Flying to Uganda

On September 2nd I fly to Uganda to train youth workers and parents in the city of Kampala…

and I am SOOOOooooooo out of my comfort zone!

I’m not talking about lions, huts or language barriers… I’m talking about “preparation.” Everyone keeps telling me, “be prepared for the unprepared.” My focus right now is doing a lot of listening.

This will be my first time training in Africa. My church, even my own daughter has been there before, and they’ve been briefing me quite a bit. And I’m in email contact with the people hosting the trainings. The main questions I have are of relevance.

Everyone keeps telling me how Americanized the culture is becoming in the city of Kampala. The adults I’ll be training are English speaking and the kids they work with are being barraged by American Entertainment Media. But I’m still trying to do all I can to collect as much cultural information about the area as possible. I don’t want to teach concepts and methodologies that have no relevance.

I’m thinking I’m going to end up doing something I never do… and that is, I’m NOT going to prepare every minute of the training! (If you know me, you know that’s horrifying for me.) When I train in the US, I spend probably 20 hours in prep for a 90-minute workshop.

I don’t think Uganda is going to require less time, I just think I’m going to have to be less structured. My plan so far is:

  1. Continue communication with the hosts as much as possible, asking which topics are relevant, talking about my articles they’ve seen that were a help, and ones that weren’t.
  2. Continue prepping as much as possible, but conceptually, not necessarily every Keynote Slide, so to speak.
  3. Once I arrive, I’m going to do a lot of listening. I’m going to spend as much time with them, including the beginning of the trainings, gathering information. “How is God impacting people? How are people responding? What ministry methodologies are working? What is not working? What are your perceived struggles?”
  4. As I gather this information, I’ll respond with some teaching and training that is relevant, but then I’ll go back to where I stay that evening, praying and preparing over what to teach the next day based on what I learned that day.

I really have no idea how this is going to work. I just know that I’m going to be relying on God more than ever! That means less Jonathan, more God… so it will probably be really good.

If you know anyone in Uganda near Kampala, here’s the details of the trainings I’ll be doing:

University youth workers training workshop
Venue: University Community Church (UCF) in Makerere Kikoni
Fee: 20000shs only per person
Dates: 5th and 6th September
Time: 10am to 4pm

AND

Urban Youth Workers conference
Venue: All Saints Church Kampala
Fee: 30000shs only per person
Dates: 9th,10th and 11th September
Time: 10am to 4pm

And if you’ve been there, live there, or know the culture… I’d love any wisdom you have to share.

I’d appreciate your prayers before and during this time! I’m raising all the funds to go there so it doesn’t cost them a dime. Pray for this process.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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10 Responses to Flying to Uganda

  1. Laura says:

    So come and visit us in South Africa, seeing as you are going to be just around the corner 🙂

    Good luck(?) Jonathan, will be praying for you! If it’s any help, I have always found all your articles and teachings relevant to our kids in SA – granted it’s not Uganda, but teenagers are teenagers wherever they are. I know you’ll be a blessing wherever you go!

  2. Dave says:

    Hey! My brother and his sister-in-law are home on furlough from Kampala. But I forwarded this to them and told them to get on giving you some little nuggets of wisdom.

  3. Nancy Head says:

    Praying for you.

  4. April says:

    I’ll be going to Uganda in October for my 14th time. I work in a town called Kabale up in the mountains almost into Rwanda, so not in Kampala. In fact, I avoid Kampala as much as possible. It may be “westernized,” but you will still experience culture shock. There are about 5 traffic signals in a city of over a million people and almost as many cars. No one pays attention to the rules of the road. You will be asked for money everywhere you go. People will tell you whatever they think you want to hear, and time means very little. If you program any humor into your talks, be prepared for no one to laugh or get it. Also be prepared for people to come in late, leave in the middle, talk to each other as if you weren’t talking, and invade your personal space mercilessly. Cell phones rule. If you are talking to someone and their cell phone rings, you cease to exist. You will fall in love with Uganda and it’s people in spite of all this.

    • Stephen says:

      Dear April, thank you somuch for your last statement “You will fall in love with Uganda and it’s people in spite of all this”. But please find some thing good to comment about a capital city that rules every district in Uganda. Be positive if you are to see a change of this city. There some infact majority of the people who respect traffic rules, and lets give athug to the traffic signals that are being placed at the necessary points. Who asks for money? May be you have met or been working with bad people that are always asking for money from you! PeoPle here are hospitable And joyful, not like in the US. When you have what they need people wont come in late and no one will leave. Personally i have organised youth camps but if you have what the participant want he will never leave or disrupt..Where did you interface these situations..

      God bless you

  5. Pam Workman says:

    Yes! You will love Africa! I still would love to host you in Botswana. I think there is a growing international culture that terms all overbthevworld are connecting with be aide of the Internet. All Africans are still very influenced by their local culture more and at least in Botswana “westernized” is relative depending on who is doing the observing.
    Just go prepared to love and be love – works every time!

  6. Pam Workman says:

    Uh should be teens all over the world. Smart phone is not too smart when owner has been awake all night!

  7. Jill says:

    everything April says is spot on. I just got home about 24 hours ago from Uganda. I serve with a mission team that goes once a year for Pastor/women/kids conferences in Jinja, Kakira, and Kirika. There is a harmony, a “dance” if you wish to the driving in Uganda. There are many people walking, riding “boda bodas” or “pichie-pichies”, vans, buses, cows and goats, and you may even see a chicken crossing the road. You get used to the ebb and flow after awhile. Make sure you try chicken on a stick but not meat on a stick.=/ Take itch cream for any mosquito bites. Oh yea, you must try a Stoney Gingerale! They are the best. Ok, what I have learned about the Ugandans: They worship! The only volume is Loud. You will be hugged and there is a nifty handshake they have that is cool. Although they have cultural differences that should be made aware of, they still deal with things we do. Unforgiveness, worth, jealousy, bitterness. You may hear about witch doctors, spirits, and curses. All, in most cases are very real. They are very spiritual people and will mostly do what you tell them. I have fallen in love with the Ugandans. They are beautiful people, so filled with joy and hospitality. We go in hopes to bless, but we are always the ones being blessed by them. A few words I have picked up :Webale Yesu!-Thank you Jesus, Osonidae(spelling? O-soni-day)-He is worthy. Webale Nio-Thank you very much. Hope this helps a little. I am jealous!! I already miss my Ugandan brothers and sisters!

  8. Hi Jonathan.
    I lived there and my son was also born there. It’s different. My Pastor told me we should be more than flexible, we should be liquid when we go there. He was right. Uganda is super churchy and people can be very religious. Their humor is quite interesting as well. Ask somebody to tell you the story of the worm in the kasoli. The people are awesome, I love them dearly. It depends a lot with the people you work with how your experience will be. The fact that you are a muzungu makes people automatically listen when you speak. Make sure you have a good translator that does not modify your message if your audience is not English speaking 😉
    haha. You will be fine. Just enjoy it and be open to God to speak to you and use you in ways you never expected and just roll with it. You will never be the same!

  9. Eric Steffy says:

    “Mzungu” the children will shout as you pass by. More so in the country side, out of the city. Uganda is amazing. Open your eyes, ears and nose to this country as it is transforming before our eyes, especially Kampala. Jonathan, you are in for a wonderful adventure and you’re probably back already now. I spent 2 weeks in Uganda this past May, 2013. I went with my extended family, 10 of us in all, two kids under 10. Everything described here so far is fairly accurate. Just be smart like any foreign traveler. In fact the word Mzungu literally translated means ‘White Person’ but it is less of a racial term than just a description. I was told by our Ugandan Guide and Driver that it was originally a descriptive term used to describe European Traveler, or actually anyone who was traveling as a foreigner. So when a child shouts this while their waving and jumping up and down… it may be confusing at first but you will soon understand. They do love seeing you because you are different. But we found all Ugandan People to be very warm and helpful. We rarely saw anyone smoking, never heard a swear word, or an adult yelling at children. Very hard working people who don’t have a fraction of the wealth of the rest of the world. Yet everyone seems healthy and food is plentiful. (Try JackFruit and their Pineapple is ten times better than any other I have had…) Only a few times did people beg. We got lost and asked for directions and were helped by several people in Kampala. Ugandans loved that we brought our kids and we were thanked several times throughout the trip. I said hello to almost anyone who would accept it, and most did with a big smile. One older gentleman turned around and talked to us for a half hour and was very interested in where we were from and where we were going. His name was Paul. He was very interested in our religion too. We happened to be there over Ugandan Martyrs Day and we witnessed thousands of people on their annual pilgrimage. …Another amazing story. I could go on for hours. I took over 5000 pictures of which 1400 are treasures. Do the same as the Internet will change this country and is shrinking our world. Uganda is wonderful. Have fun on your adventure Jonathan.