Mpaayo Baibuli

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(Posted by Jane)

I’m learning that Ugandan communication is fairly indirect. Skirting round the edge of an issue is more common than jumping to the point. Sometimes this can lead to miscommunication and frustration, but that aside, I have generally come to appreciate this gentle and subtle approach to conversation being the norm. Perhaps that’s why the unabashed demand, ‘Give me a bible’, took me by surprise.

This disarming directness seems out of character with what I’m learning about Ugandan culture, but I’m discovering that it’s not all that uncommon. It seems that some subtleties of language, and what I may consider to be mere polite sensitivities, are lost in translation. ‘Mpaayo’ is a quick but polite way of asking for something in Luganda, but directly translates as ‘give me’, which seems a little demanding and brash to me! But on this particular occasion, when I was stopped in the compound at Rahab and told, ‘Give me a Bible’, I found it refreshing, liberating and strangely appropriate.

This was the first of a torrent of requests for bibles after our discipleship classes; not all so direct but with equal eagerness, unveiling a humbling hunger for this book… a book that in some parts of the world people are willing to die to get their hands on. I remember the first time I realised the lengths that some people would go to get, or give, a Bible: I was 7 or 8, listening to my friend’s mum, Nina, tell stories of how she and her husband used to help smuggle Bibles into countries where they were banned, sometimes at great risk. At first it surprised me that people would go to such lengths for a book; until I myself discovered that it is so much more than a book… the Bible; the most involving, disarming, revealing, liberating, challenging, surprising, enlightening, compelling experience of a read. Never before, never again, will I read something and realise that my story is woven in to this story, and that this story is the story… His unfolding story, that leads me, guides me, unravels me, empowers me and involves me.

Why did this girl at Rahab ask for a bible? Had she already begun to taste and see the wonders of this book? Did she simply like the stories we told? Was it curiosity? Or simply the desire to own one for herself? Whatever the reason, she now has one in her hands, and she can make of it what she wills, discover and be discovered for herself, draw or be drawn to her own conclusions.

Next week I will publish a page on this blog which will explain a bit more about Rahab Uganda, and how you can give a Bible to a girl there – perhaps the greatest gift you can give. Watch this space…

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