Is Nebbi home to the world’s smallest church?
There are times when you visit a place and it totally disappoints. Biku Recreation Centre, situated on Biku Hill, 18km from Nebbi town, is not even close to such place.
Apart from its jaw-dropping beauty, the hill boasts what could be the smallest chapel in the world, standing at a height of 8ft and a width of about 2.5metres. The place of worship can only accommodate three people – the preacher and a congregation of two.
I will always remember the way I sweated behind the steering wheel as I carefully drove through the bumpy narrow road leading to Biku from Nebbi. Together with Mubiru, a colleague and Godfrey, a friend, we were on a UN Programme-mission to rediscover Biku.
The November heat of seeped through my suede jacket, causing my pores to unleash rivers of sweat that soaked my T-shirt. But I was grateful for the fresh breeze. It seemed cooler inside the car. Every step of the journey drove us to more scenic sights and sounds of the valley rivers along the corridors of Nebbi’s rolling hills.
Sylvester Ochopi, the caretaker, walked to the parking lot to welcome us to rest in the shade surrounded by lush flowers. He told us that the centre’s history dates back to 1996, when Pastor Song, a Korean, together with his Lordship Henry Luke Orombi, the retired Archbishop of Church of the Uganda, founded it.
“The centre’s ministry is focused on spiritual healing for individuals and church groups. It is hoped that those who come here will be able to meet with God in a special way, receive a vision for their future and to become bold soldiers for the gospel,” Ochopi explained. “Africans like to be on the move, so it was felt that providing nine prayer points would create a comfortable setting for people to pray, praise and meditate on God’s word.”
The hike to prayer points
Ochopi invited us to the first climbing challenge destined for prayer point one, which sits on the highest peak of the hill. None of us had climbing gear, but the hiking challenge turned out to be only half as difficult; Ochopi had exaggerated a bit - we made it to the peak within 15 minutes.
At the top, we found a big cross at whose feet four pilgrims were meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. Opposite was Prayer point two, a Lilliputian building constructed in remembrance of Jesus Christ. To its eastern and western walls are 12 windows reminiscent of the 12 disciples. Ochopi said it is at this prayer point that pilgrims pray for Uganda’s neighbouring countries namely Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya; for spiritual revival and peace.
We got a splendid panoramic view of the roaring Namrwodho Falls, which is home to rear bird species such as the shoebill. Overlooking the falls are the rolling hills in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose border is within a walking distance from Biku. Going to prayer point three was a little difficult because the slope was steeper.
Many a time, we literally sprang from one spot to another downwards, only to step on fresh dung of baboons or step on sharp pointed rocks. This point was built in the shape of Africa and has two entrances.
The building has 10 windows symbolic of the 10 commandments, on which people can meditate while here. It is purposed for praying for all African countries, especially Islamic countries.
As the sun’s rays started to seep through the thick canopies of the forest trees, we strolled to a large tranquil flower garden. At its three tips were prayer points four, five and six.
Prayer point four is shaped like a heart as a sign of Jesus Christ’s love and has a cross made of 33 stones to signify the 33 years of Jesus’ life. Prayer point five is in the shape of an arrow-head to signify the speed of the youth.
Prayer point five has 66 windows representing the books of the bible: 39 windows at the back for the Old Testament and 27 windows on the front for the New Testament. Its three doors are shaped like a man standing, representing those who are equipped with the word of God.
Prayer point six was given the shape of an altar, as a testimony to the fact that the church is a living offering to Christ’s mission. Rough stones on the cross signify that Christians are “living stones”.
Time for a break
After the first part of the tour, we sat down to relax at the gardens. Godfrey and Mubiru chose to make the most of this break by tracking baboons and monkeys in the jungle surrounding the hill. I gave in to the seduction of the garden’s spongy lawns. There was something new and exciting to discover in the gardens at every turn.
Ochopi soon led us to the seventh prayer point; a round building symbolic of the world. This point is situated behind a towering rock at whose base, a natural open-ended cave curves.
To give us a pinch of the suffering Jesus went through in his life, we were obliged to crawl through from one end to another. The terrifying bit of this five minute crawl was the darkness inside the cave, plus the fear that it might collapse and bury us underneath.
The smallest church
At the eighth prayer point, better known as Bethel Church, inspiring architecture ushered our adventure to its climax. Here stands the dwarf building.
At its entrance, there are 12 windows representing the 12 stones on Aaron’s breast plate (12 tribes of all the saints).
The ceiling has seven beams representing the seven colours of the rainbow, which is symbolic of Gods promise never to destroy the earth (with floods) again like in the days of Noah.
Through its eastern window, I could see the cross on the highest peak — at prayer point two — a view which, according to the guide, reflects the need for Christians to always look up to Jesus.
Surprisingly, small as it is, its construction cost up to 79 bags of cement. It was built to last at least 500 years before its foundation weakens.
Nearby are two prayer points which are shaped in the form of a womb, and the main chapel, which is basically a vast chapel with a capacity of over 400 pilgrims.