by Peter van Gorder
Ham Mukasa and Apolo Kagwa
We have a saying, “The ears of a snake will only hear a stick” The meaning of this is that a fool must be taught with a rod. The snake was Mwanga and his subjects were to be his stick. By this time, the kabaka had made so many enemies by his cruelty that it was easy to see that Mwanga’s time was running out. The question his enemies had was how to get rid of him. Moslem and Christian leaders and the chiefs got together to discuss how to overthrow this madman.
It was decided that the first target would be the kabaka’s executioners (banabowa) for they were the most hated men of the kabaka and were his main tools of holding on to his power. Wherever they went they killed many men and stole their women for the kabaka’s pleasure. If the banabowa were attacked it would light a spark of rebellion that would not stop until it had burned away the old regime.
When we returned to Mengo we only slept one night before we attacked the banabowa and began the rebellion. We joined with the Moslems and drove Mwanga from the country. He was suddenly hurled from his autocratic power as he was suddenly raised to it. The terrible tragedy of bloodshed and slaughter that stained his reign was over – or so we thought.
Battling the Arabs
The Moslems put Mwanga’s brother Kiwiwa on the throne, although most of the Christians wanted Kalima, another brother to be crowned. Speaking of Kiwiwa – the poor fool. This man became a tool of the Moslems, for he had no religion at all.
We divided up the kingdom into four chieftainships and I was given one of them. At first, the Christians and Moslems were united in their fight to overthrow Mwanga. But soon after he was deposed and Kiwiwa was made kabaka, the cracks in the coalition began to show. The Moslems told us plainly that they would not govern the country with us because we did not kill animals in the proper way and we followed what they considered a European religion. Of course Christianity, as Islam, is from the Middle East, but these facts were not important to them. Also, we did not pray the Moslem prayers or read their book.
So it came to pass that a month after we drove Mwanga away, we fought with these Moslems and were defeated. When we left Mengo we were about 500 but when we arrived at Nekole we were only 104. A number of these turned back on the road and became Moslems because they wanted to be on what they thought would be the winning side.
I set off to the islands in this war and captured a Swahili who was fighting for the Arabs from Zanzibar. He had with him 80 women and 60 boy slaves. Some people wanted me to kill the man but I refused. For this he was thankful to me and became indebted to me as my friend.
In 1889 we heard that the Arabs were bringing two sailing boats as reinforcements from their camp on the south of the lake. We heard that they were at Entebbe so we went to fight them there. We launched our canoes and made for where the boats were moored. I told my paddlers in my canoe to row up close to the enemy boat but they refused. So I told them to just put me ashore. Ten of my boys and I slunk along the shore to the Arab boat. One of the Arabs saw me coming and took aim and shot me in the knee and I fell. The boys carried me back to the canoe where I stayed and watched the fight. I saw the sail of the boat catch fire and then the ropes and the rest of it. The victory was ours. I was then taken to a small island nearby.
While I was resting and recovering from my wounds there I realized how tragic and senseless this fighting was! – How much better to learn the way of tolerance. Being tolerant means being loving and considerate of others who differ from us. Tolerance frees us from bigotry and discrimination. If we had known then what we have learned now in Heaven we would not have fought each other but would have lived together in harmony. Even if we had realized how much we could have learned from each other – we would have been more tolerant.
What can the Christians learn from the Moslems you say?
They can learn from the Moslems, diligence to pray often as the Moslems do. Christians can learn to memorize their Scriptures as the Moslems learn the Koran. Those who follow the Koran care for the poor and the needy, which they call zakat. The Moslems have high moral values, which they strictly enforce. The Lord brought the Moslems on the stage of history because some Christians in his day were becoming corrupt and idolatrous. So God raised up Mohammed to get the world away from idolatry – away from too much faith in the material – in icons and relics, religious artifacts, and the love of money.
And what can the Moslems learn from the Christians? They can learn from the Christians a greater intimacy with God — to love Him more. They can learn that God is with them and is their best friend. They can learn about loving their neighbors. They can learn how real Heaven is as explained in the book of Revelations. They can learn about the power of prayer – that it can work miracles in their lives. They can learn to pray to Him and get specific answers to their problems – a very present help in time of trouble.
Moslems and Christians have much in common – seek for these: Loving God, submitting to His will, and loving one another. The focal point of Christianity of course is Jesus. The Moslems too believe that Jesus is the Al Masih or the Messiah, that he was a great prophet born of a virgin, and that He will return again to set up his kingdom some day. You will be surprised to learn that you have much more in common than you might have thought.
Religions have been shaped by history and have often strayed from their original teachings. If you go back to the foundation – back to the Koran and the Bible you will see how much they have in common. An archeologist has to dig away all of the rubble of history to get back to the true foundation.
If you become intolerant of another person and their faith in condemning them and being inflexible and proud, you will be like the very religious man who said to his wife, “Sometimes, I think that the world is crazy except for you and me – and sometimes, I wonder about you.”
You can become so exclusive in shutting others out that you will find yourself all alone. Learn to work together, for a nation like a rainbow is made up of many colors but it is one light. God is love and His light is for all people. God so loves the whole world that He sent His answers to their problems. It is up to us to receive His counsel.
Satan took advantage of my illness to attack me with thoughts of destroying myself to stop the pain. But God kept me from committing suicide. Sad to say, many of the wounded did kill themselves to put themselves out of their misery. One wounded man I knew set the house that he was recovering in on fire and died in the flames. When I heard about this, I felt very sorry for the poor man. At this time I was not strong in the faith, I only prayed now and then. You must remember I was shot before I had been taught much and did not understand what the kindness of God is like.
I was in a tent for 15 days and could not move. I was so ill that I did not know if I would live or die. I must thank two men: Misaka Kiugu and Seduluka Kiwuli for keeping my courage up by teaching me about God’s ways. I was very much tempted by Satan during my illness but my friends’ prayers for me defeated the enemy’s lies. Three other friends of mine: Sulemeni, Abeli, and Elisa also came to encourage me. When they came, they read the Bible to me and explained to me what they read. For this, I was thankful, for I did not understand much unless they explained it to me. Through God’s Word I gained much courage to stay alive and not give up.
During my illness I was very much tempted by thinking of the most foolish things. I was not thinking about what would happen to me when I died but of the shameful things I wanted to do when I got better. If it were possible, I would have done the things that I thought about, but because my friends never left me, I never had the opportunity. Thank God that they stayed with me every day, for these earnest Christian men saved me from carrying out my foolish desires. They never for a moment knew that I thought of such things and what I would have done if I had been given the opportunity.
Let this incident be an inspiration to those of you who are encouraging the sick. They need your comfort for their hearts are especially tender in their time of trouble.
Losing My Way and Teaching
After I recovered, I could not eat certain foods, because of my illness, but I ate them anyway. I got drunk and committed other sins like making the people in my household drunk. s Word.
I read a lot by myself in the Old Testament in Kiswahili. I used to teach my boys from it from 7:00-8:00 after evening prayers. I was getting convicted because I was doing exactly the things that I taught them not to do.
This reminds me that if a man teaches his companions to do what is right he will understand more and more himself what is right. I was very diligent to pray with my boys at night and to teach myself. I thought to myself, If I keep on drinking the plantain (banana) wine, all the good thoughts will go out of my mind and my soul will dwindle down to nothing. So I gave all alcohol up on November 4, 1892 and became a tee-totaller.
But even though I had made this decision I still wanted to get drunk and commit other sins. I was filled with more evil desires than holy desires. When I told my friends, Seduluka and Misaka, about my battles they again helped me to resist temptation.
Then I understood that I couldn’t try to fight the darkness in my own strength but I just needed to be filled with God’s Word and try to show His love to others. I was like a man who was so afraid of the dark that he tried to chase away the darkness until the day that he lit a light and the darkness fled of itself.
I thought to myself, What makes these two men (Seduluka and Misaka) so fond of me? It cannot be because they have gotten anything out of me, because I have not given them anything of any value. It was quite a puzzle to me why they didn’t give up on me.
They used to teach me from the Gospel of John and I didn’t understand it perfectly but their sample of love made me make a greater effort to come regularly to be taught. I realized that were my true friends.
They advised me that one way to overcome my lustful thoughts was to marry a good woman that I could love. Therefore, I thought that I should get married. I found a woman who I thought was beautiful and intelligent.
But it was a hard struggle to teach my new wife Hana for she did not understand spiritual things at all. This made me think evil of her. I prayed to God to help me to show her more love and patience. I read to Hana every night by the light of a lamp. She often made me shed tears because she would not look at the book. When I tried to teach her every day, she quarreled with me without reason.
So I took her aside privately and scolded her.
She said, “Don’t worry husband, I have stopped all my evil ways now.”
But after a while she went back to the things that she said she had left. I was in deep distress about Hana so I prayed every day to God that He would change her heart.
When I saw that Hana would not change her foolish evil life, I was inclined to quarrel with God. I could not understand why He should not hear my prayers for her right away.
As my friends taught me everyday, it seemed that the words were addressed to me personally. God had shown me so much patience, it was a small thing for me to do the same for Hana. So I made up my mind to keep on praying even though I couldn’t see the answers right then.
Then in 1896 I had a breakthrough with her. I prayed diligently with all my heart and Hana began to want to hear what I taught her. This gave me fresh courage and joy. Then I understood how foolish I had been to lose heart and to give up on her in despair.
In June 1896 I received the Holy Spirit to teach me. I understood that all those wicked things that I desired and longed for would only destroy me. Before I did not have a guilty conscience about doing evil, but now I was a new man in Christ Jesus.
In 1897 I thought much about the glory of God and all of my experiences and it caused me to tremble in my heart for thankfulness that He had delivered me from my evil ways. I understood that it was the spirit of God that taught me to hate sinful thoughts and longings.
Mwanga is Exiled
Mwanga returned to power briefly and in 1897 Mwanga led a guerilla war against the British and was defeated. I talked to him once more before he was exiled to the Seychelles Islands.
I no longer hated this man but pitied him. When I saw him a joy swept over me and I knew God was taking over me and He would speak through me.
He asked me, “Why did you come to visit when I have killed many of your Christian friends?”
I answered, “Although, you think that they are dead, I am happy that I will join them in paradise one day.”
“We have many gods, tell me, what is this god of the Chrisitians?”
“The Ssekabaka*. His name is not important. He is the power of love.” *[chief of all kabakas]
“Love is weak, my god is war,” Mwanga said.
“There is a better way. Open your heart to God’s love and He can show you things too and He will forgive the evil you have done to my friends.”
“Maybe I will, but tell me, why did you stay a Christian when you knew you might die?”
“Some say that if you become a Christian you will loose everything, but all that I have lost has been my old bad habits. Some say that you will become dumb if you do not worship the devil but my mouth is open wide. They told me I would die if I even touched their devils, but I have burned their statues and nothing happened to me. Oh, Mwanga, leave lubare* it is a bad master.” *[lubare — worship of spirits]
Mwanga was amazed because I spoke the words of God. God had touched his heart and said, “I do not understand your God, but I do understand your courage. I will think about these things.”
The war between Ham and Mukasa
Even though my faith was growing stronger, I had to battle with my weaknesses the rest of my days. My old man Mukasa was annoyed that Ham (my Christian name given at baptism) would not follow the evil inclinations of my body. The new man, whom God sent to drive out the old man, did not allow the old man to come back. God wanted to reign in my body and for me to follow the habits that come from God.
He wishes to take first place in our hearts and will not share his glory with any idols of our own making.
For this I praise God, and rejoice that I am no longer called Mukasa and that He rules over me. From that moment on, I knew that I cannot serve two masters.
When I decided to hate Mukasa and all of his evil ways, my faith grew. I understood quickly many things that I did not understand at all before.
I was like a dry land where no seed ever grew, and then for the first time the rains fall and the seeds spring up and grow which have been lying dormant in the dry soil. The dry soil is like my dry and stubborn heart. The rain is like the gift of the Holy Spirit, which softened my hard heart. The seeds, which did not grow, were like my being taught the Word of God but not carrying it out in my life. The seed of God that grew was when I not only understood the Word of God but when I did what it told me to.
Before I knew the Lord, even when I wanted to do what was right, Mukasa lead me to do what I should not do and I did it. But now love reigns in my heart and prevents me from doing the evil I used to do.
For this I am thankful, for God is my faithful witness and He knows what I most desire and what I hate. Therefore, I glorify Him for I am Ham the new man.
I have written unto you all these experiences so that you can learn from my mistakes and how I was changed by the grace of God. May you show the same patience and love to others as was shown to me. I wish that you benefit from the good examples of those who stood up for their faith and loved not their lives even unto death.
You too will have to stand up for what you believe — perhaps against someone even more wicked than Mwanga.
Evil men come and go, but the Word of God remains forever. May you be found among those who stand up in the last days against the flood of iniquity.
You may wonder what happened to Mwanga and to me. The faith we believed in our lives came to fruition. Mwanga became a Christian right before he died. He was saved by the skin of his teeth. He was naked and ashamed of what he had done. He had to feel the agony of heart that he had caused people to suffer. He is learning a lot now and is making great progress.
Anatola, Gozon, and all of the martyrs are here working for the salvation of our people. They are excited for this is a great hour for Africa. When Africa discovers that its most valuable resources are not diamonds, gold, or oil, but its people and their great faith; when their people realize their true worth and full potential, then they will become the people that God wants them to be.
On the plains of Heaven
I hear the drums and dancing of my people in praise to the Lord. I must go now and join them.
End of Story