A day in the life of an African adventurer begins with break of dawn and the incessant sound of cocks crowing. After a wash in a bowl of hot water, lovingly brought by young local girls each morning, Mary and Julia join other guests for breakfast. Small, sweet bananas, hardboiled eggs and bread – and for the braver ones, rice and steamed plantains (known as Matooke – ‘Ma-tow-key’.)
Breakfast over and the party set off for the day’s visits. The roads in Uganda are in stark contrast to the roads of Bristol and Swindon. Imagine the lovely tarmac road you live on has eroded away, leaving only a strip of tar wide enough for a single vehicle, pitted with potholes, and that you and your neighbours constantly have to jostle for right of way. Journeys are no longer swift and easy, but become instead a long and constant battle to avoid the larger holes. When you see a lorry coming in the opposite direction at speed the safest thing to do is to close your eyes and pray! Not so dissimilar to the M4 at rush hour I suppose.
Arriving at Bushenyi female prison Julia and Mary are impressed by the commitment and compassion of the Mothers Union workers – fearless and strong women who visit the prison each month. They come with tea and food ready to spend time sitting and eating with the young women prisoners, allowing them to share their stories and praying with them. As well as time spent with the inmates the workers wage a constant campaign to encourage the warders to maintain clean and hygienic conditions in the prison. Bristol MU, working in partnership with the West Ankole MU, have purchased mugs for each female prisoner after learning that they had only one bowl each for both food and drink. They leave aware of the deep injustice that women may suffer having learned that some of the women had experienced violence and abuse from their husbands, only to be jailed when they finally retaliated.
Returning to the guest house, lunch awaits – Matooke, potatoes, rice, millet bread, peas, carrots, cabbage, ground nut sauce and goat stew. Followed on a good day by fresh pineapple – twice as large and twice as sweet as our supermarket specimens.
In the afternoon a visit to a school highlights the dedication and hard work of the teachers. Many schools are unadorned with any decorations or work, but not so much for lack of care as for lack of experience. Those teachers who have been privileged enough to travel abroad and visit schools in Europe or America have returned and transformed the school environment with their new insights and skills.
Once more back to the guest house, where supper, a repeat of lunch is ready. The menu will remain essentially the same throughout their stay.
In the evening, or at lunch, Mary who is training as a preacher and speaker on the Equipping God’s People Course, might is asked to share a word of testimony or a reflection from the bible. Wherever they went they found that they had to be ready to share a word of introduction or encouragement.
In the early hours Mary wakes, and drawn by the sounds of the bush wanders outside and raises her eyes to the sky. Joined by Julia they gaze silently at the sky ablaze with stars, ‘as if someone had dribbled milk through the sky,’ marvelling at the wonder of God and His creation.
Interview by Chris Dobson
If you are on the Equipping God’s People course and would like to discover what opportunities there might be for you to visit Uganda or if you would like to invite a speaker about Uganda to visit your church, please contact Chris Dobson by email.