The road block, the banana tree and the sugar cane

Baptisms Ugandan style....

My time in Uganda is over and I’m back in Cape Town serving with All Nations! More about that soon. Of all the experiences I’ve had over the last 5 months, the most unique… and entertaining day was when we baptised people we had been journeying with in the community. What a privilege! Yes, it was. But it was a lot of other things too…

Let me guide you through our day.

We’re excited. We have 5 people in the community who want to get baptised. Our long term host tells us that he can pick them up at 10.00, be at the local swimming pool for 1045, baptise them and be back by 11.40 for an afternoon of handovers for our final week in the community.

Seamless, right?

Well, by 11.30am the car had fuel, and reached us. We rushed off into the community to pick up those getting baptised, which included one daughter telling me she would cane me for being late for picking up her mother…

As we piled into the car we realised we had picked up another lady and her daughter. Here to watch, we figured. The more the merrier, right? Well we now had 14 people in an 8 seater car. Including 2 people somehow contorted around the gear stick wedged between the driver and other passenger. I think I was inflicting pain on Morgan taking this photo…


Running only 90 minutes late, we were on our way for a total of about 5 minutes when a commotion started in the car. Apparently there was a road block. And the sight of mzungus (white people) and 14 people in a car was reason for a bribe/fine. To avoid this, a group of us got out to walk past the road block. More commotion in Lugandan and we were then instructed that we couldn’t let the road block see us, because they’d know we’d got out of the car. Not entirely understanding, I complied to furtively hiding around bushes for a bit before starting on our way….

Eventually (I’m talking several miles later…) , we caught up to where the car was hiding past the road block and continued . Time check – 1pm.

I started to relax, thinking things were back to normal now. Mistake. Another frenzied talk in Lugandan and I was then informed there were 2 more road blocks ahead. Sigh. I mentally prepared myself for a lot more walking and was praying that the baptism candidates weren’t put off by this unorthodox journey. But I figured they didn’t know the protocol for getting baptised so hopefully none the wiser….

Second road block. We jumped out, prepared now. We were pro’s at avoiding road blocks! Only to see our van run over a banana tree, and then see Shadreck try and prop it back up like he could selotape it back on. Groan. The owner of said banana tree came out and a conversation ensued in Lugandan. I backed away….

Walking commenced once more. This time I was handed a giant stick of sugar cane. A little confused, I took it. Our friend explained , as if it was completely logical, that this gave us a ‘legitimate’ reason for walking along a highway – we had bought sugar cane from the roadside, of course, rather than escaping a road block because we were white, and on our way to a baptism. The mind boggles…

We sailed past the next road block, I was at this point using my sugar cane as some sort of protective shield as we went past the officers. It turned out they did serve a purpose as they created a cloud of confusion as the officers scratched their heads at the scene of a group of white people grasping onto sugar cane and smiling inanely. By the time they thought to ask us questions we had walked briskly past, and eventually found the hiding car and jumped in for leg 3.

And then once more we were turfed out. This time, a phone call came. Apparently the second road block had called ahead and warned the third road block that there were mzungus coming. They were demanding money. We then heard (we were still walking….and praying) that our driver told them about the baptisms and the police turned out to be a Christian and let the vehicle through! Grateful at divine intervention at this point, we hurriedly caught up with the car and were finally on our way.

Time check. 2pm.

On arrival at the pool everyone tumbled out, and the candidates went off to get changed. Including the lady who had come to watch. Turned out she had decided to give her life to Jesus and get baptised too. Great!

We also found out that there was a separate fee to swim as well as a fee to be baptised in the pool. Funds short as always, we strictly instructed everyone NO SWIMMING. Baptising only.

However we hadn’t counted on their delight at being in a pool, a rare occurrence for them. A monumental moment and we were all poised ready to pray in the water and baptise our first candidate when one of them lurches forwards in some kind of doggy paddle. We all break to a halt and sternly shout NO SWIMMING! before commencing with the baptism. At one point, we gave up as we baptised one lady with 3 of the candidates swimming, diving and jumping in the foreground….


Chaos reigned.

But the baptisms eventually happened. And they were awesome.

We then realised everyone was starving as it was now 3pm and we were a good 4 hours behind schedule. We stopped for food. And this is not fast food…

On the way home – just one check point and long walk. No banana trees were broken or sugar canes bought. Easy.

Time check – 5pm and everyone finally home. Only 6 hours late. And that is how baptisms go in Uganda….

If you would like to receive my newsletter updates with slightly more useful info, please send me an email on

If you would like to support me financially please email me or visit the giving page here for more info. Thank you!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go top