Beyond the Nile
By Don Dewey in on October 28, 2011
“We have a saying concerning visitors to our country: If you go beyond the Nile, you’ll be back.”
The Nile River begins in Uganda very near the Equator, and winds it way northward from Lake Victoria through eight countries on its 4000-mile journey to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. The source of the Nile, at Jinja, is about an hour east of Kampala.
“Crossing the Nile” means leaving the capital city, with its contrasting images of modern office buildings and ramshackle slums, and entering a very different world of small villages surrounded by fields of tea, sugar cane and, further up the hills, coffee plants.
In the hills east of Jinja is a heavily wooded area where Idi Amin sent many thousands of his fellow countrymen to die, a sobering reminder of the nation’s not too distant past.
Our first week in Uganda was spent living and working in several large hotels, where familiar names on the daily meeting schedule ranged from Deloitte and KPMG to World Vision and the East African Development Bank. The food was good and the staff was very helpful. Organizing the meeting rooms and making sure we had the right converter/adapters for the electrical outlets were expected components of the set-up, but in retrospect the issues of adjustment were pretty simple.
Crossing the Nile, however, brought us a bit closer to the realities of village life, and what it will take for our workshop participants—from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania—to adapt the Lead Like Jesus training to their various audiences. Our home for those three days was a small but very accommodating hotel and meeting facility in Iganga. On our first evening there, we had just gathered for a team meeting when suddenly the place went dark. We soon discovered that this was not an unusual occurrence, and we learned to adapt. We also came to appreciate the able translators working alongside our facilitators (for this audience, English is a second language, while their heart language is one of nearly a dozen Bantu dialects, or Swahili).
Our last day in Iganga (as it had been in Kampala) was devoted to facilitator training—equipping a group of about 50 pastors, priests and other leaders to begin to lead the same Encounter workshop that they had experienced over the previous two days. We were humbled and encouraged by their commitment and creativity. As one of the pastors explained to me, the villages she works in do not have electricity (forget the PowerPoints and videos) and the women she’ll be training don’t read or write (won’t need the manuals, no matter what language they’re in). She and her colleagues, however, saw none of this as a significant barrier to learning and transformation. The discussion went instead to developing a team of co-facilitators (in this case, Anglican, Methodist and Pentecostal, working together for the first time), and getting started as soon as possible.
Clearly, they’ve caught the vision and are moving ahead, so we probably won’t need to go back.
We just want to. These dear people have become family.
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