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July 30, 2018

My time on Bukasa Island visiting Annunciation Orthodox Church in the Pearl of Africa (Uganda)

By Paul Neustrom

When I first arrived on Bukasa Island, I was overwhelmed with the sight of one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches that I have seen built in a very traditional Russian/Byzantine style. This is located in a very picturesque setting.  The island of Bukasa is one of the further most of the 84 Ssese Islands located in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria. It is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The trip from the mainland to the island was done in two trips over two days; 3.5 hours by ferry on day one, and 3 hours by small boat on day two.  It is a very challenging place to get to geographically.

The question of Annunciation Orthodox Church being under construction for 30 years is quite puzzling. The shell of the temple is made of the most beautiful rock I have ever seen.  The walls are 18 inches (45.7 cm) thick, one nestled into the other to form a, virtually, immoveable one which the roof sits.  The roof has been in place since 2007 but the tiles are cracked and broken.  The tile that was chosen by the donor is not compatible with the hot climate.  There are no windows or doors.  A 4 foot by 8 foot (1.2 meter by 2.5 meter) sheet of loose plywood serves as a barrier to the many dogs and animals that wander the area looking for a bit of shade. The Russian onion dome that sits atop the temple is showing its age as well, with gaps and holes around it.  The massive base of the altar is poured concrete.  There is no top on it, nor has it been consecrated; thus Divine Liturgy has never been served here.

The night before the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, my patron saint, Father Christopher (Walusimbi) the rector of Annunciation Orthodox Church, made prosphora, baking it in the outdoor oven.

On the Feast Day, Father Christopher served Divine Liturgy in the ‘temporary’ chapel.  It is one of the most rustic and primitive places I’ve seen and has served this small community well for 30 years.  Heaven came to earth as it does every Divine Liturgy and this primitive chapel was most beautiful.  Simon, Father Christopher’s long-time right hand man, served as chanter until the Liturgy began.  Margaret then arrived and sang the prayers in the native language of Luganda.  It was deeply moving.

The presence of Orthodoxy has been here for 30 years.  Yet the temple is unfinished and work on it has been stalled for 11 years.  What is the answer? They need help, but I don’t know how. Maybe while I am here I will discover what is needed to complete what was once a beautiful dream.

In the meantime, Father Christopher would like to come to America to speak with the Metropolitan and stay for a month or so.  As God wills, may it happen within the next month or two.

Donors are welcome to send their support to benefit Annunciation Orthodox Church by clicking here.  As always, your prayers for Father Christopher, his family and the faithful of Annunciation Orthodox Church on Bukasa Island are vital to this ministry in the Pearl of Africa.

 


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