You know the disappointment you feel when you are expecting to eat something hot, but it’s cold? Or when you’re expecting to drink a glass of milk, but get orange juice instead? Neither of those is a pleasant surprise. But I had a very pleasant surprise on our final day of clinic in Uganda when we went to the slum of Namuwongo.
I was expecting to find the same church where we set up clinic last year. The walls of the building were made of loose boards with gaps large enough for children to stick their hands through, the roof was a sagging old orange tarp which cast an orange glow in the church, the dirt floor was . . . well, dirty, and the smell from the nearby latrine filled the room, which didn’t seem to bother the flies. So, my experience last year in Namuwongo was very memorable.
As our van squeezed between shacks and vendor stalls, trying to avoid hitting small children that were calling out to the mzungus, I was looking for the familiar orange roofed building. When we drove up to the place where it should have been, we found a very much improved building. The church had a new metal roof and the boards had been reinforced and painted blue outside. On the side of the building the words were painted, “Namuwongo Ya Yesu”, which means “Namuwongo for Jesus” in the local language. When we entered, we found that the dirt floor had been covered by a new concrete floor, and the walls had been decorated with beutiful fabric. All of the building improvements had also improved the smell and temperature inside.
But one thing had not changed . . . Pastor Abbey. He was the same joyful and welcoming leader of this congregation that I met last year. The Pastor and I have been keeping in touch via email since I left Uganda. He has been a source of encouragement to me with scriptures he sends me and with updates from his work in the area. He once again welcomed our team and helped us to communicate with the community surrounding the church.
We quickly assessed the improved building and set up registration, pharmacy, area for doctors (Dr. Jay, recent Ugandan med school graduate Joseph, and nurse Katie from Nashville), and blood lab (located in a small back room that I think was a storage closet). The people were anxious to receive treatment so we got to work.
We were able to give medical treatment to about 150 people (and 31 of them accepted Jesus as their Savior during spiritual care). If we had more time, we could have seen many more. But we needed to leave by 4:00 so Jim, Jessica, and I could make our flight home. Before going to the airport, we had to go back to the guest house to shower and pack our bags, visit two young patients at a hospital where they were having surgery for burns, and have our farewell dinner with the Gregstons and Kyle.
We have loved our time in Uganda, serving the people in need and reuniting with friends. We are so thankful that God lead us to Uganda and to the Gregston family. Our lives have been forever changed.