Atop a hill in eastern Uganda above the hot plains through which the Nile River flows, a small red and white cement church with a corrugated tin roof looks over banana and coffee plantations as far as the eye can see. After a fourteen-hour flight to reach the international airport in Entebbe and an eight-hour drive to reach the town of Buyobo where the church sits, I unpack three suitcases filled with solar power supplies which we transport from the village center to the church-on-the-hill.
Electricity in the village is sparse and undependable, and at the church nonexistent as the costs of running cables up the hill are too great to incur. For this reason, services, meetings, and gatherings are held during the day before nightfall descends to leave the church in darkness.
I decided to travel from the U.S. to Uganda to provide the church with lights and electricity powered by the sun because of some dear friends I have at a church I attend in Bethesda, Maryland who hail from the town of Buyobo and worshipped in the red and white church-on-the-hill when they were younger. The wisdom, generosity, and empathy of this family convinced me that by providing the church in Uganda with solar power, the spiritual lives of others there might deepen.
On the second day of my work inside the church, electrical wires crisscross the sanctuary ceiling to newly installed fixtures with light bulbs waiting to glow. Despite a breeze, it’s hot inside, especially fifteen feet up in the air along the top rungs of a ladder resting against wooden beams. Except for the buzz of drills, taps of hammers, and stretching of cables from unwinding spools, the church is quiet save for the laughter of children who play barefoot near the altar as they gleaming eyes follow the progress of light they’ve yet to see come from the ceiling of their church.
And then I hear a drum beat, at first tentative if not melancholy. I look down from the ladder and find six children ranging from four to six congregated about a set of drums placed between wooden benches pushed aside to make room for the solar work I’m doing. Until then, a steady stream of children have wandered in and out to stare at me, a foreigner who turned up abruptly in their village to bring light to a church.
Two of the children sit on a bench with drums tucked between their legs and begin tapping them. Before long, the sanctuary bursts forth in rhythmic beats as the remaining children dance with half-eaten potatoes waving in the air. From my perch in the sky, I look down upon their dancing and laughter and realize that with the sun comes music and joy.
And I am grateful for the opportunity to watch children dance and sing in anticipation of the sun bringing light to another part of their lives.