Philip informed us today that he was taking an intense trip to the islands which would involve taking a ferry with crowded boats and long sweaty bumpy travel on road. David and I opted out for today so that I could assist Lana and help her shop for her baby and get acquainted with the marketplace, while Robert and Joshua went to the islands with Philip to minister to the churches there.
On Friday, Philip, Joshua and I left the hotel shortly after 5 a.m. to catch a ferry to one of the islands in Lake Victoria. We journeyed by car for a little more than an hour to reach the ferry landing site, picking Pastor Moses up along the way. Once there, we met Pastor Steven and others joining us for the journey. We registered for the ride across the lake, providing our names, addresses and other information. Philip explained that passengers have to register because many criminals go to the island to hide from authorities. The crossing took nearly an hour and we were accompanied by at least 100 others heading to the island.
Once across, arrangements were made for a car and boda-boda, motorcycle taxis, to take us to the first fishing village. Along the way we found a prison work detail clearing cassava from the land. We stopped to see if we could pray with them, but we were told we could not. However, the guard gave Philip instructions on how to arrange time to come to the prison to do so.
We continued on to the first village. When we arrived we found a small number of men mending their nets along the shore. It could have easily been a scene from the Bible with Jesus calling the men to follow. As we walked through the village we found a couple men thatching the roof of a hut, with others sitting in what appeared to be a bar drinking an alcohol brewed from sugarcane. We went to the church for a short meeting where we were greeted by a number of individuals. They showed us baskets the women were learning to weave and beaded purses, crafts they hope they can sell to improve their lives. Joshua passed out toothbrushes and toothpaste for the women along with a number of bibles for those who could read English.
We then left for our second visit of the day, another fishing village about 45 minutes away. When we arrived we were immediately taken to an enclosed “room”, a room with tarps for a ceiling, on the back of a hut for lunch. The door to this tiny enclosure opened onto the beach where we could see young girls beating their clothes against the rocks as they washed them. After a quick meal we went to the church and were welcomed by both community and church leaders.
We then began a long journey home as we each contemplated what we experienced. Two communities with some of the most extreme poverty I’ve ever seen. The second seemed to be more prosperous than the first as some seemed to at least have a second set of clothes, but in these conditions that is of little relevance. Children in both were without necessary food or clothing and disease runs rampant. Philip shared that HIV and AIDS has spread to about 80 percent of the island’s population due to prostitution, and with weakened immune systems they are left vulnerable to many other diseases.
As Joshua and I tried to process what we found we realized that there is little that we can share to fully explain the desperation and need. But we also saw a glimmer of light in each community through the work of those dedicated to sharing the gospel of Christ, and a need for that gospel to be presented thru Luganda bibles.