Neither words nor photos can capture what we have experienced this week. We cannot believe all this change has happened in only 5 days in the field. We will never be the same again. I’m working on a video post of our experience in the bush yesterday (Saturday), but am sending a photo summary here along with a re-cap of an epic rite of passage.
We’re beginning to understand what President Chatfield means when he says you cannot explain Africa, you have to experience it. There is a feeling you get here in this third-world country that is both raw and sacred at the same time. To see the mass of humanity in Kampala and the isolation out in the bush is indescribable indeed. Words fail. Pictures don’t capture it. You have to feel the dirt and the grit and smell the odors and see into the eyes…and be truly humbled as if looking at a mighty redwood tree or standing in a sacred place rather than amid squalor. And, as we had anticipated, the happiness of people who have every reason to be miserable. Maybe that’s why it seems higher than we are.
Our visit to a village near Jinja was the most transforming of our week. Just the drive there shook our world. We will never complain about bad roads in America again. You can’t imagine the driving conditions on these roads (if you can call them roads). The experience resembles navigating through a battlefield after a war. I’m not kidding here. There was one section of road today where the skimpy pavement had so eroded that two cars could not pass in the same spot, and the traffic was horrendous. One side the road dropped 8 feet into a ditch and on the other a mere 4 feet. Slipping off the road on either side would result in a roll. We’re protected every day on the roads.
As we neared the village, we turned off the pavement and jostled down a rutted red dirt trail such as you have seen in documentaries. We saw every site you might expect; bikes loaded with sugar cane, natives dressed in dirty, holy t-shirts (one read “my rules or no rules”), and beautiful smiling faces worn by the poorest people on earth.
The Jiggers project was to scrub the feet of children and cut open the festered sores and extract the maggot-like Jigger, which lived inside. A Jigger is a flea that lays its eggs beneath the skin, producing larva which drink blood and grow inside. We took turns scrubbing dirty feet and preparing the children for the procedure. After the Jiggers were cut from their feet and hands, each child was given a sucker as a reward for coming. Some with severe cases received a pair of new shoes to protect their feet so they could heal. Others might be outfitted with used clothes. The whole experience was so emotional and soul-wrenching that we were too stunned to cry. I had mistakenly worn my new sandals and was told I might get Jiggers myself. I felt creeped-out all day and was anxious to get to our temporary apartment in Jinja to scrub my own feet. I kept wondering all night if there was a critter burrowing under my skin.
This morning was our first Sunday in Africa. We attended the Walukaba branch, which itself was an experience. When we arrived for PEC, we found that the church had not been cleaned and it looked like a dust storm had been there. Two priesthood brothers were busy frantically sweeping the chapel. We pitched in with brooms and mops and each person who arrived early was rewarded with the same opportunity. Just before sacrament meeting, the last of the cleaning was done and we all sat down sweaty and ready to worship together. The power had gone off in the night so RaNae had to go with wet hair (we’re talking no curling iron!). There was no water at the church that morning so the priesthood boys washed and dried the sacrament trays using a spigot from a wall near the church.
Once begun, church services were great. It was remarkable to be among just four white people (called Muzungus) in a congregation of 70 blacks. Their testimonies today were strong and very direct. Not one person went off about some trivial thing. They all testified of Christ and miracles and gratitude. And, by the way, our car was one of two in the parking lot the whole day. The second car belonged to the Elders. No one in the branch owns a car so they all walked the dirt roads to get to church.
We are changed people today. We are so grateful for this opportunity to serve in this part of the world. It is an honor. May you all be blessed and grateful for simple things like clean water, electricity, safety, health, and of course, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is really the only thing these people have as abundantly as you do.
Want to Help?
First, read this document about Charitable Giving.
You can help by coming to help with a project or sending contributions to fund one. You can contact Suzan Apondi at Mpendo Packer by:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 256700316285.
We hope you can transfer the money using a service like Moneygram. If you need help or have suggestions, please let us know: email@example.com.