World Missions Ministry Update: Band & Bible Scholarship Mission
by the Rev. Eric Fenton
Director, Band and Bible Mission
In 2013, the Band and Bible Mission began going to Uganda every summer. COVID-19 shut it out for the last two summers, so this past June, three years after the last mission in 2019, the team happily returned.
The real test of a successful mission is if the work continues after the missionaries go home. Band director Richard Wallace observed, “We were afraid of finding out what the state of the three bands would be. We were more than pleasantly surprised. All three bands performed at the highest level that we had ever heard. The rehearsals and performances were awe inspiring.”
The Nebbi Diocese Brass Band has grown with the addition of a number of younger players. Their joyful spirits were very contagious and inspiring. A significant part of this change could be attributed to the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Pons Ozelle since his investiture in January.
Felix Kasumba, the director of the Bunyoro-Kitara Brass Band, has managed to keep the band functioning very well during the pandemic. Although the band was somewhat smaller than during the last mission, they have also improved a great deal.
The greatest surprise was with the Namirembe Cathedral Boys and Girls Brigade Band. They had requested four challenging musical selections to be added to their concert. The band managed to breeze through all of them in the first rehearsal. All that was left was to polish the selections. You should know that this group has no adult leadership. They range in age from 10 – 20 years old. They elect their Band Captain and are very organized. They manage to achieve this level of performance on their own. It is truly impressive and inspiring!
For the Bible part of the mission, the Rev. Eric Fenton brings a different Bible Study every year. This time he introduced the Discovery Method discussion questions being used at Christ Church in San Antonio. They studied Colossians; Meeting Jesus, Walking with Jesus and Our Future with Jesus. The questions were translated into the tribal languages of Alur and Munyoro. The surprise was how engaged they were in their small groups even continuing into the evening.
Robert Packer, the percussion instructor, observed, “Working with the students on this mission trip is always a breath of fresh air as they are not only receptive, but all are very committed to their service to God. Although they lack many worldly possessions, the Ugandans are very rich in faith. As steel sharpens steel, the Band & Bible Mission trips continue to help build my faith.”
Professor Greg Wene brought his historical expertise presenting a lesson about the brutal Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin. Many had no awareness of that terrible time in their history and were very attentive. Greg said, “Everyone made us feel welcome. Observing the hope, love for one another, and the sacrifices that are made under extremely difficult circumstances has deepened my faith.”
Scholarships have become a very important part of this mission. School fees are charged in all public schools in Uganda. Even though minimal by our standards, they are often beyond the ability of parents to pay. The Band & Bible Mission has helped support band members ranging in age from from 10 to those attending various universities. We have also had trade school graduates – welders, electricians, and TV/video reporters.
Most recently, our university graduates include two that received Bachelor’s degrees in Information Technology. One is interning at the Provincial office of the Church of Uganda and the other at the Bishop Ruhindi Theological College in Hoima. One student will even graduate from medical school next spring. There are about twenty scholars from the Boys and Girls Brigade Band at Namirembe, ten at the Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese and most recently the Nebbi Diocese will be awarding Band and Bible scholarships.
One of our recipients, Emily Kemigisa at St. Andrea College in Hoima, shared, “I received the school fees you sent and right now am at school learning. All thanks to you. I deeply from the bottom of my heart thank you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and pray to God to reward you for the great things you have done for me.”
We cannot minimize the impact these missions have on those who go. Every one returns with a renewed faith and love for Jesus.
The Rev. Eric Fenton
Director, Band and Bible Mission
The Band & Bible Mission is a partner ministry of the diocesan World Missions Department. It supports the brass band ministry of three Ugandan dioceses: Kampala, Bunyoro-Kitara, and Nebbi. Students learn to read music, musicianship, and instrument repair, in addition to spiritual formation rooted in scripture. A scholarship program overseen by members of the band has been established to assist students in completing their education and provides tutoring for students. This team is made up of experienced band teachers or members and travels in the summer.
On Monday, September 12, the Rev. Eric Fenton will present a reflection about his recent trip to Uganda with the Band and Bible Scholarship ministry during the monthly World Missions online prayer meeting, at 10:00 a.m. CT. All are welcome as the group prays for the needs of our mission partners around the diocese and around the globe. Contact Catherine Markette for the Zoom meeting information.