A trip to Kampala, Uganda
November 10-15, 2010
November 6, 2010
I joined Vassula so as to accompany her on her mission to Uganda, after having spent two wonderful days in her beautiful house in Rhodes, where I had the pleasant surprise of seeing dear Erwin, and another day in Athens, welcomed by the TLIG group.
I had found out what the situation was like in Uganda by searching embassy internet sites that give information to travellers. The information indicated that there was enough turmoil to make us tremble and call it off: terrorist attacks, bombs, violence, kidnapping, epidemics and serious health threats. But Vassula was completely indifferent to these warnings. We must go to Uganda!
The population is made up mostly of practising Christians (Anglicans, Pentecostals, Catholics and Orthodox), while 15% are Muslims.
November 8, 2010.
We left Rhodes for Athens. From there we travelled to Istanbul and then finally, to our destination, Entebbe, Uganda where we arrived on November 10th.
November 10, 2010.
We arrived at Entebbe airport (Uganda’s second city), where we were welcomed by members of the Kampala True Life in God group: Jane Nyanzi, Leocardia Byenkya, Stephen Katende, and Rebecca among others. The only person whom Vassula knew was Leocardia, a diplomat’s wife who previously lived in Bangladesh and has lived in Kampala since losing her husband. Vassula had met her during a trip to Bangladesh.
From Entebbe we came to Kampala, the capital. Vassula and I stayed in a lovely hotel: Seke Resort Munyonyo, on the banks of Lake Victoria. Jane warned us that there had been changes to the program.. Vassula received the news with great patience, always trusting that if God was sending her to this country for the first time, a bit of slander (that we already knew about) was not going to disrupt the prearranged plan.
November 11, 2010.
In the morning, we went to the Africana Hotel where a meeting room was set up for a press conference. One journalist from a national television channel asked Vassula for a filmed interview. This interview would be incorporated into a program scheduled to be broadcast at a later date. Vassula was filmed answering questions asked by the journalist about her mission and the Message. A young reporter from the paper” New Vision” also asked Vassula a few questions, but he was more interested in my giving him information about how to get into Italy, what the cost of living is there, how to work there and how to get into university. Not a very serious reporter, and his article never materialised.
In the early afternoon we went to a Catholic church for Holy Mass followed by Adoration. The churches were always full at mass times.
Then we visited an orphanage in a very poor area of Kampala: M-Lisada Orphanage Home. About twenty young boys and girls are housed there in very ramshackle house with an inner courtyard. One of the boys had been found in a dustbin. Only a few of them sleep at the orphanage, the others are sent out for the night and have to sleep on the city’s pavements before coming back again the following morning. The children there learn to play musical instruments, dance and perform acrobatic stunts. The people running the orphanage and the orphans form a troupe, and go around giving performances that are sponsored by Coca Cola at various events where they dress up, emblazoned with the Coca Cola logo in red and white uniforms.
A tiny little boy with a misshapen body (deformed thorax, hump back and very thin legs) is the troupe’s mascot. He conducts the band by waving his arms around; in fact, he doesn’t know how to conduct at all, but he is happy to be known as the band’s conductor.
These were very moving moments, with the children sidling up close to us, so deprived of affection, and asking us to take them home with us. These children live in very unwholesome conditions, apparently badly nourished and wearing dirty old clothes. The smell was not pleasant in the dormitories or on the children themselves. We visited the kitchen, which was extremely dilapidated and really looked nothing like a kitchen. . Every day the children eat soup that is cooked in a large aluminium pan.
In the little sitting room at the entrance to the house we talked to the four young men who run the home. They looked healthy, well dressed, with nice belts and watches on their wrists. They have never asked an international child welfare agency for help, but there are photos of westerners stapled to the walls: probably benefactors who send money.
After the shock of seeing these children for the first time, one is left wondering whether these four young men are actually helping or exploiting these children. Why do they send the children out at night when there is enough open space for the children to sleep within the confines of the property?
We asked Stephen, a member of TLIG who works for an international child welfare organisation why he does not intervene to improve the accommodations and living conditions for these children in this orphanage. And why doesn’t his organisation intervene to remove the scantily clad little children from the dusty pavements, begging a few inches away from the frenetic traffic? Apparently, the organisation cannot do anything for them.
Then we were told of a terrifying custom, a horrible belief or superstition originating from the practice of Voodoo, widespread in Uganda. In order to become wealthy, when building ones small or large houses, a living child (who must be healthy with no deformities and often one’s own child) is placed on a pillar and liquid concrete is poured over him. He is then walled up in this pillar of the house. Everyone knows that this happens, but nobody talks about it. Horrified, Vassula and I wanted to know whether there is a campaign in place to put an end to these practices that are born of superstition and ignorance, as well as and end to the great poverty that exists. Nobody knew what to say. Yet, all the Ugandans we met in the TLIG group, in the public bodies or in the streets, were extremely kind, smiling and pleasant!
November 12, 2010.
We arrived at the UBC national television channel very early in the morning. After a short meeting between Vassula and the presenter, Vassula appeared live on television in one of the most popular programs, ‘Good Morning Uganda’. Vassula talked for about 8 minutes about her mission, the Messages, and about her presence in Uganda..
To the television viewers, the presenter announced the date, time and place of Vassula’s meeting. Vassula told me that it was Jesus who opened this door. By speaking in this way on this very popular television program, it was as if she had spoken at a hundred meetings!
In the afternoon, there was an ecumenical meeting at the Triangle Hotel in Kampala. Vassula spoke about repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, the power of prayer, Church division, the importance of the Church Unity that God wants, and of the messages in general.
There were about fifty participants, representatives of the different churches, two of whom were Pentecostal pastors who listened and spoke at the end of the meeting. They did not ask any questions, but they appeared to be much moved.
At five o’clock, still accompanied by a small TLIG group, we went to the Orthodox Church to meet Archbishop Jonah Lwanga, at his invitation. He received us, along with other Orthodox priests in a small reception room. He gave us tea and sent another priest to celebrate the Liturgy in his place. We were not allowed to take any photos. The meeting was cordial, and Vassula gave him a copy of the 25th anniversary edition of the True Life in God magazine, relating the events and the people she met that are shown in the magazine. She wanted to give him a copy of the TLIG Messages in English, but he said that he already had it. He remained silent about Vassula’s mission and about the messages, which he had certainly read. His attitude towards Vassula’s mission was aloof or cautious, while showing obvious warmth towards her personally. After this meeting, we went together to his church, which is very close to his house, as the Liturgy was coming to an end, and we took leave of each other after coming out of the church. In an affectionate gesture, the Archbishop blessed Vassula.
November 13, 2010.
The day of the big meeting at the Nakivubo sports stadium.
At about one o’clock we arrived at the stadium after crossing the city by car. There were large posters announcing Vassula’s meeting: ‘TLIG Uganda – Welcome Vassula Ryden’ throughout the city, and many leaflets had been distributed. About four hundred people attended the meeting.
A scaffolding podium had been set up on the grass, and Vassula spoke in English, the official language of Uganda, through a microphone. While she was speaking, Rebecca from the TLIG group translated into Kiswahili, the local language. Vassula accurately corrected a passage that Rebecca had not translated properly. Now Vassula does not understand or speak any Kiswahili…
This phenomenon happens often when the interpreter does not translate properly, even when Vassula does not understand that particular language herself. It is a sign that God is helping her to transmit His message correctly without any mistakes.
November 14, 2010.
We attended Holy Mass in a Catholic church. Later that morning we went to the Victoria Hotel in Kampala, where a conference room had been booked so that Vassula could speak to about thirty people in the TLIG group; two people had come from Kenya and three from Burundi. The three ladies from Burundi arranged with Vassula that she should soon visit their country (to the south west of Uganda).
Vassula witnessed and answered all the questions asked by those present and then gave out the beautiful photos of the pictures she painted herself. We had a buffet lunch and the meeting went on all afternoon.
While I was sitting next to Vassula, a gentleman twice stopped in front of her and, facing her (less than two meters away), genuflected with his hands on his chest and made a deep bow, as one would in front of the tabernacle or the Holy Father. I found this display towards Vassula a bit over the top. But later on, I repented of this thought. This gentleman, who knew nothing of Vassula or her mission, and who had read nothing, sought us out the following day and finally found us in a restaurant near the airport in Entebbe. (See next day.)
November 15, 2010.
Vassula received a message during the night (see 30.01.1990)
I am; lean on Me every time you feel discouraged and weak; I love you and it is out of love I allow certain situations and events to happen, to show you that without Me you are nothing. I allow these events to happen to keep you near Me and to make your soul depend on Me and lean on Me; I want you to trust Me; I am He who holds the foundations of the earth together. Tell Me that you love Me flower, lean on Me, listen to My voice and follow me blindly; set to work with your God, come it pleases Me, I and you, you and I, see?
Vassula worked very hard since arriving in Kampala; even a short car journey there can be difficult and tiring. Traffic on the roads is intense, the roads are in a bad state, and the cars were constantly falling into or having to negotiate large potholes, placing great strain on Vassula’s back. We reserved this last day back for relaxing with Jane, Leocordia, Rebecca, Stephen and others. Vassula and I wanted to go on safari, crossing a national park where wild animals roam free. This national park is too far from Kampala, so our friends arranged for us to visit a zoo half way between Kampala and Entebbe.
After the visit to the zoo, we went to a restaurant near the airport. Our plane was leaving at 11:55 that evening. We had an enjoyable meal with African dishes, a pleasant atmosphere, and many conversations. On the table there were two glass candle holders with lighted candles. In the midst of our dinner we all of a sudden heard something shattering and a piece of glass went flying. The meal was already on the table. We looked for the piece of glass, but in vain. At the end of the meal, Vassula showed me the shard of glass, which she had found beneath her plate. It could have easily landed in Vassula’s plate and ended up in her mouth.
We finished eating and began to make our way to the airport. The gentleman who made the deep bow the day before came up to us in the restaurant. His name was Michel, and he had to find Vassula and tell her what had happened during the meeting. At first, he had decided not to talk about it to anyone, in case he was taken for a fool or a crackpot, then he felt the need to tell Vassula about it. He had seen Jesus, not Vassula. It was the Jesus of the Sacred Heart; not an image, but in flesh and blood. Our Lady was standing near the door, graciously embracing everyone who entered the room. So it was before Jesus that Michel was genuflecting, not before Vassula. I had seen Michel do this twice myself. Vassula had not seen him, although he was just in front of her. Michel was not seeing Vassula, but Jesus; while Vassula did not see Michel at all.
Michel is a quiet, modest man and not an attention-seeker at all, so we had no reason to disbelieve what he was telling us, as he was visibly moved.
Two hours before our flight left, the group accompanied us to the airport and we all said our emotional farewells. We then travelled from Entebbe to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Athens, where Vassula and I parted at the airport as she continued on to Rhodes and I to Geneva. I was rather sad to leave Vassula; her presence and her conversation always increasingly uplift me spiritually. I was so happy to have accompanied her in a mission that, in spite of difficulties, was a very emotionally charged experience. And I was happy to have met the very unified and fraternal TLIG group. They all worked together to make sure that Vassula’s visit was as pleasant as possible, from the choice of a hotel surrounded by delightful vegetation, to the organisation of conference rooms, cars, restaurants, and their own availability. Thanks to all of them, they are wonderful people. See you soon, Uganda (I hope).