Today I started doing stuff with Jenga (http://jengauganda.org/projects/). I would like to get involved in their ladies’ literacy groups and that has not happened yet. One of the far more regular commitments that I can have with them is their hospital ministry on a Thursday morning.
Jenga has a development philosophy that I really like: the Muzungus (westerners!) are there to enable and facilitate the Ugandans in making the real difference. So when giving is done it happens through Ugandan hands, not through the rich whities. (So many people have the perception that white skin = huge wealth and deep pockets to throw money at dark skin. Totally unknown children greeted us while driving past their village: “Mzungu! Give me money!”) But the thing is to make a difference and impact on this area for God’s kingdom.
I joined in the visit this morning expecting to learn, see something different and to pray for a few people. I was uncertain of a great deal and probably not quite mentally prepared for what I would see. I am an African, I knowAfrica.
Not THISAfrica. Although we had been briefed before the visit I was still shocked… as I think I should be every single time I will visit the hospital. I do not think a person should ever be immune and hardened to the suffering of others. Unfortunately there are scabs of hardness that have calloused parts of my heart: seeing droopy eyes and cupped palms at traffic lights inSouth Africa can do that to you. After seeing hospitals inIndia and doing some ministry programmes at TB hospitals on the KZN coast in SA, I have seen some bad situations. What I saw today struck me as being worse than a number of situations seen before.
The TB wards at Mbale’s big hospital have been upgraded. The walls are painted and they have ceilings. (Apparently before the metal sheeting of the roofs was the only protection from heat and rain; there were cobwebs and dirt all over.) The wards are divided into a male patient and female patient section and each of those sections has 16 beds. The occupancy was not too high today – there are times that every bed is taken. The beds are shabby and the mattresses very thin, worn and threadbare. Each patient is given a bed and there are 2 wooden shelves are built into the wall. No fancy lights, curtains for privacy (or even the windows), no spaces for drips, medical equipment, plugs…The hard concrete floors are untiled. It is bare and the atmosphere I felt was HOPELESSNESS.
This is not a great situation for the TB patients: many of them are in the hospital for 6 months at a time to complete their treatment. The usual situation for all patients is they must each have a care-giver: somebody to prepare food, assist them with cleaning themselves, their beds (no hospital linen is provided) and collecting and paying for medicines and any equipment that may be needed – drips, syringes, swabs, etc. (The care giver will sleep on a papyrus mat next to the bed of the patient, with boxes of food paraphernalia under the bed. Not too hygienic!) There are many who just do not have this care giver and if they are really ill they lie feeling lonely, abandoned and HOPELESS.
As soon as we walked into the ladies’ ward and I saw the emaciated forms lying on the bed, my thought was “Jesus loves these people.” Their skinny frames, faces emitting discouragement, slapped the reality of despair in this country in my face. Until now I have seen the happy: cheerful kids, friendly people serving at the hotel, willing bodies assisting in our house –shiny, shiny, shiny. This was the other end of the spectrum. As we bowed over the bodies I had a sense of the Jesus of Luke being most at home here: leaching compassion for the hurt, weeping with the women… all the people that shiny shiny does not have time for.
We heard a little of each person’s story in the few minutes we spent with them. Children taken away to a village and no-one to care for Angelina: her loneliness and hurt (besides the pain of her sickness) tore at my heart. She has been lying in the ward for 3 or so months. Shirley is so skinny her shoulder bones stand out like American Football gear. Her stomach pains unbearably. Neither Shirley nor Angelina had the energy to raise their heads as we were praying for them but the tears streamed down from their eyes as we touched them. We moved across to Connie: 21 years old, 6 months pregnant (unmarried) and diagnosed about 2 weeks ago. She shrieked with delight at a change from the boredom as we entered the ward to pray. Beatrice, whose mother has given up planting crops for the family to care for her daughter.
Another precious one where we stopped briefly (but others were there to pray so I did not get the name): A girl who looked no older than 12 in her flimsiness said she is 20. She has a 4 year old daughter with her in the ward – this daughter has malaria at the moment. The mother, weak and in pain (TB medication is very strong and uncomfortable) has to take care of her ill daughter. The little one had wet the bed where she had been sleeping and the mother barely had the energy to find clothes to change her.
These are just a few stories that I saw today. How many more events of utter pain and hurt are there in the world today? I am deeply burdened by these few… I cannot help but think of the Messiah Who knows each situation intimately and is moved by each one’s pain. Despite all the shiny shiny and the deep agony of living He remains unchangeable and ABOUNDING in mercy and HOPE. He is the God of all hope.
We prayed that that hope would be felt by those feeling hopeless today.
I deliberately included names in this entry so that if you choose to, you could pray for the particular individuals we have lifted to God today already.
Despite the situation, somebody may come by and give a hopeful word, and share in the hurt. There is always a hope. Always.