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Second Presbyterian

Church Saintfield

Sunday 21st September 2008

Today we are remembering and celebrating the life and influence of Reverend Desmond McBride. In 2006 the congregation of the church decided to do something in remembrance of Reverend Desmond McBride. After much discussion and consultation with the Congregation, Session, Marilyn McBride and Brian Dorman of Africare it was decided to fund the building of a church in Uganda. 

The Sesse Islands

The Sesse Islands are a group of some 80 islands found in the northwest corner of Lake Victoria within Ugandan waters. Not all of these islands are inhabited and many of them are privately owned. ECM has been working in some of the most remote places on the eastern islands of the Sesse group for the past 10 years.

ECM is supported by Africare and through both of these organisations churches and schools have been built on Java, Bubekke, Bukassa and Ntuwa, spreading the good news of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Like all the islands in the Sesse group, the inhabitants are an interesting mix of Africans from all over east Africa. They come to these islands to catch fish, which are sold all over eastern Africa. The vast majority of the islands are terribly undeveloped, even by African standards. There are only 2 health centres, one policeman and one Reverend to heal, police and minister to the people spread out over the 80 islands.

Buyange Island is found between Bubekke and Bukassa islands. ECM had identified it as one of the neediest in the Sesse island group.

The 600 people who live on Buyange, live in huts made of wood or makeshift tents. There were no brick buildings, no church, no school, no health centre and only one shop which sells only the basic essentials. Sickness often leads to death as it costs so much to go and get medicine. Aids/HIV is massively prevalent as there is no education or understanding of the virus. With so many men coming to fish the waters of Lake Victoria, away from their families and earning good money, prostitutes unfortunately follow spreading the virus further. It is estimated that up to 80% of the people, on some of the islands, suffer from Aids/HIV.

Patrick Wakkonyi who is the director of ECM in Uganda approached the owners of Buyange Island to investigate the possibility of building a permanent church on their island. Amazingly they agreed, as there was no church owned land like on some of the other islands. They did not give the land away however, but asked for a payment of 150,000 Ugandan Shillings which when converted into Sterling equates to about £60!

The Church on Buyange

The builders used by ECM (Evangelical Christian Ministries) travelled by boat carrying all the bricks, cement, timber andcorrugated iron sheets for two days to get to Buyange. The 10 builders lived in a 3 roomed wooden house working from sunrise to sunset for 3 weeks before returning home for a few weeks break. They then returned to roof and plaster the building.

Eliakim is a trained lay reader who was sent by ECM to Buyange Island to begin preparations for the building of the church. He has left his wife and seven children and only gets home for four or five days a month.

Since the church building has been completed the number of people attending the church has steadily increased to a regular attendance of up to 50 people with 30 of those being committed Christians. They meet every Sunday and also on Wednesdays for a bible study.

Earlier this year Africare bought a full solar power system for the church, which was fitted by Roy Dickinson who is from Northern Ireland. This means that there will be free reliable lighting and mobile phone charging for the next 10 years. They have also purchased a TV and video to show Christian films and educational shows to a wider audience. This is also powered by the solar panel, which charges the battery system.

Local trees have been cut down on the island and have been drying for the past few months. At present there is a carpenter on Buyange who is making some pews and desks for the church and school. As if all of these wonderful developments were not enough, Eliakim has found a teacher who is called Betty to use the church as a school!

The teacher is from the mainland and is paid by the little money provided by the children’s parents. It is truly amazing how the building of the church has given the people of Buyange the motivation to use and support the church and school. The people of the island now feel like it is their church and it’s theirs to use, which is really wonderful.

This month we are dedicating a plaque to the Reverend Desmond McBride and in November the Bishop of Kampala, the Reverend Samuel Ssekkadde will concentrate the church on Buyange which will officially join the church to the Church of Uganda. This means that it can function fully as a church on Buyange Island.

What can you do?

There are always things that be done, especially for a newly planted church. Eliakim and the other lay readers on the islands have been given the opportunity to train someone who lives on the island to take over from them, which will allow them to return home to their families. However Eliakim has committed to ECM that he will stay on at the church on Buyange even though he has been told that the money, which he receives from ECM will run out in a year.

I believe that we as a church should try to support Eliakim in the future; he has already made the commitment to stay on knowing full well there will be no money for him in the future.

The following is an extract from Patrick’s latest email and I have quotes for the cost of these items if anyone is interested. We have already covered the cost of a memorial stone and glass for the windows from members of our own congregation.

“We are trying to raise money for things like Pulpit, Holly table, Seats for Service leaders and others. The school also needs help with scholastic materials and salary for the teacher”

But the most important thing that we can ask for from the congregation is a continued commitment to pray for the people on Buyange and Eliakim’s fantastic devotion to the young church of believers on Buyange. We must also pray for the dangerous travel on the lake that Eliakim must undergo twice a month to return home and see his family.

Eliakim, the Christians on Buyange, ECM, Patrick and Brian Dorman have asked me to pass onto you their most sincere thanks for all the support that we at 2nd Saintfield have provided for them and the wonderful church building that is now being used everyday.

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