In the court of King Mutesa of Uganda many young page boys, dressed in white cotton robes, were in attendance on the king. Among them was a ten- year-old boy called Kakumba. Some of Kakumba's time was spent in warming the king's feet with his hands, or driving away the flies from his face with a large fan; at other times he would be sent with messages; and on days when guests came or chiefs assembled in council he would have the job of fetching stools for them to sit on. In his free time, he played with the other boys, or listened to the chiefs as they talked of their exploits in battle.
"Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works" (Matt.16:25-27, NKJV).
There was one dark shadow over Kakumba's life, the shadow of fear. Mutesa was a kind enough master most of the time, and he liked to have the sons of chiefs, like Kakumba, around him, but no one could be more cruel than he when he was in that sort of mood. Sometimes he killed people just to assert his power. There was one terrible occasion when the order was sent out that two hundred were to be slain. Men, women and children were rounded up, mostly at night, and when the appointed number had been collected they were all put to death in one day.
Sometimes Mutesa would send out raiding bands to attack tribes in distant places. They would come to a village, burn down the houses, kill all the men, and carry off the women and children to be Mutesa's slaves. Kakumba's friend, Lugalama, had been seized on one of these slave raids. Sometimes as Kakumba watched him fanning the king he felt sorry for him, with no home to go to when his day's work was done.
Sometimes Kukumba feared that Mutesa might sell him as a slave. Then somewhere, far away, things would be as bad for him as they were now for Lugalama. He was always frightened when the slave traders came to the court, and offered Mutesa guns and ammunition and cloth in exchange for men, women and children. Mutesa's greedy eyes would light up as he saw the weapons which would help make him powerful, and in exchange for each gun two men would be handed over to the slave traders.
But while Kakumba feared King Mutesa and his cruelty, he feared most of all the evil spirits and the wizards, especially the great medicine man, Mukesa, who claimed to be possessed by the spirit of the king's ancestors. Even the king feared Mukesa, and used all kinds of magic charms to defend himself against his influences.
One day when Kakumba was with the king, a stranger arrived and was admitted to the court. His name was Alexander Mackay. Kakumba listened intently to everything that Mackay was saying to the king and his chiefs, and from then on took opportunity to see him and hear him. This was quite easy to do, as Mackay used to visit the court every Sunday and hold a service there, and often he came to court on other days as well.
Sometimes Mackay had to wait in the open space near the king's hut until the king was ready to receive him, and the page boys who were not on duty in the court would gather round to see the white sheets of paper with black marks on them which Mackay explained were words in their own language. Kakumba soon learned to read them, and often used to visit Mackay's workshop and watch him working the printing press. He drank eagerly all the Mackay taught him.
He found it easy to belive in the one all-powerful God. He had seen Mackay withstanding the king when he wanted to arrange to put people to death or sell men as slaves. Once he picked up one of the sacred charms on the threshhold, and laughed at it: 'This is no charm,' he said, 'it's just a bunch of grass - a mouthful for a cow!' One who dared to withstand the king and the evil spirits must be under the protection of an all-powerful God. Better to suffer the king's anger or the wiles of the evil spirits than to disobey the commands of such a God!
Kakumba had always been so used to the king's cruel ways that when Mackay spoke of the love and forgiveness of the all-powerful God shown to man through His Son Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Kakumba found it hard to understand. But in the end he was quite sure that he wanted to have Mackay's God as his God too.
Just as catechumens have had to do across the centuries, Kakumba had to learn the basics of the Gospel so that he could be baptised, which he finally was along with some of his friends. Kakumba remembered the words used afterwards: 'We receive this person into the congregation of Messiah's flock and do sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Messiah crucified.'
He knew that he must always be brave and stand up for his faith, but he was happy because he knew Yahweh would help him just as he had helped Mackay. So Kakumba and his friends enjoyed a very happy baptismal day indeed.
Less than a year after Kakumba had been baptised Mutesa died, and a new king, Mwanga, came to the throne. Mwanga hated Mackay. He wanted to stamp out Christianity and make all his people turn back to heathen beliefs and customs.
One day when Mackay was on his way to a distant village accompanied by a fellow-missionary and some of the boys, including Kakumba who since Mutesa's death had come to live at Mackay's mission house, the party was suddenly surrounded by soldiers who had been in hiding among the trees in a wood. The soldiers forced them to turn back, and while Mackay and the other missionaries were taken to their home because Mwanga was afraid to kill European people, Kakumba and the other boys were beaten and taken to the court as prisoners.
It was a horrible moment when Mujasi, the captain of the king's bodyguard, came and threatened them with death. Kakumba was frightened, but he knew that he must trust Yahweh to give him courage to remain firm whatever happened.
Next morning he was led out to die, together with two other boys. Mujasi jeered at them as they went along. 'You know Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). You believe you will rise from the dead. I shall burn you, and you will see if this is so.' A roar of cruel laughter arose from the mob. Kakumba was even more frightened now, but he was determined not to let fear make him disloyal to Yah'shua. He knew that as a Christian he must not "be ashamed to confess his faith in Messiah crucified".
He made one appeal for mercy to Mujasi, who was a Muslim. 'You believe in Allah the merciful,' he said, 'be merciful'. But he never suggested giving up his faith, and Mujasi had no mercy. He and another boy, Seruwanga, were then thrown into a great fire and left to die. The crowds who stood round could hardly believe it when they heard a boy's voice out of the flames and smoke singing:
All that happened a long time ago. Today there stands a cross where Kakumba and the others died, put there by thousands of Ugandan Christians in memory of the boy martyrs.
"Daily, daily, sing to Yah'shua,
Sing, my soul, His praises due."
We should be thankful for brave people like Kakumba who lived for Yah'shua and even died for Him. Yah'shua said:
In spite of our so-called 'enlightened civilisation', Christians and Messianics like Kakumba are still dying for Yah'shua around the world. And though we like to think that it is only in 'less advanced' cultures that these things are happening, it is also happening increasingly in the First World. Irrespective of where we may live, we must still try to live for Yah'shua, and that means trusting in Him and not being 'ashamed to confess the faith of Messiah crucified.'
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:13-14, NKJV).
"Father Yahweh, grant us a strong and sure faith in You. Teach us that we are never alone, for You are with us all our days; may we trust You without fear in all times of temptation and in the hour of danger and fear; knowing that Your hand is ever near, and we may clasp it when we will, in Yah'shua our Messiah, Amen."