I have been back three weeks now and I can still hardly believe all the experiences I had while in Uganda. Most of our team got together last saturday to catch up and have dinner together. We shared some brief reflections, as well as heard from Alex Wori about his experience on the trip (since his was much different than ours as a Ugandan). Since some of our team have yet to return home, we have yet to discuss in detail next steps.
Our team leader Greg was kind enough to put together a report summarizing our trip. Here is the majority of that letter:
We left Davis the morning of June 17, arriving in Kampala the evening of June 18. We ate a late dinner at Milly’s Aunt Irene’s guest house, and were ready the next morning to drive the 5 hours to Bukigai. Unfortunately, a tire on one of our vehicles had other ideas, so we were delayed until noon leaving for Eastern Uganda. After a couple other stops we found ourselves in Jinga, about half way there, late in the day, so we stopped for the evening. The next morning we met with a representative of the Amazima Foundation, founded by the young American woman, Katie Davis, whose story is chronicled in the book “Kisses from Katie.” This was an opportunity to learn more about the Ugandan culture and her approach to addressing the needs of orphaned children.
We continued the trek to Bukigai after our meeting, and gradually made our way allowing for roadside stops for mangoes, bananas, papayas, watermelons, live chickens, and even a couple turkeys. But once again, a flat tire slowed one of our vehicles. As the other van continued on, even the spare on the first vehicle went flat. So after two flat tires another 1 am dinner ensued – but we were in Bukigai at last.
The next day we had time to meet our hosts, including various members of the Revival Mission Church in Bukigai. Milly’s brother Richard – one of our guides and drivers from Kampala – is actually not only the pastor, but the Bishop overseeing the church in Bukigai along with several other churches in the Mbale region. We took a tour of the area, got settled into the rhythm of Bukigai and checked-out the construction of the church/community center which was one of the major initiatives of our mission trip.
As it turned out, Alex – who had preceded us by a week – had enlisted the assistance of his brothers and cousins (who are skilled construction workers) and church members in Bukigai, and the walls were already 6 feet tall by the time we arrived. The hope was to get the walls to the point that a “ring-beam” could be installed to tie all the walls together. But as a result of your generosity, enough funds were raised to not only get the ring-beam installed, but finish the walls to the height that the roof can now be installed. This exceeded what we thought was possible.
In the meantime, on Sunday we went to the top of “Prayer Mountain” for our worship service. Our vehicle got us half- way up, but after getting stuck in the muddy roads once (requiring the assistance of local farmers to help dig us out), the roads simply became too steep and muddy to proceed. This meant hiking the rest of the way. Two plus hours later, we arrived, finding several church members from Bukigai who had started hiking up the mountain at 6:00 am, and after a 4 hour hike had been waiting 2 hours for our arrival. This became known to us as operating on “African Standard Time” – humorously accepted by our African hosts, and contrasted with “North American Standard Time.” We all had our first taste of providing a “preachimony” – sharing about our faith and what had called us to come to Uganda. This would be repeated on several occasions.
After our descent back to Bukigai, and a good night’s rest, Monday started a couple of our other activities – working with kids at both the primary and secondary schools on art projects, and doing some positive parenting “training of trainers” with a group of leaders from the community. At the end of the week, both schools had murals on external walls that can be seen from the main road through Bukigai, and about 8-10 people were trained to help pilot three positive parenting family cooperatives.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights were part of evening outdoor crusades sponsored by the local church. At each meeting our team shared favorite scriptures, testimony, encouragement, greetings from UCC as part of building a long-term relationship with the Bukigai church, and even some singing. This pushed most of us out of our “comfort zones,” which occurred continuously and actually was one of the great blessings we received during our trip. And we cannot forget Richard’s leading of “Morning Glory” every day at 5:00 a.m. during the week, a time of prayer, Bible study and getting ready for each day. What jet lag?
We left on Saturday to go to Alex’s village, which normally would be about a 3-4 hour journey. But the day before, a heavy downpour had resulted in a large petrol truck being stuck in the middle of the road. In essence the road going into and out of Bukigai was blocked for about 36 hours. But here we learned about “Kingdom Standard Time,” as when we arrived – not knowing if or how long it would take to get through – a tractor showed up and pulled out the truck. We waited only about 30 minutes and then were the second vehicle through and on our way.
The greeting we received in Alex’s village – Muganja – was unbelievable. Muganja is a more remote village and much smaller than the Bukigai area, and had last been visited by Mzungus (us white people) 15 years earlier. Most of us felt like rock stars mobbed just for showing up, not doing anything. But this reception was real and genuine, and represented their desire to show their appreciation for our coming to visit and provide a message of encouragement from UCC.
After a wonderful dinner with Alex’s brother Geofrey and other family members, we drove back to Mbale where we spent the night. The next morning we worshiped in Richard’s now “home church.” We should say something here about worshipping with African Pentecostals. You have not worshipped until you have experienced the genuineness, joy, enthusiasm and sense of the Spirit found in the African Pentecostal church – at least in the services we attended. Once again, we were provided an opportunity to share our stories and bring a word of encouragement from UCC.
The next day we returned to Kampala to prepare for our departure on Wednesday, July 2. We did have the occasion to visit the source of the Nile on our way to Bukigai, and once back in Kampala, finding ourselves with an extra day due to travel conditions, we ventured to the wilds of Murchison Falls National Park north of Kampala to view wildlife and see the Nile squeezed through a ravine 10 feet wide with a 140 foot drop – hence considered the most powerful waterfall in the world. This was an unexpected adventure which capped our trip.
I think that is enough reading for now!
You are loved,