Day 6: King’s Primary School
Jan did not feel well today. Yesterday, she only joined us for the last half of the day, but she didn’t want to miss out on our travels today. We are concerned about her. George is not feeling well either, so his brother, Gus, is driving for us instead.
We traveled north to Mbale, which is a larger city than Tororo, and stopped at a market to buy around 600 bananas, which caused quite a stir. Suddenly everyone was buzzing around our van, wanting to sell us something. We also picked up Dr. Dan Bwonya (the optometrist), and Naboth’s wife, Mary. Naboth is the headmaster at the school we will be visiting. Dr. Dan’s wife met us briefly as well, but did not join us.
We traveled on up to Bunambutye in Sironko District, and the landscape became more and more beautiful, with large fields of maize and sunflowers spreading out on all sides, against mountains as their backdrop.
The roads were quite rough, and we encountered frequent police stops along the way. This is an area where the Karamjong tribe has wreaked havoc, plundering villages and killing hundreds of people as they carry out their cattle raids. The military and police are looking for any signs of their activity, and the papers report that around 80 Karamajong warriors have recently been shot and killed by the military for refusing to give up their weapons.
We stopped briefly by Dr. Dan’s house. He grew up in this area and is preparing a home for him and his wife to share. It looks like a very nice home, especially for this area.
Finally, we arrived at King’s Primary School. The students were all seated in chairs just inside the gate under a monstrous tree that shaded all 300 of them, plus the teachers and staff, and also the tables they had prepared for us to sit at, facing everyone. We first went to Naboth’s office to be received and to visit with him briefly.
As we returned and approached the children, we saw that beautiful crocheted and woven cloths had been spread on the tables and chairs where we were to sit. We were served Coke as soon as we were seated.
Then the children began singing for us class by class. Their songs were about their lives –about AIDS, the Karamajong, and the recent drought that has plagued their area. Some of the songs included dramatizations, and some were songs of praise to God for remembering them by sending us to their school. Africans go out of their way to welcome visitors, and it is humbling to be so honored by them.
Following the music, Naboth and several teachers addressed us, and then we were asked to address the children. Jeanice did a wonderful job of sharing the Gospel with them; then I taught them “King of the Jungle,” which seemed especially appropriate, considering the name of their school. The “bubble, bubble” lyrics were a big hit with these students.
Next, Dr. Dan distributed glasses to the students who needed them.
Meanwhile, the children lined up to receive their gifts from us. We gave them each 2 bananas, a “Story of Jesus” booklet, a toothbrush, some candy, 5 soccer balls (for use at school), and their very own Bibles. Each teacher inscribed his/her students’ names inside and we watched them carry their Bibles home as they left. The children were delighted! We couldn’t have been more pleased with our day at King’s Primary School.
Side note: It seems ironic that many of the Smile Africa children are Karamajong orphans, and many of the King’s Primary School children have been orphaned by the Karamajong tribe, some as recently as last fall! How very sad! Yet, as Pastor Ruth so plainly put it, “God is no respecter of persons. He loves each and every one of those children!” We pray that our ministry to them has been another testimony to that fact, and that they will come to understand that the love of Jesus is real and tangible.
After the school day ended, we went on up Moroto road to make a much-anticipated visit to Feddy’s house. Feddy is the grandmother of Deo, another Ugandan soldier still stationed in Iraq, who is in contact with Heart of God International through the soldier’s ministry. When he learned that Heart of God was making a trip to Uganda, he requested that we visit his grandmother. Of course Uganda is a very large country, but it just “so happened” that his grandmother lives about a mile from King’s Primary School! In other words, we saw this as another God ordained detail. Feddy is nearly blind and lives in a humble mud hut, sharing it with a daughter, her children, a grandson, and several orphans. A meal had been prepared for us, along with beautiful dishes to serve it on, coke to drink, and chairs for all of us to sit in outside. The meal consisted of boiled potatoes, matoke (green bananas), chicken, and gravy. It was such a gracious act that we could not refuse, although I will confess that my “bless this food we are about to eat” prayer was quite urgent.
As we traveled through one village on our way home I was able to photograph an unfortunate, but all too common sight in Uganda -a group of men "boozing". Notice the long "straws" leading to their shared pot of booze. Alcoholism and drug abuse abound here, and greatly contribute to the abuse of women and children as well. Although the mode of drinking is different, the effects are all too similar across cultures.
We passed on dinner at the hotel this evening, and cooked freeze-dried lasagna in our room, instead.
Many biblical concepts have taken on new meaning for me in this culture. One is somewhat humorous. James 5:12 says, “Let your yay be yay and your nay, nay...” Pastor Ruth tactfully told us that what we say when offered something is confusing to Ugandans. Apparently, “thank you” means “yes” to them, so when we say, “No, thank you,” it sounds like we are changing our minds! We need to practice letting our yes be yes, and our no, simply no!
Another biblical concept that is coming to life is this:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside his garments; and taking a towel, he girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13:3-5)
By the end of each day our feet are coated with thick, red dust. Each evening when we return to the hotel the first thing we do is wash our feet in the wash basin, and each time I am reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I have even considered how Jan, Jeanice, and Denise might respond if I offered to wash their feet, or if they offered to wash mine. I’m afraid it would be too weird, a broach of personal space and boundaries in our western way of thinking. At the same time, I’ve observed such a serving spirit among Africans that I don’t think foot-washing would be a strange practice for them at all. Many women and children kneel when they shake our hands. Coke is served to us by those who can’t afford food for their own tables or clothing for their own children. Beautiful tapestries are spread for us to sit on. When I say that these gestures are humbling, it is impossible to adequately communicate what I am feeling. However, having my feet washed by Jesus would most likely generate a very similar response. I would like to think that I have a servant’s heart; but in reality, I have a lot to learn.
“So when He had washed their feet, and taken his garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him’.”(John 13:12-16)