Wednesday, September 24, 2008
“Rachel,” Robert burst into our Ugandan hotel room as I was finishing the day at my computer. “Do you want to meet Anna, a 140-year-old widow?”
“Yes. I was just talking with Pastor Amos and he says she lives in his village. Even when he was a young boy she was very old. And he believes she is around 140 years old.”
I grabbed my phone and dialed our Uganda partner, Pastor Ruth. “Pastor Amos says there is a 140-year-old widow in his village. Do you think that is true?”
“What is my schedule like tomorrow? Do I have time to see her?”
“The Honorable Lydia will be at the hotel to meet you at eight. We have a meeting with the Red Cross at ten and at mid-day we have to go see Rayne at the deaf school. I think after that we should all go see this 140-year-old woman.”
My busy day seemed to move at a snail's pace as I eagerly awaited our meeting with Anna and prayed she would still be alive by the time we got there. When we finally arrived Pastor Amos asked Robert and I to stand back as he went to prepare her for her White visitors. Sometimes people who have not seen White people are frightened but Anna said it was okay and came from her hut to meet us. She was so tiny—maybe about three feet tall and frail. Her large eyes had a film covering and she reached out bony flour saturated hands in greeting. The left side of her dress was torn exposing her skeletal shoulder. Her gaunt face held lines and wrinkles yet her skin appeared to be stretched tightly, making her teeth leap forward as though they were too big for her mouth. She walked with no cane and her handshake was strong.
A quick glance inside her crumbling hut revealed she was in the middle of cooking. Her battered pans and crude cooking utensils made us glad we had new saucepans for her and seeing her delight when we presented them along with a lantern and food really made our day.
Our little group sat on the ground with Anna and Pastor Amos informed her I was interviewing widows and would like to hear her story.
She said: “My house is falling down and when it rains I get wet. I always fear the rain because my house leaks. I have no blanket and the rats crawl over me at night. All my children are dead. I cannot remember stories from the past.”
Pastor Amos suggested that as we build a relationship with Anna the past will come to mind so I turned off my tape recorder and enjoyed the moments.
Robert placed his sunglasses on Anna and she seemed to be at ease wearing them while we chatted.
I brought out a doll as I had done for other elderly women thinking she would get pleasure from it as the others had. She said: “Please don’t give me that Mzungu (White) baby. I’m too old to take care of this baby and the rats will eat her.”
“This baby is not real. She is just a toy to hold.”
Anna had no idea as to what a doll is so our explanations were in vain. She kept handing the doll back saying: “Please. The rats will eat this baby.”
I offered the doll to a girl standing nearby and assured Anna, “this girl will take care of the baby.”
Pastor Amos asked, “Do you know Jesus?”
“I remember Jesus.”
Rising to her knees she shook her finger at her curious neighbors as they circled her. “See how much Jesus loves me? All of you who ridicule me and despise me—do you see these people who have come from far to look for me? Sometimes when I cook my food and lie down to rest and when I wake someone has eaten my food. Now. See how much Jesus loves me and don’t torture me anymore.”
Standing Anna began to dance and shout and thanked God for visiting her.
Since Robert and I would be leaving Uganda the next day I pressed money into Pastor Ruth’s hand and begged her to return as soon as possible with blankets, sheets and a mattress for Anna. She promised she would and they would continue to check on Anna making sure she had food and anything else she needed.
I wondered if her delicate body shivered at night with no blanket to cover her. How creepy it must be to feel those sharp toe nails of the rats crawling over her as she tries to sleep. I imagined her lying in mud when the rains came and asked if we could fix her crumbling hut. I prayed that one day we would be able to build a center where people like Anna could live and be cared for.
We have a team going to Uganda next month. They were planning to build Anna a new hut but Anna doesn’t need a hut anymore. She has gone on to her Heavenly home where she will never be hungry, cold, or ridiculed.
I am so grateful we were able to meet Anna and to give her a few comforts in her final days. Most of all I am happy that Anna knew God had not forgotten her and that she believed God had visited her home that day.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
She talked about her childhood friend who found a raspberry in the concentration camp where they lived. Her friend carried that raspberry in her pocket all day to give it to Gerda. Her only possession and food and she gave it to her friend. It made me ask myself "How much would I be willing to give up for a friend? How much is too much? How much is not enough?" She could have eaten that raspberry and enjoyed it immensely but the love she had for Gerda caused her to hold onto it and allow Gerda the coveted treat.
The gift impacted Gerda greatly. She writes: "Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me at night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend."
I've seen this kind of love in Uganda many times as people come forward offering us their only chicken or goat in thanks for our coming to Uganda. They don't stop to count the cost or wonder if I give this away how will I get another? Many times we have been invited to dinner at the homes of the poorest of poor and I have often screamed inwardly, "don't slaughter the goat! I'm a vegetarian!"
Many of the things Gerda said today touched my soul but one of the things that caused tears to spring to my eyes was when she said; "Even today --I'm 84 years old and have lived in America for 60 years--sometimes I think the gestapo is going to knock on my door. Then I tell myself 'that won't happen here in America.'"
Each time I leave this country and see the atrocities around the world I thank God that I live in the United States and pray that it will always be a place where people are safe from the Hitlers of this world.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Currently our donors have provided funds for a state-of-the-art kitchen named Marty's Kitchen in memory of Marty Griebe. His wife Carolyn collected funds from some of Marty's friends and as Pastor Ruth said, "There will be no other kitchen like it in all of Uganda." It is now complete. Please see the attached video.
I spoke to Pastor Ruth this morning and she said the kitchen is sooo wonderful. When they cooked over an open fire for the Karamojong children they would use one load of wood per month. With the new ovens they use five to seven pieces of wood per day and the meal for 420 children is now ready by 10AM instead of 2PM. They are all marveling over the difference this kitchen will make in saving time, wood and there is no more smoke filling the air from open fires!!
Another Hope4Kids donor wrote a check for Smile Africa to build a clinic on their property. I will update you on the construction of this exciting, life saving project as it happens. Saturday the city will arrive to approve construction--then the work shall begin!!
Our shipment of food from Feed My Starving Children is on its way. We are hoping either the October or November team will be in Uganda to greet this shipment which will feed the Karamojong children for at least fifteen months.
In that time we will be raising funds for Smile Africa to grow crops in order to become self-sufficient in their feeding program. We will need to provide seed and laborers for this project.
They also desperately need a van as they have to hire transport each time they go visit a widow, take a child to the hospital, etc.