It was one of those precious moments that occupy a special place in one’s heart and memory. On Wednesday January 24, 2018, my wife and I, together with our friend Rogers, stopped in Ibanda, Nkore, on our way from Kabarole, just to say hello to our friend Chris Bishaka. We were very delighted to find him in very good health, with that unharassed and relaxed manner that appears to be typical of middle-class Ugandans that have fled upcountry from maddening Kampala. We thought we would have a short visit and press on with our journey back to Mburara.
My impression of Chris as a bright man with a great sense of humour, gained from avidly following his Facebook posts, was quickly affirmed in face-to-face conversation. Though I had never met him before, it was a reunion with the son and brother of people that we had known and admired for years. His sisters – Grace and Patience – had been part of our lives at Makerere University. They were members of the Christian fellowship that had bound us together during very difficult times. His parents had been pillars in the East African Christian Revival that had been the foundation of our renewal in Christ.
We already knew or quickly saw that Chris was a successful businessman, with the usual resume of a middle-aged educated Ugandan. University education; work in the public service, including teaching followed by a stint in Tanzania as an executive officer with Uganda Railways Corporation; years in England; then a return to his homeland – literally so – to live and make a contribution to his community.
Among his businesses is farming and major real estate investments. He also manages a local radio station. We knew he had been widowed for years and had raised his children pretty much on his own. What we did not know was that he was blessed to live in the same town as his parents. It was one of those moments when one hesitates to inquire about the health of elderly folk. “Yes, my parents live here in Ibanda,” he confirmed. “Would you like to see them?”
After a very short drive from his office, we came to a large compound where a new house was under construction. An elderly gentleman was supervising the works, his straight back and gait suggesting one in his seventies, at the most. “That’s my father,” Chris told us.
Canon Samwiri Bishaka quickly walked up the incline to his house where we were disembarking from our car. The beautiful home, which he shares with his 90-year-old wife, Naomi Kyakuhaire Bishaka muhara wa Yobu Ntungweriisho, sits on what was once a very rocky property that he personally turned into a livable place.
After warm embraces by him and his wife, we sat down to listen to very uplifting accounts of lives well lived.
Mr. Bishaka thinks that he was born in 1916 or 1917. He may have been born earlier than that, for he recalls that he walked to Church when he was baptized in 1920, suggesting that he would have been at least five or six years old. Orphaned very early, he did not know his father. He did not start primary one education until he was 17 years old, supported by a Gomborora (sub-county) chief. He received accelerated primary school education before proceeding to Nyakasura School. He qualified as a school teacher.
Mr. Bishaka akajunwa (became a born-again Christian) in 1942. The East African Christian Revival was sweeping the region, but not without resistance from senior church and civic leaders. “Okujunwa kukaba nikureebwa nk’ekihagaro” (salvation was considered a sacrilege), Bishaka said, with a smile that reported joyful gratitude that, 75 years later, he can still look back with satisfaction and sing Tukutendereza Yesu (we give you glory, Jesus!)
At 101 plus, Mr. Bishaka is very active, very sharp and very strong. He has the confidence of one who is free in Christ. In the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans 8:1-3, Mr. Bishaka lives in accordance with the Spirit and so has his mind set on what the Spirit desires. And the Lord blest him with a son that has ably received the family baton.