Way back in the early 90s, I was a young lad trying to make ends meet. I was still living in Kampala. Whenever hunger struck my tummy, I would just loiter around the streets and walk aimlessly just to forget my misery as the intestines threatened to perform a serious riot. On one such hot afternoon, I found myself wandering towards the Lugogo cricket stadium. Wow! The place was crowded! Apparently, there was a renowned evangelist preaching the word of our good Lord and throngs of people had come to listen in.
There was a session of singing and jumping and praying. Then after the prolonged prayers, the evangelist from America announced that people should go for a lunch break and return to receive free religious books to be distributed to the ardent followers. Word went out like a bush fire and it seemed like everyone was dreaming of getting a fortune out of these religious gifts. The exercise was to begin at 3pm. At 1pm sharp, the stadium was already full to capacity.
Hundreds of thousands of books were unpacked. The organisers set out with what looked like a viable plan to supply the books. A line of tables was arranged such that each person would pick a different book from a different table and find the exit – for good. Naturally, this would take a pretty long time.
But then people are naturally impatient! One could sense a fever from the crowd – ready to turn the tables upside down. The exercise started quite well. First the church elders were called upon. Soon all the church leaders were out with six books each. Fine so far!
Next came the pastors. “All pastors put your hands up,” organisers called out. Instantly, the whole stadium was waving.
Gosh – everyone was becoming a pastor! “Stand up please.” Now almost everyone was on his/her feet. The fever was spreading. The noise increased as the pastors flocked down with vigor and vapor. Controlling the crowd was becoming impossible. Everyone had become a pastor.
Pandemonium ensued. The seats were being emptied as everyone rushed down to the floor. Like water rapids! Chaos and confusion dominated as hands stretched out for books. People were screaming in pain as kids were being trampled upon. The organisers were now yelling into the microphones calling for peace. The foreign visitors were standing akimbo and agog.
From the loud speakers, one could hear a desperate cry from the interpreters “Abalokole temutuswaza banange!” meaning, “born-again brothers and sisters, do not shame us!” Eventually they had to face reality by admitting defeat.
They stopped the exercise hoping that the crowd would go back to their seats. They didn’t. A holy assembly had degenerated into a senseless scramble for scriptural texts…