Dear friends of Global Hands of Hope,
I am so thankful for your friendship, and for your support of the medical work in Uganda at the Suubi Medical Center. Having visited and worked there during my family’s trip last month, I wanted to report back to you upon the wonderful work you are supporting, that you would know that your generosity continues to bear fruit.
On December 31, Colleen, Julia, Lucia, Bella and I boarded a plane for Uganda. We had been trying to reschedule this trip for nearly 2 years, ever since our trip in March 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic-induced travel restrictions. This was our third rescheduled trip, and despite the Omicron variant surge, by God’s grace we made it to Uganda this time. As always, the trip was rigorous, made more so with the extra challenges of international travel during this pandemic. But we were rewarded for our endurance by a fantastic week at the Suubi project.
We arrived at 6 am Sunday at the new Suubi guest house, which was quite comfortable and beautiful, similar to a nice hotel in Uganda but right at the project. This allowed a few hours of much-needed sleep before church at 10 am.
As always, one of the highlights of the trip was worshipping at Suubi Community Church in Bukeka. With 250 adult members, the church has doubled in number since my last trip in 2016, and their passionate love for God was evident in their singing, dancing, and preaching. We were so encouraged by the worship, preaching by Ronnie (more on that later), and the warm welcome by the church members.
After church we took a tour of the Suubi project and surrounding grounds, which are being utilized to their fullest. Numerous school buildings have already been added for the school’s 250 preschool through junior high school students; a dining hall and new church space is also being built adjacent to the current school/church to accommodate the larger congregation. The two large and beautiful Safe House buildings were being furnished by local carpenters and almost ready to house the one hundred older children who reside at the school; after we left the elated children moved in to the Safe Houses!
On Monday, we attended the opening ceremony of the Suubi Medical Center, which has been newly constructed this year in a new location with access to electricity next to the main road. This allows the 3 lab technicians, 3 nurses, 3 physician assistants, and one doctor who work at the clinic to treat a greater number of patients within and surrounding the village and to utilize equipment powered by electricity, such as a freezer — which a donor has recently purchased — for vaccines. The medical center staff treats 60-70 patients per day, 6 days per week. The new medical center has more space than the previous clinic, allowing them to see 60-70 patients per day, and they are adding on some rooms that will be used for ultrasound and x-ray later this year, which will expand the services the medical center can offer. Ronnie anticipates adding obstetrical care next, allowing babies to be delivered locally by midwives, rather than at home or the public hospital, which he and the medical staff feel will be a great improvement in maternal and newborn health and safety. In time, there is room on the property to expand this medical center into a hospital with inpatient care, which would realize a long-held vision and dream of Ronnie’s (and mine), so please be praying for that vision to come to fruition.
The opening ceremony of the medical center was a way to get the government health ministry on board in supporting the medical center. The ceremony was attended by the local government and health officials, who were very excited and supportive of the step forward this medical center offers to the community. The district medical director has indicated that the government will soon provide vaccines and malaria medicines to the clinic, and potentially could begin to provide funds to employ more staff in partnership with Global Hands of Hope. After many speeches by the local government officials, the ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the medical center, after which we provided a 3 day medical camp, treating over 750 patients for a variety of both common and unusual medical conditions.
During the medical camp, I worked with 3 physician assistants as well as my friends from Uganda Dr. Jonathan, an orthopedic surgeon and the Suubi medical director, and Dr. Augustine, a gynecologist who made the 9 hour journey from his hospital in western Uganda to work with the women in Bukeka with us for the medical camp. I saw mainly children, typically in groups of 3 or 4 kids per family, usually accompanied by their mother, but sometimes the older sibling (10-12 years old) would be in charge of bringing the entire group to the clinic. About 30% of my patients had malaria, more than usual because of the unseasonably wet recent weather. As usual, many of the patients had less common and more advanced diseases. Some of these problems were beyond our resources, as usual. But Dr. Jonathan was able to offer some major surgeries for some of the patients at his nearby hospital at a more affordable rate. One woman I saw had a grapefruit sized mass on her upper arm; another patient had a complex fracture of his leg. Hopefully they will be able to have surgery done by Dr. Jonathan in the near future. On a personal note, Dr. Jonathan is now married to Flavia, who just had their first child, Levi, a couple weeks after we left.
After the medical camp, I had the pleasure of joining my daughters Julia and Lucia in a basketball camp led by Coach Jude. A very skilled basketball player, Jude attends church at Ronnie’s church in Kampala, and Ronnie is hoping to have him coach the new Suubi basketball team. It was quite fun playing with the kids and teachers a game new to most of them, although the girls’ experience playing netball (just like basketball but without dribbling the ball) allowed them to catch on to basketball easily. We were thankful for the newly installed basketball hoops and painted sidelines that quickly turned the asphalt school yard into a basketball court upon our arrival.
While we played basketball, my wife Colleen and daughter Bella taught art to the students and teachers and did some art therapy exercises. The creative and therapeutic benefits of those sessions were exciting to see and hear about. I was highly impressed by the work the young people produced in such a short time. There is a saying common in economic development: “Talent and ability are everywhere; opportunity is not.” Giving these kids an education, food, and medical care is allowing them an opportunity to develop their talents and become leaders in their communities and families, and to end the cycle of generational poverty.
Overall the week was a great blessing to me and my family. It was fitting that at the start of the week, Ronnie preached on Deuteronomy 32:9-14. One of the points he made that stuck with me and my family throughout our visit was based on v. 11, which describes God in this way:
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young,
Spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions,”
Ronnie pointed out that God often “disturbs” us, getting us out of our comfort zone, in order to grow us. The image of God “stirring up the nest,” pushing us out of our “nest” or comfort zone, and catching us with his “pinions” when we are falling rather than flying, was powerful. Our whole family was out of its comfort zone during this week, and God grew us all in encouraging ways. From travelling during a COVID surge and risking quarantine during or after the trip to Lucia playing basketball for the first time in 6 years, and doing so with enthusiasm and love for the kids, despite her dislike of basketball, to the girls tolerating geckos in their guest room and teaching art to kids who knew little English, we were all out of our comfort zone. I think Lucia captured our family’s take-home point of the trip when she said, “I realized this week that it’s not about what I can do or contribute, but how God can use me if I am willing.” I will not soon forget the tears shed by our girls and those of Brenda who lives in the Safe House, as they said their good-byes. As a father, it warmed my heart to see the ways my daughters loved and served the kids of Bukeka last month, and the ways God used and developed their giftings. Pray for us that he would continue the work he has started in our hearts and lives, whether in the USA or someday back in Uganda.
Thank you so much for your donations which allowed this medical camp to happen and allow those at the medical center to continue their work. Your support is greatly appreciated. Continue to pray for the Suubi project as the school and medical center continue to serve and expand their impact by God’s grace.