The Boda-Boda Boys

Kathy writes about her work among the boda-boda boys, men who risk their lives on the roads of Kampala, Uganda.

First an explanation: ‘Boda’ is Swahili for ‘border’, a boda-boda is a bicycle or small motorcycle used across East Africa as a taxi. They are so named because these vehicles were used to carry people across the Uganda-Kenya border.

Last year while I was on home assignment my boda-boda driver, Friday*, was killed in a traffic accident. I was devastated. Petra, an Aim-US worker, working with Scripture Union (SU) in Kampala, who, like me, also prefers the boda-boda form of transport, and Timothy, a student who also works with SU, called all the boda-boda ‘boys’ together. 23 turned up. Petra shared with them and nine committed their lives to Christ. When I returned to Uganda, Petra, Timothy and I started a discipleship group with the men.

Michael is 36 years old and married to Anna. They have three children. Michael told me, “When Friday died, Petra spoke to us about Jesus. She told us how we needed to know where we were going to spend eternity. That day many boys gave their lives to Christ. But not me.” What did happen that day though was that Michael stopped drinking. “I used to drink my money but I knew that day it was not good to get drunk. I knew that I was wasting my life.” Boda-boda boys across the city have the reputation for drunkenness and promiscuity.

But Michael did give his life to Christ a few weeks later when we all met again to discuss what we were going to do for Bible study! I can’t think of many times when that has happened at that type of meeting! He is a regular member of the group now. He says, “I am learning a lot. My life has changed. I don’t drink any more; I now have peace of heart and know that all things will be okay. I am trusting Jesus for everything.” Michael is often seen reading his Bible and is learning many verses.

Between 12 and 16 of them take a whole afternoon off to come for Bible study. This is a costly commitment as for them time really is money. Michael once told me, “When I give time to the Lord to come for Bible study, he always blesses me with customers!” There is much more to be done, but they are so open to learning. It is fantastic to see what God is doing with these young men who quite literally risk their lives every day on these roads. Trust me – I know!

Sadly, since this article was first published, we have heard that Michael’s wife has died.

* All names have been changed to protect privacy.