Editor’s note: Rebecca Udermann, a nurse trainer at CURE Zambia, recently spent some time serving at CURE Uganda. Below, she reflects on the experience.
Throughout my time in Uganda I have been able to have many amazing experiences. For example, a Saturday morning hike up Mt. Wanale with a friend named Moses. As we began the 6+ hour hike, Moses proceeded to say, “the suffering begins.” Little did I know what I was in for. We hiked through mud, steep hills, rocky terrain, corn fields, cabbage and onion farms, being called out to as a muzungu (white person) by every child that we passed, climbing up a ladder made by woven sticks, viewing baby monkeys in their natural habitats, and seeing women, small children, and men trudging through the foot paths with loads of “stuff” on their heads like it was no big deal. Ultimately, we reached the most beautiful high peak with waterfalls, a source pond, fresh air, and a view that went on for miles. Then back down the mountain we went.
Or like the time when a staff member invited me to her house for dinner on a Sunday evening. We boarded a boda-boda (popular means of transportation on a motorcycle), a black bag of groceries in tow and with a container of fresh warm milk that would soon be used for our milk tea. There were no personal boundaries on that ride as we bounced through the countryside on gravel roads. About four miles later we arrived at her home, she did not allow me to help her prepare the meal because that was not socially acceptable to allow the guest to prepare. So we sat in her living room/kitchen and talked about life as she prepared boiled matoke (plantain) with granut (peanut) sauce and eggs. While we waited, we drank milk tea and ate white bread. She soon served me with her best plates and silverware, which was the most humbling experience.
Then there were times when I was able to worship with a group of complete strangers that welcomed me into their church service as though we had been friends for decades. I made several new little friends as they begged their mamas to allow them to sit next to me during the service. The messages of prayer and how we are created in God’s perfect image to grow in this world and belong hit the deep heart cords.
My daily life was filled with working in the “ICU” area and ward, serving the patients and families along with the national staff. We worked tirelessly each day, providing the absolute best care to these families who came to the CURE hospital and giving them with the encouragement they needed to continue to press forward. Reassuring them that their baby is not cursed due to their illness and that they are in the best hands in the country for neurosurgery procedures was a job in itself. The rewards by far outweigh the challenges of working in a developing country hospital. However, with little lives at stake, sometimes the challenges seem to be relentless, especially because I know what is truly available to patients being served in the USA. I consistently remind myself though that this is God’s kingdom and He has ultimate control.
Other experiences included sharing my photos of family and friends with coworkers and them being genuinely interested in what my life was like in the USA, making do with smaller amounts of resources in the hospital and not having everything readily available at my finger tips, a walk through the government hospital, seeing new innovative ways to make do with less, and hearing words of wisdom about suffering, crying and healing spoken by my hiking friend, Moses. These words soon became a reality, especially later during my stay, while dealing with some difficult patient circumstances. It was incredible to see how much a group of people can truly come together in a crisis to live and love in community. I was immersed into the culture and lived fully in this community of people.
Some of the other amazing experiences I had were receiving a coffee bean tour and then actually drinking freshly roasted coffee, sitting with mothers in the corridor and learning about their stories, working with national staff to help improve their quality of care given to their patients, being a part of the spiritual ministry at the hospital, seeing how simply some people live and yet how joyful they are, eating new foods and fruits, trusting that when I get on a boda-boda that the driver is going to take me to the correct place, feeling fortunate enough to have running water, some electricity, and internet to stay in touch with my loved ones back “home,” embracing tea time and one-hour lunch breaks, learning about other people’s lives, and becoming engaged in how they live day to day.
Photos and words can only express so much, but I pray you can read beyond the words and into my heart! While this is obviously is not a comprehensive list, I hope it gives you a little insight into how my three weeks in Uganda were been spent. I also was given a Ugandan name, Kisakye, which means “full of grace.” My name giver thought it would be the perfect name for me, and I agreed.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.”
1 Peter 4:8-10