Customs. A place I was used to going through at an airport. Customs, Uganda. A place I had never been until the summer of 2016. Situated right on the border of Uganda and Congo, Customs is a town that really takes the name ‘Border Town’ seriously. It didn’t take long before I was won over by the people of Customs. In fact, on just my second full day in Africa I experienced a celebration like I had never before, nor have since.
Parading into the town, surrounded by a brass band, dancers, acrobats and Neil Lambert wearing a Red Nose day onesie is a memory I won’t forget in haste. Neither will the performances by various choirs from around the area. Some poignant, moving moments were clear. One group showed the battle their community face with men and suicide. However, their singing and dancing of the greater hope they have in Christ despite that was just all the more stirring.
I was invited to share a short testimony, with roughly 30 seconds to prepare I did my best. It was only at this point did I realise the hundreds, if not thousands of people, who had gathered to watch from the community. For an introduction to Ugandan life and a taste of the mission that would take place over the next 2 weeks, it was certainly a memorable one! It’s an experience I’ve never come close to since.
The next 2 weeks would see us engage with so many across the area, with the first week devoted to the Customs area. Preaching with a translator was a skill I quickly had to learn, although mastered far slower. It was clear the community of Customs longed for more in life, hope. On reflection the name Hope For Uganda (Amaha We Uganda) could not be more apt. I can describe it nothing short of a privilege to have had the opportunity to speak of that hope into the communities we came across. In a trip that opened my eyes to a radically different culture, society and way of life, one fact remained. There is always a Hope for Uganda. It was heart-breaking to see children grow up knowing nothing other than living orphaned on a street. It still is. From time to time I still think of a young girl who would often sit with me during the times we met in the public square. We could do little in terms of communication. We exchanged smiles and laughter, and I hope, and I pray that she came to know the Hope we came to offer – A father for the orphaned. A saviour for us all. A hope for the lost.