I learned a new word shortly after arriving in Africa: Mzungu. It’s the name for white people among the Ugandan people. At first you might think of this as some sort of racial slur. And maybe to some Ugandans, it is. I’m sure some have been hurt by white people in one way or another. But that’s not the way I heard it. I heard it from Ugandan children with smiles emerging from ear to ear and hands raised high with enthusiastic waves. They were excited to see us. Mzungu is good. Fun. Different.
Years ago I would have never signed up for a trip like this. Never. I’m comfortable and content in my US born-and-bred life. I like my creature comforts. My food. My warm bed. My health. My family. My god who doesn’t need me to “go.” I can grow where I’m planted.
So, why am I here in Africa? What changed?
Well, first, I met my wife. She’s the reason my involvement, and even attendance, at church had a rebirth after years away. I looked at her and saw a love for Christ that I’d never known. A relationship, not just an acquaintance. I wanted that. I got involved with my church. Played bass in the praise band. Living the US Christian dream. Still wouldn’t be caught dead in Africa, though. Nope.
When I started attending Brentwood Church, I decided to make a shift. I wanted to go deeper with God. I saw people like Jeff Sellers and I wanted to have that same passion and drive for Jesus. I met Jeff for lunch one day shortly after he had gotten back from Uganda in 2012. He couldn’t say enough incredible things about it. He was completely enamored with the people and the country. The seed was planted. God was saying, “GO.” At first I wanted to ignore it. No way I was going to Uganda. But, I realized I had said, “no,” too many times already. Staying the same is not the change I wanted to see in myself.
So, here I am.
Mzungu. I am a mzungu in Uganda. I am blessed to be within an entire group of Mzungus. A fantastic team I get the privilege to work with. They bless me with their hearts and their kindness.
I have seen a great many things in just the first few days of my trip that I never thought I would see. On the 7-hour ride from Kampala to Gulu, I saw miles and miles of country that was foreign, yet sometimes familiar, and I would snap back to the reality that I am indeed in Africa. I’ve seen monkeys and baboons even before the safari later this week. I’ve seen the Nile River from a bridge with armed guards because of the recent fighting in Uganda and the strategic point the bridge represents. I’ve seen reckless disregard for life and limb in the way people drive on these streets. I’ve seen slums so full of filth and decay that it made my heart ache. I’ve seen the faces of little children delighted at my presence. Holding my hand, the hand of a stranger, as though I was their best uncle Matt (and not to mention delighting in seeing their faces in a photo on my camera). I’ve seen people restored through the work of Sports Outreach Institute. I’ve seen a church service within a small building on Koro Farm full of local people with more spirit and faith than mega churches in the states. I’ve seen Jesus in the people of Koro Farm. And I am touched and honored to be here.
I am anxious to see what’s next. Tomorrow.