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Vincent the Taxi Driver

June 21, 2009 -- A story for Jeff and Tim about Mike Meaney for Father’s Day

When visiting Uganda, or any other African country, it is necessary, NO, MANDATORY, that you NEVER be your own driver.  Meshing what you’ve learned in driving on the roads in America will never fit into the culture of automobile anarchy in Africa.  The concept of “Oh, please, you go first,” is unknown.  A driver with a really positive attitude and a lifetime of driving behind him, might think he can change people’s habits, one incident at a time.  But the effects would be like “spittin’ in the ocean”.  In America, people are taught to be courteous on the road or let the other go first whenever possible.  Maybe, if the moon turns to cream cheese, that tiny effort will ignite the spirit of selflessness that is so needed in driving and every other aspect of African life. 

Every month in the capital city of Uganda, which is Kampala, a city of three million, there are over 60 pedestrian deaths.  The worst is at night because there are no street lights—only the flicker of candles.  Everyone uses candles.  There is no contrast between the people’s black skin and the dark night.  Trying to co-exist with the automobile has rendered the pedestrian population to be greatly endangered.  Even the most gracious or thoughtful driver can easily be tempted to fit into this reckless driving culture once settled comfortably into that 3,000 lbs. of steel.  Our drivers were always very helpful, courteous and gentle with us, but watch out when they would get behind the steering wheel!  Mike would say, “Sebu (sir), you can’t drive like this.  You are only centimeters away from injuring or killing that person.  Don’t you know these pedestrians are valuable citizens of Uganda?  Hitting them and injuring them would change their lives forever.”  Most of the little children who need prosthetics for amputated limbs have received their injuries by an automobile or bodaboda (motorcycle). 

But Vincent, a driver we had many times, was always a gentleman, even behind the wheel.  If he had that perception of “me first,” in his heart, we didn’t see it expressed in his driving habits.  We always felt safe and confident with Vincent driving.  He was a friend of our dear pastor, Henry Byamukama.  Vincent earned money by coming to the city from his village regularly to be hired as a driver.  He would also come into town to visit his friend Henry who would connect him with people needing drivers.  Vincent was the patriarch and provider for a large extended family of his orphaned nieces and nephews in the village. 

Pastor Henry’s ministry was in the slums of Wandagaya, a community of thousands of Ugandan Muslims.  The people live there on the hillside in cardboard and tin houses  by the main road. 

When Pastor Henry and Vincent picked up Mike for the day, there was the general patter and laughter.  Plans were made to drive out to the villages to visit disabled people.  Mike noticed a Muslim artifact hanging in Vincent’s car and asked, “Vincent, are you a Muslim?”  Vincent’s reply was an obvious, “Yes.” 

“Tell me what Islam has ever done for you personally in your life.”  His response of “Nothing,” was the perfect platform Mike needed to state why Vincent needed Jesus.  Mike asked him if he ever considered becoming a Christian.  Vincent replied that someday maybe he would think about it.  Mike asked him why not now since he could be dead within the next hour?  “What if one of those huge trucks just wiped you out?”  Vincent replied that that could never happen. 

This provided a perfect opportunity for Mike’s “strong-armed evangelism,” as Marie terms it.  Only Mike could do this because he had already disarmed and taken the object of his evangelism (which in this case is Vincent) as a loving hostage to his condition of being a double amputee.  It was as natural as an apple falling from the tree for Mike’s friends to find him unpretentious, non-threatening and gentle as a puppy when he would show them his legs and tell them of God’s intervention in his life.

In response to Vincent’s exclamation of “Oh, that could never happen,” Mike lifted up one pant leg and grabbed his prosthetic leg to show Vincent and said, “Oh sure, and I thought this could never happen to me!”  Gulp, Vincent looked and then slowly pulled the car over to the side of the road.  The point of Mike’s existence and subsequent ministry in Africa had just been driven home to Vincent’s heart like a ton of bricks.  At no time in Mike’s intentions did he consider this manipulation.  It was natural and defies explanation other than that the Holy Spirit can use anything to bring people to Him, if the person allows that spirit to work and flourish in his life. 

With an uplifted pant leg, the prosthetics of black and silver titanium  was revealed.  Vincent’s face showed shock at the sight of the Muzungu (white man) sitting in his passenger’s seat.  As Vincent stated later, he pondered the thoughts of Mike’s presence in Africa on the opposite side of the world from his home, serving the Lord in the oppressive heat and high altitude just because God told him to do it.  Once he pulled the car over to the side of the road, Vincent lowered his chin into his chest, and gave a huge sigh.  Mike asked if he would like to accept Jesus right now.  With Pastor Henry interpreting, Mike and Henry led Vincent in the sinner’s prayer and Vincent became a new creation that day. 

And that is just the beginning of this story.  Later on, when Vincent returned to his village where he is the patriarch for his extended family, he brought the most valuable gift to them he had ever brought from town.  This gift was not food or toys or other exciting city treasures, but was the story of Jesus’ love for them.   

One year later when we saw Vincent again, he delighted in telling how he took the Bibles we gave him and was able to lead all of his orphaned charges, his nieces and nephews, to the story of Jesus’ love for them and His plan for their lives.  The death of millions of parents because of HIV AIDS has left one entire generation of children alone with only a big brother or sister to be head of household.  Often there was only an elderly or arthritic bent-over grandmother to sustain them as they grow up.  Marie shared with these orphans the promise of Ps. 27:10,  “When my mother and father forsake me then the Lord will take me up.”  This verse affirmed to them God’s promise to be their new parent.  She would say to them, “Cling to that promise.  Pass it on.  Affirm it every day.” 

With the wise and confident disciplining of Vincent by Pastor Henry, Vincent grew to become a leader in the church at the slums of Wandagaya.  The World Redeemed Church stands above a raucus bar deep in the market place.  Even today the people there are dancing, praying, singing, studying, worshipping God under the leadership of pastor Henry and Vincent the taxi driver.

Mukama Ywebezibwe (Praise God)

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Reader Comments (1)

—only the flicker of candles. Everyone uses candles

this is over board and not true for kampala but the story is 99.9%

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkemist oligiri

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