Uganda – Colette Gordon
My Ugandan trip feels like another world away, like a dream that leaves fond memories.
And yet I know it was a very real experience. I was impacted on so many levels and left humbled that God should include me in his plan.
My first impression of Uganda was one of beauty, a rich fertile country, green and lush perhaps it was because we arrived just after the rainy season. The poverty of the people was another lasting impression and it seemed hard to equate the abundance of corn, potatoes, sugar cane, pineapple, bananas , passion fruit and more with malnutrition and starvation.
I had the opportunity to visit a settlement where transformation was taking place and God’s love was very much in action. This was a settlement of the Batwa people an indigenous group that are marginalised and whose living conditions were very basic. I was overwhelmed by the greeting they gave us and realised that we were received like this because of relationships that were being developed through the Church. Links had been established via a local support worker who over the last 3 years helped the community become self-sufficient, providing a water tank, teaching them how to grow fruit and vegetables transforming what had been a rubbish tip into a vegetable garden! Ultimately loving these people and pointing them to Christ. Many had come to know Jesus and a small church has been established in the heart of their community. Undoubtedly they are still poor materially living in make shift shacks but they are rich spiritually and their joy was so evident as they sang and danced to the Lord in gratitude. It was very moving and left a lasting impact on me.
My main role on the team of 6, from Knock Presbyterian Church, was to train midwives to perform ultrasound scans on pregnant women helping them diagnose problems and risk assess. I wasn’t entirely sure what that was going to involve but I was up for the challenge.
Potters village is a child crisis and children’s medical centre that was established in Kisoro, SW Uganda in 2012 by Rev Jenny Green, a youth pastor working with the Church of Uganda in the diocese of Muhabura, who had a vision to help destitute children. It is currently run by Dr Mike and Sue Hughes from England. The work is growing and developing there, along with neonatal facilities, and in- patient medical beds it now provides a nutritional unit to build up malnourished children and educate mothers how to make nutritional meals. This has a knock on benefit to the wider community and the team now do outreach clinics into the surrounding villages to educate families and monitor progress of these children.
The most recent development is the establishment of a maternity service , Oct 2017, providing antenatal and delivery care for pregnant mothers. I had been challenged with statistics that 16 women die in Uganda EVERY DAY from pregnancy and childbirth complications!
Those are shocking figures and I wanted to be able to help equip midwives to make a difference in their sphere of influence. I saw answered prayer while I was there as I wrestled with the frustration of ‘African Time’ and my lack of time! God provided 2 midwives who were keen and enthusiastic to learn and so I crammed as much as I could into my 5 day visit, a crash course when midwives at home would have been getting 3 months! I was privileged to be there when the 1st baby of the unit was born! I know that the future is brighter and safer for the women of this community.
I was also challenged by the importance of water and how it holds the key to everything, it means life and health and an opportunity for education for the children but many of the surrounding villages don’t have access to clean water. The Ugandan church in partnership with other UK churches are working towards making water accessible for all but there are many challenges such as remoteness of the villages and roads and infrastructure is so poor. It makes me very grateful that I can turn on my tap and have access to such a life giving commodity.
My lasting memories of Uganda apart from a bombardment of the senses with the sound of crickets, the daily thunderstorms, the singing and dancing, the smell of unwashed bodies, the colourful fabrics of the women’s dresses, the smiling contented faces of the people regardless of their circumstances. They were so grateful and appreciative of our presence and looking at them I see reflected the face of Christ. I was so aware of being part of a much bigger plan. Of being part of the worldwide church working together to bring hope and light and life to these people. I thank God for his Gift of Life and for the privilege of being a small part of His plan.