Ugandan bishop visits Oak Bluffs School
In keeping with Oak Bluffs School's theme of promoting multiculturalism this month, two fourth-grade classes enjoyed a first-hand account of life in Uganda by Bishop John Chrisostom Wayabire earlier this month.
Bishop John, as he likes to be called, kept a group of about 30 students in classes taught by Sheila Muldaur and Jerilyn Brown enthralled with descriptions of life in Uganda. He leads 686 pastors in 288 churches as the bishop of Revival and Salvation Church of God Ministries in 6 countries - Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, the Congo, Sudan, and Burundi. The bishop said his church's membership numbers 1.5 million.
After years of civil wars in many African nations, Bishop John explained that the bulk of his church's ministry focuses on 14 orphanage centers caring for 6,086 children and 4,000 widows. Church members raise money by making bricks and blocks to sell, he said, but their markets are limited.
Bishop John Chrisostom Wayabire describes life in his home in Uganda to fourth-graders at Oak Bluffs School. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The bishop showed the Oak Bluffs students several photos of children from different orphanages he oversees, describing how some of them have only the clothes on their backs to wear and no beds in which to sleep. When Ms. Muldaur asked him about schools, he said that although every orphanage home has a school, some of them hold classes under trees.
Students in Ugandan schools attend classes from 8 am to 4 pm, he said, some of which are boarding schools. The problem with education in Uganda, the bishop said, is people receive diplomas and degrees but there are few jobs.
When it comes to transportation, Bishop John said a bicycle is as valuable as a car to people in Uganda. It is not uncommon to see people giving someone a ride on the handlebars, he added.
Questions from Oak Bluffs students included those about what children do on holidays (visit family), what they do for fun (play soccer, basketball, and cards), and whether they dance (yes, a lot). The students' eyes widened when the bishop named elephants, lions, monkeys, and baboons as some of the animals they might see in everyday life in Uganda.
Describing conditions for widows, their children, and orphans, he said food is often scarce, and sometimes meals consist of one cup of porridge per day. One student asked about the availability of clean water. Although many towns have good water from wells, Bishop John said many schools do not have drinking water available and students have to wait until they get home for something to drink.
His declaration, "I have a wife - only one wife," brought laughter from the students, in which the bishop joined. He spoke proudly of Sarah and their six children, as well as the other 10 they have taken in.
At the end of his remarks, Bishop John extended a warm invitation to all of the students to visit his country, where he said they would be welcomed with open arms by the warm and friendly Ugandan people.
While on the Island, the bishop stayed at the home of John and Debbie McCormick of Oak Bluffs. They met him last year when he visited a church they attended while living in Michigan, where Mr. McCormick served as a youth pastor.
Ms. McCormick arranged for the bishop to come to Ms. Muldaur's class, where son Jeffrey is a fourth-grader. She thought his visit would dovetail nicely with the multiculturalism theme promoted at the school this month. The McCormick's youngest son, John Michael, is a kindergartener at Oak Bluffs School and daughter Melissa a student at the regional high school. Their oldest son, Joseph, works with his dad, and daughter Brianna is away at college.
Last month, on a trip back to Michigan, Joseph happened to see Bishop John at his family's former church. Bishop John had returned on Nov. 18 to the state for a visit to several churches where he made appeals for donations of material goods and financial support. Joseph invited him to visit the Vineyard, as well.
After his arrival on Dec. 20, Bishop John spoke at the Vineyard Assembly of God Church, which the McCormicks attend, as well as several other Island churches. He left for Boston on Jan. 10 to visit with some other Ugandan Pastors, and then plans to return to Michigan. He heads back to Uganda on Feb. 15.
Mr. McCormick, who works as a carpenter, builder, and mason, also volunteers as a youth pastor for a non-denominational all-Island youth ministry. As Bishop John's "Island connection," Mr. McCormick is spearheading an effort by several Martha's Vineyard church groups to ship a 40-foot container to Uganda filled with supplies.
Ms. McCormick said the "wish list" includes everything from big items such as bicycles, computers, sound systems, and mopeds, to clothing, bedding, school supplies, vitamins, and reading glasses.
A shipping company will bring the container to the Island to fill, Ms. McCormick said, and it will take about 70 days for it to reach Uganda.
"It costs about $8,000 to $10,000 to ship the container, which is a very involved process," Ms. McCormick explained. "We will be collecting financial and material contributions, and we have other people interested in helping us coordinate all of this."
Mr. McCormick also plans to visit Uganda in late February to speak with government officials and church leaders about the needs of their country, so that he can relay that information back to people in the U.S.
For a detailed list of items needed for donation or for information about making a contribution, call the McCormicks at 508-693-9576.