Another Saturday morning in Uganda
It was Saturday morning. I woke up to the sunlight flickering through our curtains. I had just slept through the night for the first time since leaving Seattle on Tuesday. We were staying at Namirembe Guest house, a hotel that perches high on a hill looking down at Kampala.
During the day Kampala, the largest city and capital of Kampala, is bursting with some three million people going in different directions by foot, taxi, car and boda. The pollution is thick. Vehicles spew black exhaust. Children play around piles of burning trash. Women cook over charcoal fires.
In the morning, as we sipped coffee looking out over the city, the pollution and fog settled into the valleys like a soft blanket covering the sprawling slums. Modern buildings in the city center reflect the morning light. Everything is lush, green, peaceful.
After we packed our bags and left Namirembe, we descended into the haze and watched the city wake up. Thankful that I don’t have to wear a seatbelt, I balance in the back seat of the car, both windows down, camera in hand, hoping to snap a few photos of life in Uganda. Women walk by balancing dozens of bananas on their heads. Children run. Men carry fruit, animals, cooking oil, even furniture on the back of bodas.
Our first stop is a school and orphanage located between Entebbe and Kampala. When we arrive, everyone is hard at work preparing the school for the first day of classes on Monday. We spend about an hour with the director of the orphanage. He is a humble man who loves God and serves the children of the school and orphanage. Like many people we meet, Rashid is a man of vision. He understands the needs of his community and earnestly wants to make a difference. As we discuss with him our desire to adopt, he is constantly interupted by his cell phone. Cell phones have changed everything in Uganda.
We then drive back into Kampala to meet some friends at Cafe Java, a restaurant full of muzungus. It is not hard to spot our friends as they are white people with black babies.
Muzungu is the word for white person, but the word itself means someone who is rich. We quickly discover that in Uganda, it is hard to eat Ugandan food. Our driver and our hosts at guest houses and ministries think we want American food. Over the ten days we are in Uganda, we have french fries with almost every meal. Our driver insists on driving us to restaurants with American, Chinese or Indian food. He doesn’t really believe us when we ask for Ugandan food. So we end up eating at restaurants full of muzungus where a sandwhich and a coke cost maybe 17,000 UGX, the equivalent of $8 – or more than many people here earn in a week.
After lunch we began the drive to Jinja, a town about two hours outside Kampala. Jinja is located along the shores of Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile River. The drive from Kampala to Jinja is beautiful: rolling hills covered by lush tea and sugarcane plantations, huge acacia trees, glimpses of the water.
After we arrived in Jinja and checked into our guesthouse, we went to visit Renee at Serving His Children. Renee’s house and ministry are located in the Masese slum near Jinja.
Holding the tiny babies at Serving His Children breaks my heart. Serving His Children cares for children, usually babies and toddlers, who are severely malnourished. There was one little girl there who reminded me of the little girl we lost in the fall. She was going on two years old. She had a full mouth of teeth and a big smile, but she probably weighed around ten pounds. She was HIV+ and had tuberculosis. Holding her made me think about the daughter we never got to hold.
I felt such a flood of emotions: sadness, loss, fear, but mostly anger. It is not right that these children are left to die. It is not right that their parents give up hope. But it is also not right that we sit half way around the world completely oblivious.
In The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns writes that approximately 26,000 children die every day as a result of poverty, hunger and preventable disease. These are children who would live if they had food, clean water and medical care.
But we don’t care.
We sit on the porch with Renee and the babies she is serving as the sun begins to melt into the hills. I hope I will not forget. I hope that long after our girls are home in America I will remember.
We learn on Monday morning that one of the babies at Serving His Children did not live through the night.
Will I remember?
When I return home to Seattle, my older boys complain that they are starving. With new eyes, I look at them and say no, you are not starving. But will I remember? A few months from now, when our daughters are home, will I remember?