Mt. Elgon Crusade August 9-11, 2013
Well, it was a great weekend in the mountains of Mt. Elgon. We started out on Friday after a breakfast of roasted corn and boiled peanuts. TIA. We drove up into the foothills at the base of one of the many cliffs in the area around Mt. Elgon. We were at an elevation of about 4,000 to 4,500 ft. Looking up, I began to think, “Oh MY, this may have been a bad idea!” The part of the mountain that we were going to climb went almost straight up. Most of the climb was at a 20 to 30 degree slope. We used rocks or small ledges cut into soil for steps and foot holds. At times I was using hands to help pull up. The most amazing thing was the ease with which the Africans were able to go up and down this mountain carrying all kinds of things. We had some young men carry up all of our stuff: 2 speakers 14″ x 14″ x 36″ tall, 1 small generator 24″ x 24″ x 24″ (Yes, I said generator, gas powered) plus gas, our bags (small carry-ons about 25 lbs. each) and other smaller odds and ends. They just put the stuff on their heads and took off, even the generator! It was amazing to watch. It was even more amazing once I started to climb! By the way, they wear rubber pull on boots like guys on boats wear or go barefoot!!!! I was in lightweight hiking boots and slipping and sliding.
I made the mistake of starting out trying to carry my small backpack that weighed about 20 to 25 lbs when I started but felt like 150 half way up. About that time, an old women caught up to us, took one look at me, felt sorry for me and offered me her walking stick. I tried to decline but the guys I was with kind of freaked out a little. I think they were afraid that they might have to carry me up if I didn’t get some help. She almost laughed at me so, after much encouragement and her assurance that she had another one at home, I took the walking stick and Richard took my backpack. Then we were off once again. The old lady left us behind. She wasn’t waiting around to see if the mzungu (white guy) lived are died. I imagine she had more important things to take care of. I only slipped and fell two or three times and didn’t slide far because there seemed to always be a handy rock to run into.
The trip up the mountain was three miles long and we climbed between 2,000 & 2,500 ft. Bishop says it may have been as much as 3,000 ft. but it felt like 10,000 to me. Looking at the map, it appears we were somewhere between 7,000 & 8,000 ft. up. No wonder I was having trouble breathing!!! I just thought I was having a heart attack.
We finally got to the church which doubles as a school and got to sit down to rest as they were trying to get the sound system hooked up and working, which turned out to be a problem. The generator was having some problems so we didn’t do a crusade that evening. We just shared greetings and prayers with the brothers and sisters that were there. Then it was back down a little ways to where we were going to stay for the weekend.
It was nice and cool that far up in the mountains. We stayed at one of the nicer homes that was basically a mud hut with a tin roof and a dirt floor. Hey, I came to Africa to be with the Africans, right? Water is hard for them to get and their bath area is some bamboo and grass with no roof. So this was another weekend without a bath. I’m getting used to smelling like a gorilla. My room was 6×8 ft., maybe, and I shared it with potatoes on one wall and a chicken in the corner. The chicken didn’t take up much room and was only there at night. I did however manage to do one smart thing; I packed my sleeping pad just in case (beds in Africa can be kind of iffy sometimes). No problem with the bed. I didn’t have a bed. Thank you Jesus for the pad!!!!
One of the interesting things about the people that live on this mountain is that some of them don’t sleep!!!!! Friday night there was a bar, with a working sound system (?), close to where we were staying. It sounded like it was in the same room with me. They played African music, which is always as loud as it can go, until 7:30 or 8:00 am. Yes, all night! So I only got short naps which add up to a couple of hours’ worth of sleep. Let’s see, a 3 mile hike, climb 2,000 or 3,000 ft, no sleep…O YEA, I was at the top of my game now!!!!
Saturday we got up and ready for a full day. In the morning we did a teaching, in the afternoon a crusade and then we went back up to the church which was about 300 yds away and 200 to 300 ft. up. There are no level places that have not been cut out of the side of the mountain, so everything is up or down. By the time I got to the church I was out of breath, again. Thank you, Jesus, that they like to sing. It gave me time to try to figure out if I was going to die or not. Finally I got my breath back before it was time to start teaching about the CEC, our beginnings and why we worship the way we do. I think that I was seeing double so it looked like a good crowd!!!! Then it was Bishop Gogo’s time for teaching. It had been about 3 1/2 hrs so far. Lunch time!!!!! You know I really like to eat but sometimes you just have to fast and pray!!!!! After everything, I decided to take it easy on the food. I was sure that if I got sick up there I would die for real. So we ate and rested a little at the church.
While walking around at the church, I once again preformed one of my, quickly becoming famous, mzungu tricks of placing my feet higher than my shoulders and sliding down 2 or 3 feet while trying to make it look like that’s what mzungus do for fun. Yeah, the kids got a kick out of it. The adults just gave me the crazy mzungu look. I got a lot of that up on the mountain!!!!! Now, I was having fun! I was muddy and I was supposed to be preaching at a crusade in 30 minutes. My ego was now at an all-time high, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t walk without falling down, no sleep, no food, the boiled peanuts and corn sure would have been good about now, yep, I was on top of my game for sure, full of confer-dunce ready to go!!!! Are you kidding me!!!! They sang, I prayed and then it was time for me to preach. I preached something, not sure what, but God was able. In our weakness is His strength. He proved once again to be strong. Out of a small group of maybe 30 adults and around 50 kids/youth, God touched the hearts of 6 adults to give their hearts to Jesus!!!!!!! Maybe I should spend more time doing my now famous sliding trick to prepare for sermons!!!!!
I went back “home” and to “bed” with my friend, the chicken. Oh, I forgot they don’t sleep up on the mountain. Richard and the home owner stayed up until around 11:00. After they went to bed, some guy next to us, at around 11:30, decided to crank up a radio. Somewhere around 2:30 he decided that he could sing louder and better than the radio. He’s right about the louder part. Finally at 3:15 it quit. At 3:30 the owner of the home that we are staying in turned his radio on. Do you have any idea how interesting African radio is at 3:30 in the morning? It must be interesting since we listen to it until 7:30. I was loving it now! Let’s see, I had to do something in 2 hours…now what was that? Oh yea, preach again. Thank The Lord I brought my French press and coffee with me!
Up the hill to church, out of breathe again but not as bad this time. I must have been getting used to it or maybe I was just to numb to feel it. Oh by the way, it rains ever day between 11:00 am & 1:00 pm so Bishop Gogo said that we need to have a short service in order to try to beat the rain, that way the climb down would not be as slick. I really, really fell for it. He was so serious sounding. So we had a good service. Fr Carl would have been proud of me since my sermon was only about 15minutes long. I was thinking we were ready to go but NO, there was more singing, Bishop had to talk, they had to make a presentation of some kind, two are three more people talked, then Bishop talked again, and the clouds were rolling in nice and dark. We could look down on the clouds across the valley from us. Eventually, Bishop decided it was time to go and I should stop holding up the show and get going! I un-vested, crammed everything in a bag, somebody pushed me to hurry and off we went.
The first part was not too bad. It was dry footing and downhill. I was trying to keep up with a group of young people carrying our stuff, which was really funny, and then we hit the steep stuff. It started to rain a few drops, there were kids passing me, and I was falling down, more than walking, while grabbing trees to stay on my feet and off my rear end. Thank God for my walking stick. We were a third of the way down when the rocks and mud became slick, time for my famous tricks. Half way down my legs were gone, my thighs were in total revolt and now refusing to obey the simplest command. You know the one like “Move”. Nope, no way that was happening. God reached down and saved me by having the bottom fall out. We had just come to where there was a house carved into the side of mountain so we had a place to sit and wait out the rain. I was at my end. I knew this because my legs were moving but not in the directions that I was trying to get them to go.
After 30-45 minutes, off we went again. Now, it was really muddy and slick but not as steep as before, only about 30 degrees. Finally, we got back to the car. All the young people were dry. They had been down and under shelter for some time, way before the rain started, just hanging out eating boiled corn.
It was a heck of an adventure! I had a great time, learned a lot and got to watch God touch some lives. According to the Bishop, I’ve become something of a legend on the mountain since I’m the only mzungu to have made the climb…but he won’t tell me what the legend is. He just smiles and has to turns his head away or walks away. I wonder what that’s all about? Maybe it’s better not to know. 🙂