I just got back from Jinja last night and it was a great weekend trip. We actually stayed at a resort in rooms that looked like huts. It was sweet. We got to hear from several missionaries, went to a place called the Source Cafe, went on a devotional tour of Jinja, went out on a tour of the Nile, had pizza, and went to a local church. I really liked this past weekend a lot and would love to go back to Jinja again. This weekend also made me think about a lot of things. During our devotional tour a missionary named Ben took us around the town to different locations- starting first at the spot where Lake Victoria turns into the Nile, then to a street where many Indians used to live, then through an industrial part of town called the Ting Ting, all the while asking questions like, "Why are you here? What's important to you? Do you want a testimony or a title? How will you be remembered?"
Lastly Ben took us to Jinja Hospital to see what it's like. He told us to walk through the wards and to say hi to people. Jinja Hospital is the place to go for the nearly 2 million people in the area. It's nothing like an American hospital- you can wait WEEKS before you see a doctor and the staff doesn't really take care of you. They give you your meds but after that you're on your own. It's up to your family to take care of you, bathe you, and feed you.
When I walked into the hospital it was a complete shock. When Ben said "ward" I assumed it would be a hallway with double rooms, but it was really an open room with 15-20 beds. I felt so awkward being there. You've got extremely sick people laying in beds and we've been told to just go take a look. It was a struggle for me to do that- personally I think it would have been a lot better if we would have stayed the whole day and gotten to really talk to the people instead of just going on a "tour." I think the reason it made me really uncomfortable though was because of the conditions. Before I left I walked through a TB ward. We were told that people who have HIV and AIDS don't die from those diseases, but they die from diseases and infections they catch due to their failing immune systems. TB is a common culprit. When you get TB and it gets really bad your chest begins to fill up with fluid making it super hard to breathe, so it's like you're suffocating. If you're lucky they can insert a needle and remove some of the fluid. All in all, TB is a terrible thing to deal with. When I walked into the ward everything in me wanted to run. There were people laying on hospital beds hooked up to IVs and you could tell they were suffering and in pain. There was on man who was surrounded by his family and when I looked at him I could see him laboring for each breathe. His sides would rise and fall very dramatically and you could see the worried looks on his family's tear-stained faces. I don't know if that man was on the brink of death, but I don't think I'll ever forget seeing that.
Going to the hospital was a nice reality check. This is reality for so many people. Even as an American in Africa if I get taken to a health care facility, I could get seen a lot faster than those around me. I'd hash out my money and get taken care of. It's sad. But having sympathy for those people gets me nowhere. You feel sorry for a little while and move on. Empathy and reliance on God are what's needed to try to bring about change or to at least wage the battle alongside people. People are people no matter where you go and they all desire to be loved, needed, listened to, and to have a purpose.
This made me think about the question, "What are you here for?" A good story to tell? A "life experience?" It made me realize that my motives in coming weren't exactly pure. Part of me wanted to have that story to tell when I got back. But the truth is, yeah I'll have things to say, but people won't be interested for long. Sure I'm able to do something that many people don't have the chance to do, but it means nothing if I don't let this experience change me. I battle the desire of wanting a story to tell, but more and more of my heart wants to be here to be changed. To see where God leads and to let Him mold me. God's given me a chance to see people He loves unconditionally in a different context. He's showing me the widows, orphans, and the poor that He cares so much about. I'm also realizing that I don't know what lies ahead. Whether I'll live in the US or abroad when I'm older, but He's showing me the importance of following Him no matter the cost. I may have to be away from my friends and family and comforts of "home" but He's trying to teach me that His ways are higher, bigger, and so much better than my ways.
So the "I don't knows" remain and I'm learning to be ok with that. I serve a God who sees it all and whose timing is perfect.