The use of these M words in Luganda, the most widely used native language in Uganda, will become clear at some point in what follows. (I couldn’t add what white men, like all those going on the Uganda Youth Mission leaving October 20 are called because it is the Bantu M word mzungu.) The other members of the team led by Fr Tim and Fr. Malcolm are all late teenagers, nurtured so well by Fr Brian. Let me introduce them to you: Josiah Milette and his younger brother Jaden, Hudson Keifer, Levi Van Dyke, and last but by no means least, Ian Clayton.
Muze and Museveni
Sometimes there I will be called a muze mzungu because of my age and white hair. Fr Tim—he’s borderline! But to be referred to as a muze is a term of respect. Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, is certainly a muze but not a mzungu. (You may be thinking that I’m attracted to all these M words because my own name begins with M—that never crossed my mind!) Fr Tim and I feel very privileged to be going on mission with these young men. We thank their parents for entrusting them to us. One of our not so secret prayers is that from their ranks by God’s grace a priest will be called to serve God’s people. We covet your prayers that we will come as close to blessing to our Ugandan hosts as we know they will be a blessing to us.
To begin answering questions like, “Why are you going?” and “What do you hope to accomplish?” and “Isn’t it a long way to go, not speak of being expensive and dangerous?” let me give you our itinerary and make some comments about it. Hopefully, this will go some way to answering such questions. (Click here to view the Youth Mission Uganda, 2017 Schedule.) This my fifteenth visit to Uganda since 2003. So one answer to the question “Why are you going?” is this: to greet old friends and introduce Fr Tim and the five lads to them. They will witness and be joined to the “spiritual thickness” of long-term cultivated relationships—cultivated and made fruitful by regular correspondence and constant prayer.
In 2004, during my last sabbatical from Gordon College, Dolly and I lived on the campus of Uganda Christian University (UCU). I taught Christian Ethics to undergraduates and Anglican moral theology to Master’s students at the Bishop Tucker Theological College, the divinity faculty of UCU. One of the students in that class was Archdeacon Wilberforce who said he wanted his eleventh child to go to UCU but having managed the others he could not afford to pay for this last boy Jerome Makumbi. He brought him to class and introduced me to this bright shy lad. Little did he or I know that we would help him through UCU to a Master’s degree in Public Administration and conduct his marriage to lovely Damalie at Namirembi Cathedral in 2011. I call him “my African Secretary.” All the arrangements for where we stay, how we get there—for he is our driver—are done by him. He will take the photos, keep us on schedule, take notes on the computer. But he is much more and other than that: he’s a dear faithful friend.
UCU is situated on 70 acres of hillside in the fast-growing town of Mukono about 18 miles from Kampala. We woke every morning to the cacophonous sound of myriad birds and the patter of squealing monkeys running on the roof. During that time our son Michael, his wife Kris and their five-year daughter Zoe joined us for a month. Again little did we or they know then that seven years later they would return to UCU as full-time lay missionaries: Mike as the Director of Planning, University Architect, and Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering and Kris a doctor at the Galpin Clinic at UCU and the Director of Mpaka Africa. From the schedule, you will see that Mike will give us a guided tour of the campus on our first full day and in the afternoon Jerome will introduce us to his hometown of Mukono and best of all to his family Damalie and his two sons, Ethan and Evan.
After a study day at Kingfisher Lodge, we will return to the brilliantly colorful and joyful graduation ceremony at UCU, Mukono campus and then leave for the three-hour drive to the second biggest campus of UCU in Mbale in western Uganda near the border with Kenya. Our main purpose for visiting there is to renew our longtime relationship with Stephen and Esther Nbende, two sons and a daughter that CTR have supported at UCU, his brother Philip and other members of St Stephen’s church in rural Kangole. Stephen was the driver for the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll the Vice Chancellor of UCU in 2004. Our home on campus was next to the Noll’s and so I came to know Stephen walking home from class while he washed the VC’s vehicle. He invited me to come and preach at his church. While preaching rain began to fall on my open Bible from a hole in the roof of the little mud and wattle church with openings but no windows or doors.
We left money for new corrugated iron for the roof and the little two room school house nearby. That was fine but what Stephen really wanted was a much bigger brand new church and couldn’t our son Michael design it. He did: but way too big Michael! The old church could seat 70 at a pinch: the new—with a transept no less—500 easily. It was opened and consecrated by Bishop Wabukala June 15, 2008.
Matoke and Mandazi
With this said, patient reader, you will appreciate what a festive day it will be Sunday, October 29 when we return now to dedicate the Lay Reader’s House that the youth there have built and the team will spend the day before helping to complete with plaster and paint. Well, that’s most of the M words covered but what are matoke and mandazi? They are some of the foods we will eat. Matoke is plantains steamed to a gooey consistency and served with a peanut sauce: mandazi is a doughnut we may have for dessert.
Oh, and is it dangerous there? Not as dangerous as it is here in the US in many places. But going must be expensive. You be the judge: airfare roundtrip is $839 anin-countryry costs for eight people for eleven days $4,500—works out at $51 a day per person. But to end there is the miss the purpose of the trip and to confuse means with ends. We go to continue these lovely relationships and through them, with the anointing of God the Holy Spirit, to have our vision of God’s Kingdom work sharpened and our hearts and minds refreshed.