Ham Mukasa 5 – Rebellion

 by Peter van Gorder

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Ham Mukasa and Apolo Kagwa

The Rebellion

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.

Wounded

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.

Hana

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.

Closing Words

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

Ham Mukasa 4 – Sabadu

by Peter van Gorder

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photo of Ham Mukasa

Sabadu

When I came back into the service of the kabaka, I heard that my friends were dead, I felt that all was lost. Sorrow overtook me.

To add to my sorrows, some of the kabaka’s gang of hoodlums were disappointed to hear about my pardon as they wished me to be put to death because I had not joined with them in their evil deeds. At that time it was not so much religion that kept me from sin but it was fear of God’s judgements. I was afraid that if I did these evil things I would come down with the dropsy. I had seen many people die from dropsy*. *[dropsy: an illness in which watery fluid collects in the body.]

After I had been in the service of the kabaka for a long time, I became the head page – the Sabadu. I was presented with a gun. It was only a muzzle loader, he would not give me a breech loader, because he said that I could not be trusted to shoot it when he ordered me to. He knew I had a conscience and might not obey his will. I might shoot it in the opposite direction that he ordered. Even the little light I did know, shone brightly in that darkness.

The king gave out a great many guns at that time. Some of the boys he gave guns to were only eight or ten years old. Some of we older boys were disappointed to see the younger boys get better guns than we had.
The kabaka gave it to the children because he knew that they would not hesitate to use them. He was amused to see what they would do with these sticks of power. Mwanga played with life and death as if it were a toy. He knew that younger children are more easily controlled than adults. He was cruel, but for him to teach the younger ones to do evil was worse yet, for he was ensuring that his evil would carry on to the next generation. This was a worse sin.

The greater the fear, the greater is the need to have something to protect themselves. Satan’s power is in fear. Fear is the opposite of faith, which comes by hearing the word of God.

Having a gun made them feel safer, but these guns were more dangerous than what they feared. Sometimes the guns would explode in the hands when they were fired.

Some of their victims were killed because these boys didn’t realize that they held the power of life and death in their hands. Guns make it easy to do evil, to be cruel, and to take life — just a pull of the trigger and a life is gone forever. They couldn’t change what they had done, even though they wanted to.

How better to heal and to mend – to give life than to give death. What a large fire can begin from a small match. There is nothing better than making peace and nothing worse than making death.

God protected me as I was in the king’s household from evil. I was like a man who had been taught a great deal but knew nothing for certain. That is, I had not yet taken much of what I had learned to heart and applied it in my life. I was like a man who preferred to walk rather than learn how to drive his new car.

The other boys at court were afraid of me because they said that I was a great reader of religion. They remembered the cruel death that the martyr “readers” had suffered and hoped to avoid it. They said this of me because I would not join with them in their vain conversations and remained silent when I was in their company.

Destruction of Sodom

There was a man Sulameni Kabanda who taught us one day of the destruction of Sodom that made me very afraid. For many days I was in great mental distress and thought of nothing else but that story.

One night I had a dream that our capital Mengo was on fire and I could not run away but I kept falling down. For many days I was full of fear when I thought about the meaning of my dream. This led me to want to learn more, but privately not in front of others. I went to the Christians and they taught me diligently. I asked them about my dream.

They told me that our land was like Sodom, for that ancient evil city was destroyed not only for its sins of the flesh but an even greater sin of persecuting God’s children and rejecting His prophets. When they hurt God’s children it was like sticking their finger in God’s eyes. When anyone does that, God will react and judge them. He will not let them just go on persecuting His children.

They went on to encourage us that because there were no righteous people found in Sodom besides Lot, God had to destroy it. Yet, there was another wicked city called Nineveh that had a happier fate. When its people heard God’s prophet they repented, and God spared the city.

This was to come pass in our land for many people turned to God. Mwanga was overthrown, and God sent a better ruler. Thus He did not have to destroy the country.

Court Politics

One day the king devised a plan to kill the Christian pages as he had done our companions before. He suddenly ordered us to wear heathen charms on fear of death. That would have been the end of us, if God hadn’t distracted him.

He was not able to carry out his threat against us, because both of his hands were busy trying to put down a rebellion of his chiefs. He had forced them to give him a hostage to ensure that the chiefs would continue to pay him tribute and obey his irrational will and his cruel whims. These hostages were often a close family member of the chief. If the chiefs did not do exactly as Mwanga wanted, these hostages were beaten or starved.

Mwanga was constantly abusing the chiefs and taking their wealth by force. When he found out that his chiefs couldn’t take it any more and were going to rebel, he realized that he would need all the friends he could get. He suddenly changed his attitude by giving us gifts hoping that we would fight for him if there were a rebellion.

Mwanga never had the sense to shut and lock the door. He was so busy trying to satisfy his lusts that he did not always realize the effects his cruelty would cause. He played the chiefs and us fast and loose. He did not treat us with any respect or care for us. He was very two-faced as he pretended to be great friends with the chiefs at the same time he was handing out guns to us in hope that we would kill them – a plan which failed.

One day when I was living in the lubiri* I met a Roman Catholic boy named, Kiwanuka. We soon became good friends. *[king’s household]

He said, “Let’s get out of this wicked place.”

I asked him, “Where shall we go?”

He suggested, “We could go to Bunyoru, the court of Kabalega. Two more pages want to come with us. You can meet me outside my house tonight.”

“Sounds good, I’ll send my gun on ahead to your house to avoid anyone getting suspicious of our plans.”

When I got there I found that my friend had not waited for me. I found out later that he was so afraid to be caught that he had left without me. He was worried that it would be easier for the kabaka’s officers to find a group of people rather than just himself trying to escape. He feared the punishment of death.

He left my gun with his slaves telling them to give it to me but they kept it for themselves and so I lost it. Even though I looked everywhere I could not find the gun or his slaves so I returned to the service of the kabaka.

I used to go by stealth by night to Natete to hear more of the Word of God from the Christians but I never understood much of what they taught me. I wondered why it was that I understood their words but not their meaning. The words they spoke were simple enough, for they spoke in my language, but yet I could not grasp the meaning for they spoke of things I had never considered. Yet, I could feel that these words had great power and life and I was very curious to understand.

I very anxious to meet with people who had learned a great deal. I admired such men very much. When my friend Yusufu Wasewa, saw how anxious I was to know about God said to me one day, “You ought to be baptised and he showed me the answers to the questions that would be asked if I were to be baptized.” So I learned what to say by heart and was baptized. But I learned that it takes more than reciting some answers by rote and being dunked in water to be a Christian.

I made great efforts to be taught and bought a copy of Genesis in Swahili for 700 shells from the Christians in Natete. I was too poor to buy a New Testament. I used to retire in secret and spend my time in reading. When I was baptized all I could read was the letters (alphabet) but I tried harder. People supposed that I was far advanced in reading when actually I was struggling to understand each sentence.

Mwanga Boasts What He Will Do

About that time Mwanga set out to visit another province and so I went with him. When we were on the road to Munyonyo Mwanga told his followers this, “I tell you there are Europeans who are coming to fight with us. They say that their leader is this man called, ‘Stamuli” (Stanley) They say he has 4,000 tents for his European soldiers.”

Mwanga turned to his chief and asked, “How do you think this will affect us?”

One of his generals said proudly, “We will fight without giving in.”

Mwanga then said, “The generals sent by Queeni* will chop firewood for my wife when I take them prisoner.” *[Queen Victoria]

He spoke thus foolishly, because he was ignorant of the strength of the Europeans – but he would soon learn.

I took charge of all the king’s boys on that expedition. I sought for honor in the eyes of man by boasting of how bravely I would fight. I was trying to gain their respect. I made myself to appear as a very great man and pretended to know a great deal which I did not really know.

We never met the Europeans at that time to fight them.

False Accusations

On the way back some people came up to me and said that others had accused me before the king saying that I sold a son of the chief as a slave.

They said that I got spades, goods, and bark cloths but the kabaka refused to believe it.

He said, “A man who learns the European religion as Mukasa does is unable to sell a man.”

Later we found out that this chief’s son they were talking about was really lost – not kidnapped.

It is strange that a man who persecuted Christians could be impressed by their sample of honesty. But then, Mwanga was very inconsistent. This showed me that how important my sample of being a Christian was. Most people respect the religion of upright men, even though they do not believe it themselves or even if they persecute them.

Another time, some accused me of stealing the plunder taken in war. But the kabaka defended me saying, “You have no right to imprison my servant, unless you are ordered to do so.”

For this I thanked the kabaka for this rare moment of his justice. I refused to do evil, for if the kabaka heard about it and it was proven against me, even if they did not kill me I would have been put in the stocks forever. People thought it was my conviction in religion but it was more my fear of getting caught. Perhaps God was clearing the ground in my heart for the house that He would build to dwell in afterwards. – Yes, now I am sure He was.

I carried the kabaka’s torches. We carried about 200 torches to light his way to Mengo. He was pleased with the number of them because he could see well. As I was walking on the road, I got a piece of wood in my foot as big as a dog’s tooth. My feet were swelling badly from infection and I could no longer carry the king’s torches. The king became very angry and scolded me all day — as long as we traveled. He was furious that I had been so careless to get injured making it impossible to do my duties well.

He punished me by tying me up along with all of the boys. The pages thought that I would be the first to be put to death, but God helped me. I was put in the care of a kind-hearted Moslem who convinced the kabaka to overlook my mistake. The kabaka freed us for we were more useful to him alive than dead.

Plot to starve Chrisitans

But soon in another one of his mood swings, the king determined to kill us believers again because when he asked how someone was, the answer always was that they were learning how to be Christians. The king heard this with surprise. He was angered to hear that the Christians were still meeting in secret and that the readers were still carrying on their activities despite of all the evil he had done to them. He feared this power that was greater than his cruelty. He did not wish for Christianity to take root in his country.

Besides this, the king had favored his gang of boys who were encouraging him to kill more Christians for sport. These lads were foolish fellows who followed every bad custom. Wherever they went with the king throughout the country they took by force the people’s goats and cows. This was another reason the chiefs later turned against the kabaka.

Also the chiefs and priests became jealous of the Christian’s influence on people and endeavored to show the kabaka that the readers had driven out the heathen gods of his ancestors. Therefore, the heathen chiefs advised the kabaka to put us Christians on an island near Entebbe and starve us to death. We found out that Mwanga had gone to Entebbe to see how he could carry this evil plan out.

But God changed Mwanga’s mind and he did not have the heart to carry out this plan. When the king knew that we had discovered his plot to kill us, he returned to Mengo by canoe from Entebbe. When we saw him he pretended that nothing had happened.

Ham Mukasa – 3 – Mwanga Shows His Claws

by Peter van Gorder

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photo of Kabaka Mwanga

Mwanga Shows His Claws

It was about a year after Mwanga’s ascension that he began his persecution of Christians and Moslems. But followers of these new faiths were not the only ones to suffer under his reign of terror. Mwanga oppressed his people both great and small as he tried to force them to return to the traditional ways.

The priests had told him that his father’s death had been caused by his father’s tolerance to other faiths, so he tried his best to reestablish the old ways, lest the gods also judge him. He believed, as did many others, that every trouble had some spiritual cause.

To avoid disaster the gods had to be placated*. The priests would decide the number needed to appease these cruel gods, it was often three hundred to four hundred victims at a time. The kabaka’s secret army lay wait by the wayside to kidnap people who walked by. They were gathered into one place until the required number was reached. They would be led out to the to the place of sacrifice as a gift to the gods. *[placated: to appease or pacify, esp. by concessions]

If the rains would not fall on the exact day that the priests had foretold, a small child was thrown into the lake as a sacrifice to Mukasa*. If the rains still did not come then more sacrifices would be made. *[Mukasa – god of Lake Victoria]

We tried to remain strong as Mwanga and the priests continued to terrorize the land. Mwanga’s cruelty to his own people seemed to know no end. In one year he sold 2,000 of his own people into slavery. Some 20,000 were killed in the raids that the kabaka made on the surrounding areas. His cruelty to others would lead to his own miserable end, but it would not come until he had filled the cup of his crimes to overflowing
Sometimes the kabaka would listen to the Christians, sometimes to the Arabs, sometimes to his priests, and sometimes to his evil gang of boys who followed him wherever he went. He was especially irrational when he got intoxicated from smoking Indian hemp with them.

The Storm Hits

An Arab slave trader who was afraid that the Christians might stop his lucrative slave business, tried also to encourage the kabaka to persecute Christians, “If you do not stop them, they will eat up the land instead of you.”

The Christians made an easy scapegoat for problems. Once I heard Mwanga say, “These Christians are the cause of our problems. They want us to have a new god. A god that is weak that would make us subservient to him and not me. I will no longer be able to control my people. How shall I live? I will be driven out of my own land.”

He was very worried about the pages, for we had sometimes overhead the chiefs speak in their counsels. We also carried important messages. He was worried that secret information could be passed on to his enemies through us. Because of his cruel policies, he had made many enemies, both among the Christians and the Moslems.

The Christians were very active in teaching others despite some setbacks. No one would guess that the kabaka would put men to death for being a reader. But the kabaka was worried about both the Christian and Moslem “readers”. They were a threat to his kingdom for they offered the people hope of a greater god than himself. He thought that anyone who could read must also be destroyed. He consulted the priests for an auspicious time to begin his persecution.

As I was leaving to visit a friend one day, I overhead him grumbling that so many people had learned to read. The next day I heard that he had caught about eighty of the readers and had put many of them to a slow cruel death.
Balikudembe was the first to be killed. Know that they all died bravely, on their way to their death they sang, “Killa siku tun sifu” * Gozon, Anatola, Kyavira, and all of the rest of the martyrs never renounced the faith. [*Hymn named: Daily, Daily Sing the Praises].
When they were dying their executioners mocked them, “See now if Isa Masiya* will rescue them.”
* [Jesus in Lugandan]

The kabaka drank and laughed with his court and gloated, “Ahaa! See their god is weaker than ours. He did not rescue them from my power!”
What the kabaka could not see then was that he and his court would meet their day of judgement and our friends their reward. In the end God’s justice would prevail.

My friend Swamili spoke to me, “Now we must make certain that their death was not in vain.”

“How do you plan to do that?” I asked. “The kabaka’s men are asking everyone they find if they can read. They might kill us too.”

“The Christians must gather in secret until this storm is over.”

“What will you do? Will you hide?” I wondered at his faith.

“Let’s pray. I know not what to do, but I will seek God on this problem,” he said.

After praying for a few minutes, there was a knock on the door. A courier brought a message from the missionaries, which he read to us:

“To the “People of Jesus, who are in Uganda.. Our beloved brethren, do not deny our Lord Jesus and He will not deny you on that great day when He shall come with glory. Remember the words of our Savior, how He told His disciples to not fear men who are only able to kill the body.
Manfully, fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and continue to be faithful soldiers unto your life’s end.”

He put the letter down but the words still burned in our hearts. This was a confirmation of what the Lord had showed us to do. Now we were more determined than ever to stand strong against this storm of evil.

Facing the Lion!

Several of the kabaka’s evil gang, who had tried to get me involved in their wicked practices, now went to him and told him that I was a reader also. These men wished me dead just because I convicted them of their wicked practices and refused to join them now that my faith was growing stronger.

But my faith was not as strong as my friend Swamili, so therefore I ran away from Mengo and hid with two other pages. My friend Yusuf Wasawa, who had just been given an important position in the palace, hid me. He let me sleep in his house but as soon as it was midnight, he lent me a gun to protect myself on the road and sent me off to sleep at his country house. I hid on a hill while the kabaka’s men were searching for me. Yusuf was faithful to keep my hiding place secret. If it had been discovered that he was hiding me he surely would have been killed. I remained in hiding for a long time.

It is strange that I was being hunted for being a reader, when I could hardly read it all. After three months Yusuf came to find me and told me the news from the capital.

“The kabaka had sent for your father. He has told him, ‘I will forgive your son for your sake, but I do not know how sincere he is. It could be a trap.”

So I asked Yusuf what to do. “We will go together and see the king,” he said,

But I said, “But he will surely kill me,”

“It is your decision. I will help you if I can,” Yusuf reassured me.

Even though I did know God very well, he was speaking to my heart,

“Don’t worry I will come with you. Just trust in Me.”

I knew that I had to go back and stand before the kabaka. If I would run away, he might search for me and someday find me. I would have to live the rest of my life in fear knowing not when the days of my freedom would end. No, it is better to face the lion than to run away from him. I remembered the time when I chased away a leopard by waving a stick and shouting.

We set off together and I went to see my father who told me that the kabaka had granted me a pardon. But I still wasn’t sure. My father gave me some lucky medicine to rub on my hands that would supposedly protect me from the king’s wrath. Even though I didn’t really believe its power, I put it on because I was afraid of my father.

After a few days I went to see the kabaka. Doubts flooded my mind. On my way to the palace to meet the kabaka, I was looking down into the stream to refresh myself when I got a revelation that came as a voice to my heart.

The rocks stay firm on the bottom despite the waters that flow over them. These rocks have been here for thousands of years. The water above it rises and falls. In time of dry season and floods, it remains. You must be solid like these rocks.

I was afraid, but as I got closer to Mengo, I felt a great force — a great warmness in me. His presence was with me comforting me that everything was going to be all right.

It so happened that as I arrived, a public assembly was called at the palace. The people who attended court had been called to meet a Dr. Junker, the German explorer. One thing I remember about him was that he had a very big stomach.

The court musicians were entertaining him and the kabaka. By playing on flutes, stringed instruments, bells, and drums they made a discordant harmony that was not altogether unpleasant. As was the custom, the court performers and musicians were made blind. It was believed that in this way they could become more proficient in their art. They played for two or three minutes until the kabaka told them to stop playing. No one else was allowed to do this. For no one could tell others to be silent unless the kabaka were dead.

The kabaka then retired to his palace where I sought his audience.
I approached the reed walled palace of the kabaka that was surrounded by soldiers in white. I asked the guards if I could see the kabaka. They couldn’t believe it was me at first because they had looked everywhere for me but couldn’t find me. After I finally convinced them that I was really Mukasa, I was brought in roughly before the kabaka.

I knelt at his feet expecting to die soon as the guards said, “This man is your slave. He has come back.”

The kabaka was dressed in Arab costume and had a gilded mirror near him so that he could admire his gold embroidered vestments, which he often did. He sat on leopard skins facing the Jembe*, a white tusk of ivory lay at his feet. He was surrounded by his women. *[jembe: magic horn that was his communication with the spirits]

The king said, “I have set him free.” He waved his hand at me in a signal of dismissal and then I left him.

So I was at liberty and was no longer an outlaw.

Ham Mukasa – 2

by Peter van Gorder

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Fears of the Future

1884 Bugandan Palace

While I was out plundering, the pages in the palace, where I used to work, were waiting to deliver messages or perform any other duties that were required. Of course, they heard the news of Mutesa’s death before we did.

As they were talking, a royal messenger came in and announced gravely, “Buganda’s fire has been extinguished. The kabaka has dropped his shield.” This was the official announcement that the kabaka had died.

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The sacred fire, which was always kept burning as long as the kabaka lived, was extinguished and would not be lit again until the new kabaka was crowned. His drums were carried to a special place to be guarded until the new kabaka would inherit them.

As soon as the breath went out of the king Mutesa’s body, his son Mwanga ordered that three young princes, be seized and made prisoners. Later they were executed. Mwanga was afraid that they might claim the throne. However, Kiwiwa, who was Mwanga’s brother was left quietly in his own compound. In five years the course of events would put him on the throne of Uganda in Mwanga’s place.

Now, everyone looked to the future with uncertainty. One of the pages Gonza spoke, “What will our new lives be like under this new kabaka? We know him to be a cruel and vicious young man – yet unpredictable, like the waves of the sea – calm one day and then stormy the next.”

Another page named Anatola remarked, “– a man who could one day give his choicest meat to his dog and the next day starve his own people.”

The page Kyavira commented, “His father was a searcher of the truth. Like a man gathering fragrant flowers in a garden, he sought in both of the great beliefs for what truths he could find. For he thought a faith which is believed by so many people must have some truth to be learned from it.”

Balikudembe, who was one of the oldest of the pages and one of the few pages who could read, remembered more about the former kabaka. “Yes, that is true, he observed the Moslem holy month of Ramadan and was the first to receive Christians when they entered the land.”

I remembered that when they arrived he asked them, “Did you bring The Book?” Thankfully, they had brought it, for we have benefited much from its beautiful words.

Kabaka Mutesa spent much time having the two great books of the Koran and the Bible read to him. I have read the Bible myself to him. Once I heard him question the Christian, “Which book is true – the Koran or the Bible? For I have heard people speak evil of both books.”

The Christian answered, ‘Judge for yourself. There never was anyone yet who looked for the truth there and did not find it.”

Mwanga was not disappointed and found much truth in both books.

“Mutesa let us believe in God, but what will Mwanga do to us?” Gozon questioned.

They talked about these and many other questions until late that night.

They thought back to how they had first became Christians. Balikudembe had learned how to read and taught the other pages directly from the Word. Soon many of them had become believers after hearing the words of Jesus Christ himself. The first Christians had begun printing the Mateka, which was our first reading book. It contained the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, quotes, and key Bible verses. It was from this book that Balikudembe sometimes read to the other pages.

The first Christians taught people to read and write, for there was really no written language before they came. After learning to read, “readers” went to rural areas and read Bible stories to the villages. Readers could always be recognized by the little cloth skin bags that carried their precious books. Whenever they would enter a village, a circle of people would soon be craning their necks to see the pictures and try to look at the text, even though they did not understand it.

Gozon said, “What will become of us under this new kabaka? Will he cling to the old ways — will his heart go out to his people?”

“So much depends upon his decisions. He has had some learning with the Christian teachers, let us all pray desperately that God will touch his heart and he will remember what he has been taught,” Anatola suggested.

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Mwanga

Mwanga was shorter than his father Mutesa and had a wider flater nose.

Throughout Mwanga’s reign, God did touch his heart. There were brief times when he was kinder to his people, but soon after he hardened his heart even worse than before. It would take him many years for him to learn to love his people and God.

Mwanga was fickle and changed his moods frequently. One time he would ask you if you liked swimming, sewing, and give you gifts and the next he was plotting your death. His soft paws concealed sharp cruel claws.

Unfortunately for his subjects, he lacked the common sense and wise experience of his father. It is said that power corrupts the best of men, so what could you expect it do to a man like Mwanga – an uneducated peasant? Suddenly he became a powerful emperor with the power of life and death over his subjects.

A council was held of the new kabaka and his prime minister, second minister, the chief of the kabaka’s bodyguard, other officials, and the priests from the traditional religions.

There were many preparations and decisions that had to be made for the funeral and the ascension to the throne. The new kabaka was just eighteen years old but very eager to take power.

Mwanga spoke, “I have called you to get your advice about the funeral proceedings and our future. As you know, my father wished that we would not follow the traditional* ways in his funeral.

[Traditionally at the death of the kabaka; 2,000 Makopi*, three chiefs, and three wives were sacrificed. *Makopi :peasants, literally ‘those without worth’]

For he has said that this was not to be. I ask your counsel if we should follow his advice.”

The priest of the god of plague, spoke, “You have asked if we should heed the wishes of your father. This we should do lest his ghost haunt us. Take heed to his request, lest he curse us and bring great suffering upon us.”

“Have you found the cause of death?” Mwanga asked his priests.

“We have, son of Ggulu*.” *[god of the sky]

“Speak now.”

“From our inspection of the entrails of a fowl and the spirits who have spoken to us, we have found that his death was caused because Kabaka Mutesa forsook the traditional ways.”

“We should fight these evil new influences of foreign religion,” the priest of the god of earthquakes said determinedly.

The priest of the god of lightning spoke, “Respect the wishes of your father, great one, and then you will no longer have to be obligated to him and may have a free hand to bring back the old ways.”

“Thank you for your advice. Now, I would like to ask you another question, a question about the future of our country. My father began to institute certain reforms and to be more merciful on my people. Should we continue his policy? – Or perhaps there is a better way – the way of strength.”

The old wise men were the first to speak, “It is for good reason that your father chose to be tolerant of other faiths. It is good to live in peace with all men. In peace our country grows prosperous. We can trade with our neighbors — we both grow strong together. Who knows? Perhaps some day we will unite and form a larger kingdom with the neighboring nations as friends. Oh, kabaka we implore you to show mercy and love to your people. Kindness and love are the greater way to show true strength.”

“And what say you, my good friends,” Mwanga said as he turned to his young counselors.

Mwanga’s friends approached him and whispered in his ear. After listening several minutes to them he rose and said, “I will make my announcement at the ascension.” At this everyone was dismissed and went about their duties.

Mwanga’s gang of evil boys that hung around him, caused a lot of trouble. They used to get stupefied smoking Indian hemp. They also persuaded me to smoke with them when I was page. Mwanga became especially irrational and cruel when he was under the influence of drugs.

At the funeral both Moslems and Christians made prayers for Kabaka Mutesa’s soul. The people wailed and cried. Many truly loved him, others were afraid that if they did not cry loud enough, they could be accused of having caused his death.

 

Mwanga Eats Up the Land

Ten days after the funeral rites a great ceremonial feast was held. There was eating, drinking, and sexual indulgence in abundance. The wild orgy party carried on all night.

In the morning Mwanga was lead to the hill of Budo to be crowned. As all the people gathered around him and waited in silence for their new leader to speak. Mwanga lifted up his voice.

“I am your new kabaka. Let all beware and take heed. For those who bow down and do obeisance I will let live, but to those who do not, I will show my wrath. My father beat you with a twig, but I will beat you with a rod. If any one would question my authority, let him come now and stand on the hill.”

No one dared to challenge him or by fighting through the many guards that surrounded him.

“As for the nations near us, let them give tribute to us. If they refuse, we will take that what we want. Why should I beg for that which is mine?”

The people who were listening could feel that a great shadow was falling over the land. Although, they hated the kabaka’s cruelty, they also held him in awe and reverence.

The priest of the god of the earth spread out his hands and said, “Behold the land is yours to eat up as you will. For all things that your eyes see are given into your hand.”

With these words, the kabaka was transformed. No longer was he a mortal but a superhuman, or so he was deceived into thinking. He had become a god to his people.

Some of my friends came rushing in to me with the news, “Mwanga has eaten Buganda.”

At length I went back to the king’s household thinking that I might work my way up in the palace to become an important man. Now I have a different perspective on what being successful in life means. It is in showing love to others that we find the greatest fulfillment in life not in seeking power for ourselves.

When I started working at the palace, I was surprised to find a great many of the pages could now read, some were reading the gospels, the prayer book, and others were still just learning the alphabet. For a while I decided to try harder to read. With the help of four of the other pages, I was able to learn the alphabet in two days and the syllables in four days. Then I stayed with a man who tried to teach me out of a Kiswahili prayer book but I made only a little progress because I was idle and didn’t try hard enough. The kabaka sent me on a mission to the Uzinja kingdom to collect their tribute. As we camped out for the night, one of the men who came with us, called Kibunda, explained to me truths from the Word of God. His teaching helped me to understand much more about the Lord. Throughout my life God brought people like Kibunda to bring me closer to the truth. But unfortunately, I did not always take heed to their teachings and had to learn the hard way. The seeds were planted and others were watering them.

When we returned, the kabaka was very pleased of us for bringing such rich tribute gifts. But there were many that the kabaka was not pleased with.

Mwanga’s father, Mutesa, had not been totally convinced of the truth of the gospel but throughout his reign the Christians had enjoyed liberty to carry on their work despite some setbacks. We learned to appreciate Mutesa more when his son Mwanga took the throne. He showed his bad character from the beginning.

(to be continued)

Ham Mukasa

 

by Peter van Gorder

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       I am about to write my thoughts and experiences in the day that I lived. I say a day, because my life was like a day. From dawn to noon was my childhood. From noon to evening was my adulthood. My last years were my night. Then the dawn of a new day arose for me when I awoke in heaven.

A Child’s Thoughts

When I was a small child I admired my father so much that I thought he was the greatest man alive. I believed that he was the kabaka* of Buganda*. But actually at that time, he was only a chief herdsman to the kabaka.*[kabaka- king] *[Buganda-former name of Uganda]
I used to think that the kabaka was like a god who could not die. I thought that his body was made of brass or beautiful beads. Later, when I worked for him though, I saw how human he was.
I did not understand much of science. I thought the reason we could see the stars at night and not during the day, was because they had traveled closer to the earth. Though I didn’t know Him very well, God was speaking to me then, through His creation.
I believed in many gods like the god of war who shot arrows from the clouds at his enemies. We only prayed to the gods when we were in trouble. They were not our friends, but a force that needed to be appeased so they would not hurt us. We even built little huts to the spirits in hopes that they would not come inside our houses.
Now I am thankful that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother – Jesus.
My elders taught me that there were people who lived in the sky that had tails. I was told that if I wished to go up in the sky, I should go to the stone where plantain* sponges were beaten out. I was supposed to tie some of the fibers of the sponges and chant over and over: “O, lubare* take me. O god of the sky, take me,” but I was afraid to try to do this because I didn’t want to leave my parents alone on the earth. *[lubare: spirit]
* [plantain: a tropical plant of the banana family]
I thought that if a man became possessed with a spirit from the dead he could not die because he could conquer all sicknesses. Therefore, I wanted to be possessed with a departed spirit so that I would not die.
I know now that only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ can one conquer death.
When I grew older I traded these fantasies for other superstitions. My aunts gave me small charms to wear and small clay pieces to swallow and a medicine called “bulezi”, which is supposed to make sure that you obtain a chieftainship from the kabaka. My aunts taught me to respect and put my faith in these charms and they would bring me great success. Of course this was all nonsense, but for years I put my faith in these charms.
Now, I realize that the greatest success one can have is to love God and others.
Things were all dark and confused then in comparison with the way I see things now. When I was a child, I believed all of these superstitions that I was taught, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Becoming a Page

When I became older, my father was made a chief by kabaka Mutesa I. The kabaka asked my father to give him a boy to be a page* to wait on him.
*[page: a youth employed to carry messages and to run errands for the kabaka]
My father told me that it was my duty to be his page and that it would honor the family. I was 12 years old at the time when I entered the kabaka’s household. I was surprised to find that the court of the kabaka was full of the vilest customs introduced by the Arab slave traders, the Turks, and the people who came from the Egyptians. These men said that they were Moslems but their religion was in name only, for they did not follow the teachings of the Koran. My parents told me not to follow their evil ways or I would fall down dead. But even though I tried, I found it very hard not to get involved with their sins.
While I was living at the palace, the kabaka told me that everyone would have to become Moslems for he would not have any heathen in his court. So we learned the Kalima, which says, “There is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet.” This is about all that I learned of the Islamic faith. Some of us were sincere in learning the ways of Islam, but others of us, like me, just did it out of respect for the kabaka. Then I did not know much of religion as my friend Swamili did, who was older than me. At the time, I thought that Christianity and Islam were the same religion.

Learning to Read

One day I was crossing a hill and I met a Christian man named Ashe. He asked me, “What are you doing?”
“I am delivering a message.”
“Do you know how to read?”
“Yes, I know a little.”
“Tell me what you know.”
“I know bismillah*.” *[Arab word for God the compassionate and merciful]
He laughed and said, “Come to Natete and I will teach you more. You will come won’t you?”

I visited Ashe several times and he tried to teach me my letters but I was flighty and unable to concentrate my attention on anything for any length of time.
Ashe taught me the alphabet and about Jesus and many things I had never heard before. One day he told me, “In the last days, all men shall be raised from the dead to be judged.”
My friends and I used to laugh at that idea, but one thing he said from the book of Revelations made us very afraid.
“God will make a new heaven and a new earth. All the grass, trees, and everything else in the world will burn up before the Heavenly City comes down to earth.”
We said, “May this happen after we are dead, then what will it matter to us?” We feared that saying very much for these words had power.
Now I realize that we should have feared the second death, for we were wicked enough to have been among those who were thrown in the Lake of Fire. Throughout my life, I was scared into believing.
At about this time, I learned some wisdom and to understand things for myself better instead of believing everything that people told me. In my life, I learned that wisdom is a God-given ability to make quick decisions based on knowledge, understanding, learning, and experience acquired. It is an invaluable gift of God. It can make the difference between success and failure. It is built upon knowledge of God’s Word and the instruction from others who have wisdom.
Wisdom is something that we never stop learning, even when we get to heaven. But at this time, I still had much to learn and carried on for some time in my evil ways.
I went on one of the kabaka’s war expeditions with my father and raided the kingdom south of Uganda. On the march some 7,000 soldiers died from disease. It was then that I began to realize how great suffering a kabaka’s command can bring and how foolish war is.
As I said, I found it hard not to sin when my friends did wickedly. Some of we pages used to go out at night and steal the king’s goats and also some goats from a nearby chief. We used to eat the goats at night and throw away the skin, head, and insides. Some people saw us do this and knew that we had stolen the goats. At that time a plague broke out and many of our people died.
It was a common belief that death was caused by some spiritual reason or a breaking of taboos. It was decided that this plague was caused by the goat thieves – us! Our huts were burned down and I fled to my father’s house and stayed there until Mutesa died.
When we heard that the kabaka had died, we plundered all around that area and stole their goats. Everyone plundered their neighbor’s goods when a kabaka died in Uganda, as there was no law to punish them. Sometimes we wore masks to hide our identity and lucky charms that were supposed to protect us from capture. But these tricks could not hide our evil deeds from God. In our hearts we knew we were doing wrong.

 

The Day My Son Left Home

               Peter van Gorder

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I watched you drive away
From my window
It was raining today
I felt like the full cloud
Who, even though it wanted to
Could not keep the rain
For it had to empty itself on to earth
To bring seed to the sower
Bread to the eater
Joy to the farmer.

You will bring joy to many you meet
I could not keep you
I can help you but a little
Now God must be with you in my place
The Spirit will keep you
As I once protected you from harm
Jesus will help you now.
As I once helped you to survive.

You went out today like a knight
Going forth to do battle.
To win a damsel
To find the holy Grail
To wrestle with a thousand slithery fiends
To slay the fire-breathing dragon
To right the wrong.

Embedded deeply in your heart
Like superman’s glowing crystal
Is the code of chivalry
Like a precious golden pocket watch
Handed down through many generations
Now it is your turn
Now, I put it your hands
It will empower you to accomplish
What you were meant to do
You will prosper in what
You are meant to do.
-Now is your hour
Fare thee well.

Treasures of the Heart

by Peter van Gorder

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In my travels through distant lands while seeing ancient sights, one theme resonates – a foreboding sense that the treasures and pleasures of this world are fleeting. It is as if the ruins call out: ‘trust not in uncertain riches – power and fame are an illusion”, or as was written over one Roman nobleman’s tomb in a cryptic message from beyond: “As I am, so shall you be!” – A reality check not unlike the bitter experience of King Solomon.

“I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecc. 2

Each place of former glory has its own unique story buried under the rubble of centuries. On occasion a small piece juts out into the sunlight and we get a glimpse of what lies beneath. Such was the case in our recent visit to the Kangra Fort, in northern India duDSCF2924re3bbed the ‘pearl of the Himalayas’ by Mughal rulers who coveted its control of the region.

The narration we listened to told that people from the surrounding lands regularly brought their gifts to the temples here. As the treasuries burst from the surplus, they dug wells to store the vast wealth that had been given, which of course did not go unnoticed. In 1009 Gazni Mohammad captured the city and his camels straining under the load, hauled away 7 tons of gold coins, 8 tons of diamonds and pearls, and 28 tons of silver and gold utensils!

The people tried to console the ruler by each subject giving one rupee. The money collected was made into a pearl necklace and presented to him. This necklace was a family heirloom until it was handed over to the British in exchange for a small area of land to rule. Today, it is among the crown jewels in London.
Like so many ‘edifices of glory’ that have been shaken to the ground, Kangra fort was destroyed in an earthquake that struck the area in 1905.DSCF2842re5

All this impermanence gets one to thinking of what does matter? What will last? Jesus tells us “a man’s life consists not of the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12). So what does it consist of?

At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums it up:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is for us to love God and others, which will reap heavenly rewards. No, we can’t take ‘it with us’ when we die, as the rich fool in Jesus’ parable found out. Instead of distributing his abundant grain stocks, he stayed up late planning bigger barns that would hold his surplus. That night he died. Naked came we into the world and naked we’ll depart but here’s the good news: Jesus promised that what we believe and do in love for God and others will last. He will reward now and in the hereafter. (Matthew 19)

My dad was a divorce lawyer. After a lifetime of dealing with squabbling parties, he mused: “In the end, it is all about junk.” Who would get this sofa or that car? What a waste! Life is so much more than stuff!
“If riches increase, set not your heart upon them. Will you set your eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” Psalms 62, Proverbs 23.

Paul’s advice to young Timothy (1Ti.6) was to love and trust in the living God. Enjoy what we have – and even be thankful when we have precious little, be generous to help those who need it, and keep the lines of communication open to share the faith and encourage others.

Good words to live by! Those are eternal treasures that an earthquake can’t bring down or camels cart away.

 

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