Posted by Caleb | Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Church in Uganda was for the most part, enjoyable mixed with uncomfortable. It is long and generally confusing and in an environment where we should be small specks of white, we stand out like blots of bleach. Nearly every service we attended we were welcomed to come to the front and introduce ourselves as the Mizungu (white wanderer) visitors. Across the board, going to church meant awkward dancing, a bit of confusion of messages lost in translation and at least 2-3 hours.
We attended everything from a massive mega church to a shanty structure in one of the poorest slums in Kampala. However, the majority of our church experiences came at the Come Let’s Dance primary school. It was held on school grounds and was led by the students. Meaning on any random Sunday you could find a 4th grader giving a 20-30 minute sermon, calling on his/her classmates to read scripture, all without a flinch. This however, was one of several sermons that would be delivered, leaving kids and adults alike to lose attention relatively easily.
On the note of sermons, my wife also delivered a piece for the people. We were luckily enough to accompany the director of the organization, Pastor Ben back to his home village one weekend. Prepping us beforehand he mentioned that the people would expect one of us to speak, as they love to hear from the foreigners. All 3 of us guys ducked the question, but Beth took it to heart and prepared a full on 30 minute sermon. Thus after our initial introduction, Pastor Betty took the makeshift pulpit to preach. She interacted with the crowd, lifted her hand in the air one time and told some jokes. Pastor Ben acted as her translator, and she killed it. There were several folks in the congregation who got the whole sermon on their cell phone video (which seemed crazy as we were in a very rural village), I unfortunately only snapped this picture.
Maybe the most interesting of all experiences came at the Katiti farm church. Having stayed over night at our organizations country farm project, our crew awoke to Farmer Emmanuel chopping and hoisting the first yield of a local pumpkin patch into our hands. He told us to take it to church with us as the first harvest is always God’s. Thus, about halfway through the 3 hour service, Betty, myself and the farmer each carried one pumpkin up to the altar to lay before the maker, it felt like it should – it was always God’s pumpkin, I just happened to be in Uganda to walk it up the hill.
Another memorable church experience came to be on a Sunday night, special service. For weeks we had heard rumblings and jeers for an upcoming event at a church associated with our organization. The service was labeled “Deeper” for the deeper praising, deeper praying and our course deeper giving that was going to go on. Upon arrival (30 minutes late as is custom for the whites) they were just finishing up the intro acts that included our friend rapping the gospel. Then upon the stage came about the church choir and dance team of 40-50 folks, adorned in full camouflage and escorted by a cloud of smoke from the rented smoke machine. With this entrance 100 minutes of non stop raucous worship began for the leaders on stage and the other 3000 of us under this giant tin roof. There was dancing, flailing of limbs, punching of the air, and even some thrusting of the hips. The best moment of the night was on the 3rd power outage that happened to fall right in the middle of a short chorus in which was only the word ‘Jesus’ over and over again. For 5 minutes straight in the complete darkness, these 3000 people chanted Jesus’ name louder and louder as if the Lord and Savior was going to come out of the dressing room and deliver an encore performance of ‘Here I am Lord’. To be honest with you, I actually thought he (or more likely an impersonator of him) may just make an appearance.
As we separate ourselves from the time we spent in Uganda. It is these services that stick out as the most enjoyable and uncomfortable times.