11/5/18 I’m taking a short break in Fort Portal and have wifi so I’m finally able to send an update about the Jinja part of my trip. Bsp Iraka and I have been in Bundibugyo for a big celebration and are now headed for his diocese around Hoima.
Log Entry 11/1/18:
It’s Thursday November 1 and my last day in Jinja. I left Mbale on October 23rd, I think, the days have started to run together somewhat. I got to Jinja on Tuesday afternoon and I was pretty beat from my time in Mbale, traveling around with Bishop Gogo in his diocese, and the trip from Mbale to Jinja. (A three hour trip in Africa can feel like an 8-10 hour trip in the US, easy. as you may be able to imagine from my previous descriptions.) Even so, I was able to speak to and meet with the clergy here in the diocese of the Nile where Bishop Lubogo is the Bishop. They had a full schedule planned for me for the next 10 days so, right off, I had to disappoint them by telling them we would have to cut a couple of days out in order for me to be in Bundibugyo for the big celebration. So between being tired and having to cut the schedule short, I made the mistake of not asking some questions about the schedule, which was a BIG mistake! It wasn’t until we headed out the first day that I found out that the plan was to be gone for the next ten days staying in a different family’s home each night and that the bishop’s goal was to go to SIX church’s a DAY! I continually had to keep reminding Bishop that we had to cut the days down. Note to self: ALWAYS ask questions about the schedule! What was I thinking? Oh, yea, I wasn’t able to think. TIA.
The Nile diocese is a really large diocese for Africa; it’s about 200 miles square and about half of it is what they call swamp. These are not the swamps you see in the US or in a Tarzan movie, they are reed swamps. These are the reeds that they use for their thatch roofs and they grow super thick, from 6 to 8 feet tall, and, basically, in water and mud. (My mind has now drifted to the Florida everglades. Oh, how wonderful it would be to glide smoothly along! … Sorry, just a momentary flashback.)
On the first day of what was to become our tour of the diocese, we drove about an hour and half back towards Mbale and then took to the dirt roads heading to the swamps. It didn’t take long before we were on the worst dirt roads that I’ve ever been on in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter! And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been on some pretty bad roads. I’m not even sure you can call these roads. So, there ended up being seven days of the worst roads and swamps, one of which we drove through at night. Let me tell you, two hours of driving in a swamp at night is a trip. And yes, I chose that word specifically; those of my generation will know what I’m talking about. It’s funny the things that your mind can come up with, at night, in a swamp, in Africa. I survived but I’m not sure how.
So anyway, we are driving around and through their swamp, visiting as many churches in a day as we can im-possibly manage. Each day goes something like this. You’re supposed to get to the church at say 9 but, that’s just figment of somebody’s imagination. It won’t be anywhere close to 9, maybe 10, 10:30, or 11 if you’re lucky, then you have tea and maybe a snack. So let’s say you get there at 10, which you won’t but we’ll go with that time, so now at 10:30 or 10:45 you make your way to the church. If this is your first church of the day there won’t be but a few people there; most of the people wait until they hear the singing to come to the church. So you get started with the singing and dancing, which they love, and it lasts maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Then we start what is called the program, which means that everybody basically has to be introduced, really, six to ten people each time. You’re now trying not to think about the five more churches to go.
If you’ve been try to keep up with the time, it’s now around 11:30 and finally time for you to be introduced, which will take another 10 minutes. 11:40-11:45, finally it’s your time; oh, not to preach but to acknowledge and thank all the people that have been introduced. Now you get to preach but remember it’s with an interpreter. Everything you say has to be said two times and sometimes three so a twenty minute sermon takes 40 to 50 minutes. It’s now a least 12:20 and time for Bishop Lubogo to kind of re-preach his version of whatever you’ve just preached, 12:45. Another 10 minutes of singing and dancing, did I mention that Africans love to sing and dance?
By about 12:55 we’ll say, you go for more tea and a meal this time. They have to do a lot of setting up for this meal, and you just pray it will be under a tree where you can cool off from being in the church where the temperature has gotten really hot by this time. Out in the bush, or this case the swamp, the churches are poor so there roofs are not very high. The exposed tin roof may only be 2 to 4 feet above your head when you stand up so when you’re standing, it can feel like your brain is frying; if you have any brains left after all the beating and banging from the drive. Anyway you finally sit down to eat, which seems to be mandatory at every church; which is so kind of them but difficult when there are so many churches a day blessing you. An hour or so later, somewhere around 2 if you’re lucky, it’s finally time to head to the next church; only five more churches to go.
At one time the idea of preaching twice a day seemed pretty daunting, now twice a day is a piece of cake; it’s the third and fourth that wear me out. By the last two days, I was so tired and my brain so fried that I was running on the strength of the Lord alone. My prayer was, “Lord, You said that in my weakness You are made strong.” If the people got anything from my trip, it was because of Him.
Of course there is no way that you can do 6 churches a day, even when it takes only 30 minutes to an hour to go from church to church. You’ll be lucky if you can do three, really lucky, but that doesn’t change the plan each day. TIA. So by the time you arrive at the churches that are fourth, fifth, or sixth on the list, people are no longer at those churches when you get there, but you still have to go see the church and take a picture.
At each church, they give you presents, which makes you want to cry since they give out of their poverty, not abundance. You get a few shillings, some fruit, whatever they have growing, and every once in a while you get a chicken. (Have you ever thought about what it takes to raise one chicken?) Over these seven days, I’ve received bananas, ground nuts, avocados, papaya, limes, one chicken, one rooster, and a duck. Not sure how I’m going to get them on the plane but the picture in my head is like a cartoon in the Sunday paper. I was also given the coolest three-legged stool which they carved out of a tree. Now THAT I’m going to try to bring home for sure! So, do you think that I’ve become a big time preacher now that I’ve started getting chickens, roosters, and ducks for my sermons? We never covered THAT in seminary!
Tomorrow November 2nd, I’m up at 4:00 am to travel to Bundibugyo, which will be an ALL day drive with ten million speed breakers. The adventure continues…