Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

February 21, 2005


Over history there have been various tribal migrations throughout Africa. In about 1000 AD the Bantu tribal group moved into Uganda, coming in from the west, settling in around the lakes and as far as the mountains that eventually became the Kenyan border to the east. There are 3 other tribal groups in Uganda as well, but the region in which I live is primarily Bantu, and more specifically, I live in the heart of the Buganda Kingdom, from which Uganda derives its name.

There are many Bantu tribes throughout Africa, speaking different languages, which are all related. This is true for the other tribal groups as well. So I can hear a different Bantu language and recognize some words, but if I hear language from a Nilotic language, such as Acholi, which is spoken in northern Uganda, it can sound about as familiar to me as Chinese. Africans are very gifted in languages, growing up in such a multilingual environment. Many people who are completely illiterate can easily speak 5 - 10 languages! If they move to a new area, they will be speaking a new language fluently within the year.

Coming from the USA where we basically speak one language only, I have always marveled at how easily people here shift back and forth between languages, even combining them in a single conversation. Having lived here 6 years now, I am beginning to see how easy and natural it really is. Even though I am slow to learn even Luganda, the local major language, I have learned to recognize many of the other languages, while not understanding them. I am slowly becoming conversant in Luganda, so I like to listen in on conversations and to hear the language differences. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself actually understanding two new languages this past week!

First off, Hannington Serugga, director of SEVO, and I traveled about 3 hours east to open a new branch of SEVO in the Busoga region. I'd known a few Busoga people, but to my knowledge had not heard their language, nor had I been to their region before. At our meeting I was surprised to be able to understand much of their language, even though it was a different accent and contained some unfamiliar words. The similarity between Lusoga and Luganda was close enough that when I spoke at the meeting, Hannington interpreted using Luganda, and the people could understand just fine!

Then yesterday, I was at a medical center with a friend getting treatment for a sick child. I waited out in the truck. This lady approached me and greeted me in her own language, which I thought at first was Luganda. But I could tell by her dress that she was of a different tribe, one that raises cattle. The Baganda are farmers. As I chatted with her in Luganda, I realized she was including some foreign words, so I asked her where she was from. She told me, so I asked her what her tribe was. She said she was a Munyankole. Then we had an interesting conversation about cows and men (the men own the cows). She was surprised that I did not have either a cow or a man!

So this was twice in one week that I had conversations in another language that was yet a language that I knew. It was a strange feeling. Think of speaking English with someone whose English is about ¼ Spanish, and yet their language has maybe a French-sounding accent. You could get along, listening carefully, even though you would miss a certain percentage of words with each other. They say that 70% of communication is nonverbal anyway, so we can miss a few words here and there and still communicate fairly ok.

It made me think of Heaven, where all believers in Jesus will meet one day, from all parts of the world, all tribes and cultures. We won't have one bit of trouble understanding each other as we communicate thru love with one another and with Jesus and our Father, who designed language to begin with.

We have about 50 new graduates of SEVO's Basic First Aid class (BFA) now in Busoga, and there are 2 more new groups in that region east of Kampala. One more BFA class was taught in Mbale, on the Kenyan border, and the week of February 28, Hannington is going to Soroti, in northeastern Uganda, to start yet another group. This class will be primarily IDPs (Internally Displaced People), refugees from the rebel war that has ravaged northern Uganda for nearly 20 years now. SEVO is in the process of becoming a nationally recognized organization.

Our two primary schools are up and functioning now. Pastor Ronald's started a week earlier than Pastor David's did, simply because he is renting a building. David is building, literally from the ground up. David's school is temporarily meeting in his church, as the classrooms are still being constructed. It will take awhile to get everything in complete order, such as moving the kids over to the new building, having uniforms made for both schools, and such, but so far things are going well…

… Even with a few hiccups. Last week a member of the Luweero Town Council, the Town Engineer, came with another man to David's building site and shut down the work. David's property adjoins the Presidential Luweero ranch, and these men were saying that the school was too close to it for security reasons. We quickly recognized this for what it was, a bribery attempt. People will try to box you into a corner on something, then demand money to let you out of the corner. So these men waited til our first building is ¾ finished to spring it upon us that the school was too close to a Presidential residence.

However… We know the President himself has complained that this property has not previously been developed! He has said that his presence should not hinder development! Also, David was very careful to jump through all the hoops required by law before even beginning to clear the land. The last thing he did was get clearance for the location of the school buildings documented by the Town Clerk … who just happens to have more rank than the Town Engineer or his friend. So he simply made a copy of this document from the Town Clerk to keep on the site with the workers, and they can go back to work.

David's refusal to start building until he had that document reminded me of when I went to sell my old pickup a few months ago. I had felt strongly that I needed to get the updates done on the title before I sold it. Had I not done so, I could not have recovered my truck from the thief who later stole it when I was selling it.

God communicates to us through His own language, which like some of our languages on earth, can take various forms. We may have only partial understanding, or we might not be sure we're hearing properly, but He continues to speak to us. And with time, we learn to hear His language better, to understand it more fully. When we get to Heaven, there will be nothing to blur it to our spirits at all. But for now, many times we are confirmed in our hearing of God's language when we see the results of our obedience… or disobedience.

Please continue to pray for us. We especially need prayer now for additional funding for our schools, for the completion of our buildings and for ongoing expenses, and for SEVO.

Margaret Nelson