March 3, 2013
2 days before hiking to see the gorillas I had one of those great cultural experiences. Seith's dad asked me about 10:30 am if I would like to go to church with him. Caught by surprise but realizing what a unique experience this would be , I agreed. As we left Seith's dad told the cooks we would be back for lunch at 1:00 pm. We walked the 2 miles to the church and arrived just as they were beginning. We sat in the back but word quickly spread through the congregation that there was a muzunga (white traveler) in the church. The stares back towards me quickly became frequent. Small children who just roam the aisles quickly decided that my aisle was the one to frequent. Seith's dad (can't remember or pronounce his name) acted as a translator throughout the singing, testimony and sermon. While almost everyone speaks English most speak their own tribal language when possible.
A special group had come from Kisoro to sing for the church. Afterwards, one of the singers gave her testimony to the atrocities that happened to her afer her husband died leaving her with a small child and how God stepped in to help her when she thought there was no hope. This testimony lasted a long time. Then more singing which lasted a long time. By this time a man moved next to me on the other side and told me he would translate for me. Now I have Stereo translation with both giving me the play by play of the singing and sermon which was to come. This was a Protestant Church but there seemed to be a two people addressing the church with one in a robe who gave the sermon. The sermon, even in Stereo, was very long. Seith's dad had given me a coin and paper to wrap it in to give as a tithe. I told him I would give me own money and thanked him. I wrapped it in the small piece of paper and followed him to the front of the church to give it to one of the 5 people in the front. He said we would give it to his wife who was one of the five. Then there was more singing. And then he said they would do a Thanksgiving for those who were blessed who would like to donate. I immediately walked up to the front and deposited some money into the Thanksgiving plate. Caught Seith's dad off guard because he quickly came up after me, made a donation and said that there would be a small prayer while we were up there to ask God to accept our offering. The sermon was a little unusual or maybe it was the translation. They talked a lot about witchcraft and people who were possessed by witchcraft. On a hike the previous day my guide showed me a tree which is used to make a brew to remove witchcraft from those possessed. I kept asking if he was talking about evil but he never would tie the two together completely. Some locals worship a particular tree but the practice is becoming less common.
After the services, I was requested to meet with some of the congregation outside. They were very happy to meet me and all spoke English. Finally time to go back the 2 miles and eat lunch as I was starving. Of course, it was 3PM . 5 Hrs in church. Seems it ran a little long. The word of my church attendance quickly spread throughout the villages and on my many walks many would say hi and said they heard about me going to church. Seems I am the 1st Muzunga to every attend a church service in the area and the fact that I tithed and donated to Thanksgiving made it more impressive to them. Great experience.