I have decided that I will begin attempting to blog on Saturdays directly after a week of doing ministry in our surrounding community. This is generally the time when God will allow my heart and mind to decompress as I process what I've seen and worked through during the week.
I titled this blog, "the Pain of Translation" because of something I experienced with our street cleaners today. The Luganda phrase that I like to use is Oli Wa Mugaso. This phrase is something that I learned relatively early on in our time here. The phrase means, "You are important". I have used the phrase at various times with Ugandans who are involved in our daily lives. They always gratefully acknowledge the compliment and reciprocate with an over abundance of kindness.
Today as I was walking home from Kabalagala, I was intent on stopping and talking to our KCCA workers who clean the streets. If haven't heard, these ladies and men are responsible for sweeping the streets and cleaning the gutters around Kampala. They are generally ignored by everyone here.
As I made my way home, I stopped to talk to each of them. I am beginning to know their names, Alice, Grace, Esther, Peter, Caroline, etc. Where once there was a discomfort of unfamiliarity, today there was a grateful recognition of familiarity. I needed it today as much as they did. As I greeted my friends, I began to use this phrase, "Oli Wa Mugaso". I'm not sure why, but I expected an encouraged response from them, perhaps this would generate a glimmer of hope. What I got in return was puzzling to me. As I said this to each one of them, their faces looked confused. Perhaps I wasn't saying it right. I ducked into a store of a Muslim friend of mine and I asked him if I was saying it correctly. He acknowledged, "yes, you are saying it right and you sound just like a Ugandan". I explained to him what was happening as I was trying to encourage these men and ladies. He smiled a very loving smile and said to me, "they've probably never been told that before, they don't believe that they are important". I was crushed to hear this. I hurt as I walked the rest of the way home. At the same time, my resolve to share with them the depth and height and breadth of the love of Jesus with them just intensified.
I ask that you continue to pray for these men and women, that they might know the love of Christ. Pray for their health as many of them are ill and can't seem to get adequate treatment. Pray also for my Eritrean friends with whom a great relationship continues to blossom. At first it was very awkward to sit and talk with them, but it is becoming increasingly more comfortable to go deeper in conversation. Pray that God would give me great wisdom as sit and listen and enter into life together with these men. It is a real privilege to sit and commune with them it can also be very tricky because while they are welcoming, there seems to be a level of suspicion. Pray that they will always make a chair available for me as they do now each time and that God would put away the mistrust. I sense that he is slowly, but surely.
Finally, today I had an opportunity to meet a man who works in the rock quarries near our home. I entered into conversation with him and we shared many laughs and compliments. Even though it was very awkward, I asked him if I can take some time swinging the sledge and breaking some rocks. It was strange, but amazing at the same time. The workers watched me and we laughed as I swung and missed a few times. I noticed when I made a good strike, they would cheer. I asked if any "muzungus" came to the quarries. "Only to do business", was the reply. These are men and women working in our backyard who need to see the richness of Christ. Pray that God would continue to open a door for me to come back time after time to develop relationship and do life together with these men. What a privilege it is to watch God open door after door here.