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Africa Inland Mission
November 5, 2013 3:09 pm

Hello there! We have traveled much in the last few weeks. On the 22nd of October we left for a city called Mbarara in the southwest part of Uganda. From there we traveled onto Kabale, which is even further south, and to Kisoro which is on the Rwandan border.  On our way back to Mbarara we stopped for 2 nights at the Bushara Island Rest Camp on Lake Bunyoni. While we were there Emmy turned 24! After we returned to Mbarara we visited Ruharo Eye Center and then headed back to Kampala. Finally on the  30th of October we made it back to the center. It was quite the adventure. I have now seen an eyeball removed from a person, a blind woman walking down and then up mountains, and more Matoke than I ever care to see again.

The first stop into Mbarara was more of a rest stop after a 6 hour drive than an official visit. We ate dinner with the AIM team there and stayed the night. Then in the morning we were off to Kabale with Joel Skinner and Zilla (the unit leader and a physiotherapist respectively). We met up with J’s contact in Kabale; a man called Richard who is the Minister of Education for Children with Special needs in Kabale district. He works to mobilize the parents in the villages to get their children to school. Often children with special needs are only given the opportunity to go to school after their other siblings have all been paid for. Still other children have difficulty finding a way to transport themselves to school. That night after Zilla and Joel left, we met our first child with Richard who was named Friday.

Friday and that smile

Friday and that smile

 

At around 2 years of age, Friday had a fever and lost his sight and the power to move his legs. A cursory inspection showed that regular physiotherapy would be enough to restore significant mobility to his legs. However, this is unlikely to occur because of the family’s poverty and a general lack of access. Friday happens to live just 20 minutes from a school for the blind. Even so, he is unable to learn Braille because he crawls on his hands and knees to move and this reduces the sensation in his finger tips. As you can see from the photo above, his joy is not especially hampered by his physical condition. His aunt who cares for him expressed a wonderful peace because of her trust in God. We encouraged her in her faith and traveled home for the night.

That night Jesca, Richard’s wife, made a wonderful dinner for us. However, just before we left ACHERU I had a Doxy capsule get stuck in my throat and give me a bit of a burn. This was not a problem most of the time, unless I ate something hot that did not go down quickly. That is the only kind of food that Ugandans enjoy… I happen to enjoy it as well, unfortunately I was not able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. In fact, I had to give up early one night at dinner and beg my host’s forgiveness. They were gracious, but I was disappointed that I did not get to eat more!

The next day we traveled out into the village and after a short hike we met a family of 6 children. 4 of the children have developed a disorder that looks like Muscular Dystrophy, but it is hard to diagnose for sure. In any case, as they age their physical condition deteriorates, but their mental faculties remain mostly intact. The youngest child with this condition can still walk, while the oldest cannot stand. These children are blessed with two parents who love them dearly. They were very fat (a compliment in Ugnada) and healthy looking apart from their condition. Unfortunately, the parents feel that they need to keep the 2 children without special needs out of school to care for the other 4 while mom and dad work in the garden. Still because of the fertile land around their community, the family is able to feed all 6 children well and they demonstrated an obvious love for one another.

As we have mentioned before, white folk are a bit of an anomaly in some of the outlying areas. From what we heard, we were the first to visit this particular community. This means that everyone with special needs quickly heard that we had visited this particular family and can to meet us as well. One of those families was a Mama and her daughter called Promise. The child and the mother were both blind. But when you are walking behind her there is no way to tell [Video of Mama Promise strolling through town]. The mother reported that they had visited Ruharo Eye Center when Promise was only 1 year old, the Center had asked them to return when the child was 3 (sometime last year) but they had been unable to find transport. Because we were returning to Mbarara, where the eye center is located, we offered to give them a lift. More on that later.

After we visited this village, we traveled with Richard and his wife to Kisoro on the Rwandan border. The scenery was lovely and we had beautiful views as we drove there. Once we arrived we were welcomed into one of Richard’s relative’s homes and served dinner. Then we traveled back to Kabale for the night. African hospitality makes any journey a joy.

The next morning we left for Lake Bunyoni. While we visit with nationals we have to be on our cultural game nearly 24/7 so it is nice to slip back into American mode and relax after a long trip. Here we took in the bird watching and lake swimming. We are hoping that there were no nasty bugs living in the water, but we will probably dose ourselves like there was. The Island was a great break and Emmy became 24 in our tent there, so that’s cool!

CAW CAW

Birdie

After we traveled back to Kabale to pick up Promise and her Auntie, we made our way to Mbarara. We dropped Promise off at the hospital and spent the night with the AIM missionaries there in town. The next day we visited the Ruharo Hospital campus. At one end is an organization called OURS which does almost the exact same service as ACHERU. They work with physical disabilities and have their surgeries done at CoRSU. It was great to visit and see how other people do similar work. That afternoon we visited with Dr. Keith.

Dr. Keith came out to Uganda when he was 27 years old. Next year he will have been here for 50 years. His work ranges all over Uganda and Rwanda. But when he is not traveling cross country, he is based at Ruharo Eye Center. He took us around and showed us his patients, and then he invited us to return and observe surgeries the next day! We agreed and he made us promise to flee before we passed out if we felt queasy.

I wanted a beard net...

The following day we witnessed 4 or 5 cataract surgeries (they do those 3 at a time). We saw Promise’s surgery. Then came the big daddy. Dr. Keith has begun working with many children who have Retinoblastoma. This cancer that forms on the Retina and moves down the Optic nerve and into the brain, it is 100% fatal if not treated quickly. Chemotherapy can hold it at bay, but if the cancer grows too much it can necessitate the removal of the eye. This is how we happened to see an eye removed. Despite the obvious problems of having an eye removed, Dr. Keith made a great point after he took out the eye. He said, “You might say this child used to have cancer.” That, I think, is well worth the trouble.

After all of these visits we rushed back to Kampala and got Emmy to her birthday dinner (only 2 or 3 days late). For those of who are wondering, Sushi is apparently available in non-coastal regions of Africa.

that looks a bit unsafe...

As you might notice, only one of the children we met in our travels was helped, physically. This is becoming the norm. We have talked about the strange honor that is often shown to white people here. The conclusion seems to be that God has gifted us, for his purposes, with a skin tone that attracts notice. We are not especially able helpers for these families, but for whatever reason. Everyone in these villages knows that strange visitors came all the way from America to visit one family in our village. They came to visit that family that we do not associate with. They held the children that we fear to touch. These visitors could have easily been hosted by our elders and leaders, but they chose to visit the ones who are ostracized from the community. I hope the communities ask each other “Why?”

The answer is of course because Jesus loves these children. He loves them so much that he died for them. We have been given white skin. Suddenly, we are able to mean something positive because of it. Praise God for his ability to make our most mundane features assets for his kingdom.

-A.B.

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