So these days I’ve been in the mountains/hills near the border of Rwanda in a place known as Kabale, even though it is no longer part of Kabale district. Its a stunning location and quite different to the rest of the country. I can only describe it as the Yorkshire Dales meets Uganda with the rugged, farmed hills of the dales combined with the African roads, crops and houses. The hills make understanding directions even harder for me than it already is as you have to wind your way around to get anywhere! I wasn’t too sad about this though – there are few things I enjoy more than riding round rural Uganda on the back of a motorcycle!
Because it is at altitude it is very cold! Last time I was here I spent the whole week being cold. This time I have been better prepared with my winter woollies which has made it much more pleasant! Though pleasant is relative – our main light source was a candle and sleeping in a church building is all very well and good until people decide to come and pray and praise very loudly in the night! (I thought the most noise would come from the chicken that was being kept where we were sleeping – until we ate it – but I was wrong!).
It was this church that was the main reason for visiting this area. I was part of a team involved in planting it last year and so was interested in how they were getting on. The answer is well: the church has some amazing people in it, though it is smaller than when we left. There was a witch doctor who gave his life to Christ who is now the chief usher (like chief steward) in the church and I found out that the pastor walks the 20 mile round trip from where he lives to the church at least twice a week (understandably he spends a night in the church when he comes!).
The church has faced opposition from the local council (though there is nothing illegal about it, Uganda doesn’t follow its laws to the letter and some people try to wield more power than they have) and from the Anglican and Catholic churches around. The local council tried to stop the landlord from renting them the building they use but the landlord went to them secretly and said he was happy to keep renting it out to them as he made the building to be a business and they are paying the rent well. However, they have bought some land and are looking to have a building on it by December – partly so they don’t have the ongoing burden of rent and partly to establish themselves better in the community.
I went with my pastor from my gap year (Pr Justus) because he is from the area and so it was his vision to plant the church. It was great to catch up with him and wonderfully we managed to understand each other! His English isn’t great so I used to take a translator if I needed to speak with him about anything important to make sure he understood well. This time however, he ended up translating for me because very few people speak any English at all there. They only know their own language: Luchiga/Lukiga (I’m not sure which the correct spelling is!) which has a few words the same as Luganda but the accent is totally different. Sadly, this did make communication with the locals rather difficult.
The low levels of English come with the low levels of literacy found there. Most people are subsistence farmers so have very little cash to buy school supplies and few children desire to go to school. The coldness makes bathing and washing clothes in cold water very unattractive so most people are dirty from the dust and from digging which together gets them the reputation for being a backwards community.
Very few, if any, Westerners make it to such a remote place so peoples reactions were quite entertaining at times: as we went past on the motorcycle, people would stare at us with open mouths (almost in disbelief), others his because they were scared, others shouted.
We also had the obligatory visit to Pr Justus’s parents who are very welcoming and hospitable people, like most Ugandans.
Today I spent 4 hours on the back of a motorcycle to reach the village of another pastor whose church I will visit tomorrow. I met him last year – he has followed the call of God to leave the good job he had in Kampala to come back to his home village to pastor here. This interests me because it is very counter-cultural and he asked last year if I would visit him so here I am!
By the way, have I told you I love this country?