In late August/early September Geoff and around 25 young people traveled about nine hours southwest of our home in central Uganda to minister to the people in the village of Kamwenge.
The village itself is extremely impoverished—not just economically, but spiritually. Fishing villages are notorious for alcoholism, promiscuity, poverty and numerous abandoned children. Kamwenge fulfills this typical profile.
The following are a few random stories from their week-long outreach. These stories highlight God’s hand on the lives of His children and the commitment of our young people to honor Him.
The EYO outreaches traditionally have been week-long and jam-packed with practical help in the form of building new housing structures or shoring up dilapidated roofs/kitchens/ pit latrines, etc, and working to improve area garden yield, plus football tournaments to draw community members together; once together the youth preach and teach God’s truths to the crowds. In addition, they visit most of the community members in their homes and share their personal encounters with Jesus, revealing His great love for all, in hopes that more will give their lives to our great, loving Father. In the evenings after the football matches they show the Jesus Film in the local language and again preach God’s truth.
It was during such a week in Kamwenge that the following random stories had their origins.
As our EYO group set up and hosted a football match each afternoon as part an area tournament they came face-to-face with young children of 5 or 6 years being the sole caretakers of infants and toddlers. The crowds pressing in at the football matches and subsequent evening film comprised these young children, idling teenagers, drunk adults and trouble makers looking to stir up discontent.
One afternoon, when villagers disagreed with the referees' calls, a large portion of the crowd loudly and threateningly argued. There was talk of bringing machetes to settle the “unfair” outcome at which point Geoff and one of the young men raced off in the van to retrieve the local police. (You don’t call the police here—they rarely have phones or vehicles with which to respond, especially in such a remote place as Kamwenge—you must go to them and facilitate their transport to wherever it is you’re needing them.) With police presence intact the crowd backed down and the match and evening activities were able to continue.
At one football match Geoff noticed an infant sleeping on a blanket not far from the football field boundary line. For almost two hours the infant was unattended. He never did find out who was responsible for the baby. It slept, quite contentedly amidst chaos—no doubt the usual for this little one.
One night one of our young men went out at 1 a.m. from the place where they slept to receive a phone call and found an unattended young child of about 5 or 6 years of age, sitting on the ground aimlessly playing with a plastic bottle. There were no adults in sight. The real problem of abandonment revealed in this instance deeply struck him.
During the daytime hours the young people split into small groups, spread out in the village and visited the local people. During the course of the week they built a new structure for one of the elderly men and also worked hard in the gardens of older villagers. Sitting with the people of the village and sharing the good news of Jesus and what He’s done in their lives energized and challenged the young people. One young man ran up to Geoff after a pretty intense encounter, freshly challenged to dig deeper in his study of God’s word, “Uncle Geoff! I have GOT to read my Bible more!” He was exasperated that he couldn’t answer all of the man’s questions with confidence. Awakened to his need to know more of God’s truth, he committed himself to expanding his knowledge of the Word.
One of the older EYO members also serves as the manager of our New Hope Maize Mill. Throughout the week he needed to frequently make decisions and stay up-to-date with his employees’ needs. His cell phone, hovering low on battery power, needed to be charged, but there was no charging site near the EYO base camp. Geoff immediately offered our van as a “charging station.” Hindsight is 20/20 goes the saying. His generosity was the first in a long series of falling dominoes which added significant stress to the later part of that day. A run down car battery, a football match about to start 4 km away, a need for the heavy and numerous pieces of sound system to be hauled to the field and only one small motorbike found hastily when they realized the car battery was dead meant one EYO member journeyed back and forth ferrying all the needed items. The match did NOT start on time, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind too much. Geoff, however, loathed his “bonehead” maneuver as he termed it.
After days of one-on-one discussions, marriage/foundational doctrine teachings to area leaders, and the preaching at each football match the week culminated in one rousing award and recognition ceremony. Present was a wealthy local goat farming family who gave the EYO group a healthy, robust 8-month old male goat as an appreciation of the love and compassion shown to their village. There was no room in the small bus to carry a very large he-goat 9 hours home, so Geoff and a few of the boys hog-tied it, placed it in a large Rubbermaid tub which barely fit in the back of our van, and then began the long journey home.
Every so often the goat would shout out, once at a very inopportune moment. The van was stopped by the police—a very common occurrence here. It does NOT necessarily mean you did anything wrong to warrant being pulled off the road, but often boredom (and so taking the opportunity to pull over the white man and engage him in conversation) or even fishing for bribes might serve as the catalyst. As the police officer was talking (and Geoff said he was talking and talking and talking, enamored with his own story) the goat loudly yelled out. Everybody in the car froze, waiting for the officer to take opportunity to levy a fine, but the officer was so taken by his own words he didn’t even hear the goat. Laughter, only slightly controlled, broke out, but the officer remained unaware of the extra passenger, which fueled even more laughter. There was no fine, no attempt at a bribe and they were soon back on the road, still laughing. The stop was due to officer boredom as best we can figure.
When Geoff is part of these outreaches he endures long hours of driving, simple suppers anywhere from 10-midnight, little water, perhaps no discreet place to bathe, sleeping in the van, hours of hearing local language & no to little English, and lots of stares as the only white man in remote villages. It’s all worth it, however, as he finds these times ideal for interaction with our young people.
Faith has been honed in many of the youth as they’ve given of themselves to people who have little materially and also truly need God’s spirit to fill them with the truth of the Gospel.
When the group arrives home after their long drive I love hearing their stories tumble out with excitement over all that God did in and around them. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing some of them as well.