his right mind? Perhaps, perhaps not. We could not discover his whereabouts. Maybe Part III will have to be written the next time I go to Buvuma Island, when someone will be able by then to tell me what happened to Moses. Or perhaps I will have to wait until that one future Day, and the two of us, the crazy man and the musungu, will sit down by the side of some small heavenly lane and carry on a conversation that is no longer bound by a language barrier. Maybe then we will be able to look into each other’s eyes and really see each other for the first time.

Village Justice Meets Crazy

On my last trip to Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria, we arrived in the late afternoon and decided to eat at one of the small restaurants in the main village of Kitamiru. I was with the bishop who originally invited me to the island, and we settled at a small table outside on the porch.

The restaurant was called First Fast Food Restaurant (one small room and a porch with two tables – five tables in all). Ugandans do much in their signs and names for their businesses with their English in ways that sometimes don’t quite translate to the American ear. This particular name, however, lived up to its title, and soon after ordering we were served dishes of popular Uganda foods: matoki, beans and rice, some chicken with broth, some posho, and sodas.

Soon after the food arrived, I was accosted by a very dirty, wild-eyed man. By this, I mean he entered the porch, approached me, the musungu (white man), and aggressively began begging for money. Let me describe this man to you: his clothing was stained and soiled dark brown from collar to cuff from sleeping on the ground for many days without washing; his hair was long for an African, matted, flying every which direction, and also long unwashed; his pants and shirt were ragged from use, and perhaps had been only just a little less ragged when he first got them as castoffs – the many holes and rips showed that he was wearing maybe three sets of clothing top and bottom, as if, not having a place to keep his extra clothing securely, he just wore it all; he did not speak English except to say, “Musungu, give me money,” which even the smallest child tends to learn phonetically very early in life; he was barefoot; he was a man perhaps 40 years old; finally, his personal aroma was only overcome by the alcohol fumes that he breathed in my direction.

I knew this man by sight because he is the resident village “crazy man,” always present in the main street, carrying on a conversation aloud with himself or with someone the rest of us cannot see. The people seem to accept him and give him handouts for sustenance. His story, as I have pieced it together, is that he was in business with his brother, who wanted to take the business for himself, and so a witch doctor was visited, spells and curses were cast, and this man has been on the downhill slide ever since, becoming “crazy” in the sense that he lives on the streets, sleeps in the alleys, drinks up every cent he ever earns, and constantly talks to invisible companions. Almost every village in Uganda seems to have one of these people, and some have more than one. They seem to be part of the culture, accepted and tolerated, fed by the citizens when they have a little extra, and maybe even occasionally allowed to sleep in a shed out back.

Now he stood next to me in the restaurant porch, asking more and more insistently for a handout, and seemingly unwilling to take No for an answer. It is not a good practice for a musungu to give money to such a man because he then learns to approach every musungu that comes to the village, and perhaps that is even why he was approaching me. My fellows at the table, Ugandans who know their own culture, attempted to send him away, but he was not listening. The female proprietor came and told him to leave, but he became excited, then angry, then furious, causing the three women working there to retreat out the back door of the building.

He began cursing them; then he began looking around for something to throw. First he threw some dirt and trash, but then he noticed some ten foot beams stacked opposite our table at the edge of the patio. He picked one up and threw it down the alley between the buildings toward the women, who were now cowering at the other end. I was thinking that this might be a good time to exit the restaurant. However, he stood in the entryway stalking back and forth and frothing out curses, shaking his fist at the women.

Now the isolated culture here tends to recognize the visit of any musungu as an honor – musungus are welcomed by all as guests to the island. By this time the shop keepers around us, who knew this man and who had seen that he was behaving in this disorderly manner in front of a guest to their village, began to gather around him, chastising him with shouts and angry expressions. He would not listen to them, so they grabbed him and dragged him off to the side of the restaurant.

What proceeded not fifteen feet from our table seemed to me something out of a more primitive era, but certainly not the 21st century – he was given a public beating by the shopkeepers. I was aghast! I thought I should intervene. In fact, I was almost to my feet when I noticed that they were not punching him as if to hurt him, but were slapping him on his body in a way that was not injuring him – but by now there were at least five of them participating.

The man would not yield, but continued to call out angrily, rebelliously shouting in their faces. Finally, one of the larger men grabbed him by the collar and rousted him across the street, where he grabbed up a stick and began to beat him with it. Again, I almost lurched to my feet to intervene, but then I noticed that the stick he was using was only a switch that made noise but could not inflict much damage. Instructed by the bishop to sit still, I hung back, watching this horrifying cultural demonstration, but somehow discerning that something more was happening here than an angry out-of-control mob brutalizing someone. The bishop told me that the village members needed to handle this matter and that I should not get involved.

Finally, the man submitted under the switching he received. He bowed his head to the man with the switch and received a severe tongue-lashing. The bishop explained to me that the villagers could not allow such a man to behave in this disruptive and violent manner, especially in front of honored visitors. The police seldom get involved at this level, unless they are present to witness the actual “crime,” so the culture dictates that the villagers handle such minor crises among themselves.

I watched the scene across the street as the disciplinarian ordered the drunkard to carry bricks from a pile and place them in another pile some distance away. The man, with no discernible injuries from his beating, was now thoroughly cowed and perhaps sobering up a little, was even docile, and spent the rest of our mealtime moving the pile of bricks one at a time. Village justice – shocking to my American sensibilities, but also amazingly effective – the man was humbled, corrected, did not end up in prison as he would have if the police had been involved, and village life resumed as if it had not been interrupted at all.

Tomorrow I will tell you the interesting follow-up to this story from my current trip to Buvuma Island for which this story is merely the back-story.