It was amisty-moisty morning, to coin a phrase. 100 yards out from the road, we could only see silhouettes. As we went up the mountain we got a textbook view of "fog in low-lying areas."
The roadside markets were missing today. On our way into Muko, we passed families on their way to church. The women wore brightly colored long dresses, some of them in a traditional style. Babies are tied onto their mother's back with long sashes. Most of the men wore suit and tie. Most people were walking, but many waited at the side of the road for transport and others rode bicycles or boda-bodas (motorcycles), sometimes precariously overloaded, to Western eyes.
The ACT team divided -- some of us went to a Catholic church and others went to an Anglican church. I will report from the Anglican Church; Lisa Corso and Nancy Silvey will report from the Catholic Church.
As soon as we arrived at the Rwaburindi Anglican Church, we were invited to breakfast with the minister in his home. We were served bananas and African tea -- black tea (a different flavor from what we're used to) with hot milk. The house was wattle and daub (common construction inthe area).
The summons to church is drums. We were kept outside until the church was full, then the drums began and we were brought in down the middle aisle and seated in front -- honored guests.
The beginning of the service included hymns, prayers, the Apostles' Creed, and some other recitations. The music was a Capella, accompanied only by drums and a rhythm instrument (narrow board with handle, 4 nails above the handle on either side, holding 4 bottle caps each). Usually, the first line of a hymn was sung and then everyone joined in, singing andclapping. All of the hymns were sung from memory. No "frozen chosen" here -- everyone was into the music, clapping and dancing.
When it was time for announcements, we were each asked to introduce ourselves. Every announcement was answered by a syncopated clap. The children all came forward to sing (two songs in two languages) and dance at the end of the announcements.
The main message was delivered by a lay leader who spoke for 45 minutes without notes. Guma, the ACT staff director, stood by the pulpit and translated for us. She began with a testimonial, and used several analogies to illustrate at least three different themes; one major one involved HIV Aids. Her stories were punctuated with alleluias, which were answered with Amens from the congregation. The minister followed up with summary comments (as far as we could tell).
A couple who were married last week were formally introduced and escorted by singing and dancing into the church and seated in the very front.
There were two offerings, at two different times. One was the regular offering; the other was a special thanksgiving offering to raise money for choir robes and improvements to the church building. The people collecting the money stood at the front with baskets and congregants came forward with their money. Some people returned to their seats, but many stayed up front and danced. The dancing started out as swaying, but rapidly accelerated to jumping and leaping until the dancers were literally raising the dust. (The floor was concrete, but there as a layer of packed dirt on top.) See the ACT Uganda FaceBook page for a video! Note: this may or may not be possible immediately -- we couldn't get a connection this morning, so we're not sure when we can get back online.
When the formal offerings were finished, it was time for the auction. Individuals bring items to auction off as part of the offering. On offer were bags of beans, bags of millet, eggs (1 or 2 at a time), 2 avocados, several ears of corn... The auctioneer would hold up an item and describe it; the drummer would drum it in. Then the bidding would start. Each bid was drummed in and then the auctioneer (the bridegroom) would try to get a better bid. The winning bid was announced by the syncopated rhythmic clapping. Early on, someone won the bid and then gave his winnings to the bride. This was very popular and was emulated several times. Dave Molzahn won the bid on a bag of dry beans; Sheryl won a bag of wheat, which she donated to the bride. Given that we had seen women with large, flat, oval baskets winnowing wheat, this was not an inconsiderable gift! After a while Guma took over the auctioneer's job. He started with a large bunch of bananas. Josiah offered 2,000 shillings, which Guma said would be appropriate for one banana and the competition was on. We didn't win the bananas, so we determined to try harder for the bag of passion fruit. The bride and bridegroom announced they were hungry and they wanted it, then Guma "fined" the Americans 1,000 shillings each for not adequately supporting him in his bid against them. We paid our fine and doubled it; the bridegroom started collecting from the congregants. This went on for quite some time, until we finally won in a show-down bid with an agreement that the money from both sides would be given to the church, no matter who won. We bid 76,000 shillings to the bridegroom's 55,000; the church did well! And then Josiah gave the passion fruit to the church too. (We were a little disappointed at that...) A short time later, Richard handed each of us an ear of corn, then announced that we owed 1000 shillings each for it. We paid up, but somehow the corn ended up being given back to the church too. All in all it was great fun.
Just before we left, Guma and Sue announced that ACT would be donating six choir robes to the church. We had brought robes with us, not knowing that this particular church was in need. This, of course, occasioned another round of dancing.
The service began at 11:00. We left at 2:45, but the service wasn't over. We don't know how much longer it might have gone on, but we do know that such long services are the norm.
Report from Lisa Corso and Nancy Silvey:
We were able to surprise Fr. John Vianney when we arrived to celebrate mass at Muko Catholic Church. As there was also a group from his previous parish in Kabale, it was standing room only! The Kabale group brought a gift of 12 bags of cement for the new priest's house they are building. At the end of the mass the choir (who wore beautiful yellow and white dresses) did a traditional song and dance for us.
The ACT visitors were asked to introduce themselves; Generous translated. At the end, she asked if Francis Girukwayo, one of our orphans was there. He was, but the crowd was so big, it took awhile for him to make his way forward. Karen was so excited to see him, she choked up as she introduced him to the congregation as, "Francis, my son!"
The children kept creeping closer, like leapfrog. If we smiled, they'd turn away, but by the end we were almost totally engulfed for the "grin and greet" moments.
Fr. John spoke about how appreciative they are for ACT and all we do, After the scripture reading, he summarized both the Old and New Testament readings in English. He also threw some bits of English into the sermon.