By Curtis Shelburne: religion columnist
Whatever your personal policy about riding in leaking boats, a real leak in a real boat in which you are really riding will put it to the test.
The policy, I mean.
The boat, too, I suppose.
My wife and I and two of our sons recently had the opportunity at Jinja, Uganda, to sail across a little finger of Lake Victoria. “Sail” may be the wrong word. We got an opportunity to “ride” across a little finger of Lake Victoria. Though it sounds more nautical than “ride,” “sail” might imply, well, a sail, which we didn’t have, or a large ship, which is often properly said to “sail” even though it doesn’t have any.
We puttered. It was a sort of “launch”-size boat, completely wooden, covered with an awning, and powered by a sputtering gas engine. A helmsman was at the tiller, and the captain was up at the bow doing commentary. His job description evidently also included drumming up business among tourists, and he was good at it. We were four of the six passengers plopped on various wooden seats in the middle of the vessel.
The “finger” of Lake Victoria we sailed across is indeed small. With a shoreline of 2,138 miles, Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest in the world. It is also the source of the longest branch of the Nile River, the White Nile, and we stood on an island overlooking the strong roiling water where we were told the Nile actually begins.
On the next day I learned more than I wanted to know about the strength of that water as Joshua and I rafted down part of the Nile through Grade 5 rapids. I saw some of that strong river from the surface, drank a good bit of it, and spent more time than I care to remember under it.
But back to the boat ride.
On that little island, we climbed up to the marker, the “Jinja stone,” officially marking the source of the Nile.
Amazing. Beautiful water.
Verdant emerald green vegetation.
My wife saw all of that, too, and her reaction was the same.
But she also saw a bit of water accumulating along the keel beneath our seats. She also saw the helmsman at various stops taking the time to bail. That worried her a bit.
Me? I hardly noticed. I was loving the ride, shooting picture after picture, and eating one of the tasty rolled egg chapatis (like tortillas but better) we bought on the far shore.
My leaking boat policy? If the guy bailing the boat I’m in looks concerned, I will always help. If he is smiling and continuing his commentary, I will continue smiling and enjoying the journey.
Hmm. Boats on the Nile are probably like churches all over the world. They all leak. But a leaky boat is immensely better than no boat. Let’s thank God for the boat we’re in. Yes, we’re all needed to bail at times. But let’s not allow the leaks to blind us to what is still beautiful along the journey, what we’d not see at all if we were outside the boat treading water.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at