Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Uganda Journal 2000

Uganda Journal 2000

By Stephen F. Noll

The following is a true and accurate account of the Uganda expedition of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll in January 2000. This is his second journey, the very first being last June and July. The third will follow later this summer when he and his wife Peggy take residence at the newly established Uganda Christian University in Mukono, near the shores of Lake Victoria, the promised land of Hannington and Stanley.

Tuesday, January 18

AFTER a bumpy 8-hour ride from London, the Boeing 777 touched down at Entebbe. Superficially, the weather resembled the overcast London I left. But immediately on deplaning, I felt the warm dampness of the tropics: not a bad feeling after six weeks of winter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I was met by Canon Dunstan Bukenya, the "University Secretary" or Provost of Uganda Christian University. I had met him last summer: a gangling man with a hearty laugh in a Kenyatta suit. (Later I saw an extremely well-built young man jogging along the University border. It was Dunstan’s son. "He’s a rugger," he explained.)

With Canon Bukenya was Lloyd Johnson, a retired lawyer from Silver Spring, Maryland, who is getting a look at the University with an eye to returning to teach a year from now as a "Venture in Mission" appointee of the Episcopal Church. He was dressed American-style: shorts and sandals. Lloyd had thought he had come along just to pick me up. Before long, he was to learn that he had a meeting with the Primate of All Uganda.

As we bounced along from Entebbe airport to Kampala, I thought: "This is my new country. Maybe I should have knelt down and kissed the tarmac. Naw!" The palm-lined road gave way to the red dust of Kampala, with its potholes, matatus (taxi vans) and poverty.

We engaged in a game of Archepiscopal tag, driving to two cathedrals (Namirembe and All Saints) and back looking for the archbishop. Finally, we found him at an appointments board meeting. He ushered us in and greeted us with obvious sincerity, "You are very welcome!" a phrase oft repeated in this land.

En route to the University, we drove directly into a Kampala traffic jam, from which you conclude that you will probably never emerge, alive at least. Washingtonians and Angelinos would recognize the situation, except for the crowds milling about the traffic. Later in the week, Lloyd reported seeing a woman with two infants approach the driver of his Church vehicle and offer him one of them. In another traffic incident, a thief reached through the window of a bishop’s stuck car and grabbed his briefcase, including cash he was taking to his diocese.

We arrived at the University at 2:30, almost five hours after the plane had landed. Adjust your watches, please, to African time!

My hosts, Bishop Eliphaz Maari and his wife Eunice, urged me to take a nap and were amazed when I appeared thirty minutes later. I explained the concept of the "power nap." To be honest, last time we came in on this flight, Peggy and I had slept for four straight hours. But the stopover in England definitely softened the jet-lag effect.

The Maaris live in a missionary house with a red, low-hanging roof right at the top of the hill that overlooks the University. There is a footpath directly down the hill to the main building, which dates from 1922, nine years after Bishop Tucker Theological College was founded. The Maaris were amused when I went up and down this path several times on errands having to do with email. I’d walk a mile for a Camel, the ads used to say before cigarettes fell out of favor. Now it’s "I’d walk a mile for an internet link!"

The afternoon had been rather stifling, hotter than I had remembered from my previous trip. The humidity off Lake Victoria is more noticeable here than on the hills of Kampala. Nevertheless by 5 o’clock, the temperature had come down enough so I could sit back and appreciate the beauty of the scene before me. The campus at Uganda Christian University is what I would call "paradisal." During the day, students sit out on the lawn and under palms studying or talking. "It’s like Adam and Eve, only with clothes," I commented to someone. Indeed the Africans are much more modestly dressed than their American counterparts. Not a jean in sight!

The sunset falls fast at the equator, but the final hour before dark is delicious. Bishop Maari and I sat on stumps in his front yard and chit-chatted about various matters of our coming to Mukono later in the year.

Not only does the sun go down at 7 p.m., but the lights go out. The Ugandan government rations power by cutting off electricity at 7 and back on at 10 p.m. The Maaris were ready with paraffin lamps, as they welcomed a delegation of staff members for supper of chicken, beef, roots, beans, potatoes, and matoke (think of stiff mashed potatoes and substitute unsweetened bananas). The first night I was not resting so much as wresting the mosquito netting into place. "There’s got to be a way to build a better mosquito trap," I said about the way the net is simply bunched up and tied to a hook in the ceiling. Finally, however, I fell off to sleep.

Wednesday, January 19

THE sun was up at 7, exactly twelve hours after it had set (every day is an equinox in Uganda). And so were we. After breakfast, Bishop Maari and I set off down the hill for morning prayer, which had been advertised on my schedule to begin at 7:30 (actually it begins officially at 7:45). When we went in at 7:35, my heart sank as I saw only four or five lonely cropped heads and a pianist playing a very British tune.

But then more and more people came in, young men and women, even after the service had formally begun. By 8, the chapel was totally packed out with clean-cut, joyful students at Uganda Christian University. I couldn’t believe it. The idea of a Ugandan university for believing Anglican Christians came to life before my eyes.

The service was very "evangelical," with some hymns and choruses out of Uganda Youth Praise songbook, then an expository sermon on Timothy by the Rev. Timothy Naish, a C.M.S. (Church Missionary Society) missionary teacher, and finally some prayers. At the end of the service, Bishop Maari introduced me. The students began metrical clapping as I walked up the aisle, touched with the sense of God’s call. I spoke very briefly about the "man of Macedon" in Acts 16 who summoned St. Paul saying "Come over and help us!" I said that I hoped by the grace of God to answer the call from the "man from Uganda."

After chapel, I met with Bishop Maari for an hour. Eliphaz Maari was principal of Bishop Tucker Theological College for almost twenty years. Then he was made Assistant Bishop of Kampala in 1998. He assists the Archbishop, Livingstone Nkoyoyo, whose seat is at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala. The diocese of Kampala was, in fact, carved out of the much larger diocese of Namirimbe in one of those tribal disputes that I do not fully understand.

In addition to his episcopal work, Bishop Maari has functioned as Acting Vice Chancellor of the University until such time as I finally heard the call and came. What I did not know until now is that he is continuing as Deputy Vice Chancellor when I am installed. Bishop Tucker College is his home and he has an obvious love for it. His wife Eunice is the college nurse, a very important task here. To have your predecessor stay on "under" you does not exactly conform to modern management strategy. I am hopeful that Bishop Maari’s wide experience will in fact help me make good decisions in the green days of my arrival next summer.

Next September, to be exact. I had been telling staff and students that Peggy and I would be coming in the summer. Finally, Bishop Maari clued me in. In Uganda there is no summer, fall, winter, spring — even in name. You have to name the month. I can understand the inappropriateness of singing about a winter wonderland, but it seems a shame to lose our handy way of referring to three-month blocks (sort of like the British not counting distances by blocks!)

We discussed the date of my installation and the important matter of titles. Canon Bukenya was proposing "The Rev. Professor Doctor." The concern is not only with proper nomenclature but with advertising the change from Bishop Tucker Theological College as a clergy training school to University status. It is clearly important to them that I have an earned doctorate and am a published scholar. We reached a compromise. I will wear my academic rank with pride but they will drop the redundancy of "Prof. Dr." "The Rev. Prof." it will be. I remembered back to the days when I was preparing to do doctoral studies in England. Peter Davids, a Manchester Ph.D. on Trinity’s first faculty, drilled me on the chasm in the British system between the Professor, of whom there are only a handful, and "lecturers," all of whom are Ph.D.’s. In the U.S. system, everyone gets a professorship, even part-timers.

I shared with Bishop Maari some of my long-term dreams for a university that combined a strong faith with a strong educational program. He nodded and mentioned the short-term needs for more classrooms and offices, for water and electricity that worked, for scholarships ("bursaries"), and for an endowment.

Later in the morning, I was taken to see my new digs: i.e., the Vice Chancellor’s office suite and our house. The office is situated at the pinnacle of the fortress of the old building left by the British to comfort subsequent ex-pats. Comfort except for one thing: they didn’t build any toilets in 1922. Canon Bukenya explained. "If you really have to go, you run up the hill to the library." Let’s add a loo to the wish list.

The anteroom to my office is a high-vaulted affair that used to serve as the college library. Somehow I had fantasized that the bookshelves were still there. They weren’t. But not to worry. Mr. Enos Kato, the "estates steward," promised to build a high bookcase on opposite walls. I want to take most of my books, both to refer to in moments of theological frenzy, and eventually to give to the University library.

The Vice Chancellor’s house is, I came to appreciate, the grandest house on campus. It sits astride the road from the side gate, and we settled on the idea of planting a hedge to give us some but not too much separation. The sloping grass lawn looks like it comes from the set of "Out of Africa." The main rooms are large, with high ceilings and concrete floors. When Peggy and I first glanced at the house last summer (glanced only — we were not planning to come back), the rooms seemed dark, but that was just because of the purple curtains hanging on the windows. In fact, the house is light and airy, and it will be a much finer place than we expected.

Not that everything is perfect: the toilet and bath tub look they were last used by the Tin Woodman of Oz. But in the able hands of Enos Kato, I trust the house will be a tremendous joy to live in when we arrive. And for our many visitors as well, we hope. I cannot repeat enough how absolutely picturesque the campus is. It continues to shock me with its beauty.

In the afternoon, Bishop Maari and I posed for a television crew. In fact, two crews are coming tomorrow morning to the "Community Hour," when I will speak to the whole student body. It seems that my arrival has got us in the big-time. Actually, I think it was God’s time! I later met someone who said "I saw you on TV last night." But we didn’t see it, because the power was out! Later in the week, however, we did watch a UCU "advert" on the tele.

In Uganda, there are five commercial channels, and one of them is Christian: sort of CBN with CNN news thrown in at 9pm. Instead of interspersing ads within the news, they show them all for ten minutes after the news. Several were showcasing new training schools. Ours was the best, I thought with a flow of new pride. Definitely better than the school that boasted of its "Excellance in Education."

Late in the afternoon I visited Fred Mukungu, the library director. His wife Joyce is my secretary-receptionist to be. Both Fred and Joyce have a quiet spirit that makes them instantly likeable. Fred took me on a proud tour of the new library building. Only last July, he had shown me, rather forlornly, the bare concrete pad just up the hill from the present library. "We will have to stop at this for now," he had said. "We’re out of money." Since then, the University had received a grant from a German foundation, and now the brick walls were up and the corrugated roof on. The library will have a large reading room (earlier in the day I had seen students sitting 8 or 10 to a table in the present building). It also will contain a computer lab and a law center.

In the evening I turned in early. We prayed at supper for Lloyd Johnson’s wife Connie. Eunice Maari, who is the University nurse, as well as my host, had been to visit her and feared they might need to get her to a doctor. A sober reminder that illness lies like a snake in this Paradise. Westerners may think Africans are immune to these old, old diseases, but it is not so. Many students have malaria and typhoid, and there is some suspicion that the latter comes from the water system. Thank God, Connie Johnson recovered rather quickly the next day.

Thursday, January 20

TODAY was to be my debut at the University. Once again the chapel was almost full for Morning Prayer (no Scripture, no sermon, but good African-style renditions of American renewal choruses). Afterward I met with Canon Bukenya, who filled me in on a number of details about the University’s status. The Uganda Parliament is debating an education bill which will authorize the University to apply for a charter. The preliminary report has been submitted and is awaiting passage of the bill.

There is talk of Uganda Christian University being a "federal university," i.e., comprising four colleges: the central one at Mukono, with campuses in the west (Kabale), in the east (Buwalesi, near Mbale) and in the north. This decision is dictated in part by the politics of the church. Many bishops wish to train their own clergy and influence the education in their region. Therefore the colleges will have considerable independence. It will be my responsibility as Vice Chancellor to lay down minimum standards for these colleges.

After chapel, I had a two-hour talk with two of the young lights of the faculty, the Rev. Drs. Alex Kagume and Christopher Byaruhanga. Together they fill the role I play at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Alex is Academic Registrar and Christopher is Dean of Faculty. Both these men impressed me with their intelligence and competence. They explained to me that the University had chosen to offer degrees in education, social work, business, and law (in addition to its traditional divinity degree) because these were areas where graduates might get jobs. I made the case that an "arts" degree might be important for preparing citizens and flexible workers even if it did not have immediate job application. They seemed open to this idea, especially since arts courses are needed as part of the education department.

This philosophy is a long way from John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, which I had been reading on the plane over. Newman’s view was this:

If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of the social life, and its end is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other. . . . But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life.

Christopher had written his Th.D. thesis on an Englishman not far removed from Newman in time: Alfred Robert Tucker (1849-1914), missionary bishop in Uganda. According to Christopher, Bishop Tucker alone among Anglican missionaries, "knew that the Anglican Church in Uganda, in spite of adverse circumstances, was fast becoming more influential in the political and social life of the people of Uganda." The question Tucker posed was, "how was Uganda going to be led? . . . Tucker’s conclusion was that Uganda was going to be led by an educated local leadership. He pursued this vision throughout his episcopal ministry in Uganda." Thus, Byaruhanga concludes, Bishop Tucker is properly the founder of the present-day Uganda Christian University.

In the course of our discussion, Alex Kagume presented me a summary of current enrollment. The growth of the University was even more astounding than I had understood. Here are the figures:


International Students 27
Ugandan Students 649
Female Students 252
Male Students 424
Residential Students 346
Non-Residents 330
Divinity Students 104
Education Students 202
Social Work Students 179
Business Students 125
Law Students 66
TOTAL STUDENTS 676

Can you imagine the revolution that has been involved in converting a rather traditional Anglican theological seminary of about 100 students to this multitude (almost all the students, by the way, are enrolled full-time)? How high will they go? Canon Bukenya told me earlier in the day that the Government expected a chartered university to have at least 1000 students, and that was the final aim of the growth. Later I heard the figure 2000 mentioned. The opportunity, and the weight of care for so many eager students, began to impress itself on me as I marveled at these statistics.

From this meeting, I went directly to the most amazing "Solemn Assembly." The University has no large meeting hall, so they meet out on the lawn! There in the beautiful African greenery, they placed a microphone and chairs for the faculty and me. Leaving the central area open, students, about 400 of them, ringed the perimeter in attentive groups. There were speeches by the President of the student "guild," by several faculty, and then I went to the mike amidst their applause.

I began with greetings from everyone I knew. I went on to describe my call, my vision for the University, and my hope for partnership in the Gospel. I explained why it was significant for me that my call to come to Christ had come while I was a student at Cornell University. "I came to deepen my soul and expand my mind all at the same time," I said. As to vision, I spoke of my hope for a University education that was "truly evangelical," "truly catholic," "truly Spirit-filled," and "truly liberal," giving biblical proof-texts for each aspect. I concluded that I hoped my coming from the United States in particular would signal a partnership between Christians of all races and cultures to build each other up, since we in the West needed their spiritual resources as much as they might need our material resources.

It seemed my short speech was well received, and I continued to greet students throughout the day. One commented that when he heard my testimony he wanted to stand up and sing one of the East African revival songs. The entire event was filmed for local television, and I think that I began to lay out what I consider the high call I have received at this marvelous place.

They gave me an hour siesta time after lunch. I spent it tinkering with my computer with the help of the Rev. Wolfgang Riedner. Wolfgang is a German missionary who has taught in Uganda for 7 years. He is the head of their business department and the designated computer guru on campus. Nevertheless we were foiled. He concluded that my ultra Dell Computer simply has no provision for sending e-mail via old-style "pulse" phones. But that is what Mukono phone exchange still uses.

Frustrated by Ma Bell of Uganda, I showed Wolfgang a proposal for a satellite downlink system that I had discussed with Alden Hathaway and his consultant. Wolfgang lit up and began excitedly detailing his own hopes for online learning at the University. "We need a cutting edge," he said. "Clearly the most important edge is our Christian commitment. But we also are in a position to leapfrog even the state university if we can get the students into international learning via the internet." He himself has recently enrolled in a Ph.D. degree, which is largely external, through Regent University in Virginia Beach. Suddenly, with my proposal in hand, Wolfgang seemed to sense his doctoral project coming into focus: to bring Uganda Christian University into the mainstream of global electronic education.

After my non-siesta came a series of meetings and a campus tour. I met the education department faculty, three men and four women, headed up by Gordon Kahangi, a former lecturer at the government teachers’ college (ITEK). I have probably been rather dismissive of education courses in the past, so I have some quick studying to do to support these people. They have the largest single number of students taking courses, and they also are meeting a clear need in Uganda for teachers, as the government has mandated Universal Primary Education. They also told me that the government has taken over church schools, although bishops remain chairmen of the local school boards.

Stretching my legs, I then went on a campus tour. The University, like the Church of Uganda in general, may be cash-strapped, but it is land-rich. The University and the Mukono diocese occupy a tract which originated in a treaty between Britain and the Kingdom of Uganda in 1900. Bishop Tucker (now UCU) holds 65 acres of this tract: the present campus, and a square mile more across the Mukono road at a site called Ntawo. Once again I marveled: the land truly is strikingly beautiful. In a way it may be the best of both worlds: the African luxuriance and color and the careful British gardening from colonial days.

We hiked along a dirt path until we came to the new complex of women’s halls. They are parked in parallel rows up a hillside — simple but neat long buildings housing about 30 women each. "We have made women’s housing a priority," Dunstan explained. "Parents expect their daughters to be cared for." O for the days of in loco parentis, I thought. In each hall, I met several of the women, very polite and modestly dressed (no jeans in sight!).

Down from the dorms were three classroom blocks, containing clean rooms with concrete floors, old-style wooden desks and black chalk board. Later I learned that these three buildings formerly were "henneries" and "piggeries." Now they are designated for the new departments: one for social sciences, one for education, and one for law (the theology students meet in the old Bishop Tucker building). We spy a file of theology students coming down the path for a class in social science. Canon Bukenya beams: he is very keen to see theologians get involved in the real world.

We walked back through the refectory. The kitchens have huge vats with soup and bowls of maize that looked like mashed potatoes (I am still not adept at distinguishing matoke from several of the other starch dishes that constitute the daily fare). The meals are cooked over a charcoal pit. About half the students eat in the refectory, and this afternoon some had gathered for a teatime break.

Back at the main building, I met with the "Guild," a group of about forty student leaders who form the student government of the University. The meeting was chaired by the Rev. Julius K. Bwambale, an articulate young divinity student. He greeted me in somewhat inflated rhetoric: "We have been waiting in anticipation for who God would finally bring to us as our Vice Chancellor. Although some of us will not stay to work with you because of our duration ending in June, we are pleased like Simeon who saw the salvation of Israel and prayed to depart in peace. God has answered our prayers." At which point all smiled, I thinking to myself: "Brethren, do not fall down before me. I am a man not a god."

He introduced one by one, the officers, the "ministers" (e.g., minister of finance, minister of religious affairs, minister of sports and games), the hall chairpersons (dorm monitors), and departmental representatives. This group forms what they call the student Parliament, which meets monthly. Once a semester there is a meeting of the Assembly, the whole student body, presumably out on the lawn.

The first graduating class of Guild members wants to leave a legacy: a Guild complex. They already have architectural plans for this building, which would be equivalent to a "Student Center" at a U.S. university. They plan to raise a down payment of 5m shillings ($2,000) toward this project. The entire building is estimated at $45,000. I recalled the various state-of-the-art student centers and sports complexes I have seen at colleges wooing my children, complete with sushi bars and Olympic pools. In any case, I see this Guild parliament as the first "UCU Alumni Association." Maybe one of them will grow up to be a millionaire and donate an Olympic pool down by the banana grove.

Friday, January 21

I WAS up bright and early to shower for the great graduation event. Unfortunately the shower wasn’t working; the water has been off for 24 hours. Someone had been lugging huge jerry-cans of rainwater from the cistern into the bathroom to splash on. So I went off looking a bit the worse for wear.

Alex Kagume took me to the "first commencement of the new millennium" at ITEK, the Institute for Teacher Education Kyambogo, a few miles outside Kampala. We were seated with other academic dignitaries. I sat next to the Vice Chancellor of the Seventh Day Adventist University near Jinja. He seemed like a personable man, with a good sense of humor. The back side of the invitation indicated that His Excellency, the Hon. Yoweri Museveni, Prime Minister of Uganda, would be processing in at 10 am. As drums and dancers came by, however, I was disappointed to find that he had sent his third Deputy Minister, Moses Ali, a rather large man who dozed off during the ITEK Vice Chancellor’s long speech. I confess I dozed too, but then I wasn’t sitting right in the front of the whole assembly.

The commencement ceremony for about 800 prospective teachers resembled the western events I have attended for my own children over the years — except for the native dance with drums during an "interlude" in the giving out of degrees. Afterward we went to the box-lunch reception, where Alex glad-handed me into conversations with the Minister for Higher Education, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, and several others. Yes, this is part off the new job description, like it or not.

One little note on greetings. There are several handshakes in Uganda. First, I suppose, there is the standard western shake. Then there is the threefold shake, a thumbs up shake sandwiched between two western shakes. Finally, there is the touching of forearms with no shake or where the recipient extends the forearm but does not grab the hand. I think the last is a sign of modesty, as reflected in this description of a girl being courted from Chinua Achebe’s famous book Things Fall Apart: "When she had shaken hands, or rather held out her hand to be shaken . . .".

We had received last minute instructions to head over to the House of Bishops meeting. They wanted to see me Friday rather than Saturday. It was a rather small gathering. There are 26 dioceses with only one diocesan bishop each except for Kampala, where Bishop Maari stands in for the Archbishop. Not all bishops were there; indeed the Archbishop was untimely sick with the flu.

With the Archbishop ill, the meeting was chaired by Bishop Geresom Ilukor, the "Dean" or senior bishop, who introduced me. They applauded. Bishop Nicodemus Okille then formally thanked me for accepting the call to the University and pledged the support of the Province. I gave a speech much like the one I had given yesterday to the University community. I tried to stress the fact that the University belonged to the whole province and that I was building a partnership in which they would be asked to take a share. After I spoke, Bishop Wilson Turumanya of the Hoima diocese, my former student at Trinity, stood up and said how thankful he was that I had decided to come. And Bishop George Katwesigye of Kigezi, in whose home we had stayed last summer, publicly thanked me for defending the moral standards of the Church on homosexuality.

As we left the building, I noted Alex speaking with a bishop from his home diocese of West Ankole. Suddenly, I was haunted by an unwelcome thought: "O my God, they’re going to make him a bishop." This time, I hope, the thought was merely a chimera — but one of my challenges will be to keep an excellent faculty in the face of the African tradition of promoting clergy with higher degrees (curiously, the Episcopal Church USA is just the opposite, having elected only two bishops with Ph.D.’s).

Saturday, January 22

SATURDAY dawned a lazy day, rather reminiscent of life at home — only no waffles. I used the time to produce a finished version of the oral address I had given earlier in the week. Although I had not originally thought this address through, I have begun to see that it does encapsulate rather fully my underlying vision for the University. I shall probably duplicate it and give copies to staff members here.

Just before leaving for my evening appointment, I happened to check my e-mail on the University computer. To my astonishment and delight, I received a proposal from Allan Baer, a consultant working for Bishop Alden Hathaway, who sent a complete plan for distance learning using a satellite feed — to set up at Uganda Christian University. It was a typically American proposal: a five step jump forward starting yesterday. Not only does it have the potential to bring some of the best Internet service in Uganda to the University, but it also would get us in on the bottom floor of distance education. The proposal involves setting up short courses to be taught in adjoining villages — and now!

I rushed up to the Riedners to share this news, since this was exactly what Wolfgang had been asking for. He was indeed excited by the news and promised to be in touch with Allan Baer by email directly. I assume Wolfgang will become the project director for this idea if it happens.

With this news buzzing in my mind, I was driven to the home of Phil and Jennifer Leber. We had stayed with them for ten days last summer. They are Episcopal missionaries, with Phil seeking to bring renewal worship and teaching to congregations in the province. In addition, he is a lawyer and is teaching a course at UCU on legal ethics.

The afternoon was warm and for made for relaxing. We went to the ARU, American Recreation Union, where Phil and his cousin Josh played tennis. I sat on the verandah sipping iced tea and feeling like a colonial grandee. Curiously the only accents heard at the ARU were British. I guess there just aren’t enough American grandees in Kampala. It was a pleasant hour, but I concluded that I did not need to have a western oasis alongside paradise in Mukono. Maybe I will feel different after living day in, day out, in another culture.

Josh is a 23-year-old college grad who just met the Lord six weeks ago. His life has turned around dramatically. God’s messenger was the Rev. John Senyoni, who came over for dinner last night. John works for African Evangelistic Enterprise and was specifically recruited by Festo Kivengere in 1987. John has a Ph.D. in statistical mathematics from University of Melbourne but subsequently felt called to the ministry. His wife Ruth is the daughter of Bishop Kauma, who was Principal of Bishop Tucker College before Eliphaz Maari. Thus she had grown up on the campus. They have four children: the oldest Sarah is about 13, who patiently sat and listened to the adults talk on way past bed-time.

John Senyoni is a dynamic personality, clearly a gifted evangelist and preacher. He is a good organizer and spearheaded a millennium celebration for the nation. He also has high connections, working with Janet Museveni, the First Lady, who is a born-again Christian. I began to wonder whether he was the kind of person we needed at the University, someone like Charles Simeon of Cambridge to set the spiritual tone of the student body.

After the Senyonis left at 10pm, the Lebers and I talked nuts and bolts of our move. The rule of thumb for missionaries seems to be: bring more than you need because you get one and only one tax-free entry to the country. The main items we will have to purchase are large appliances. Uganda, like Britain, uses 240-volt, 60 cycle power. One can use "step-down" transformers for smaller electronic devices. Phil gave me the name of a U.S. firm that sells 240-volt appliances. We’ll have them sent to us in the States, "use" them by taking them out of the boxes, and ship them in our container.

I had thought we might get by without a washer and dryer, especially if we had a helper doing the wash. But Jennifer pointed out the quaint image of women pounding clothes by the brook results in clothes wearing out within a year.

Sunday, January 23

PHIL Leber drove me over to Mukono as day dawned. Folks were gathering to go via two vehicles to Musoga, near Jinja about 50 miles away. I hopped in the back seat of the van, only to be recalled by Dunstan, who felt it was unseemly for the Vice Chancellor to be found in such a lowly place. So I rode with him in the private car. "As your guest, I’ll follow protocol," I muttered to myself as I went. "But in the future I’m riding in the back of the bus."

The service was going to be a big event: the consecration and enthronement of Michael Kyomya as bishop of Busoga diocese. Michael Kyomya seems like an excellent choice. He has a Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary and has taught in Nairobi Theological College. He is tall, athletic but white-haired figure with an intelligent face. He comes at just the right time. Busoga is the largest diocese in Uganda with about 1 million members, and it has been torn by internal strife since 1992. The conflict boiled down to personality clashes between the former bishop and certain diocesan leaders. The Charismatic Episcopal Church under John Oboketch got involved by taking in some of the stray congregations.

The service today was significant in that it seems to mark a reconciliation among the warring parties around the new bishop. It was touching to see both the old bishop and his opponents participate in the service. There were about 5,000 people at the cathedral, but only about 1,000 could fit in. As a Grade A dignitary, I found myself on the second row. The only downside to this was that my yawns and dozing could be easily captured by the TV cameras that were constantly sweeping by.

I knew from last summer to expect a long service. We were in place at 9am and finally got out about 4:15. Virtually everyone inside the main building was publicly greeted, which took a while. In addition to the consecration, they had Communion. I wonder how many of those outside received, as they just shut down the distribution after the insiders had received. After the service was over, they had more greetings and then the Vice President of Uganda, Dr. Speciosa Kazibwe, spoke. President Museveni was at the U.N., but she probably would have come anyway, as she is of the Musoga tribe. She is a rather impressive woman in stature and address, a medical doctor by training, a Roman Catholic, and the only female Veep in Africa. She reiterated the government’s current line that the state must cooperate with the churches (and mosques!) for Uganda to develop. Specifically, she mentioned the role of religion in teaching morality. Civil religion lives!

I joked to my neighbor, "well, I bet they can’t have a reception for this crowd." I was wrong. We went from the cathedral to the adjoining football stadium where they served a buffet "lunch" at 5pm and hence was too full to eat "supper" when it was served later that evening.

Monday, January 24

Today I attended both Morning and Evening Prayer. This is the first time I have done this for some while. At Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, students and staff end the day at various times and do not have a formal service. But the old Prayer Book round of worship is refreshing. After morning chapel, I visited with Tim Naish, the C.M.S. missionary returning to UK after ten years in Africa and six at Mukono. He runs a little bookstore and distribution service for the divinity students, getting the copies of a few reference books and a commentary series written for an international audience. In order to make books affordable, he has to slash prices to $1 a volume.

Then I met with the law faculty. The law degree was set up before they had a full-time faculty member. And it remains the case. Dr. John Ntambirweki, a senior lecturer at Makerere University, took on the task of starting the program while remaining full-time at Makerere. He has hired a number of his recent students as adjuncts to tutor and brings in lecturers for one-off courses. The whole arrangement is very delicate. I tried to offer them encouragement, but concluded that clearly this program will require attention. Later, to make matters worse, I learned that Uganda has a statute specifying that students of only four African universities may take the Bar exam. And Makerere is the only one in Uganda! There has been assurance that the law would be changed, but it has not happened yet.

After lunch, it was on to the business faculty in the person of Wolfgang Riedner. He is a committed Christian from the "Marburger mission," a German evangelical agency (I recalled that Rudolf Bultmann was also a Marburger Man). Wolfgang, in good entrepreneurial fashion, has set up adjunct institutes that would give business students a chance to try out their skills.

My next appointment was with the Social Work and Social Administration department (SWASA for short). The head of this department is a young Christian man named Benon Musinguzi. As with education, social science has never been my forte, but I was quite interested when he said they were considering a sub-degree in "Gender Studies." I asked how a gender degree might lead to employment; they assured me the government and NGO’s were hiring many such experts.

In the evening, Eunice and Eliphaz Maari listened to me ponder some of the personnel issues I am thinking about. I would like to see the creation of a University Chaplain, who could evangelize and minister to the increased student body, especially the non-theology students. But of course, there is no money for such a position. At the end of this discussion, Eunice pointed out that many times problems "that seemed like mountains" were moved by prayer. So we prayed, and then turned in for the night.

Tuesday, January 25

THE chapel was full once again. This time it was Holy Communion celebrating the Conversion of St. Paul. I could not but give thanks to God for having given me the knowledge of glory in the face of Jesus Christ. And now he has given me this amazing place and people to live with and serve. I found myself filled with incredible joy at the privilege.

I met with the theology department after chapel. It includes some older members like George Enyagu and Elisha Mbonigaba, and some younger faces like Edison Muhindo and Christopher Byaruhanga. The theologians noted the tremendous change involved in going from Bishop Tucker Theological College to Uganda Christian University. Clearly there was a sense of loss and concern that the training of clergy would be marginalized.

In addition, I learned that there was a conscious decision when the University was founded to have the faculty take on administration. Thus Alex Kagume and Dunstan Bukenya became full-time administrators and some like Edison are now likewise threatened by a torrent of administrative detail.

I assured them of my commitment to theology as the queen of the sciences and to the clergy formation program as crucial to the identity of a Christian university. Indeed I suggested that non-divinity students should take more theology courses. I do think we need someone who is experienced in the wider university administration.

I then hopped into the van for an expedition that had many stops, many formalities, and twenty minutes of "meat" (what I am learning, however, is that personal proprieties are the potatoes that make the meat edible). The potatoes included visits to the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. P. J. M. Ssebuwufu and the Principal of ITEK, Prof. A. J. Lutalo-Bosa. At each stop during the day, I was offered a soft drink from a tray with a straw to drink it from. When all the formalities had finished, I had been thoroughly saturated with Coke and Sprite.

I had my first formal visit with my "Chancellor," Livingstone Nkoyoyo, the Archbishop of Uganda. As we waited in the diocesan office, we chatted with the Provost and a woman priest. He joked about how sad it was to have the name Job. Smiling joyfully, the woman priest said: Yes it’s sad, but then Job has a happy ending. Isn’t it wonderful that life ends with eternal happiness if we believe? How horrid it will be for those who will burn in hell and never know the joy of heaven. Yes, we have a great reward stored up for us, greater than Job’s. I am so looking forward to that great Day." I tried to transpose this scene to the Episcopal Church USA, but my poor powers of imagination let me down.

The Archbishop greeted us all and posed for a photograph. Then he gave me twenty minutes alone to discuss some of my most serious questions and observations, at our first real session of "talking turkey." There will be times, I am sure, when I will need to have him pull the levers on my behalf. On the other hand, I am sure that I too will have occasion to understand what it means to be "Vice" Chancellor.

When I got back to the University, I met up with Sarah Mims, a Trinity student who is doing a missions internship in southwest Uganda. She seemed glad to see someone from home, and I gave her a proud tour of my new campus. After dinner, a group of faculty gathered for prayer, praise, and fellowship. I have been blessed for twenty years at Trinity with a close-knit faculty fellowship. I am grateful to think we may find another such faculty family here in Uganda.

Wednesday, January 26

TODAY is a national holiday: National Resistance Movement Day. Normally, Ugandans celebrate Independence Day in October, when they became free from the British. But Museveni’s takeover of the government in 1986 or 1987 marks a second start for the nation as well. Since he is at the UN right now, the government itself postponed celebrations, but several folks went to local events in Mukono.

I stayed home and interviewed five faculty members: Edison Muhindo, who teaches New Testament; John Magumba, who teaches pastoral care; Christopher Byaruhanga, who teaches theology; Alex Kagume, who is the Academic Registrar and teaches church history; and Lusania Kasamba, who is chaplain and teaches liturgics. The first four mentioned are all in their 40’s and seem to represent the future of the theology faculty. I asked each of them to give briefly their testimony and to talk about their academic interests, and what their thoughts about the University are. Thankfully, they all seem to be orthodox, evangelical Christians.

Later in the afternoon, we met with a young architect and the local surveyor. They are going to have a copy of the plot survey for me to take home. The architect is son of one of our faculty and seems quite competent, giving me hope that there will be professional counsel available for a Master Plan of the University.

We took a tour of the water system. The University has its own water supply: the town of Mukono does not! Our water is pumped from a river which runs through the Ntawo tract, across the main road and up the hill behind the University to a reservoir. From there it drains down to the buildings. Only it doesn’t right now. Nobody seemed exactly sure why this was. "Probably due to the fact that one of the pumps is broken." Nor did they seem urgent about getting it fixed. So students and staff draw water and take sponge baths for the foreseeable future.

In the evening, the power is off again. That helps me fix my priorities for my proposal to the University Council the next day. Let’s get help for water and light, two great biblical metaphors of God’s supply.

Thursday, January 27

ON Thursday, my affairs were set to wind down, but it did not really happen. I had a little time after chapel to visit Eunice Maari in the "Allen Gelpin" clinic. The clinic was named for a missionary who had been interim Principal at Bishop Tucker College in the Seventies. He had taken ill and died, and his family went back to England.

Eunice’s office is very modest, with a "laboratory" next door and room with two cots for a "sick bay." She said that she has thirty to forty people come to her clinic each day. Major problems are malaria and typhoid fever. It is hard to imagine dealing with those as a college student. She would like an ambulance vehicle to transport students to a local hospital. As of now, she has only a Suzuki 4x4.

Later in the morning I met with the University Council, which is like a board of trustees, except it has no legal ownership of the university. I had written up a Preliminary Report from my visit, including suggestions for a Master Plan, for a generator and water pump, and for scholarships. The Board was quite positive about my presence and accepted my ideas. They put in a plug for getting the regional colleges going quickly. I tried to reassure them while noting that Mukono needed to be the emphasis until it received a charter.

During the buffet lunch, I chatted with Bishop Michael Senyimba, who is also on the board of Daystar University. I suggested that Uganda Christian University and Daystar had a lot in common. He replied that Daystar had been suspicious of Uganda Christian University being a genuinely evangelical institution, but that with my coming he believed there could be more cooperation.

After lunch, I met the "estates manager" — and his staff. His staff were all the cooks, "porters," and lawn mowers. They were very respectful, as he translated for them. I reminded them that without their work the University would shut down. I have to get used to one economic difference here: human workers are cheaper than machines! For instance, they have three full-time lawn mowers, i.e., workers. Each of these mowers uses a manual reel mower. I suggested to someone that we could bring in several gasoline lawn mowers to speed up the work. Possibly, was the reply, but gasoline may be more expensive than muscle power and could put people out of work.

I had my first opportunity to practice "win-win" management in a delicate matter involving the student Guild. The Guild, as noted earlier, had drawn up plans and chosen a site for a student centre. They had even collected money and hired someone to lay a foundation. These plans seemed at odds with my call for a time of reflection on a Master Plan for the campus. I promised the students that I considered a student centre important. But the trick was won when I offered to reimburse them for their initial expenses. On reflection, their position was quite reasonable. They had asked students to sacrifice to raise the money. Now they could say that none of that was lost, but I could have the time and space to take an overview of the campus design.

We had a farewell talapia (a Lake Victoria fish) feast at the Maaris. Eunice had again heated up some water for a bath. It felt good, but a real shower will feel even better. It looks like Eliphaz will make a visit to the States in April, and I invited him to come to Trinity. Then he will come back for the General Convention if we can arrange it.

Friday, January 28

HAVING lugged my new but bulky Dell laptop to Uganda, I sold it to Wolfgang. I hope visitors to the University will consider bringing second-hand laptops to build up the inventory. Wolfgang and I then set off for Kampala to meet with Chris Outram, the marketing director for Starco, one of the two major Internet providers in Uganda. Starcom’s offices are located over a Toyota dealership in Kampala. (The Toyota Land Cruiser that Bishop Maari said was fitting for the Vice Chancellor was listing for $80,000, that’s 1m shillings.)

Mr. Outram explained to us that Starcom could install a "VSAT" satellite downlink into the University for about $40,000 with about $6,000 a month in connection fees. That is a lot of money, especially for a campus where very few people now use computers, or can even type! On the other hand, it would give fantastic access to the outside world, and the resources of education. I left this project in Wolfgang’s hands. I do hope that we can find a way to bring the Internet to UCU. What a giant step forward it would be! Ten years ago, when one sent a message to Africa, you did not expect to hear back for two months — if ever.

Wolfgang and I now parted ways. I was driven to the Archbishop’s palace, where I met his wife Ruth. She was flying to Britain this evening on the same flight with me, and I would have a chance to speak with her later. I also visited with Mark and Kathy Bowman, two Episcopal missionaries on the Archbishop’s staff, who had hosted us last summer.

Finally, I made a stop at African Evangelistic Enterprise offices to see John Senyoni again. AEE was founded by Michael Cassidy, a South African. But when Cassidy teamed up with Festo Kivengere, AEE became known primarily as Bishop Festo’s advance team. Festo was a world-class evangelist, who became bishop of Kigezi mid-way through his career, and died rather suddenly in 1988. AEE keeps the flame of the East African revival burning by organizing crusades all over all over Africa. John Senyoni is one of its ambassadors. I try to interest him in a vision for attracting the brightest and best leaders of Uganda and equipping them to be servants of Christ in their society. At this point, we pray and I am on my way to the airport.

I arrive a bit early at the Lake Victoria Hotel, a monument to casual colonial elegance. I finish reading Achebe’s book about the changes wrought in traditional African society by the arrival of the Western missionaries. Some African societies had taken the Gospel as their own, including Achebe’s Nigeria and also Uganda. Now here I was coming here, aware more of our need for their spiritual power and hoping to convince them that the marvels of the Internet, without God, could be just as deceptive as idols of wood and stone.

The plane took off, and twenty-four hours later, I found myself shoveling snow at home in Pennsylvania. Or is it home now?


This was a report from my first visit to Uganda Christian University after having been appointed Vice Chancellor in October 1999. Copyright 2000 Stephen F. Noll.


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