I’m Jessica Hughes, an Anglican priest serving at Uganda Christian University through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS). “Here I am” is both an answer to the geographical question “WHERE are you?” and a nod to my favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 6:8.
This morning I went to supervise Geoffrey, a student who saw that a large school in Mukono lacked a formal chaplain, and asked the school if he could come on Sunday mornings. There are two services: one for the Catholics, and one for the Protestants. I haven’t been to this school in a while, and as I climbed the hill, I wondered which building it was in. I asked one of the elementary students where the Anglican service was, and she wrinkled her nose at me and reframed, “Do you mean the Protestant service? I’m a Protestant.” I estimated that there were around 600 students in the Protestant service; there were at least as many in the Catholic mass in the next building.
We do not tell students that we are coming to check on them, so Geoffrey was pleasantly surprised to see me. I was pleasantly surprised to see Rev. James, his parish supervisor, with him; as it turned out, this was a Holy Communion service.
Geoffrey asked me to read the Gospel, which was Matthew 5:43-48, about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. With at least 600 students from the entire education spectrum with very few adults, you can imagine that the service was a bit hectic. I was certain that no one was paying attention.
However, I was very wrong. As we were preparing for the Eucharist, the warden [usher] handed me a note from a student. She asked me how to love and forgive someone who had hurt her. She included her phone number, but the students are not allowed to have phones, so I wouldn’t be able to call her until she gets home in early May.
I asked the warden if it was possible that the student could meet me after the service, and she said she would try. Happily, she succeeded, and the student was waiting for me after many of the students dispersed.
This precious and delightful child of God shared her story with me, and it broke my heart. I wanted to bring her home and protect her. I wanted to pray so many healing prayers with her. I wanted to right all the wrongs that have been perpetrated against her. But I only had a few minutes after church to talk with her.
So I did pray with her, and talk with her. She now has my contact, and has said she will check in with me when she gets her phone back. She’s also going to send me the first 25 (!) chapters of a book she’s written. I’m hoping this is a productive way of her to process all that’s happened to her.
Please pray for this precious gem: that the Lord continue to heal her heart. I’m so grateful that she chose to seek help, and humbled that she chose me.
Though a little long, this article gives a good overview of what led to the unrest this week, as well as an update on where we stand.
While things are diffused at the moment, unfortunately, this is is far from over, particularly since court cases can drag on for months and months because of many becauses.
Please continue to pray for peace and justice in Uganda.
In Jeremiah 29:7, Jeremiah instructs the exiles to “… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” While I’m not an exile, I think it is still a good practice to pray for the peace and prosperity of wherever you are.
Last week there was a by-election (off-cycle election) in Arua, in northwest Uganda. The president and other leading political leaders were there to stump for their respective party candidates, and in the fracas, several people were injured, some badly, including an extremely popular, recently elected young Member of Parliament.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit more drama involved in this, and the public is justifiably upset at both what has happened and how it has happened. There was a demonstration in Mityana yesterday, and the US Embassy’s warning of potential riots in Kampala today was sadly prophetic, with reports of riots, tear gas, people plows, and bullets flying.
Please pray for peace, order, and justice to prevail.
In early June, a sweet puppy, about seven months old, decided that he needed to come live with me. He had spent the weekend going to various homes, shopping for a human, and when he landed on me, he decided he was home. I told him that I’m not a dog person, and that did not deter him. He hung around for three days, even without food, accompanying me to chapel in the morning. That’s when I decided to make things official by getting him his shots, getting a collar, a lead, and food, and a name: Tucker, in honor of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology. I wish I could take credit for his name, but I am simply not that creative.
Naturally, word spread quickly about Tucker. A number of the students were reluctant to enter my office when he was there, and since that is where they robe for services, this was a challenge until he was tethered at home. However, everyone seemed pleased that I once again had a pet.
After a staff meeting, someone asked how Tucker was. A lecturer who’d not heard about him looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Jessica, is this true? Did the Lord bring this dog to you? He brought you a dog to care for you? Right to your door. Isn’t that WONDERFUL?” And she was truly amazed.
I must confess, at that moment, I shared neither her incredulity nor her amazement. Tucker was not taking care of me. I was trying to adjust to being a dog person, getting him into a schedule, ensuring that he was able to expend his puppy energy before he completely dug up all the grass in my compound, and trying to ensure that he was a civilized dog who would let me sleep through the night.
As it turns out, Tucker was born just outside one of UCU’s gates, and his mom brought the puppies inside in hopes of finding food. We have many feral animals running around, and to keep their population at bay, poison is often placed in the compost heaps. This befell Tucker’s mom and siblings, but not Tucker. Somehow he survived, and for several months, managed to eke out a living, mostly staying around the library.
I don’t know what prompted him to find a human. I don’t know how he adapted fairly well to domestic life. He loved his walks, especially in the morning with Doreen, my househelp. He hated the harness I bought him, but it made him be a bit more civilized, something of import that I tried to convey to him.
As time marched on, we fell into a good rhythm, I think, and I began to see myself as a dog owner, though I was rather stressed about who would care for Tucker when I went on leave.
On August 1, I went to get him his third collar (since he stretched out the first two trying to get off the lead to explore: ahem), as well as a bone and some toys. When I left, he was happy in the compound with Doreen and the gardener. When I returned, I showed him the new collar, and he was ridiculously happy about it, silly boy. He was happy about the new bone. Then I prepared to sit down to work, and I heard Doreen ask, “Tucker?” He had collapsed.
I called the vet, who I’m sure knew he had been poisoned by what I told him, but Tucker kept fighting, and I asked him to come. He arrived just before Tucker died. It was horrible and awful, yet I’m so glad that I was able to be home with him, and that the vet came, even if it was useless. I felt better having him to talk to.
And after everything and Tucker was buried, Doreen and I sat down and cried. I told her how much Tucker loved her, and how much I appreciated that she loved Tucker, and she said, “You loved him too. You bought him all those things” (the collars and bones, I suppose).
And then I realized she was right. I did come to adore Tucker, and pretty quickly. I came to agree with my colleague that the Lord did provide Tucker to care for me. He brought him right to my door. I don’t know why, and as much as I am still struggling with the grief of his abrupt death, I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to bring Tucker into my life. He taught me to stop and smell the roses (and the avocados on the ground and whatever else he wanted to smell). He got me out for evening walks, which we both enjoyed immensely, and then I wondered why it’s taken me six years to do. He was not deterred by my constant reminders that we would not be chasing squirrels, monkeys, chickens, or cats. He was very quick to make friends, and found very few people he did not like. I loved how open his heart was. Maybe that was the biggest lesson the Lord was trying to teach me: to be as open and embracing as he was.
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 – Nimarungi
Thank you very much – Webare munonga
God is good – Mukama nimurungi – All the time – obwire bwona
Because that is his nature wow – ezo nizo mberaze
My 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