In March of 2010 Pastor Ken had the opportunity to visit Uganda. He went at the invitation of Pastor Henry Mugisha of the Rubaga Victory City Church and was able to preach at a number of worship services. Rubaga is a suburb of Kampala; RVCC is a member of the Assemblies of God denomination.
Monday, March 8th, 2010
Jim and I arrived at the Toronto Airport at approximately 4:00 pm. We checked in at the airline (Emirates) and went through security. After dinner we went to the boarding area. The plane was scheduled to take off at 9:40 pm. The time to board arrived and then passed. The delay lasted for about an hour before we were notified there was a mechanical problem with the plane (an Airbus A380) that was being attended to. At 3:00 am we were informed that the flight had been cancelled. After lining up for about an hour we got vouchers to stay at a nearby hotel. We had to get our baggage from the check out. We finally got to the hotel and to bed at 4:30 am. We slept until 8:00 am.
Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
We had been told to be at the check-in at 10:00 am. We got there at about 9:45-but the Emirates staff did not bother to show up until 10:30. The crowd was large and none too pleased. We finally got to board and the plane-a Boeing 777-took off for Dubai at 4:00 pm.
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
The flight lasted some 14 hours; with the change in time we arrived in Dubai at 1:30 pm local time. We went sightseeing after checking into our hotel. We saw the Birge Kalifa-the world’s tallest building. Evidence of great wealth is everywhere. Got to bed at 6:00 pm and slept for twelve hours.
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
We took off for Uganda via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I sat beside a Californian named Jim. He had been to 172 different countries and, when we got to talking religion he informed me he didn’t believe in sin. I asked him how he could go to so many places in the world and miss something so obvious. He was of a mind that all religions are basically the same. I disagreed and he got offended.
On arrival at Entebbe Airport we were met by Pastor Henry Mugisha. He drove us to Kampala and the Namirembi Guest House where we will be staying while in Uganda. On the road from the airport to the city (25 miles) we saw a multitude of little businesses on the side of the road. They were housed in small shacks and included everything from shops selling pineapples and bananas, chicken and beef skewers or sugar cane to barber shops, nail salons and furniture shops. Sometimes the shacks doubled as sleeping quarters.
The hills are green. The soil is red. Driving is an adventure, given the crowded roads and the huge potholes that must be avoided at every turn.
The guest house is “rustic.” We have a small room, twin beds and a bathroom with a toilet, shower and sink. There is one electrical socket and we can either have the fan or the TV on. We choose the fan as it is hot and humid outside-somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees. It feels like southern Ontario during a hot July.
We head out for the Rubaga Victory City Church for a 6:00 pm meeting with church leaders. On the way we stop for water at a gas station. The car won’t start, so I jump on a bouda bouda-a small motorcycle. When we called the driver over for a lift (there are thousands of these motorcycles in the city) he looked at Jim and me and said, “Both?” We told him “No, only one.” He drove me to the church, about a mile away, and I paid him fifty cents-1,000 Uganda shillings. Meanwhile, the mechanic at the garage tightened the battery cable and the car came back to life.
We met with Pastor Henry and the church leaders-about 8-10 of us. We began with singing and prayer. Introductions followed. I spoke on John 11:1-10 and on endurance in a time of struggle. The talk lasted about an hour and a half. Pastor Henry said the word was timely as many of the leaders had burdens to carry. We ended with more singing and prayer and Jim and I-Justice Jim and Pastor Ken, as we were called-laid hands on and prayed over each elder and leader individually. There was a wonderful spirit in the place.
We got back to the hotel at about 9:00 pm and had supper-cabbage, chicken, potatoes and boiled pumpkin. It was all very good. Then off to bed for a decent night’s sleep.
Friday, March 12th, 2010
Jim went off to Entebbe to meet the chief magistrate and take care of some details regarding the adoption of Joseph. Pastor Henry met me at the Guest House at noon. We spoke pastor to pastor and encouraged one another in the Lord as we talked about the challenges of the pastorate.
He runs a medical clinic at the church three times a year. They hire six doctors and buy medicines-antibiotics, deworming medicine and creams for the skin rashes that are endemic in Uganda because of bad water and difficult hygiene. It costs about $800 US to run a clinic and the last one they held saw 1,800 people show up. They were only able to treat 900; 900 others were turned away.
Went to worship at 5:30 pm. Pastor Henry was singing with a very accomplished praise band-guitar, base guitar, keyboards and drums. People began to filter in until some 60 people had arrived. I began to preach at 6:00 pm. Philip, a leader of the church, provided simultaneous translation in Buganda, the local native language, because some there had no English. I preached until 7:10 (John 11:11-27) and then everyone came forward for prayer. Pastor Henry started at one end of the church and I started at the other, laying hands upon each one and praying for them personally that they would be strengthened in Christ to walk the path of godliness and righteousness. As we did this the band was playing. They were asked to play softly but got carried away. The volume rose and my prayers had to become very loud and very close to the ears of the worshipers.
Jim arrived just as the worship was ending. It had been a long and frustrating day for him at Entebbe as he worked on securing a visa for Joseph. On Monday he has to return to see another magistrate and secure a signature.
Had supper at the Guest House-barbequed goat and chicken. Phoned Cathy and left message. It was hot and humid.
Saturday, March 13th, 2010
Woke up early, hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. Worked on diary and sermons. We aren’t needed at the church until 5:30 pm. Jim and I planned to go to a local mall to get supplies (mostly bottled water) and then visit the Children’s Home.
On the way to the mall Jim got a traffic ticket. At a very confusing intersection we ended up in the wrong lane, facing oncoming traffic. As there was a curb in the middle of the road Jim had to make a u-turn. It happened right in front of a police station and a traffic cop. The officer issued a ticket and told us to pull into the station. Jim had to leave his license with the police officer; it would be returned on payment of the fine ($20 US). The fine had to be paid at the Crane Bank in downtown Kampala. We drove there. The traffic was horrific. Potholes threatened at times to swallow the car. We parked and walked to the bank. Unbelievably crowded: The sidewalks were crowded with people. Many had spread goods on blankets on the ground to be sold-gum, oranges, toys etc. People walked between the cars with limes and sugar cane. We finally got the ticket paid and returned to the station. The station looked like something out of a bad Mexican western. It was decrepit. There was no apparent organization. Papers were strewn across desks and tables everywhere. Nevertheless things were handled by the police staff with courtesy and we were on our way. The day well gone by this time, we returned home, got cleaned up. I had a nap.
Returned to Victory City Church for 5:30. The service followed the same format as the previous meeting. I spoke again for something more than 75 minutes and we finished with prayer and the laying on of hands as we had the previous evening.
Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Had a blessed time of worship and fellowship with Pastor Henry and the Rubaga Victory City Church. The service started with the praise team leading the congregation in singing, “I Am Going to the River”-a song we played at the start of our service on the first Sunday in March. A young mannamed Chris got up and gave a testimony saying he had intended to quit the church but had changed his mind after hearing me speak of Christian endurance. It was a moving and encouraging moment for me.
I preached on the love of Jesus in the raising of Lazarus and afterward 2 young people came forward to give their lives to Christ. They were led away by a church leader who explained to them the road of discipleship they would have to take from that time on. There has been a real appreciation for my ministry this week. Everybody is very thankful. They are thankful especially for the prayers that are lifted up regularly at Faith Church in our worship and during our prayer meetings. A Sunday School teacher wanted to thank us especially for the flannel board and other resources we have sent. The children love them and look forward to their lessons each week.
Pastor Henry took us to lunch. The day ended with a concert of tribal music and dancing from various parts of Uganda and Rwanda.
Monday, March 15th, 2010
Jim went off to Entebbe to see another magistrate. With his signature the next step will be to get Joseph a passport, a medical exam for the Canadian government, a Canadian visa and then off to his new home in Stevensville. I am preparing a talk on humility for the staff of the RVCC day school. The school if for children pre-K to grades 1-2. It has 60-65 students who come from the surrounding slums. Pastor Henry had asked me to speak on humility. After getting to the church on a bouda bouda I spoke on the reason why humility was necessary (I Corinthians 1) and where humility could be found (Matthew 5:3-5).
After the talk Pastor Henry and I took a walk through the neighbouring slum. We saw the well that the congregation has recently refurbished. It provides a continuous stream of filtered water, but the water must still be boiled. The well serves some 900 people.
We bought rice, beans, flour, sugar and soap and took it to a family. Some 30 families in the surrounding slum area are provided food every month by the church. The family we visited lived in a two room hovel about 12 feet by 15 feet. The door opening was covered by a sheet. There was only one small window in the place. The family consisted of four women-a grandmother and three daughters, one with AIDS, and two babies, 18 months and 24 months. The men of the family had died or deserted their wives. There was no food in the house. The grandmother was amazed that a Mizungo-a white man-would come into her house. We gave them the food and chatted. Before leaving I prayed for them. We left for the church and I took a motorcycle back to the Guest house.
Jim got back from Entebbe. His trip was successful. Jim is now officially not only Joseph’s guardian but his foster father. The day of Joseph’s coming to Canada is getting closer.
Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
We had the day off, so went with Pastor Henry to Jinja, the source of the Nile River. Pastor Henry’s daughter Shayna pronounced “Shy-na” came with us. Before taking the trip to the Nile Jim and I visited the Kabira tombs-the burial site of four Bugandan kings. It is an impressive thatched building-apparently the biggest one in the world-and in considered a national treasure. The trip of 50 miles took two hours. The roads were crowded. The pot holes were enormous. Except for a few miles of road through a dense forest the route was lined with shanties and small businesses run out of shacks. The vast majority of people here are very poor.
We drove back taking in the sights, sounds and the dust. At Kampala our eyes started to sting as we drove through the university district. There had moments before been some sort of student demonstration that ended with the police tear gassing the crowd. A block away we could see a large cloud of tear gas. The stinging only lasted a few minutes. After supper at the Guest House we turned in for an early night.
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
In the morning we went to the Garden City Mall to get a few souvenirs. We learned from the papers that the Kabira tombs had burned to the ground the previous evening and were completely lost. Jim and I were among the last to visit the site.
We met Pastor Henry at 2:00 pm. We visited the washrooms and spoke with the policemen who used the facility. Their working conditions are deplorable. They live in small, dark mud huts with their families. Saplings 1 inch in diameter and 5 feet tall are stuck into the ground. Mud is packed around the branches, which act as a kind of rebar. A roof is fashioned out of tin or plastic tarpaulin. The door is covered with a sheet.
Returned to the adjoining slum and visited a widow. Her children had died and there was no one to care for her. She was kept in a single room about 12 feet by 12 feet with a foam mattress and nothing else. She used a plastic garbage bag for a toilet. There was a small window but little ventilation. It was dark and the filth and stench was terrible. People from the church come and try to clean her and her room up every two days. They bring her food or else she would starve. There are many widows like this in Uganda. Their husbands and their children have died-mostly of AIDS-and destitution is what remains.
We finished the night at Pastor Henry’s house. He lives in a duplex in a compound surrounded by walls topped with razor wire. It is commonplace in Uganda.
Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Met with Pastor Henry at 1:00 pm to say good-bye. He presented me with a love-offering taken up by the congregation. It was $50 US-much more than the congregation could afford. It was very humbling to receive such a gift.
Flew to Dubai, arriving sometime shortly after midnight. Checked in to the Dubai Airport hotel and got 6 hours sleep.
Friday, March 19th, 2010
Flew on an Airbus A 380 to Toronto, arriving at 3:00 pm local time, 11:00 pm Dubai time. Glad to be back in Canada and delighted to be home in Stevensville with Cathy.