Sometimes careful plans fail. Yesterday was a comedy of errors and thankfully everyone was able to absorb some discomfort and not crumble. I reminded myself how I predicted that mission trips will bring out the worst in all of us specifically for the purpose of God’s desire to extract the worst in us. We may realize we have a critical spirit, or tend to be judgmental, or self serving, or unable to feel empathy or endure hardship for a short time. We may not know we have certain conditions of sin in our hearts until we are in a situation that shines a light on it. I will share a few stories and hope that you can feel as if you are here with us.
We found ourselves with only one van yesterday when we needed two. So after a long struggle to arrange a second van, Craig and Mark took Bodas to the craft market. Craig had never been on the back of a motorcycle taxi before. They passed us all in the van and we saw them taking photos of each other while they waited in traffic. Two mzungus in a sea of Uganda traffic isn’t a regular sight. Of course they arrived at the market before we did. Bodas are the fastest way and cheapest way to get around here, and even though it is fun, it is dangerous. The teens were so angry we didn’t let them do it.
We were going to miss lunch with Harriet, and we were planning to take dinner with the Kirabo Seeds children so we could enjoy the good cooking of Auntie Julie. We packed up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and potato chips for the hungry group. When we arrived at the children’s home the food was “finished” in Auntie Julie’s store. I personally cannot imagine my pantry empty to a point that there isn’t a scrap of food in it. But here, you finish the food, then you go buy more. She has to wait for Phiona to do the shopping, and we have been occupying Phiona so much we had put this chore off to the very end. So when we arrived late afternoon with the van Phiona was ready to go for the big shopping where they purchase fifty kilos of food in cloth bags from the wholesale shops. I collapsed in Julie’s bed with a worn out fussy Kira on my chest for a few hours. When I awoke Craig and Mark were still out shopping with Phiona.
They returned with great stories of how interesting it is to shop in the local market. Mark hefted a large bunch of matooke bananas on his back and carried it to the van. These bunches could be more than sixty pounds. This is not a common sight for a mzungu to carry bananas on their back. So the people came out of every shop and ran from the alleys to see the mzungu carry banana. They took pictures, they gasped, stared, laughed and shouted, “mzungu”. Mark became a local celebrity instantly.
It was late in the day when the food arrived so Julie got busy right away cooking dinner. Meanwhile one of our children, Dickson, was suffering a fever of 103.4, sweating, and crying from the pain of a headache. Erica, Phiona and I took him down the road to a local clinic to be tested for Malaria. As we waited in this clinic for results a woman mopped the pitted cement floor with dirty water leaving puddles of it in the pits. A chicken entered the back door and wandered down the hallway, it looked in on a patient lying on a bed, and eventually found its way out the front entrance. The dust was thick on the dirt road and we all discovered a cough we didn’t have before. We learned the malaria count in his blood was very high and the doctor wanted to keep him there over night so he could get a IV drip for twenty-four hours. Phiona said, no, he must come with us, show us what we are to do with it. There are no nurses in the clinics to care for the sick. A person must stay with the patient and we don’t have enough help. The doctor shrugged, and said ok. Next thing I knew he was climbing into the van with us to help us settle Dickson into his own bed, with the iv bottle hanging from the bunk bed. Erica insisted she spend the night watching over him, and Julie was so thankful to have a helper. The doctor gave Erica all the instructions and then said he will return in the morning to check on the boy. I spoke with him about having all the children immunized for tetanus, TB, and hepatitis before I leave for home and he said he can bring the shots to the house! I like this doctor, he makes house calls on the orphans.
When we returned from the doctor’s office it was American dinner time.We tend to eat around six o’clock, but in Uganda dinner is taken around nine or ten. We told Harriet not to make dinner for us. The team was hungry and not interested in waiting for the food Julie was still peeling. The girls had slaughtered three chickens while we were at the clinic and I was able to see the good efforts of Gaylynn chopping up chicken at the kitchen sink. The team was ready to go home and the word pizza was circulating. I shrugged. This wasn’t an ideal situation for me. I would have preferred to stay for Julie’s dinner, out of respect, but a tired mob was forming so they left it to a vote. The one van we had took as many of the kids as they could to a restaurant for pizza. I called who I knew to see if we could get a lift but there was no help available. Finally Phiona was able to get a friend to cross town in terrible traffic to come find us in the dark. We waited an hour or more for our driver to come. The mosquitoes declared war on us all. We boiled a little hot under our collars, disappointed in our helpers, tired, and hungry. Not a good combination at the end of the day.
The ride home took an hour and a half in traffic jams. The other group brought four pizzas back to the house and by ten o’clock we were fed and ready for bed. Strangely the one person I needed to help us all day who had been unavailable appeared in time for us to pay a bill. I always tell my kids, when I am in a bad mood, it is best not to ask me for money….or anything for that matter.
We collapsed into bed. Prayer and sleep are good remedies. And I think we all learned how difficult it can be to do things here in Uganda. We can’t always rely on the help we thought we had. And sometimes we will be very tired and hungry without a quick fix. People who live here know the sensation of hunger so well, and to knock up against it a few times on this trip does us more good than harm. This morning we are prepared for a good time in worship of God. For me personally I am eager to approach him with a contrite heart, and renew my devotion to rely on him to persevere through the more difficult circumstances we will encounter working here. Every morning it is a rededication to Jesus as the sovereign Lord in my life. What he wants to show me, I want to learn even when the lessons hurt so much.