|Wake Up Barbara!
And Help Me Find This Snake!
The Islands in Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is a huge fresh water lake, second only in size to our own Lake Superior, and Uganda is fortunate to be one of the African countries that borders it.
There is a large number of islands on it and the inhabitants are sustained by the fishing industry. Fresh fish is sent to the mainland to be flash frozen for export, and the islanders preserve fish by a smoking process. These taste amazingly good. The people living on these islands are very reliant on their catches since it is their total source of revenue.
On one of many visits to Uganda some local Christian workers shared their concerns regards helping these people, especially the children. A school had been started on the island of Jana at one time, but had since been abandoned. These workers felt that a multi-purpose building that could be used for a church, school and a community center would be of great benefit to the inhabitants. A large crop of orphans was expected in a few years as almost all the adults were H.I.V. positive.
One of these church workers made the statement that if we were concerned enough to come from Canada to offer help, surely the least they could do was go to these islands and help the people. This struck a chord in our hearts.
We arranged to go with these workers to see the situation for ourselves so we hired a boat and got an early start. Uganda being on the equator, we knew it would be hot.
We arrived early at the designated spot and with high expectations, we watched boat after boat arrive and unload their catches, but none came for us. It seemed to get hotter by the minute and we hugged every inch of shade we could find while the hours dragged by. North Americans are so programmed to promptness but we were learning a lesson – Africa runs by a different time clock. Eventually our transportation showed up and we were on our way.
It was a long ride, some three hours one way, and we had to bail out water all the way, so we were relieved when we sighted land. There are no docks, so getting off the boat was another challenge. Some jumped, others waded and the ladies were carried.
People seemed to appear out of nowhere with smiles and greetings. The young bare-footed children insisted on putting our belongings on their heads and headed up a steep path like mountain goats, while we puffed and panted behind, stopping many times to catch a breath. This is when you are aware of the altitude even though it is only 4,000 feet above sea level.
Introductions were made and we were told a meal had been prepared for us. I busied myself giving the children balloons, suckers, etc., with which the children were delighted.
The meal consisted of smoked fish, Irish potatoes and roasted corn. It tasted wonderful.
We were shown the now derelict school-house and the current church, which consisted of six large tree stumps and a roof of corrugated iron. My husband was asked to pray in this very humble edifice and the tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought once more of our blessings. I knew my husband was once more about to respond to yet another challenge.
Our first concern was, if possible, to get our own boat with a good motor so as not to be dependent on other transportation. This was confirmed when we heard that just days before, an overloaded boat had gone down and about sixty people were drowned.
It wasn’t long before an American friend said, “Find out the cost,” and the deed was done. It is a long hand-made wooden boat which holds about twenty people. Probably about the same type of boat that Christ’s disciples used. In fact, it has been named, “The Peter.” The 40 h.p. motor makes all the difference, reducing the travel time by at least an hour.
Last spring a group of people from N. Ireland decided to go out and do the building, and The Upper Room – Canada paid for the material. My husband on his recent trip brought back a picture of the building along with the report that it is being well used. About 35 to 40 people are attending the church and around 50 children have started school. Two teachers and a Christian worker have also been supplied. Two more islands have now been reached and so the work continues.