DAY TWO ARRIVALS
The first thing about arriving in Uganda that hits you stepping off the plane is the incredibly pleasant climate at breakfast time in February. That faintly remembered feeling of warmth on your face, last encountered in late Summer is utterly refreshing and wholly enjoyable.
Despite promises of delay at immigration, the process of arriving at Endebee airport was embarrassingly easier and efficient than entering the UK. Simon’s request for a receipt for his $50 visa entry fee was even met by amused smiles by the officials. Through the check in system, and baggage collection inside 40 minutes we were soon outside greeting our hosts, although Simon snuck out first by pleading seniority with the official responsible for making sure our bags were x-rayed on exit of the airport! He was excused this superfluous check and was soon outside where Alfred and Emily were waiting to greet us.
Having just seen each other only a few weeks ago in England this was probably a stranger experience for Emily that for me ‘I can’t believe you’ve actually made it here’. As the trip continued this reminded me of other trips I’d been privileged to make to church mission partners in India, Georgia, and especially Lebanon. If you’re in church leadership reading this I think it’s hard to overestimate the benefits of a short trip to key mission partners. Even if you have little/nothing to bring in terms of ministry when you get there, the value for someone working overseas of being ‘known’ in context always seems very high. You immediately understand more of their trials, struggles, passion, heart, calling, ministry and opportunity and can become an advocate and prayer partner in a whole new way.
The journey across Uganda is best told briefly and with a few photos. Apparently Idi Amin ripped up some of the old colonial railways which is a great tragedy, as the roads, while improving partly due to Chinese investment – have a more numerous to count number of speed bumps ranging between four low bumps in a row, to enormous mini-hills requiring a car to come to an almost complete stop to get over. Night-time travel is precarious too – not the worst I’ve experienced (that prize goes to Romania in the 90s where you were supposed to avoid a horse drawn cart by spotting the light of a cigarette in the driver’s hand) but nevertheless difficult, especially as oncoming buses and cars often saw no need to dip their full beam lights. The 4×4 vehicle Christ Church helped Emily purchase was however wonderful, and the moments we were on rough, off-road track made my heart soar, and Simon’s sink! Alfred was bemused to learn that in the West people pay good money to take their Chelsea Tractors out for an occasional spin on purposed built tracks like this… Emily promised me a drive later in the week out towards the villages – can’t wait.
We finally arrived in Rukunguri 27.5 hours after leaving Chiswick, to a fabulous complex of two homes built by an English couple in their retirement. Rodney was a carpenter and in the construction trade, and has masterminded the building of these homes, the second one almost entirely just to employ local labour. Under the banner of Project Uganda they have done a fantastic job of upskilling and envisioning local trademen and their workers often bring potential clients back to the site to show what can be achieved.
The ‘spare’ home is three downstairs en-suite bedrooms, equipped with ‘compost toilets’ and solar powered showers, and an expansive upper room with kitchen diner and living area, and a balcony with a fantastic view.
Tomorrow we’ll visit the churches and help some of the children start back at school. These are boys and girls with very moving histories – one nearly killed by his drunken father, another left in a bush as a baby to die, and other street kids who were addicts before their teenage years, who Emily and her small team of local helpers and international sponsors have basically saved. Some of the stories of change and transformation are incredible and I can’t wait to meet them.