It is Monday morning here in Uganda. The house is quiet and it’s the most at home I feel when I’m writing with my coffee and the house sleeps above me. Pastor Robert explained to us that every Monday morning his church goes to the local police station and serves them breakfast, and shares the gospel with the officers. Sometimes they bring in the prisoners for the message. I ought to explain, the police here do not have the same reputation as the police in America have. At home, we teach our children the police are our friends, and whenever there’s a problem or danger that we are safe to trust them. We can wave to them, speak with them, even have our picture made with them!
It’s not the same friendly connection between people and the police here in Uganda. They are feared, avoided, and despised. There have been two encounters here with the police on the roads for us. Melissa, the other mom from America adopting a two year old and living at Bridge Africa with us, was with David when he made a wrong turn and the police pulled him over. He was visibly afraid and panicked as the police took him out of the car by the arm and threatened to take him to court and block his license. Considering he drives for a living, and supports his entire family on what he makes, this was reason to panic. The officer demanded 80,000 shillings (40 dollars) to make his problem go away. David said I don’t have that kind of money. He earns 200,000 shillings a month. Take a moment to comprehend that number: One hundred dollars a month. He is the eldest son, and therefore he provides for the whole family. I promise to blog about this extraordinary young man and how he represents the good I see in the Ugandan people I meet. For now, let’s stay with the topic of the police. He asked Melissa to slip him some money so she gave him 40,000. The officer accepted the bribe, sat in the car with David and had a friendly laugh about something in Lugandan. They were free to carry on their way.
Olive, our friend who has been guiding us, explained this happens so much during the season of Christmas. And the officers don’t want the Mzungu to know they take bribes because they want us to think they are not corrupt, when actually it is their strongest reputation.
During our first visit to Gaba Community Church, they had a special service where business leaders in the community spoke to the congregation. One of them was a police officer, and he tried to explain they were there to help keep the people of the community safe from crime. He said, “what on earth am I here for? We don’t want you Christians to be ignorant of the law that will keep you safe. If you have a problem with the police come talk to me, and I will be fair with you.” The congregation cheered. I don’t think they’ve ever heard from a police officer in this manner before. You could even sense the tension and fear in the room when he took the podium, but the smiles after he left showed they had been affected by his message.
We have been warned to be careful about “moving about town” with Kira- a black baby in white arms. If we don’t have a Ugandan with us the police will be happy to accuse us of baby trafficking unless we can produce the necessary papers, which we do not yet have. They would throw us in jail, or unload us of a serious amount of money. That’s one reason Olive comes with us so often, we can always say Kira belongs to her. We are careful, and our faith and trust in God to protect us is strong.
Our driver Edde was flagged over by the police when we were on our way to the Botanical gardens. We panicked in the car and watched the event as if it were a Hollywood premier. The officer carried a shotgun over one shoulder, and gripped Edde’s arm tightly and walked him back to his vehicle. After a moment, Edde ran back to our car, and took out a paper from the visor, then returned to the officer. They had quite a discussion for a while, while we shot off question after question in the car, and I searched for enough bribe money to slip into his seat. I also prayed the officer would not look in and see one of their babies asleep in my arms and seize it as an opportunity to get rich. But then, we saw Edde in full grin run happily back to his driver’s seat and so we were off. We had a relief from the powerful sense of freedom granted. He explained, they were just randomly checking to see if the drivers on the road had their license. If not, there would have been big trouble. Who knows what would have happened to us there on the side of the road in the countryside of Uganda? We sang a little praise song to God!
With all this information about the local police, now consider what a marvelous work it is that Pastor Robert is going to the police station every Monday to serve them a meal and share the gospel. They have been astonishingly receptive. The officers have remarked that no one has ever shown them this kind of appreciation or kindness. It opened their hearts to receive the message. Many of them have committed their lives to Jesus as a result of this ministry. They tell Pastor they are reading their bibles and they ask him many questions which lead to rich discussions about the life in Christ.
I was so moved by this initiative I asked Robert if they had enough bibles to give to the officers and inmates. He said, no, we never have enough bibles to share. That’s when sparks flew in my head. I told him, I’m going to give you bibles. He shook his head and smiled, in awe of God. The next day after some adoption business George took me to the bible store and we bought forty bibles in English with nice leather covers, and twenty five in the Lugandan language. Emily and I each bought a Lugandan bible. I want Kira to have one for some day when she is curious about her culture. Emily is likely to teach herself Lugandan before we depart for America. (I wish I had some of her brain power.)
We arranged to meet Pastor Robert to give him the bibles at their daughter’s school. It was a gift from God that Emily was with us and we were able to go and see the inside of the school. We found a group of four teachers planning for the next semester. Emily asked them some questions about education here. It began grinding the gears in her spirit and mind about her future role in missions in Uganda. Her tender spot is for health care and education. We’ll talk more about that another time. Please pray that God gives her more opportunity to discover His will for her life as she moves with the ebb and flow of Ugandan culture.
Please remember also to pray for the ministry to the police here in Uganda. I hope more churches take the similar initiative to extend love of Christ towards what appears to the people to be the enemy. The government does not need to do for Christians what God has asked the church to do. Come on Christians stand up and make a difference! Apathy and laziness are sin. Let us also pray for the families of the officers there who are growing in Christ that their children will make a difference in the future of Uganda.
My friends, I want to thank you again for the generous donations you made for the ministries here in Uganda. Your donations paid for those bibles. As Pastor Robert said in one of his sermons, “no one can be touched by Jesus and be left the same as before”. Your love, generosity and sharing has made it possible for individual lives here- people that you may never know- to be changed drastically by your simple gift. I am so thankful to call you all my friends. May God bless you.