Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The AIDS Count... Reduced

I’m in a sentimental mood. Sitting here typing on my laptop before I go to bed, listening to James Taylor sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I’m getting nostalgic and missing a Christmas that hasn’t yet even arrived… Music does that to you. It sets a mood, an overtone. It can enhance or even force a mood that isn’t really there.

Fasten your seatbelt, this is the latest shocking news… As I’ve stated before, the reason I’ve been placed here by the Ankole Diocese is due to the large number of HIV/AIDS orphans that are at this particular Compassion project. Of the 295 kids we support, 49 of them have tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Until recently… Now I don’t know what you know about HIV/AIDS but the basic principle is this: once you get it, you have it until you eventually die. Usually from something like malaria, the flu, or diarrhea. Alice, our new nurse (she’s even more of a newbie than I am), is really on the ball. She’s been throwing out expired medicines that was in the health office and ordering a ton of new drugs and supplies. She’s also having all of the HIV/AIDS children retested. She recently took 32 of the children to Mbarara for re-testing. The result… only 2 of them were actually positive! ‘You’re joking!’ she told them. ‘Test them again!’ So the tested them with another method. Same result. Only 2 of the 32 she took were in fact positive. The rest whom had tested positive about a year earlier where ALL negative! Alice still didn’t believe the results so she had them try a 3rd test… same results. 30 were negative and 2 positive. One boy, upon learning the results, leapt up and danced around the room as you could imagine.

So how does this happen? Faulty testing? Contaminated samples? Incompetent people running the tests? Who knows? I mean, can you imagine what this would be like if it happened in the States? The malpractice suits alone… And what does this have to be like for these kids and their caregivers. Now not all of them know their status. We don’t tell the kids until they’re about 12 or so, mature enough to handle such life jarring news. What would it be like for a medical doctor to hand you a death certificate with your name on it and then one year later rip it up and tell you, ‘woops… I might have made a mistake. Sorry.’ One doctor in Kampala was so outraged upon hearing this the he demanded that the doctors that delivered this diagnosis be tried in a criminal court!! And why not? Some of these kids have been placed on ARVs which have adverse and strong side effects. One of the kids to test Negative was Nicholas whom I’ve been visiting in the Kampala Hospital. The doctors now believe that it was the ARVs that were causing his loss of balance and within a month he should be back to normal. We’ll keep praying and hoping for a speedy recovery for him.

So we’re in the process of testing the rest of the children and just sorting out this utter mayhem. It’s not like it would be back home though, I’m telling you. There aren’t parents/caregivers demanding lawsuits or compensation.

I did finally get a check to Marcel and his orphanage. It’s called a Money Gram if anyone’s interested in knowing. I tried and tried to get that money here but I couldn’t find a bank that could help me and to try to take it through the ATM would have cost me an arm and a leg. I was happy to see that he had recently received a donation from a woman who had donated some money before to have a dorm room built. This time they were building a dining hall/study room with a kitchen area and some additional sleeping rooms. In the 2 pictures I have of Marcel, both are taken where the kids currently eat. Under what I would call a picnic shelter, so if it’s cold out or windy or rainy they’re out in it. Marcel invited me back in a few months to give me some pictures of the new beds once they’re purchased. Unfortunately the kids were in school when I arrived, but Marcel was certainly pleased.

So my current project is to work as the local Olin Mills guy at Compassion. I’m taking digital pictures of all the kids to make a better display of all our kids with their names and their project numbers. I have to tell you, taking 300 pictures of kids in one day can really wear you out! Plus you have to try to get these kids to smile, which they aren’t accustomed to doing in photos. Have you ever seen those pictures of people in the early 20th century where they just stand there in all their nostalgia, refusing to smile. It’s the same here typically. So I had to tell them, in Runyankole, to ‘laugh’ and to say Cheese, and then I had to wait for just the right time to take their picture. Sometimes they would laugh and turn away to look at their friends, or just stand there not knowing what to do or what the heck I really said in my thick Midwest accent. I’ve included a few of what I consider the highlights.

Jesus = Food. Let me touch on this topic. At church here they did this drama. It was in Runyankole but I had a translator. The gist of it was this: there was a poor family. The father was a drunk, the 2 teenage kids were filthy and disrespectful to their mother who was by this time desperate to find any food at all for her family. A knock on the door. 2 Christians to bring the gospel. They gather together with the family, minus the father, pray together and also bring food for the family to eat. (mind you that I think this entire thing was done w/o a written script and it was performed very very well) So they eat the food, pray together and miraculously the kids are now dressed very well, are super well behaved and the father returns home after being out drinking to proclaim to be a changed man! All because of Jesus! How perfect! Prior to seeing this, Jacob was telling me about an old South Park episode where after watching missionaries do their thing the come to the conclusion that ‘Jesus equals food’. Now this really bothered me and here’s why. I CERTAINLY don’t want to dismiss the power of God or the power of prayer. I believe so deeply in both, however, I also believe in difficulties, sufferings and hardships that Christians endure. Paul talks extensively about this. I believe in hardships not because God doesn’t love, but for many reasons which aren’t necessarily nice or pleasant but are there nonetheless: to build character, to rely on and trust in Him more. So what happens when this family accepts Jesus, prays, shares the food, comes to church… and the kids don’t become respectful and the husband doesn’t come home? What happens then? Do these people cease to believe??? I guess I get sort of critical at times when it comes to church. I want it to be real and to make sense most of the time, so when I have disagreements I get fired up and want to do something about it. It’s the same reason I do theater from time to time. I don’t love to do theater, it’s hard work, but I do it because I see bad theater and I know I can do it better. Not in a bragging, look at me, way, but in a way that promotes theater as art, as a craft that is molded and shaped and taken care of. I think I’ve also been influenced by a book I’ve been reading lately called Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller. Normally it takes me about a month to read a book, but this one I couldn’t put down. Finished it in 4 days. It’s about ‘non religious thoughts on Christian spirituality’. I call it more of an interweaving of Truth, doubt, life and everything in between. Check it out if you need something to read this summer.

So… things are going well. Moral is high and Compassion is keeping me busy. I’m still running every day, but I do miss my broken iPod. I think I’ve lost about 5 pounds since arriving, which is NOTHING. Don has lost over 40 pounds in part due to sickness, but also because guys tend to lose weight in the PC.

Jacob is doing well, working on some interesting reports for Africare that are occurring deep in the villages. I’ll try to hit those up in a future blog.

Thanks for the letters! I truly truly feel blessed to have the support from so many people back home!!! I will write back to all who have written me! Promise!

Happy Birthday wishes to Ella!! Until next time…


At 12 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wonderful that the count is less! How sad it is that mistakes were made. Kind of reminds me of a situation in Indiana, it's not exactly the same but another human mistake. Terrible accident with Taylor U, many died. A family had a funeral for their daughter, another was in the hospital with their recovering daughter. After a great deal of the time the recovering daughter revealed her name, she was the girl the other family had buried! She wasn't dead, the other girl was!

You are right that sometimes we can misrepresent the christian walk as name it & claim it, while disregarding Jesus' words,"In this world you will have trouble".. It is not a life without toubles and trials, things won't be perfect and things don't always improve over night, but there is a balance too with the power of prayer because it can change things too. But I agree that presenting the abbracadabra everything is made perfect theme is misleading. Howard even preached on this. But many give this approach, kind of like a commercial...if you do this, then your life will be smooth. I've often thought if life were so simple and carefree and that was the ingredient, then more people would be believers. But I think God requires more faith than just in good times because that would be like being God's good time friend and being a follower for the wrong reasons. The devil thought that was why Job loved God and thought with trials he would turn from God. But Job's faith was more.

There is a poem that is often used at funerals...something about God didn't promise easy times but strength for the day. (crude paraphrasing)Jesus didn't say, follow me for the carefree road... but there are wonderful promises and benefits too.

At 12 July, 2006, Anonymous Jennifer Noble said...

I'm glad they found out they didn't have aids. What a terrible mistake! I like your pictures...keep them coming!

At 13 July, 2006, Blogger Crystal said...

I spent nearly 3wks in Uganda recently, a lovely lovely country. If you ever get time for a break, head over to Lake Bunyonyi's Byoona Amargara, it's such a wonderful island for chilling out.

Great news that the HIV+ rates turned out to be lower than was previously thought, those kids get a clean slate and that's so great for them.


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