Again I am sitting in Chicago airport on my long (30hr) journey home from Uganda considering the many and varied happenings over the past week. It has been quite an experience to say the least, perhaps one of the most bizarre weeks of my life. So as I wait for my plane back to KC, I will try and recount all that has gone on. I have been up for over 40 hours at this point so my lucidity may not be stellar but here goes.
The week began when we arrived at Entebbe Airport; greeted on the tarmac by the film crew no less. After a brief round of introductions (in addition to Roger we met the DP, Derek and also an Englishman – Crispin Buxton who was location manager for The Last King of Scotland) off we went and arrived at the guesthouse of Ron and Shirley DeVore which had a fantastic view overlooking Kampala. After getting to bed at 3am we were on the road again by noon. This time travelling east, as I was being followed by the cameras and passing the baton to Jesse and Rachelle Digges, I did a quick interview with Jesse and Rachelle as we drove along. I was saddened to learn along the way that the Bujagali Falls (some of the best rapids in East Africa) were being flooded that week and would therefore disappear. We had arrived during rainy season therefore the entire week was interspersed by heavy downpours. We arrived at the base of Youth Ablaze in Tororo a little after sun set. Jesse and Rachelle have a great work here raising up native missionaries to go and reach unreached people groups that can be found within a short distance, in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia
Our first day in Tororo saw the Youth Ablaze team and the ACTS students using a new location for the Prayer Room. The Prayer Room is central to the raising and sending of native missionaries, and although they still need to actually buy premises, the new Prayer Room space is a great area even if a little AC would help J. Towards the end of the day we undertook an interview with Jesse and Rachelle. I believe the ministry they are doing in East Africa is definitely worth supporting in prayer and financially.
The second full day in Tororo saw many of the students stripping paint off the walls of the prayer room. Here I met an English guy who actually came from the North East of England and had been at my sister’s wedding last year. This would not be my only encounter in Uganda for me to exclaim “Small World”. While the students were stripping paint I went off with Jesse to pick up 500 Bibles which had been recently (this year) translated into the Karamajong language. Karamajong is a native tribe similar to the Masai in Kenya known for their tribal violence. We also did some more interviewing in the Tororo market. The last day in Eastern Uganda saw us pack up and head north into a much more rural setting, with the ACTS students getting their first taste of “hut to hut” evangelism; talking with and praying with a number of local people. We left as Jesse and the team were beginning a small crusade.
I travelled back with the film crew to Kampala, little did I know the firestorm we were about to enter. I was traveling with the crew for a number of reasons, firstly anytime I have an opportunity to share with others the passion I have for Jesus I am happy. Secondly I wanted to introduce the crew to a number of calm and credible voices in Uganda. I love this country and I love the church, however the church is like a family and if someone has met your crazy aunt or your obnoxious second cousin you really want them to meet your wise uncle or your uber-cool sister to get a fuller understanding of your family. However my ability to make introductions was hampered significantly due to a number of factors. A number of emails were flying around Kampala warning Pastors away from the crew who had a “pro-gay” agenda. A few major factors encouraged the leeriness. Firstly the BBC had created a sensational piece last year entitled “The World’s Worst Place to be Gay”. Secondly there had been a number of unfortunate email interactions between the crew and one pastor in particular. I found myself in an unusual position. I was travelling with a crew who represented main stream media and all the assumptions and world view contained therein and recommending that church leaders were interviewed.
I am aware of the furore over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and have been told that while the documentary would include reference and debate over the bill it would not be the main focus. I am also aware of how fluid documentary making can be. I went to one of my Pastor friends who leads perhaps the biggest church in Kampala, they did not want to be a part due to the BBC documentary which vilified them and as a result they lost financial support for their orphan program. These were legitimate concerns indeed. I completely understand them. For me however I really wanted to take the Sermon on the Mount approach, that even if we were misrepresented Jesus told his disciples that if an evil man sues you for your tunic you should give him your cloak as well. We were told to go the extra mile for an evil man. I realise that my reputation doesn’t matter, Jono is dead and is now alive in Christ, I want his fame to be made great and I also want to be faithful to follow his commands.
One thing that struck me was the fact that everyone said the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was to protect young people from Pedophilic Rape. I needed to read the Bill for myself. I subsequently did and will blog my response to the bill. I did have some success in introducing the crew to certain individuals. However I have felt in a very strange position over the past week. Overall my feeling is that I want to be true to Jesus as it relates to speaking truth in love. It is hard to speak truth in an age of relativism and it is hard to love in an environment of hate or indifference. Yet we are called to follow Jesus in this narrow path.
I ask that you would continue to pray for this project that as the decisions of the narrative of the film are made Roger would avoid polarized positions and seek to bring greater understanding to the motivations of Christianity even if people do not agree.