“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe”– 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).
Today, Uganda, celebrates June 3rd as Martyrs Day. This is in commemoration of the 23 Protestant and 22 Catholic young men who were murdered between 1885 and 1887 on the orders of Buganda’s absolute King Mwanga who was opposed to the spread of Christianity in Uganda. These martyrs were largely the work of the Protestant Scottish missionary Alexander Mackay and Catholic French priest, Father Simeon Lourdel.
Born into a privileged Scottish family, after graduating as an Engineer from the University of Edinburg and the University of Berlin, in 1876 Mackay answered a call of the Church Missionary Society to go to Buganda and share the Christian Gospel. This was after King Mutesa I of Buganda told the explorer Henry Morton Stanley of his interest in receiving Christian missionaries. Once Mackay heard so he took up the challenge, arriving in 1877, later followed by Father Lourdel in 1879.
Mackay would spend 14 years here, in Africa, never once returning to his native Scotland. His ministry prospered with rich converts. But in 1884 when the youthful King Mwanga, succeeded his pragmatic father, relations soured. After many of his converts were asked to renounce their faith in Christ and refused, suffering execution, Mackay fled to exile in Tanzania, where he would die in 1890.
Mackay was a man who used his gifts proudly in service of the Gospel. He translated the Gospel according to Matthew into the Luganda language. He used his engineering skills to help build roads, boats, and houses. Impressed by his work ethic, the Baganda who called him “Makaayi” gave him a new name, “Muzungu-wa Kazi”, meaning “white man of work.”
Both Mackay and Lourdel, like the martyrs, would die at some pretty young age, they of devastating malaria; he at 40 and Lourdel at 37! Young as these missionaries and believers were the fruits of their seeds are seen flowering today in the millions of Christians spread around Uganda.
It is US President Abraham Lincoln who once said, “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” So, true, as we see of these young people!
Prayer for today: Lord Father God of Abraham, maker of heaven and earth, how thankful I am for the life you have given me whose value is not in the number of years but in serving you effectively, as we see for the lives of these young people who gave up their lives for you!