People here say “you will go to Luzira for that”. I discovered Luzira is an area or village in Uganda where the prison headquarters is located. We compared stories about what life in prison looks like. In America you have one cell mate, rights, food, and many luxuries like television, phone privileges, recreation etc. I was embarrassed to see them realize our prisoners live with more luxuries than some of the good citizens of Uganda.
Then they described for me what life in Luzira is like for a convict. There are fifty men in one cell room. They are fed a plate of posho and beans every day. For half of the sentence a convict will never leave that cell. There are no luxuries. And when it is time they are taken out to dig for food. And by then they are so thankful just to be able to get outside.
Phiona calls this place the “university of understanding”. She described for me the most dangerous job here is digging pit latrines. When they are in that hole if it rains, they can’t get out and they drown. Sometimes they hit water and it swallows them up, or the sides cave in and bury them alive. If they hit rock they are finished and all that man power was for nothing.
I wonder what criminals think about while doing all that physical labor. Do they repent and rehabilitate? Or do they seethe with revenge and anger waiting for the day when they can return to their regular schemes. I shudder to think of life here in prison.
It is educational talking to Nakato who investigates so many criminal cases and tells tales of the same sort of lying, stealing and trickery happening to many people here. Ugandans know not to trust anyone with money. Nakato said if you want to know the true character of a Ugandan, see how he handles your money. Phiona said there is little understanding of how hard the mzungus from America work to earn their money, and the Ugandans think it comes out from a tap like water, and there is no end to the supply. When I explain how long and hard my husband works each day people here are so surprised. There is also an assumption that we come here with loads of it and we don’t know what to do with it. There is a phrase here that shocks me, “get yourself a mzungu”. Adams once told his brother not to bother with Ugandan women, but do like him and marry a mzungu so he will always have access to money and never be poor again. Faizal reported this to Phiona.
Americans are so honest and up front in our culture, and it is used against us here. If you tell me you are a pastor, that is what I believe. It shocks me that there is a practice of being the nicest, most helpful and wonderful person while the mzungu is in town and then when they leave they come up with ways to extract money. Or there is an agreement to take care of a child in the way that was provided, but when the mzungu goes home, the money goes into the pocket.
Let me just say not every Ugandan is this way. I thank God for connecting me to a circle of people that have proven to me over and again I can trust them, and their hearts are as broken to help the children who suffer here as mine. The team here in my corner have the same call on their lives to protect the orphan as I do, and I can only hope all of Uganda will cease to worship money and see the will of God in the bible. I am learning by experience, and taking the coaching from my trustworthy friends here, how to smell a crook and liar. The whole social society operates like their court system, you are guilty until proven innocent. It changes how I make friends here. I have decided that before I trust anyone they have to be examined thoroughly by Abdul. He is like an FBI agent in the way he thinks. If they pass his test, they can talk to me. I have so much concern for all the people who come to this country with wide open eyes and big hearts to help, they are then captivated by the beauty of the children, and the polite ways of the people. At some point a Ugandan is able to hook their mzungu who will make a way to supply them with cash one way or another. They say they will do the good they promised, but they inevitably use it to their personal advantage. And they are counting on the fact that it will be a very long time before that mzungu returns to their side of the world. If they lost interest after a year or two they are preparing themselves to hook another mzungu. Many times this experience will sour the mzungu to despise all of Africa. That’s just as bad a result as the crime. We can’t give up trying to do good, we just have to do it with more cultural understanding and protection.
Adams was after his friendship with Phiona because she worked at a guest house that had adopting families come and they wanted to get their claws into someone like me who would believe their story and throw myself into the effort. He always asked her to introduce them to the mzungus. I was blinded to his schemes in the beginning because I was so burdened in my heart to be able to help the children at Pastor James’ church. I knew I had to deal with him to be able to help the children. I believed he was a Pastor and thought he would behave like one. I made a big mistake. And by making that mistake I’m going to a different sort of “university of understanding”. Where I am going, I am learning how to actually help the children who have no one to look after them, and I now know how to pray for the way Ugandans think about us. There is hope that someday the color of my skin won’t translate as the color of money when they see it. If not, I’m asking God to protect me from those who belong in Luzira, and give Kirabo Seeds the wisdom to filter out those with bad intentions, and bless us with encounters with Ugandans who have the heart to help the helpless here in their own country. It will be done. When God says “do this”, he also clears the way to get it done. My faith is simple, and it is rock hard. Going through this criminal trial is teaching me lessons that will help me do a better job for the children in Uganda who are just like my Kira before God appointed her to our family. We have enough love to extend to those here who were in her situation. This trial is only making us stronger and increasing our conviction to do the work we were called to do.
What do you learn at the University of Understanding? How to recognize the Hard Truth, up hold it, tell it, and preserve it. The last thing I want to say, is the truth is the bedrock of all effort. I write a blog every day and I state the truth as I know it today. Elitia went back over the year and tried to used my own words against me, and guess what? I can stand on the truth. They couldn’t knock me down. Telling the truth is a good guarantee of endless nights of deep blissful sleep. I can bet you Adams is not sleeping at all. And now that I know Elitia was in on it all with him, I hope she loses sleep as well.