| Aug 06, 2012
This story is posted by Pat.
Friday proved to be the bittersweet day I feared. Because it had rained so much during the night our departure to Ogur was delayed by about 90 minutes. So our quick trip to the office became an extended time to check email and engage in conversation with Felix and David. What an incredible team we have running our Uganda program.
This week a conference was held in Kampala to discuss nodding syndrome. Representatives from several countries were there including Dr. Patrick from MTI, CDRC, and Dr. Spencer from OHSU. Felix had met with him while in Portland to discuss what he had witnessed in Pader. It's encouraging to know the world is looking at this troubling syndrome and we pray for a greater understanding of its etiology.
Our drive to Ugur was short....we actually missed our daily [Africa road] massage. The peer workers were invited to a workshop designed to provide two strategies they could use in the field. A very attentive group of 55, they listened and actively participated when it was time to break into groups. How I appreciated Bosco, my interpreter! Sometimes my 6-8 words became a small paragraph with hand gesture and enthusiasm. But when it was time for the small groups to share their understandings, they got it right. So I know Bosco understood the concepts well. He will be a wonderful teacher for the group.
Meanwhile, Pied Piper Eduardo and the rest of the team worked with the children and mothers. Armed with two Polaroid cameras and film for 200 photos, all had a chance to have their own photo. Some saw themselves for the first time! They decorated frames and proudly wore their photos around their necks.
Then it was time for our good-bye ceremony. We were humbled by their profuse "apwoyos." The young, courageous group of boys/girls, young women/men performed a beautifully choreographed poem that spoke of wanting an answer..."why me?" We didn't have an answer. They spoke of needing to be loved. Theresa was moved to enter the group and gently hug each one. We were moved to tears. Each of us was invited to offer words of encouragement. Working to control our emotions, we did. And dear Eduardo closed the remarks with humor. We laughed when he mentioned that he had become so accustomed to waving to everyone along the drive that he'd probably find himself continuing so at home and everyone would think he was crazy! And then we danced...by ourselves, with children, with adults. In Africa dance is an expression of joy.
Discussing our experience at dinner, we marveled at how God brought this group together. Theresa and Karen, unknown to each other prior to the trip were our relationship core; Frank, our historian through photo and video, frequently served as our voice of reason; Jim, our spiritual guide, worked with the area pastors; Eduardo, our energy, humor, and creative guru, (the next time you see him, open the conversation with 'would you rather..' and wait for his response) demonstrated the power of creative expression; I was able to draw upon my years in education to provide the workshop. Our consummate leader, Deb, held us all together in a setting unfamiliar to most.
We came to serve, and we did. But we were served beyond our imagination. We came to teach, and we did. But we learned...about compassion, courage, resilience, resourcefulness. Each of us will return home tired but filled with love. We will return home with a sense of gratefulness for the blessings we experience every day. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," will take on new meaning. I'm leaving a piece of my heart here in Uganda. I will need to return to visit it.