The night before last, Dennis, Maggie’s husband and event coordinator, told me that tomorrow the schools and event we go to will be interesting, and he doesn’t know what to expect. He didn’t know what to expect because the environment we were going into was urban, and the people are very competitive. People in urban communities act differently than the people in the more remote villages. I didn’t think much of it, but oh my, we were in store for a different day!
The morning started off wonderfully. The team continues to share many personal stories of their past and how Jesus has worked in their lives. I feel like we are developing a closeness that is allowing us to work well together. There is a reason mission teams develop a bond that lasts a lifetime. I know our team will be no different. Bruce had extreme stomach discomfort during breakfast and did not eat, we decided to pray for him as a team. Bruce said immediately after the prayer time that his stomach pain left. Healing prayer.
The first school we visited was a large government school. There are 750 kids that attend the school. We also had 4 to 5 other schools send kids, putting our total number of children likely over 1,000 kids. What an experience! The kids share so much love with us. At this school, our team tried to do the wide vs. narrow road skit. Oh boy! We even told each other before we did it that it would be chaos. We were right! It reminded me of fans rushing the field after their team upsets a ranked opponent! Kids were running to Jesus (played by Josephat, a.k.a. the greatest bus driver in Uganda!) and were falling over each other. It was a mad dash, but fun to watch. We actually have video of it, stay tuned!
Before we gathered, Bruce and I had to use the bathroom, aka latrine. Dennis told a student to take us to the latrine so we could use the restroom. We arrived and I asked is this the boys’ or girls’, he nodded his head. This latrine was a little different than the ones I had used before. As I exited, the school girls walking by looked at me, covered their mouths and laughed. Turns out, we used the girls’ latrine.
After we handed out massive amounts of porridge, soccer balls, and math kits we got on the bus to go to the next station. As we exited the school we were greeted by about 15 men on motorcycles, known as bota botas, in the Ugandan language. It wasn’t a rogue motorcycle gang, but rather an escort for us to the next school / soccer pitch.
We arrived and were greeted by a group of traditional culture dancers and instruments. We exited the bus and what we witnessed next was explainable, but I will try. A white, middle-aged bald man—also known as Nuper—attempted to mimic the dance moves of the traditional culture dancers. The best way I can explain Nuper’s dance moves is this: a cross between a hula belly dance, a twerk, and dancing around like his feet are on fire. It really is unexplainable, but fortunately, we have video of it. Stay tuned!
After the dancing, we were escorted to the soccer pitch for our seats. Soon after we were seated a very agitated group of people approached the mission team. Dennis and Maggie attempted to diffuse the situation. A man grabbed Maggie by the arm and was yelling at her, he kept pulling on her and pushing her. I tapped Tony and told him Maggie needed help. He went to her rescue and quickly got caught up in the shoving. One of the men started pointing in my direction and yelling at me about five feet from me. The mission team was doing a very good job of diffusing the situation.
Now I have to pause the story. Before I left America, my father told me he was worried about me reacting to injustice and thinking like a police officer, my full-time profession back in America. We train to react and handle situations quickly, often times we don’t have time to think and make a conscious decision. We rely on our training and past experiences. He also told me to resist the temptation to get involved with anything physically.
At one point Maggie got pulled very hard, my reaction was to respond and help. I reacted, slid to the edge of my seat and felt Derek put his hand on my thigh and say, “don’t do it.” It brought my mind back to the reality of where I was. I have no authority in this country. The police are a distance away. I did not speak their language. I would probably do more harm than good. Little did I know that Bruce was also ready to pull me down by the pants pockets if I stood up. A couple of things I learned from this. My love for my Ugandan sister Maggie has grown to the point that I want to defend her like I would my own sister. The second thing, the ability of the mission team to calm people down is a gift. Maggie is a leader. She is a person that has authority and a person that people respect. She took the man shoving her, sat him down in a seat, got face-to-face and diffused the situation. Our man Noah came to her side as well, but was sent to the city to get the police. Fortunately, the situation was calmed before they arrived.
So here’s what happened. One of the towns submitted two teams in an attempt to better their chances to win the cow. We learned just how prized a possession the cow is. Get this: if a man courts a woman, he has to bring the father a cow each time he wants to see the woman. Just to see her, he has to bring a cow! A cow costs about $300 American dollars. I would have owed my father-in-law about 1,000 cows! Of course, she was known for sneaking out of the house as a teenager, so maybe I could have gotten by with one cow.
The town with two teams was called out by another town. They were accused of cheating, and people were extremely upset about their cheating strategy. Maggie got with the teams and made the town that was cheating only submit one team. That team later cheated by having 13 players on the pitch, instead of 11. They were disqualified and left, which solved the problem. Maggie spanked the people in a private meeting that were causing the problem, she even got an apology. What a woman!
The mission team went to the local school next to the soccer field and handed out our usual items. We had about 700 kids at this school. They sang songs and danced for us. What a treat! We were even able to sing along with them to the song “Father Abraham” complete with movements and actions. The teachers were very thankful for our efforts. I believe there were 9 schools represented.
We returned to the soccer field to watch the final match. The winning team was very skilled and won 2-0. We handed out soccer balls, net balls (looks like a volleyball) and uniforms for the second place team, and the usual goat and cow to the winners. Bruce shared the gospel today and talked about marriage. It was interesting watching the women agree with him when he was talking to men about how they should treat their wives.
During the game the district police came to the soccer field. Due to the disruption earlier, Maggie wanted a police presence. I had the opportunity to sit next to a police sergeant. I found out it is very different from how we do police work in my country. The sergeant was not carrying a gun, he was not carrying a baton or even handcuffs. He told me only the officers (I’m assuming lieutenants or captains) can carry a pistol. However, three of his men were posted around the field with AK-47 machine guns. They brought rifles from the station because Noah contacted them ahead of time. I asked about body armor, he said they don’t wear it, but if there is a problem they have them in the closet at the office.
The only tool he carried was a flashbang, a device that delivers a loud bang and a flash of light when deployed. I asked him what the major crime was in his district and get this, it was theft of cows, pigs, and goats. If you are a homeowner and you catch people stealing from you, you have the right to kill them. He says money doesn’t get stolen much because there are armed security guards where money is exchanged in the city. I asked about the drug issue in Uganda, he said there isn’t one, some prescription drug used to treat people with malaria is abused at times. Their training sounds extensive, up to 9 months. If you are promoted to sergeant you have an extra 3 months. I was able to share some photos of my uniform, equipment, and police car with him. He seemed fascinated with the pictures I was showing him. I found out later from Maggie that the police are the lowest paid people in their district.
Now on to some exciting stuff.
Today I witnessed so much love being poured out by the women of our mission team and into these little children. The girls in our group have such a special love for these children born into such poverty. I do have to admit that the guys in the group are not far behind. I watch Nuper, Derek, and Bruce just adore these kids and take the time to hold their hands, sit with them, and hug them. It’s so amazing to watch.
Today, Heather had an 11- or 12-year-old girl sit with her the entire soccer match. They connected. They were writing together. Smiling at each other. I could tell she was falling in love with this little girl. One thing led to another and Heather has now agreed to pay for the girl’s schooling. It was a priceless moment.
Dawn had a similar moment today, as she was given a hand-made mat by a woman who lives on the school grounds as a gift for Dawn’s birthday. The woman was very poor and made mats as a means to make money for the school. Dawn connected with this woman’s little girl and got her name. She is looking to do the same thing as Heather.
Anna is always playing soccer or taking pictures with the kids, she introduced me to her new little friend, Aaron! What a great name! I gave him a personal note letting him know that Jesus loves him. Today as I rode the bus home I prayed that God would give me the same heart for these children as the others on this mission team, because what I see them doing is unbelievable. Jesus told us in scripture that loving God is our greatest commandment, but equally as important is to love others. This team is doing just that.
The Holy Spirit is at work here.
Children are being blessed. Children are being prayed for. Men, women, and children are being introduced to Christ. People are being blessed by the donations that American men and women have given to Mission to Uganda. Thank you for choosing to bless these kids. They have nothing, but because of you they get something new, maybe for the first times in their lives. And the joy and appreciation they show at times can’t be put into words, you just have to be here to experience it.
Today the Holy Spirit fought against the spirit of anger and competitiveness and Holy won, taking some more ground in Uganda by using this amazing mission team from Uganda and America.