The drive to the church is on one of the worst roads in Uganda. It was “under construction” last year, this year it is worse. The poor vehicles we ride in take a beating, bottoming out on every pothole. We wonder when one of them will fail us. Leaving Mbale on this route is an assault on the senses. Ditches running beside the road are flowing with the water from yesterday’s rain and last week’s refuse. A recently slaughtered goat hangs over there, a man cooking on a wok-looking thing has today’s bread cooking in a pan next to the hanging goat, people loitering all about, a man “mows his yard” with a machete, children bathing in the brown water-again runoff from yesterday’s rain, a motorcycle passes by with two turkeys tied to the back…we had fried turkey for lunch yesterday, an 18 wheeler comes toward us with a massive dust cloud following; we wait for the onslaught of dust to hit us.
Thankfully we turn off the “pavement” and onto the dirt road which is like a Texas highway compared to the pavement we just came from. We pass people walking on both sides of the road headed in our direction; toward the church, an ominous sign. In the distance we see the church, or better stated we see the people surrounding the church. We all are in a state of shock as we get closer, so many people, so few workers, so few medicines. We estimate that 5,000 people have showed up today for the 5 Muzungu volunteers. Everything will be a challenge today. We each know that but no one says it.
Gene and Justin start with distributing nets with Lee, Doug and I filling pill pouches. For some reason today everyone coming through the net line has a story. I need one extra net for my grandmother or for my father or for my sister’s children.Why can’t things be easy? Does it have to be this stressful? Then I consider that these people live on less per day than the cost of my one diet coke. They are coming through the line to collect something worth about one weeks’ earnings for them. More importantly they are receiving medicines and a net; life saving stuff for someone that can’t afford to get this stuff by their own means. So I lighten up, joke with the kids, smile at the “Mama’s", and understand their situation a little better.
By the end of the day we hand out 2,000 nets and the doctors write about 3,000 prescriptions. The medicines run out by 2 pm and again we’re left to just hand out nets. By 3:00 the nets are gone and there’s still 2,000 people outside.
It’s hard to understand how a person can walk 10 miles to get in line for a net and drugs only to find out that they’ve run out. But that’s the reality of the situation they are in. Now, they turn around and take the long walk home.
I talked to Pastor Abraham today about the medical missions. My question is “do they help"?
He says these medical missions are providing a rebirth and renewal in the church. He explains, as these new churches get older and the problems of the people persist, people sometimes get stagnant in their faith. Now, here come the Mzungus with something they have prayed about. Something that will make their children free from malaria and other issues they have been fighting. In their eyes, God listened to them and sent the Mzungus from the states to help them. Abraham says these churches are being “born again". Great job COTHA!
As the local song goes “God is good…All the time". And so he is.
So, on the way home on the rough road, we hit a rather large pothole and the springs bottomed out and made a funny noise. The driver checks the rear wheel only to find that we’ve broken the axle. What a day!