Remembrance Day

Is observed on 11th November to honor those who died serving their countries in World War I. There are poppies everywhere you turn on any street in England. On lapels. On billboards. On hats. Everyone has a poppy to remember. The tradition was instituted by King George V, grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II. This tradition is over 100 years old but it is as real as Christmas and as Thanksgiving. There is even an order of service for the Service of Rememberance

In October, I teach a session on the History of Uganda at Harvest Institute School of Leadership. The sessions have varied over the years, because wow, we live in interesting times. So this year, we were looking for history around us. Prior to this class, I found out from a friend that her grandfather whose home is in my neighborhood was a WWI veteran and a published author! Go figure. Do you think we have Remembrance Day in Kiwanga? Not in the least. If we were living in England, there would be a whole ceremony at the St Thomas round the corner from his home. And we would leave wreaths and little notes at the gate of his home. It is such an ordinary day.

Some of the students were not in Kampala so they needed help finding historical sites in the districts where they were. And that’s how I found out that Semei Kakungulu built a synagogue in Mbale. A synagogue. How could someone not remember to teach this in school? It is such a contrast to who he was and what we were taught that it should have found its way to the books. It didn’t.

We must choose to remember. And to remember not in part but in whole. Our lives did not begin with us so taking a moment to remember is us being grateful. Grateful for choices we did not have to make. Grateful for decisions that led to us being on this planet. Grateful for all who made it possible for you to live where you live.

On this last day of November, who do you need to remember? How can you express your gratitude?

A note to my father

There was a time in our history, the history of Uganda when intellectuals were hunted down and murdered. Several went missing and I can only imagine the terror in the faculties at the University. Getting in to work to the news that your alma mater had been murdered or had disappeared without a trace. I experienced a glimpse of this with COVID-19, when every message alert caused a bit of a flutter. Even now, as I was searching for the image for this blog, there were more images of death announcements than there were of celebrations. Yet, he remained. Even with all the options, he had to leave and start afresh.

My aunt tells the story of how they had to cross the Uganda-Kenya border with eggs. (This story is for another day). But yes, he crossed the border to shop for everything we needed. From milk to soap, there was nothing in our home that did not come from Kenya. For the longest time, waay past 1986, we did not purchase anything other than fresh food stuff and bread from Uganda. I don’t know how many miles he packed into his various cars plying the border but they are in thousands. I know that when I first crossed the border alone, some Immigration officers still remembered him plying the route.

Classic Daddy

I recall meeting one of his secretaries, she was a wife to one of the ministers in the Obote II government. She was delightful and loved to have us over to play with her children. And we loved her in equal measure. One day we awoke to the news that she had killed herself and her children. We quickly run to their home, hoping it was not true. But no one would let us anywhere near. There was no funeral for us, we were too young. I think times were too perilous, but death is cloudy. The mind selects what to focus on. All I recall was not seeing her busy in her kitchen through the big windows. Later, it would be that no one played with us anymore. There was no one to accompany home after Sunday School. There were no more simsim balls and groundnut bars. My dad still went in to work, he paused to check that we were well. And back to his routine.

The next time we heard from this family, the dad was running into exile in 1986 and requested my dad to park the official cars in our compound. My dad obliged; there was a formal handover. And he stayed while the former minister fled into exile.

Didi’s World opened with loads of fanfare, our first almost theme park. The highlight of everyone was the Pirate ship but you had to wait till you were twelve years. It was the equivalent of our rollercoaster. There was the Octopus and caterpillar but nothing beat the Pirate ship! I do not recall who had turned twelve, but we were finally all able to get into the ship. Some of us has been on it before, for the rest it was a fresh experience. My dad joined us and sat, stoic as ever. Then it started to swing. A gentle sway at first, then the speed increased and so did the height. Total mayhem.. At a certain point in its swing, one could see the Sheraton, and then it was down again. We were screaming, some children were crying. My dad, he sat there very calmly.

38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Mark 4:38 NKJV

One fine day, Jesus got into a boat on one side of the Sea of Galilee so he could cross over to the other side. It should have been a normal crossing, or maybe it was a normal crossing because such storms were common on the Sea of Galilee. I imagine it is similar to what has become common place flash flooding whenever it rains here in Kampala. Some sections of the road are cut off and crossing becomes perilous to everyone around the road. While, we tend to worry at the sight of grey clouds if caught around this section, Jesus enters the boat, finds a comfortable spot and puts a pillow under his head. He promptly falls asleep and only wakes up when roused by troubled fishermen.

Whenever I imagine this picture, I recall my dad seated in that pirate ship. In the midst of screaming and crying children, he is seated calmly taking it all in. Maybe it is the Mathematics, he might have been calculating in his mind. He shall write his story and tell all. To me, it will always be a reminder of Jesus.

You Have Authority Over Any Storm You Can Sleep In

Bill Johnson

Swords Up!

An AK 47/is a heavy prop to carry around but there she was swinging it around as she spoke with her colleague. Is there no protocol around these matters? How should a guard on duty conduct themselves?

We had to learn how to handle a gun as part of the training. Theory and practical. Take it apart, assemble it, and fire in a range. For some of the class, the shock started with the sound of the bullets up close. Mine started with the weight of the gun, especially during the recoil. One of the sergeants had to sit on my back to ensure that I was not destabilized by the recoil. Well, that would not cut it during any armed operation. So we had to learn to handle the weight of a gun on a daily. We were told to purchase specially fashioned batons known as silas. These would be our guns for the duration of our study. We marched with them to class, carried them to the dorms, even to meals. It was never lost. Wherever you appeared, you appeared with your gun.

That gun became almost an extension of each one of us. How interesting the allegory Paul painted to the Ephesians about the Sword. The average Roman Sword (gladius) weighed about 1kg. This seems so light, after all what is a kg of sugar, until you have to constantly carry it over long distances in formation. The Roman Solider was never without his armor.

African troops in Burma during World War II.

Swords Up! Such a fun game. Our Sunday school teacher used it to teach us to find Books of the Bible and then verses. It was such a joy to be the first to find the verse first, which was always easier with a well read Bible. The pages of a new Bible stick together for the much shorter books which makes it longer to find them. The last books of the Old Testament and New Testament were always the most rewarding because they were hard to find.

The Bible is delightful because it is the very Word of God. The Word from whom all things exist. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Whereas the Bible looks like an ordinary book, Jesus reminds us that His words are Spirit and Life.

28 My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:28 NKJV

Your strength is found in always carrying the Word of God everywhere you go. There is no day off. There is no one time you appears without the Word or carry it in a careless manner. Every Christian must spend time learning and memorizing the Word of God. Listening to the Word being taught by their teachers of the Word so you are equipped in and out of season. It is the only offensive weapon a Christian has.

I was glad

When they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.

Sundays have always been such cheery days in our home. It was the one day that my dad boomed hymns and chorals all day long. But there was also just the delight of dressing up to go to church. The normally jammed lanes and pavements of the University were quiet, even the Library closed. We had all the quadrangles to explore, what made it more interesting was we could never guess in which faculty we would be having Sunday School.

But the fascination was the two Chapels, St. Francis and St. Augustine. During the week, they were inaccessible to us. But now I had all the time to gaze at the fresco’s and take in the amazing architecture. When the organ piped out those hymns, it was divine. Suffice it to say that I did not really understand what Church was about but all the pomp and ceremony was enthralling.

The order of service and how the Chaplain and the other priests moved at the altar. The endless rows of neatly arranged chairs. The baptismal pool at the back. The side aisles that people walked through very ‘humbly’ as they came back from taking Communion. Oh my, I loved doing it over and over.

When I walked to the Gayaza Chapel and found a similar arrangement, I was completely sold. Those two side access doors that we used and the drum fanfare before service. One of my favorite pastimes has become visiting ancient Cathedrals, just sitting there and imagining the countless congregations that have sat there, in war and in peace.

Namirembe Cathedral, was not a typical Sunday but rather a Christmas Carol service by the Kampala Singers. Without any microphones, we were able to hear the beautiful, harmonies from any cleft in that vast Cathedral. The organ, sounded even more glorious than the one in St. Francis. And then there were the vast terraced grounds, which we were free to roam at the time. I could never get over the different access points and would find myself wonderfully lost, trying to get back to my mother.

All Saints Kingston. Photo Credit: Pinterest

The church bells are pealing. Well, our bells never pealed. And we did not have Church bells either. I was glad to experience the actual pealing of Church bells when I visited Kingston,England. Early one Sunday morning. Oh, it was so thrilling and wonderful in contrast to the quiet in the neighborhood.

I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.

The President is Coming

“H.E. The President of Uganda shall be the Guest of Honor at the event.” And that’s how it all started. With groans, with sighs, with enthusiasm, with nonchalance, it did not matter. There was work to be done.

The team that I was a part of was tasked with finding the tent. It was not to be a collection of tents but rather one big gigantic tent. At the time, our only exposure to this notion was the one used at Speke Resort Munyonyo. We had received a brief on the cost and it was extremely high.

Our role was to source a good alternative. The hunt was on and so was the countdown. Oh, Uganda, may God uphold thee. The term is kuyiya. My dad says that Ugandans will never acknowledge that they don’t know, rather they will impose what they know on your specifications. Sometimes it works but most times it is a rather shoddy substitute. One service provider enthusiastically told us how they were able to provide what we wanted, only to be asked at the reception, “how many tents we would require?” I could not help but also ask him whether he did not hear that it was singular and not plural.

One service provider did have the specified singular tent but it only sat the number we required if there were no tables.

I got a small headache.

So it was back to Munyonyo. The operations team lead was very courteous, responding to my inquiries and asking his questions. Even though he was sure it would not be set up on the tarmac, he visited the site anyway. The number and depth of holes we would need to drill to set up the tent would ruin the parking lot. But you can think about it, we would have no problem setting it up, if that is what you want. No, it was not what we wanted, I thought.

Eventually, one service provider imported the tent with the required specs. We were all set for the day. There was a dress code, a specific parking area, a program and caution to be prepared to be unavailable in person and on phone all day.

1 And David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God. 2 So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble.

1 Chronicles 29:1‭-‬2 ESV

How much more ought we to prepare for the House of the Lord? The place where God resides. David would not leave it to chance, he had to ensure that Solomon could fulfill the task at his young age. Solomon was not going to botch this up. He set up storehouses of treasures for everything that would be needed for the temple. He invited other leaders to join in. He set Solomon up for success.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Yes, the Holy Spirit indeed resides in us and we are the Temple. We are part of the Body of Christ. We have chosen to congregate in specific locations. Would the visit of the President be more important than meeting Jesus every Sunday? How have you prepared for the House of the Lord? Will zeal for the House of the Lord consume your children and their children? Or would they wonder why it is so important? Will they succumb to any offer or will they look for the best for the House of the Lord?

Don’t be caught unawares, prepare

Jerusalema

It became the most popular song during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complete with a dance routine. There are so many tik-tok videos in various countries. It went viral.

We long for Jerusalem in times of distress and Master KG’s Jerusalema lyrics do not stray far from this very familiar cry.

Jerusalem is my home
Jerusalema ikhaya lami

Save me
Ngilondoloze

He went with me
Uhambe nami

Jerusalema Challenge. Photo Credit: Pinterest


In World War I, a poem by William Blake was set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. It became England’s version of The Battle Hymn of Republic. Recently, there have been calls for it to become the anthem of England.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Psalm 122:1‭-‬2 ESV

Lord, like the Psalmist, prayed so long before our time, may our hearts never forget you, O Jerusalem. May our feet always stand in your gates. May our souls receive gladness when we come into the House of the Lord. May our home always be in Jerusalem. Amen.

He is not here

The end of a rope. I have not had an occasion to run out of rope. However, we did run out of road this one time. Hilarious right! So we were cruising on Mombasa road heading back to Malindi, and part of that road was so bad, you didn’t know whether you were on the road or off the road. Well, not quite. It was really bumpy, so at one point, we noticed how smooth it has gotten. Only to hear our driver say, “oops, we run out of road!” We were driving on the shoulders at that point. He quickly course corrected and we were back to our jostling.

Not so many situations are this great. Most of the Hallmark movies have a scene where the family of the patient are in the waiting room and the surgeon walks in, still in his scrubs,and says ‘Doctors have done all they can… but he/she didn’t make it!’ Hearts broken. Sad theme music. And it’s done. You may rewind but you will always get back to that point and the doctor will walk to the waiting room in his scrubs. There is a finality about death.

Then there was COVID and the dynamics changed completely. No more wakes. No more ashes to ashes and dust to dust by the grave side. No more laying wreaths on caskets. No more viewing the body. Just the ‘angels’ coming in, spraying their paths with chloroquine. And ensuring everyone stays far away. Strangers burying a strangers. Loved ones estranged. There is a stillness about death.l

https://www.afro.who.int/sites/default/files/2020-10/WHO_2554.JPG

Early, one Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary made her way to the tomb to finish dressing the body of her Rabbi, Jesus. She finds the tomb empty and goes back to tell Simon Peter. Simon and John run to the tomb, to find indeed it is as she said. They return to their homes. The emptiness of this phrase points to the hollowness of death. Mary remains in the garden distraught, weeping and recounting the same phrase as grief is bound to do. The angels ask why she is weeping. They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him. Even after the angels have told her. She looks up to see someone and in her grief, she recounts the same phrase for him.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

John 20:15 NKJV

Mary’s pain is raw. The raw pain missed in Hallmark movies. I was hurrying to the hospital when the call came, it was my dad. He calmly asked where I was and I told him I was rushing to the hospital and apologized because I was so late. I cannot remember anything else he said, but I do recall that he told me mummy passed away in the early hours of the morning. Ohhhh, those words cut through my brain like a butcher’s knife. Right to my physical heart, the only response was a loud wail. I stopped the car in the middle of the road. I felt the sun had to stop rising and darkness should come and cover me. But it did not. I felt like my life was over but it was not. I just kept repeating over and over, mummy has passed on. It void statement. It was devoid of meaning. Because what was a world without a mummy. From the day of my birth, mummy had been there. When I cried, I would cry for my mummy. When I was in labour, my mummy was there. Now in the moment that was like the worst, she was not there. There is a loneliness about death.

Jesus, just like He did for Mary, whispered, ‘Dora, why are you weeping?’ She is not here. She is risen. May hope arise dear reader in your heart. The One who is the Resurrection and the Life. The One who is the firstborn over all creation. He is not dead, He is Alive. Because He lives you can face anything. Look to Him, He is your Lifeline and Waymaker.

There is a Balm in Gilead

Jeremiah laments a lot for the daughters of Judah. He is the one who speaks of Rachel weeping for her children. This prophecy was fulfilled when Herod went on his murderous spree to remove all trace of the Messiah. His lament is almost 600 years earlier, but the words hang over Judea like a wet blanket. Mothers wailing for their sons, no home left untouched.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

I had always thought this balm was a figure of speech but it is a real thing. There is actually a balm, similar to our shea butter, ghee, Avocado oil, tea tree oil. It has amazing healing properties for the body. You get the drift. Though I shall stick with my figure of speech, thank you very much.

Every mum has that quick fix or go to balm for aches, pains and colds. For most mums, it was Vicks. That is until Dragon balm came. My mum used it as the cure of all things! Ha ha! You have a cold? Dragon balm. You have a headache? Dragon Balm. You are just out of sorts. Dragon Balm. It had such a strong scent, you went around smelling like a peppermint tree. And guess what? It worked.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?

Jeremiah 8:22 NKJV

Is there no balm in Gilead? Will I never have relief from this cold? Will this headache never end? Will I never wake up without pain all over? Is there no balm in Gilead?

Dr. Luke does not record her name, clearly client confidentiality did not start recently. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. She had gone through all of Judea looking for the balm in Gilead. With every visit to the doctors, her hopes were raised and with every visit her hopes were dashed. Because even though she had spent all the money as required and done all she needed to do, the bleeding did not stop. She did not have a regular cycle. She did not have children. She only had those bloody menstrual clothes to look at each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to smell each day. Those bloody menstrual clothes to wash each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to ask her every day, is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no balm in Gilead? Your situation remains unchanged, despite doing all you can. Your health deteriorates, there is no relief from pain. You feel drained and tired, there is no comfort.

Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter. She has heard about Him, the Great Teacher. Some say He is the Messiah. The Messiah whom Herod did not kill. If He is indeed the Messiah, she thinks, I shall be healed. There is no more thought about protocols and cleansing laws. The opportunity is now.

She crawls into the crowd.

And touches the Hem of Jesus’ garment. Immediately, the blood stops flowing. Is this true? She can feel it, but she has to get away to check and confirm. Then Jesus stops and asks that question, ‘Who touched Me?’

The woman with the issue of blood. Photo credit: Pinterest

Oohhh, the dread. I am fine now, can we all just get along with our lives? You know it’s me, Jesus. I know it’s you, let’s just move on. Jesus stops and is almost dismissive of Peter’s questions.

She stands up and walks to Him. There must have been a hush falling on the crowd as they recognized her. Jesus speaks to her. The unclean one. The one who had spent most of her life in isolation. He exhorts her to be of good cheer! Stand up, Rise up, your faith has made you well.

It’s over. She can go home and have dinner with her family. She can smile again. She can laugh again. There is a balm in Gilead. His name is Jesus, He heals and makes you whole. He is the Balm that keeps on healing. Laughter is good medicine. The Balm of Gilead not only soothes, He brings recovery.

Be of good cheer and come to Jesus. He will heal your sin-sick soul. He will heal your ailing body. He will make you laugh.

Cracked

So many memes on the internet about Gamer’s rage. It is real. Things do not work as advertised, they work in real time. In real time, things slow down. Things depreciate. Friction happens.

The real game changer is inertia; it feels like you are moving forward, only to catch yourself in a holding pattern. For the creative, going through an intense design time, all the pieces are falling into place. The mind and fingers are in sync- momentum is gained. Suddenly, the key board is not working. The mouse freezes; the touch screen is not responding.

It must be the sweat or dust. This is easily resolved with a bit of tissue. Nothing that a cool water break cannot resolve. Still nothing! This cannot be happening. I have deadlines. I was nearly done.

Photo credit:Pinterest

What began as seething, is now rage. And the object becomes the screen. You pound at it, throw it far from you. Glass doesn’t always break but it always cracks. Sometimes visible to the naked eye. Sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Cracked glass is fascinating as an art piece but not as crockery. One is never sure when it will give way.

Adam cracked us all; we are volatile. One way this moment. Another way in the next moment. It became cute and we have nice cliches to describe our art pieces; perks, phobias, addictions, defects etcetera, etcetera…We got stuck and were not fit for purpose. Till Jesus paid it all.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

I Corinthians 15:22 NKJV

Jesus paid it all. You can live through inertia. Through sticky keys. Through being stuck. No need to rage, just breathe. Life it goes on beyond this moment because Jesus has made you alive.

The Author-ity

When you take a pen, write your story and publish it, you become a published author. What does it mean to be an author? Does it mean you have a way with words or that you appeal to a particular group of readers? Are you entertaining or do you generate excitment?

Authority is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘orginator. It may also mean the state of being an author. Authors are the origin of their works. Wow, that sounds so grand and like a Life purpose.

But what does originator mean? Authors are finite beings, so they really cannot be at any origin. Charles Dickens, Shakespeare do not live any more, unlike the origin of the River Nile that has never changed. Whereas that is true, they did bring unique writing style into this world. There are not too many Chinua Achebe’s nor Soyinkas.

8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Luke 7:8 NKJV

I find this conversation with the Centurion a most fascinating one because Jesus doesn’t actually talk to him but rather to the Jewish elders he sends. Each group carries not their own words but the centurion’s words.

Photo credit: Pinterest

To be an author-ity is to carry another’s words. Like the elders carried the centurion’s, every author-ity is a carrier of another’s words. We pull words from every precipice of our minds, our environments and weave them into stories for our audiences. The Jewish elders could speak to Jesus in a way the centurion could not. They were elders in their own right, custodians of God’s promises to the nations of Israel. They were authors of Jewish customs and norms in Jesus’ day.

On this day, they carried the words of a Gentile. And they came under his author-ity. They carried his words to Jesus and the servant was healed. The Jews continued to benefit from the kindness of the centurion. Becoming an authority is a trust, a trust that you shall be faithful to the originator.

After you have read others’ stories, write your own. Become an author-ity.