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.