Shocking first few days in Uganda
Editor’s note: This is the first in a 12-part series on Bethany Gregory’s trip to help the Batwa in Uganda, Africa. The series will run every day through the final chapter.
Chapter 1: The Arrival
Sunday, July 20, 2003: Leaving felt more difficult than usual. Maybe it’s because coming back my life will not be the same at all.
Monday, July 21: Thirty-six hours traveling and I finally arrived. My flight was canceled then delayed. I am so exhausted now. Their morning is my night. So after 36 hours I arrive for a full day of activities. I was so nervous that no one would be there to pick me up. I had no way to contact the Kellermanns and I just prayed and prayed. The last flight had about 100 white people, mostly missionaries and five Ugandans. Maybe this country is so poor that the people do not travel and only missionaries go to it. I did not expect that.
I had no trouble in the airport. Ugandans seem to be so friendly. I got my visa, and Carol was the first person that I saw outside. I was so grateful God had answered my prayer. We hopped into a minibus with a driver named Lawrence. We drove all over town doing errands.
Carol misses home. She just had a second grandchild that she has never met. I had pictures and she cried. We go down south tomorrow. I am trying to keep myself awake so I can get on their schedule but my eyes are not staying open. Carol left to go fix her car. It is an old cheap ambulance. So I am alone. I do get a little nervous, alone in Uganda on my first day.
It is difficult to understand the English here. They all speak two or three languages, and the accent is very strong. Hopefully I will get used to it. The landscape is so green.
We stopped at a roofing factory to buy a roof for the new clinic/home they are building. There are a very few Ugandans who run businesses like this, so Carol was excited to buy from them. We drove more into town to exchange money. The atmosphere feels a little like a city in Guatemala. Men with guns guard all of the stores. Carol knows her way around. She is an amazing woman I can tell already. We then went and found the USAID office. The Kellermanns want to get a grant from them so that they can start to do AIDS testing with the Batwa. No one has ever done anything for the Batwa, they are the “lowest of the low here” says Carol.
We found the office. All of the NGOs were on one road: World Vision, Africare. USAID was at the end and heavily guarded as if terrorism was a threat there. We went through three check points just to talk to someone. They gave us some info but we will have to come back. We went to go get some cards for Carol but they were not done. She says things are just that way. We eventually arrived at a little hotel where we will stay one night.
Tuesday, July 22: One day feels like 10 here. We woke up early and packed the car. Two young men helped us. I felt funny about it. They called me “ma’am” and I felt sort of like their owner or something. We headed out in the ambulance across town. There was so much traffic. They drove on the other side of the road. We almost took out four bikers. God protected us. We prayed aloud every few hours for protection.
It was amazing to drive across the country. There is so much poverty. In Guatemala you can tell how poor a village is by the size of the dogs. In Uganda there are no dogs. Carol says that sometimes they use them for food. How sad is that? So many people are out on the street. They are such a social people.
Scott ran off to visit someone down the street. He is so active and cannot sit still. Only a guy like him could do the kind of work that he does. He is amazing. We went to a camp near the place where they live. It feels funny to camp in Uganda. I guess I am nervous in a tent by myself. I will pray. I want to be courageous, but I guess I am pretty much a wuss. I am still trying to take it all in. At this point it feels like over stimulation.
I just went to dinner here at the camp. Scott and Carol come here to take breaks from their crazy lives. At dinner we met a woman who worked here a few years ago. She is a psychologist. She worked doing a study on traumatized women. The percent of rape and abuse is high yet when you ask anyone about it they will only say that they had heard about it, but that it never had happened to them.
Scott and Carol say they have the hardest time getting Ugandans to share about their pains. The women tonight said that after years of psychological study the best and most helpful thing to the women is when they are able to feed their children and have a steady source of income.
The study also showed that there was a change in women who had become Christians. The women felt as if they had left the past behind. It is interesting that this woman could see the healing power of Christ without knowing him. It is also interesting that abused women find healing not in counseling, but find dignity and respect within their own humanity. One of the main goals of the mission should be to bring people to an understanding of their humanity and that they are created in the image of God.
Jesus, help me to feel at peace out here in this dark tent in the jungles of Uganda.
Uganda at a glance
– Geography: Landlocked, tropical, mostly plateau
– Capital: Kampala
– Population: 26,404,543
– Life expectancy: 45.28 years
– Religions: Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33% , Muslim 16%, indigenous beliefs 18%
– Literacy rate: 69.9 %
Source: CIA World Factbook
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