By Alex Taremwa
With a mission to educate, accommodate, feed and nurture with the love of Christ the community of vulnerable children in Uganda, Juna Amagara Ministries Mbarara Chapter was founded in 2008. A week ago, a group of about 20 youth organized under a program dubbed Amagara Bible Institute of Discipleship and Evangelism (ABIDE) recently set out on a mission to visit the North Eastern Region of Karamoja to primarily spread the work of God and among others do humanitarian outreach programs like food, clothing supplies and offer moral support to the resident population.
According to Masiko Edson; the President ABIDE Alumni Association, the Karamoja area became prioritized due to the historical stereotypes of its backwardness and consistent suffering of famine endemic that had dominated the media space over the decades.
“That places is consistently dry and always famine laden. As ABIDE, we thought it important to reach out to them in all the possible ways we could and we did,” he said.
He added that there was need to show people alternative ways of life because stories of remoteness, Female Genital Mutilation and very low levels of education inspired our move to meet these spiritually underserved people.
ABIDE is Youth Fellowship organization under the Juna Amagara Ministries which was founded in 2008 by a Resident Missionary of an American origin Mathew Kehn to offer holiday and vacation students training and skills in virtues of leadership and character and evangelism, the program now comprises of over 200 members mostly students.
It core values, vision and mission of its founder was to give alternative platforms to the youth to have self-motivated potential to explore greater heights in serving the Lord. At least over 100 youth have already graduated from this program and currently they are embodied in another organisation called the ABIDE Alumni Association.
Besides the mother branch located in Nkokonjeru Mbarara in Uganda, ABIDE also has set up branches in Kabale, Mbale and is in secondary stages of completing another in the Northern Uganda District of Arua.
The association has so far done several missions county wide with the most recent being the week-long visit to the dusty, hilly, hot, famine laden side of North Eastern Uganda; a society that knew not of Jesus and always relied on Mountains and Rocks for divinity, salvation and spiritual solutions that seem beyond human control.
In this article, I seek to explore the impact, significance and impression of this ABIDE Mission to both the Messengers and the targets of the intended message based on stories that I have been told.
Discussing the Impressions of the visit: As told by Edson Masiko
“We arrived on a day a woman had just delivered. In the culture of the K’jongs, when a woman delivers, she is abandoned where she has delivered for at least three days without either bathing, eating or clothing,” said Edson Masiko but when we arrived, everything was about to change.
We washed this woman, prayed for her, gave her clothes because we had gone with them for both her and there baby and when evening came for our debut prayer, we had her in church and this won us our very first vote of confidence.
We also realised that traditional culture still plays centre stage in the lives of these many people. When one is going to marry for example; he and friends time a girl when she’s gone to the well and they grab her to their house then they can sort issues with the parents later. This is of course in addition to the fact that education has penetrated the society that much and girls are forced by their parents to marry at tender ages of their lives.
“The boys on the contrary are groomed to be warriors with a very aggressive approach towards life. They actually warned us upon arrival to go slow on their women or we’ll have a rough time there.”
The other thing that we found prevalent but which has not been exposed is barter trade. The Karamajong a certain crop called “Bush-Rice” and it’s a staple food to their society. The grains which look similar to sorghum are grinded into flour on their rocks and trade the flour for something else they don’t have in their households.
We visited in a time of severe famine and drought to the extent that everyone we laid eyes on looked malnourished though the degree of malnutrition varied from a family to the other. Due to severe drought across the border in Kenya, the Turkana were forced to cross to Uganda and they had slaughtered a cow just down the hill and were trading beef for this bush rice flour.
“For 5kgs of Flour, you would take the whole thigh. Realising how cheap the meat was, I offered them Shs10, 000 for meat but they refused the money; they wanted flour. They suggested that I rather use the money to buy flour and I can use the flour to trade for meat and guess who was cutting the meat; women. Then men’s tasks were to receive the flour instead.”
The flour from bush rice isn’t simply use to make food alone. When fermented, the flour can make alcohol that is the source of survival to the livelihoods of so many. Some people including women confessed to drinking this local brew for breakfast, lunch and dinner they retired to bed. In such a society, a child as young as 4 years will have to survive on the same brew if they are to live to see their 5th birthday.
Activities covered: While in Kaabong District, the group was able to against all the odds pray for and baptize about 160 people. Besides prayer, other activities such as door to door visits to help those with physical challenges were done. Besides door to door, co-curricular activities such as football games and mountain climbing were also employed to involve the natives.
A member of the ABIDE initiative who talked to Daily Monitor said he had never been to a place like this in his life before. A society where children starve to death and men live simply on sips of alcohol was ethically a challenge to the faith of many.
“I couldn’t imagine in modern society people worshiping mountains and traditional gods; things we always learnt about as ancient are still existent in the Karamoja society,” Amon said.