Eileen Malova, Agneta Injairu, and Alfred Wasike (Uganda Friends Gen. Secretary who is studying at FTC) accompanied me on a journey to Magale, Uganda. James Injairu, Agneta’s husband joined us in Chwele and we crossed the border at Lwakhakha. We rejoiced that the Kenyan government had cracked down on the matatu that carries people to the border from Chwele. Instead of crowding up to 20 people into the station wagon, they now only allow 6! A disabled person with a clever bicycle like device carried our luggage while we walked across the river. The matatu which was to take us up the hill to the junction drove up the hill to pick some passengers, then backed down the hill to pick up more. He repeated this three times until the vehicle was full.
At the junction, as we waited for another matatu, James noticed one man who came and sat right next to Eileen and I. After a moment when both of us were distracted looking at our cellphones, we discovered I was missing a very small cloth purse of Ugandan cash that I had just changed from Kenyan cash at the border. It wasn’t a lot of money, but such theft is common when people are so desperate for money. We got to Magadi town and walked into Royal Secondary School, which was built by Apollo Wopicho, the groom. For the last two years, when we gathered all the leaders and pastors of Uganda Friends, we discovered that many had never officially married their wives It was decided that each
would find a way to get married, and Apollo as the former clerk of Uganda YM and Sylvia, the presiding clerk of all women in Uganda, decided to have their wedding as an example to others. Apollo wanted a simple wedding, but the elders in his clan refused, and they had to hold a big wedding. Getting officially married gives the wives legal status to inherit land and property if their husbands die.
Eileen, Agneta, and I, like grandmothers to the groom, were put into the first car of a long procession of cars from the groom’s village. We drove very slowly and many children and women and teens gathered along the roadside to watch us. I waved to all and they enthusiastically were excited to be noticed. I was reminded of my grandmother who was age 100 the year of the Bicentennial of USA. She rode in a special car in the local parade. like a queen waving to all. We reached very late, but the bride procession came even later.
John Muhanji was the preacher for the day and Andrew Kurima did the official declaring them man and wife. To my surprise, I was suddenly called forward to pray for the couple. Afterwards we all returned to the school where enormous crowds had gathered. They cut an enormous cake and distributed bites to all the crowd. Then gifts were brought forward- a cow, several goats, many large brightly wrapped packages, plastic washbasins, etc. My favorite was a large turkey presented by one uncle. They managed to feed everyone mountains of food. The speeches of visitors and relatives and county officials went on until dark when music was provided and everyone danced a while. The procession of attendants and kids that had followed the bride and groom all stayed at the house that night, singing with joy until very late.
The next day we awoke early, and were given a lift to the main Tororo-Sudan highway by Apollo’s son Alex. Then took matatus to Tororo, where we ate a quick breakfast and collected Ugandan shillings from a bank ATM, before travelling on to Kimidi Friends. Kimidi is in southern Uganda within walking distance from the main Malava to Kampala Highway. Children who remembered me from the Sunday School teachers training we held in Kimidi last year, came joyfully running out to give me hugs and help carry our bags.
At the church, a few elderly men had gathered. The women whom we helped form a cooperative were busy preparing a lunch for us all. I went to the Sunday School and shared a story and some songs with them all. Meanwhile Eileen taught and counselled the men, and when I re-joined them, we were able to help them plan how they could manage to host the national Young Friends Conference next month. We all rejoiced that they had been able to get a new borehole dug providing water for all, right next to the school- a tremendous boost to the village.
After the lunch, we had a time with the women, who asked very many lively questions of ways they can continue to work together to build themselves up. What a welcome change from the docile, timid women they had been before they started their cooperative group. They gave us a financial report and shared how they had used some of the money gained from harvesting the maize in the first round to enable seven people (including some of the men) to attend Uganda Yearly Meeting sessions. (In the past they did not attend, always claiming they had no transport). They will be harvesting their groundnuts (peanuts) this coming week and hopefully at least two women can come attend the women’s annual conference later in December.
Today we returned to Kakamega in order to repack and get ready to travel to Tanzania to attend their USFW Annual Women’s Conference. Pamela Ngoya and Judith Nandikove from Nairobi YM will accompany me.
Thanks for all your prayers that enabled us to travel safely and see some improvements in Uganda.