Tag Archives: life

I’m a Regular Comedian (in Uganda)

I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh. I am no Jerry Seinfeld but I do enjoy just trying. Just ask my wife Brooke. She has to put up with my silly antics. But usually I prefer people laugh with me instead of at me.

Here in Uganda I seem to make people laugh a lot. I feel like Jerry Seinfeld when I go out into public. At least I imagine him telling jokes left and right and everyone falls down laughing. He would be like a drive by joke teller leaving a wake of laughter wherever he goes. I mean doesn’t he enter a 7-11, drop a joke or show his fusilli Jerry, and walk out with his big gulp to the sound of laughter?

Why fusilli? Because Jerry is silly.

Why fusilli? Because Jerry is silly.

So the fact that I make Ugandans laugh is a good thing. I think. I hope. But every time a Ugandan laughs it isn’t at a funny joke or quip. It is just when I speak. It is when I greet someone, order a soda, or generally open my mouth.

Just the other day I walked up to a shop keeper and asked for a Mountain Dew. She put her head in her arms and was laughing so hard. This is the kind of reaction I want from my wife when I tell jokes. Even a sympathy laugh will go a long way. But this is not the kind of reaction I want when I order a soda from a stranger.

So what’s the deal with me being funny? It’s not because I have spinach in my teeth. I don’t eat spinach, so I am sure. It’s not my jokes, because I am not telling any. And besides I am not Jerry Seinfeld who must ooze comedy and even his serious things are funny.

All I am doing is speaking Luganda. I try to greet, and order, and speak in the main language here in Kampala. While ordering in Luganda, I have yet had anyone tell me, “No soda for you. Come back one year.” But I do imagine I am butchering the language. Steaks, chops, ground meat, and other various cuts of the language are left lying around when I am done. But this can’t explain it all. People are genuinely surprised to hear a mzungu (white person) speak their language. I am genuinely surprised that they are surprised.

Me and my comedy instructor...I mean language instructor.

Me and my comedy instructor…I mean language instructor.

All of this laughter is actually encouraging because it means they are not used to foreigners speaking their language. This means that if I can even speak a little of the language then it will give me a unique opportunity to proclaim the gospel. I can take being laughed at for the sake of Christ.

I will remain an unintentional comedian here in Uganda because I will continue to speak (that is try not to butcher) Luganda. As a matter of fact, I challenge Jerry Seinfeld to a comedy duel on the streets of Kampala. I could give him a run for his money. Oh, who am I kidding; he just says something and then yada yada yada you are laughing uncontrollably. But at least I have some insight into how Seinfeld lives.

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Ox Plowing 101

The last time I ox plowed, I got a biblical lesson. How many of us can start a sentence with “the last time I ox plowed?” Well I can now.

On my way to plow

On my way to plow

In case you were unaware, and I hope you weren’t, Brooke and I are doing 5 months of training at the New Hope Institute near Kiwoko, Uganda. We have the going to class every day part down pat. Another part of the class is to work with one of the seven families that are homes to orphaned children. We work with the family known as the Calvary family. We visit and lead devotions some times and other times we work in the garden (more devotion leading than garden work for me) or let them braid our hair (more for Brooke).

One of the requirements of the Institute (and this might be the best one) is to ox plow with, well oxen. Only I am not sure they are actually ox oxen. They are more like cow oxen, for whatever that’s worth. I grew up mowing lawns and maybe working in a garden here and there. But farming or working with live animals was not a real requirement for me. I have been around a lot of farms, but mostly to get lost in their corn mazes.

So just before rainy season began, I made an appointment with my family to do some ox plowing. This required getting up early and skipping breakfast time but being back in time for class (remember I have that down pat). Real man stuff, especially considering there were pancakes for breakfast.

Plowing behind live oxen seems like real hard work. I mean I have seen movies where people have struggled at it. So it was good for me that the guys of the family were there to show me how to do it.

Ox plowing in Uganda

Ox plowing in Uganda

I must admit I was a little nervous. I had visions of wild oxen running wherever they wanted with me hanging onto the plow for dear life & yelling at them to stop. Meanwhile I would have plowed the road and other places that did not need plowing.
But when we got there the guys quickly showed me how to do it. You walk behind the plow and tilt it right to go left and tilt it left to go right. However, the object is to go straight. When I started it felt like I was doodling curved lines everywhere. Going straight is definitely the hard part. Holding the plow upright is not the hard part. I did not have to drive the oxen for there is another guy to do that.

It is at the turns where the hardest physical labor comes into play. When the oxen turned I had to pick up the plow and get it in line behind the oxen for the next plow line. The plow is heavy and a little awkward to carry. It only caused me a little struggle (just don’t ask me to define little).

The turns are also where the biblical lesson was learned. One of the best commands in the Old Testament is, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deut 25:4). We were not treading grain and were using cow oxen but it was close enough. In the New Testament, Paul quotes this verse not once but twice. You didn’t know just how important not muzzling an ox was, did you?
But never did I think I would ever have to apply the verse in its original sense. When Paul quoted that verse, he used it to show that a pastor should be paid. If you have ever wrestled with this issue, then let the oxen settle it for you.

When I had thought about this verse previously I just assumed the oxen ate as they walked. No big deal. No time or energy lost but maybe some food is lost in the process. It really is a neat command by God for the Israelites to show concern for the oxen and then pastors. Yet, I think I was right in how I thought about it. In my experience on that morning, the oxen took forever to make the turn because they were eating the grass on the edge of the field. I just stood there as the oxen driver tried to encourage them to move along. At least in my experience time and energy were also lost and so it was an inconvenience not to muzzle the oxen. So I learned something about the Bible while plowing behind oxen. I may have also decreased their yield by doodling in their field. So I am praying the Lord will multiply their harvest.

Doodling in the fields

Doodling in the fields

I never did get to eat those pancakes for breakfast. I am still looking for the verse about not muzzling the ox plowman while plowing. If you find it let me know.

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A Review of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A life together review

            In this book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is at once convicting and encouraging.  He warns against your own vision of Christian community and yet paints a picture of it  you aspire to hive.  It is simple and yet complex.  In sum, this book will help add a rhythm to your life that enables you to throw yourself on the grace of God in Christ.

            Bonhoeffer sets out to discuss and explain what true Christian community and its practical implications.  In chapter 1 he states that community is not achievable by any man because believers have community is only found in Christ.  To participate in this community, Bonhoeffer says we must give up our own ideal of Christian community and take hold of the reality created by God in Christ.  In chapter 2 he pleads for the community, most normally the family, to have daily devotions together.  He gives a practical outline of what this might look like.  To be sure it is written for less busy schedules, but perhaps that too is a helpful corrective.  In chapter 3, Bonhoeffer discusses a personal time with the Lord.  He suggests that multiple times be set aside as well as a prayerful spirit throughout the day.  Chapter 4 discusses how we might minister to one another.  He insists this is ministering the Word of God but we can do this through listening, helping, bearing, and proclaiming.  Chapter 5 discusses the confession of sin.  Bonhoeffer is adamant that we confess our sins to God but also to our brother or sister in Christ.  By this we claim ourselves as a sinner and accept the forgiveness in Christ offered by the gospel.

            I highly recommend this readable book.  There are many parts that are pithy and quotable.  All of it makes you think.  It is Christ centered throughout.  He focuses on Christ and His work and the implications for everyday life.  Your heart will be encouraged and your mind will be challenged.  Your family and church will thank you for reading this book.

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