One of the most intriguing and different parts of life in Africa is the abundance of different languages. In Uganda alone, there are more than 30 languages spoken. I live in Mukono, near Kampala, the capital, where many people from around the country have moved to this area to work. Most it seems also keep in contact with relatives in the village they are from, go back to visit, have second homes in the village (for those who can afford it), and also continue speaking their tribe’s language, teaching it to their children at home. Most people at Uganda Christian University and other professionals here speak English and Lugandan in addition to their native tribe’s language.
Many times here, friends have asked me what my language is where I’m from. They are surprised when I just say “English”. I try to share some of our Texan modifications, but “Howdy” and “ya’ll” seem to pale in comparison to the rich variety of languages in Africa.
The other night, I was blessed to be invited for dinner at another lecturer’s home with his family. We had delicious traditional food, watched a World Cup game, and enjoyed good conversation. After we finished eating, I was asking about which area of the country they are from and about the language spoken there. The family’s 5 year old daughter was an eager teacher when I requested to learn a few words. She would say a phrase, then I would try to repeat. After a time or two of that, giggling, she exclaimed “she’s saying it wrongly!”. But her persistence to teach me didn’t stop there. By the end, she was walking me through the phrase syllable by syllable, “counting” on my fingers as she went for emphasis! The whole group had a lot of laughs. What a fun family dinner!
A good friend who also works at UCU has been helping me to learn some Lugandan words mpola, mpola (slowly, slowly), but this afternoon, I got a chance to expand my horizons to another language too. Our neighbor and her husband are from Western Uganda where they speak Runyankole. As we enjoyed a cool late afternoon on our back patio, she taught me some phrases.
Greeting: Hello, how are you? – Agandi / Reply: I’m fine – NimarungiThank you very much – Webare munongaGod is good – Mukama nimurungi – All the time – obwire bwonaBecause that is his nature wow – ezo nizo mberazeMy Friend – munywani wangye
I even got to learn a few short songs in Runyankole. They go like this:
Yesu nankunda, Yesu nankunda, Yesu nankunda, ahakuba ndyowe
“Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you because you are His.”
Ruhanga akantorana… ntine karungi kona. Yanyekundirawenka yanyozyahoebibi mbwenunka…marayonta ibanja…ryangyeryona
“God chose us even when we had nothing good in us. He washed away all my sins. How can I ever repay my debt?”
As I meet all these new friends, many with different native languages, these verses come to mind.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philipians 2: 9-11
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
What a beautiful day that will be when every knee bows and every tongue, from every tribe and nation and language, confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord! As we who know Christ as our Savior long for that day, may we be bold in faithfully proclaiming the Gospel that none should perish!
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Last weekend, I had the honor of being part of an Anglican Youth Fellowship Band mission trip to Bukedea District in eastern Uganda. AYF Band is a group over 30 years old with a passion for proclaiming the Gospel and bringing people to Christ through music ministry.
We left Mukono on Thursday afternoon, stopping about an hour down the road for chicken on a stick! As we stopped, 3 or 4 men with 15 skewers of chicken ran alongside our costa (bus) hoping to sell to us. Cue Joke #1 of many!: “See it’s fast food, it chases after you!” Two of our team members did a great job of finding fresh pieces that had more time on the fire to ensure they did not make us sick. It was delicious!
About 7 hours later down a long dirt road with maize growing on each side, we arrived at our destination in a village in the Bukedea District. We were blessed to stay at an AYF member’s home, close to 25 of us!
After taking some tea and dinner of traditional food, we all turned in for the night to be ready for an early start the next morning.
Friday, we began our mission at Bukedea Primary School. The children were very excited to see the costa pull up and even more excited to see the instruments and sound equipment be unloaded! The team set up the “stage” area under a tree in the middle of the school, while children poured out of every building, carrying wooden desks to sit in to watch the performance. The Band is full of so much musical talent which the kids and adults very much enjoyed. Between songs, the team members shared powerful testimonies and the gospel. Later in the program, one member told the story of the prodigal son while the rest of the team acted out different roles for the kids. My favorite part was watching the kids enthusiastically take on the role of pigs in the part of the story when the prodigal son has to take a job keeping pigs. At the end of each program, there is an explanation of the gospel and a team member will lead those who want to accept Christ in a prayer to do so.
The day continued with a Kyondong Primary School then Seed Secondary School. At the Secondary Schools, the program is adjusted to suit their age group and includes an altar call at the end. How encouraging to see so many students come forward wanting to accept Christ! The group of new Christians is then brought outside and given a booklet called “Welcome to God’s Family” which explains the gospel and next steps for new Christians. Each student also completes a contact information card that is passed on to a school chaplain or other appropriate local person so that they can follow up in discipling these new Christians.
Saturday was spent visiting Bukedea Boarding Secondary School, the Kidongole Health Centre, and Bukedea Local Government Prison. Our team of 15 doctors saw 540 patients in 2 days at the Kidongole Health Centre while AYF performed in the various locations. Then on Sunday, we were invited to a village church and enjoyed being in that community as we ended our trip.
Overall, I was so blessed to get to know some amazing people with bold faith and powerful testimonies of the ways that Jesus has transformed their lives. We will continue to pray that the seeds sown last weekend will continue to grow and flourish in Bukedea District!
“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
Over the last few weeks, I’ve made more trips into Kampala. Although it’s just about 14 miles from Mukono (where Uganda Christian University is located) to Kampala, because of the large amount of traffic on few main roads between the two places, it takes at least an hour, if not more, to get there. For those who don’t have a car, the standard transportation method is by taxi.
Taxis are 14 person vans that work a little like a bus route (point A to point B and back with ability to get off at a few places along the way). There is a driver and usually a conductor who manages the sliding door on one side and collects the fee from passengers as they get off, as well as, calling for more passengers whenever there is room (and at times, when there is not room!)
My first trip to Kampala other than just passing through, I was accompanied by a UCU friend, another lecturer at UCU. About 15 minutes into our ride after setting off from Mukono, we were pulled over by the traffic police who do random stops on major roads to check for brake lights, licenses, etc. Our driver handed his license to the police woman who had him get out, look at the tires…then we notice that as she turns to talk to another officer, our driver walks across the road and keeps walking away from our taxi! Apparently, he did not have the right credentials for that taxi so to avoid getting arrested, just walked away! All 14 passengers piled out and hopped in other taxis within a few minutes. That’s one way to do it!
Once in Kampala and along the way, there is often “jam” (or traffic), but while you putt along in the taxi, there are many people selling snacks and drinks along the road. The one I have enjoyed are the bunches of small bananas. They are sweeter than the larger bananas and a delicious snack for the journey. A more exotic option is cooked grasshoppers sold in large plastic buckets. I asked my friend if she liked them. She said, “Yes, but it’s better if you cook them yourself.” Who knows? Maybe one day I will try…
The “point B” of the journey to Kampala on the trips I have taken has been the old taxi park. It is an overwhelming place, but the system works! (I am borrowing the photos of the traffic and the old taxi park because having your phone out in town is not advisable.)
Mornings here during the week usually begin with greeting Paul who takes care of the garden outside our house. He is a joyful person who is always wearing a big smile. We prepare our coffee and sit down for a small breakfast of jam and toast (though Paul highly prefers his bread untoasted) and morning bible study (currently the book of Galatians). During our discussions, Paul often shares cultural insights that give me a better understanding of the Ugandan culture but also often sheds new light on part of scripture. For example, as we studied Galatians 5:1, Paul was able to share with us his experiences of training oxen with a yoke in his village.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
He shared that early in the training, the ox goes this way and that and has to be trained to go straight in order to plow the fields. At times, the yoke is left on its neck overnight so that the ox can get used to it. When they finally submit to the yoke and the training, plowing with these 2 giant animals can be done with just one person quietly instructing, back and forth down the rows of the field. As he shared, Matthew 11:28-30 came to my mind.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Let us not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, but by the grace of God through the cross, let us submit each day to His leadership in our lives, knowing it is an easy yoke and much lighter burden than we carry when we choose to go it alone!
P.s. The picture above is from a Friday morning when we treat ourselves to mandazi (a Ugandan doughnut).
(Photo of oxen borrowed from http://blog.peaceharvest.org/2009/10/third-post.html)
While I haven’t been able to meet with students yet to review business plans, our gardener, Paul, is a jack of many trades and took me up enthusiastically on my offer to put his business plans into spreadsheet form to help him make decisions about how best to grow them, etc. He is currently selling beans and also has plans to open a piggery. We spent a few days the other week discussing the inputs to the model for these businesses, building the models and reviewing them together. It was a fun experience to learn about new industries I had NO previous exposure to and to see Paul giggle at what seemed like silly questions I was asking – like “does 1 pig eat a kilo of feed each week or each day? – A week? No, a day!” “How much does a piglet cost?”
Seeing the excitement on his face as he took printouts of the different financial models we built with him to discuss with his brother and father in his village the next weekend made my week. It reminded me that God’s economy doesn’t work like our human economy. Blessing one person is just as important and valuable as blessing a multitude because our God is a personal God who loves each of us individually out of his glorious riches. I’m excited and hopeful to see where Paul’s business plans take him!