Tonight I am numb.
I came to Uganda prepared to see suffering, to celebrate hope, and to provide – in the smallest ways through this blog – an insight for others into that mysterious thing called poverty. What I wanted to avoid – at all costs – was the hopelessness, the eye-numbing pictures of abject suffering that paralyze all who see them, the cliches.
I’m not sure that I will be able to avoid all the things I wanted to avoid and I am not sure I can accomplish all that I set out to do. I am sure that this one post is just a panting gasp of a post – something that it raw and rough and unvarnished and incomplete – and that the rest of my posts this week and next and when I return will be much more complete… more in lines with my hopes. So please stay with me.
First the factual narrative.
This morning offered the first glimpse into Compassion International’s work. We headed into a slum about 45 minutes outside Kampala and into a small church.
The drive from the hotel to the church was a drive through a Universal Studios set of the developing world – roadside micro enterprise ventures, roaming cows and goats and sheep, a crush of humanity walking everywhere in utter disregard for things like cars and trucks and buses, thousands upon thousands of men and women just sitting with nowhere to go, an even smoky haze of burning trash, and piles upon piles of rough hewn building supplies strewn everywhere – think massive and deconstructed Home Depot.
Then the slum – Kivalu. About 40% of those who live there are HIV positive. Numbers are meaningless here.
In some ways I saw it all backwards. I saw the small church first and met a few of the kids that benefit from Compassion’s work and heard their stories and that is a source of hope… of great hope.
Compassion works through local churches, empowering them – frequently without recognition – to care for kids in the community in which it operates. The care is comprehensive – “medical, physical, emotion, spiritual” was how the local pastor described it. It works through child sponsorships that aid both child and family. Such is especially true in a place like Kivalu where AIDS is so prevalent because helping HIV positive parents is a front line in helping kids.
In talking to the kids virtually every one wanted to be either a nurse or a doctor. Why? Because they could help others that way – they could help with the thing they all struggled with most passionately… life.
But the slum. The slum defines everything else..
…and a peek into a single home…
…a 6′ x 6′, lightless, airless, dirt-floored, mud-walled home to five children and a mother….
…and then, walking out, this…
…I watched her and watched her… left right there… alone on her dirty blanket, surrounded by circumstances that aspire to be called squalid…
That is all I have for now.