Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Could Write a Book, Part 1

The past six weeks or so have been something like a roller coaster ride - with ups and downs and throttling forward at full speed!

There have been times of mourning, sadness and deep loss; times of peace, refreshment, and fellowship; times of joyous occasions and fun adventures; periods of fast-paced activity and then a gentle, slower amble of life.

I am not sure how so much got packed into these past weeks, but it is only by God's grace that I've come out the other side, with joy and gratitude.

Saying Goodbye
There are just some people who you assume will be there, well, forever. I dearly love the secondary teachers whom I serve alongside and am blessed to call friends. Our secondary English teacher, Mr. Beyanga, better known as "Professor" was no exception. After a battle with cancer, he left this earth for his heavenly home on June 20.

I have fond memories of Professor. Interestingly enough, we first arrived on the island about the same time - fall 2006, though I really don't remember him at that point. Our friendship officially kicked off when I returned to Uganda in January 2010.

The oldest and most experienced of our teachers, he had a wealth of knowledge from a full life, as well as knowledge gained from reading many, many books. He enjoyed long conversations, telling stories, and having a good laugh. Inevitably if I heard laughter from a classroom, I knew Professor was teaching a lesson by telling a good yarn.

The day after his death, I found myself with about 30 others from the islands, on a small bus for an eight-hour journey to the very southwestern portion of Uganda, near Kabale. After traveling through the night, we arrived at about 6 a.m. in a mountains area draped in thick fog and chilly temperatures. I realized we weren't in Kansas the island anymore.

The forests, rolling hills and fog of Kabale, western Uganda. (Reminded me of the Pacific Northwest.)

We were graciously hosted and given hot tea and food for breakfast. Various ones from the islands assisted the family as they prepared for the afternoon's burial - to take place in a nearby banana plantation. As we waited some of us ventured a few kilometers away to Katuna, a town which borders Rwanda. With permission, and after being checked for Ebola, we walked across the small river which separates the two countries. It was my first time to step foot on Rwandan soil since on all other previous visits I was confined to an airplane.

"Welcome to the Republic of Rwanda" - the border between Uganda and Rwanda.

Yes, there are four people in the front of this car which took us to the border, including two in the driver's seat, a total of 8 of us in a small sedan. :)
Our tour guide treated us to sodas after taking us across the border. What a sign of hospitality! (From left, me, Teacher Fred, Headmaster Okello, Pastor Robert, Teacher Menya, SHIM Base Manager Richard, Boat Pilot Lubega, Builder Richard, and a new friend. :)

The small river that separates southwest Uganda and Rwanda

Once the simple outdoor burial service began, I was so thankful for the island contingency. Professor had not been back in his home area for many years and aside from close family, few in the community actually knew him. We were able to speak of his 9 years on the island and the blessing he had been to the the school, church and community.

The funeral service for Professor, Mr. Beyanga. Headmaster Okello is shown at left giving remarks, with Teacher Menya standing next to him. Teacher Fred is shown taking photos.

After the service and quickly eating lunch we boarded our bus again around 5 p.m. and headed home, arriving in Jinja about 1:30 a.m.

I know I am not alone in that I don't "enjoy" attending funerals (who does?), but honoring a great man and his legacy, as well as visiting his homeland was important for us, his family and his communities.

Professor having fun with Sarah, one of last year's seniors. 

Farewell, Professor, we will meet again one day.

More to come about the past week's adventures...


  1. You are quite a trooper, Ruthie, for making this trip to honor your friend. It puts an extra emphasis on, "going the extra mile". Always enjoy your posts and appreciate your faithfulness.

    1. Joe, thank you for your kind words, but truly it was God's grace and I felt it. Being the only "white" I felt kind of like a fish out of water (more than usual), but knew I was supposed to be there. Thank you for your encouragement!