No we weren’t castaways, but we were in a world completely new to all of us. Bugaya Island is in the middle of Lake Victoria, a 2-hour boat ride from Kiyendi, very nearly on the equator. Lake Victoria is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world (behind Lake Superior). When we set off, we could not see our island, but the captain knew the way and set us on course. I couldn’t help but sing in my head the song from Gilligan’s Island the entire trip.
The boat was slow but steady. It was made out of wood and hand made, with patches of nails, tar, other pieces of wood and metal strips spread throughout. We took on a steady stream of water, but nothing that the captain couldn’t bail as he drove the small engine that directed us.
The water was mostly calm, with the occasional rough patch. We passed several islands, catching glimpses of fishing villages nestled inside bays and using the always present cell towers mounted on top of the islands’ highest points. After an hour on the lake, we could finally see Bugaya Island in the distance. Our fearless team of Dennis Okoth, Peace Nanzala, Daryl Bates and John Khaukha (not pictured here) were excited.
Once we arrived, we were greeted by every child in the village and a few curious adults. For the vast majority of the children, anyone under the age of 10 or so, we were the first Mzungu (white person) they had ever seen. So they wanted to ask us questions, touch our skin and feel our hair. For four days, anywhere we went we were followed by children like we were the Pied Piper or something. Our boat was full of our supplies for the trip and had to be coordinated with the few motorcycles (bodas) there so that our things could reach where we were staying (about a 30-minute hike inland). Because of the conditions on the island, we had to travel with all of our own food, bedding, tents and equipment.
It turned out that there was a house that we could stay in, but there was little furniture inside, so it was good that we brought all of the equipment because we needed it. And our trusty Administrative Assistant, Peace, prepared all of our food for us from scratch – the village way. We ate a ton of matoke, rice and fish. I’m thankful Peace is a good cook AND that I like Ugandan food. (This is a picture of them hand-making flour from cassava by pounding it for over an hour.)
We spent the second day encouraging the church members/leaders from 5 different churches on the island. A missionary had not traveled there for almost 10 years and we wanted them to know that we had not forgotten them. We also spent some extensive time with the leaders talking to them about the mission and our vision of healthy churches. There were a lot of questions that they had and we spent a good amount of time answering and discussing their questions about leadership. One of the pastors we are discipling, John Khaukha, was able to help teach the church leaders on the island.
On the third day, we spent the morning answering more questions and then providing a brief training on Discovery Bible Study (DBS). The hope was that the leaders came to know us, trust us, understand where we are headed as a mission, and given a very practical tool to help lead their church members to more intimacy with Jesus. After lunch, we went back to the boat and set off for a tour of the island churches. One of our priorities is to locate each individual church through GPS and Google Maps and take pictures of the place. We also share a very short encouragement with the church and pray a blessing over the people who gather there. We traveled to 3 different churches and it took almost 6 hours. It was a long day in the sun and we were all very tired by the end of it (and also very smelly).
On day four, we packed up and returned to the mainland and then drove three hours back to Mbale. We are planning on returning back to Bugaya Island and visiting our churches there again sometime in 2017. It was encouraging to see people clinging to Jesus in the face of great struggles and difficulties. We ask that you join us in continuing to pray for the churches and leaders there.