Marian Baker

From board member Marian Baker: Sunday Schools in Uganda

We returned yesterday from Kimidi, Uganda (a village 500meters from the main highway between Malaba, Kenya and Kampala). We dealt with two major issues, the continuation of the training of Sunday school teachers and helping wake up the Busoga region of Friends who were behind the rest of Uganda YM as they had not been attending the various workshops and conferences we had offered. A few of the challenges we faced were the heat and scarcity of water during this dry season , (especially to me, the redheaded white skinned person), elders who thought those from Kenya and America could pay for everything, and a village with many unruly children.

Teacher training By holding the teacher training outside the Mbale/Bududa area, we found out which ones were motivated enough to seriously learn how to teach Sunday school. Instead of the 23 who were invited from last year’s class, we got 8 committed women and younger people who came eager to learn. We began training these eight to create 5 teams who in another year will be ready to train others in Uganda. This includes:

  • Semuto and northwestern Uganda (with future expansion to Kigumba and Lira).
  • Busoga Region – rural meetings between Lake Victoria and the main Kampala highway)
  • Mbale-Tororo-Busia-Mutoto – urban meetings in eastern part of Uganda
  • Mt. Elgon – rural meetings high up on the mountains bordering Kenya
  • Manafwe region- rural meetings at the lower parts of the mountains

As they brainstormed what was hindering them from doing the work, they came up with ways they could begin to solve the issues. In need for Bibles, they are writing an official letter to Uganda Bible Society and will contact Kenyan Friends who work in the Bible Society to help them find inexpensive Bibles. They all promised to bring food to the next training equal to the cost of their transport if we could help them with some transport. (Three had already brought food; a large bunch of bananas, 5 kilos of rice, and a bag of oranges this year). In the need for pictures, they are drawing themselves pictures which can then be easily duplicated. If we could get one smartphone for each region, Alfred Wasike General Secretary will train one responsible youth or women teacher from each region to use them to improve communications between each other and to enable photos and videos to be shared between the different regions as well as with any future sister relationships with Sunday schools in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Agneta Injairu (from Malava YM) and Roselyn Amugune(from Kakamega) taught not only the second level class, but offered a basic class in how to treat and teach children and gathered around 19 people (fifteen from the local region). Agneta told the first story to the neighborhood children about Jonah and the whale. She included drunkenness and lack of cleanliness among the reasons why God sent Jonah to the people of Ninevah! They then had the trainees practice their skills by telling stories to the neighborhood children, and dramatizing stories as well as singing stories. I taught them some songs with actions. They especially liked the song “Dance, dance wherever you may be” that tells the story of Christ’s life. The children became much better behaved and others in the community began coming and learning. One day Agneta and Roselyn got the first-year teachers to form a team and play a game of football(soccer) against the second-year teachers. Some older teachers, let others in the neighborhood take their place and the whole community cheered the two teams. We offered bottles of water to each. I also taught them the story of Margaret Fell one afternoon. We had to do multiple translations into Buganda, Bukusu, Busamia, and Swahili. (Uganda has around 60 different mother tongues), another challenge.

Dealing with local elders and misconceptions. The day Eileen, Evelyn, and I arrived they had no food for us, and we had to go to Bugiri to purchase basic food and supplies. I found out that the only active bank in the area (and one that includes an ATM machine) is back in Busia. On the way back from the market darkness fell and the male leader escorting us left our large gunny sack of foods/basins in the matatu. He started to jump on another matatu and chase after the other. The youth leader from Kimidi instead thought quickly and phoned a pastor two villages away to come to his bus stage to stop each matatu until our bag was found. Hallelujah it was rescued! We arrived back in the dark and waited in the cool of the night under the constellation of Orion until a teacher brought the key to the empty teacher’s house where we were to stay. As usual, we had to wait until around 10:30PM for our supper. (Edith Nekese from Semuto, Kampala and I have been asked to teach at next year’s women’s conference how to cook a good meal for visitors which will include how to do it in less than 3 hours).

Pastor Evelyn Mukonambi from Elgon East YM in Kenya and I spent the first morning walking on foot visiting 16 different houses near the Friends school, praying for the needs the people expressed, and letting them know why we were there. We found that most had been Friends, but left due to a couple quarreling men who were present leaders. They were eager to come back to Friends, and a number joined us in the trainings, songs, stories, and worship. Pastor Eileen meanwhile sat with a few local Friends to plan out the list of food and materials needed to host the workshop and organized where to find these items in an organized way. That afternoon Evelyn and I went with a woman teacher and gathered basic foods much more quickly in Buwino Market. We found a championship soccer match taking place on the village green. The champions were given a white goat and they all ran away from
the center chasing after the player who carried the goat on his shoulder, singing and shouting with joy.

Later in the week Eileen then gathered the elders. She requested that the women and youth leaders be included. She shared in a straight forward manner to them about their misbehaviors, and in the end there was reconciliation and change in their behavior. We shared how we understood that this was the first time for Kimidi to host a national event in many years, and that this week was a practice to help prepare them to host the larger national Young Friends Conference next year. Each of the elders put in writing what they were willing to donate towards food and materials (e,g. basins, mats/ mattresses, larger cooking pots/utensils) needed to host the national youth conference next year and began planning how to organize for such. The government has built the seven solidly built concrete classrooms, two teacher houses, and several blocks of proper latrines (a big improvement from the one mud/wattle building and incomplete church building from the past). The elders began talking with a locally trained electrical engineer while we were there about how to get electricity to the school and a new well dug through the government’s rural electrification and improvement programs. Since Kimidi is strategically located in the center of the country and easily accessed from the highway, they are interested in developing a small quieter guest house for travelers, including Friends in ministry and letting the school become a center for smaller national workshops. The elders then came to all the younger people at the training to see what they would offer to bring next year, and got a good start on planning for the conference a year ahead (instead of starting to plan one week ahead as has been done in the past). All pledges were recorded by Alfred Wasike, General Secretary of Uganda YM.

We left after giving out certificates and commissioning the teachers to go forth to teach in their local villages. We got delayed in leaving, due to the grandmother of Stella, the young Busoga woman we are getting trained as a nurse, who brought me two live chickens as thanks for helping her granddaughter be trained. We could not carry the hens across the border to Kenya, so we ate the chickens and shared with some of the helpful youth/women of the area. We arrived back in Kakamega before dark, though we had to wait for two long hours in the hot sun midday in Busia waiting for a vehicle to fill.

I am grateful for the breakthroughs that happened, and give many thanks to the team of women who travelled with me to Uganda. Thanks so much for all your prayers.