Trip to Mubende

The Gregston family and I left mid-afternoon on last Tuesday and drove about 3 hours to Mubende. After the first night, we fell into a routine of getting up early, doing a devotional, eating breakfast, working at a “clinic,” going back to the hotel and showering, eating dinner, and going to bed a few hours later. Thankfully, one of the nurses that came with us turned out to be a lab technician, so Jake, Jared, and I unearthed our inner pharmacist and no helpless Ugandans were subjected to a blood lab run by children (yet).

The first day, Jake and I helped out with registration. Big mistake. Not only could we not speak the language, we couldn’t even read the Acholi names that our translator wrote out for us to copy onto forms. Then we would take their weight, hand out a de-worming pill, and write down the patient number. Did I mention Jake and I can’t count? Several hours and many butchered names and misnumbered patients later, Jake and I swore to avoid registration at all costs.

On days three, four, and five, Jake, Jared, and I worked in the pharmacy. It’s a pretty fast paced job and we’ve had to learn multiple names in several varieties of short hand for each medicine prescribed. We also learned how to read short hand dosages and decide a dose based on weight and age. It was a job that was sometimes challenging and overwhelming, but one that I really enjoyed. I’m discovering that while my deficiency in simple math makes a lot of pharmacy work difficult, I’m becoming increasingly interested in medicine—a door I shut years ago and I’m now wondering if God has reopened.

On the second day, we faced a loss. A three year old girl came to the clinic very sick and was instructed to go home and eat and come back in a couple hours to be taken to the hospital to be given medicines that we didn’t have with us. David, our main driver, took her to the hospital and when he got there, there was not a doctor or nurse to be found. She died within the hour. In Jake’s words “we lost and we didn’t even know we were losing.” But as David told us, only God can see what could have happened. We can only see what did. And we saw the very next day a pastor sick with what had killed the little girl the day before—only this time we had the right medications for Dr. Jay and the nurses to save his life. Even so, it’s so hard to see how easily the little girl could have been saved if only given the right medications. It makes me think of how many people we’ll go by in life who might have so easily been saved from spiritual death but no one ever gave them the right opportunities. Our God is a just God, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that someone only got half a chance at life to the full because they were lacking something I could have given them.

But before we found out what had happened to the little girl, I spent some time with the local children. The girls especially wanted to talk to me and ask me questions. They wanted me to tell them two names so I told them “Jessica Mae” which they changed to “Jesca Mary.” They told me things like how old they were and how many brothers and sisters they had. Then all the children sat me down on a bench and showed me their traditional dancing and sang songs that they had learned in school while they drummed on large drums that I think were made from goat skin. They sang about how Jesus loved them and it was amazing to hear the incredible purity and beauty in their voices.


The next day, our last day in Little Orange, I was talking to Jackson, who is 18 and speaks pretty good English. We had all been feeling a little off because of the little girl’s death and a little overwhelmed from the scores of patients and still having to turn some away. But then Jackson turned to me and said “Actually, we will not be forgetting you.” Fiona (one of the little girls from the day before) walked up to me then and handed me a slip of paper with her name and grade on it. She said something to Jackson and he translated for me, “She is saying she is loving you.” That really really got to me. I’m not sure why, but it was something about knowing we had made a difference to that one. I might have served hundreds of patients, but I made a difference to Jackson and Fiona. I think sometimes I can’t see the trees for the forest, and I’m guessing that’s how a lot of us are when it comes to doing God’s work. We get so caught up in throwing as many starfish in as we can that we forget to admire the beauty of each one.

7 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    Your last sentence really caught me short and took my breath away. You have captured one of the frustrating realities of our existence, and at your tender age that is truly a remarkable feat. God bless you and your family, and thank you for your wonderful post!

  2. Mike and Trellys Henley
    Mike and Trellys Henley says:

    Oh, Jessica, we are so proud of you in so many ways. What a blessing it is that you and your family are having this experience and what a blessing you are to the people you are helping. If only a trip to Uganda was a required course in school, our world would be much different. Beautiful post! We love you.

  3. Kari Coppinger
    Kari Coppinger says:

    So good to read about what you are doing. I am so impressed with the medical things you’re learning and doing. Bless you and your friends as you work with difficulties.

  4. Claudette Wilson
    Claudette Wilson says:

    Jessica it is wonderful that not only are you able to serve so very intensely on this trip, but you are able to pull your thoughts together in such a healing manner. Healing for your own soul, but also healing for those of us who are reading your posts. We are grateful to you. Claudette

  5. Dave Howard
    Dave Howard says:

    I was with the team from Canby, Oregon when you were in Kachungwa. It still amazes me at the way God works and even with the tragedy, He is using you to bless others. We have been back in the US a little over a month and to see this post today was such a blessing to me. Jackson was indeed a fine young man serving the children in Kachungwa and all of the children were so loving. They really captured our hearts…

    I was reading the story of Throwing Starfish and have actually shared that with many people in trying to explain how we dealt with the huge need that exists there. One thing that I would encourage anybody reading is that if instead of just standing and asking the question – if the man in the story would have come alongside the child, picked up a starfish and thrown it in the ocean, that would have been TWO. If those two in turn . . .

    Thank you for serving and loving the people in Uganda! You are truly “showing what you say”.

    In Christ,

  6. Alannah Williams-Oliver
    Alannah Williams-Oliver says:

    That last paragraph gave me chills all over my body and filled my eyes with tears. You ARE making a difference in people’s lives. I know I keep saying it, but I am so proud of you all for your work. You are an incredible woman and I can’t wait to spend more time with you in school! I love you lots!!


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