On Saturday, May 31, 2014, I had the privilege of preaching the homily for the ordinations of seven men that I did some training with last year here in Mbale. This was my first African ordination service so it was interesting to say the least.
The ordination was held in Bishop Gogo’s backyard. He had a tent put up and chairs for 100 people. As with all things African, it was a kind of chaos – definitely not controlled chaos but not total chaos…but it was close.
The service was supposed to start at 10:30 but, as with all African time, that was just a general time. They didn’t even start putting up the tent until around 9:45. Now, I’ve been in Africa long enough to know that when Bishop Gogo said that we would start at 10:30 that that wasn’t going to happen. I laughed and said that I thought that it would be closer to 11:30 than 10:30 but he said no that we had to start at 10:30. I must admit that I did put on my pants and shirt at 10:30, until then I had been running around in shorts and t-shirt with flip flops.
At 11:10, we were still short one of the guys that was getting ordain. He finally showed up at around 11:20. It was Abraham, who happens to be one of the littlest guys, so it was kind of fun to watch the African clergy try to help him get dressed and ready to go. At one point, I was sure that his head was now on backwards. As we are starting to process out of the house, they are still finishing him up. It’s now 11:40 and I’ve got Bishop Gogo laughing over the time. Hey, I was impressed. I was really expecting around 12:30.
Another thing that you have to get used to in Africa is cell phones. If you think cell phones are a problem in America, you have no idea! Nobody turns off their phones here. I mean nobody! So you can be right in the middle of something and a cell phone goes off. I know you’re saying, “That happens here.” Well, this is different. The cell phone maybe one of the clergy and they will answer it and talk on it. If it’s the clergy that’s speaking, he will try to get off the phone by telling them something like, “OK, OK, sure, I’ll call you back.” Now if it’s a Bishop, he may talk a little longer. If they, the clergy or Bishop, are not the person who’s speaking to the group at the moment, they most likely will just go ahead with their conversion. This is Africa or simply put, because you will say this many, many times, TIA.
This was a slow day for phone calls. Bishop Gogo only got about 5 in a four hour service. Shoot, I don’t even notice the calls unless they are the person speaking, in which case it’s hard to not notice when they stop speaking to answer the phone.
Now if you let it, it can be hard on your ego when 10% of the folks are on their phones talking! If you ever thought that you had some great message or something cool to share, that’s when you’re brought back to earth really quickly. At least my INTERPRETER didn’t get a phone call. If he had, he would have answered it. I’ve had that happen! That really throws off your pace.
I think that I had a pretty good homily. If not, then my interpreter must have had a good one because everybody seem to like it. With an interpreter, you just never know.
Well in spite of a late start, a little rain and cell phone calls, Bishop got all the guys ordained. I think that this is a good group of guys who will do a good job serving Bishop Gogo and the church in the Mt. Elgon Diocese.
After the service, they had a reception here at the house so then we had another kind of chaos, feeding between 100 and 120 guests. If you’ve never seen Africans around free food and a ton of if it, it’s a sight to behold. I am always amazed at how much food some of these little Africans can eat. I’m seriously thinking about traveling and sponsoring Canon Richard in some eating contest around the world. This guy is may be 5’ 4” to 5’ 6” and weighs maybe 150 wet but he can eat 3 or 4 times what most people eat. He is amazing to watch.
To say that it was a long day is a bit of an understatement. We had 10 to 14 people sleeping here and Mabal had her help up at 4:00 am hauling water and getting fires going to start cooking. Then came the 4 hour service followed by 3 1/2 to 4 hours of food and all kinds of other chaos going on. I finally got to bed around 10:00 pm.
At the end of a day like this, you just have to say, “This is Africa.”