Anglican Shrine receives first pilgrim from Apac

Mr Lawrence Okello, 27, was the first pilgrim to arrive at the Namugongo Martyrs Anglican Shrine. PHOTO / ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Okello arrived after walking about 200km from Abolo East village in Apac District.
  • He recounts that the security guard who was on duty at the time [at the Shrine] was so excited by his arrival and that he pulled out his phone and took pictures with him.

On Sunday,  May 22, Mr Lawrence Okello, 27, was the first pilgrim to arrive at the Namugongo Martyrs Anglican Shrine.

Okello arrived after walking about 200km from Abolo East village in Apac District.

He recounts that the security guard who was on duty at the time [at the Shrine] was so excited by his arrival and that he pulled out his phone and took pictures with him.

“Welcome! Welcome! You are the first pilgrim to arrive for this year’s celebrations at the Anglican Shrine,” Mr Okello recalls the security guard saying when he arrived at about 6pm.

He adds that when the inquisitive guard wondered where his colleagues were, an exhausted and limping Okello responded that he had walked alone.

He says he did not mind being a lone ranger on the path towards accomplishing his own dreams and goals.

Also, he revealed that he wanted to reach early and  have ample rest before the main celebrations on June 3.

Yesterday, during an interview with Monitor, Mr Okello, who earns a living from casual work, was chatty and jovial. The pilgrim was so upbeat.

While pointing to his feet, the pilgrim reveals that the swellings he suffered as a result of walking have started to subside.

“I am better now. From the time I arrived here, Rev. Bbosa has taken good care of me,” he said.

Rev Esau Bbosa is the in-charge of Namugongo Martyrs Anglican Shrine.

According to Mr Okello, the clergy accorded him a room [of his own] as a reward for arriving first at the Shrine.

Meanwhile, other Anglican pilgrims have been accorded tents to sleep in  ahead of Martyrs Day celebrations that will be led by Greater Ankole [Dioceses] under the theme, Hope beyond affliction.

Rev Bbosa confirmed to the Monitor that Mr Okello was indeed the first pilgrim to arrive at the Namugongo Martyrs Anglican Shrine on Sunday [May 22).

Also, he acknowledged that the man was still the first pilgrim to arrive at the site in 2019 for the same celebrations.  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pilgrims were banned in 2020 and 2021. Instead, the celebrations were held scientifically.

Mr Okello is pleased that pilgrims have a chance to make their walk of faith this year.

“It was a way of sacrificing my comfort for God. I was showing Him that I am here as a servant to do His work. As I was walking, I kept praying “This is me God, use me for your work,” Mr Okello said.

The trek from Apac

Okello started walking on May 16. He set off at 3am wearing open shoes, white shorts and a vest.

In his backpack, he had his personal effects and Shs100,000, that his friends had collected for him to use during the journey.

“As much as my parents wanted to give me something, they could not because of financial constraints as they both earn a living from farming. So, that is how my friends came to help out. They could not bear the thought of me walking bare-handed.”

He said he used the money to buy food, drinking water and and ointments for massaging his legs whenever they got bruises.

Mr Okello rested every 10pm at either a church or guest house before waking up at 3am to commence his journey.

“I did not want to sleep in these guest houses but circumstances forced me. I would reach late at a designated locations and would find the church closed. So, I was left with no option but to find a safe place to rest for a few hours,” he said.

Staying in guest houses was an additional expense as night accommodation could go as much as Shs20,000. 

It’s partly because of this that Mr Okello used up his money by the time he got to the shrine.  “So, as we speak, I am broke,” he said while laughing. 

Asked about how he plans to sustain himself until the D-day, Mr Okello said the seminary team within the Namugongo Anglican Shrine has been kind enough to provide him and otherpilgrims meals.

“They give us breakfast, lunch and supper,” he said, adding: “But friends back home are mobilising money for me and once it is sent, I will be able to look after myself.”

Among the challenges, Okello revealed that the heat from the sunshine and sometimes rain affected his walking schedule.

He also says vehicles were also an inconvenience as he had to constantly watch his back.

So far, according to Rev Bbosa, the Anglican Shrine has received nine pilgrims. Besides Okello who comes from Apac, others are from Otuke and Kanungu.

Mr Okello said he will head back home on June 4 by either hitching means of transport from other pilgrims from his district or using public means. He is optimistic that his friends would have sent him some additional money by then.

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