A great post by Eduardo.
Yesterday, we all went to the office here in Lira where the team split into two groups. One went to Ogur (Jim, Teresa and I) and the other went to Pader (Pat, Deb and Frank). Karen wasn't feeling well so she stayed in Lira to rest.
Once in Ogur, Ronald gave us a tour of the medical facilities. Although the main focus is HIV testing and control, they do see people with other issues. There is an orthopedic doctor--the only doctor there--that can do some minor surgeries as long as it doesn't require for the patient to be completely out since there is no anesthesiologist. He is able to read X rays but they cannot take X rays at that facility.
They have one wing divided into children's and men, one for women and one for expecting mothers. There are no doctors so the babies are delivered by three midwives. Because of the great distances that the mothers walk to get to this clinic, if they are within a month of delivery they will keep them in the hospital. If they were to send them back home it would be most likely that they would not come back and risk the lose of the mother and/or child's lives. They cannot do C sections here so they need to send them to the main hospital in Lira, about 45 minutes away. Since they don't have a way to transport them, there many times they have to go by Boda-Boda (motorcycles that serve as taxis). Often they are not able to pay for this ride so most likely both the baby and mother will die.
One of the areas of the hospital is dedicated for HIV testing and control. They provide testing and they prescribe and give the needed drugs. There were many patients waiting outside to be seen by the nurse. They asked Pastor Jim to say a few words and pray for them as we were leaving.
We thought we were going to be doing home visits of HIV patients but we ended up going to "the field" where a group of medical staff does rapid HIV tests. When we got there there were already about 50 or more people and they kept coming throughout the day.
Basically they were under these huge trees, in three stations. The first station was for registering. The second station was where a nurse took a blood sample from their arm.
There was a third station just for the nurses where they actually did the test and waited about 15 minutes for the results. If the test shows positive then they do another test just to make sure.
If this one also shows positive then they do a third test. If this one shows positive then they call the patient to let him know and talk about what's next. When we left they had tested 80 people and 2 had shown positive.
The craft for today was "black paper." I showed them a piece of black paper and told them that sometimes our lives are like that paper. It all seems very black. Maybe we are sick, sad, have no hope but we believe in a God that gives us hope and life and our "black lives" can turn into color.
At that point I took a stick and started drawing on the black paper where bright colors began to appear. I encouraged them to draw whatever they wanted to and to be creative.
It was so fun to watch them draw. Some did some amazing and complex drawings. Since we had extra paper I went around and gave a piece to almost everyone there. I really enjoyed seeing old men and ladies working hard at their drawings!
The rest of the day consisted on Pastor Jim talking to everyone telling the story of King David - from a small child to a mighty King, and also the performance of a group of youth - all HIV +, that we had seen a few days ago in Ogur. They did a presentation about AIDS. Although I didn't understand anything they were saying, the message was very clear - get checked and treated! After this they sang several songs accompanied by some interesting instruments and dance.
As I reflect back to today, I'm just amazed at how much work is done "in the middle of nowhere." The setting could not be more primitive. Dirt, grass, trees for shade, a few plastic tables and yet they are saving lives and preventing this terrible disease from spreading even further. People of all ages wait for hours sitting on the grass and dirt without food or bathrooms and without an air-conditioned waiting room with TV and magazines. My heart aches for these children that have done nothing to deserve this. They have either been raped or born from mothers that were HIV+.
This reality really hits me. I'm not sitting in my comfortable chair watching a BBC special about people in some remote location in the world. I'm right here. Talking to them, touching them, playing with them. They are real. They are human. They have feelings. They want to live as much as I do. Their lives are precious in God's eyes and their lives are precious in my eyes, although now I can't see because I'm crying.
Lord, send your Spirit to this place. Bring healing, bring hope, may your Kingdom come.