Friend to a forgotten people
On July 20, 2002, Bethany Norman set out on a journey that would change her life.
She was just about to enter her senior year at Biola University, she was in love with her future husband, Dan Gregory, and she was searching for a way to put her faith and love about the world into practical action.
While Dan set off to Afghanistan, Bethany – now Bethany Gregory – set her sights on Uganda. She went to work with Scott and Carol Kellermann, a husband-and-wife team from Grass Valley who had set up a clinic to aid the indigenous population, the Batwa, who were living on the outskirts of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The Batwa are part of an ethnic group popularly known as “Pygmies.” They used to be forest dwellers, relying on the dense forests of the interior of eastern Africa for their livelihoods.
They lived in the same mountain environment as the apes in “Gorillas in the Mist,” and in the 1980s, they were caught up in the frenzy of poaching that decimated the gorilla population.
The Ugandan government accused them of poaching and forced them out of the forests with the formation of the Bwindi and Mgahinga Conservation Parks in 1991.
The Batwa are heavily marginalized by the other ethnic groups because they literally live on the fringe of society. They are often forced to the backs of churches, shunned by government officials, and discouraged from getting help at hospitals. It is estimated that 80 percent earn a living from begging.
In 2001, Nevada County resident Dr. Scott Kellermann traveled to Uganda to do a medical survey of the Batwa. He discovered that severe poverty, racism and disease were killing this Pygmy group, and he wanted to do something about it.
He and his wife decided to sell their home in Nevada County and move their lives to Uganda. Scott Kellermann started a clinic under a large tree. Carol founded a small school in a nearby village.
Bethany would spend six weeks there, helping the Kellermanns in the clinic. During her time there, Bethany delivered a baby, sang and danced with local villagers, learned to diagnose patients, and witnessed much suffering.
Every night, she engaged in a dialogue with God in her journal, where she shared her experiences and thoughts. During the next two weeks, beginning today, The Union presents her experiences in her own words.
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