MAF partner, Jesus Film Ministries, to hold socially distanced Christmas celebration in Uganda as authorities ease restrictions

Published: 2 Dec 2020

 Ssese islanders preparing for their Christmas celebration with Jesus Film Ministries in 2017 - pre-coronavirus

Following Uganda’s Ministry of Health announcement on 9 November, up to 200 people can now gather in public, providing they keep two metres apart and wear masks. MAF will fly Jesus Film Ministries staff to the remote island of Bukasa to safely celebrate Christmas, encourage local churches and to evangelise others…

Bukasa is one of the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria, Uganda. Out of 84 islands, Bukasa is the only island with an airstrip. Given the sheer size of Lake Victoria, reaching the mainland by boat is expensive, dangerous and can take up to eight hours. By air, it takes MAF just 20 minutes.

Even before coronavirus, life for the islanders was hard. Most of their food is shipped over from the mainland of Uganda, which increases their cost of living. Strict laws on illegal fishing means a lot of the local fishermen have gone out of business. Their lives are limited - in desperation, many have turned to drink.

Many local fisherman from the Ssese islands have gone out of business due to the strict illegal fishing laws

‘Coronavirus has changed everything’

Director of Jesus Film Ministries and former MAF employee, Sam Tsapwe, explains why it’s so important to support the islanders at Christmas, especially during a pandemic:  

‘The people on the islands are isolated. Most of them are fishermen and live in cramped villages. A lot of the time, they don’t have hope. Their little churches comprise of about eight or 12 people, so a gathering for these people is important because it gets them together. When they meet as 150 people to rejoice together, it means a lot.’

‘When a plane flies against the wind, it still needs to fly through it to reach its destination’

Sam Tsapwe, Director of Jesus Film Ministries

'This year, local Christians have found the coronaviurs crisis incredibly challenging and are in desperate need of some Christmas cheer. Since the restrictions have eased, Sam and his team are doing all they can:

‘Coronavirus has changed everything. It’s affecting livelihoods - many people don’t have savings and rely on very small daily incomes. Even their faith has been affected. Some say, “Why has God allowed this?’ We’re going to leave our faith since churches have been closed.” It has been very difficult - churches have suffered isolation and many have expressed abandonment.’

There are 84 Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria. Many islanders feel cut off from Uganda’s mainlandSam continues:

‘We’re encouraging members after all they’ve been through - our aim is to strengthen their faith. Our formidable team encourage them that life isn’t always easy and that things can come against us. When a plane flies against the wind, it still needs to fly through it to reach its destination. Jesus not only conquers small difficulties, but even death itself!

We believe that such teaching, fellowship, love and encouragement will make fellow believers strong. They now know that problems won’t break them, but will make them stronger.’

Sam Tsapwe, Director of Jesus Film Ministries, has a heart to reach out to the isolated islanders

Christmas cheer is on its way

Sam is delighted that the government has finally eased their tough restrictions and that MAF will be able to fly Jesus Film Ministries staff out to the Ssese Islands to celebrate Christmas with the locals:

‘Easing lockdown to allow more people to meet is great news. We can gather together and encourage each other with testimonies of the Lord's intervention in our lives during this difficult time. Easing lockdown means believers are able to share the Gospel more.’

Sam’s annual Christmas celebration with islanders won’t be the same as previous years due to the pandemic, but he’s excited nonetheless:

‘We will have the Christmas celebration at one of the churches in Lwanabatya Village on Bukasa Island for the churches of Bukasa Island and neighbouring islands.

We will share God’s Word, have praise and worship, see presentations from different churches, eat and drink and even cut a birthday cake for Jesus. We will watch a nativity movie, pray for everyone and depart before the curfew.’

Jesus Film Ministries celebrating Christmas with the Ssese islanders back in 2017, without the coronavirus curfew:

The power of film can touch many people

Since restrictions have eased from 9 November, Jesus Film Ministries have projected a variety of Christian films in local languages in some of Uganda’s remotest areas.

Due to the new ‘200 person’ rule, during their most recent trip to the Rukiagiri District – a mountainous area in Western Uganda - they had to facilitate their outreach programme across three different areas to control the numbers. Sam says the films have had a great impact during the pandemic:

‘We showed films like ‘Jesus’, ‘The Passion of the Christ, ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ both inside the church and outdoors. People turned up because they are so hungry for the Gospel. When we showed the films outdoors, we had many new converts wanting to join the local church.’ 

Sam first visited Rukiagiri District 18 years ago when there were only 20 people in one church. Today, there are 25 churches in the area with around 1,500 members.

MAF continues to support Jesus Film Ministries and their quest to evangelise the unreached in Uganda’s remotest areas.

Sam has been using MAF aka ‘The Lord’s Dove’ for nearly 20 years from Kajjansi Airfield in Uganda

The Lord’s Dove’ to reach the unreached

During nearly 20 years of ministry, MAF - or ‘the Lord’s Dove’ as Sam calls them - has always been Sam’s preferred choice of travel:

‘Flying in Uganda is expensive, but MAF flights are subsidised. MAF flies us to very remote places, which other planes don’t fly to. If we travel by road, we are so exhausted once we arrive.

With MAF, we don’t return from these ministry trips completely exhausted because we’re not spending most of the day travelling. MAF is available to go where our hearts want to be, evangelising people that are hard to reach. MAF takes care of us. 

We know that there is hope in Jesus and we come to share such hope, joy and peace. MAF does a tremendous job, enabling Jesus Film Ministries to minister to these lovely people.’