Fishing for Souls in Buleebi – Emily’s & Erica’s Trip to Uganda, 2022
by Mommy Emily
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” ~ 1 Cor. 1:27
We descend from the van into the humble arms of Buleebi – a tiny fishing village on the shores of the Nile, tucked far amongst the hills of Uganda.
A salty smell clings to the back of the hamlet like a baby to its mother. Smoke rises from a dozen charcoal fires, curling upward like black question marks, and children emerge, laughing, some wearing adults’ T-Shirts as dresses, others whose dresses are torn or whose bellies are distended. But all of them, with smiles as long as the trees are tall, and we tuck sweets into their hands.
This place has birthed our Lulu Uganda Harvestime director, Baptist Emochu. Baptist was born here in a house of mud and sticks; his mother sold fish to put him and his siblings through school, hiding at night from the soldiers who came to take her away because she was a fisherwoman. It’s a heart-breaking injustice – all they can do for a livelihood is fish, but the government wants to export the fish instead to Western countries. So they arrest them, and dozens of mothers have to hide, sleeping over their illegal packs of fish until the sun bleeds red and the songbirds signal their freedom from arrest for one more night.
In the past, we’ve come alongside Buleebi’s pastor and helped him to set up a shop. Our hope is to also give these ladies a way to earn money through tailoring.
Meanwhile, today we’re here to meet the mothers who gather weekly in this red brick church by the sea to study Harvestime, taking exams in their laps with babies in their arms. We’re here to meet these women who rise before dawn to wash the few pairs of clothes their children own, to fetch drinking water from the nearest bore hole, to cook fish for breakfast, to send off their kids to school with smoked fish for lunch, to brush away the remainder of the morning with grass brooms before tying babies to their backs and walking to the church to meet Pastor Peter for Bible college lessons.
Many of them only went to school until they learned how to read and write because their families needed them at home to fetch drinking water or to catch fish.
Now, not only do they now get to take college-level courses, but Steve James – Lulu Tree’s Financial Manager – has come to do a one-day training for these business women in finances. They wait expectantly, notebooks and pens ready.
Before Steve starts, though, God has pressed a message to my heart. His love is palpable for these women whose faces are stretched tired from the sun. I’m reminded of the tiny white fish we’ve seen laid out across tarps to dry in the sun. They’re used for medicinal purposes. Then there are the huge fish which will be sold and exported to cities and western ports.
“On earth, these fish have a value determined by their size,” God whispers to the mothers through me. “You look at one and think it’s very important based on its size. You look at the other and think it’s insignificant because it’s so small. But I have a secret for you – to God, the little one matters as much as the big one. In fact, sometimes God cares more for the little one because the little one depends on Him more. God values each of His children, so very much. You are so precious in His sight. He has counted the number of hairs on your heads. He knows every breath you breathe. You are His, and He loves you so much, He sent His precious Son to die for you. In His eyes you are worth more than all the fish in the world.”
Their eyes don’t leave my face, and by the end, their smiles spread until laughter bubbles over, and I think even the angels are rejoicing because for the first time, perhaps, they know they are loved.
And that’s why we go, friends.
That’s why we give of our own time and funds, and that’s why our families sacrifice, also. So that God’s nearness might be felt, souls might be caught in the net of His love, and lives might be rescued from seas of despair and purchased by the Greatest Fisherman of all.