Monday started off as just another day in Africa and then what I thought was a simple meeting turned out to be another adventure!!! I thought that we were meeting for just a few minutes with the local leader of a group that’s trying to preserve the local culture of INZU YA MASAABA, which is the tribe from the region around Mbale that I thought was a fairly small tribe. WRONG AGAIN!!!
My first clue is when we get to the cultural center and there is around 10 armed soldiers giving everybody the eye as they come through the gate. There is a good size group of well-dressed Africans standing around and then a group of 10 from Wales show up. Now I’m starting to wonder what the heck is going on. Finally, I find out that the group from Wales is a group called PONT that’s working with the African group to help with education and fighting poverty while maintaining and restoring their local culture. This is a get together for them. Now I’m wondering, “OK, is this one of those just-along-for-the-ride things?” So we go around to the back of the building where they are going to have cultural dancing and music. I’m thinking, “Pretty cool stuff. I’ll just hang out and enjoy this.”
That works for a while but then they start with all the introductions. First the Africans: 20 different ministries of everything possible. TIA. Then the group from Wales goes through their introductions; each person has to introduce themselves. Then there is a moment of silence before they spot us and call on Bishop Gogo to introduce both of us. Now, I’m getting a bad feeling that there is a bus in my near future!!!!! Yep, Bishop throws me under the bus, again.
Now let me set the stage for this. The people in the group from Wales are all from Baptist churches. This is a party for them. The Bishop and I are the only ones there with a collar and I’m feeling like I’m at an AA MEETING!!! Hi my name is Ron. I’m a deacon!!!!!
Well, I give them the short version of who I am and what I’m doing there, which is nothing but just living there and helping Bishop when I can, and I thank them for the chance to be here with them. I don’t think that they really understand my redneck, southern English since they all clap and act like I am saying something really cool. Go figure.
During all this time, they keep referring to their cultural leader, who I thought of as just a local guy wanting to preserve their local culture, that they call UMUKUUKA WE BAMASAABA. When I finally get the Bishop to explain to me what UMUKUUKA WE BAMASAABA means, that’s when the bus backs up over me, again!!! That’s his title. It means that he is the KING OF THE KINGDOM OF INZU YA MASAABA, which is not a small tribe but a large historical kingdom that takes up part of both Uganda and Kenya. You’ve got to be kidding me right? A historical King! No way! And I’ve got a personal meeting with Him in his office? Have you ever wanted to kill a Bishop? Well, I have!!! What has he gotten me into now?
So after the music, dancing and introductions, we are all hanging out having coffee, tea and bananas when they come for me. It’s time for our meeting! Oh boy, maybe the Bishop will do most of the talking. We go to his office, which is very large and very nice with chairs all around. Bishop Gogo starts to take the seat closest to UMUKUUKA WE BAMASAABA and I’m looking for the one closest to the door. Oh no, that’s not the way that this is going to work out at all. UMUKUUKA WE BAMASAABA tells the Bishop to move and give that seat to me!!!! Did anybody tell this guy that I’m just a redneck, southern deacon? Must not have. UMUKUUKA WE BAMASAABA makes it very clear that HE wants to talk to me and everybody else is to stay quit unless HE asks them a question. The last time I felt like this I was in the 7th grade in the Dean of Boys office fixing to get killed for fighting in school!!!!
Now this guy is really smart and a very well educated man. He’s not just some token figure head. This guy is a true leader. Now at this point, I’m asking myself, “What has Bishop Gogo gotten me into?” As usual no one ever really tells me what’s going on. They seem to think that somehow I just know what’s going on. I mean come on, there’s a lot of difference in meeting some local guy trying to do something good and meeting A KING that takes his stuff very serious.
It turns out that he is an old coffee grower and he heard about my interest in coffee. They grow coffee everywhere here. At one time coffee was a huge part of their culture and economy. It’s one of the things that he is working on bring back. He is providing 2,000 coffee plants to local farmers and wants to set up training for them on growing, harvesting and drying their coffee beans to get the best coffee and the best price.
Our meeting is only about ten minutes long and then he invites us to go out to one of his palaces for a lunch party. Palace is a term used loosely; it’s just a house that’s nice. But they are adding a second floor to it and he does put on a good party. There is a lot of food, more music and cultural dancing. When we get ready to leave, we go to tell the King thanks and bye but He stops us to tell Bishop that he wanted him to call to set up a time to bring me to lunch at his palace where he is growing coffee. So now, I guess, one day soon, I’ll be going to hang out with the King and talk about coffee some more.
And you guys thought that I was over here just sitting around watching the bananas grow!!