On September 18, 2013, Uganda’s Leading Daily Newspaper had this article:
Gulu Choking On Her People—Gulu town could as well suffocate from the stench of it own sewage. This is a town characterized by the absence of consistent clean water supply, a poor drainage system with sewers bursting, spilling their content on the streets. According to information from the senior assistant town clerk, human waste is managed mainly through septic tanks or a functional sewage system. However, only approximately 30% of the population is connected to the central sewer.
The roads in the town that connect the four divisions and lead to villages are in a sorry state. With the exception of a few tarmac roads in the town center, most roads are gravel. And yet, the tarmac roads are partly eaten up by potholes the size of gullies. It is a nightmare when it rains.
The latest Vision Group survey indicates that sewage bursts are a major threat to the cleanliness of this town. About 82% of respondents in this survey claim to have seen sewage bursts. According to the responders, response towards fixing the bursts has always been very slow earning the town a mediocre 3.5/10 score. Indeed 20% of the respondents claimed to have seen open soak pits or manholes in the town and the majority had been open for nearly six months. For a town recovering from the ravages of war, the enemy now seems to be the increasing garbage and dirty streets.
The article goes on and on, but it does make you wonder why anyone would want to come to Gulu, Uganda, and specifically why anyone would want to live here? Even more so, why would someone from American want to live here? It must make you wonder why mission team members are willing to spend $3,000+ to come here? It makes you wonder why college students would want to serve a 1-3 months Internship here? It makes you wonder why not go to a cleaner, safer place with decent roads? Of all the places on Earth, it makes you wonder why we do what we do in Gulu, Uganda? Let me give you five reasons why:
- God’s hand is on this place. Northern Uganda was ravaged by war for over 25 years. There’s not a single family around Abaana’s Hope that was not affected. These are a people who need a reason for hope. For the last 2-3 months, every Sunday afternoon at our 3:00 worship service at Abaana’s Hope, at least one person is called by God to become a born again Christ-follower. Because of your prayers and our prayers, God is pouring out incredible blessings on this100 acres of land called Abaana’s Hope.
- A few months ago, a little 10-year old girl named Mercy, who had severe pain in her ears and had not been able to hear for weeks, was brought to Sandra and me. As we looked into her ears, we could not see her ear canal. It appeared that skin had grown over the canal (it was actually swelling caused by an infection). We took Mercy and her mother to the International Clinic in Gulu and they treated her for the infection and wax buildup. They told us if she had waited another month, she would likely have been deaf for life. A week after the treatment started, she was fine and could hear perfectly. Every Sunday afternoon, we are blessed by Mercy’s sweet smile as she greets us.
- I have changed these names and some of the personal information, but these stories are real. Betty is one of the AH jewelry ladies, is HIV positive, has 4 children and pregnant with the 5th. Her husband took another “wife” and chased Betty away from their home. She was able to keep her 2-year old boy with her, but he kept the other four. She is trying to save money to get them back as the new wife is abusing them. She was able to move into a place a friend has that is a five hour walk from AH. On jewelry days, she walks five hours each way to make a little money from rolling beads and making jewelry. She has little to eat and no family to turn to. Another lady, Susan, who is part of the jewelry ministry was chased away from her home by the husband. He has repeatedly beaten her. She has a 1-year old girl and they have been sleeping outside in the bush and foraging for food. Betty, who has little food for her son and herself, took them into the place she was staying. These ladies start walking at 5:00 each Wednesday morning to get to AH by 10:00 to make jewelry. Another lady in this group often comes with bruises and swelling on her face from the beatings by her husband. We saw this situation and God put it on our hearts to want to help. Then just as quickly, He provided Four Corners Ministries the opportunity of buying 10 beautiful acres of land close to our property to give women like these a safe refuge. Everything at Abaana’s Hope has been planned for over two years—the Family Group Homes, the Grist/Maize Mill, the Water Well, the Staff Housing, the Caretaker Building, the Chapel, the Primary and Secondary Schools, the Football Field, the Toilets, the Playground, the Medical Clinic, the Guest House and the agriculture production. This is the first ministry opportunity God has shown us as a need we can and should address. Want to build an ot lum (a round brick and plaster house with a grass roof) to provide a home for one of the ladies and her children? It will cost $275 to provide a safe place for her to live.
- We are currently building a Medical Clinic to care for the wonderful people in the villages surrounding Abaana’s Hope. It will be finished by the end of December. We had a Medical Mission Team visit us this month and they attended the Sunday afternoon worship service before starting their four clinic days on Monday. There was a young mother sitting nearby that had a 2-week old baby boy that had not nursed in four days and was severely dehydrated. A pharmacist on this team, Harold Harmon (also a FCM board member), looked at the baby and came to me with tears in his eyes saying we had to get this baby to a hospital now! Myron West and I, along with the mother, baby and a Ugandan nurse rushed toward the hospital. About half way there, the nurse said the baby was not breathing. Myron was driving and stopped when I understood the nurse had never been trained in CPR. I got in the back and started giving him CPR while Myron picked up our pace even more. After about 10 minutes, the nurse told me the baby was gone. We went on to the hospital emergency room but they confirmed the baby was dead and told us to take him back to his village for burial. I know you’re thinking why did the mother wait four days to seek help for a newborn not nursing? The answer is this young teenage mother simply did not know to seek help until it was too late. Our new Medical Clinic will have a covered porch that will serve as a classroom to provide the community with basic training in nutritional requirements, women’s and girl’s health issues and other needed healthcare information. A few months ago, the 18-month old nephew of one of our workers died from malaria. By the time the baby’s fever peaked and they rushed it all the way into Gulu, it was too late. These babies did not have to die and the healthcare and teaching provided at this clinic will save many lives in this community. What a blessing to be part of this!
- A month ago, Myron West and Onen Santo started a Saturday afternoon Discipleship Class for the new believers and those who want to just grow in the Lord through the study of His Word. The first Saturday, there were 17 people, the second Saturday, there were 35, the third week, there were 42 and the last Saturday, there were 70. People in this area are hungry for eternal hope in God’s Word and want to know more about Him because you and our team have prayed for just such a thing. This is why we are here. We live for this!
These are just five reasons our missionaries from America live here. Sure, we wish we had better roads, a better sewage system, a better power system and just one Chick-fil-A; but it is what it is, and God called us here to serve Him. All these inconveniences pale in comparison to the blessings of serving a Lord who gave His Son to die on a cruel, humiliating cross for us! We live for this!
We were so blessed this month to have a wonderful team from Georgia—John and Robbie Triplett, Kris and Julie Mobbs, Bob Sykora and Ray Welch. In addition, this team included Harold and Delores Harmon from Alabama. Both John and Harold are Four Corners Board Members. I provide our Board of Directors with regular reports, but it is always great to have board members come over and see firsthand what God is doing at Abaana’s Hope. My written reports cannot adequately convey the many ways God is working here. One must come and see to get an accurate picture.
Though this team came primarily to provide medical care to the wonderful Acholi people around Gulu, they ministered in so many other ways. John led our Saturday afternoon Discipleship Class of about 80 people and Chris preached a mini sermon at Gospel Assembly in Gulu on Sunday morning and a mega sermon (mega in quality, not time) at our Sunday afternoon worship. After Chris preached, everyone walked over to the place where the Chapel construction will begin in January. We had placed flags to designate the exact location where the building will be constructed. There were about 300 people, including children that prayed over this ground and asked for God’s special blessings and protection on this place that will be the worship center for His church at Abaana’s Hope. There were more than a few tears of joy as we dreamed together what God will do on this ground.
This was an extremely hard working team that saw over 1,500 patients over the course of four days in two different villages. At the end of each day, Harold Harmon and I had to make a run down to a local pharmacy to purchase additional medicines. In addition to treating so many ill patients, there were scores fitted with both reading and distance glasses. One lady who had just gotten glasses so she could read again, immediately went over to a bench, sat down and started reading her Bible. John Triplett, who was one of three involved in helping fit people with glasses, said, upon seeing this lady, “That is what we’re here for. This one lady makes it worth the trip over.”
Yes, we started this week with a two-week old baby boy dying because he did not get medical treatment in a timely manner. We ended the week recognizing that lives were saved as a result of this team being here. As we dropped them at the Entebbe Airport Friday evening, we were all a little tired but felt so good about participating in a week of seeing God’s hand working in many miraculous ways.
This was also a mission team that greatly encouraged our Gulu Team Members. We are eternally grateful for John, Robbie, Chris, Julie, Bob, Ray, Harold and Dee coming to this remote part of the world to bring healing to the sick, help the near blind to see and make disciples all in the name of Jesus. God was most definitely glorified through this terrific team. We hope they will come back again.
One of these couples missed the return trip home—on purpose. Harold and Dee will be with us another five weeks and we are so excited to have this extended time with them. They have become such good friends to each of us living in Gulu, and we can hardly wait to see how God will use them over the coming month. Stay tuned in for that in the October Update.
All glory to Him,
Royce & Sandra