Friday, March 30, 2012

The Island Boyz

Part One

The preacher is caught listening!
I'm a Social Security recipient now, which means by the time a person reaches 65 years of age he should perhaps have learned a thing or two about himself.  I know that maintenance is a part of life, but I've learned that starting things, especially new things, is first nature with me.  Maintenance is not something that sets my heart on fire.  I don't even think of writing a blog as a maintenance responsibility because every one I write is a new one and challenges me in a fresh way. Being a guy who likes adventure and pioneering, it makes sense that I enjoy starting relationships, but am not always the best at maintaining them. An even deeper motive for new relationships is the God-given love I have for people.  As I often tell my best friend, Pam, "I'm not really a nice guy.  What people see and think about me, as it relates to loving people, is a real testimony to the work of Christ in my life."

Cone shaped land island for the Island Boyz
This is the first story about a budding relationship I have with a group of guys I have tagged The Island Boyz.  This is the common reference Pam, Peter (our driver), and I use to refer to a group of 25 to 40 men who spend most of their day on the grassy field bordered by three roads.  It is a coned shaped island that serves as a get on and get off point for these guys who work as taxi drivers or conductors.  They could never get hired to drive a taxi to and from Kampala on a daily basis due to mistakes they have made in the past.  No owner of a vehicle would hire them because of the risk it would be to his business.  But, hired taxi drivers will turn their vehicle over to them (on the top side of the island) so that they can take their vehicle across the Nile River Dam, into Jinja, and off load the 14 passengers in it.  During this time the permanent driver can get something to eat as he waits for the temporary driver and conductor to reload the taxi with passengers in Jinja to take to Kampala.  These Island Boyz then turn the vehicle over to the permanent driver on the lower side of the island, put some small money in their pocket, and then hang out on the Island with the rest of the group.  There are several controlled substances that are consumed by many of these guys during the course of a day.  They are more like a gang and are feared by many, even some police, because of their number and disregard for normal social graces.

Peter Bukenya
My friend Peter, who is hired, by Next Generation Ministries and Sera's Caring Place, to drive the vehicle owned by NGM, is my connection to these men.  Peter worked in the transportation industry as a conductor and driver for almost six years before coming to work for us.  He knows these guys and they know him. Most are very happy for his new job with us and tell him, "Never come back here!"  Peter's testimony recounts his journey out of a revolving door kind of existence to a focused purpose in bringing others into the family of God.  He is a changed man and all of the Island Boyz are well aware of the transformation.  My curiosity about these men led people to tell me who these guys are.  The transportation industry has its own sub-cultures within the sub-culture.  There are the bodas and there are the taxi drivers and conductors.  The men in this group on the Island are referred to as the Ganji Boys ...a term that refers to guys who are users of an assortment of drugs and alcohol.  They are not only feared my most, but also despised.  Some know that I have historically been a champion of the underdog and these guys seem to fit that profile for me.  I'm even attempting now to connect with traffic police since they are another sub-culture that is despised by many.  It was only a matter of time, after waving at these guys whenever our vehicle passed their island, that I would ask Peter if we should stop so I could meet these guys and "preach" to them.  (This term preach does not fit the platform version that most Westerners would think of, but refers to any one who shares their belief system in a variety of venues.)

Dove Man ... one of my new friends
I've been to the Island three times now.  The second time was to simply stop and introduce my wife and Robyn and Hannah who are living with us during this tour in Uganda.  The first and third times I took a cooler of sodas and something small to eat. Although the guys who ate Pam's coffee cake didn't consider it any small thing!!  We have gathered under the tree and they have respectfully listened to me share my passion for Jesus. They are shocked that I hate "religion" (referred here to a man-made system) and that I love people with any kind of religious affiliation. Many of them want me to teach them what the Bible says and help them come to know Jesus.They thank me for loving then and say that they also love me.  Dove Man told us that people come to their Island looking for votes, but don't give them anything.  But, that Mama Pamela came with cake and sodas and doesn't want anything.  They believe we must love them.

With Philip & his family in their home
Today after sharing with about 40 of these men and giving them sodas and Pam's coffee cake, we went to Phillip's house (a single room with a sheet between the chairs and bed) to meet his wife.  On my first adventure on the Island I learned that his wife was more than nine months pregnant and scared.  I got his phone number and called them that night and prayed for her.  Today I want Pam to meet her and pray for her.  Peter also prayed for them and Jeff added a prayer as well.

At home with the Ganji Boys

I find myself in what some would call my element with these men.  I told them today that my goal is not to manage their behavior, but to connect them to Jesus.  To help them find their way home.  I explained that since Adam got separated from the Father in Genesis 3, all people born ... though they may have parents ... are born orphans because they have no spiritual family.  Jesus was the Father's answer to this orphan problem and He came to connect us to the Father.  I have been sent by Him to help them find their way home.  I can't think of anything to get more passionate about.

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