- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 17 August 2015 17 August 2015
We attended church in Africa! There are 130 Lutheran Church Mission of Uganda (LCMU) churches that are served by seventeen pastors, and we had the privilege to attend one of them this Sunday morning. Two neighboring congregations joined together to worship with us. Pastor James officiated, as this is one of the congregations in his northern Uganda area that he serves (he is also Synod coordinator—busy man!).
The church is an open air brick layout with wooden benches to sit on. The blue Lutheran hymnal is used for songs, and they provided us with English versions. It is very neat to hear the hymns sung in the local dialect, English and Malagasy (for our Madagascar team member). We truly are all one in Christ! Church began with “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” sung a cappella with accompaniment by a drum.
Today was a special service as there was one baptism and three confirmations.
Very neat to see! Mid-service we heard true African worship music, which is more jubilant for sure. Nelly and I sat with the children during the service and were a bit distracted by their presence. The Sunday School children sang songs to us, and the pastor's fourteen-year-old daughter read the epistle lesson in perfect English. It is truly a neat experience to worship the same God in a different country.
Following the service the women of the congregation served us lunch in the alcove behind the altar. They served us a traditional Ugandan meal of posho, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, greens and chicken or beef. Our American team was served first, and then the elders of the congregation were served next. We were all very nervous as we waited for the children to be served. In Africa, children eat last and receive whatever is left. Throughout our morning, we did notice that children and elders would shake our hands and kneel. Children kneel while shaking hands as a sign of respect to elders. However, the older members of the population kneel to shake hands with Americans to recognize their status and to thank them for coming to help. A neat custom that feels like such an honor.
The pastor's house is in the same village, so we walked over to his home and met his family. There was a stand near the home where his wife was selling home-grown items. The house is made from an adobe type material with a tin roof, and there is a large yard and some livestock including a pig and goat. Many of the other homes in the area are made of the adobe material but have thatched roofs and are much smaller in size. Pastor James seems to own a fair amount of land.
The afternoon involved a one-hour bus trip to Barlonyo Memorial Ground near the town of Lira. We saw a memorial for one of many massacres committed by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army). In this particular area, over 500 people were missing at the end of the attack on February 21, 2004. Of the missing, 121 people were buried at this monument site, and since then, more than ninety additional bodies have been found. So they have accounted for about half of the missing. LRA is the group of northern Ugandans collected by Joseph Kony in hopes of overthrowing the Ugandan government. He used his army to wreak terror on his fellow Ugandans in the form of mutilations, murder, beatings and rape. Kony often used children as child soldiers to commit terrible atrocities. Because he preferred taking children over adults into his army, at times hundreds of children flocked out of villages prior to nightfall to towns such as Lira for safety. Then in the morning they would return to their villages. Many of the affected continue to have post traumatic stress syndrome and other psychological troubles. We will likely treat some of them this week in clinic. Kony has not been seen in the Lira area in over ten years and is deemed to be hiding in the Congo. Apparently he is #19 on the world's most wanted list.
In the evening we returned to the hotel and sorted supplies for the medical clinics for the week. We counted and packaged vitamins to be given to patients we meet. We divided supplies into various suitcases for transport on Monday. We found, through discussions with the local representatives, that we will be encountering patients with malaria, which is the number one disease in Uganda and currently taking the lives of many. Other common disease are hepatitis B and cervical cancer. HIV/AIDs currently affects 5% of the Ugandan population. I imagine we will have the opportunity to impact many lives throughout the course of our service.
The day concluded with another candlelight dinner and devotions with our team led by Pastor Pace, who finally arrived in Lira from the U.S. after canceled flights along the way. We anticipate the work that will be presented to us at our first clinic tomorrow.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?