Last Saturday, I received a text from my neighbour, Samalie, informing me that her two youngest children, Ethan who is 1 1/2 years old and Julia who is 5 months old were going to be dedicated. But I had many questions… in what church was the ceremony going to take place? And was the text an invitation to the ceremony? And if so what was I expected to do or bring? The person I usually go to for information on Ugandan culture has been Samalie … so do I ask her these questions? I first spoke to the staff at the clinic and was given a variety of answers from the text was not an invitation to yes it was and I was expected to attend and give a gift of money.

I presented myself at the home of Samalie and was greeted with “Can you come?” So that answered my first question and then she told me the children were going to be dedicated by her husband in the remove village of Kamuli (came-moo-lee). I just learned that the word kamuli is the name of a type of small flower….Anyway, PJ, Samalie’s husband has been working in the village to build a church and a school for a number of years. I remember hearing stories of the road and how it has been impassable during the rainy season … and we are in the rainy season but the rains have not been too terrible and in fact the weather has been hot and dry most of the time. I was hoping that meant the road was good.

Samalie told me that they were going out that afternoon and I was welcome to come…. but if I wanted to I could come on Sunday and she would check and see if Mugabi would go with me. Finally, she told me that I did not need to bring a single thing….. Late that afternoon a vehicle was loaded up with them all including a goat. They did not return so had to assume the road was O.K…….

On Sunday morning, I was up and ready by 8:30 am…. and it was not until 10:45 that Mugabi arrived at my door with his two children all ready to depart. It took us just under one hour to follow the winding red dirt road with ruts or potholes so deep that you could destroy your undercarriage, your shocks and have a wheel disappear forever. It was a slow trip but the scenery was breathtaking…. rolls hills with one garden of matoke or Irish potatoes after another… It seemed like every square foot of ground was under cultivation. We arrived at 11:55 to the sound of singing. The service had begun.

Of course, Mugabi and I were guests of honour and we were directed by a lovely young man to seats at the front of the church. The building was constructed of locally made bricks with opening for future additions of windows and doors. The place was filled with smartly dressed young men and women, old men and women and lots and lots of children. I quickly learned that it was not just the dedication of Ethan and Julia but it was opportunity for each and every parent to dedicate their child or children. There were at least three choirs who sang praises…. one of them had on red T-shirts with the Canadian flag on the back. I could not help but smile……

I was exciting to hear PJ when he spoke about how children are a gift from God and they are not to be used or abused but treated as a very precious gift….treated well, given every opportunity for learning and education. The teaching was translated into two languages as well as English. The teaching, praise and worship, dedication of more than 20 infants and children was a very exciting and emotional time for me ……the service ended with lots of singing and praise just after 3 pm.

As this was a very special day there was food served afterwards. As a guest of honour, I was seated at a table at the front of the church and served some of the best food I have ever had in Uganda. They handed me a plate of rice with beef, greens, goat and cabbage. The beef and goat had been roasted and were positively delicious. The greens are some leafy plant they pan fry and the cabbage is wonderful…. I could not believe the amount of food I eat…… but it was truly a significant party when sodas are provided and I got a bottle of my favourite called Stoney.

After the service was over many members of the congregation found someone to translate and asked me numerous questions including how old I was …. they thought I was 70 (I was not sure that was a compliment) and did I have extensions in my hair… they wanted to touch it. They asked about Canada and my work in Kibaale with Samalie. It was very interesting to hear the sort of questions they were asking…. It was very clear that they did not know anything about Canada nor the fact I was the only white person living in Kibaale.

This little village is situated on top of a hill facing south towards Tanzania which is only a few miles away. It was a nice comfortable sunny day and an amazing opportunity to experience some more of Ugandan culture and see more of true rural Uganda. I was blessed.

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