Marian Baker

From board member Marian Baker: Youth in Uganda

On the 5th of January, I bought a piece of cheese and Elizabeth and I feasted on it with freshly baked bread. (Cheese is not a commonly available item).
On the 6th, I went to visit the Malava Yearly Meeting Pastors Conference. Found a headmistress of a school giving a lesson on how to support pastors and then afterwards when she found I had been headmistress of Malava when Daniel Arap Moi, vice President of Kenya at the time came to the school. She was a small girl and she walked away from home several kilometers to see the president. She was so impressed at how Salome Nolega David, (Headmistress of Lugulu Girls High School and Chair of the Board at Malava), was able to stand up and speak to the president, that she decided she wanted to become educated like Salome, and now she is head of a school herself, encouraging other girls.

To get to the conference, I had to walk or take a piki on an extremely dusty road and the dust was overwhelming. Elizabeth welcomed me back with a cup of hot tea and the last of the Christmas cake she had made. It was very appropriate as it was the twelfth day of Christmas (Three kings Day) as well as my birthday. Found the local plums are now in season.

On Sunday, I visited Carol Musimbi and Kefinko Friends Church in Kakamgea. It was a large church, royally decorated with purple and white cloths. It had many youth, but unfortunately the keyboard was so loud that we couldn’t hear a word of what the singers sang, even though they all had mics and were singing at the top of their lungs. The church had been built by women, but men have since taken over the leadership and they ignore the women who are trained pastors in the congregation.

On the 7th I met with my support committee. Margaret Amudavi was back from USA. She was impressed how ecumenical some Friends are in USA and when I shared how Women’s World Day of Prayer is an ecumenical event, they decided to try to encourage all Friends women to reach out to other neighboring churches rather than each denomination holding separate services.

Afterwards, the three pastors who are officers of USFWK pastors went to the local bank to open an account for their travel funds. They were unsuccessful, as USFWK has not yet registered as an organization- it is still under the FCK (Friends Church Kenya), led by men. We will keep looking for ways to get an account opened.

After a day of resting and washing, I travelled with Eileen Malova and Alfred Wasike, General Secretary of Uganda YM who is studying at FTC in Kenya, to Semuto, Uganda. We crossed the Nile river in Jinja where many crested cranes and both black and white herons/egrets were seen on the mat of water hyacinths. When we reached Kampala, we had to change from one bus park to one across the city. It was rush hour and too far to walk with luggage, so we had to go on pikis that go fast in and out of the congested traffic. Praise God we arrived safely and were warmly welcomed that night in Semuto Friends, an hour north of Kampala. A team of youth from Kigali, Rwanda then arrived, then another team from Kakamega, Kenya. We were given supper of jack fruit, matoka, greens, and eggplant with a sesame sauce- yum. One person from Nairobi and one from Burundi came the next day. (Peter the youth leader is skilled in communicating via social media).

The conference had many young people who loved to sing loudly with a keyboard and to dance. The volume was so loud that you could not hear if the person next to you tried to talk. The drums and loud music are fine to dance to and get exercise or to let people know the service has started, but I do not find it conducive to hearing God speak to us. When a number of the people on the program were not showing up, I felt led to offer to teach the lesson on Quaker Faith and Practice, but the elder assigned actually showed up. Instead they asked me suddenly to give a short testimony, and I was conflicted between following a leading to teach and just giving a testimony, so failed to communicate well and with multiple translations it made it harder. (There were five languages being used, English, Buganda, Rwandese, Bukusu, and Swahili.) That night I arranged with a piki driver to collect me at 5:30 am so I could get the 6AM bus).

I awoke early and left the house. The piki didn’t show and had turned off his phone. Thus, I
had to walk in the dark to the town bus stop (about 20 minutes away). Evidently Ugandans walk freely at night and do their shopping and business then, very different from Kenyans. The matatu driver made sure that Alfred had arrived and even were willing to wait for us. We took several matatus and got up to Kigumba (on main road to Gulu and Lira) by noon. Enroute, I saw long tailed monkeys, black crested harriers and egrets, and found maribou storks walking right up to people who sell roasted meat on sticks, (as if to say “where’s my share?”) Kigumba Friends are located abutting a national park that has a sanctuary for rhinos.

We had tried to get Friends at Kigumba to join in with other Friends in Uganda, but the elder pastor had refused to allow any women to attend the leadership conferences, any young man to train at FTC or any woman or younger man to attend the Sunday school teacher training, even when full sponsorship was offered. We did not visit the elder. Instead we used contacts given us by a young man who on his own came to Uganda YM and is now training at FTC. We met with the brand-new Headmistress of Nyama Friends School and the new Board Chairman. (Nyama is Swahili for meat and it is the area which has the Acholi cows with horns that are over a meter long). Both the H/M and board chair are not Friends but very interested in learning more about Friends and having the Friends play a more active role in the school and community. The school has more girls than boys and the girls score best in the national exams. There are 12 acres at the school and 20 acres next to the permanent meetinghouse owned by Friends. If we can get a group of FTC students or a team from Semuto to work with the new pastor and collect the Friends together, there is much potential growth of the church in the area. We cheerfully arrived back in Semuto just as others were finishing the evening meal.

The main speaker of the youth conference, Stephen Wamboka from Mutoto Meeting in Mbale and a grad of FTC, gave very helpful sermons to the youth, challenging them on what is driving them and he even used Obama’s phrase of “we can do it”- teaching as well as preaching. Then the Semuto youth and women showed how they have fun raising funds for their building. Instead of trying to force people to give, they instead choose one woman to represent women and one man to represent men. They have them sit in front with one person to act like a bridesmaid or best man. They put a colorful wrapped present between them and say it will be given to which ever person raises the most money. The two groups then bring offerings, dancing and singing with joy down the aisles as they do it. When they paused to add up the totals, the men included some money raised in different currencies and challenged the women to figure out their value in Ugandan shillings. The women won, but then the loser was to kneel down to present the gift to the winner. In Ugandan custom, only the women kneel, so the men had to raise more money to get a woman who would kneel on their behalf. Then they all ended dancing in joy- wiggling their buttocks Uganda style, as they had raised over 400 thousand shillings (close to $1000 or 10,000 Kenya shillings). We were given beautiful silk Uganda style dresses by our host women!

We came home yesterday, (a twelve-hour journey) and arrived in Kakamega by 6PM. I found Elizabeth had received a cute kitten needed for catching rats and mice, and was greeted with the news that they had had two heavy rainstorms, so were able to gather lots of rain water.

Thanks for all your prayers. We could not have managed to get through Kampala on those pikis without prayer. It’s time to rest and wash up before any other travelling.