This past weekend we travelled with people from All Saints Church Ishaka and Juna Amagara Ministries (http://www.amagara.org/) for a mission to the Kishanje Parish near the city of Kabale. Getting there and back was half the adventure! We left in two minibuses - one from Ishaka and another from Mbarara. We joined the minibus from Ishaka. As we travelled to Kishanje, our minibus had its muffler repaired twice and then the engine overheated numerous times before finally stopping all together around 11pm on a small dirt road near Lake Bunyoni. As we sat in the dark in an unfamiliar place, we all were wondering what we had signed up for. But the choir with us sang beautiful songs of faith while we waited.
Thankfully, a family associated with Juna Amagara had already made it to Kishanje in their own car and travelled back to get Michelle, myself and few others. We arrived at Kishanje around 1:30am. The rest of our group wouldn’t arrive until 5am. The second van also had challenges, having received a flat tire and then having the tire fly off twice after being replaced. The damage to the wheel system also caused the rear brakes to fail. They didn’t arrive in Kishanje until the following day. Our trip home was almost as interesting after engine overheating several times we arrived back at the Mothers Union Centre around 1pm. We certainly were more than just a little tired when we got back.
Besides our travelling woes, the weekend was a great experience. I had never been on an evangelistic mission and I had very little idea on what to expect. I was simply told to be ready to preach and to give a testimony during the course of the weekend. Our day started with a service in the church, which consisted of lots of music, two preachers and two people (including myself) giving testimonies.
After this first service we were split into teams, each being sent to a different area of the village. Michelle and I were sent to a small, but very scenic, hill within the valley where the village is located. I have been to a few outdoor services in my life, but none with such an inspiring view. As I looked up into the hills I couldn’t help but feel that God’s love was far higher than them. I also had never been to a service in such a public location before. It was a unique experience for me to be able to preach in the open air, to a very receptive crowd. I doubt that the format would work well back home in Canada. For the people here, church is a large component of the majority of people’s lives. In some ways I felt like I was preaching to the converted. However there was a great deal of emphasis, throughout the weekend, placed on moving beyond just going to church and “dedicating yourself to Christ”. I’ve always felt just a bit uncomfortable with this type of evangelism, which most Canadians would find to be pushy. However, our hosts were pleased that nine children and two adults “dedicated themselves to Christ” that afternoon.
The finale for the weekend was the Sunday morning service. Again there were two preachers and two testimonies. The thing that struck me the most was the worship music. The place was full of people and the chancel (the raised area before the altar) was packed solid with children. When it came time to sing the church seemed more like the venue for the latest rock band than a rural parish. People young and old (some even in their 70s or 80s) were clapping, dancing and jumping. The best party that weekend was held at the church. When the music and dancing was done you could literally see the dust settling from all the excitement.
Two things really touched me during the weekend. First was the number of children involved. It was so encouraging to see so many children having fun in the church and the parents having fun along with them. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in doing the service liturgy right that we can only see children as a nuisance. We forget how important it is that children be allowed to worship with their parents in a way that they understand and in a way that they can see God. Michelle and I also had a wonderful moment Saturday afternoon swapping music with a small group of children. We played our instruments for them and they sang and danced for us. This was followed by some fun with the digital cameras. They love to see their pictures on the screen so much that it is actually hard to get them in front of the camera! They always want to see the screen. It was a wonderful gift to bring a smile to their faces.
The second thing that touched me this weekend was the level of partnership involved. Ishaka and Kishanje have a reciprocal relationship. They have helped each other run missions in each other’s parishes, by giving up the best talent they have for a weekend to make a special service for other parish. Instead of looking inward to their own issues and concerns these two parishes have tried to help each other, by offering events that neither could manage on their own. Even more than that, they have said that that their concern and love for their fellow Christians does not end in their parish or even their diocese. Several speakers emphasized the point that God loved the people of this parish so much that he sent them a team from all over the world—from Canada, Nigeria, Uganda and the U.S.A. It was quite the testimony to God’s love for this small parish in rural Uganda to have so many guests from outside their country and culture. I pray that as a church worldwide we can learn to have such partnerships more often, putting aside our different cultures, and customs to declare with a unified voice God’s love for the people of our world.
P.S. We have some fun videos of this event, but they are too big to post from here. We will share them with you all when we get home.