The Christian religion is central to people’s lives in Uganda. You see trucks in the roads with various messages on their windscreens , like ‘Jesus Loves Me’ or The Lord Saves’. Different branches of the church abound – Anglican, Catholic, and many others, but today I promised Rabecca that I would go to the service at the Methodist Free Church in Kanungu, whilst Steve was busy at the University handing over and explaining the key aspects of the data programme he has devised.
Jonan, the driver, picked me up in good time to make the 20 minute journey. But TIA. The car spluttered to a halt about 10 minutes into our journey. Jonan announced that he had thought there would be enough fuel left in the tank, but clearly not.
It never ceases to amaze me how situations like that are resolved so simply here. Jonan got out and flagged down a passing boda boda, and armed with my 20,000 shilling note, the driver headed off to Kanungu town.
Ten minutes later he returned, carrying petrol in a plastic container, with a wad of paper in the neck to stop it spilling out. The other hand was free to steer the vehicle. Not that this was an accident waiting to happen!
I am not a religious person. But this church service was such a joyous occasion – drums beating out the rhythm for lots of harmonious singing with children getting up to dance as we arrived.
Then the Pastor said a long melodious prayer, during which the entire congregation spoke out loud their own private prayer.
A young woman gave a reading from the bible in Rukiga – everyone got out their own copy – also in Rukiga – and followed the text themselves.
Gradually more people arrived, with babies and small children, who wandered in and out during the whole proceedings.
Rabecca got up and sang a beautiful solo of ‘Set Me Free’ with a soft drum accompaniment.
Another speaker got up and read a passage from the bible. New members of the church were introduced, and then I realised I was being invited to speak! I went to the front and spoke of how privileged I felt to join in their act of worship. I am glad this happened on our last day, because I really did feel a part of this community – there were so many faces I knew. Milcah, Sarah, Mamento, Honest Wilkins, Winnie, Esther, Kenneth. Denis came to sit beside me, and offered brief summaries of what was being said from time to time.
There were three pastors delivering impressive sermons. Despite not understanding a word, I could see clearly they were natural orators who knew their audience well.
The final piece of singing by the whole congregation was so beautiful that I was moved to tears. I only wish I could have shared this with you. What a contrast this was to a church service in England!
In the afternoon, Jonan, who will be taking us to Queen Elizabeth Park and then finally to Entebbe over the course of the next three days, offered to drive us up for a walk on the mountain which we see every morning as part of our view from the Inn.
What an impressive vista it gives! After walking through an eerily- quiet pine forest and then a tea plantation, we got a 360’ view of the landscape. It was 6,000 feet above sea level! It was a wonderful way to spend our last afternoon here.
Later in the evening we had a farewell dinner with some of the key people we have been working with. We have received such kindness and appreciation during our short stay here.