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“Thank you for what?” – a missionary moment

Hakim looked on helplessly as I joyously went on greeting people: “Wamasanta hai!”

Hakim is a Somali refugee living in Kampala. In 2019, we decided to carry out a community needs assessment among the Somali urban refugees in Kampala which included questionnaires that were to be taken door to door. This entailed enlisting some Somali translators to move with us to each dwelling. I asked Hakim to accompany me since I had already made friends with him at local soccer games and an English class.

All day, I kept hearing him start the conversation with “Setahai” and “Wamasanta hai” meaning “hello” and “thanks” respectively. Towards the end of the day, I also gained confidence and decided to also greet the people we moved to…except I mixed up the words. I went for the one that means thank you. I would walk up to a person and say enthusiastically, “Wamasanta hai.” Then the person would give me that surprised look.

Unfortunately, I thought they must be surprised I know Somali! After doing this about ten times, my student Hakim gathered enough confidence to tell me what I was doing. We had a good laugh about it!

-Derrick, short-term missionary among refugees

Published by AfriGO on 6 May 2024