Harvesting Peace

As promised, we went to the Abayudayah Jewish community on Shabbat morning for services. It was actually a fairly auspicious time to be visiting: last week their new spiritual leader, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, was formally installed in his home community. Rabbi Gershom has been studying for the past several years at the Conservative movement’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and his return to Uganda has been a much-anticipated and long-awaited moment. By all reports, his installation was a major event, attended by many leaders from the American Jewish community as well as throngs of Ugandan Jews.

To judge from our experience, Rabbi Sizomu has clearly settled comfortably into his new role. He presided a lovely service together with other members of the commumity (including JJ Keki, who led us in some rousing Ugandan-style Psalms). Also attending the service was Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Executive VP of United Synagogue, who was there to dedicate new Beit Midrash (House of Learning) that the Conservative movement had funded for them. After the service we shared oneg and lunch with the Abayudayah before heading back to Mbale for some Shabbat R&R. (Sorry no pix of this visit – Shabbas after all…)

On Sunday morning we completed our interfaith “hat trick” by attending church services at the Namanyoni Anglican Church (that’s me below with the head of the church – and Peace Kawomera board member – Stephen Kabala). Just as at the Nankusi mosque on Friday, we were received with welcome and graciousness, especially as they did not have much advance notice of our visit. After the service, they greeted us with the now obligatory speeches, and I had the opportunity to lead the congregation in an impromptu Bible Study of the Jewish weekly portion.

We have been so impressed all week at the deep level of interfaith cooperation and support in Uganda. I made a point of telling our new friends, quite from the heart, that they are true teachers; that we in the United States and the West have not yet learned how to live the way they do here.

After lunch we were back with our good friends at the Peace Kawomera coop, for a better look at their operations. The coop is clearly on the verge of reaching a new level of viability. They are currently building an impressive new warehouse/office facility and thanks to a USAID grant, they have recently acquired a new high-powered pulping machine for use by all of the farmers in the coop (below). Up until this point, farmers have been pulping the beans by hand. (More in this in my next post).

We ended our day by helping JJ with the coffee harvest (top pic). We set out over the hillside, scouring the plants for the red beans, which are just now beginning to emerge (the height of the season will occur this September). It really was a thrill, especially for those of us at JRC, who have been selling and drinking Mirembe Kawomera for years.

In my next post I’ll report on the process by which the harvested beans are pulped, dryed, cleaned, and milled before they set out for the US to be roasted and distributed. It truly takes a community working together to produce a cup or fair trade coffee…

PS: Tomorrow we drive back to Kampala to begin our journey home.

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