We separated at Jinja and Ken drove the team heading for Apac (Brian, Heather, Chris and Andrew ) to PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) office in Kampala. At first nobody seemed to be expecting us - perhaps because we were EARLY; that must be a first! Pastor Timothy welcomed us, made a couple of phone calls and established that everything was in order and a driver was on his way. We set off in the capable hands of Michael at 11.20. Michael had travelled all the way from Soroti yesterday to collect us.
We passed some dismal looking slums, on the way out of Kampala, but then we were on a good clear road north. Just one set of roadworks then we turned off to the Masindi ferry. We won't see any more tarmac roads for a while. We saw the ferry leaving just as we arrived, so we had to wait an hour for the next one. A sign proclaimed that "it is illegal to pay for crossing" but we did have to register, including providing a phone number for next of kin!
It was another 2 hours on red African dirt roads to Apac and we arrived at 6.30, ten hours after leaving Jinja. The hotel is clean but basic (cold water only. Our rooms are individual round lodges.
We had an enthusiastic, warm welcome from Bishop Richard, Pastor Geoffrey and Jane (national director for PEP). They greeted us as friends, and send warm wishes to all at St James. Richard and his family welcomed us into their home for dinner. Andrew was touched to see a framed picture of his family proudly on display!
Tuesday morning started with breakfast at Bishop Richard's house - chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, bananas and oranges from the garden. We heard from Geoffrey and Richard about the progress of the PEP project that we support. (PEP - Participatory Evaluation Process - is the programme, based on bible studies, of mobilising the churches to use the resources they have available and reach out to the community.) The project, in 6 assemblies (groups of a few churches), is making good progress, and they are looking to "disciples" in the current churches to disseminate the training to further churches.
Killon, Richard's eldest son, described how, inspired by PEP, he has established Mara High School in Apac. It is a Christian school offering holistic education. Fees are reduced for pastor's children and orphans and vulnerable children. We were inspired by the story. He told enthusiastically of the use the school has made of the 2 footballs given by "Pastor Martin" and his friend Paul when they visited by motor bike.
On the way from the Bishop's, we saw the offices that are being built for the church - they have raised money and done much of the work themselves, but still need to raise more for the roof. Then we stopped at Pastor Geoffrey's new house; he is now full-time PEP Coordinator and no longer pastors the church in Apac, so has moved out of the Pastor's house in the Church grounds. Some of you will remember that on our first visit to Apac in 2012, Pastor Geoffrey gave Martin and Andrew two chickens, which they named Eve and Catherine, but left with Geoffrey to look after. We saw Eve (2); Catherine was hiding, but we saw her children! Next we visited Mara school and received the usual warm welcome with singing, poetry and dancing.
We set off for the church at Loro at 12.30, feeling bad that they were expecting us at midday, and we had a 90 min drive to reach them. I don't think we have arrived anywhere at the planned time - that is African time. We stopped on the way to meet Pastor Geoffrey (another one) who described how his life and livelihood had been transformed by PEP. He is planning to retire soon, but for a retirement that is productive and continues to serve God and the community faithfully. He has plans to plant, among other things, 10,000 pine trees, 5,000 eucalyptus, mangos, bananas… and the list went on!
Apac district is the mosquito and malaria hotspot of the world. On our journey we passed some of the swamps that are the reason for that. In some places the swamp merged with the road - we were very grateful for the 4wd land cruisers and our expert drivers. In one particularly deep and slippery pothole Chris was frightened that he was about to get wet feet.
We finally reached Loro church at 2.30. The people were faithfully waiting for us, and Pastor Bonny and his congregation greeted us as friends. We noticed from an "agenda" on the wall that their Sunday service starts at 6.30 am and runs for 4 hours. They too send their greetings to St James. We heard beautiful African singing, and several testimonies from church members. One told us how they used to expect handouts from the government, but that PEP has taught them to use their own resources. Also that the church, which used to focus only on preaching, has prospered and grown now that it also gives priority practical service to members and non-members alike. Two people living positively (i.e. with HIV/AIDS) told how groups of people with HIV support each other and that they are also accepted and supported by the rest of the church. We also heard of growing improved crops, animal rearing, small businesses, enlightened minds, new, permanent church buildings (we were sitting in one) and much more. This was a joyful church, aiming to be salt and light in the community. Andrew shared briefly from Romans 12:3 about transformed lives. The transformation comes from inside, and is a result of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
I need to mention Jane Achaloi; she is the national PEP director for PAG. She is an awesome, godly and lovely lady and she has accompanied us on our trip to Apac. Pastor Geoffrey described her as "President PEP - she lives and breathes PEP". Jane herself said she has received several offers of other jobs, but that she "can't imagine doing anything else. I enjoy it so much. When people do PEP they become free and they glorify God."
We were served "lunch" at about 4.30. After saying our goodbyes Bishop Richard, Pastor Geoffrey and Killon set of for home, choosing a longer route that avoided the worst of the swamp, the rest of us travelled to Loro and are staying at the Gracious Palace hotel before returning to Kampala tomorrow.