Every Wednesday there is a large open-air market about 20 minutes outside of Ft Portal. There are huge piles of used clothes that you can dig through and pay pennies for.
For our 11 years here, a trip to Mugusu (moo goo soo) Market has been a highlight of the week. The dusty, rutted paths lined with piles and piles of clothes, curtains, material, tablecloths--it’s a virtual treasure trove. You just never know what you will find.
We often go and make a day of it. In an effort to satisfy our “mall shopping--Target bargains –garage sale” cravings, we don long skirts, sturdy walking shoes, tight money pouches that no one can pickpocket and head out to the “Mall of Ft Portal” to discover what gems await.
Its always a fun time.
Except for this week.
My friend needed curtains. So I said I’d accompany her to the market to find some. As we were walking out the door…Jeff asked if he could go with us. He didn’t have anything in particular to find. And he doesn’t normally join us for “ladies day out’. But, today, he just somehow wanted to go.
After we arrived and began digging through mounds of clothes, I heard the loud shouts of a crazy man.
People with mental illnesses or disorders rarely receive treatment in this culture. They are usually forced from their homes and clans and made to live a life “on the streets”. We often encounter “mad men” at markets or while visiting shops in town. A majority of those who roam the streets are passive. If they become aggressive, people usually chase them away.
On this day, at Mugusu, Jeff and I watched the crazy man approach us. We listened for a minute to his shouts and he then began to move past us.
He started walking but stopped immediately behind me. Jeff started towards us quickly, just as the mad man began poking me with the wood stick he was carrying. He was shouting to the crowd with the worst profanity (in English) all that he was going to do to me.
I jumped to the middle of the sellers, to get away from him and Jeff told him to be quiet and move along.
I was very shaken and so was Jeff. The mad man did not become silent at this point. He raised his stick to Jeff and began tossing dirt at us.
Jeff held his ground, we prayed and the mad man eventually turned away. Jeff followed him at a distance this time to see where he would go.
The mad man circled back around to another row of sellers where he began to shout at us again with horrific words.
My friend and I kept moving and he finally went away.
We took refuge behind a row of buildings and began digging through more heaps of potential treasures…trying to calm our pounding hearts. .
As my friend began bargaining for a rug ( a treasure!) we heard shouting and profanity again.
The mad man was in a hut just behind where we were bargaining and shopping. He spotted us and began the profanity again. He came out of the hut and I bee-lined it around a row of clothes. Jeff was pointing him away again which angered the man. In his anger, he began to bang on the metal roof of the hut, toss matoke (plaintain bananas) and cursed like nobody’s business.
One of the most troubling aspects was the response of the sellers and the police who sat lethargically nearby, only mildly interested in the crazy man shouting at the Mzungu (white man).
Jeff approached the police and reported the mad man’s behavior. He asked them to keep him away as he was very aggressive today.
The police laughed and refused to get up.
They acted as though we were nuts to be concerned about the mad man. Jeff found out from these unconcerned parties that the mad man was in fact an ex-soldier from the Ugandan army and that he had been trained in Cuba. The crowd knew this man had fought in the Northern part of Uganda. Yet, they still remained nonchalant at his aggressive behavior.
As I’ve debriefed this market moment, I’ve prayed so much about the incident. And the stories of mad men and Jesus flood my head.
All those stories written in black and white on two-dimensional paper…were three- dimensional stories.
Mad people. Who were scary… and violent.
Jesus often set them free.
Sicknesses of the soul and psyche are no small things.
I was affected by the man screaming obscenities at us.
But the peace of Christ was still anchored in my soul.
You see, I rest in the peace of God. No matter what. Even when my mind spins with worry or I have an angry outburst or I feel afraid.
God’s Holy Spirit is living in me…to take over, control and intercede.
I’ve been surrounded by His Spirit for my entire life. His Spirit lived in my Mom and Dad before I was ever born. His Spirit was in my grandparents. Our close friends were believers. And I chose to follow Christ at a young age. He has been with me always.
When I come face to face with a soul who is obviously under the control of someone other than Christ…I am reminded again of the true treasure I have inside me all of the time.
And I’m heartbroken that this suffering soul doesn’t have Him too. Maybe, that burdened man doesn’t even know that something better exists.
Please pray for that mad man with me.
I don’t know his name. But God does. He created him. Sees him. And longs to set him free.
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside ….He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4: 14-21