The following blog was written by visiting board member and great friend, Harold Harmon. We are so blessed to have him with us.
Why am I in Gulu, Uganda?
Many of you that know that I am an old pharmacist and Dee (wife) and I have made a few mission trips in the past years in charge of the pharmacy team. This year around May 2013, I felt a nudge from God to go to Gulu for longer than the week we usually do for medical teams. I started to pray about this and shared this with my friend, Royce Watkins, in Gulu. I asked Royce not to mention to anyone of this and pray; he did. After about 2 weeks Dee said, “Something is bothering you; what is it?” I shared with her my thoughts and she asked, “Do you want me to go with you?” I said, “Sure…would not go by myself.” She asked, “Well what would I do?” I think I shared this comment with Royce and Sandra, and almost immediately she received a reply from Sandra telling all the things she could do while in Gulu. Dee said, “That answers those prayers–off we go.”
Fast forward to September when we throw in with FCM board member, John Triplett, wife, Robbie, and their wonderful team from their church in Georgia for pill packing, prayers, meal and team instruction. Then we are on the ground doing what I thought God had sent me to do in Gulu. This amazing pharmacy team with pharmacist Bob, Dee, Holly, Amy, Ryan, Rachel, Royce, Myron and others with the local doctors saw over 1700 people. Praise God!
But this is only the beginning of the story. The next week, I spent time with the entire team on the ground in some aspect. I saw the vehicle that would not start, I saw the look in the West family as they did not have electricity or water. I also saw the compassion of Sandra, Amy and Holly working with ladies at AH making jewelry and scarves. All the time these ladies were working, most were attending to a nursing child or were heavy with child. There were three ladies that delivered three little girls that week.
Then about this time I became sick at my stomach and after about 2 days Sandra & Dee took me to the international clinic, where I was diagnosed with E. Coli and bacteria in my blood. During this time of spending more time in the hotel room that anticipated, I did much praying and reading. Even though I had been to Gulu before and had heard a brief overview of the turmoil that had taken place in northern Uganda, it became clearer to me as I read these books about the fighting of the rebels and the army. The atrocities of this war are hard for us to imagine. Young boys were taken and made to fight, kill & mutilate even their mothers and other friends and relatives. Then there is the story of the young girls abducted from a school and their plight to have them returned. In this story one of the commanders of the rebel army had 52 wives most of them the young Acholi girls that had been abducted as sex slaves. Reading this story how some of them escaped, I realized that I have ridden and walked some of these roads that these young teenage girls crossed carefully to keep from being seen and killed. I have walked the bush where these girls slept and struggled for food and water.
Then add to all this the government “rounds up” the Acholi people of the Gulu area and places them in IDP camps where they were tremendously overcrowded and reportedly 1,000 died daily from malnutrition, malaria and on and on. What I have come to realize is you had the rebels on one hand and the government on the other hand. These people in the villages near AH all have vivid stories to tell of them being in the camps or relatives beaten and killed in front of their eyes.
Now what does that have to do with me? As I suffered from diarrhea, God showed me all the children past and present that have diarrhea most every day of their lives. Many will die from this. God showed me the children in their escape route, maybe 14 years old, pregnant by a possible AIDS-infected commander, struggling for food or some water out of a stream from which I would not let my cows drink. When she arrives in her village she may be accused of being a rebel and her child being an outcast because of the rape by a rebel commander.
God has shown me the daily struggle that our previous and present missionaries on the ground in Gulu have just to serve God and these wonderful Acholi people. Just getting food for their families involves going to the local market, one place for bleach, another for salt and finally to Uchumi (local grocery) to see what they might have on the shelves. God has shown me just a small glimpse of the struggle the Acholi people have dealt with in the years of the war and the scars that remain on their bodies physically and mentally.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is familiar with Act 1:8 where Jesus is sending his followers 2000 years ago to spread his Gospel. This is true for all of us today because “to the end of the earth” is possibly approximately 18 miles from Gulu town on as bumpy road as you can travel. At this place called Abaana’s Hope, I have never seen the new clean white Toyota trucks of Save the Children, US-Aid, World Vision or any of the other relief organizations riding around, but you will see an old ’92 Prada, Land Rover or others from Four Corners Ministries. My friends, STOP what you are doing right now and pray for the Acholi people and the guys on the ground of FCM. Just Harold, not just passing out vitamins anymore.