Gareth and I seemed to have travelled for ever. I left the house at 7am on Wednesday morning, dropped into UCB for a morning Exec meeting and then drove to Gatwick, which was fairly uneventful except for a Bomb Scare. The next morning we were off to Uganda via an overnight stop (sleeping on an armchair in Starbucks) in Dubai. We landed half an hour late on Friday at 1pm. Queuing for around an hour to work out the tourist visa, we were met by Henry, to be taken to Mbale, via Kampala. The 3.5 hour drive didn't exaclty go to plan, the traffic in Uganda has increased dramatically over the last couple of years, there's a lot more trucks on the road, ferrying supplies from the port in Mombasa, Kenya across southern Uganda to keep the country running. our arrival in Mbale was around 9.30pm on Friday.
Day 2 - Saturday 4th May - Having slept for 10 hours straight, we met up with Pastor Wilberforce Okumu, and Pastors James and Robinah Wamanga for lunch. Pastor Okumu is our host in Mbale, and someone I've known and worked with for the last 17 years.
Pastors James and Robinah Wamanga have been pioneering in the Mount Elgon village of Bweri for last 20 years. Often the case within Uganda the size of the vision and the ability to create resources doesn't match up, so inspite of the fact that Pastor James has planted 28 churches in outlaying remote villages, they still struggle to support themselves in the very poor village of Bweri.
I last travelled to Bweri in 2003, with Tom & Iris Ross from Northern Ireland, the 'new' church had just been built on the edge of banana plantation. It was amazing to see the offering, which mainly consisted of people bringing food, a watch, a pen and some coins, money is so tight for people there. The hospitality was the best they could provide and we poured ourselves into encouraging the people, teaching the bible and providing some help.
This time Gareth (Who's church originally built the Bweri Church Building) went upto Bweri, following up on his own previous visits. The journey is arduous and quite dangerous in places, travelling on a mud road, winding up the side of a mountain, where in places there are steep drops down to the ground below. Ten years on the Church is now too small for the congregation, with around 400 attending on a Sunday, and the back wall had all but collapsed, they have managed to purchase land to build a larger building and Pastor James and Robinah, had told Gareth of their plans to build a small primary school as there wasn't any school in the Bewri area (10,000 population).
To make ends meet and to keep food on the table, Pastor Robinah stood in the local district elections as a councillor and succeeded in representing her district in the local government, she earns a small stipend for this. During the process she realised that she has a flair for advocating for those who have no voice of their own and plans over time to stand as an MP in the National Government. When I asked them over lunch, what they would do if I gave them a gift of £200 ($300), they said they would buy cement to build another layer of the new church, and if I didn't mind, they would connect a water supply to their home. When I investigated, they themselves are living in almost abject poverty, they have sown all they can and are able into their community and into church planting over the last two decades. My advice to them both was to focus on building a solid base for themselves and their nine children.
It's days like this that thrill my heart to do mission, we preach to and pray for the destitute, we support the widows and orphans and bring hope to the hopeless. Of course there has to be a plan, for example trying to support projects which will be income generating, trying not to make mistakes and trying in a sea of need to hear the voice of God who will often draw you to the overlooked, where one moment of blessing will become a lifetime of encouragement.
We've added this short video to show you the condition of the Road on the way from Buweri back to Mbale. It's quite good at the moment considering the rainy season. On bad days you're just stranded until the weather is dry enough for the road to become hard again.
If you would like to join our building programme and help build churches, please Click Here
To read Gareths Blog for the more humorous side of the journey click here.