Lighting the Ugandan night with sunlight
A year-long solar installation project in Uganda has given eight villages the tools to harness the sun and light in their churches
Close your eyes and picture a church, sitting on top of a hill in a remote, rural village. Outside this church is a bulb, the only source of bright light, shining like a beacon and drawing people to it.
Now, imagine what life would be like if you only had a dim and dangerous kerosene lamp to live, read or work by in the evenings.
Eight tiny Ugandan towns have come alive at night thanks to a solar power project carried out by BMS World Mission worker Gareth Shrubsole and his team, turning the church into a place to socialise, study, relax and, of course, learn about God.
Gareth noticed the difference immediately after the first solar panel, light bulbs and mobile charging stations were installed at Kahokya Baptist Church. He and Amisi Kathaliko, the team’s electrician, stayed overnight at the church after they finished working.
While there, a few old men brought in their radio and sat together for three hours, laughing and enjoying a program. “I have no idea what the program was about,” says Gareth, “but you could see it in their faces. Just the simple pleasure of being able to congregate together in a safe place with light.”
Attendance and outreach in these solar panelled churches has grown by an average of about 88 per cent in the last year and new friends include Catholics, Anglicans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and those of other or no faiths. Many go to charge their phones or study and while there they are introduced to Jesus Christ.
Over 7,800 mobile phones charged during the last year have not only saved families money but helped raise funds for various church ministries. Families also saved on kerosene, leaving more funds free for their children’s education. “It’s really helped people to know that doing their homework won’t be a drain on their family’s resources,” says Gareth. In every church, the students and teachers reported better results and a higher level of self-confidence.
Though the project has been a success, it was not without its challenges.
At one church, the team had to walk across a swaying wooden bridge while carrying all the gear on their backs before climbing up to the building. Another time, their car slid on the muddy roads, stopping inches from a steep drop down the mountainside. “We praise God for having brought us back safely from these hair-raising mountain journeys,” Gareth says.
But empowering these churches, in every sense, has made these terrifying experiences worth it. “I really felt like as missionaries we were called by God to do a particular thing, at a particular time, in a particular place and it all clicked together,” says Gareth. “We had many challenges, but at every stage along the way, somehow the challenges would be overcome and that’s the really exciting thing about doing God’s work.”
This important work could not have been achieved without your generous giving. Donate today to help fund life changing projects like this one.
More information about BMS’ sustainable initiatives check out FutureShape? and the summer issue of Mission Catalyst.
Please pray for Bethan and Gareth Shrubsole as their time in Uganda comes to a close. Also, pray for Amisi, the other members of the solar projects team, and the communities and churches where the solar panels were installed.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission