Another day we took all 250 kids out again and did community service projects. Some groups cleaned out wells, others helped families fetch water, and some built dish drying racks and cleaned the compounds of elderly widows.
I was with a group of all girls that were stationed at the home of an elderly widow. The girls cleaned up the garbage around the outside of the house and burned it.
Then they built a dish drying rack for the woman. They dug holes in the ground with a machete,
chopped down some saplings, put them in the ground,
and then made the rack by nailing smaller saplings into the larger frame.
Only a few of them could work at a time so some were just sitting around. So I asked them, is there anyone nearby that you could share God’s love with? They looked and found someone.
But he ran away because all he wanted was to buy alcohol.
Eventually they began talking to a man and his wife, the ones selling the alcohol. I stood there, again only picking words here and there since they were speaking Luganda. They were sharing with him and also trying to get him to go to the big gathering we had planned for the next day. He kept refusing and I could tell the man was giving them a hard time. He was trying to prove that drinking wine was ok because Jesus made water into wine.
Then the man saw me there. I don’t know if he was drunk or what exactly was going on, but he was afraid of me. He was almost like the really little kids who see me coming close and flip out, except he didn’t make a sound. He just sat there looking terrified. He said that any muzungu (white person) he ever heard about always sprayed something when they came near a black person because they smell. The girls were trying to explain to him that I am different and not at all like that.
I know how to greet in Luganda, so the girls suggested that I greet him. I tried but he wouldn’t shake my hand. So I did what I’ve seen countless Ugandans do when greeting someone: I got down on my knees and offered my hand and said, “Oli otya.” Which means, “How are you?”
He looked at me as if he had just watched a third eye appear on my forehead. It was the strangest sight for him.
The girls told me to tell him some Luganda I know. So I just started going through parts of the body, because that’s what I know best. With every word I spoke in Luganda, he loosened up. He even started smiling.
When I had run out of Luganda words to say, he just sat there. He was amazed, not that I knew Luganda, but that I had knelt to greet him. In Ugandan culture that is a sign of honor. In his eyes I, a white woman, honored him, an African man.
After that he asked about the large gathering we were having the next day and promised he would consider coming.
A seed was planted all because a group of Ugandan girls stopped to talk and because a white girl knelt in the Ugandan dirt.