When you are a “Mzungu,” a white person in Uganda, you are seen as a wealthy individual. You are rich in the eyes of a Ugandan. And truthfully, you are wealthy; very wealthy compared to the average Ugandan.
Ugandans will pay attention to you…they wonder why you are in their country. Are you there to help them? Are you volunteering toward a humanitarian effort? Are you adopting one of their children? Any number of other questions pops into their minds. Most Ugandans are very friendly and will talk to you if you are polite with them and begin by greeting them. The attention that Ugandans spend upon us Mzungus fuels our natural tendency to be proud of who we are and what we can do with our resources.
I tend to think that we all struggle with pride in our lives. We are generally self-centered and proud and the Bible teaches us to fight this natural tendency that we have about ourselves. I can tell you that I have struggled with my pride my whole life. Even when I think I have gotten a handle on it and try on humility, I still find my prideful nature imbedded deeply in my personality.
I’ve just returned from my third trip to Uganda and I was paid attention to in subtle and some not so subtle ways.
The wife of an Orphanage Director offered to carry my heavy backpack as I was walking to my car to leave their Orphanage. When I looked at her and told her that I should be carrying her heavy shoulder bag for her, she said, “Michael, this is a cultural thing…” What the heck; I gave her my backpack for the remaining 10 yards to respect her. As she smiled at me, I felt humbled by her offer.
Children in two Orphanages sang and danced for me. They performed…just for me. They had fun doing it and were watching me smile and laugh along with them. I was a white man coming all the way from Ohio, USA to visit them and to see if I could help them. I felt like a celebrity because they treated me like one. It’s hard to stay humble when children treat you like that.
I struggle with my loyal, Ugandan friend, Brother and driver (an absolute necessity in Uganda), Gerald Musisi Bukenya. He always wants to call me “Meestaaahhh Mike.” I get into these discussions about how I’m here to serve them and I dislike being called Mr. Mike. Just call me Mike, Gerald…I got him to do it a handful of times on this last trip. In fact I started calling him Mr. Gerald.
There was a little girl at one Orphanage that didn’t let go of my hand the entire time I was there. She kept running her hand over my hairy, white forearms. She had never seen so much hair on a forearm before (Ugandans don’t have hairy arms).
The not so subtle ways, I’m not telling you about.
So why blog about this? Because the good Lord our Father, and our Master, Jesus, expects us to be humble as believing Christians. It’s what He was, and we can exude humility if we allow ourselves to let His Holy Spirit fill our hearts. It can’t help but overflow. It’s a battle I fight every day…to be Spirit-filled…to be transparent…to let people see Jesus in me. I fail a lot, but I’m telling you I won’t stop trying. Neither should you. We could use a good dose of humble pie.