Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I will never forget

Day 6 in Uganda
Yesterday I finished reading Red Letters and started reading Billy by William Paul McKay and Ken Abraham. The book is about Billy Graham’s youth. I have been interested in Billy Graham since I met George. Today I continued reading and I am almost halfway done with the book. I love it.  During the day it is very hot. It is the dry season. It cools off around 5 pm. That is the time we usually go on our walks to visit with the people in the village. Gideon and his sister Miriam came in to see me and brought us some more sugar cane. I sat in the floor with them and showed them how to put a puzzle together. Ritah came in and helped me by teaching them in Luganda.

Today I walked up to the church where the choir was practicing. I sat and watched a while. The ladies were taking all the girls’ hair down out of plaits on the vacant side of the church. They have been doing that now for days. George stopped me and asked if I was going to take any pictures of the women across the way at the school. The women are learning to bead while the children are out for holiday.  Their school schedule is much different than in America. They have class for 3 months, then they’re on holiday for 1 month.  Beading is another way for the people in the village to sustain themselves. I walked over and got some pictures. While outside the door a saw a small child around 3 or 4 years old chopping a jackfruit with a machete. 

After entering inside the school, I saw the artist, Moses, teaching the ladies how to make the beads. The women are truly beautiful. I hugged a sweet elderly lady who was sitting on the floor. All the women laughed with excitement. I walked around to observe the work they were doing. I told them how beautiful their work was. I hugged another lady and told her she was beautiful. They all laughed again and I overheard a lady telling her in Luganda what I had said. When I left they were all smiles. These women work hard. You can see that in their hands. 

(Moses, Ekubo Ministries' artist)

Then I walked behind the church to see what the men were working on. They were laying foundation for a building. These people never stop working - from the time they get up in the early morning till they go to bed at night. Then I walked down the hill back towards the house. As I approached, the lady that George had offered a job as a teacher was standing in the doorway of one of the classrooms. She was studying for school. I was blown away. Yesterday when we asked her if she was happy about the job she didn’t seem very thrilled.  But when I saw her here I knew God was serious about making her part of His plan. She thanked us for what we had done yesterday. She didn’t ever look me in the eyes (something that is culture here). She told me to tell Christie thank you. I can see Jesus in the eyes of these people. I love every single one of them.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40
When I got back Gideon and Miriam were waiting on me. I gave them both a vitamin. I put some things in a bag for them - toothbrushes for the entire family, some toothpaste, a comb, toothpicks, and bandaids. Christie and I got up some stuff for Lydia’s family.  She’s the little girl who died last week of malaria. She was only 4 years old. Malaria is easily treated, and they brought her to the makeshift clinic that George and Christie have in a small room attached to the church.  But the clinic doesn’t have the equipment to test for malaria so they were sent to Bombo, the closest little town with a clinic.  They treated her but when she didn’t show improvement, they took her to another clinic.  That is where she left this world and went to be with Jesus.  George and Christie could have helped but Lydia’s mom didn’t contact them because she knew the clinic couldn’t help, so she didn’t think about them helping personally.  They were broken and God put it on their hearts to raise money to build a clinic so that no other child that Ekubo Ministries serves will die of a preventable disease.  The men and women here have so much hope that the clinic will be built, that they've even started clearing the land where it will be.  

We gathered together some things for her family as well - toothbrushes, toothpaste, candy, floss with toothpicks, a razor, a comb, vitamins for the mom, and some pictures that Christie had sent me of Lydia that I printed and brought here with me. People here don’t have pictures of their kids. So if one dies they have no way to remember them except memory. 

I got Gideon and Miriam a cold bottle of water and told them we would take them home on the way. The kids and Wilson (one of Christie and George’s kids) loaded up in the van. We headed out. The sun was setting. It was unbelievably beautiful. Christie got a few shots out the window. 

I took some pictures of some children along the way. We made our way down a tiny foot trail. That van goes places I have never seen. We arrived at the house were Lydia lived. Christie said it was so weird not seeing her there. She was the first to greet whenever they came to see her. Miria was standing outside. She immediately came and hugged me. She held on tight. It made me think of her poor sister she had to bury a little over a week ago and how she must miss her. Then she hugged Christie.  Momma Lydia met us outside. She was holding a tiny baby girl. Her name was Bridget Morgan. Oh wow she named her baby girl after her daughter’s sponsor, Morgan Phillips. What an honor. We gave her the things we had gotten together for her family. When she looked at the pictures of her precious Lydia that went to be with Jesus, I about had a melt down. I had to keep my cool for Momma Lydia’s sake. She looked through them and her hands moved so slowly. I held back my tears. 

The thought of losing a child just scares me to death, but here it is expected. How sad is that? To think the likelihood of your children surviving things like preventible diseases are slim to none. And that is not the only child she has lost. One of her sons brought out a mat for us to sit on. Christie got the baby and we walked down to Lydia’s grave. I had to brace myself for what was about to come. We walked down a path that had been cleared for the burial. There in the distance was a cement slab with a tiny cross in front of it. I was broken. I took a picture right before I got close to the grave. When I looked in my view finder her mother was just to the left of it. Her look was solemn. I will never forget this scene. 

I walked closer to observe the little grave. My heart rushed with emotions. I approached and the closer I got I started to smell flowers. I looked around but there were no flowers around. They don’t bring flowers for the dead here. I kept smelling the sweetness, so I asked Christie what it was and she replied, “Lydia”. What a wonderful experience I will never forget. I had thought the same thing but I just didn’t want to say it. Lydia was a sweet girl, a beautiful flower. 

(the word at the very bottom is Luganda for "suddenly")

As I looked at her hand written tombstone, I thought about her in heaven with Jesus, where we all want to be. I looked to my right and noticed another grave. Christie asked if there were any other graves here and Momma Lydia said “many”. The one to the right was her other child. How devastating. We made our way out of the overgrown graveyard. They don’t visit graves here. After the weeds and foliage grow back the graveyard will not be visited until someone else dies. We walked back to their home, where we stood visiting for a short while longer.  Christie was having Wilson ask Momma Lydia if she needed anything.  She said they need sugar, salt, and soap.  And then Bridget Morgan peed all down the front of Christie's shirt and skirt.  Twice.  She made sure to tell her that we'd be bringing cloth diapers, too!  We hugged all the kids goodbye and headed back home. When we arrived the power was on and the living room was filled with kids and grownups. When the power is on, they come here to watch TV. They don’t care what is on. Their eyes never leave the screen. Last night they watched a movie Bambi Rockhold sent called Evan Almighty. They laughed till it went off. Most of them don’t even understand what is said. This house is full of love.

Now here it is 11:35 pm. Christie and I are having tea time. We miss Moses being here. He always got us a cup of tea in the morning and before we would even ask - a cup at bedtime. This time we had to make our own. Who in America would drink milk from a boiler that had been sitting on the stove since morning? Us, that is who. As Christie spooned the milk out trying to miss the bugs, we are thankful. We are in Uganda, folks!  Anything goes here. Not bathing for days, no fast food, no chocolate, no running water, power that is unreliable, gas $6 a gallon, no air conditioning, cooking on charcoal, but not for grilling, sleeping under a mosquito net, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the simple life. No distractions, just you and God. The way things ought to be. We are here in the bed laughing about a huge moth that just magically appeared in the mosquito net after I had just got it out. She is laughing so hard that she sounds like a dying horse. I told her “Christie, Christie, how did it get back in here, hurry up and find the hole!”  She said “You almost woke up the whole village fighting off a moth!” This is how you have fun in the village.

Great!  Now there’s a spider that could easily fit in the palm of my hand.  I took the flashlight to go find my flip flop and Christie threw it at it a couple of times but now it’s hanging out at the top of the wall.  Way out of reach.  Good thing I have my mosquito net protecting me!  


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