A post from Andrew Thompson, our Middle School Coordinator, on his recent trip to Uganda:
Typical day, not so typical situation
Ugandans have bright faces and beautiful smiles, and they also dance as often as possible. Each morning in Bwindi began by joining the hospital staff at 8am for morning prayers. Afterwords, I worked with either Dr. Scott – the founder of Bwindi Community Hospital, Dr. Faye -a physician from the UK, or Dr. Julius -a Ugandan doctor. On a few days I had the chance to visit several surrounding villages through the hospital’s community outreach program. These visits were conducted holding on tightly to the back of Sebastian’s motor cycle, one of the male nurses who visits the surrounding villages dosing out medication, giving health education, and checking in on the patients unable to visit the hospital. Another day, we helped the Batawa build a mud house for a poor family in the community using the funds raised by friends and family here. I concluded my time with a safari, seeing the famous tree climbing lions and a family of hippos.
The first morning I spent in the hospital, Dr. Scott pulled me into the female ward and handed me two X-Rays. “This is Prize, she’s a 16 year old with a T-12 spinal fracture.” Scott knew I’d done two Physical Therapy internships during college, but he also knew I didn’t have any real medical training. “Ok, well, see you later!” Scott turned to leave. I stood there with the X-Rays, “So how much movement does she have in her legs?” Scott laughed, “I guess you’ll find out won’t you?” Then he left, leaving me with two nurses, a mom, and Prize. I was the best option she had out here, twelve hours from the closest referral center.
Over the next two weeks, I spent about an hour in the morning and afternoon working with Prize while (thankfully) consulting with another UK doctor, sometimes translating through one of the nurses to assess her condition. On the first day she was able to move her legs a little, but had no movement from her knees down, with zero movement in her feet. The afternoon that I left, I was thrilled to watch Prize pull her knees up on her own, and raise one of her legs. She could wiggle her toes, too. Jesus’ words to John the baptist came to mind, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk…and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” I beamed with the sensation of being a part of restoring someone’s ability to walk, in a small way like what Jesus did. Prize will hopefully recover in feeling and strength over the course of the next twelve weeks.
It’s all miraculous
One mile North of the hospital sits the local Bwindi Anglican church, alongside a primary school that the hospital supports. Scott told me the first morning I arrived, “You work in the American Church? Well you’ll have to preach on Sunday!” I don’t usually give sermons back home, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so I happily agreed. Sunday mornings in Bwindi are joyous celebrations. One massive Ugandan drum welcomed us at 11am as we followed the rest of the village, processing into the simple interior of the church, with wooden benches and smooth cement floors. There was a small picture on the main wall of Jesus, a simple white covered table with flowers on end.
The service lasted three hours. After I spoke, Scott got up and shared a few words, we danced again, then the real preacher stood up and talked for 45 minutes, and we danced again. For the offering, each tribe stands up, processes out of the church, and returns down the center of isle placing their offering before the Lord. The tribe then dances in unison before the Lord to the beat of the beat of the drums. When my turn came to go up front with the rest of the “American tribe,” I loved the ability to offer a tithe while also giving the Lord an offering of worship through dance.
During the service, Scott leaned over to me and said, “Most of these 400 people have come through our hospital.” Then he very quietly said, “I’ve saved many of their lives.” Goose bumps shivered through me as I looked around at these beautiful African faces, old ladies, young boys singing and dancing. Scott later told me that he sees no distinction between his role as a doctor and also a disciple of Christ. “Andrew, I don’t buy the distinction between my work as a physician and where the Lord heals; I think all healing is miraculous.” The motto of Bwindi Hospital is ‘We Treat, God Heals’, a philosophy of healing that changed how I look at the work of Christian physicians.
I had many other adventures on these two weeks, but these are a few of the highlights. A recurring theme for me was confronting fear, pressing into situations of discomfort, and being amazed by very poor people people dance in the joy of the present. From building a house with a Batawa family, seeing tree climbing lions, to being a part of the healing of a lame girl, I’ve loved the chance to go, learn and serve in Uganda.