Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - June 2009
MARTIN’S NEWSLETTER FROM UGANDA – JUNE 2009
Hello again from Uganda! Warm greetings to you, both from me and from many of our Christian brothers and sisters here. You are often in our prayers.
It has been another interesting month, full of its usual selection of bizarre and unpredictable events! Some of the highlights (!?!) include being stuck in the middle of a bog while sandwiched in a taxi with sixteen medical students, becoming a host for the ‘eater of men’, speaking to 140 girls with toilet paper wrapped around my head and becoming unwittingly involved in a suspected prison break!!
I recently gathered the teenagers from Mooni C.o.U. together for another ‘Youth Day’. You may recall that we had a similar event in January and this was the second of what I hope will become a regular fixture each school holiday for the twelve to sixteen year olds in the church. We roughly followed the format of the first day, with plenty of food, games and sports. However, this time, I got some of the adult members of the church involved and we had some talks on the importance of studying hard, developing social skills and a presentation of the Gospel. It was another fantastic day and over eighty teenagers turned up. We thank God for all that He is doing with and in these precious young people.
I think that I have previously mentioned that I am discipling a small number of young people who are in their late teens and early twenties. One of them was recently given the opportunity to preach at church and it was great to see someone, who was until very recently, so shy, stand up and preach to a packed congregation. Afterwards, many people took the time to thank and complement her on the quality of her sermon and she was even given a boiled egg in appreciation. I just feel so privileged to be a small part of what God is doing here in so many Ugandan young people.
Talking of young people, we have recently had a visit from two students from Canada. Moses Okotel has a long standing relationship with McGill University in Montreal and they regularly send students to work with him and with ‘Child of Hope’. Last year, the students did some great work in Mvule Cell in Namatala and provided the inhabitants with four public latrines, which has made a very noticeable difference to public health and hygiene in that part of the Namatala slum.
The crowds start to arrive seeking medical attention
This year, the students came mainly to facilitate a medical outreach to one of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in the Teso region of Uganda. As a result, five of us from ‘Child of Hope’, the two Canadian students and thirty-two medical students, mainly from Mbale Regional Hospital, recently set off north in two large taxis or minibuses. The camp was not one that I had previously visited and it wasn’t particularly easy to get to as was testified to by the incident in the bog and with fallen trees blocking the road in places.
We were very enthusiastically greeted at the IDP camp and I was soon enrolled in some serious crowd control as hundreds of desperate people all sought to take advantage of the opportunity to be seen by medical personnel. Before they could be seen, we needed to take each person’s details and measure their weight and blood pressure. They could then be seen and diagnosed before having the necessary injections and drugs prescribed. Despite the chaos that often seemed to threaten to overrun us, the outreach was run in a very professional manner and, over the two days, in excess of 1,400 people were treated for a variety of conditions and illnesses.
I also managed to spend some time with some of the community leaders and hear a bit more about life in the camp. I was very interested to discover that they had started an income generating project to try and help some of the people become self sufficient. Obviously, this is something that I am also involved with locally and it was good to share ideas and experiences. I also spent a bit of time with the local pastor who had started a project to support child rape victims. This project particularly touched me and when the pastor asked if we could possibly help him with a ball for the girls to play with, we just had to help out with a donation of a couple of footballs. The people in the camps have suffered so much over the years and they desperately need our prayers. Before leaving the camp, I was also shown the foundations of the new church that is having to be built to accommodate the increase in numbers.
Whether it came from the camp or from elsewhere, I discovered a couple of days later that I had acquired a mango fly and I then had the interesting experience of watching a large larvae moving around under my skin! However, I’m happy to say that this particular mango fly, whose Latin name means ‘eater of men’, was soon removed from my body.
I have continued to preach at various different churches, schools and prisons and I recently attended Kamankoli College, a girl’s boarding school, some miles outside Mbale, for their Sunday morning service. Apparently, the main hall was unavailable and so the service had to be held in a small classroom. I’m not sure whether anyone knew quite how many girls were going to turn up but, by the time I got up to speak, we were like sardines in a tin. I managed to find a square foot of space somewhere near the front, although there were students sat and stood all around me. Unfortunately, this one small standing area coincided precisely with the lowest point of some sort of streamer or decoration constructed mainly of toilet paper and which somehow wrapped itself around my head. Once the ‘Mummy’ had managed to be freed, I was able to carry on and speak. I can give thanks to God that it was another powerful time and the Holy Spirit was clearly at work in many of the girls.
I was at home recently when I was informed that I had an unknown visitor come to see me. Upon investigation, I discovered that it was an ex-prisoner who had come to me looking for some financial assistance in travelling back to his home village. Due to my involvement in prison ministry, this is hardly a rare event; however, what was exceptional on this occasion was that the man claimed that he hadn’t so much been released from prison, as rather he had just escaped from a work detail by diving into a nearby river! After rejecting my advice to hand himself in, I had no choice other than to surreptitiously contact the prison authorities who soon turned up in considerable numbers to apprehend the desperado and escort him back to prison. Some days later, we heard conflicting accounts as to exactly who this man was and the circumstances of his ‘break out’. No doubt, this will be yet another instance here where we never really find out the exact true story. Only in Uganda!
May God bless you,