A Matter of Life …
What an amazing trip! I returned home last Wednesday afternoon and jet lag recovery is almost complete. As I reflect back over the two weeks, I simply stand in awe of what God has chosen to do among the people we are called to serve and how God has always gone before us and prepared the way. Here is a bit of what He did on this trip.
In Uganda the great, great news is we have hired a nurse to open our clinic!!! Nurse Sarah fits a near perfect profile of the person I asked God to send to us – why should I be surprised, right? She and Rhona will be purchasing supplies and some small equipment over the next few weeks; and we are targeting July 22nd as the day we start seeing patients. This dream started in my mind and heart back in 2008, when Pastor Joseph past away for the lack of immediate and available health care. Today, with the help, support, and donations of many people, that dream is a reality. It has been a long journey, but God has led all the way and we are rejoicing that it has finally happened: “Olive Branch Health Center” (I resisted the local favorite of “Papa’s Clinic” 😉
The children were all in school, but I was able to connect with most of them with a brief visit to their campuses. I am still amazed and thrilled at the two we have in University and the three we have in vocational training and the one that has totally completed the program and is a manager of a hair salon! Somebody pinch me!
… and a Matter of Death!
My time in Rwanda has been one of the most unique experiences of my seven years of coming here. First, it started out as one of the most joyous occasions ever. On Friday, I was the guest of honor at the primary school where the children had planned an amazing program of drama, original poetry, singing and dancing. It was very fascinating and incredibly inspiring to think that many of the children performing had never ever attended school until last January!!!
Then … Saturday morning Sylvan (my Rwandan counterpart) arrived at my hotel. I asked him how his night had been – he said “not good!” Somewhere during the night he had received word that there had been a death in the village. A relatively young woman, who was pregnant, had passed away during the night from unknown causes – not child birth, she was not ready to deliver; but when she died, the baby died also. What an incredible cultural and personal experience I was in for. We hurried out as soon as we could. We helped as we could, like paying for the casket. This was a handmade wooden box that I watched being built in the shop of a local carpenter with extremely basic tools, but he was none the less a craftsman in his own right – the box was plain but true, straight and solid. I offered consolation to the deeply grief stricken husband and family. The young woman’s mom, who stood about 4′ 6″, had walked 10 hours to come for the burial. The grief was real, deep, very, very sad. But to watch the community come together to support and help the grieving family, to assist, encourage, and comfort was very moving. The grave was dug by hand with hoes and shovels – 6 x 6 x 6 – and again, the sides were straight, the corners square, and the bottom was flat. The lady had died somewhere during the wee hours of the morning; and by 4 the next afternoon, the burial was complete. Several basins were set out; and as the final ritual, everyone in attendance ceremoniously washed their hands, signifying that it was finished. What a profound privilege to have shared in the lives of these dear folks and now to have shared in death.
We went back the following day and distributed some clothes for the children – life again!!!
Although the wheels of progress turn dreadfully slow in this context, we were able accomplish a number of other very important things and are moving forward “slowly by slowly” as they say here. We might even have a break on a means of sustainable income – brick making – same process as pottery but not as complicated and there is a much better market for bricks. I’ll try and detail that to you as we know more about it.
Thank you for allowing me to be your hands and heart in all of this. It has been and continues to be an amazing journey and … drum roll, please … the best is yet to come! – Pastor Gary