(Posted by Jane)
Last Monday morning I was negotiating my way through Kampala and out the other side to Jinja. A simple journey, a map might suggest… The first over-crowded matatu (imagine the oldest, most rickety minibus you’ve ever seen) was fairly straightforward, just a matter of getting on one going in the right direction (I have my bearings enough to be able to gesture in the direction of Kampala… most of the time…), and I immediately made a friend over the book I was reading, a biography of Festo Kivengere, a famous Ugandan evangelist and Bishop in the 1970s-80s.
The matatu emptied at a random spot in Kampala and through some stroke of luck amidst the chaos and throngs of people I managed to stumble across the coaster (small bus) headed to Jinja. Seat belts must be the thing of legends here, and the concept of an aisle to provide easy access on and off are an unnecessary luxury when you can have fold out seats down the middle of the bus to maximise the number of travellers (not forgetting floor space by the driver for a few last minute additions). There is always room for one more: even when they come complete with live chickens or bags of rice that need to find a home by people’s feet. No one complains. Near the back of the bus I was slightly concerned about needing the loo… and having to empty the entire bus (chickens and all) to get off… Thankfully my bladder of steel held out and we arrived in Jinja two and a half hours later.
The final leg of my journey sealed my opinion of Ugandans as the most friendly and helpful people I’ve come across. ‘I need to get off at Weiraka’ I told the conductor. ‘Can you tell me when we get there?’ This sparked a conversation in Luganda on the bus. A random passenger wanted to know exactly where I was headed. I saw no harm in telling them, ‘YWAM Hopeland’. Following another short discussion a passenger said, ‘We know where that is…’ The driver then proceeded to detour off his route, down dirt tracks… I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening at this point… but five minutes later we pulled up at a sign ‘YWAM Hopeland’. Delivered to the door by general consensus of the entire matatu. I thanked them in my limited Luganda, which caused great hilarity, and walked down the sloping dirt orange drive, having arrived at my destination.
I spent four days at the Tearfund and YWAM run Uganda Gathering conference, broadening my perspective on this beautiful country; stepping away from the close up sensory overload and engaging my mind with the big picture. Where are we going? How can spiritual and physical development (integral mission) be the stuff of reality and not just dreams? My first conversation upon arrival, sat in the shade with a plate of food piled high with four different carbohydrates, was with a man named Emmanuel who works in ‘gospel advocacy’. Cutting to the chase, as Ugandans tend to when it comes to matters of faith, and sparking all my deepest convictions and beliefs, he presented his solution: the vehicle for change must be the church. The church speaks and Ugandans will listen. I speak generally, of course, as I reflect on our conversation, but cannot help but be struck by the reality of the church’s power and presence in this county. The church has a voice, and it must speak out with words and action of truth, justice, equality, and love at local and government level. Surely a mobilised church will see a mobilised nation?