A long Sunday
On Sunday 5 of the team (Chris D, Jacob, Josh, Jonny and myself Simon) were invited by Bishop Sheldon to the celebration of the Baptism Anniversary and Thanksgiving for the President Yoweri Museveni. This was held at St Luke’s Church Kinoni in the grounds of Kinoni Academy (the girls’ school we visited earlier in the week). The programme started at 9am and we thought we should be there near to 9am and after we were on our way we then heard from the Bishop that he was not leaving until near 10 and we could go with him….too late we kept going.
Our journey to the celebration was delayed by a rather large lorry which not only had a container load but also a large water tank on the back and a load on top. Unfortunately, the top load got snagged on an overhead power cable. We spent about 10/15 minutes watching as they tried to unsnag, the easiest solution would have been to reverse, but no the crew decided to climb on top of the lorry and use a branch to lever the cable over the load. Eventually they were successful.
There were already many people gathering when we arrived, we went to the Archdeacon’s house to wait the Bishop, but were summoned to follow a local minister to our seats at 10am. Chris D wanted to take his camera in and at security we were stopped and Chris not allowed to proceed, he decided to wait for the Bishop in the hope that he could get him through (no such luck as Chris missed the Bishop). The rest of us were ushered to our VIP seats in a tent near the President’s tent. We were all sitting under tents to shade us from the sun. As we passed through the crowd a group of girls from Kinoni, started chanting Josh, Josh, JOSH. I think they were more excited to see Josh than the President.
The service started on time at 10am. The various ministers processed in with the Bishop but no Chris…He arrived about 30 minutes later less camera bag and sat with the other ministers. The whole service was delivered, bar a few sentences in Runyankole (the local language). Got the gist of some parts but most of it went straight over our heads. Jacob got talking to a young lady Liz who interpreted parts for us. But I had to tell him to be quiet at one point as we were in prayer, just because it was in Runyankole was no excuse Jacob for not knowing what was going on.
The seating was cramped, Josh had no room whatsoever his knees were firmly in the back of the person in front. Bishop Sheldon spoke for what seemed an age but a reprieve from sitting was given as we got up to take communion.
Everything seemed to be going well and on time except that the President had not arrived. He was supposed to be there for 11:20 at 12:20 we were still waiting. Credit to Bishop Sheldon and his team they manged to continue keeping the crowd of 5,000+ entertained. 1pm he finally appeared 1pm! 1½ hours late!!!!!!
The President and his wife then had Communion, we had entertainments (a choir, dance group and a local singer) then speeches. ‘How much longer do we have to sit’ was the cry from the Bristol contingent. A brief relief was giving as Bishop Sheldon mentioned Chris and had him come to the centre and then we were mentioned and invited to stand and greet and be greeted by the President a wave to each other.
The speeches went on and on, the President spoke for almost 1½ hours. He had the crowd laughing but no standing ovation, oh how we wished for a standing ovation just to be able to get up and stretch our legs but no such luck. It does not seem to be a Ugandan thing. At the end of his speech he then invited people up to greet him and despite the guards wanting to control this he did not turn anybody away.
He then presented gifts to the Diocese of Ankole which with the other gifts he had given we think totalled about £100,000
Then relief it was over, 3pm 5 hours after the start we could finally go to lunch. Yes, the VIP tent again about 4 tables away from the President. Rev Bobs our host made sure we were seated first and served first. A really good buffet of Ugandan fayre. But rushed for us as we needed to get back before joining the Bishop for supper later that evening.
It was an interesting morning/afternoon as we learnt the President who is a Christian believed that God had spoken to him and told him to be more open about his faith and that is why he wanted to celebrate his Baptism in this way. He spoke about his faith (one of the few parts in English) and how much this meant to him and influenced his life.
The evening was then spent at the Bishop’s house for supper, again an excellent meal and great to be there with the Bishop his wife Alice, his mother, the Rev Newton (a larger than life character. and other members of the Bishop’s staff. It was a meal with friends.
Alice told me that the Mothers Union had reported back on our goat house building skills on Wednesday. Good news, we had done a good job and what is more we used our hands and got them dirty. The village and the Mothers Union were really pleased with all our work efforts.
A really good end to a long long day.
One of the things we all noted was now much the Church was involved in, the programs they operated and how much they interacted in people’s ordinary lives. It was truly amazing seeing how the Church worked and through them how the love of God is shared the people. A real witness.
Today was our final full day in Mbarara. We had a tour of the town with Brian and visited several markets and shops and bought some gifts for folk back home. We are all ready for our early start tomorrow at 8am to travel to Queen Elizabeth national park. We are all feeling excited about it and even more so that our drivers have given us some lovely new t-shirts to wear for the Safari! We dont yet know what the internet facilities are like but if they are good and we are fortunate enough to get some pictures we will try to post a few.
Thanks for your support in Prayer! We are also excited to be joining the St Michael’s Stoke Gifford group too and sharing in all of our experiences with them too.