Sunday. Day of rest. Or if you’re in Uganda, the day we need to accommodate 3 churches, pay our respects at a mass grave and distribute more food… Tim is the newest recruit to Club Imodium, but he’s got a sermon to prepare with the newly ordained Pastor Sophie, so powering through is the only option!
But first, a mention of our team t-shirts. They’ve served us well (& we’re thankful to Tim & Sophie for the design and Logowear for the production), but after several days or relentless use in the African heat, it’s fair to say they are now less than fragrant. It was with much joy we received the news that they could now be consigned to the bottom of our cases, ready to crawl their way into washing machines when we get home.
We headed back to Lumpewe under the blazing sun in our Sunday finery, to find the church in absolute full swing and packed to the rafters. After being wowed by the African music, singing and general merriment, it fell to the Brits to step and take part. In our most unavoidably English voices we sang a song to the church, led by Evangelist Andy. It seemed to go down well, so we followed up with a hearty rendition of ‘We Are Walking In The Light Of God’, at which point the entire Church joined in and Evangelist Andy morphed into his alter ego, African Andy…… meaning 16 verses later, we were still singing!
Jo and African Andy then left us to head to another local church, which is run by one of the school teachers, William. The plan was for Andy to preach, and Jo to distribute knitted puppets and blankets to the children. Derek and Ian led the remaining of the main meeting in Lumpewe, helped by Ruth, Sarah, Val and Clare, who each shared stories from their week. Before the service ended, Pastor Steve thanked the team, and talked about all the differently things we’d been doing. To our utter delight, he made a specific mention of the sanitary towel project, which is hugely significant – bearing in mind menstruation is largely taboo in Uganda,
We were able to gift all of the children and babies with more puppets, loom bands, and woolly hats, including a teeny tiny hat and booties we handed over to a delighted pregnant lady.
After lunch Rachel caught up with some of the older boarding girls and handed over a bag stuffed with more sanitary towels for sewing, as well as 60 needles, scissors and dozens and dozens of cotton reels. It was explained they could finish and keep the sanitary towels, and then use the sewing equipment for making minor repairs to clothes. It was lovely to hang out with these bright young women and offer them some encouragement. Each girl was given a bracelet as a reminder of how loved and valuable they are.
After some sad but special goodbyes to the village, the whole team stopped off at a mass grave. The area of Lumpewe is where bitter fighting took place during the civil war in Uganda, and around 800,000 people lost their lives. The remains of the dead were gathered up and buried in mass graves across the area, and it was a humbling reminder of what devastation the area has endured.
As a team, it had been decided to give the remaining food parcels (of which we think numbered about 60, but like everything else just didn’t seem to stop multiplying) to the households we’d been driving past every day as we travelled to and from the guesthouse. Once a reasonable distance from the village, we stopped at each cluster of homes and handed out the green carrier bags. We also had a large number of puppets, teddies, blankets and knitted baby clothes, so where we saw children we gave away as much as we could. We also stopped passers-by on bikes and handed over our food bags, including to a Muslim man who was completely bewildered by the bonkers white Christians in the middle of nowhere! Some householders fell to their knees in gratitude, some clutched our hands and others literally leaped up and down. It took a long time, and we constantly assessed we had ‘about 20 bags left’, which seemed the stock guesstimate for about 5 miles of distributing, but it was a wonderful experience and we made it back to the guesthouse with depleted energy stores but full hearts.
Final numbers: families fed = 500, children fed at school = 400+… total cost? £2290!! With the 90 packs each of rice, beans and flour left at the school, price per head is likely to work out somewhere in the region of 60p…
But our day was far from over. We had 45 minutes to clean up and recharge before heading to visit a nearby Youth Church run by a lady called Pastor Sarah. Jo and Matt needed to stay back, but 11 of the team were all ready to see Pastor Sophie give her maiden preach alongside Old Hat Tim. The church was incredibly welcoming, and much smaller and intimate than where we’d been in Lumpewe. Once again we had the opportunity to treat them to our singing, only this time led by fully-charged-high-energy African Andy, complete with backing bongos, multiple repeats and lots of whoop-whooping. Despite saying she was nervous, Pastor Sophie did a fabulous job of speaking on discipleship, virtually shouting at one point, and having to stop several times to accommodate rounds of applause. Tim followed on seamlessly and was equally brilliant; inviting those who wanted to receive prayer.
As a team, we are so very, very proud of them both.