Dear family and friends,
Last Friday included a wonderful visit to the home for the elderly where the greatest blessing was singing with the residents. The sweetest picture was when we were joined by one man as we sang How Great Thou Art. He has severe Parkinson’s disease and we had befriended him last year. He gets around with great difficulty using a very large ‘staff’, leaning heavily against the walls…or on us. The joy on his face was very moving. So many residents, very feeble and disabled, haltingly made their way to sing with us…even with some dancing thrown in. Any music, but particularly worship, truly breaks down barriers whether of language or disability or situation. The Lord blessed us all!
That night we went to the Bukoto Home, established by Bob Goff and Restore International to get young girls off the streets and out of prostitution. Our church, Horizon Christian Fellowship sponsors this home. Our group had visited last year shortly after its opening, but the transformation this year to last was amazing. God has done a great work in hearts and minds to bring true joy and laughter and freedom to these girls. We sang and worshiped together, even dancing in praise. We were deeply saddened by the testimony of a 15 year old who told of becoming a prostitute just so she could go to school. Another one read a long poem of coming out of the darkness and desperation of being told by her mother that she was “trash” and had no value as a person. It is only through Restore and her new found faith in Jesus that she realizes that she is loved and is valued beyond measure. Girls as young as 12 or 13 years, in the dark pit of prostitution, now free and with hope that they would have never dreamed possible.
Yesterday, Monday, was our final medical clinic and it was at the Acholi Quarters. These are a people group who escaped the north and persecution and are little more than tolerated, allowed to live in southern Uganda but in filth and squalid conditions. At some level it’s our favorite clinic because of the need but it is disturbing and deeply sad to see these dear people living amongst raw sewage, clothing filthy and threadbare, little food and disease apparent everywhere. But they are so grateful we are there and express it over and over…..very humbling.
And it was extra special when we found mama Rose and her daughter Brenda whom Stephanie had met on her first trip to Uganda four years ago. The next year, my first visit (Jan), we saw Rose and little Brenda again. This year Stephanie had brought pics of that second meeting. I remember how pleased mama Rose was to see us together, ‘mama and daughter.‘ Last year we didn’t connect so we loved seeing them again, giving her the pictures and getting to meet her younger baby boy, Gilbert. Truly you are so relieved to see them still there…Brenda in school, and the family together. With so much disease and the desperate conditions…you just don’t know year to year….
Then in the clinic, Jaja (grandmother) Florence came with one grandson, Aaron. As we were talking, she talked of us meeting last year and how happy she was that we were back. She is HIV positive and cares for her three grandchildren, praying she will live to care for them as they grow. They are all under two years. She is a lovely Christian and has a deep trust in Jesus.
Both these precious women returned later in the clinic giving us paper bead jewelry which they had made. As Florence said, “I can only give this as I have nothing else but I give from my heart.”
So as sweet as this story is, we still were surrounded by people in such desperate conditions that it’s impossible to describe. When I say, “slum” or “poor”, it’s hardly differentiating one area from another….there are the poor and desperate all around us. Sometimes almost hard to breathe when you are ‘in the midst’ and can only see the desperate conditions. However, we do see the Lord’s hand.
We go into the darkest settings of human filth and depravation and yet so many we meet are spiritually alive and we come out blessed and charged to love more and deeper. Here they are so dependent on Christ for everything; food, medical, transportation…their very lives. So Christ is very real. In our culture, it’s easy to become less dependent on Christ as our lives are so convenient. This experience serves as a catalyst of change, changing our hearts and deepening our commitment to serve Him whether in Africa or at home. By God’s grace, may our desire to love and serve be evident no matter where we are…
Love and Blessings,
Jan and Stephanie