The Prospect Terrified Me
The Ugandan mother had given birth to twins—and for her people, this signaled impending sorrow. Someone else in her family would soon die. She must hide the children from sight so the village would not share her misfortune. Then, baptized Christian though she was, she must visit the witch doctor to propitiate the spirits.
But then an evangelist arrived at her hut. He picked up the twins and presented them openly to the village. The people stood frozen. Surely the spirits would punish such outrageous behavior with death. But nothing happened. The children—and the rest of the village—lived.
The evangelist knew exactly what he was up against. Born in 1864, Waswa Munubi had survived the death in infancy of his own twin brother. He wrote, "If a twin dies, the parents do not weep. They announce the death by saying the child has gone back, and everyone knows what that means."
Waswa grew up the son of peasants in the country now known as Uganda. His parents apprenticed him to a witch doctor, but when he discovered the man tricking people out of their possessions, he left him to learn about Islam, recently brought to the chief's court by Arab traders.
"Our father first began to learn to read in the days of Mukabya from the Moslems," Waswa wrote. "Kabaka Mutesa commanded all his chiefs and people to read from the Moslems and to keep their fasts."
"Chief Mutesa, I presume?"
But when Waswa turned 13, H. M. Stanley, who had discovered David Livingstone in 1872, paid a visit to Mutesa's court and persuaded the chief to begin "reading" in the Christian religion. The chief was probably more impressed with Stanley's guns than with his Bible, for Mutesa had already parted ways with the Arabs and now needed protection. But the chief's welcome opened ...