The Danish author Peter Høeg wrote
travelling tends to amplify all human emotions.
If that is the case, then how much more should a pilgrimage amplify not just the emotions, but the spirit of the pilgrim. However, we are not sub-divided beings. Our emotions and spirits are interconnected and so it would be foolish to split them in some way.
Pilgrimages have a long history; the lengthy and arduous journey to a place of spiritual significance, or the demonstration of penance or humility. In former times, one can imagine a person going on pilgrimage and because of illness or misfortune simply not returning. Nowadays we are more accustomed to reading adverts for pilgrimages which guarantee air conditioned coach travel and 5 star hotels!
Our pilgrimage was different in a number of ways. We did not have one specific destination in mind; rather it was the journey. If there was something of spiritual significance we were looking for then, in my view, that was to be the people of Uganda themselves. Secondly, as may be already apparent from the daily journal notes I have posted thus far, our we were not following the normal tourist trail. In fact, our one encounter so far with that lifestyle at Chobe made me feel rather out of place.
As I look back now, there were to be three significant moments on this trip. One of them has already been described - our stay in the home of Lamech and Margaret outside Sekamuli. Two more experiences are still to come in this story.
As for me at this point? I had already learnt a huge amount about my photography and been forced to use my cameras in a way which had previously been outside my comfort zone. I was short of time (what we came to refer to as) "retreating into my cave" - there was little down time other than catching a quick snooze in the vans on a longer drive. I was glad I had my noise cancelling earbuds and some music downloaded onto my iPad.
My bags were a continuing source of annoyance. My time travelling on business and more recently being way in our camper van had led me down the path of minimalism - after all, if you tore your trousers one could simply go and buy a new pair. But on this trip there were so many medical, camera equipment and clothing "what ifs" that it had been impossible to pack minimally. Our additional baggage allowance that came with our charity tickets meant it had been easy to bring too much, and as a result I seemed to be constantly searching in my bags for things I'd lost track of.
Most of us were tired. With a lot to take in each day, and little time to process, I would often be glad of the time coming round when I could climb into the mosquito net and, due to the temperature, lie on top of the bed clothes.
There was also the work of trying calibrate some of our experiences against my assumptions. There are tensions between the Western and Sub-Saharan African Churches over questions of sexuality. We are all shaped by our histories (yes, even us in the West) and so trying to understand the forces that have shaped our own stories was key. Meeting Severino Lukoya and hearing from those who had spoken to him will be something which takes me quite some time to understand. I would need to read and reflect after my return to the UK.
Another significant aspect of understanding Uganda is, in my view, getting to grips with their attitude towards their relative poverty, and yet meeting people like Revd Godfrey and Revd Isaac who were doing amazing things despite the lack of resources. I had made it a matter of principle that I would not take the cliche photograph of the child looking miserable and sitting in squalor - but I didn't see that anywhere, not even in the Refugee Camp.
My previous pilgrimage, a month on the road travelling across France and Italy to the Adriatic, led me to advise someone else going on a sabbatical that he would find that part of him wouldn't come back afterwards. If some of me hasn't yet come back from Uganda I am still trying to work out what it might be.