Life in Uganda

A mid-morning visitor

At 9:30 this morning a well-dressed woman arrived in front of the Source Cafe. She sat down at one of the tables outside. The odd bit was the half-empty bottle of wine that accompanied her.

The Source is an alcohol-free establishment, but less than two yards’ away is a bar. It isn’t uncommon for one of the pub’s patrons to wander over and order some food. But this wasn’t the case. She had purchased her bottle at a local market, opened it as she left the store, and then proceeded to stop at any open chair on the sidewalk. As her quarreling and drunkenness grew, so did the public contempt. As soon as she was driven off one bench, she would find another. This continued until she landed at the Source at 9:30.

I was negotiating with a local carpenter across the street when I noticed her. My intention was to talk to her as soon as I had a work agreement from the carpenter, but Lazarus, the manager of the Source Cafe, was a step ahead of me. He found a friend of the woman and tried to discover why she was in such a state. I was planning to offer her two options: a sobering cup of coffee in exchange for the bottle or she could continue her bench hopping down Main Street. Fortunately, I never got the chance to implement my terrible plan as Laz initiated a much wiser and compassionate approach.

The friend told Laz of the woman’s recent hardships: her husband was in the military, deployed in Somalia. Uganda has been a strong regional force in the dismantling of Al-Shabaab. In a recent attack, the husband was killed. The wine was a poor attempt at killing sorrow. Laz invited the friend to sit with her and encourage her to loosen her grip on the bottle. The chances seemed better coming from someone she knows.

He failed.

The neighboring table was full of a group of christians from the Jinja Church of Christ. They invited the woman to come sit with them and she obliged. The conversation began with some surface-level banter about alcohol abuse and judgmental “born-agains”. But eventually the conversation went beyond good-natured jabs. One of the Christians asked, rather callously in my opinion, “Why don’t you follow Christ and accept his forgiveness and grace?” Without missing a beat, the woman retorted, “Where was his forgiveness and grace when my husband was killed?” The conversation sobered quickly. The cheap shots and chit-chat were over. I was impressed with the respectful exchange that followed. Eventually we learned that the woman was a soldier–a captain, in fact.

The military in Uganda is impressively strict. Public drunkenness for a soldier is punishable by immediate imprisonment if it is reported.

The woman eventually passed out in the chair. The group of Christians brought over the Source security guard and they hatched a plan. One woman took her purse and phone. The bottle was emptied and disposed of. When the woman awoke, she would be sober enough to find her way home without causing any more disturbances. The guard would tell her the location of the woman with her purse and phone. The guardian of the purse would use the opportunity to invite the captain to stay with her for a few days.

As I write these words, I’m sitting next to the sleeping drunk. I have no idea how this will unfold, but I’m already impressed with the compassion and cooperation of these Christians. Perhaps forgiveness and grace will be seen after all.

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6 responses

  1. Gordon Hogan

    Dear Bobby & Candice,

    Your grandpa & grandma are so very thankful for the way you all are dealing with this. Compassion flowing from the love of Christ in us is always the way to go.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  2. Bobby

    Grandpa! We’re so glad to know you and grandma are reading this blog.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  3. JRay

    Thanks Bobby. What a powerful example the believers in Jinja provided in this moment. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

  4. Karen Williams

    I am praying for you all as you comfort this woman. From just experiencing a year of grief, I know how heavy the burden is. I am confident that God is going to help this woman through you and the Jinja church.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm

  5. rachel o'connor

    Thanks for sharing, Bobby! I love being able to follow y’all’s story in Jinja and continue to be inspired by the powerful ways God is showing up and believers are working in Jinja.

    September 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

  6. Thanks Bobby! I shared this with the staff at Kibo Midnight Oil. I’t good for us to hear stories from our “sister” coffee house. A true example of a redemptive business!

    September 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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